September 2003

Steven Den Beste has another must-read essay on what’s happening in Iraq as they come to realize that Saddam isn’t coming back. He cites Johann Bari who reprints an article that he wrote for the Independent. One point Bari makes struck me as a root cause of journalistic bias on Iraq:

And third – I know this sounds like a petty point, but it’s very important – a lot of journalists are using the same guides and translators that they used before the war, because they know them. They don’t seem to realise that those people were carefully selected by the regime because of their loyalty to Saddam’s line. So most journalists are getting a totally distorted picture.

We already know many news organizations and reporters were very cozy with Saddam’s regime and covered up the horrors of his regime to maintain access. Old habits seem to die hard.


Richard Miniter walks us through the first WTC bombing and President Clinton’s response to it in this devastating WSJ Opinion Journal article. Here’s what the President said in response to the worst terrorist attack on American soil:

Mr. Clinton expanded on the law-enforcement theme, signaling that terrorists need not fear an armed response. “Just this morning I spoke with FBI Director Sessions, who assured me that the FBI and the Treasury Department are working closely with the New York City police and fire departments. Working together we’ll find out who was involved and why this happened. Americans should know we’ll do everything in our power to keep them safe in their streets, their offices and their homes. Feeling safe is an essential part of being secure. And that’s important to all of us.”

Note how he treats the attack as a domestic criminal investigation rather that what it was, international terrorism. The much maligned and demonized Newt Gingrich grasped what was going on:

On the day after the bombing, the minority whip of the House, Newt Gingrich, said that the president should be “cautious” in cutting the defense budget, as Mr. Clinton planned to do. Citing the Twin Towers bombing, Mr. Gingrich said, “There’s a very real requirement for human intelligence and military strength. Every time we have any display of weakness, any display of timidity . . . here are people on the planet eager to take advantage of us.”

Would that President Clinton had listened.

Barbara Amiel’s opinion piece tracks his career and highlights his commitment to the war on terrorism. Unlike Bush, Blair is ahead of most of his country on this issue and paying a steep political price for going out on such a limb.

British public opinion is heavily weighted in favour of appeasement as a policy until the last possible moment. Appease “foreign” terrorism in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Northern Ireland or America. Few people would admit that.

It is far more respectable to buy into the notion that terrorism, whether religious, nationalist or state-inspired, is a legitimate political expression of grievances, capable of being addressed. Talk to them. Listen. Or, just leave suicide bombers alone and they will leave us alone. Then everyone can go back to grumbling about transportation.

Blair was not of this cut. He took the terrorists at their own word – war against the West. He saw they couldn’t be appeased with the equivalent of Benes’s Czechoslovakia, namely Israel, when what they wanted was New York, Paris, Moscow and London as well.

It will be a sad day for the West if Blair’s support for the War on Saddam brings him down. But so far his party’s leadership is standing by him. More on Blair’s struggle within the Labour Party can be found here.

My blogging will fade to zero as I fly to St George, Utah to run a marathon and then England for some R&R.

At the end of World War II the allies uncovered the unspeakable horrors concealed by Nazi Germany. The concentration camps, the mass graves, the torture chambers, and the slave labor camps made the front pages of Western newspapers.

While the Baathists were not as efficient as their role models – the Nazis and Communists – there is a mountain of evidence in Iraq of their crimes against humanity. Yet the media has largely ignored those crimes and the evidence, just as it has ignored the good news from Iraq. We see passing references to how power is almost back to pre-war levels, quotes from Iraqis pining for the good old days, a few token admissions that Saddam is a bad guy, but virtually nothing about the evil that was Saddam’s rule of terror.

Richard Miniter at TCS has listed all the evidence in the public record that links al Qaeda to Iraq. The first WTC attack is directly linked to Saddam:

Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years. He fled to Iraq. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary.

That attack, had it gone according to plan, would have made 9/11 look like a picnic. Imagine one tower toppling onto the second with no warning.

Another important piece of evidence links al Qaeda to the Salman Pak terrorist training camp.

An Iraqi defector to Turkey, known by his cover name as “Abu Mohammed,” told Gwynne Roberts of the Sunday Times of London that he saw bin Laden’s fighters in camps in Iraq in 1997. At the time, Mohammed was a colonel in Saddam’s Fedayeen. He described an encounter at Salman Pak, the training facility southeast of Baghdad. At that vast compound run by Iraqi intelligence, Muslim militants trained to hijack planes with knives — on a full-size Boeing 707. Col. Mohammed recalls his first visit to Salman Pak this way: “We were met by Colonel Jamil Kamil, the camp manager, and Major Ali Hawas. I noticed that a lot of people were queuing for food. (The major) said to me: ‘You’ll have nothing to do with these people. They are Osama bin Laden’s group and the PKK and Mojahedin-e Khalq.'”

Miniter does not mention the claims that Atta twice met Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague. These contacts would fit the pattern of contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq that Miniter does list and the reason why they favored personal contacts.

(Why are all of those meetings significant? The London Observer reports that FBI investigators cite a captured al Qaeda field manual in Afghanistan, which “emphasizes the value of conducting discussions about pending terrorist attacks face to face, rather than by electronic means.”)

Al Qaeda was responsible for both WTC attacks. Iraq can be linked to the first. We should not be surprised if evidence linking Iraq to the second attack turns up. Be assured though, that it will be as well hidden as Saddam’s WMD programs.

Marguerite Higgins writing in the Washington Times highlights a study that exposes the high cost of lawsuits. The $200 billion works out to $700 per US resident. Of course, it’s not like a tax where you have some idea of what you are paying. The cost of lawsuits is built into the prices of goods and services as companies pass on to consumers the cost of lawsuits and the cost of measures taken to reduce the risk of lawsuits.

These figures underestimate the impact of lawsuits, as Higgens notes:

When calculating the costs of the litigation, Tillinghast-Towers Perrin included insured costs and overhead, self-insured costs and medical costs. The measures did not include tobacco settlement costs, most contract and shareholder litigation costs, most punitive damages costs or indirect costs like reduced innovation or investment.

That makes the $205.4 billion estimate the tip of the iceberg.

While some lawsuits have merit, many are based on junk science and jury shopping. The breast implant cases that destroyed Dow Corning and crippled many medical device manufacturers were based on junk science. The genuine asbestos cases have been overwhelmed by a flood of new cases based on the notion that workers that may have been exposed to asbestos should be compensated for diseases that have not manifested themselves and may never do so. Law firms have become adept at using the threat of class action lawsuits filed in multiple friendly jurisdictions to force companies to settle cases that had no merit.

The system is out of control and congress seems unwilling to tackle the problem. Democrats rely on campaign contributions from trial lawyers and many Republicans, Trent Lott and Arlen Specter come to mind, are also sympathetic to the interests of trial lawyers. Meanwhile, costs rise, companies close or move off shore and the economy suffers great harm.

According to the Fox News transcript of Brit Hume’s 9/22/03 interview, the President said:

But there is a longer-term issue as well, and that is, how do you change attitudes? What is necessary to defeat that sentiment that causes people to be suiciders and just kill innocent people for the sake of religion or a fake religion? And my judgment on that is the best way to do it is to spread freedom.

A “fake religion” – that sounds closer to the mark than “religion of peace”.

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