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March 31, 2004

Oil for fraud?

I'd missed this editorial from last Friday's WaPo calling on the UN to launch a thorough and independent investigation of the UN's Oil for Food program in Iraq.   Here is an excerpt:

Over time, the oil-for-food program in fact became a surrogate Iraqi trade ministry, as even a cursory look at the list of products Iraq imported under its auspices proves. "Humanitarian needs" -- a phrase that conjures up an image of beans, rice and emergency medicines -- came to include plumbing and sanitation for swimming pools, four-color offset printing machines, cigarette paper and photography lab supplies, according to the United Nations' Web site. Clearly, those managing the program on behalf of the United Nations were not trying to limit imports to rice and beans, which is hardly surprising: On every barrel of oil sold -- about $40 billion worth -- the United Nations earned a 3 percent commission, divided as 0.8 percent going to the weapons inspection program and 2.2 percent to the program's administrative costs. The fundamental problems with the program were public knowledge. Far worse now are the mounting allegations of behind-the-scenes corruption...

March 31, 2004 at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where is the outrage?

The long-running civil war in Sudan appears to be heating up again, as the Sudanese of Arab descent (who live in the northern part of the country, are Moslem and control the government) resume their campaign of oppression against their darker-skinned, largely Christian, southern neighbors.

Here is what Nick Kristof has to say about it:

Some 1,000 people are dying each week in Sudan, and 110,000 refugees, like Mr. Yodi, have poured into Chad. Worse off are the 600,000 refugees within Sudan, who face hunger and disease after being driven away from their villages by the Arab militias.

"They come with camels, with guns, and they ask for the men," Mr. Yodi said. "Then they kill the men and rape the women and steal everything." One of their objectives, he added, "is to wipe out blacks."

This is not a case when we can claim, as the world did after the Armenian, Jewish and Cambodian genocides, that we didn't know how bad it was. Sudan's refugees tell of mass killings and rapes, of women branded, of children killed, of villages burned — yet Sudan's government just stiffed new peace talks that began last night in Chad.

So far the U.N. Security Council hasn't even gotten around to discussing the genocide. And while President Bush, to his credit, raised the issue privately in a telephone conversation last week with the president of Sudan, he has not said a peep about it publicly. It's time for Mr. Bush to speak out forcefully against the slaughter.

Kristof is once again unfashionably ahead of the curve, doing original reporting on newsworthy events from remote parts of the globe.   If only people were listening...

Personally, I think the US (and the Bush administration) should make the violence in Sudan an international issue.   In addition to the obvious humanitarian interest in stopping genocide, Sudan has also in the recent past been a locus of Al Queda activity and was Osama bin Laden's home for several years before he moved his headquarters to Afghanistan.   An outlaw regime in Sudan would provide an excellent sanctuary for Al Queda and other Islamist terrorists.   We (hopefully with the help of the UN and members of the OAU) should not allow this to happen.

March 31, 2004 at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NYT Correction of the Week

Whoops... how did this happen?

Because of an editing error, a front-page article on Sunday about the difficulty of distributing drugs to AIDS patients in poor countries referred incorrectly to President Bush's January 2003 plan to spend $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in the third world. While United States spending thus far has not kept pace with the plan, the president has issued a five-year budget plan that foresees reaching it; his requests have not fallen short of the goal. (Go to Article)

March 31, 2004 at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

Veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke dies at age 95

Alistair Cooke's "Letter From America" which was broadcast weekly by the BBC for 58 years, was one of the masterpieces of modern journalism.   He was a great man and will be missed.

March 30, 2004 at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

UN Oil for palaces update

William Safire has a nice OpEd today on the UN's stonewalling.

March 29, 2004 at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2004

A new Glasnost at the former Howellburo?

Maybe "Public Editor" Daniel Okrent is gaining some traction at the NYT...

Yesterday's NYT OpEd by liberal columnist (and former Enron consultant) Paul Krugman began with this paragraph:

From the day it took office, U.S. News & World Report wrote a few months ago, the Bush administration "dropped a shroud of secrecy" over the federal government. After 9/11, the administration's secretiveness knew no limits — Americans, Ari Fleischer ominously warned, "need to watch what they say, watch what they do." Patriotic citizens were supposed to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions.
This distorted quotation of the former White House Press Secretary was quickly exposed by Donald Luskin, leader of "Krugman Truth Squad" at the National Review Online, and picked up by the WSJ's James Taranto in his Best of the Web Today.   In the past, the NYT would have ignored this criticism -- the paper's official policy had been that no corrections were required to factual misstatements or distortions by its columnists unless the columnists decide to put a correction in a subsequent column.   But thanks to pressure from the blogosphere in the form of Robert Cox's The National Debate, the policy has been changed.

The new policy, that columnists are expected to run corrections at the bottom of their columns and to correct every error, was enunciated by Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins in a discussion with Paul Colford, a NY Daily News columnist.   And the policy appears to be producing results.   Today's NYT editorial page prominently features a letter from Ari Fleischer setting the record straight on Krugman's distortion.

I hope we will see more of this new glasnost policy at the NYT...

March 24, 2004 at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

NYT Correction of the Week

Should not issue, must issue; whatever, don't bore me with the details!

A report in the National Briefing column on March 17 about a plan in Benton County, Ore., to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples misstated advice given by the county counsel. The counsel said the county should not issue licenses until the Oregon Supreme Court had ruled on the matter, not that the state Constitution required the county to issue them. (Go to Article)

March 24, 2004 at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

Who is Richard Clarke?

Today's WaPo has an in-depth profile of Richard A. Clarke, the former White House anti-terrorism advisor turned author of a tell-all soon to be best seller, by Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus.   The story paints a picture of hard-charging, self-promoting, bureaucratic operator who was also deeply and passionately concerned about the looming threat from Islamist terror.

I haven't read much about the specifics of his allegations against the Bush administration during its first year in office, but I think that its fair to say that there is enough blame to go around for both parties as well as the Bush and Clinton administrations.   If nothing else, the recent upswell of criticism of the Bush administration's handling of 9/11 and the war on terror shows that the 9/11 Commission is less about improving America's defenses against terror than it is about Presidential politics.

March 23, 2004 at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are the Palestinians rational actors?

Interesting OpEd in today's WSJ (and the free Opinion Journal) by Bret Stephens, editor of the Jerusalem Post.   His point?   That Palestinians are people, just like any others, not superhuman seekers of martyrdom.   As such, they can be deterred, as they have been in the past by Israeli retaliation against those who have attacked them.

In the early months of the intifada, this macho pretense [that Palestinians were different from us mere mortals] was sustained by the Israeli government's tacit decision not to target terrorist ringleaders, for fear such attacks would inspire massive retaliation. Yassin and his closest associates considered themselves immune from Israeli reprisals and operated in the open. What followed was the bloodiest terrorist onslaught in Israeli history, climaxing in a massacre at Netanya in March 2002. After that, Israel invaded the West Bank and began to target terrorist leaders more aggressively.

The results, in terms of lives saved, were dramatic. In 2003, the number of Israeli terrorist fatalities declined by more than 50% from the previous year, to 213 from 451. The overall number of attacks also declined, to 3,823 in 2003 from 5,301 in 2002, a drop of 30%. In the spring of 2003, Israel stepped up its campaign of targeted assassinations, including a failed attempt on Yassin's deputy, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Wise heads said Israel had done nothing except incite the Palestinians to greater violence. Instead, Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups agreed unilaterally to a cease-fire.

In this context, it bears notice that between 2002 and 2003 the number of Palestinian fatalities also declined significantly, from 1,000 to about 700. The reason here is obvious: As the leaders of Palestinian terror groups were picked off and their operations were disrupted, they were unable to carry out the kind of frequent, large-scale attacks that had provoked Israel's large-scale reprisals. Terrorism is a top-down business, not vice versa. Targeted assassinations not only got rid of the most guilty but diminished the risk of open combat between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian foot soldiers.

*    *    *

Now a few words about Yassin, the international reaction to his killing, and the likely result for Israel. It may be recalled that Israel released the good sheikh in 1997, after having sentenced him to life in prison, with the promise that he would never again promote terrorism. This was during the Oslo years, when serious people actually thought that such conciliatory gestures served the interests of peace. Today, that is beyond comprehension. At any rate, Yassin didn't keep his promise.

If Palestinian leaders come to realize that their promises at the negotiating table have consequences (and not just for their people, but for themselves and their families), perhaps it will be possible to start down the road to an eventual peace.   Perhaps...   But I fear that the "Palestinian street" (and the terrorists who enflame its opinions) have not yet tired of bloodshed and killing.   Remember how long it took in Northern Ireland -- and its not entirely clear that their war has finally ended.

March 23, 2004 at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

Boabdil's revenge

Take a look at Fouad Ajami's perceptive OpEd in today's WSJ on the demographic dilemma facing Europe and the subliminal appeal of appeasement.   (Link for non-subscribers to the WSJ here, good until 3/29/04.)

Europe's leaders know Europe's dilemmas. In ways both intended and subliminal, the escape into anti-Americanism is an attempt at false bonding with the peoples of Islam. Give the Arabs -- and the Muslim communities implanted in Europe -- anti-Americanism, give them an identification with the Palestinians, and you shall be spared their wrath. Beat the drums of opposition to America's war in Iraq, and the furies of this radical Islamism will pass you by. This is seen as a way around the troubles. But there is no exit that way. It is true that Spain supported the American campaign in Iraq, but that aside, Spain's identification with Arab aims has a long history. Of all the larger countries of the EU, Spain has been most sympathetic to Palestinian claims. It was only in 1986 that Spain recognized Israel and established diplomatic ties. With the sole exception of Greece, Spain has shown the deepest reserve toward Israel. Yet this history offered no shelter from the bombers of March 11.
Sometimes being too "civilized" can be bad for your life expectancy.   (That goes double for "nuance" as well.)

March 22, 2004 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack