Sunday, October 31, 2004

THIS, RATHER THAN OSAMA'S TAPE, merits the "October surprise" label, because this is certainly a much, much bigger issue. Though I agree that it's hardly surprising:
Iran's parliament Sunday unanimously passed a resolution allowing the government to continue its uranium enrichment activities, despite recent efforts by European negotiators to curb the program.

After the vote was passed, several lawmakers stood up and shouted: "Death to America."

Iran has previously stated its nuclear program is intended for peaceful civilian uses. The Iranians have said they have every right to resume enriching uranium.

Enriched uranium can be a fuel for both nuclear energy and atomic weapons.
Sure, they need the energy; as everybody knows, Iran doesn't have a drop of oil.

MORE ON SPANISH PRISONS providing pool of recruits for radical Islam; today it's the New York Times:
Rather than scan all of society for recruits, Islamic militants in Spain have found that many of the most promising candidates have already been collected into one bountiful pool, law enforcement experts say.

It is the Spanish prison system, which has become increasingly populated with immigrants from North Africa, many possessing the characteristics that the recruiters are seeking, the law enforcement experts say. The prisoners are often Muslims, even if largely lapsed ones, and they are often bitter about their experiences in the West or their prison experiences.

The Spanish police announced Thursday that they had arrested 13 people they suspected of belonging to a terrorist cell made up almost entirely of North African immigrants recruited in a Spanish prison.

The group, which included 18 others arrested two weeks ago, began as a collection of unacquainted men jailed for minor criminal offenses like weapons possession, document fraud or robbery, the police said.

But their time in prison transformed them into the Martyrs for Morocco, a terrorist group planning to blow up the national court in Madrid, investigators said.

"It has confirmed that the nucleus for recruitment is centered on people convicted of common crimes," Baltasar Garzón, the judge investigating the case, said in a report released this week. He urged the government to tighten controls on the prison population here.
Previous posts on this issue: one, two, three and four.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

FOR STARTERS, the first flaw in the delirious study on The Lancet (warning: pdf file), claiming that there's been aproximately 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the invasion, appears immediately when you look at figure 2, on page 5 of the pdf: there's almost no violent death before the invasion. Yeah, right. And Saddam was Heidi's grandaddy benignly presiding over an idilic Switzerland-like country.

But there's many, many more issues with the study, and for that let me refer you to several authoritative voices: Fred Kaplan, on Slate (not a Bush shill, he); Shannon Love, on ChicagoBoyz, and Birkel on his blog (it's three posts: one, two and three).

I can't really see how some people took the study seriously: after all you know you have some problems with a study when it goes, literally, almost 10 times further than Human Rights Watch and Iraq Body Count, who are using some pretty questionable methodologies themselves.

Case closed.

I JUST KNEW I had seen these faces before, but couldn't remember where... (via Ann Althouse, guestblogging at Instapundit)

Friday, October 29, 2004

ALMOST OUT OF TIME for being called an "October Surprise":
Al-Jazeera to broadcast new bin Laden video
Arab TV says al-Qaida leader has message for American people
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 2:12 p.m. ET Oct. 29, 2004

Arab satellite television Al-Jazeera said on Friday it would broadcast a video tape from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden addressing the American people.

It said the tape, to be aired at 2000 GMT (4 p.m. ET), would discuss the reasons behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and their repercussions. It gave no further details.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

"SPAIN'S REGIONS finally meet 28 years after democracy arrives," writes approvingly the government-run news agency EFE:
For the first time since the fall of the Franco dictatorship, all Spain's political leaders met for a conference Thursday.

Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez led the conference of all the regional prime ministers at the Senate, the upper house of the Spanish parliament in Madrid.
You know, all due to the new climate in the country after taking back the country from the tight grip of pseudo-fascist Aznar.

The new Zapatero government keeps creating a fiction as if the dictator Franco was succeeded in 1975 by a semi-dictatorship, a pseudo-democracy, and the Socialist party was now, after March 14, the first real democratic government:
Jordi Sevilla, minister of public administration, said during eight years when the PP was in power it had been unable to create a climate to bring all the regions together.
Well, Jordi, could you please tell me what happened the 14 years before that? You know, the period between 1982 and 1986, when your Socialist pal Felipe Gonzalez was prime minister?

"SPAIN is launching a diplomatic offensive to rebuild its relationship with Britain and the United States after its fierce criticism of the Iraq war," Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the Spanish Foreign Minister, told The Times yesterday.

I'd advise The Times not to believe the guy; he usually lies through his teeth, and in his soulmate Arafat pure style, he says one thing to the foreign media, and another completely different one when he's talking to the Spanish press.

Now get this, and see if you can make any sense of it. I can't:
“We became very angry when we were told that terrorists facilitated the Socialist victory,” he said. “We consider that an insult to our democracy and our citizens.

“On the contrary, the terrorists would have won if they had reinforced the policies of the previous Government. The terrorists were defeated because the people said: ‘Enough of this policy, we want to have a democratic change.’ The perception was manipulated so that it appeared that our position on Iraq was an appeasement of the War on Terror. But from the beginning we said: ‘Please don’t misunderstand us, the terrorists have their own agenda and we have our own and we must not play theirs.’ And that has been the main mistake. Britain and the USA went to war in Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction, not because of bin Laden, who was in Afghanistan. So why mix up Iraq with that?
Well, actually I can, make sense of this: it certainly proves 1/ he's an ignorant and can't read the statements by the terrorists rejoicing over Aznar's defeat and congratulating Zapatero for his victory; 2/ he thinks it's all of us who don't know and tries to manipulate things to his, and Zapatero's, advantage.

ONLY REUTERS could make it sound as if the terrorist group ETA was a legitimate political entity:
ETA says open to negotiations with Spain
27 Oct 2004 21:00:15 GMT
Source: Reuters
MADRID, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Armed Basque separatist group ETA said it was open to negotiations with the Spanish government to try to end more than three decades of violence, as long as talks were without conditions.
By the way, Reuters, if you don't want to call the guys terrorists, could you at least call them "Arms-using Basque separatist group"? They hace killed more than 800 human beings, you know.

I DON'T KNOW about you, but I'd like to hear that from US lips before I believe it:
Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono said relations between his country and the United States were bound by friendship and that Washington understood comments by a senior army general calling for a rebalancing of their military relationship.
I wrote about the top military chief here.

COULDN'T POST any entry for the whole yesterday; there were serious problems with Blogger that seem to be solved now. We'll see if it lasts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Relations between Spain and the United States hit a new low Monday after the head of the Spanish military attacked the way Washington used Spain.

General Felix Sanz Roldan claimed: "We give a lot but receive little."

The general said during the Iraq war, while Spanish forces supported the US-led invasion, American forces carried out 8,000 air operations and 850 operations by sea in Spanish air space and waters.

THIS IS PRICELESS: is a web of radiKKKal websites à la Indymedia (one of them is the online home for the Committee of Solidarity with the Arab Cause, whose boss, Basem Qaqish, appears in the documents as one of the three lucky recipients of Saddam's oil vouchers in Spain). They re-publish an excerpt of the Spanish translation of Michael Moore's Stupid White Men. The trouble is, anti-imperialist guys don't study English (it's the language of Bushitler, after all), so apparently they didn't know what was the book cover they chose as illustration. Warning: don't look at it while drinking; it could ruin your computer. Ready? OK, then; here it is.

(via Tim Blair)

Monday, October 25, 2004

"SPAIN'S PRISONS are breeding grounds for Islamic militants, a judge warned after filing terrorism charges against 17 people who allegedly plotted to ram a truck packed with explosives into the National Court," according to the Associated Press.

One of the prisons where the plotting took place was Topas, in the Salamanca province. If it sounds familiar is because we talked about the, er, explosive situation inside the facility here and here.

AP continues writing that
The daily ABC reported Sunday that Spain's prison director, Mercedes Gallizo, has ordered a detailed report on all prison incidents involving Muslim inmates and would be meeting with prison authorities to discuss how to tighten controls.
It's the same prison director who had accused of exageration and xenophobia (link in Spanish) to people who had been saying that some bad things were happening inside the prison.

Oh, and by the way, what the international reports aren's saying, and pro-Socialist government media within Spain is furiously trying to downplay or even hide, is that in the agenda of Aldelkrim Beresmail, one of the plotters, were the names and contacts of Henri Parot and Ariet Iragi, two of the bloodiest ETA members (link in Spanish).

THERE ARE TWO IRAQS, writes Arthur Chrenkoff:
The one we more often see and read about is a dangerous place, full of exploding cars, kidnapped foreigners and deadly ambushes. There, reconstruction is proceeding at a snail's pace, frustration boils over, and tensions--political, ethnic, religious--crackle in the air like static electricity before a storm.

The other Iraq is a once prosperous and promising country of 24 million, slowly recovering from the physical and moral devastation of totalitarianism. It's a country whose people are slowly beginning to stand on their own feet, grasp the opportunities undreamed of only two years ago, and dream of catching up on three decades of lost time.
It's the new installment of his Good News from Iraq series; as usual, it's worth reading each and every line.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I SIMPLY CAN'T BELIEVE the logic used by some of the opponents of the French plan for teaching English in schools to kids from the age of eight. Take this MP of Chirac's party:
"This is an error. English may be the most widely spoken language today but that's not going to last," said Jacques Myard MP. "Spanish is gaining ground in America as well as Chinese and Japanese. If we have to make one language compulsory it should be Arabic.

"In 1914, French officers learnt German," he added. "They were right."
Insert your own joke of how handy it certainly was a couple of decades later.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I KNOW, I KNOW, it's not a good thing to laugh when somebody falls down, especially when the person is an elderly. But this time, and I'm not sorry for it, I'll make an exception: you can see the full sequence of Fidel Castro's glorious fall yesterday.

As Nihil Obstat says (link in Catalan), where I saw the video, I hope too that this fall is a premonition.

DON'T MISS "Saddam Hussein's Philantropy of Terror", an interesting website by Deroy Murdock, media fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Just in case there's still anyone in doubt of whether Iraq had had substantial links to terrorism for decades. Not, it's not this war who turned the country into a 'terror magent', as many people say.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

SOME TIME AGO I pointed to the six still images taken by surveillance cameras in the Atocha train station on the very same moment when the bombs exploded on March 11.

Today, the full video has been released; it's been on all TV networks. Neo, from has digitized them and made them available both in Windows Media and QuickTime formats [UPDATE. seems to be overloaded with traffic at the moment; alternatively, you can also go to FoxNews, which has the information and video too -- FA] [ANOTHER UPDATE. If you're have trouble with, which is really overloaded with traffic, and if you don't find the link at FoxNews, the video is also available at the newspaper El Mundo, both in Windows Media and RealMedia; they also have the previously unreleased video of the reivindication of the attack by one of the terrorists, a tape which was found on March 12 (Windows Media, RealMedia) -- FA]
Be warned: not gory, but extremely, extremely disturbing. You can see the three blasts (the third one is specially big). Later, while police and paramedics where assisting the wounded, there was an alert because somebody thought that another artifact was going to blow up (something that in the end didn't happen, fortunately).

And that's precisely the most unsettling moment, at least the one that impressed me most: seeing all those doctors and policemen leaving the wounded and running away to shield themselves from what they thought was going to be another explosion, leaving the wounded unattended. I just can't imagine what would have been in my mind if I had been one of the people on the floor, with serious injuries, or how helpless I would've felt seeing all these guys running away. On the other hand, of course, I can't judge; fortunately I haven't found myself in such a situation, and it's impossible to know what would be my, or anyone else's, reaction in a moment like that. But as far as I know, the NYFD guys kept going up on the second WTC tower after the first one had already fallen, knowing that it meant they would probably die too: they simply were trying to save as many lives as possible and as long as they could.

I don't know what to think; it's undeniable that the police and medical services did a tremendous job on that fateful day, and I don't want to seem like I'm unfairly criticizing them. It's just that altogether this is so, so unsettling; it was really difficult, almost impossible, to contain the feelings while watching the footage.

UPDATE. I want to thank Glenn Reynolds for the link; I wish I could be more cheerful about it, but the subject is certainly not one to be cheerful about (not that I'm complaining of an instalanche, mind you!). Meanwhile, welcome to all readers, and please take a look around; actually today quite a few major news happened in Spain, as a major terror attack has been thwarted by the Spanish police (information here and here).

UPDATE II. Feces Flinging Monkey comments on the rescue workers:
I am currently working towards my EMT-basic recertification. We have a specific policy on this sort of thing, and it's a good one:

"You're of no fucking use if you're a victim."

There is a reason why the bad guys like to place secondary devices, timed to kill the rescuers who respond; if you kill or disable the rescuers, there won't be anyone around who can quickly replace them. If there is no one left to do the important work of saving the victims, more of them will die.

Yes, this can look a lot like cowardice, and yes, it requires tremendous professional discipline to back away from a hazardous situation when there are helpless people in your care. Most medical folks will instinctively defend their patients to their last dying breath, and would not abandon them for anything. It's a fine and noble thing, but it is not the right thing to do. In a mass casualty incident, that handful of doctors, EMTs and First Responders available to you are like gold. You need to protect them, or else everyone loses.
Read the rest of these interesting comments.

Meanwhile, a reader emails: "I know you want to think the best of the rescue workers 9/11, but the facts don't support your statement.

It is well known that the FDNY radio system was largely inoperable within the WTC towers (Faraday box effect, mostly). After the collapse of the south tower there was mass confusion but orders to evacuate the north tower were given. Few units received those commands, however, from the evidence we have. One of the few we have firm evidence of is the group of surviving firemen who were rescued from the stairwell after the north tower collapsed; they were on their way *down*, and had passed other units on their way up, who didn't understand or believe what they were told about the collapse.

Certainly, they were braver than you and I in every respect, but it's unlikely they were going into what they knew was certain death; it's unlikely that any commander would have supported such a decision. (If the FDNY had an inkling of the structural problems that the WTC faced, they would likely have ordered their men to evacuate.)

They simply didn't know."

As I said, I didn't want to seem like I was unfairly criticizing a group of folks who did a tremendous job, taking care of so many casualties in an operation that, as far as I know, has been praised by specialists all over the world. More so because I didn't have the knowledge of the kinds of protocols emergency workers and first responders must follow. As for the WTC, I don't have the facts and was mentioning what I thought it was what happened; the reader makes a point but, frankly, I can't assess whether he's right or wrong. In any case, I wasn't really making any statement on neither of these aspects; I was merely writing what was going through my emotions, rather than through my mind, as I was seeing those disturbing images; it was more raising questions than answering them.

IN CASE there's still doubt that a possible connection between the "secular ETA" and the "radically religious Islamic terrorists" is far from metaphysically impossible, as judge Baltasar Gazón said, let me introduce you to Iñigo Elkoro:

Mr Elkoro is the guy dancing on the left; I guess I don't have to say whose picture it is in that altar on the background.

The picture appeared a few days ago in an article in La Vanguardia (link in Spanish; free reg. req.), the centenarian and most respected Barcelona newspaper. The most interesting thing is that according to La Vanguardia the picture comes from the judicial summary of Mr Elkoro's indictment as ETA collaborator. Guess who was the judge in charge from the case? None other than judge Garzón, the same one who said that any connection between ETA and Islamic terrorists was "metaphysically impossible" (against the allegations of Aznar and the Popular Party, who claim that there is a long history of contacts between ETA and Arab terrorists and therefore it can't be ruled out yet that the March 11 attacks were a joint operation). Not that he thought that in the particular case of the March 11 attacks he thought that there was no connection, no; what he said went much further: that it was 'metaphysically impossible', meaning that there's no way that there could be any connection at all.

So judge Garzón, though he had been in charge of a summary in which there was at least some indication that a connection between ETA and Islamic terrorist was not impossible, appears at the parliamentary commission investigating the Madrid attacks and says that such a contact was 'metaphysically impossible'. He also 'forgot' to tell the commissioners that he had been wiretapping the phones of two of the March 11 ringleaders until one month before the attack (in Spain's legal system it's the judges, not the prosecutors, who instruct the judicial summaries); did he fail to pass a warning for what he had learnt from these intercepted conversations?

Do you think that what Garzón did, o did not, might have something to do with his pro-Socialist trajectory (actually, he was deputy Interior minister in the mid-90s, during Felipe González administration)?

WELL, IT SEEMS that running from Iraq hasn't diminished the risk of Islamic terrorism in Spain:
Police arrested seven suspected Islamic militants in raids across Spain on Monday to foil a planned bomb attack on the High Court, judicial sources said.

The arrests came seven months after train bombs killed 191 people in Madrid.

The seven suspects, including four Algerians and one Moroccan, were arrested in the southern region of Andalusia, the Mediterranean city of Valencia and Madrid.

Further arrests could be made in the coming hours as part of the operation against a radical and violent Muslim network, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Crusading Judge Baltasar Garzon ordered the arrests as part of his inquiry into Islamic militant cells in Spain.

The suspects had been in contact with other individuals in Europe, the United States and Australia, the statement said.
According to the newspaper El Mundo (link in Spanish) the planned attack would have consisted on a suicide murderer driving a van loaded with 1,000 lbs. of dynamite purchased from the Basque terrorist group ETA (that's a very important point if proven, since many analysts have been ruling out the possibility that Islamic and Basque terrorists might be collaborating, on the March 11 bombings or in general; wrongly, of course, as there is a long history of logistic and training support, as well as information exchange between the two. Even judge Garzón himself, during his appearance before the parliamentary commission onvestigating the March 11 attacks, said that the possibility of connection between Islamic and Basque terrorists was "metaphisically impossible"; guess he'll have to review that).

Apparently the target would have been the Audiencia Nacional, the high court in which, among others, judge Garzón and judge Del Olmo (who is investigating the March 11 bombings) serve. But the Audiencia Nacional is only a few yards away from both the Supreme Court and the headquarters of the Popular Party (of former PM Aznar). The anti-terrorism operation is still open, so this post will be updated as soon as new relevant details emerge.

UPDATE. Ed Morrisey writes: "The cease-fire that Spain bought with Islamists with their capitulation after the Madrid bombings appears to have been an illusion, as predicted."

YOU DON'T SAY! "Madrid Attacks May Have Targeted Election", the Washington Post reports:
Seven months after bombs exploded aboard morning commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people, the precise motives of the attackers remain unclear. But new evidence, including wiretap transcripts, has lent support to a theory that the strike was carefully timed to take place three days before a national election in hopes of influencing Spanish voters to reject a government that sent troops to Iraq.

Some analysts argue that the placement of important clues -- particularly a videotaped claim of responsibility by a masked Islamic militant discovered two days after the March 11 attacks -- was aimed at quickly establishing that the attacks were a reaction to the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq and generating a backlash against the ruling Popular Party.

The party had a comfortable advantage in opinion polls but lost the election on March 14. The new Socialist party government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero quickly kept a campaign pledge to withdraw Spain's 1,300-troop contingent from Iraq. It also set about improving relations with neighboring Morocco, after two years of tension under the government of the previous prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar.

Newly disclosed wiretaps of an alleged organizer of the bombings expressing glee that "the dog Aznar" had been put out of office have prompted some analysts here to conclude that the perpetrators sought to try to bring about specific reactions through the attacks.
I was going to write about this article that I hadn't seen before, because although it has a good deal of information, it still leaves out many intriguing aspects of the matter. Namely, the fact that besides the arrested Morrocoans there are almost as many Spaniards who supplied the explosives and trained the bombers how to use them; or that most of both the Morrocoans and the Spaniards were police informants; or that the specific police units to which the snitches were reporting are commanded by officers with ties to the death squads and dirty war in 1982-1996 during the previous Socialist government of ex-PM Felipe González; or that some of these snitches, particularly one guy called Rafah Zouhier who is in jail for the bombings, is telling anyone who would listen that he warned these police officers about the attacks; or that it's the Socialists who are blocking the appearance of this guy before the parliamentary commission although the Popular Party is proposing it almost everyday (and that's funny; if I were a Socialist party official, I would jump to promote any possibility of proving that there were previous warnings that the Popular Party had ignored while in power. Unless... well, you get my point); or that some of these police officers have been promoted after Zapatero took office; or that there are intriguing connections between the Basque terrorist group ETA and the Spaniards who, on its turn, were in contact with the Islamic terrorists who carried the train attacks.

As I said, I was planning to write about all this but it'll have to wait, as there are important breaking news that understandably take precedence. I'll come back to this, but not today; as an appetizer, you can read a previous post where I deal with some of these issues.

UPDATE. Comments by Ed Morrisey and Cori Dauber.

Monday, October 18, 2004

THE AFTERMATH of the country's first democratic election in history couldn't be a more appropriate time for Arthur Chrenkoff's Good News from Afghanistan roundup. Go read the new installment published today.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

WANNA DANCE the 'Cuban two-step'? Not as good as it sounds, though; John Pawlenko writes about the weird state of the relationships between Spain and Cuba: first, Zapatero is lobbying the EU for a change in the policy toward the island (a total departure from the previous Aznar administration).

But yesterday, a delegation of two Dutch congresswomen and one Spanish congressman (from the opposition's Popular Party) were denied entry and expelled on their landing at the Havana airport. They were planning to meet dissidents and the families of political prisoners.

Spain's foreign minister has called the incident 'unacceptable' and has apparently called the Cuban ambassador in Madrid for an 'explanation'. But what should be an unapologetic support by the government because of the mistreatment of one representative of the popular sovereignty is getting milder and milder by the day; two spokespersons of the socialist party (Zapatero's) have publicly accused the 'maverick' PP congressman of provocation; they say he went there just to be expelled...

MARK STEYN has been saying for quite a while that whatever's left of Osama bin Laden could fit in a salt shaker, and I agree: there's no way a publicity whore like OBL would be out of the spotlight for so long if he were not, well, in a salt shaker.

Today Matthew Heidt elaborated and explains why in a very thoughtful post (via Hispalibertas)

Friday, October 15, 2004

ONE OF THE most prominent news analysts at El País (Spain's 'newspaper of record' and a virtual mouthpiece for the Socialist government) writes about the US elections:
Judging by these polls, even though the opinions are not unanimous, the Bush administration is the main element responsible for having thrown away, throughout the last three years, the huge wealth of sympathy felt by the whole world toward the United States.
We should all acknowledge by now that this alleged sympathy is nothing but bullsh*t. And particularly so when the thesis comes from the newspaper that, on september 12 2001, had all across page 1 the headline, "The World in suspense awaiting for Bush's reaction" (link in Spanish). Nice, kind, sympathetic guys, ain't they?

THIS IS AMAZING, simply amazing. What a cheek:
US ambassador to Spain George Argyros was criticized by the Spanish government on Wednesday for 'showing disrespect' after failing to attend Spain's national day celebrations.

'The US ambassador should have participated in the celebrations.His absence from it means he is not willing to share the Spanish people's joy and happiness on that day,' Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, a spokesman for Spain's ruling Socialist Workers' Party at the House of Representatives, said Argyros' behavior shows that 'he looks down upon Spain and the king.'
UPDATE. Much more at AFP:
According to ABC Argyros, a former senior campaign fundraiser for President George W. Bush, was on a hunting trip with former US secretary of state and special envoy to Iraq James Baker.

However Argyros told Spanish news agency Europa Press that he had decided not to attend "for a variety of reasons, mainly because Zapatero, now prime minister, had not stood to attention when the US flag went by last year".

Zapatero refused to salute the US flag during last year's parade, in a sign of opposition to the conservative government's support for the US-led war in Iraq.

"This year they did not invite us, it does not matter," Argyros told the Europa Press agency.

"Spain is entitled to invite whoever it wants to its parade, but I felt that it would not have been very suitable for me to attend," he added.
Particularly with the hunting gear; the temptation would be too big.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

ALAA, the iraqui blogger, may be mixing up the names of the WMD chief inspectors, but on substance he's absolutely on target. I was a little behind in my reading of Iraqi blog, but this post is worth quoting liberally:
I have been listening to the report about the WMD’s by Mr. David Kay. Now, all of you in the West must know that as far as we, the Iraqis, are concerned, we care very little that stocks of WMD’s existed or not at the time of liberation. For us Saddam and his regime were in themselves, the most lethal WMD that cost our people hundreds of thousands of victims not to mention the destruction of the economy and the very fabric of society in our afflicted country. That regime was a dead end for our people and with its continuation there was no hope whatsoever for the future. Mr. David Kay did mention something about this, and he should know, since he spent so much time in Iraq and has intimate knowledge of the situation. Saddamism is a cancer that we have yet to recover from. Western intervention lead by the U.S.A. was a God send to us, despite all the pain and misery that accompanied the operation and the repercussions that continue to rock the process of recuperation and rebirth of the nation. The U.S. soldiers are bravely standing in the thick of the turmoil and contributing with their blood and sweat not to mention the treasure of their land, towards curing us from the remaining ulcers of the disease after having performed the main surgery which no one else even dared even to think of.

Perhaps, the interests of our people were not the main consideration that led to that action; nevertheless, that does not change anything about the importance and implications for the people of Iraq of this tremendous historical act. Yes there is pain, chaos and loss; yet on the other hand, there is possibility of hope, and a clearly discernible “light at the end of tunnel”, to use this worn out phrase.

Were we better off during Saddam’s time? - A question to which many outsiders are very keen to know our answer. Well, in many respects the streets are much more insecure, yet the security that existed in Saddam’s days was like someone quietly waiting for certain death; like a cancer stricken individual carrying the disease in his guts with no hope or attempt at cure. Yes, the pain and torture may be much more terrible when the surgeon has operated and the disease is tackled; but at least there is hope of recovery and healing, and the prospect of life saving. And this is not allegory, nor a parable; this is coming from someone whose house has been standing in the midst of bombs and explosions for so long now, protected by none but the mercy and grace of the Lord; from someone who has suffered robbery, kidnapping and constant daily danger.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

SPECULATION continues to run wild about whether Salon magazine is even a mere shadow of what it used to be in the good ol' days:
Speculation continues to run wild about President Bush's mystery bulge. Since Friday, when Salon first raised questions about the rectangular bulge that was visible under Bush's suit coat during the presidential debates, many observers in the press and on the Internet have wondered aloud whether the verbally and factually challenged president might be receiving coaching via a hidden electronic device.
You have to sit through an obnoxious ad to read it all; do it at your own peril.

Local insurgents in the city of Fallujah are turning against the foreign fighters who have been their allies in the rebellion that has held the U.S. military at bay in parts of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, according to Fallujah residents, insurgent leaders and Iraqi and U.S. officials.

Relations are deteriorating as local fighters negotiate to avoid a U.S.-led military offensive against Fallujah, while foreign fighters press to attack Americans and their Iraqi supporters. The disputes have spilled over into harsh words and sporadic violence, with Fallujans killing at least five foreign Arabs in recent weeks, according to witnesses.

"If the Arabs will not leave willingly, we will make them leave by force," said Jamal Adnan, a taxi driver who left his house in Fallujah's Shurta neighborhood a month ago after the house next door was bombed by U.S. aircraft targeting foreign insurgents.

Located 35 miles west of Baghdad in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, Fallujah has been outside the control of Iraqi authorities and U.S. military forces since April, when a siege by U.S. Marines was lifted and Iraqi security forces were given responsibility for the city's security. Local and foreign insurgents gradually gained control, and Iraqi and U.S. officials say Fallujah has become a principal source of instability in the country.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities together have insisted that if Fallujah is to avoid an all-out assault aimed at regaining control of the city, foreign fighters must be ejected. Several local leaders of the insurgency say they, too, want to expel the foreigners, whom they scorn as terrorists. They heap particular contempt on Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian whose Monotheism and Jihad group has asserted responsibility for many of the deadliest attacks across Iraq, including videotaped beheadings.

"He is mentally deranged, has distorted the image of the resistance and defamed it. I believe his end is near," Abu Abdalla Dulaimy, military commander of the First Army of Mohammad, said.

One of the foreign guerrillas killed by local fighters was Abu Abdallah Suri, a Syrian and a prominent member of Zarqawi's group. Suri's body was discovered Sunday. He was shot in the head and chest while being chased by a carload of tribesmen, according to a security guard who said he witnessed the killing.
This is excellent news; using Michael Ledeen's trademark phrase, "faster, please".

THERE WERE no WMDs! A war based in lies and deception! Bush, Blair -and Aznar, don't forget Aznar- should be tried at the International Criminal Court because they're murderers!
Hoping to unearth crucial evidence that could help in convicting deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, investigators said nine trenches in a dry riverbed at the Hatra site in northern Iraq contained at least 300 bodies, and possibly thousands.

Those buried included children still clutching toys.

"It is my personal opinion that this is a killing field," said Greg Kehoe, a US lawyer appointed by the White House to work with the Iraqi Special Tribunal.

"Someone used this field on significant occasions over time to take bodies up there and to take people up there and execute them".

"I have been doing grave sites for a long time, but I have never seen anything like this, women and children executed for no apparent reason," Kehoe said. "It's a perfect place for execution".

Kurdish victims

The victims are believed to be minority Kurds killed during 1987-88. One trench contains only women and children, apparently killed by small arms. Another contains only men, apparently killed by automatic gunfire.

Some of the mothers died still holding their children. One young boy still held a ball in his tiny arms.

International organisations estimate more than 300,000 people died under Saddam's 24-year rule and Iraq's Human Rights ministry has identified 40 possible mass graves countrywide.

Authorities hope careful investigations of the site will provide enough evidence to convict Saddam and other senior members of his regime.
But, but, but... didn't we all agree that it was Bush, Blair and Aznar who deserved to be punished?? Wasn't Iraq a sovereign country led, yes, maybe with an iron fist, but no more than other tyrants?? Who are we to judge?? But, but, but... this news is not from Fox News, but from al-Jazeera??

Mummy, I don't understand!! I need a hug!!

UPDATE. The BBC has more, including a really infuriating thing:
Mr Kehoe investigated mass graves in the Balkans for five years but those burials mainly involved men of fighting age and the Iraqi finds were quite different, he said.

"I've been doing grave sites for a long time, but I've never seen anything like this, women and children executed for no apparent reason," he said.

Mr Kehoe said that work to uncover graves around Iraq, where about 300,000 people are thought to have been killed during Saddam Hussein's regime, was slow as experienced European investigators were not taking part.

The Europeans, he said, were staying away as the evidence might be used eventually to put Saddam Hussein to death.
Yeah, it's like we Europeans were worried when it was Saddam putting innocent people to death. Europe, more and more everyday, on the wrong side.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

US TROOPS weren't good enough for the October 12 parade, which is Spain's national holiday; Zapatero preferred the French ones. But the most amazing thing is who Spain's current government chose to invite to the celebration too, in equal footing to the other participants:
The Spanish government has sparked a fierce row by inviting a soldier who fought with Hitler's Wehrmacht to share the podium at the national day military parade today with a republican veteran of the Spanish Civil War.

The defence minister, Jose Bono, who was once caught on microphone calling Tony Blair a "complete dickhead"
[this is has become a staple on every information on Spain by UK's The Telegraph; almost like when James Taranto always says "who by the way served in Vietnam" every time he mentions Kerry], said the presence of the former member of the Spanish Blue Division, recruited to fight for the Nazis in the Second World War, was part of the reconciliation process between the two opposing sides in the 1936-39 civil war.
So besides being the first to run scared from Iraq, our country just added another world record: honoring people who fought with the Nazis. That's something that not even the French -let alone the Germans- would have dared to do.

Jimmy is amazed at this lack of judgement:
You know, that’s a great idea. That sounds like a great way to commemorate the liberation of Paris. First, disinvite the US, without which Paris would never have been liberated. Then invite the troops of the country that actually needed to be liberated back then. Then don’t leave the representative of the Spanish soldiers who actually did fight to liberate Paris on the stage by himself - make him stand up there with a Nazi sympathizer!

Yeah that Minister Bono. He’s got a keen grasp of history, he does.
Ed Morrisey, who remembers that Defense minister Jose Bono had said that US troops had been disinvited from the parade because Spain "was no longer subordinated and kneeling before Washington" writes:
So now the Spaniard Socialists subordinate and kneel to the Nazis? One wonders exactly where the Wehrmacht will march in the parade. The natural position will be in front of the French, if the Spaniards really intend on commemmorating World War II, and probably trying to drag the Spaniards along, too.
Can't blame Cap'n Ed; quite a few of us over here are embarrased.

UPDATE. Look! Subversive commandos in Madrid during the parade!

And another!

Those are two screencaps from TV (thanks, Fernando!); apparently several people decided to show up at the parade waving American flags; somebody I know told me that there weren't too many (health hazard!), but he was pleasantly surprised when he saw quite a few more than he expected. So perhaps not all's lost over here, after all.

Hopefully I'll have some pics taken by real people; will post them when I get them.

CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE returns to the documents found in Baghdad which allegedly prove Saddam's efforts to get WMD, and his links to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. They've just published the documents they referred to one week ago (I have no post of this in English, but I wrote about it in the Spanish edition of Barcepundit). Although the images file format is not ideal, over at Hispalibertas they're doing almost a forensic analysis (link in Spanish); Manel says the documents do appear to be at least credible. Honestly, a verdict is out of my reach; unlike Manel, I can't speak, nor read, a word in Arabic.

In any case, the question is how these documents relate to what the Duelfer reports stated. Obviously, they still might be bogus and then the story would die. But we definitely can't rule out the possibility that they're legit and then, why weren't they used by the US administration to counter the political damage caused by the fact that there were no evidence found of stockpiles in Iraq? If the documents are true, why didn't Duelfer mention them in his report?

The most obvious explanation is that the documents were found by someone who thought that if he followed the regular procedure ('putting' them in the established intel circuit so that they could be translated and analyzed by the personnel doing that task), the issue wouldn't probably surface before the presidential election. There's a huge backlog of millions of documents which have already been found but which must be analyzed yet, something that on the other hand has led quite a few people to claim that Duelfer maybe jumped too fast with his conclusions; after all, you can't rule anything 100% out until each and every one of these documents are fully translated, and this won't happen at least in several months.

An almost as obvious explanation is that whoever found the documents feared that giving them to the Duelfer guys, that is, the CIA, might mean that the documents just might be, in the most charitable possibility, put at the bottom of the pile everytime they reached the top part of it when the previous one had been translated. It's notorious the almost open hostility by Langley's old guard towards a White House that, for the first time in history, doesn't let them cut the cake in everything. To top it all off, a White House that has let them appear as responsible for the intelligence fiasco regarding Iraq. The same hostily against the Bush administration would also explain why the documents have appeared not in a top-notch news organization; after what happened with the Swiftvets and Rathergate, it's quite likely that also on this issue the mainstream media would have tried to cover this up till the election so as not to damage 'their' candidate, Kerry. So the fact that they surfaced on a non-MSM might just be a kind of guerrilla tactic; by short-circuiting the established media the issue could grow up -with the help of the pajama-clad bloggers, of course!- until the big guys simply couldn't look the other way any longer (go, pajamahdeens, go!).

A more macchiavelan theory was put by Manel in his previous post when he first wrote about this last week: after all, the best way to make something that would justify the White House's decisions with the public opinion appear credible is that White House is not who maked the evidence surface. So, is that one of the evil Karl Rove's perverse tricks?

It's still early to know if the documents are real or not, and if they are what's the explanation why they appeared just now and where they did; we'll have to follow this closely for any new development. As of now, I'm more and more confident they are good, since none other than the respected scholar Walid Phares, who has seen them with his own eyes, thinks they are.

AND YET, in spite of what the modern Cassandras are saying, the Bush doctrine just might be starting to roll in the Arab world:
Drowned out by the bombings in Iraq, and the debate over whether the staging of elections there is an achievable goal or a mirage, the Bush administration's democracy initiative for the rest of the Middle East creeps quietly forward. In neo-realist Washington, it is usually dismissed -- when it is remembered at all -- in much the same way that, say, national elections in Afghanistan were once laughed off. The unpopularity of the Bush administration and the predictable resistance from the dictatorships of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cited as proof that the region's hoped-for "transformation" is going nowhere.

And yet, the process started at the Sea Island summit of Group of Eight countries in June is gaining some traction -- sometimes to the surprise of the administration's own skeptics. A foreign ministers' meeting in New York two weeks ago produced agreement that the first "Forum for the Future" among Middle Eastern and G-8 governments to discuss political and economic liberalization will take place in December. Morocco volunteered to host it, and a handful of other Arab governments, including Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen, have embraced pieces of the process.

More intriguingly, independent human rights groups and pro-democracy movements around the region are continuing to sprout, gather and issue manifestos -- all in the name of supporting the intergovernmental discussions. An independent human rights group appeared in Syria this month; Saudi women organized a movement to demand the right to vote in upcoming municipal elections. On the same day that the Egyptian foreign minister belittled what is now called the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA) in an interview with The Post, an unprecedented alliance of opposition parties and citizens' groups issued a platform in Cairo calling for the lifting of emergency laws, freedom of the press and direct, multi-candidate elections for president.

While there have been some arrests, most of the nascent democrats are surviving. Despite all the defiant rhetoric, Egyptian and Saudi police, it turns out, are hesitant to pummel people who say they are responding to the president of the United States.
(via Cori Dauber)

Read also Victor Davis Hanson's latest.

Monday, October 11, 2004

IT'S MONDAY, so it's time for Arthur Chrenkoff's Good News from Iraq; this week is chapter 12. Go check it out at Arthur's blog, at OpinionJournal, or at Winds of Change. No matter where as long as you don't miss it.

SCOTT OTT really cracks me up:
Father of Deconstructionism Dies, If 'Death' Means Anything

(2004-10-10) -- French President Jacques Chirac announced today that Jacques Derrida, the father of the intellectual movement called deconstructionism, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, "if indeed 'death' can be said to mean anything beyond the biases of culture, language, religion and philosophy."

"Of course, we can't assert anything positively about Monsieur Derrida's recent failure to exist," said Mr. Chirac, "We can't even state that he ever did exist, since he may have been a mere metaphysical projection of our own prejudices against absolutes. However, in as much as we may categorically claim anything--Mr. Derrida will not likely be showing up for work tomorrow. Although, who is to say?"

Sunday, October 10, 2004

THE FRENCH are arrogant, rude and surly to foreign visitors. Hey, don't you come bitching to me, I didn't say this! (though frankly, I wouldn't object much). It was a French senator:
For once - quelle surprise! - the thought comes not from an embittered tourist but the leading French politician behind a damning report on how the Gallic welcome leaves much to be desired.

Senator Bernard Plasait, a member of France's upper house of parliament, has concluded what millions of visitors have known for years. "Our bad image in this area, the arrogance we are accused of, our refusal to speak foreign languages, the sense we give that it's a great honour to visit us are among the ugly facts of which we should not be proud," reads the first paragraph of his report, commissioned by the government.

"Certainly these accusations don't date from yesterday," the report continues. "In the 18th century, Horace Walpole wrote that he couldn't stand the French. 'I detest them for their insolent and misplaced air of superiority,' he declares.

"Where does this detestable reputation, which is like a ball and chain, come from?"
Well, I can think two or three thousand reasons...
His conclusion is that the French have only themselves to blame for their notoriety.

Mr Plasait's report was commissioned by the prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, after a drop in the number of tourists visiting France last year.

France is still the world's number one tourist destination in terms of numbers. But the report concludes that this is meaningless as a considerable proportion are just passing through on their way somewhere else.

"To claim we are the 'number one tourist destination in the world' doesn't count for anything," says the report. "Among the 75 million visitors counted in 2003 were those who were only crossing the country, once on their way to Spain or Italy and a second time to return home."

The report says a more realistic way of judging is by the annual income from tourists that places France in third position with €30 billion (£20.4 billion) after the United States - €73 billion - and Spain, on €33 billion.

It also says an Ipsos survey of world travellers who were asked which countries they would most like to travel to placed France fourth behind Italy, Spain, Britain and equal to the US.

The government was particularly alarmed by the 21 per cent drop in spending by US visitors to just under €5.2 million, The report focuses on visitors' first impressions of French airports, ports and railway stations - which, it concluded, were "often negative".
Better to focus in this, because if the Senator dealt with things like these he wouldn't stop!

"VATICAN BURIES the hatchet with Blair and Bush over Iraq", says today's Sunday Telegraph. I love this quote:
"The child has been born," [Cardinal Angelo Sodano] declared recently on behalf of the Vatican. "It may be illegitimate, but it's here, and it must be reared and educated."

WELL, IT SEEMS that the first step towards the Alliance of Civilizations didn't go exactly as planned:
A conference called to further mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims over their shared history on the Iberian peninsula has been marred by catcalling and acrimony.

The meeting was summoned by the Spanish royal family and the socialist government as a "congress of dialogue" with representatives of the Arab and Jewish world.

It was held in Cordoba, a jewel of Islamic Spain and a springwell for the enlightenment that led to the historic period of conviviencia when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony.

The conference organisiers, led by the financer of the event, the Kuwaiti tycoon Abdul Aziz al-Babtain, set out to confront stereotypes of Islamic extremism.

But even the supposedly benign field of Islamic poetry and the history of Andalusia - known to the Moors and to modern Arabs as al-Andalus - touched raw nerves.

An academic speaking in English was heckled by jeering Arabs even though there were extensive translation facilities. In the end, he spoke in Arabic.

But the peace was shortlived. There was more shouting when European historians touched on Islamic sensibilities by discussing the more liberal era when Muslim women did not wear the veil. An African Muslim was also heckled for complaining of Arab dominance of his faith.

The only Jew to speak was heard in polite silence, but it was assumed that was because he was preaching the destruction of Israel, which he described as an apostatic state: a point of view which presumably went down rather well with the audience. It was uncertain, though, how this squared with the seminar's title of "Arab-Islamic civilisations and the West: from Disagreement to Partnership".

The organisers described the event as a success but the angry tone of the debate will have disappointed Spain's new government.

Saddam knew the tools he would need to reshape history and establish his glory: weapons of mass destruction. These weapons had what Duelfer and his team called a "totemic" importance to him. With these weapons, Saddam had defeated the evil Persians. With these weapons he had crushed his internal opponents. With these weapons he would deter what he called the "Zionist octopus" in both Israel and America.

But in the 1990's, the world was arrayed against him to deprive him of these weapons. So Saddam, the clever one, The Struggler, undertook a tactical retreat. He would destroy the weapons while preserving his capacities to make them later. He would foil the inspectors and divide the international community. He would induce it to end the sanctions it had imposed to pen him in. Then, when the sanctions were lifted, he would reconstitute his weapons and emerge greater and mightier than before.

The world lacked what Saddam had: the long perspective. Saddam understood that what others see as a defeat or a setback can really be a glorious victory if it is seen in the context of the longer epic.

Saddam worked patiently to undermine the sanctions. He stored the corpses of babies in great piles, and then unveiled them all at once in great processions to illustrate the great humanitarian horrors of the sanctions.

Saddam personally made up a list of officials at the U.N., in France, in Russia and elsewhere who would be bribed. He sent out his oil ministers to curry favor with China, France, Turkey and Russia. He established illicit trading relations with Ukraine, Syria, North Korea and other nations to rebuild his arsenal.

It was all working. He acquired about $11 billion through illicit trading. He used the oil-for-food billions to build palaces. His oil minister was treated as a "rock star," as the report put it, at international events, so thick was the lust to trade with Iraq.

France, Russia, China and other nations lobbied to lift sanctions. Saddam was, as the Duelfer report noted, "palpably close" to ending sanctions.

With sanctions weakening and money flowing, he rebuilt his strength. He contacted W.M.D. scientists in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria and elsewhere to enhance his technical knowledge base. He increased the funds for his nuclear scientists. He increased his military-industrial-complex's budget 40-fold between 1996 and 2002. He increased the number of technical research projects to 3,200 from 40. As Duelfer reports, "Prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem."

And that is where Duelfer's story ends. Duelfer makes clear on the very first page of his report that it is a story. It is a mistake and a distortion, he writes, to pick out a single frame of the movie and isolate it from the rest of the tale.

But that is exactly what has happened. I have never in my life seen a government report so distorted by partisan passions. The fact that Saddam had no W.M.D. in 2001 has been amply reported, but it's been isolated from the more important and complicated fact of Saddam's nature and intent.
UPDATE. Now over to Michael Barone (via Glenn Reynolds):
There was, despite the headlines and charges to the contrary, no "intelligence failure" here. How were U.S. intelligence agencies—or those of other serious countries, who reached the same conclusion—to learn that Saddam was not currently actively developing WMDs? How could they do that when even high officials in Saddam's government did not know whether such programs were ongoing or not? This was a secretive regime, not given to public announcements of its weapons development, not subject to a Freedom of Information Act. Even if we had had human intelligence sources at the top levels of the Saddam regime who assured us WMD programs were not ongoing, how could we have prudently relied on them?

Intelligence is an inexact business. It deals with things that cannot be known for sure. In this case, it dealt with something that even an ideal intelligence agency could not determine for certain. Our intelligence agencies and those of other countries that concluded that Saddam had WMDs turned out to have erred, but they erred on the proper side, on the side of pessimism, as they had to—because the man had a record of developing WMDs and using them. And he had a record, we now know thanks to Charles Duelfer, of maintaining the capability of using WMDs again. The world and the United States are safer with Saddam in prison.
Well, in some way it's undeniable that objectively there's been some kind of intel failure: after all, we expected to find WMD stockpiles in Iraq and we didn't find them. At the same time -and that's an important point that war critics are hiding- there were surprises in the other direction too: few people suspected that Saddam was developing long-range missiles reaching way further than the 90-kilometer allowed, which is what Duelfer and the inspectors concluded. So it can be argued that there was an intel failure, but it must be considered that, as Barone says, intel is not an exact science. Furthermore, the failure was shared all over by both pro-war and anti-war camps; everybody thought Saddam had stockpiles, and the diference was in the threshold of tolerance towards that risk, and the strategy to follow.

I COULDN'T AGREE MORE with Fausta, who writes that the rhapsodisation of Che Guevara's image, while forgetting the thousands of deaths he was guilty of, is obscene.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

THEY'RE NOT waiting in line to be stoned to death or flagged for listening to music or laughing out loud, like it used to happen. They're simply waiting for their turn to vote in Afghanistan's first democratic elections in history.

First Australia, now this. What a fine, fine day.

CONGRATULATIONS, AUSTRALIA, for, er, not pulling a Spain!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT disinvites the US for the parade on Columbus Day, and the Wall Street Journal doesn't hold its tongue in an editorial (subscription required):
The art of parody knows one iron rule: You can only parody the mediocre. The truly great are, well, truly great, while the other extreme usually speaks for itself. And so here, in his own words, is Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono on his country's relationship with America: "What does not continue is subordinating and getting down on our knees on orders from a foreign government."

The Socialist minister presumably thought this a clever jibe at Jose María Aznar and the previous government's decision to support the U.S. in Iraq. We're not quite sure whose orders Mr. Bono's boss, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, followed when he pulled Spanish forces out of Iraq only days after the Madrid train bombings propelled him into office last March. It's not unreasonable, though, to assume that Osama Bin Laden believes that he deserves credit for the Spanish cut-and-run.
And the end is merciless:
We've no doubt that [the withdrawal of all armies from Iraq, as Zapatero had requested to the coalition countries one month ago in Tunis] would indeed be more favorable -- for the Jihadis who don't want a free Iraq. We really wish that the Spanish government would finally get up from its knees.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

U.S. troops are no longer welcome in Spain’s national holiday parade now that Washington and Madrid have fallen out over Iraq. Instead French soldiers have been invited to march in the Spanish capital on the big day.

American troops have taken part in the Oct. 12 military parade every year since 2001, when the government invited them in homage to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, according to Spanish media.

But since then a new Socialist government has come to power, reversing its center-right predecessor’s pro-U.S. foreign policy and angering Washington by pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq.

Defense Minister Jose Bono told a radio station on Tuesday there would be no Americans in this year’s parade marking Spain’s “fiesta nacional” to commemorate the day on which Christopher Columbus sighted land during his first westward journey of discovery.

“(Oct. 12) is not the national holiday of the United States, and no one is under any obligation to see the flag of another country in the parade, though it is a friend and an ally for sure,” Bono told Cadena Cope radio.

“This is in no way an insult nor a sign of contempt towards the United States,” the minister said, adding that Spain was “no longer subordinated and “kneeling” before Washington.
So it's supposed not to be an insult or sign of contempt, but the words are insulting and full of contempt.

Nothing new for Zapatero and his guys in the Socialist party: in last year's parade (when the controversy around Spain's support for the coalition was in full swing), Zapatero conspicuosly refused to stand up in respect when the American flag was passing in front of the stand where authorities and personalities watched the event, unlike everybody else. Take a look:

Asked later why he did that, he answered: "Why should I stand up? It was not my flag."

But no, he was not insulting.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

SEVERAL READERS -and V-Man- have sent me the link to the inaugural address by Spain's former Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, in Georgetown University where he'll be tenuring this year.

While there's some points I'm not sure I wouldn't have put a bit differently, I think he makes a very powerful speech, which makes even more painful the pathetic address by current premier Zapatero at the UN General Assembly a couple of weeks ago.

And the Socialist government-friendly media, which is to say virtually all the media in the country, are keeping their politics of personal destruction against Aznar in full throttle, even about this. Not satisfied by blaming him for everything under the sun (notably -and most perversely- the responsibility for 192 killed in March 11 terrorist attack; their logic is that if he hadn't joined the coalition that toppled Saddam, nothing would have happened. Apparently it doesn't matter that we positively know that the bombings had been prepared for two and a half years, according to the Italian police, that is, since October 2001) they were having a field day about this particular passage in Aznar's speech:
[A]s we learned later on, the atrocities of 11th March in Madrid began to be plotted back in October 2001, long before the campaign in Iraq was initiated or even prepared. However, there is more. If you take the trouble to focus on what Bin Laden has written and stated in recent years - and let me point out again that Bin Laden writes about what he aims to do with striking clarity - you will realize that the problem Spain has with Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism did not begin with the Iraq Crisis. In fact, it has nothing to do with government decisions. You must go back no less than 1,300 years, to the early 8th century, when a Spain recently invaded by the Moors refused to become just another piece in the Islamic world and began a long battle to recover its identity. This Reconquista process was very long, lasting some 800 years. However, it ended successfully. There are many radical Muslims who continue to recall that defeat, many more than any rational Western mind might suspect. Osama Bin Laden is one of them. His first statement after 11th September - I repeat, the 11th September - did not begin by referring to New York or Iraq. His first words were to lament the loss of Al Andalus - Moorish Medieval Spain - and compare it to the occupation of Jerusalem by the Israelis.
While it could be argued that some choice of words was not too fortunate (the word "Moors" maybe is not too PC, though he probably was using the Islamists and Osama's own rhetoric to make the point), that's something that few of the most distinguished scholars of Islam would argue.

But the leftist press did; proving their own inability to see the big picture of the fight we're in, or simply revealing their partisanship that won't stop at anything, the "newspaper of record" in Spain, El País -you know, the one who uses the 9/11 imagery in a sick ad- editorialized that "in this remaking of the past, and in this reivindication of the Crusades between Islam and Christianity, there is a disturbing similarity between Aznar and Bin Laden." Sick, and without a clue of what's at stake.

TREVOR MORGAN and John Barrass (formerly of Barcelona Business) have just launched SpainMedia. Looks like it's going to be one of the places to visit regularly, with a wide range of information on politics, economy, culture of this country, all in English language: had to happen - somebody to take freeze-frames of the news-spin pirouetting from the national and international media coverage of this extraordinary land.

After six years of publishing Barcelona Business, editor John Barrass was looking for a way to take the newspaper into the 21st century, and found it in Trevor Morgan, one of the niftiest bloggers on the block. Commentators of all complexions give context to the news agenda, and regular updates come from a wide range of feeds.
So what are you waiting for? Go there and pay a visit; you won't regret it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I CAN'T IMAGINE how he even considered not doing so. After being more than reluctant, Zapatero will finally appear before the panel investigating the March 11 Madrid bombings:
Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is willing to appear before the parliament's commission investigating the 11 March terrorist attack in Madrid, officials said Monday.

The announcement was made by Socialist Party (PSOE) official Jose Blanco, who explained that Zapatero's presence at the hearings would serve two purposes.

According to Blanco, Zapatero's testimony will attempt to shed some light on the causes behind the rail attacks.

His evidence could also contribute to adopting measures aimed at preventing future attacks of this type.
Of course, coming from the government-owned EFE news agency, they simply had to include this biased bit to support the boss Zapatero:
Aznar's government lost the general election three days following the terrorist atrocity after many voters appeared to believe the former Popular Party administration refused to blame Islamic terrorists in case it would backfire on them in the elections.

Instead, they continued to blame ETA, the Basque terrorist group, in an apparent effort to deflect attention from the fact the bombings were launched because of Spain's support for the Iraq war.
As I've said before, this is less than clear.

Far from it.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

SIMPLY. THE. BEST. Mark Steyn on the Bush-Kerry debate, that is. Read it in full.

THE GUYS are fed up. Really fed up:
The leader of the largest tribe in Fallujah has declared that the city's "no-go" status for Iraqi and American troops must be brought to an end, by force if necessary.

Hikmet al-Dulami claims to have reached an accord with the leaders of three other influential tribes to force the expulsion of foreign terrorist groups from the city.

Fallujah is one of more than a dozen Iraqi cities where insurgents hold sway, and America is keen to wrest back control in time for the elections in January.

On Friday, more than 2,000 Iraqi troops backed up by 3,000 soldiers from the United States 1st Infantry Division took part in a surprise offensive on Samarra, north-west of Baghdad. More than 125 guerrillas were killed and 88 captured as the troops seized the town hall, the main mosque and other important sites. American military and Iraqi authorities said yesterday that they controlled about 70 per cent of the city.

Fallujah, a hotbed of Sunni insurgency, is believed to be the headquarters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist behind many of the suicide bombings in Iraq who is holding the British hostage Kenneth Bigley.

Residents are increasingly angry that their city is being targeted almost nightly by US air strikes on suspected Zarqawi hideouts. At least seven people were killed and 13 wounded after the city in the latest raid on Friday night.

"The officials in Fallujah not associated with the insurgents want it over and done with," said Gen Richard Myers, America's senior commander in Iraq. "We know that they're talking with their Iraqi counterparts, they're talking to the US military. They want their city back and they want to get on with business."

Kasim Doud, Iraq's national security adviser, told The Telegraph that similar talks with leading figures preceded the strike on Samarra. He said: "They said frankly, 'Please come and help us'."

Mr al-Dulami said: "We have told the protectors of the terrorists, including the leader of the resistance, that we will expel them ourselves if the situation is not made normal. We have the weapons and the followers to take the city back for Iraq and that is what we will do."

YESTERDAY it was the New York Times; today it's the London Times:
A LEAKED report has exposed the extent of alleged corruption in the United Nations’ oil-for-food scheme in Iraq, identifying up to 200 individuals and companies that made profits running into hundreds of millions of pounds from it.

The report largely implicates France and Russia, whom Saddam Hussein targeted as he sought support on the UN Security Council before the Iraq war. Both countries were influential voices against UN-backed action.

A senior UN official responsible for the scheme is identified as a major beneficiary. The report, marked “highly confidential”, also finds that the private office of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, profited from the cheap oil. Saddam’s regime awarded this oil during the run-up to the war when military action was being discussed at the UN.

[...] It details a catalogue of alleged bribery and corruption perpetrated by Saddam under the UN programme, revealing how the regime lined its pockets and those of influential politicians, journalists and UN officials.

The UN oil-for-food scheme was set up in 1995 to allow Iraq to sell controlled amounts of oil to raise money for humanitarian supplies. However, the leaked report reveals Saddam systematically abused the scheme, using it to buy “political influence” throughout the world.

The former Iraqi regime was in effect free to “allocate” oil to whom it wished. Dozens of private individuals were given oil at knockdown prices. They were able to nominate recognised traders to buy the cheap oil from the Iraqi state oil firm and sell it for a personal profit.

The report says oil was given to key countries: “The regime gave priority to Russia, China and France. This was because they were permanent members of, and hence had the ability to influence decisions made by, the UN Security Council. The regime . . . allocated ‘private oil’ to individuals or political parties that sympathised in some way with the regime.”

The report also details how the regime benefited by arranging illegal “kickbacks” from oil sales.

From September 2000, it is said Saddam made $228m (£127m) from kickbacks deposited in accounts across the Middle East. The analysis details only the export of oil — not the import of humanitarian supplies, also alleged to have been riddled with corruption.

The report is an interim analysis and therefore studies only a sample of oil contracts.

The other main allegations included in the report are that:

· Benon Sevan, director of the UN oil-for-food programme, received 9.3m barrels of oil from the regime which he is estimated to have sold for a profit of £670,000. Sevan has always denied any improper conduct.

· A former senior aide to Putin allegedly organised the sale of almost 4m barrels of oil at a profit of more than £330,000. At the time the oil was sold, Russia was blocking the UN from supporting America’s demands to attack Iraq. According to the report, the aide, who worked in the presidential office, received 3.9m barrels of oil between May and December 2002.

· In the two months during the run-up to the war, the Iraqi regime illegally sold about £30m of oil to a Jordanian-based company with the money deposited in a Jordanian bank account established by the regime. This is suspected to have been an attempt to secure safe passage for Saddam’s family in the event of war.

· A French oil company teamed up with the regime to bribe a UN-appointed inspector monitoring exports of Iraqi oil. The inspector, a Portuguese national working for Saybolt, a Dutch firm, was paid a total of £58,000 in cash to forge export documents.

The French firm is linked to a close associate of Jacques Chirac, the country’s president. A spokesman for Saybolt said it would be investigating the allegations.

Saddam imposed a surcharge of between 10 cents and 50 cents (5p to 27p) for every barrel of oil allocated by his regime between September 2000 and the end of 2002.

The money raised from this illegal surcharge was deposited in bank accounts in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Iraqi embassies, including those in Moscow, Athens, Cairo, Rome, Vienna and Geneva, collected the money.

THIS IS EXCELLENT NEWS: ETA's number 1, and nearly 20 other important members of the terrorist group, have been arrested in an anti-terror swoop by French and Spanish police this morning.
A MAJOR police operation today in France and Spain netted at least 18 suspected members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA and large stocks of weapons, authorities said.

Seventeen suspects were captured in towns in south-west France, and another was arrested in the northern Spanish city of Burgos, French police authorities said.

Spain's Interior Ministry put the number of suspects in custody at 21. The discrepancy with the French figure could not immediately be explained.

Spanish authorities said those detained included two well-known ETA leaders, Mikel Albizu Iriarte - alias Mikel Antza - and Soledad Iparraguirre, who uses the alias "Amboto." They are a couple, have a son and have been on the run since 1993.

Iparraguirre is considered one of the leading female members of the armed group. Mikel Albizu is thought to have been a top ETA leader for the last 12 years, since police devastated the organisation by arresting most of its senior members. [picture here -- F.A.]

Albizu managed to escape a police raid last April that netted an ETA logistics chief, Feliz Ignacio Esparza. The other suspects' identities and nationalities were not immediately released.
A bit of good news from the expanded Axis of Weasels, at last!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The state's Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters in Bellevue were burglarized overnight and three laptop computers containing campaign plans were stolen, Republican Party officials said Friday.

Sometime between 2 a.m., when campaign workers went home, and 8 a.m., when the office reopened, a person threw a rock through the window of Jon Seaton, executive director for the state's Bush campaign, said Chris Vance, state GOP chairman.

Stolen were three laptops that Vance said belonged to Seaton and Chris Taylor, head of the office's get-out-the-vote campaign. A third computer had been slated for a field office.
Tim Blair is right: this is a case taylored for Woodward and Berstein.

NOW YOU KNOW why no one was complaining, let alone stopping, the Oil For Food scandal which put approximately 10 billion dollars in the pockets of Saddam and his ilk, several UN officials, and Saddam's apologists all over the world (I know most people refer to the scandal as UNSCAM, but I still prefer the acronym UNSCUM, the original winner in the LGF poll):
Congressional investigators say that France, Russia and China systematically sabotaged the former United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq by preventing the United States and Britain from investigating whether Saddam Hussein was diverting billions of dollars.

In a briefing paper given yesterday to members of the House subcommittee investigating the program, the investigators said their review of the minutes of a United Nations Security Council subcommittee meeting showed that the three nations "continually refused to support the U.S. and U.K. efforts to maintain the integrity" of the program.

The program, set up in 1996, was an effort to keep pressure on Mr. Hussein to disarm while helping the Iraqi people survive the sanctions imposed after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The briefing paper was prepared by the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, before hearings scheduled for Tuesday on the scandal-ridden program.

The paper suggests that France, Russia and China blocked inquiries into Iraq's manipulation of the program because their companies "had much to gain from maintaining'' the status quo. "Their businesses made billions of dollars through their involvement with the Hussein regime and O.F.F.P.," the document states, using the initials for the program. No officials of the three governments could be reached for comment.

The paper also accuses the United Nations office charged with overseeing the program of having "pressed" contractors not to rigorously inspect Iraqi oil being sold and the foreign goods being bought. The program office, headed by Benan Sevan, who is also under investigation by a committee appointed by the United Nations, turned a blind eye to corruption charges, the paper says, because it apparently saw oil-for-food "strictly as a humanitarian program."
That's a charitable intepretation; I'd say that the fact that he was allegedly pocketing at least three and a half million dollars himself might have something to do with him looking the other way.
The briefing paper said the hearing would focus on Cotecna, the Switzerland-based company hired by the United Nations in 1999 to monitor goods shipped to Iraq, and Saybolt International B.V., the Dutch company that monitored Iraqi oil exports.

Also under scrutiny will be BNP Paribas, the French bank that handled oil revenues under the program and which "never initiated a review of the program or the reputation of those involved," the paper says. This "apparent incuriosity," it adds, "raises questions about its internal due diligence and ethical safeguards."

The paper said Mr. Hussein's government had influenced whom Saybolt and Cotecna employed and had made it hard for them to obtain the equipment and supplies they needed. "This slowed the inspection process, making it difficult for the inspectors to carry out their duties and easier for the Iraqis to pressure the inspectors or sneak things past the inspection regime,'' the paper says.
For those unaware, let me inform you that Cotecna is the Swiss company controlling the transactions in the OFF program, and where Kojo Annan used to work. Yes, the son of this gentleman who smiles so beatifically; but somehow I don't think it's the typical smile that you get when you look back into the past with sweet nostalgia. After all, he was the chief of UN's humanitarian efforts back in 1994, and therefore the official who explicitly gave orders to the UN people in the ground in Rwanda to not do anything to prevent the genocide which killed 900.000 people in five weeks. Just ask Romeo Dallaire.