Change of Command

Change of Command:

USCENTCOM has appointed a new ground commander in Afghaninstan, Lt. General David Barno. Barno, who was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame back in 1994, when he was a Lt. Colonel, seems like a good choice for the position and illustrates just how deep the talent pool is.

Gen. Barno says that his major effort is going to be improving security in the south and east, which includes Zabul province--readers of Grim's Hall have been following the situation in Zabul for months. It will be interesting to see what tactics he brings to the field. I wish him luck. We've had some successes there in the past, and I've been under the impression that we've been letting the Taliban gather in Zabul so we don't have to hunt them in Pakistan, destabilizing that state. However, the recent Operation Avelanche didn't meet with great success at all.



For political, this week, "The Politics of the Lord of the Rings". For non-political, this piece.

Speaking of International Law

Speaking of International Law:

It's worth recognizing that there is more than one Law on offer:

Members of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, who concluded their seven-day deliberations in Makkah yesterday, emphasized the need to remove the conditions that breed terrorism and extremism by implementing Shariah.
Worldwide Sha'ria is certainly being advocated by quite a few fellows as a competing model to whatever the EU will finally settle upon, if indeed they ever can settle. In fact, Sha'ria is a stronger candiate, as it is already an established system of law. Would this count as a "fair trial under international supervision"? I don't see why not.

Of course, those of us who would prefer to continue being consulted about the laws that govern us can support neither option. Sha'ria can't be changed by mortal man; and "international law" EU style creates foreign arbiters to overrule you. The Classical Liberal must fight both systems with whatever weapons fall to hand.

UPDATE: Apparently the USS Clueless has been on this theme too. I should get over there more often.

Some Misconceptions

Some Misconceptions:

I think it's about time that we pointed out a few problems with the prevailing theory of international law. Consider this statement by Saddam's daughter:

"Of course I don't think he would receive a fair trial" under the current regime, she said. "The interim government is not recognised by anyone in the Arab world.

"I want a fair trial under international supervision... This is a legitimate right of any human being," she said.
That is flatly not true. No one anywhere has a right to a trial under international supervision--and they never have. From the dawn of human history, justice has been local. It may be that we will someday build a system in which "a fair trial under international supervision" is indeed a right, although from a US perspective, this would be a step backwards. The "international community" is noted for having far less fair trials than we have already; adding an observer from Zimbabwe, or even Denmark, would not improve the situation.

Regardless, it must be recognized by "international law" advocates that what they are demanding is new. It represents a massive cessation of national authority--indeed, in many cases, of local authority. Most crimes in the USA, for example, are prosecuted by state governments and not the Federal government. One simply cannot assert that there is a "human right" here, when no such right has ever belonged to any human. If you want to build this system, you must first build an actual argument for why we should desire it. So far, I've not seen anything that would convince me that it was a good idea.

Another misconception, thanks to Michael Moore:

Thank God Saddam is finally back in American hands! He must have really missed us. Man, he sure looked bad! But, at least he got a free dental exam today. That's something most Americans can't get.
Again, this is flatly untrue. Saddam killed, at minimum, 300,000 Iraqis. Some put the number as high as a million.

Any American who wants a free dental exam can get it by killing just one American citizen. In fact, he can get free dental and health care, as well as free room and board, for his whole remaining life. So you see, Mr. Moore, Americans don't have to work nearly as hard as Saddam for these benefits; they can get them for an afternoon's work, rather than the work of three decades. Just lucky, I guess.

"Mr. Dean"

"Mr. Dean: Beyond the Mainstream":

I have never particularly liked the way that the top four or five US newspapers take it upon themselves to determine what constitutes "mainstream." The NY Times and the Washington Post are particularly frequent offenders. The reason it bothers me is this: All major newspapers are, for economic reasons, located in major cities. Major cities are, as we know from recent elections, the reform-liberal bastions of this country. The reason there are "blue states" at all is because of the cities located in the blue states. Attempting to gauge the "mainstream" from the heart of Washington, D.C., or Manhattan, is an act sure to fail.

However, for the above reason, it is almost always rightists who are declared Outside The Mainstream. Today, the Post made a declaration to the left. The same bias that causes centrist right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh to be put 'outside the mainstream' (which is laughable, given that his audience of American citizens far surpasses the Post's subscription base. You may not like him or agree with him, but by the clear evidence of his following he is at least as 'mainstream American' as the Post, and any argument to the contrary is self-delusion) suggests that anyone the Post finds out of the mainstream on the left is going to be pretty far left indeed.

So who is it? Why, Dr. Dean:

Yet there are important differences between the Democratic front-runner, Howard Dean, and the other five. In his speech Monday, Mr. Dean alone portrayed the recruiting of allies for Iraq as a means to "relieve the burden on the U.S." -- that is, to quickly draw down American forces. Only he omitted democracy from his goals for Iraq and the Middle East. And only Mr. Dean made the extraordinary argument that the capture of Saddam Hussein "has not made Americans safer."

Mr. Dean's carefully prepared speech was described as a move toward the center, but in key ways it shifted him farther from the mainstream. A year ago Mr. Dean told a television audience that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies," but last weekend he declared that "I never said Saddam was a danger to the United States." Mr. Dean has at times argued that the United States must remain engaged to bring democracy to Iraq, yet the word is conspicuously omitted from the formula of "stable self-government" he now proposes. The former Vermont governor has compiled a disturbing record of misstatements and contradictions on foreign policy; maybe he will shift yet again, this time toward more responsible positions.

Mr. Dean's exceptionalism, however, is not limited to Iraq. It can be found in his support for limiting the overseas deployments of the National Guard -- a potentially radical change in the U.S. defense posture -- and in his readiness to yield to the demands of North Korea's brutal communist dictatorship, which, he told The Post's Glenn Kessler, "ought to be able to enter the community of nations." Mr. Dean says he would end all funding for missile defense, a program supported by the Clinton administration, and also has broken with Mr. Clinton's successful trade policies, embracing protectionism. Sadly, on trade his position is shared by every Democratic candidate except Mr. Lieberman (and Ms. Clinton).

It is Mr. Dean's position on Iraq, however, that would be hardest to defend in a general election campaign. Many will agree with the candidate that "the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help and at unbelievable cost." But most Americans understand Saddam Hussein for what he was: a brutal dictator who stockpiled and used weapons of mass destruction, who plotted to seize oil supplies on which the United States depends, who hated the United States and once sought to assassinate a former president; whose continuing hold on power forced thousands of American troops to remain in the Persian Gulf region for a decade; who even in the months before his overthrow signed a deal to buy North Korean missiles he could have aimed at U.S. bases. The argument that this tyrant was not a danger to the United States is not just unfounded but ludicrous.

Mr. Dean may be arguing Saddam Hussein's insignificance in part because he is unwilling to make a commitment to Iraq's future.
If this is a radical position when viewed from the center-left, how is it when viewed from the center-right, i.e., from everywhere in America not in a major city? Remember that Dean has to win 70% of US states if he captures no Southern states, which it is likely that he will not. As I argued earlier, Dean actually looks less radical on domestic issues, and could be a real contender for the victory if this were not wartime. It is, though, and a very large number of Americans care about the war more than every other political issue put together. - Top Stories - Documents Tie Saddam to 'Mohammed's Army'

One-Two, After All:

No news on whether the Atta memo is genuine or not, although it looks fuzzy. However, there is news on Saddam's terrorist connections. It's from FOX, so take it as you will.

Telegraph | News | Terrorist behind September 11 strike was trained by Saddam

A One-Two Punch?

The Iraqi Governing Council has apparently chosen today to release a statement that they have uncovered proof that 9/11 attacker Atta was trained by Iraqi agents.

Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.

In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy".
That's very handy. Even handier:
The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment", contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.

Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.

"We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," he said. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks."
That's maybe too handy. If this document proves to be a forgery, well, it wouldn't surprise me. On the other hand, if it pans out, it's a kind Christmas gift from the IGC.

UPDATE: The Age has some additional details about the memo's physical properties. The news report is called "Atta linked to Baghdad in dubious document," which captures the sad fact that this is a shockingly neat package to get everything we wish we could know for certain about Iraq and al Qaeda: that the links were real and functional, that 9/11 involved direct training from the Iraqi Mukhabarat and Abu Nidal, and even that the Niger shipment was real and aided by Qaeda agents. It'd be really nice if all of this panned out--and I have always believed the first part, that the links were real and functional, and been open to evidence on the second part, about 9/11--but what are the odds of finding it all written up in one neat document?

Written in the neat, precise hand of Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and one of the few named in the US Government's pack of cards of most-wanted Iraqis not to have been apprehended, the personal memo to Saddam is signed by Habbush in distinctive green ink.
Well, good luck to the CIA analysts who will be sifting these details in the next little while--assuming this is news to them. It's always possible they've had this memo for quite a while.

Saddam Hussein Captured by U.S. Troops (


Saddam Hussein Captured by 4th ID and USSOCOM! And in Tikrit, too. I'll be taking that shipment of Italian wine, McKnight.