Conspiracy theory

Slate's Jack Shafer wonders why the mainstream press has been dismissive of Stephen F. Hayes' report in The Weekly Standard on alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. Hayes' article largely summarizes a memo by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, which may account for some of the skepticism. Feith does not enjoy a reputation as a disinterested pusuer of the truth. Like many of his fellow hawks in the Bush administration, he has a track record of reaching … [Read more...]

Mot juste

"U.S. agrees to international control of its troops in Iraq." That's the headline of an article in yesterday's (UK) Independent in which Leonard Doyle and Stephen Castle report on comments from Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief. "Everybody has moved, including the United States, because the United States has a real problem and when you have a real problem you need help." There is a "growing consensus" that the transfer of power has to be … [Read more...]

EPCOT on the Euphrates

Ariana Eunjung Cha continues to report on the cost-effective and, under the circumstances, heroic efforts of ordinary Iraqis in rebuilding their country (see "Half a bridge" earlier). This time it's a cement factory. One of the reasons President Bush's $87 billion (for now) pricetag for rebuilding Iraq is so high is that that country has a shortage of cement: When American aid experts drew up a list of priorities for reconstruction they included power plants, water-treatment … [Read more...]

Kill all the bad people

In Newsweek, we read this disturbing account of an Army chaplain's prayer: Then the battalion's chaplain asks the men to join him in a short prayer. "Lord, there are bad guys out there," he says, bowing his head. "Just help us kill 'em." This, in short, seems to be the Bush Plan for World Peace. All we need to do is kill all the bad people. Glenn Tinder discusses the origins and implications of such a moral scheme in his neat little book, Political Thinking: … [Read more...]

Moving statistics

Winston Churchill noted that one mark of an educated person is the ability to be moved by statistics. I would add that a mark of an over-educated person is the inability to be moved without them. Via Cursor, I find this BBC report on this study by the British medical charity Medact, which "estimates that between 22,000 and 55,000 people -- mainly Iraqi soldiers and civilians -- died as a direct result of the war." Here, for those who need such statistics, is a big round number. The … [Read more...]

Yes, but the schools are open

Let's try to remember, first of all, that the schools in Iraq have been reopened. Don't forget about the schools -- that's what this war has always been about, the centers of mass instruction. And the Good News is that the schools are open. Mission Accomplished, schools-wise. And but so, keeping said schools always at the forefront of our minds, how else is the war going? Not well. Or at least so says: 1. David Rieff in The New York Times 2. Eric Boehlert in Salon 3. Sidney … [Read more...]


In an op-ed column in today's New York Times, David Brooks offers a preemptive defense of American resolve in the face of atrocities yet to be committed by Americans. Brooks argues that such atrocities will be a necessary and vital component of America winning the war in Iraq, which is also, he says, "the Battle of Midway in our war on terror." The president will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action if we are to defeat the … [Read more...]

Half a bridge

A few weeks back, as the famous Iraqi schools were reopening, NPR ran a story in which U.S. soldiers spoke with pride of the extra efforts they had put into repairing and painting the classrooms of one school. This was a "good news" story, although I paid it no special note then, since it came before the Bush administration began its whiny campaign bemoaning the supposed absence of such reporting. The soldiers' actions were commendable, but what struck me was this: Why on earth … [Read more...]