Defending Iceland:

The heroic ethic in Ancient Greece is often stated by historians as, "Help your friends, harm your enemies." In fact it was rather more complicated, and was only one branch of Indo-European heroic ethics. Still, helping your friends and harming your enemies is a good start.

So when we decided to pull our air defenders out of Iceland without giving them time to get defenses of their own up to speed, it was a bad sign. It's true that we need those fighters elsewhere. It's also true that we've had a relationship with Iceland for fifty years, providing their military defense in return for what was, during the second World War and the Cold War era, access to a strategic island of great importance.

The sudden end of the relationship has given Iceland's sons a feeling of betrayal, which earlier this week led to a stabbing involving a US serviceman. The soldier is being tried by Icelandic law, though the US is demanding that he be turned over to face military justice. The report below is from the AFP (I don't have a link):

Washington has based its extradition claim on a 1951 Defense
Agreement between the two countries and a long tradition of handing
over servicemen involved in offences in Iceland to the United States
for military trials.
However, the agreement, which calls for consultations between
the two countries, is already up in the air after Washington
unilaterally decided in June to pull out its F-15 fighters and rescue
helicopters from the Keflavik base.
That decision angered Iceland, which has no military of its
own and would be left without air defenses.
No big deal, you say, because who would want to attack Iceland? Our common enemies have noticed. This ran on pro-al Qaeda website Jihad Unspun:
And what of Bush saying the United States will help its friends and punish its foes? Well, it seems that Mr. Bush cannot be trusted to take care of his friends. Iceland was one of the countries that signed up to Bush's so-called "coalition." How has Bush repaid the North Atlantic nation? By writing a letter to Iceland's prime minister stating that the United States will, after 46 years of providing for the NATO nation's defense, pull its military forces from the soon-to-be defenseless island state.
We are leaving old friends at the mercy of our common enemies. Iceland's sole defense against mujahedeen is going to be its nature spirits. Let us hope that this is enough, if our leaders do not reconsider this unwise decision and make allowances for the sons of Iceland to develop their own defenses. If not, we can only hope that our enemies will meet the same resistance as the warlock sent by King of the Danes, Harald Bluetooth, son of Gorm the Old:
King Harald told a warlock to hie to Iceland in some altered
shape, and to try what he could learn there to tell him: and he
set out in the shape of a whale. And when he came near to the
land he went to the west side of Iceland, north around the land,
where he saw all the mountains and hills full of guardian-
spirits, some great, some small. When he came to Vapnafjord he
went in towards the land, intending to go on shore; but a huge
dragon rushed down the dale against him with a train of serpents,
paddocks, and toads, that blew poison towards him. Then he
turned to go westward around the land as far as Eyjafjord, and he
went into the fjord. Then a bird flew against him, which was so
great that its wings stretched over the mountains on either side
of the fjord, and many birds, great and small, with it. Then he
swam farther west, and then south into Breidafjord. When he came
into the fjord a large grey bull ran against him, wading into the
sea, and bellowing fearfully, and he was followed by a crowd of
land-spirits. From thence he went round by Reykjanes, and wanted
to land at Vikarsskeid, but there came down a hill-giant against
him with an iron staff in his hands.
Hail the land spirits. May they do what we ought to be doing, at least until our friends and old allies are equip't and trained to do it themselves. No good comes of the betrayal of friends.
Honored Guns

Good revolutions are not a thing understood by the UN. No surprise. We who honor the old American way can not agree. For myself, I choose a weapon not entirely "light": the Smith & Wesson M629-4, chambered in .44 Remington Magnum.
Bush, Saddam and al Qaeda:

From InstaPundit, sage of Knoxville, comes an article from a judge for whom he used to clerk. The fellow, a lifelong Democrat, was in Iraq with ORHA, and has uncovered documented evidence that Saddam assigned a Mukhabarat agent to work with Osama bin Laden:
The document shows that an Iraqi intelligence officer, Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, assigned to the Iraq embassy in Pakistan, is ''responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.''
No word on the date of this yet. We know that Saddam had approached al Qaeda in the early 1990s, but many reports suggest that they fell out quickly. Everything changes if this is a more recent, and ongoing, relationship. Or rather, everything changes for us who live in the open sources: it looks as if Bush, who has been saying this all along, is borne out again. See Thursday's post on that subject.
War with DPRK Watch:

Open sources, including the Straits Times of Singapore, are reporting that North Korea is doing pre-nuke bomb tests and has probably nearly finished reprocessing its plutonium. This confirms that we are not even a year away from a fully nuclear North Korea. At this point, there is probably nothing but war that can stop them from going fully nuclear. This is from the Sydney Morning Herald:
North Korea has conducted 70 high-explosive tests linked to nuclear weapons development, South Korea's spy chief was quoted as saying last night.

The claim was made just hours after the Prime Minister, John Howard, began reining in Australia's tough talk on North Korea, amid warnings that military threats could provoke a nuclear confrontation.

A senior source in Seoul said that Ko Young-Koo, a National Intelligence Service director, had told parliament: 'We have also noticed high-explosive tests being conducted in Yongdok district in Gusong City in [the north-western province of] North Pyongyang and we have been keeping track of the movement."

He also said that North Korea had apparently begun reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods, a program that could yield enough plutonium for half-a-dozen atomic bombs within months.
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, spoke to the matter yesterday. He uses hopeful language, though this may be because his nation is wary (and weary) of supporting US-led wars:
Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard says he is still hopeful the stand-off over North Korea's nuclear weapons program can be solved diplomatically.

But Mr Howard says North Korea's statement that it is willing to go to war is worrying.

Mr Howard says Australia will join America in military training exercises in september to fine tune skills needed for the interception of vessels suspected of carrying nuclear weapons.

"Clearly the training that will take place over the next few weeks will mean that different countries, including Australia, are ready if we do decided to do that," he said.

Australia agreed on Thursday to contribute forces to interdiction training exercises at a meeting of the 11-nation Proliferation Security Initiative, in the Australian state of Queensland.

North Korea has said it's ready for war if America resorts to force.

Lied? Apparently not.

I've been giving my friends on the left a lot of leeway with the "Bush lied about..." claims that they have been making. After all, Bush is a politician, and in my experience, politicians lie a lot. Even the ones who don't lie do change their minds on matters that they had previously appeared to consider points of principle. So, I've been willing to consider that it was not impossible that Bush had stretched the truth a bit on this or that matter.

Even so, I've found him to be a relatively honest politician: in fact, I would say stunningly honest given that he occupies the Presidency. Normally Presidents have to be very dodgy because they know things that they can't say; and they can't say it because it's based on collected intelligence, which has to be treated gingerly because the lives and welfare of agents are on the line. In spite of that, Bush has been pretty straightforward about what he thinks.

Take the Axis of Evil, for example. When Bush linked Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, the response from the left was "What? Those are totally unrelated evils. You obviously are an idiot." (Actually, many of the folks on the left went a bit further, and argued that there was no such thing as evil. This space will treat that particular brand of foolishness another day.) Even from the right, the response was, "Obviously this is the scoring of a rhetorical point rather than a literal axis, since Iran and Iraq hate each other, and North Korea is on the other side of the world."

But ever since then it's proven out that Bush was just telling us, as straight as he could, what the intelligence showed. North Korean missiles have been sold to Iran, aiding the development of Iran's own weapons program, including the missile that can hit Israel. The DPRK and Iran have openly coordinated their nuclear programs. The Iran/Iraq frontier appears to have been far more porous that most of us believed, with groups like Ansar al-Islam operating on both sides and giving aid to al Qaeda. The smuggling of Iraqi oil out through Iran appears to have opened secret, but real, ties between those governments. We've recently uncovered a huge cache of documents belonging to the Mukhabarat, Iraqi intelligence, and I expect them to demonstrate far more serious and numerous ties than have heretofore emerged.

So, this claim that Bush lied about Iraq has to be put into a fence. Based on what is now open source, we can say that Bush's claims about Iraq have all borne out except the WMD claims. Those claims were beliefs shared by the United Nations, which had 18 Security Council resolutions on the subject and which wasted years and fortunes begging Hussein to let them inspect. The nations on the Security Council have some of the best intelligence services in the world, so we have to assume that the evidence on WMD was pretty emphatic. All intelligence is speculative, but the degree of unity of opinion here is remarkable.

So if it wasn't WMD as a whole that Bush lied about, then we have to limit ourselves to nuclear weapons. But here again, Bush's claims were only that he believed Hussein was preparing to reconstitute his nuclear program, not that there was a reconstituted nuclear program. That is the kind of thing intelligence can simply be wrong about. So we must draw the fence tighter and tighter to find an area in which we can clearly say that Bush lied.

And at last, I can't find one. The area that the left has focused upon is the Niger uranium. But Bush's claim in the State of the Union address was that the British had warned him of the purchase. While the CIA's document has been demonstrated to be a forgery, the British sources--we still don't know exactly what they were--are still supported by their government. Tony Blair, while playing down WMD generally, spoke to the Niger issue yesterday:

Mr Blair stood by the claim in the September dossier that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger to make nuclear weapons. He insisted the claim was based on different intelligence to the forged documents which have been dismissed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mr Blair said: "This is terribly important, because this has again been elevated into something that really is not warranted by the actual facts. There was an historic link between Niger and Iraq. In the 1980s Iraq purchased somewhere in the region of 200 tons of uranium from Niger. The evidence that we had that the Iraqi government had gone back to try to purchase further amounts of uranium from Niger did not come from these so-called forged documents. They came from separate intelligence. In so far as our intelligence services are concerned, they stand by that."
Now that leaves us here: Bush claimed the British had told him about Iraq seeking to buy uranium from Niger, and the British did just that. If you're going to pick a foreign intelligence service to trust, MI6 is one of the better ones. Even if Bush didn't believe them, he was still telling the truth when he said that the British had passed us that piece of information.

I think there is nothing much more to be said. InstaPundit, sage of Knoxville, has the story of the CIA officer who allegedly told Bush that the Niger documents were forgeries. What turns out to be a forgery is the CIA officer himself, who never worked for the Agency. There were other sources, apparently including the real CIA, who agreed that these documents were forgeries--but there is still the unseen British intelligence. Evaluating that as good or bad is not possible except as an act of faith.

That really is where we finish the inquiry: with faith. At the last you can only believe Bush is a liar if you choose to believe it. There is no evidence to support the claim. At the same time, you can't see the British intelligence he seems to have chosen to trust. So, there's no evidence to exonerate him either. I am going to choose to believe the man, simply because his record in the past has been one of openness with the American people on matters of national security, far more openness than I would have required or expected of a President. I don't see that we can move farther on this question unless new evidence emerges.

More on Iran:

Iranian agents may be behind the jamming of all US satellite transmissions to Iran. Neither private nor government signal is getting through. This report suggests the agents may be based in Latin America.

Although I'm not sure why I would follow the advice of Andrew Sullivan, I will include a link to Iranian issues today, via Arts & Letters Daily. Here it is: The Backwardness of Islam. I must say that I am myself a friend to Islam, much as I am to Christianity. Nevertheless, there are some ideas here that Muslims will have to consider, especially as concerns market economies.
Arguing Against Heroism:

I am always surprised at how many people want to take up a stick to beat the notion of heroism. It seems to me that nothing could be more necessary to a peaceful human future than the heroic model. This has been argued extensively in the past on this page, but here's another chance to take it up again.

From J. Cohen's "Medieval Masculinities":

"As a political mythology, heroism is surprisingly quite poor" (Peter van Heusden): it offers a mode of behavior, but by making its best representative more than human (hypermasculine, sanctified, even perhaps divine), it disallows that mode's successful repetition. The necessary end for heroism is death, even if that death is construed as a valorization through "glory" of the preceding life; and so heroism as a gender code has built within its deep structure the inevitability of its own passing, and to a degree, its own failure.
"The necessary end for heroism is death[.]" Glad we've got that straight. Now, tell me--what kind of life has a different ending?

Not my own dear grandmother, but a heroic woman nonetheless:
Grandma set broken bones, dug lead out of men that had been shot, and when a smallpox epidemic raged in and around the sleepy village of La Luz, Grandma quarantined some houses to use as "pest houses" and then vaccinated dozens of La Luz residents. She used a vaccine she personally extracted from calves she had inoculated with virus of the disease.
Not everyone in La Luz was willing to be vaccinated. Grandma's technique was to scrape then slash criss-cross an area of skin on her patient's left arm with a sharp knife opening a wound of at least an inch and a quarter in diameter. She then would rub her vaccine into the bleeding wound. During 1898 and 1899 people who were vaccinated in this way did not come down with smallpox, while many who refused vaccination did.
In 1900, there were no corner drugstores in La Luz--the nearest was in the new town of Alamogordo, miles away by horseback. So Grandma kept a medicine chest of old frontier standbys--quinine, turpentine, coal oil and whiskey.
Magna Carta:

Here is what almost passes as a conservative case for radical socialism, if such a thing can be imagined. It references the Magna Carta as a document that lays the foundation for the common right of access to the forests. It's an argument worth considering for those of us who tend to be private-property advocates. It's worth remembering that private property has its limitations in the American tradition too, especially where corporations come into play: James Jackson's wrath against the Yazoo land conspiracy, for example, was entirely American. Jackson, hero of the American revolution and "Prince of Duellist," was enraged by the Yazoo land law precisely because it stripped from the citizens of Georgia the chance to be small land holders, yeoman-farmers of the sort he and Thomas Jefferson prized. It may be that this point ought to apply in the Amazon, too. It's worth considering.

Did you know that the current stream of anti-American thought has its roots in Nazism? Did you know that there were four previous streams of anti-American thought, the first of which was put down by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson? For my more philosophical readers, here is a link to an article on the history of anti-Americanism.