Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The Masters of Poverty

From Glenn Reynolds, who quotes Boston University Professor John Robert Kelly. Too good not to reprint in its entirety. My only quibble is that the reader must not confuse the local NGO staffers with the development tourists described below. The gap between a Western  NGO Mandarin and his local counterpart is probably as great as that between the slave and slaveowner in the antebellum south. And the division of labor is roughly the same. The foreign NGO representative lives in the big white house on the hill and looks at the books of accounts. The local NGO worker often lives in a shack in the field and does all the dangerous and dirty work.



It’s a lonely and frustrating life for the western NGO and UN grief relief workers in Afghanistan. There are those hefty paychecks, often amounting to thousands of dollars——tax-free-- a week, but no place to spend it. After all, how many carpets and antique swords can one collect? Then there’s that pesky problem of the desultory hours surfing the net in air conditioned estates converted to office space, but nowhere else to travel, except back to the villa in new, chauffeured Landcruisers for an evening of the same old faces, same old conversations. Numerous fearful directives and warnings keep these NGO workers from hitting the street and meeting and mingling with the Afghan population. When these warnings are lifted, few wish to wander from their guarded compound. There’s a very valid awareness that the NGO permanent party isn’t well liked by the Kabulis. An elderly Hazara rug merchant whose business has been halved by the timidity of NGO shoppers snorts derisively in perfect English, ““Their feet never touch the ground in Kabul.” And he’s right. In a typical week, one sees just a few handfuls of westerners, mostly ISAF troops on holiday, even in the safest zones of the tourist traps and souvenir shops on Chicken Street, Kabul’s answer to Rodeo Drive.

Many of the professional compassion corps are feeling restless and bored; they’ve already been staff in Kosovo, East Timor and Afghanistan, and nowadays believe they belong in Iraq, that’s where the real money is. In the status conscious pecking order of NGO hierarchies, Afghanistan is passe. Only the palpable danger of Iraq keeps down the flurry of resumes from Kabul to Baghdad. It’s the rare NGO worker who applies for work before the shooting is over and the maximum salaries are fixed. The money has been spent in Afghanistan, the bank is closed. The UN has larded tens of millions of dollars on an enormous fleet of brand new top-of-the-line Toyota Landcruisers, many times that on inflated salaries, mansions and the luxurious perks of occupying pashas. The needy locals are not amused. The American citizens who’ve liberally financed this largesse would be appalled at the waste.

It’s not all monotonous or pointless in Kabul; at one French NGO housed in a stunning antique-laden chalet, I’’ve devoured a seven-course meal prepared by a 4 star chef. Then there’s always the sumptuous UN House, where one can take a dip, mingle poolside among scandalous bikinis and dowse dehydration with inspired cocktails fashioned by our languid Euro masters. Unfortunately, since "American UN employee" is an oxymoron, our one attempt to storm the formidable barricades is a spectacular failure. We’re rudely turned away, despite flashing $20 bills to the Afghan UN security. My companion, a fierce Pushtoon-American licensed to pack a very visible Glock 19, glances back at the sunbathers as we’re escorted out: “We’ve paid for all this with our taxes, you bastards!” One of the Pushto guard’s shrugs his shoulderssympathetically, muttering an apology that suggests “someday this will all be ours again.” For all the heroic American efforts in Afghanistan, truly and deeply appreciated by the indigenous population, we’re still treated as unwanted nuisances by the predominantly European NGO residents.

For us hoi polloi, there was always the Irish Pub that opened on Saint Paddy’s day to such fanfare in the western press——and with far greater gratitude in Kabul——but is now shuttered, a victim of its own success.

Sean McQuade’s commercial instinct was impeccable: the creation of a stimulating oasis for thirsty westerners in one of the driest and most oppressively conservative cities in the Islamic world. The demand was high——a bit too high, according to some Afghans. In a city where getting stoned isn’t an amusing colloquialism for intoxication but a literal description for the Taliban sport of getting smashed at the soccer stadium, Sean’s otherwise laudable enterprise had a few defects in the business model, the most notable was that his public house had a mullah next door. McQuade had hoped for a lower profile for his tavern, but the spirited swarms of tipsy patrons pouring into their NGO SUVs in the late hours scandalized the neighborhood and not even the owner’s gracious offer of baksheesh to rebuild local roads and schools could keep the speakeasy alive.

All is not lost for parched westerners in search of a public lager with good company, however, since other more discreet taps have opened throughout the city. At the Mustafa Hotel, long the favorite haven of adventuresome tourists and savvy international journalists, where last summer we diluted toxic contraband Tajik vodka (at $50 a liter) with Fanta, one can not only legally quaff a draught, but also surf the net or file a story at the same time...and not a mullah for a hundred meters.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Atheism of Steven den Beste

Steven den Beste sets forth his reasons for atheism with the air of someone inviting a discussion, which in fact he has had with several interlocutors, some of whom, like Donald Sensing, have a diametrically opposite point of view. My own opinion, disregarding all matters of faith, is that it is almost trivially easy to believe in a weak form of deism; but it is accepting the existence of a loving Deity that is problematic.

My own background includes a fair bit of formal mathematical training and I am a working software developer. Like many others in my profession, I find that the very intelligibility of the universe strongly implies an underlying order. Den Beste's argument of atheism from induction, for example, relies on the existence of induction. To the extent that there exists a valid mathematical descriptor of reality, at least in theory, God must exist; and exist in a specific form. This proposition, which I call the "weak form of deism", is easy to accept. There is order in reality, and if we call that order "God", then Q.E.D. (For a more sophisticated version of this simple-minded argument see Kurt Godel's ontological proof.)

But such a God would simply be a collection of relationships, and possibly, initial conditions. There is nothing about such a "weak deity" which necessarily implies caring for us: putting a coin under our pillows when we leave a tooth; hearing the cries of a child in pain; standing on the side of the Allies rather than Hitler. The existence of such a being requires a strong form of Deism: a Loving God. In this respect, the evidence seems to point all the other way. My own six year old son put it this way: "if God made good things, why are there sharks in the sea?" He had discovered, all on his own, the Problem of Evil.

Faith aside, the existence of a Loving God, it seems to me, hinges on the assertion of the necessity of love; in it's mathematical sense. We are all familiar with Dostoevsky's famous proposition that 'if God did not exist, everything would be permissible' and the somewhat stronger restatement 'if God did not exist, we would be forced to invent Him'. This makes perfect human sense, but it does not establish mathematical necessity. Realizing this, one physicist, Frank Tippler, proposed that we should, and can in fact, create a Loving God. In his Physics of Immortality, Tippler attempts to show how mankind could, in the future, become omniscient and omnipotent through entirely physical means, and resurrect everyone who had ever died in a loving reunion.

But why should we, if love is not imperative? We could just as easily use this future human omnipotence to create a Hell and torture the resurrected beings in it for time everlasting. And if love were imperative, why would we need to do it? Surely the weak deity, whose existence we have already established would be bound by the same necessity and create a loving resurrection for us, though in fact achieving it ourselves would be one and the same.

In logical terms, I must be agnostic on the question of the necessity of love. But in human terms, I must be partisan. Like Pascal, I think the stakes are too high to be indifferent. For my own reasons, which are logically no better than Den Beste's, I am determined to act as if a Loving God did exist, and pray to Him as if He did; and that if a resurrection eventuated in time to come, it should be to create a heaven and not a hell. Matthew Arnold once wrote:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

On that darkling plain, whose army are you on? What darkness do you fight?

Creating a Market for Counter-terrorist Intelligence

The Pentagon is setting up a commodity-style market to use real investors -- putting down real money -- to help its generals predict terrorist attacks, coups d'etat, and other turmoil around the globe. Under the program, disclosed yesterday by two of its critics in the Senate, investors with knowledge of the Middle East and other hot spots would be lured, by the prospect of making money of course, into using their expertise to buy and sell futures contracts on world events. -- Boston Globe

The Democrats, predictably, think that a government agency can do better at analyzing information that the market. Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said: "Spending taxpayer dollars to create terrorism betting parlors is as wasteful as it is repugnant ... ''The American people want the federal government to use its resources enhancing our security, not gambling on it."

But using the market to assess risk is so common and acceptable that we barely think about it. For example, insurance premiums are very good indicator of risk. The insurance industry insures against a great deal of phenomena which require very sophisticated analysis. Examples include satellite launches and therapeutic drug liability. No Democrat Senator would object to farmers taking out crop insurance, even though the weather is difficult, and perhaps impossible to predict. But the insurance market assesses the risk better than any other method. A futures market is mathematically equivalent to insurance. In both cases investors calculate an expected return, adjusted for risk, based on continuously updated information.

One consequence of the simple existence of an insurance or futures industry is to create a vast market for gathering and analyzing factors which may bear on risk. Armies of statistical analysts, technical evaluators, innovative quantiative methods, and revolutionary imaging methods have been employed in order to better understand risk. Without the futures or insurance markets, information gathering would be underfunded because the information would have no market value. Left to the government, large scale risk analysis would simply not exist. Why not apply a proven method to the phenomenon of terrorism instead of relying on the wisdom of empty-headed liberal politicians?

Yet there are genuine objections to the the Pentagon proposal, none of which have anything to do with the brain-dead reservations of the Democrat Senators. The most obvious is the possibility that it will create an incentive to manipulate the terror market. If investors buy or sell a contract on a massive terrorist attack, they have a vested interest in the possibility of it eventuating or not eventuating, depending on their positions. The other objection is to ask why the insurance market, as presently constituted, cannot provide the right instrument for making these assessments. If one is mathematically the equivalent of the other, then the market the Pentagon seeks already exists.

One of the nice things about Republicans is that they can think big: Lincoln freed the slaves, Teddy Roosevelt created the national park system, Ronald Reagan destroyed the Soviet Union and George Bush has remade the Middle East. This idea has possibilities, but it deserves a closer look.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Inside The Crisis in the Philippines

Max Soliven of the Philippine Star wrote a fascinating article on his role as a negotiator between the military mutineers, who had seized part of the Philippine business district, and the government of President Gloria Arroyo. His inclusion on the crisis negotiating team had been requested via a backchannel network, on the strength of his earlier acquaintance with one of the rebels. His selection was probably also due to his status as a non-Leftist newspaper publisher. The rebels wanted a media witness, and he was trusted by everyone.

Several factors immediately stand out in Soliven's account. First, it is clear that Soliven was on one of several "negotiating" panels, nearly all of which contained individuals who were former putchists themselves. An earlier delegation, for example, had the suspected mastermind of the mutiny, one Senator "Gringo" Honasan, in attendance on the government side. Second, Soliven's account makes it clear that the mutineers were awaiting outside support that never materialized.

"By that time, the mutineers had definitely dropped the idea that President Macapagal-Arroyo should "step down". In effect, they disowned Trillanes’ earlier pitch on television as his 'being carried away'. Somehow, I believe that they discarded this as a no-brainer when they saw they weren’t getting any support from outside, or when they realized that outside military 'help' wasn’t on the way, and that other units hadn’t mutinied. This will have to be looked into further."

The third is collateral confirmation of the second: the participating mutineers had converged on the Philippine capital from all over the archipelago, most noteably from the southern island of Mindanao. And when the mutineers were striking a deal for clemency they made it clear that the conspiracy was not confined to those present:

Cimatu and the other officers on the government panel said that all would be dealt with fairly "under the Articles of War". I asked them: "How many men are here with you in the Oakwood?" They replied: "296."  Trillanes inquired: "What about the men and units in the provinces who had expressed their support for us?"  Cimatu replied that they would receive the same deal, but first they had to be informed and identified.

The fourth factor is atmospheric, but suggestive of the most important aspect of the entire affair: neither the government nor the mutineers were playing to any tight command and control. The government, for example, had a plethora of "negotiators", a multiplicity of panels, a moveable deadline that was implicitly ignored because everyone knew it would be. The negotiating sessions themselves consisted of such an extraordinary collection of retired military officers, ex-putchists, personal friends, civilian officials, serving active duty officers from every unit in the islands -- all talking about subjects as diverse in scale as forcing the resignation of the Philippine President and repairing holes in leaking nipa roofs in officer's quarters -- in a shopping mall and residential complex, that it could only have happened in the Philippines. The personalistic and conspiratorial nature of the Philippine state had revealed itself in all its manifold convolutions.

One Australian business analyst, commenting on the crisis, believed that the coup could not sink the Philippines any further than it had already fallen. It was a country, he said, that never enforced its own investment laws, citing the case of a German company whose contract had been rescinded after the fact to suit the convenience of the local elites. He did not understand that constitutions, laws, contracts, oaths and institutions are transient, dispensable things in the Philippines: that it is the network of personal trust -- or suspicion -- that provides the only reality in this most unreal of places. Where but in the Philippines do bystanders rush toward, rather than away from automatic rifle fire? Where but in the Philippines is the former commander in chief of the Communist insurgent army, Victor Corpus, appointed to head government military intelligence? Where but in the Philippines does a blatant traitor like "Gringo" Honasan become elected a Senator and appointed to negotiate on a government panel to end a rebellion of which he is suspected to be the mastermind? Where but in the Philippines does a notorious international terrorist like Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi bend open his cell door with his bare hands and walk past his "sleeping" guards to escape with his prayer mat, suitcase and family portraits? Where but in the Philippines is there a military academy which churns out graduates, who, at regular intervals, make an attempt to overthrow their government?

Dorothy was probably thinking of the Philippines when she said to her dog, Toto, "we're not in Kansas anymore".

The Ba'ath Are Hosed Down

The Washington Post's Thomas Ricks, writing from Iraq, follows the fortunes of the 4th Infantry Division and puts numbers on the headlines:

In the expansive region north of Baghdad patrolled by the 4th Infantry Division, more than 300 Iraqi fighters were killed in combat operation, the military officials said. In the same period, U.S. forces in all of Iraq have suffered 39 combat deaths.

The US troops that Ricks interviewed were very confident that they had taken the measure of the Ba'ath resistants.

At the beginning of June, before the U.S. offensives began, the reward for killing an American soldier was about $300, an Army officer said. Now, he said, street youths are being offered as much as $5,000 -- and are being told that if they refuse, their families will be killed, a development the officer described as a sign of reluctance among once-eager youths to take part in the strikes. At the same time, the frequency of attacks has declined in the area northwest of Baghdad dominated by Iraq's Sunni minority, long a base of support for Hussein. In this triangle-shaped region -- delineated by Baghdad, Tikrit to the north and the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi to the west -- attacks on U.S. forces have dropped by half since mid-June, military officers reported.

The old habits of the former Iraq ruling class died hard. When a US patrol drove into the town of Thulaya in the heart of Sunni territory, they were haughtily told to leave -- or die.

It was then that "we started to kick down doors," recalled a senior Central Command official. Instead of leaving, at 2 a.m. the next morning, hundreds of U.S. troops cordoned off Thuluya and hundreds more conducted searches throughout the town. F-15 fighters and Apache helicopters whirred overhead, ready to launch missiles on ground commanders' call. U.S. military speedboats patrolled the Tigris River, cutting off an escape route. The aggressive operation set the tone for the new phase of the war.

When the Ba'ath started operating by day to escape US movement by night, the Americans also attacked by day. The unremitting nature of American raids, intelligence seizures and followups created a situation where one raid could be started based on the results of a raid still in progress. Now the Americans think that the Ba'ath may adapt by using standoff weapons, attacking Iraqis working for Americans or US civilian contractors.

Ricks' reportage is confined to a single armored division. Missing from his accounts are the activities of the 101st Airborne, which last week killed Qusay and Uday Hussein. As Belmont Club has pointed out in the past, the deaths of US soldiers in action is tragedy, but the arithmetic of the war is entirely against the Ba'ath. Soon everyone will know that but the BBC.

Waiting for Part 2

Dean Bocobo makes a compelling case for regarding the recent military mutiny in the Philippines as an incompleted act.

This was never a serious bid to overthrow the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The reasons so far given include (1) graft and corruption in the AFP, including charges, (not news to anyone), that a trade in government arms and ammo exists with separatists and terrorists in Mindanao; (2) that the Davao Wharf bombings earlier this year ought to be investigated for involvement by military intelligence officials; (3) inaction by the higher ups on a wide variety of injustices, unfair policies towards soldiers, and specific incidents of abuse and dereliction of duty. This enumeration is unsatisfactory. There are deeper reasons these men, all promising young officers from the elite Philippine Military Academy laid everything on the line this past weekend. The thing that sticks in my mind is their passionate discourse--at times incoherent, sometimes alarming, during the Press Conference yesterday. THEY ARE TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING that hasn't yet come out!

Alternatively, something happened between the time that the mutineers seized the Oakwood building in Makati commercial center at dawn on July 27 and their incoherent press conference at 15:00 that same day to change their minds. Or maybe something didn't happen.

The what happened is:

  • the US rejection of the mutineer's legitimacy
  • the overt support by former President Ramos, himself a former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, of the Presidency of Gloria Arroyo.

What didn't happen was a show of support from senior officers and former military figures, like Senator Gringo Honasan. The obvious possibility is that the mutineers, publicly led by Navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes were waiting for a supporting movement which never materialized. Realizing that they had been hung out to dry by co-conspirators who had chickened out or misled them about the extent of their support, the Trillanes-led mutineers cut their losses and blew smoke. That would explain the rambling, bull-session nature of their press conference. Aware by then of the failure of Plan A, the mastermind of the mutiny, who is almost certainly not Lieutenant Trillanes, must now go to Plan B to survive.

Some of the mutineers are probably being offered full pardons or even promotions in exchange for handing over the identity of the the rebel Mr. Big. In all probability, the ringleaders have been separated and are being questioned by friends in happy surroundings with unlimited quantities of Scotch whiskey ready to hand. Good liquor, "friendly company" and good food coming on the heels of 24 tension filled hours will do wonders to loosen the tongue. The Belmont Club has often reviled the pancit strategy, but here is one instance where it might actually work. Especially in the gangland atmosphere of the Philippine Armed Forces, where an awareness of the penalties of being a loser are always uppermost in the player's minds.

But somewhere in the fatigue-fogged brains of the plotters is the awareness that Mr. Big may yet win the day, in which case the confidences exchanged over Johnny Walker Black will prove very expensive indeed. So half-truths will be exchanged, interspersed with the expostulations and irrelevancies so characteristic of such conversations. Gloria Arroyo and her Cabinet will be out of the tactical loop; as this is the affair of the professional low-lifers. Arroyo and her coterie of civilian assistants will simply await the edited assessments delivered by that former Communist worthy and now military chief of intelligence, Colonel Victor Corpus. All they can hope for is that, in the wilderness of mirrors that is Philippine politics, Corpus himself is not part of the plot.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Day After

The surrender of the mutineers who had seized a large section of the premier Philippine business district will intensify, rather than lessen, the crisis gripping the Philippine Government. Among other things, it has forced President Arroyo to rely further upon a set of corrupt military officials for the survival of her administration, generals who now clearly command factions, rather than a disciplined military organization. The Philippines, already divided into political factions, is now witnessing the subdivision of one of the key players, the Armed Forces, into sub-factions, rather like a malignant cancer cell. It is the metastasis of anarchy.

The Republic of the Philippines is now without a single clean cloth. It is absolutely bereft of any reliable instruments of reform. Every institution is now tainted. It is in a cesspool without a pump. Across the nation, the academe, the media and the nongovernment organizations have been perverted into strongholds of the Left. The Philippine Church is being politicized further with each passing day. And the armed forces have become nothing more than a uniformed gang. The Republic of the Philippines has seized to be a working nation; it totters sans wits, sans faith, sans teeth.

The Islamic secessionists in the South will have received final confirmation that the Republic truly has no victory option against them. The sword of the Philippine Republic is broken. It is worse than broken; it has been thrust into its putative owner's belly. That news will be like ringing the dinner bell to the predatory terrorists of the region. 'Come one, come all. Here, surely, is a place where everything is for sale; where no good deed goes unpunished; and no evil goes unrewarded'. Already, the Islamic secessionists are packing their bags for an all-expense-paid vacation in Kuala Lumpur where, at "negotiations", they will demand territorial concessions from the Republic. The Left are likely to say, if they are not saying already that 'here are the fruits of letting Americans train the Army! Let us prohibit any contact between the United States with our pure-hearted soldiers, who after all, wore Red armbands. Nationalize everything!"  In the meantime, it will continue to deal in illicit drugs with the corrupt Armed Forces hierarchy. And the Church and business will continue to hold prayer vigils and sponsor meaningless confabulations, because that is the limit of their scope of action.

One is tempted to say of the Philippines, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, or its more pithy American equivalent, "the same old shit".

Institutions of Treason

One of the institutions with a singular history of disloyalty to the Philippine Constitution is the Philippine Military Academy, based in Fort Pilar, Baguio City. This was not always the case, but in 1971, Victor Corpus (Class of 1976), an instructor of the Academy, started a tradition by raiding the armory and taking it's contents to the Communist New People's Army. Corpus eventually returned to the Philippine Government fold and -- get this -- is now head of it's military intelligence. Then Academy graduate Gringo Honasan (Class of 1981) led a large section of his class in a coup attempt against President Corazon Aquino, an uprising which required US persuasion flights and Philippine Airforce fighter-bomber strikes to suppress. In the inimitable fashion of Philippine politics, coup leader Honasan was subsequently elected a Philippine Senator. Treason is not a disqualification for running for public office, nor is it, apparently, a bar to remaining in office. Dean Bocobo links to a CyberDyaryo report which quotes Honasan  as sayng:

Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan was back in the news the other day, in three separate stories: one in which he opined that "people power" of the 1986 EDSA variety would be useless this time against Erap Estrada, because it could not count on military support; the second in which he spoke for Class 1971 of the Philippine Military Academy in promising to adopt Erap as a class "mistah" after the impeachment trial, no matter what the outcome...

A mistah in this context means "honorary classmate". Honasan said, in effect, that you can't have a President unless he is acceptable to the graduates of the Philippine Military Academy. The current leaders of the coup are, not surprisingly, recent Academy graduates.

The reputed leaders of the latest military uprising in the Philippines are young officers who led elite units and are experts on explosives, officials said Saturday. Officials said about 20 junior officers backed by "between 40-50" fully armed men were behind the revolt. The suspected leaders "are primarily from the classes of 1995 to 1997" of the PMA, which produces most of the military's officer corps, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said over DZBB radio. All the identified leaders of the plot are aged 30 or younger, and included two commanders of battalions of the elite Army Scout Rangers. "Some members (of these classes) are missing. The others are with their respective units," and presumably not supporting their classmates' action, Reyes said.

The Philippine Left has also demonstrated an impressive ability to disregard what would be treason and portray it as nationalism. One of the principle negotiators for the Philippine Communist Party is Dutch citizen Luis Jalandoni. A former priest who renounced his beliefs in favor of atheism, and then renounced his Philippine citizenship in favor of an Dutch citizenship, he also has the apparent ability to renounce his Dutch citizenship at will and become a Filipino again for whatever duration is convenient, thus proving that precious little is required to claim Philippine nationalism other than a guaranteed antipathy to America.Wretchard once asked a member of the Philippine government how Jalandoni, a foreign national, could represent the Philippine Communist Party. The answer was, "but he's a Jalandoni!" The Jalandonis, you see, are members of the Philippine elite.

Muslim rebels are openly based abroad.  Nur Misuari's patron was Colonel Khadaffy of Libya and the Philippine Government forged a deal with him there, known as the Tripoli Agreement, as Misuari sat at the Colonel's knees. The current Muslim rebels are scheduled to demand a piece of Philippine territory at a mutually scheduled meeting with the Arroyo government in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the rebels were trained. No treason there, as it does not involve America, and besides, they are members of the local Muslim elite. 

There is the strange, but widely held notion in the Philippines that nationalism means nothing else but hating the United States. Checks and monies from all other potentates are totally acceptable. Crimes and depredations are totally acceptable. No Manila pundit, most of whom are graduates of the Left's equivalent of the Philippine Military Academy, the University of the Philippines, will raise the slightest objection to the any violence against the Philippine Constitution, any sacking and burning of towns, any destruction of the livelihood of the common person, for so long as it advances their self-promotion and harms what they regard as the ultimate threat to their self-interest: America.

The Philippine elite -- whether from the Philippine Military Academy, or the University of the Philippines, or from Mindanao State University -- will demand ten or so billion dollars a year from overseas Filipinos without conceding the slightest of their rancid prerogatives to anyone who might interject reason, rationalizing their self-serving agenda as "nationalism". Know them for the frauds that they are.

In watching the current drama unfold, foreign powers should follow this guide: no effort too great for the welfare of the Filipino people; no insult too demeaning for the Filipino "nationalistic" elite.

Coup in the Philippines? The Dance of the Three Stooges

On June 2, in Rebuilding the Armed Forces of the Philippines the Belmont Club introduced the three main actors in the current military rebellion in the Philippines.

The most damaging act of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos was to capture the Armed Forces of the Philippines and turn it into his power base. The last years of the dictatorship saw Philippine institutions partitioned between rival political camps. One camp grafted itself onto Church institutions, nongovernment organizations and business organizations. The Marxists entrenched themselves in the university system and in certain sections of the mass media. And the dictator dug himself into the Armed Forces. Nearly 20 years after the EDSA revolution, many aspects of this division remain. If the Philippines is to survive, the Army, the academe,  mass media and the Church have to be "recaptured" by ordinary folk and restored to their normal functions. The Army has to become just an Army, the colleges just colleges, and the Church just the Church, again.

All three of the factions, the military, the Church-business alliance and the Left were wrestling again for the levers of power today.

Dozens of armed rogue military officers stormed a commercial center in downtown Manila early this morning, placed explosives in the area and demanded that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her government resign.The fatigue-clad soldiers issued a statement that accused Arroyo of planning to "explode bombs everywhere" in August, blame it on opposition groups and then declare martial law. -- Washington Post

Among the alleged reasons for the military rebellion of a group of supposedly junior officers (the Belmont Club predicts that senior officers are the real masterminds) were that the Philippine Army was "selling arms and ammunition to Muslim and communist rebels", an accusation already publicly made by former rebel hostage Fr. Circilo Nacorda and rescued American missionary Garcia Burnham. The third actor made its appearance immediately. The Church and business alliance responded to the military rebellion by holding a nonstop vigil at the EDSA Shrine in order to support President Arroyo, a tactic which is simply a scaled-down version of the original mass rallies at the EDSA Shrine which catapaulted Arroyo into power in the first place.

Arroyo has given the rebels until 10:00 Zulu in order to surrender before assaulting the position. That's a howler right there. The Philippines has no real night fighting capability, and even fewer capable assault troops. Given that many of the rebels are from the local equivalent of the US 75th Ranger Regiment (the Philippine Scout Rangers), it is obvious that the Philippine Special Forces community will be divided at best. Moreover, the proximity of so much valuable commercial property and upper class lives nearby means that the assaulting forces will not have any adequate supporting fire.

What happened? Here's Belmont Club's speculation. The drug dealers and perps in the Army have long regarded President Arroyo as the creature of the Church-business community. Some of their pickings must have gotten slim, of late. The principal spokespersons of the Army, the Panfilo Lacons, the Gringo Honasans and the Juan Ponce Enriles were on the political wane. The talismanic link to Marcos, Joseph Estrada, is in prison. Faced with a decline revenue stream, they therefore they struck at Arroyo where it hurts most: in the property base of her business supporters. The seizure, then release of the Australian ambassador means that business prospects in the Philippines will take a dirt nap and stay dead for the forseeable future. The military rebels have adopted Leftist iconology ("Magdalo") armbands to appeal, if only momentarily, to the Left (who are their arms customers anyway and suppliers of raw drug product). And the Left will only be too glad to see business fail. Bad news is good news for them. They reckon that Gloria won't be able to take them down. And Gloria won't. At least by her self-imposed deadline. Not with the sick and puny capability of the divided Armed Forces. The military rebels understand that the Church-business people will response with appeasement tactics, what Belmont Club has called the pancit strategy, and any sanction against them will be token, at best.

The Belmont Club has dissected this sickness in fair detail in Rebuilding the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The last paragraph of that post was:

The key to recapturing the Army is to root it in a reserve system in which ordinary society is a full participant. The Belmont Club will expand on this in the future, but the spirit of the ideal reserve system is embodied in the fact that the deadliest fighter squadrons in the US Airforce and the most elite snipers in the Israeli Army consist of reservists. When the Armed Forces of the Philippines can approach the efficiency of Jollibee and approximate the persistence of Malabanan, then the end of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is truly near.

Perhaps one day, but for now, the Three Stooges of Philippine Society are struggling over their share of face-smearing cream pie. No clean faces. A pox on them all.

Go to Dean Jorge Bocobo Now

Wretchard just got back in from out town. One of the best sites to go right now on the breaking Philippine situation is Dean Bocobo's. Go there now!

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Second Dying

The American Tiger and the Ba'athist Elephant

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post reports on how a nonstop series of operations gradually picked apart the Iraqi Ba'ath network, sweeping up, among others, Qusay and Uday Hussein.

Until early June, when the Army launched the first of three major offensives in the an area known as the Sunni triangle north and west of Baghdad, U.S. officials didn’t fully grasp the extent of Baathist resistance in the area, one Army official said today. ... As a result, U.S. commanders changed their minds about sending the entire 3rd Infantry Division home, as they had hoped to do by the end of last month. ...  The raids also led to a sharp increase in U.S. casualties in June, with a soldier dying nearly every day. This official estimated that close to 60 percent of U.S. casualties came in the course of offensive operations by the U.S. troops or Baathist responses to those attacks.

The real payoffs began, Ricks says, when the US stopped looking for the Husseins directly and began concentrating on the rank and file Ba'athists.  

We shifted our focus from very high-level personalities to the people that are causing us damage,” Gen. John P. Abizaid, the new commander of the U.S. military in the Middle East, said in an interview last weekend. Later, he told reporters in Baghdad: “In the past two weeks, we have been getting the mid-level leadership in a way that is effective.”

The captured Baathists provided much new detail about their organization and contacts, officials here said. Some gave information about their financing and their means of communication, they added. Others identified members of their networks. Some described the routes and contacts that fugitive leaders were using.  “You get a tip, you pull a couple of guys in, they start to talk,” a Central Command official said. Then, based on that information, he continued, “you do a raid, you confiscate some documents, you start building the tree” of contacts and “you start doing signals intercepts. And then you’re into the network.”

The 4th ID alone was conducting 18 raids a day in recent weeks. Although the US was taking casualties, the arithmetic of war was going entirely their way. The Belmont Club has consistently argued that, from the military point of view, the methodical evisceration of the Ba'ath was doing far more damage than the public-relations oriented attacks of the Saddam loyalists. "The mid-level operatives who were captured turned out to be knowledgeable about how the top targets on the U.S. list were evading capture. “There was a snowball effect,” a senior Army official said today." Just as the media have focused on the handful of American casualties in their coverage, they will probably emphasize the demise of the Hussein scions while ignoring the far more important cumulative damage to the Ba'ath. It is the loss of 50 or more trained personnel a day for weeks at a stretch, and not the loss of two dysfunctional incompetents, that will collapse the Saddam loyalists in the end.

The realization that America is, contrary to fantasy, actually winning, has plunged the Left into denial and anger. This is how some BBC listeners reacted to the news that Saddam Hussein's two sons had been killed by the 101st Airborne:

Any premeditated and intentioned killing is a murder. No wonder USA is seeking to be excluded from war crime trial by ICC. They sought them to kill them. That's murder. --Henry Bedmoth, Uganda

Why not arrest them? -- Robert van den Heuvel, Netherlands

Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-NY, maintained that the US acted illegally in raiding the Hussein hideout. "We have a law on the books that the United States should not be assassinating anybody," Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-NY, told Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes." The front-running Democratic Presidential hopeful Howard Dean is only slightly less annoyed, "It's a victory for the Iraqi people ... but it doesn't have any effect on whether we should or shouldn't have had a war," Dean said. "I think in general the ends do not justify the means." Journalist Robert Fisk saw the death of the dictator's heirs as the death knell for imperialist America: "If he and his sons are dead, the chances are that the opposition to the American-led occupation will grow rather than diminish - on the grounds that with Saddam gone, Iraqis will have nothing to lose by fighting the Americans."

God Dies Twice in a Hundred Years

Yet the Leftist disappointment in the poor performance of their "side" raises the question of why the heirs of Marx and Lenin, heretofore the principal actors of world revolution, have been reduced to mere spectators on the field. Only those old enough to remember the Left in its heyday -- or crazy enough to have read its history -- can appreciate what a shadow of it's former self it has become. For once upon a time, dear reader, there was militant world religion styled the Communist International that would not have condescended to treat with Islam. In it's apostolic age, the disciples of Marx walked the earth like Titans. A single disciple, burning with the fire of revolution, could set a whole continent aflame. Lenin, Trostky, Tan Malacca, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao, to name a few, each in turn claimed millions for Marx.

There is a contemporaneous poster from the Leftist Apostolic age showing an idealized Lincoln Steffens, newly returned from the Soviet Union, standing before a brilliant sunrise captioned "Russia" intoning "I have seen the future and it works!" Probably nothing captured the sense of rapture felt by early Leftists more than the mystical International Workers of the World, the Wobblies, one of whose posters depicts a chain of workers dancing around a representation of the globe trembling on the verge of eternal earthly paradise. For that is what they purposed to build -- after killing the Christian God. In Nietzche's classic Parable of the Madman, a lunatic runs into the marketplace accusing the Europe of Deicide.

How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?
What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled
to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?
What water is there for us to clean ourselves?
What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent?
Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us?

The Left, in it's scarce-remembered magnificence, confidently set out to build a replacement god and paradise for that which it had killed. Oh how high its hopes had been! But just as today's Europe is filled with empty churches and cathedrals, so is it littered by the empty meeting halls and abandoned iconography of the shattered Marxist faith. That god, too has died. The flyblown Revolution bookstores and the hawkers of Green Left may still to be found on street corners, but the inner core of dedicated revolutionaries has vanished, destroyed by disillusion or combat with America. With the Bolshevik cadre gone, the center has been taken over by the "useful fools" of the periphery. Homosexual marriage, man-boy love, tree-hugging, pardon for all mass murderers, universal abortion, organic food, Voluntary Human Extinction, and a grab-bag of lunatic causes have replaced the old "scientific socialism" and are what constitute the tattered program of the Left.

Small wonder that in it's degenerate condition, the Left soon found itself losing adherents to militant Islam, which, if it could not offer a paradise on earth, which the Left could not either, might at least promise 72 virgins in the hereafter. All over the world, the disaffected turned away from Marxism and came to Islam. All those who would not flock to the old banner of the West, came not to the Left but to Allah, nor even the Allah of the Sufis, who you might meet face to face while strolling in a garden; but for the Allah of the Wahabists, all gore, grue and mumbo-jumbo.

Whose death does Nietzsche's lunatic now proclaim in the marketplace, except the gods of Marx? Poor old Europe, that it should lose two faiths within a century. It can at least, keep up the cheering for whichever dictator has the worst foot odor and ugliest facial hair. Whoever said that the Left had no sense of humor?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


On the day after 3,000 people were murdered in World Trade Center buildings, very little was publicly known about the nature of the attackers. In the days and weeks afterward, the fuzzy images resolved themselves into concrete instances. First, the terrorist state in Afghanistan was captured, and turned upside down.  Then, the international network of funding sources and recruitment that ran through the Balkans, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East were patiently attacked. Then, a series of interceptions revealed a shadowy network of states which supplied deniable weapons to the armies of the night. There were Scud-bearing ships on the high seas, nuclear development facilities in remote Korean locations, mysterious mobile weapons laboratories. Some were captured, others watched. At each stage, the knowledge of the enemy became clearer. Names and faces, actual locations and physical objects took the place of code words on a list.

What emerged was staggering. The sheer scope of the War on Terror easily placed it in the category of a world war. From Kenya to the Sudan, from Yemen to Kurdistan, in London mosques, Parisian suburbs and Spanish cities; from Buffalo to Marin County to Vancouver; in Chechnya and in Moscow; in Pakistan and Afghanistan; in Kashmir and Iraq; in Israel and Lebanon; in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; in Iran and Kazakhstan; in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines; in all the ocean spaces of the world, the Islamic enemy was encountered. Small wonder that the Europeans advised America to surrender. A strange duality possessed the Liberal press, making it at once terrified that the enemy was too strong to resist; yet unwilling to admit that he existed at all lest that imply he should be fought. That was to be avoided at all costs.

In retrospect it is possible to see that the Liberal mind was stunned into submission, yet too shamed to admit it's own cowardice. After all, in terms of sheer numbers, the size of the Islamic enemy dwarfed any threat the West had faced in the past. In numbers uncounted, with oil money galore, it objectively dwarfed Hitler, before whom France surrendered in forty days. And it was embedded in the very fabric of the Europe. Thus much of Western Europe was determined to make this the greatest war never fought. What point to resistance? Yes, the end of West had come, but Marxism, to which many of them subscribed, had long predicted the day when when they would be punished for the sin of existing. All that remained was for the Leftist faithful to stretch out their necks upon the block.

Enter America.

If Europe survives another thousand years, it will never forgive the United States for spoiling their prophesied punishment. Just when Zed had come to the Vortex to bring Death the Liberator, some damned American gunslinger without the sense to feel doomed and guilty shoots Zed down. The hatred which the Left now feels for America has gone off the scale. Was it not enough for stupid America to destroy the Soviet Worker's Paradise on earth? Where have you gone, Uncle Joe, the Party turns it lonely eyes to you? Did it have to grind their heel into Marxist eschatology as well? Will the Americans not be defeated? Will they bring down the Mullahs and Kim Jong Il too? Is there balm after all in Gilead? It is, for many European post-modernists, an existential tragedy of the first order.

A specter is haunting Europe. It is the specter of simplisme.

Monday, July 21, 2003

The Revenge of the Dads

Some time in the late 19th century, or perhaps even earlier, newspapermen discovered the power of myth. They realized that, as the public organ of sight and the custodians of the collective memory, the press was in a position to alter history itself. That conferred upon journalism a godlike power. Certainly Orson Welles knew that William Randolph Hearst -- or was it Henry Luce -- fictionalized as Citizen Kane, was a fit subject for an epic. But even ordinary scribblers could change the course of nations, or condemn millions.  Walter Duranty, the chief Moscow correspondent of the New York Times, is now credited with inventing the avuncular, high-minded image of "Uncle Joe" out of the mass murderer Joseph Stalin. He was even awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his fabrications, which molded the opinion of a generation, and if the Pulitzer Committee is now considering the unprecedented step of revoking the prize, it will come too late for the millions of Ukranians whose murder he concealed.

The power of a journalist to turn total falsehood into accepted fact was highlighted by the belated discovery that Jayson Blair, ace reporter for the New York Times, had filed hundreds of stories, including those on the Washington Beltway sniper, by simply regurgitating what he had read from other newspapers. In many instances, he quoted people who he never interviewed, and claimed a dateline from places he never visited. Peter Arnett, recently fired for moonlighting as a spokesman for Saddam Hussein, was famous for reporting that an American officer in Vietnam had said "We had to destroy the village in order to save it". Now it turns out that he may have invented the entire phrase. The village in question, Ben Tre, was actually destroyed by the Viet Cong. But Peter Arnett had his Pulitzer. And so it is with regret, but not surprise, for readers to learn that the British Broadcasting Corporation, the legendary BBC, may have fabricated quotes from Dr. David Kelly, a British Ministry of Defense scientist, in order to push it's editorial agenda.

Yet the real news is the amazing rapidity with which fabrications are being uncovered. Duranty's frauds survived for decades. The lies of the BBC's Andrew Gilligan had a shelf life of weeks. What has changed is the exponentially increased power of the ordinary layman to gather, collate and assess information over the Internet. In the mid-1960s, the average American would have no way of checking who destroyed the village of Ben Tre. He would have Time, Newsweek and little else. Today, an ordinary working person can make telephone calls or receive an emails from Vietnam, and Peter Arnett's deception would have little chance of surviving. But what has also changed is that the ordinary working person, in comparison to the professional journalist, is no longer so ordinary.

The average person holding a day job is now far better educated than the working journalist. The "day job" holders in the 21st century First World tend to be engineers, technicians, lawyers, doctors or businessmen. They fly airplanes, run corporations, disassemble genetic sequences, write computer programs, build bridges, send spacecraft into interstellar space. Jayson Blair, by contrast, was a college dropout. So when Andrew Gilligan reported this, it just didn't ring true with the "day job" folks.

The location was a central London hotel and the source was waiting as I got there. We'd both been too busy to meet for nearly a year, but there was no sign this would be anything more than a routine get-together... We'd discussed the famous Blair dossier on Iraq's weapons at our previous meeting, a few months before it was published last September. "It's really not very exciting, you know," he'd told me. So what, I asked him now, had changed? "Nothing changed," he said. "Until the week before, it was just like I told you. It was transformed the week before publication, to make it sexier." What do you mean? Can I take notes? "The classic," he said, "was the statement that WMD were ready for use in 45 minutes. One source said it took 45 minutes to launch a missile and that was misinterpreted to mean that WMD could be deployed in 45 minutes. There was no evidence that they had loaded conventional missiles with WMD, or could do so anything like that quickly." I asked him how this transformation happened. The answer was a single word. "Campbell." What? Campbell made it up? "No, it was real information. But it was included against our wishes because it wasn't reliable."

People don't talk like that in real life, in elliptical tones and one-word dramatic cryptograms. No one except journalists imagining themselves to be with spies. This kind of purple prose might have passed muster when college graduates were rarities and the average newspaper reader was a bricklayer. But times have caught up with journalists. Their readers are smarter than they are. Lastly, the sophisticated reader is now an active analyst of the news. It's called blogging. And while not very many of the blogs may be read, each represents an individual attempt to make sense of the world. The journalists had better work on their lying. The old stuff don't cut it no more.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

How did it come to this?

What can one add to a nearly perfect essay by Victor Davis Hanson except the obvious? In The Corrections, Professor Hanson points out that the "radical" policies of the Bush administration are merely a return to the world of common sense after more than two decades of moonbat appeasement that began with Jimmy Carter and continued through Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton. For example:

The Bush administration was right to question why there are over 35,000 American troops on the DMZ targeted by 10,000 heavy guns — especially as we pay blackmail to neighboring butchers to behave. That strange policy too was the abnormality, not our new efforts to relocate our troops southward, apprise the South Koreans of the risks of their triangulating policies, and inform China, Japan, and South Korea that a nuclear creep was loose in their neighborhood — not ours. Such a past untenable condition called for such a restoration of sanity, and thus for a move back to the mean that was not imprudent, but long overdue.

Hanson knows when the strangeness all began.

... I would perhaps chart the pathology's birth with the Iranian hostage situation, whose precedent of appeasement in turn led to Lebanon, and then on to the murdering in Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the first World Trade Center, Yemen, and so on, as bin Laden himself sometimes enumerated. Appeasement, empty rhetoric, blackmail — all that and more was the cheap substitute for resolute and sustained military action to prevent terrorists and their supporters from killing Americans.

But Professor Hanson never quite gets around to saying how and why the world went so far out of kilter. For surely it is not enough to say 'we have returned to the center' without giving any thought to how we nearly went off the edge. If only we could remember ... but maybe it is best to forget. Move on, as they say. Still, in some distant corner of our minds must echo Albert Camus' final warning from the Plague, to remember that:

"the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years . . . and that perhaps the day would come when . . . it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city"

The Honorable BBC

Tom Mangold, a former senior BBC correspondent, categorically believes that Dr. David Kelly was Andrew Gilligan’s unwitting source for the accusations leveled in its broadcast against Prime Minister Tony Blair. The BBC, it will be recalled, accused the British government of "sexing up" the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Mangold says:

It is not generally known that David not only briefed Gilligan, but the reporter for the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News the same night. He might also have been the briefer for the BBC TV’s Newsnight.

The hilarious irony was that David Kelly had intended to convince the BBC reporters of the true seriousness of the threat that Saddam Hussein posed. Mangold continues:

"Why did he do it? Simple, really. From the very best of motives. He told me then he was anxious that reporters who did not fully understand the politics and mechanics of weapons of mass destruction should understand quite clearly what Iraq had been up to, and why it might be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find actual weapons. That means delivery systems and warheads all screwed together, filled with biological or chemical agents and ready to go. Rather, he wanted those he briefed to comprehend that Iraq had a programme - it was flexible, it had malicious intent."

Kelly did not reckon on the possibility that the BBC would use selected nuggets from his briefing to advance the opposite conclusion: that the threat from Saddam was wholly overblown. That it was "sexed up". Discussing the Gilligan story later, Mangold and Kelly: 

"laughed about that 'fact' (that it would take 45 minutes for Saddam to arm his weapons) after the Gilligan interview, and he reminded me it would take the most efficient handlers at least 45 minutes just to pour the chemicals or load the biological agents into the warheads. That is why he did not recognise his briefing to Gilligan and assumed that he must have had another source for that information. I wonder if Gilligan or anyone else could have had a better source about weapons of mass destruction than David Kelly."

The BBC accusations unleashed a media firestorm which culminated in a series of investigations in which Kelly was finally summoned to testify. Describing his conversation with BBC correspondent Gilligan before a Parliamentary inquiry, Kelly said he had: 

met Mr Gilligan in the Charing Cross Hotel in London - where the journalist met his source - and that elements of the BBC’s story were similar to things they discussed. "I do realise that in the conversation I had there was reinforcement of some of the ideas that he has put forward," he said. However, Dr Kelly added: "I believe I am not the main source. From the conversation I had [with Mr Gilligan], I don’t see how he could make the statements he was making." Dr Kelly said the "C-word" - a reference to Alastair Campbell, the Downing Street communications chief - had arisen during their meeting, but that it had been Mr Gilligan who mentioned it.

By Gilligan's account his conversation with the main unnamed source -- also at the same Charing Cross Hotel -- was markedly different -- it was the source that had implicated Campell.

Mr Gilligan has told the committee his source informed him the dossier had been "transformed" in the final week before publication with the insertion of the claim that Iraq could deploy weapons within 45 minutes. When he asked his source how this had happened, Mr Gilligan said he made a one-word reply: "Campbell".

If Kelly were indeed main Gilligan's source, then the reporter's ascription of the altered dossier to Campbell had been directly contradicted by the man he was quoting. The BBC, for it's part, skirted this threat to veracity of it's story:

The BBC has refused a request from Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, to confirm whether or not Dr Kelly was the source.

Mangold's clearly believes his industry, and perhaps his former employer contributed to Kelly's death: "This is the moment every reporter dreads. We are all involved in the death of a fine and honourable man whose only motive was to help us to tell the truth. He is dead. We are now alone with our consciences."

What consciences?

The Nationalism of the Filipino Elite

Dean Bocobo quotes former Philippine Secretary of Tourism Gemma Cruz-Araneta as saying that the escape of Fathur Roman Al-Ghozi "is not about us Filipinos being extremely nationalistic, nor us being in denial, about terrorism, anti-American, anti-Nato, etc. This is the product of corruption, plain and simple thievery, vulgar, vulgar sale of anything for the right price, not caring about the country's image, to say the least."

But since everybody knew that the jail was a sieve and a cesspool of corruption before Al-Ghozi's "escape", what reason can be given for keeping him there, rather than elsewhere, except nationalism and denial?

Max Soliven in his opinion column in the Philippine Star datelined Tuesday, July 15, 2003 noted that two notorious gangsters had "escaped" from the same "high security" jail just months before. Jarius Bondoc of the Philippine Star related how the hearts of US law enforcement officials sank when they saw where Al-Ghozi was detained, and pleaded with Filipino officials to move him to a more secure cell. The corruption was ignored because it was Filipino corruption, familiar and acceptable; the pleas ignored because they were American pleas, alien and strangely out of place; and the impending escape inevitable, because things are inevitable in the Philippines.

What would have been easier than to move him to a jail in Singapore? The Philippine elite have no difficulty going to Sloan-Kettering when they feel their cancer may not be successfully treated at the Marikina puericulture center. They do not agonize over sending their children to MIT when they feel that Guzman Tech might not provide a satisfactory learning environment. But they would rather release a monster who mangled a trainload of lower class commuters and children than admit that their shambolic government is in certain respects inferior to its foreign counterpart. "Better a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by Americans", was how Manuel Quezon put it. Lose your pants, but never lose your face.

A recently-arrived observer from Mars might be forgiven for thinking that the operative definition for nationalism in the Philippines is 'a state where nothing is too good for the elite and nothing too disgusting for the ordinary people', and why nationalism in the vernacular is "nagpapakabayani" -- a word best rendered in English as Dilbert Quixotism.

In the carriage blown apart by Al-Ghozi were the pitiful remnants of children's toys. Gifts from Santa a few days before. There were little scraps of the colorful clothing that children wear when they are doing the rounds of their uncles in the days after Chrismas. This was the act of which this Islamic bravo was so proud. This was the deed of which he nightly boasted to Allah. This was the man that Filipino officials allowed to go free, even though they knew ... Well, Dmitri, in the Brothers Karamazov, describes to Alyosha the strange feeling of knowing that he is going to succumb to carnal temptation before he actually does, as if he could stand outside himself and watch events transpire with an awful foreknowledge. He asks Alyosha whether a sinner like himself could ever be saved, could ever be free. The question which the Philippines must ask itself is whether it deserves to be saved or free when it knows in advance that it will accept the bribe of the killer of children.

Gemma Cruz-Araneta is wrong to draw a distinction between between "nationalism" and corruption. For most Filipino officials, corruption was the point of independence. The whole point.

Friday, July 18, 2003

The War in the Darkness

Just when you thought it was safe to talk a walk ... this happens. "The body found near the home of Dr David Kelly, the government adviser named as the possible source of controversial claims about the Iraq weapons dossier reported by BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan, matches the description of that of the missing man."

A little background here. Dr. Kelly is at the center of the British debate over whether the evidence purporting that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction was faked. That debate had an overt, and now we know, a covert aspect. The overt debate was over whether President Bush and Prime Minister Blair exaggerated the known evidence on Saddam's arsenal. But there are subtexts. Subtext number one relates to a BBC expose alleging that Tony Blair's communications director, Alastair Campbell inserted a phrase embellishing Hussein's capabilities. That has since become a debate over the whether the BBC faked Campbell's supposed insertion itself, culminating in a parliamentary inquiry which basically held that BBC correspondent was an "unsatisfactory witness" -- a polite word for liar. Dr. Kelly was suspected -- or alleged to be Gilligan's source. And although the parliamentary committee cleared Kelly of any wrongdoing, there is now the little matter of his discovered corpse. Across the Atlantic, the American version of the controversy swirls around whether President George Bush willfully misled the American people in the matter of whether the Saddam Hussein bought uranium in Africa. That information, now admitted to be false, or at least suspect, originated from the French.

Now for the covert aspects. Theory one. George Bush and Tony Blair connived to mislead the world about Saddam's WMDs and have killed Dr. Kelly to silence him. Theory two. The suppliers of Saddam's arsenal are covering their tracks: that is to say, the French are covering their tracks with a disinformation campaign to bring down their archenemy Tony Blair. Andrew Sullivan seems to think that the WMDs were real, which supports Theory Two. But if that were so, whose side are the French on? And besides, why must Theory One necessarily be wrong?

There's not enough data to reject either hypothesis. But there is enough data to establish that a huge struggle is now under way of which we can catch but a glimmer. The murder of Dr. Kelly is the First World version of the escape of Fathur Roman Al Ghozi: a wheel within a wheel. It is a reminder, if any were needed, that we are in a World War in the same class as the struggle which transpired between 1939 and 1945. Churchill famously said that "in war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies". What truth? Which lies?

Watch your back, and keep safe.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The Soul of the Left

Here's a link to a fascinating article, How I became an 'unconscious fascist' by the Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein. She describes the fall from Leftist grace of the victim Jew -- and the emergence of its hateful opposite. "The 'new Jew' that tries not to suffer, and that, above all, can and wants to defend himself," and who "immediately loses all his charm in the eyes of the Left." She uses her own experiences to illustrate the point. A Communist from youth, Nirenstein realized, as she grew up, that the Leftist approval for the victim-Jew of the immediate postwar world was based on a Faustian bargain: remain an object of pity and we will not hate you.

She had gone to Israel in the mid-1960s to work in a kibbutz, but "when I went back to Italy, some of my fellow students stared at me as somebody new, an enemy, a wicked person who would soon become an imperialist ...  But I soon noticed that I had lost the innocence of the good Jew, of the very special Jewish friend, their Jew: I was now connected with the Jews of the State of Israel, and slowly I was put out of the dodecaphonic, psychoanalytic, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, Freud shtetl, the coterie that sanctified my Judaism in left wing eyes."  She had become an 'unconcious fascist'. What had changed was that Israel had just won the Six Day War. She was no longer a victim.

Nirenstein's article has a special resonance because it might just as well describe, with only small alterations, the attitude of the Left toward nonwhites who either become successful or conservative. Nirenstein sums up the Leftist accusation of ingratitude beautifully. "We have helped you poor Jews lacking everything, a non- existent nation, in the Diaspora and in Israel, to keep you alive. Without us you are nothing. And therefore be careful: if you continue with your treachery we'll annihilate you. You don't exist if you don't know your place, and your place is nowhere." This speech, with the word 'Asian' or 'African' or 'Latino' substituted for Jew has probably been heard by every member of a minority race who is unwilling to play the poster victim for the Left. The experience even has a name: it's called leaving the Plantation.

When Clarence Thomas voted against affirmative action Maureen Dowd wrote, "What a cunning man Clarence Thomas is. He knew that he could not make a powerful legal argument against racial preferences, given the fact that he got into Yale Law School and got picked for the Supreme Court thanks to his race. ... It's impossible not to be disgusted at someone who could benefit so much from affirmative action and then pull up the ladder after himself. So maybe he is disgusted with his own great historic ingratitude." Dowd's article is the most literate version I've ever heard of the old knee-slapper that used to be told around ole boy gatherings: "What do you call a black man who has just won the Nobel Prize for both medicine and physics?" Maureen Dowd's answer is not surprisingly, the same as the punchline of the joke: you call him a nigger.

Read Nirenstein's whole article. It'll make your day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Fighting Terrorism with Noodles

Dean Jorge Bocobo has an excellent post at Philippine Commentary on the attitudes which have led to the "escape" of terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi from a Manila jail. The word "escape" is the only inaccuracy in Bocobo's blog, because it is now widely accepted that al-Ghozi was released by policemen in exchange for a bribe. Dean makes the point that the Filipino elite refused to accept the existence of the terrorist threat despite repeated pre-9/11 attacks on the Philippines, including the December 30, 2000 (not December 25 as Belmont Club erroneously reported) attack on a commuter train which killed 22 and mangled many more, including children in their holiday finery still clutching presents from Santa Claus.

And they still don't. Dean's inquiries show that the Philippine Senate is sitting on the draft of the Philippine anti-terrorism bill. "Now I wish they'd get to work on the anti-terror law instead of grandstanding for the Left and the religious Right all the time", Bocobo says, and he is right. But they won't because Filipino politics revolves around infantile displays of pique largely directed at the United States in order to force Uncle Sam to cough up more goodies. Sadly, these goodies are never transmitted to the Filipino people. Their final stop is the pockets of these perpetually indignant, posturing, faux nationalist politicians.

And why not? Everything is always America's fault. Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi's compatriot, Bali bomber Amrozi, admits that he planted the bomb at the targeted nightclub, but says it was a "nuclear bomb" set off by American or Jewish satellites orbiting overhead which caused the carnage. Laugh, but people will believe that. Just like they believe that the September 11 attacks were the handiwork of the Jews.

The principal anti-terror strategy of the Filipino elite is to combat it with noodles, literally. They have a mystical faith in the immense persuasive power of pancit, a local noodle delicacy, which is routinely served at peace talks with Islamic rebels. Pancit, in conjunction with an exaggerated camaraderie, which consists largely of hailing the Islamic interlocutors as "brother" at every opportunity, will by itself build confidence, win over the estranged Muslim brethren and bring peace. This approach has already failed several dozen times in the past, but nothing daunted, the Filipino politicians, egged on by the local Left, will keep at it ad infinitum, with more pancit and more flattery. The capital of magical realism is not, as New York literati often assume, located in Latin America. It is located in the Philippines.

Monday, July 14, 2003

The True Measure of a Nation

The escape of Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi from a Manila jail demonstrates the need to operationally separate diplomatic fantasy from reality in the war on terror. Philippine government officials, like America's Pashtun tribal allies or Pakistani generals, must be publicly accorded the dignity they pretend to. But no one should actually believe that they possess it. A Philippine general is to a real general what Colonel Sanders is to a real colonel. In a rational universe, Al-Ghozi should have been transported to Guantanamo Bay, where he would have had a choice of swimming 90 miles to Florida or picking his way through the several million land mines that the Cubans have so thoughtfully planted around the base. He would be there today. But in a world of diplomatic politesse, Al-Ghozi was left in the custody of the Philippine "police", an act which operationally ensured his escape. He is now free to kill again.

Al-Ghozi killed 22 Filipinos on Christmas day, 2000, many of whom were children. This counted for nothing against the bribe he paid his jailors. Even that term is too lofty for what they probably are. Trying not to laugh, Philippine military announced a "massive manhunt", saying there were "special teams" hunting Al-Ghozi. Yet he is almost certain never to be arrested -- at least not by the Philippine authorities. Al-Ghozi was initially detained upon information provided by Singaporean intelligence, after operating for years in the Philippines where the authorities were wholly unable to connect him to terror. The edifice carefully erected by thousands of Singaporean manhours is easily trumped by a wad of greasy money and a case of cheap liquor in the "Republic" of the Philippines.

It should be clear that operating in Third World countries such as the Philippines requires real countries to work through individual local contacts who can be operationally trusted. The "official" government officials should simply be told nothing unless it is absolutely necessary -- and then only at the last possible moment. It is the job of the State Department to feed Third World governments a diet of fantasy; in a word, to fete and lie to them. It is the job of the Department of Defense to know better and do the job directly. That is the way it should be in Liberia; and that is the way it should be in the Philippines.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Quo Vadis?

The inauguration of the Iraqi Governing Council opens the political endgame against the Ba'ath. Paul Bremer described the Council as representing "all the strands from Iraq's complicated social structure — Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, men and women, Christians and Turkmens." Saddam's formula for controlling an ethnically divided Iraq was to put one ethnic group in control of the rest. The American formula calls for making them all dependent on each other. The key to keeping a multi-ethnic Iraq together lies in preventing the emergence of individual militias and concentrating all legitimate military power in national institutions. Bremer reminded the new Council members of the tens of thousands of Iraqi policemen the Coalition had fielded. He did not need to remind them that America was creating a new Iraqi army as a national force.

In order to provide a single object of loyalty for the police and army, a new constitution was needed. While Bremer set before the Council the first tasks of appointing interim ministers and preparing policy and budgets, the major goal was to "establish procedures to write Iraq's new constitution." Which, "once it is ratified by the people" would lead to elections. "How long the coalition will stay in Iraq depends in part on how quickly the Iraqi people can write and approve a constitution." That constitution would not only have to be acceptable to the people of Iraq, but also to Washington, which signaled it's intentions by contracting Kellogg Brown & Root to build barracks for 100,000 soldiers in Iraq, according to Phil Carter. An American presence in Iraq under the auspices of a treaty between Washington and a new Iraqi government would make it difficult for future Democrat administrations to withdraw holus-bolus from the Middle East.

The companion piece of Bremer's velvet glove was the mailed fist of Ivy Serpent, the fourth major operation against Ba'athist holdouts. Billed as a pre-emptive strike against planned attacks on US forces during former Saddam-proclaimed holidays, the operations were concentrated in the Sunni triangle.''The goal is to knock the Baath Party and the Wahhabi elements off balance,'' said Lt. Col. Nat Sassaman, a Balad-area battalion commander. This is marks one of the first times when the US Armed Forces has named Wahabism, which is rooted mostly in next-door Saudi Arabia, as an instigator in the attacks. Glenn Reynolds links to an article by his former mentor, Federal appellate Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of Nashville, who is in Iraq as one of 13 experts selected by the U.S. Justice Department to help rebuild Iraq's judicial system. Meritt claims he has proof that a certain Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, an Iraqi intelligence officer, "was responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan.'' This suggests that the battle for Iraq, at the geostrategic level, is segueing into the battle for Saudi Arabia.

Certainly Donald Rumsfeld does not believe that Operation Iraqi Freedom represents the end point of the struggle against radical Islam. Phil Carter quotes Esther Schrader who writes that "in a July 9 memo to the secretaries of the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rumsfeld called for shifting a broad range of professional specialties from the reserves to the active duty force to allow the military to mobilize for a major war within 15 days." In the years after Vietnam, the US Army was redesigned to require reserve forces to support the active duty elements. This prevented the politicians from using the Armed Forces in an irresponsible manner, as Johnson had done, but it made mobilization slow and extended deployments impossible. By moving key professional specialties back into the active service component, Rumsfeld is enabling the US Armed Forces to fight on much shorter notice and remain on a war footing for years at a stretch. Rumsfeld is attempting to reprise Lord Barham's sustained effort against Napoleon rather than Roosevelt's short campaign against Hitler. During the late 18th century, the Royal Navy was transformed from a surge force, accustomed to bloating periodically during a crisis, to a standing naval force which eventually strangled the ambitions of Bonaparte.

The grand strategic vision of Donald Rumsfeld, and possibly of George Bush is to mount and sustain an economic, military, political and cultural encirclement of radical Islam. How it will end, no one can possibly guess. But one thing is certain, the attack on the WTC on September 11, 2001 has unrolled a vast canvass on which the shape of the 21st century will be determined.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

The Post Post-Colonial World

The trash is coming back with the tide. Europe's trash.

In decades to come, the attack on the WTC on September 11 will be seen by historians not as a clash between Islam and the West, but as the first shot in the war between the chaotic periphery and the functioning core of civilization. It is important to recognize that the Al Qaeda is not, as the Left often implies, a unique creation of the CIA compounded in the final battle of the Cold War, but simply a highly developed version of a typical Third World phenonomenon: the irrational political party. Al Qaeda is not essentially different from the absurdist militias which rampage across Africa today. Airstrip One has this link to the emerging prototypes of political activity in Africa.

Please Don’t Eat the Pygmies
Congo: the War without Battles
Live from the Skeleton Coast
It's D-Day In Zalambessa

These African "terrorist groups" share with Al Qaeda a nebulous justification based on a twisted interpretation of a world religion; a commitment to savagery and violence without apparent limit; an unarticulated anger that never expresses itself in the form a concrete program of political or economic reform. The Al Qaeda, like the Army of God in Thailand, is not about creating jobs, or lowering interest rates or building more schools. It is about the Apocalypse. The only difference between General Butt Naked and Osama Bin Laden is the sophistication of their killing tools.

As President Bush considers intervening in Liberia and the UN fails, yet again, in the Congo, no one is asking the essential strategic question of how the First World will cope with massive and comprehensive failure of the Third World which is at best, two decades away. In West Africa it is already upon us. The only difference between Zimbabawe and South Africa is ten years. With the disintegration of the Third World will arise a multitude of Al Qaeda-like organizations, each more savage than the last. Just as Al Qaeda is feeding off the corpse of the once great Islamic civilization like a malignant fungus, so will monstrosities arise from the mutated wrecks of colonial institutions in Asia and Latin America.

The world today already resembles a country in which the townspeople are huddled in high-walled, lighted citadels, while brigands, wolves and demented sorcerers prowl without. The great wave of European decolonization which followed the end of the Second World War must now be recognized as a precursor to what will be the dominant event of the Twenty First Century, the return of wholesale barbarism to much of the world. Europe unambiguously achieved the destruction of more primitive, but still viable civilizations of the New World, the Near East and the pastoral lifestyle of Africa. Just as the Dreadnought by its existence, made all previous warships obsolete, so did European contact destroy the basis of legitimacy of all the tribal kings, minor potentates and vestigial Sultans of the world. But through a failure of nerve, or perhaps energy, Europe never sank its institutions deep into the roots of conquered places. And at the end of the Second World War, it simply retreated, leaving the jetsam behind, secure in the belief that oceans and distance would forever bar the bootless natives from roaming far afield.

But let the European bureaucrats who are now presiding over the construction of their monumental welfare state remember the immortal words from the film Field of Dreams, with a slightly different twist: "if you build it, they will come".

What you need for a guerilla war

Both Oxblog and Phil Carter raise the prospect of a full-blown guerilla war in Iraq between US forces and the Ba'athists. Let's examine what would be required to successfully prosecute a guerilla war.

  • Money to buy arms, supplies and provide salaries and compensation to your soldier's families. Every guerilla force requires money. Sometimes this is raised from outside support, at other times from "revolutionary taxes" or exactions on the populace. The Ba'ath may still have large sums of money left over to fund a campaign against US forces, but they have no new source of income as of yet. It is probably in order to devalue the existing Ba'athist stash of local money that US forces have issued new currency. Foreign currency, which is required to buy guns, will be a long term problem because oil production is in American hands. Even the Palestinian Authority requires a steady supply of explosives to keep operating, and that is why they continue to dig tunnels from the Gaza strip to Egypt or run guns on small boats. No money, no supplies, no real guerilla warfare.
  • A secure rear area in which to train. Military skills are perishable unless constantly renewed. From marksmanship to patrol skills to physical training. The classic guerilla force uses inaccessible areas for base areas. In cases where the enemy can penetrate all areas, they resort to sanctuaries such as those provided by North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the Indochina war. In the case of the West Bank, the UN refugee camps perform the function of a sanctuary. Without these, the bombmaking factories, explosive schools, firing ranges, etc, cannot exist. No rear area, no training. No training, no effective guerilla force. The bulk of the opposition to US forces are based in the Sunni triangle. It is a limited area. There may be some prospect of sanctuary in Ba'athist Syria, but it is doubtful whether the US would tolerate it, or simply welcome it as a cassus belli against Damascus.
  • A political organization. Every guerilla war requires a "national front" to advance a political program. Saddam Hussein has no prospect of creating a national front which includes Kurds and Shi'ites. The best he can do is advocate an independent Sunni area, but it would be nothing without the oil reserves in Kurdistan and around the Shi'ite area. Here,  the US is streets ahead of Saddam. They are establishing government bodies in all areas. These government bodies will be loathe to surrender their power to some shadow organization dominated by Saddam's heirs.
  • International support. No guerilla war has ever succeeded without significant international support. Not the Tamils, nor the NVA, nor the Algerians. When international support is absent, the guerilla movement fails. Ask the Biafrans.
  • A Democrat administration in Washington. No amplification on this point is necessary. But it is really on this last point that Saddam's hopes hinge. He may lack money, a rear area, a national front and international support. But if he projects his "guerilla war" in the New York Times, a Democrat may be elected in 2004, and if that Democrat is Howard Dean, US forces will be withdrawn on a timetable from Iraq, the Ba'ath will be restored to power and a vast sum in compensation paid to them. The subsequent massacres of the Kurds and Shi'ites will be deplored and ignored.

From a strictly military perspective, I would say that the Ba'ath had no chance of winning. From a political perspective, I would say they had a 30% chance of victory.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Tommy Franks: Bring 'em on

This, from ABC News:

On the last day of his command, Franks told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that he agreed with the president's comment, and he doesn't think more U.S. troops are needed to deal with the recent spate of attacks against American forces.

"The fact is, wherever we find criminals, death squads and so forth who are anxious to do damage to this country and to peace-loving countries around the world, I absolutely agree with the president of the United States: 'bring 'em on," Franks said."

"The sense I have now is that it's not time to send in additional troops," Franks said during an interview with ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer from U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

Repeat after me, 'Tommy Franks knows nothing, absolutely nothing, about modern warfare. The BBC is a far better source of military judgment than Tommy Franks. Tommy Franks needed more men to take Afghanistan. The Afghan winter was going to kill all Western soldiers unused to it. They will never penetrate the caves of Tora-Bora. The force sent against Saddam's elite Republican Guard was inadequate. Baghdad will be another Stalingrad. Mesopotamia will be the death trap of the US Marines. Tommy Franks is a Texan cowboy, how can he know anything? Tommy Franks didn't go to Oxford, how can he know anything? ..." Come to think of it, he didn't even go to West Point.

Now General Franks is not invincible, nor he is an oracle that is invariably right. Yet his judgement represents a synthesis of the best intelligence available weighed by a command judgement that not even Norman Schwartzkopf can equal. Tommy Franks is not always right in matters of war, just usually.