I actually have a soft spot for Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, finding her among the most even-keeled of the morning news show hosts. But again this morning she evinced a tendency to get star-struck in the presence of a big name, and wound up lavishing praise on Jimmy Carter and his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which depicts Israel as a second-rate South Africa from the bad old days.
Roberts actually began with what amounted to a DNC disclaimer:
"Now to your book, which many people find surprising, that you come down a little hard on Israel and that there have been key Democrats who have distanced themselves a little bit from your view on Israel. In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [jumping the gun there just a tad, Robin] said it is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionizes ethnically-based oppression and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously. What is your response to that?"
My antenna went up when Matt Lauer opened this morning's "Today" with these words: "Good morning. Civil war. A bloody weekend of sectarian clashes in Iraq and no sign it's letting up."
"Civil war"? I was certain I hadn't heard Today employ the term before. And sure enough, Lauer shortly thereafter declared: "For months the White House rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into civil war. For the most part news organizations like NBC hesitated to characterize it as such. After careful consideration, NBC News has decided the change in terminology is warranted and what is going on in Iraq can now be characterized as civil war."
Lauer later brought in retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey to make the case for the change in terminology.
A man poured gasoline on himself on November 3rd and on the side of the road on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway he lit himself on fire. It caused a traffic jam, but little else. In fact, no one even knew who the suicide was for several days until a friend of his got a letter sent him by the dead man just before his final day.
And still, few cared.
It turns out this was supposed to be some kind of anti-war statement akin to a Buddhist monk's self-immolation in Saigon during Vietnam. Sadly, this protester didn't seem to know that statements don't mean very much unless someone actually hears them.
The man, an activist named Mark David "Malachi" Ritscher, left a rambling manifesto-like web page purportedly explaining his actions that does little but show his rather unbalanced mental state. As Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper put it, the web message "comes across as intelligent, passionate, bitter, angry, disoriented -- and disturbed".
Putin's Russia poses a potentially serious threat to the United States. But America lacks the moral standing to confront it. That was the view expressed by Ellen Ratner on this morning's Fox & Friends. Ratner, the short, liberal side of 'The Long & the Short of It' duo [seen here in file photo], expressed little doubt that Putin's government was behind the murder of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
Ratner: "I think that there's no question. If I were a betting woman it would be 100% Putin and Russia, it's just their operation and they have the means to do it."
She continued: "We have got to take a very good, careful look at Russia. We're in Iraq where you have sort of a ragtag group of insurgents. And we're not focusing on the Russians that have over 5,000 nukes [and other WMDs] . . . Unfortunately, we're in business with these guys, we need their oil."
That's when Ratner asserted that America's alleged moral failings limited its options:
"I don't know what we should do except that we are not in a great position because we don't have the moral standing given what we're doing in Iraq."
And here I thought I was joking. Yesterday, I closed this item on Maureen Dowd's column - in which she longed for an Iraqi dictator to whom to surrender - by wondering whether we should "look for Dowd to pop up in Baghdad sometime soon, leading a 'Bring Back Saddam' movement?"
But the appeal of bringing back Saddam is apparently no laughing matter in liberal circles. In today's Los Angeles Times, New Republic editor Jonathan Chait - he of "Bush Hatred" fame - has written a column entitled, yes, "Bring back Saddam Hussein." I kept reading for a clue that this was a Swiftian modest proposal. It never came. Chait apparently means it. Excerpts:
Maureen Dowd: law-and-order fan? And here I thought liberals like to pose as champions of human rights . . .
But consider Dowd's idea of an Iraq solution: find brutal dictators to whom we can surrender and who will impose "law and order." Working model: the US capitulation to the Communist dicators of Hanoi.
The title of her subscription-required column of this morning, No One to Lose To, says it all. Dowd's biggest regret is, yes, that there's no obvious thug, or thugocracy, to whom to surrender. Dowd approvingly quotes Neil Sheehan, a former Times reporter in Vietnam who wrote “A Bright Shining Lie” as saying:
“In Vietnam, there were just two sides to the civil war. You had a government in Hanoi with a structure of command and an army and a guerrilla movement that would obey what they were told to do. So you had law and order in Saigon immediately after the war ended. In Iraq, there’s no one like that for us to lose to and then do business with.”
With gratitude to Providence and thanks to all who kept me in their thoughts and prayers, I'm happy to be home from Iraq. I arrived in Ithaca last night at about 9 PM, about 43 hours after beginning the journey home from Baghdad. Naturally there were a few more plot twists along the way. Instead of traveling via Rota Spain and Dover, DE, etc., it was Qatar, Ramstein Germany, Charleston, Charlotte, Philly, Syracuse and Ithaca. I'll spare you all the details, but will say that the East Coast being socked in made for lots more time to appreciate the charms of the Philly airport. Also, if you ever have the choice, opt to travel on a comfy C-5 with commercial-style seats that let you stretch out across a row, versus a spartan C-17. That said, the Air Force crews were great and did their best to keep us comfortable. And the bottom line is that I'm home, safe and sound.
It's 5 AM in Qatar, where we landed an hour or so ago. Yes, the Iraq portion of this trip is over. Not without a few final twists and turns, naturally. We got into the Green Zone Monday night and camped out in a media lounge. Standing outside in the parking lot the following morning, a very sharp explosion could be heard, but that's not enough to stop people from going about their business here.
Tommy Clarkson, host par excellence and official at the Gulf Reconstruction Division of the Army Corps of Engineers had arranged interviews with a number of senior GRD folks. There is a major disconnect between the way the reconstruction story is reported in the MSM and the reality on the ground. Much of the MSM focus is on the fact that Baghdad residents enjoy fewer hours of electricity now than before the war. That ignores the fact that, overall, electricity output has increased significantly and that Iraqis in other areas of the country enjoy much more daily power than before the war. During his reign, Saddam monopolized power for the capital, literally threatening engineers with death should there be an interruption. Power is now equitably shared across the country. There are also hundreds of major water, oil and other infrastructure projects that have been completed or are under construction.
When last we spoke, I had completed a work-out at the Camp Al Asad gym - just like home but for the presence of weightlifters bearing M-16s. The plan had been to spend the rest of the day working out of the Public Affairs Office at Al-Asad, but to be on the safe side it was decided to go right out to the air terminal. We were flying Space 'A,' the military equivalent of stand-by, and it's always better to get there early.
In the waiting area, a number of dogs, accompanied by their military handlers, were in their travel kennels. When one would howl, the others would join in. Kind of eery, kind of homey. I made good use of the time in the terminal, pounding out a story for our sister site Cybercast News Service about the heroic work of the Combat Logistics Battalion surgical hospital.
We’re at Camp Al Asad, about 150 miles west of Baghdad in Anbar Province. We began our day with the famous Navy Seabees, the construction battalions that historically have gone ashore with the Marines to build what needs to be built. We spoke with Seabees largely from a reserve unit from Washington State. Most of the men work construction jobs in civilian life, and here they were getting the job done in conditions about as far as can be imagined from those of the Pacific Northwest. I also spoke with the Chief in charge of food for the unit. He mentioned that, in the constant pursuit of improvement, the Navy actually draws upon the expertise of the Culinary Institute of America from my home state of New York.
A couple of the men were from an Alaska reserve unit. One of them works as a firefighter/EMT in a gold mine in the Fairbanks area. Once a month he makes the 350-mile roundtrip to his unit in Anchorage – on his own dime.
Reading the Globe's Nov 18th piece about vice President Cheney, one can palpably feel their fingers being crossed, their wishes being cast into the wishing well, that Cheney is on the outs with this supposed "big demotion" the paper sees for his immediate future.
In short, will Rumsfeld's abrupt dismissal finally diminish Cheney's unprecedented dominance of Bush? Or did the always cunning vice president read the writing on the wall and decide that it was time for his good friend Rumsfeld to go?
And typically, as with every story about the VP, one quotient missing in the analysis is the president himself, prosaically fitting into the the Cheney-as-puppetmaster story line the MSM has created for him. (Though, now they want to cast James Baker in Cheney's puppeteering shoes)
They even want us to believe that Cheney somehow strong-armed Bush into the Iraq policy and the War on Terror as if 9/11 never occurred.
On our way from Habbaniyah to Camp Al-Asad, further west in Al Anbar province, we found ourselves out on the tarmac at Camp TQ awaiting our helo. After 15 bone-chilling minutes out on the cold and windy tarmac, we were rescued by a Marine from the ground crew, explaining that there'd be a delay and inviting us to share his crew's quarters - a Conex box, roughly half the size of a shipping container. In the blackout conditions, we sat in the light of the red and green chem-lights. To pass the time, one of the men grabbed another's iPod, mentioning out loud the musical selections found. A variety of ingenious and occasionally unprintable critiques of the various artists and songs were offered up.
Now that the Democrats have picked their Majority Leader in the House the outcome gives us (and her) the first hint that Speaker Pelosi is not the powerhouse she thought she was. Her man, Murtha, lost in a landslide: 149 to 86... a thumpin' to say the least.
In my last report on how the MSM covered this little inter Dem fight I pointed out that they were ignoring how distant were the two positions on pulling out of Iraq that is held by the erstwhile candidates for Majority Leader.
I noted how they refused to portray Murtha's position as "extreme", even as he supports pulling out of Iraq immediately to Hoyer's, who does not. I noted that the MSM did not waste much breath contrasting Murtha's position with the far less volatile position held by Hoyer.
It seems strangely inconsistent that the MSM ignored the Iraq war issue in their stories since they made the entire recent election all about Iraq and how it is a mess and that our soldiers should come home. Yet, a guy who does not want an immediate pull out defeated Murtha and this fact went uncommented upon.
We were down on the Euphrates this morning with Navy LT Torres and eleven Iraqi soldiers that he is training. On today's menu: learning to board crafts encountered while on patrol on the the river. The rule is to board every craft, again and again, as encountered. Yesterday's friendly fisherman could be today's insurgent, or someone who is perhaps being coerced by others on board.
We were in a three-boat unit. The technique consists of the lead boat coming alongside, greeting the passengers in a polite fashion, at the same time ordering them to the front of the boat with weapons trained on them. The second boat in our unit will align directly behind the first, and the third off to the left, forming an 'L.' One of the men from the first boat will then board, inspect whatever there is to see aboard, and as appropriate give an all-clear sign and return to our boat. The men are trained to keep their weapons aimed at the passengers till we are well clear. Passengers could be waving a friendly good-bye, only to grab weapons or hurl a grenade as soon as our guard is down.
After last night's slight detour, we headed out toward Habbaniyah today, but not before we were given a windshield tour of the huge Al Taqaddum Marine base. We were passing by some absolutely desolate, petrified sand dunes when, almost miraculously it seemed, we saw a huge body of water - Habbiniyah Lake, so vast that even from some elevation we couldn't see the other side. Along the way we saw remnants of Saddam's air force that never made it into the air in Desert Storm.
The trip was made by conventional SUV till we got to a bridge that ties Al Taqaddum to the Habbiniyah base but that is not secured. We were met by two Marines in an armored Humvee who gave us a quick lift to the other side.
Let's trot out the AP's deepest, most tiresome wish that Iraq is the new Vietnam once more. And THIS time, all it takes is a Bush state visit to the country once enmeshed in internecine warfare to cause the AP to trot out all the old claims and prosaic comparisons.
In a long, presumptuous story Jennifer Loven, our intrepid AP reporter, makes all sorts of wild comparisons making her piece -- titled Bush Vietnam Trip Revives Iraq 'Quagmire'-- almost a parody of itself.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's recent acknowledgment that the war in Iraq was comparable to the Viet Cong's psychologically devastating Tet Offensive in 1968 was hardly the first time a parallel has been drawn between the Iraq and Vietnam conflicts.
Questions about a "quagmire" have haunted the president's Iraq policy since before a single bomb fell on Baghdad.
We helo'ed out of Fallujah last night but not before having the chance to spend time with the CO, Colonel Bristol. A Marine's Marine, he was the man who created the martial arts program that we had witnessed yesterday. He has a quiet-but-powerful force field around him, a passionate belief in the Marines, their mission and our ability to win and to train Iraqis to stand up for themselves - given the time.
We were on our way to Habbiniyah base but on a stop along the way we were mistakenly waved off the helo and got stranded at another base. No problem. Caught z's at the tent city, good showers and chow in the morning, and we'll be convoying the rest of the way in a little while.
Reading yesterday's entry I realize I never did get around to describing my meeting with Dr. Ali Aldabbagh, chief spokesman to Iraqi PM Maliki. Dr. Aldabbagh told me that a precipitous US withdrawal would be a "huge gift" to the terrorists. He also described Muktada Al-Sadr as a man of "restraint" and said that, like it or not, he is a "player." Events of today have perhaps put those statements in an interesting light. For a full report see my story at Cybercast News Service.
We made a quick Blackhawk trip from the International Zone to Fallujah on Monday night, and were met at the helipad by Captain Duncan of Gary, Indiana. He escorted us to our quarters which were a pleasant suprise - a modular unit with actual beds and a unit just down the line with internet. That was very welcome of course, but it put things in perspective when we learned today that one of the Iraqi internet technicians who installed and maintained the service was murdered, presumably for his collaboration with US forces.
For the third time in as many weeks, ABC continued to showcase Democratic Senator Barack Obama. Anchor Diane Sawyer interviewed the first-term senator from Illinois on Monday's Good Morning America, and asked him about a range of topics, from the war in Iraq and a potential Obama run for the White House in 2008, to the groundbreaking of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on the National Mall. The most eyebrow-raising moment of the interview, however, occurred when Sawyer asked Obama about Sunday’s Washington Post article which questioned whether racism and sexism plays a role in the decision-making of American voters:
Diane Sawyer: "We have seen new polls this morning about you and Senator Hillary Clinton. Here's my question. Do you think that residual resistance is greater for race or for gender? Is the nation secretly, I guess, more racist or more sexist?"
What a day. We learned that the IED we heard yesterday killed 35 police recruits. As fate would have it, this morning I interviewed Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, who heads the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team. You should find a full report on our conversation over on CNSNews in the next day or so, but I will pass along the fact that Iraqis show a tremendous determination to serve in the police despite the violence. Recruitment and training goals have been achieved, and as tragic as it is, when some recruits have fallen, others have stood up to take their place.
Later we visited the US Embassy within the Green Zone and spoke with folks from the GO operation, a press project designed to bring good-news stories to the attention of the media and to get people out to the field to cover them. Example: our S. Korean allies have created a vocational training program in the north, helping Iraqis gain skills in everything from auto repair to plumbing. These are people who will now have jobs and a stake in society. A thrill for me: I was permitted to tape a couple minutes of a special edition of my TV show, 'Right Angle,' from the embassy studio!
Today was a day of great contrasts – a small taste of the kind of dangers that abound here, a look at the work being done to rebuild Iraq, and finally the privilege of an extended private interview with one of Iraq’s great hopes for the future: Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih.
Coming out of breakfast this morning, we heard a loud explosion that couldn’t have been too far outside the International [Green] Zone where we were located. The blast was immediately followed by small-arms fire and the wail of sirens. “IED,” explained our experienced host. What got our attention was the fact that about an hour later, we were to be leaving the IZ behind to venture out into Baghdad and tour two of the hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers [ACE] reconstruction projects in Iraq.
I’m writing this from the passenger deck of a C-5 somewhere out over the Atlantic, heading toward Rota, Spain. There were a couple of major plot twists before we were able to board. We had initially been told there simply might not be any available seats. As it turned out, that wasn’t quite it. Our plane was to be carrying an exceptionally heavy load of military goodies to be delivered to Iraq and was right at its payload limit. Once it was determined that we could be squeezed aboard, weight-wise [thank you, Jenny Craig ;-)], we learned that Corey, Dave and I were to be – the only passengers!
One would have thought that the Democratic takeover of Congress and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation would have preseted plenty of fodder for the women of ‘The View’ to debate on Thursday’s show. However, it was a discussion on Iraq and the war on terror that dominated today's 'Hot Topics' segment. Not surprisingly, co-host Rosie O’Donnell equated the post-September 11th America to the "McCarthy era" and claimed people were "blacklisted" and labeled "unpatriotic" if they expressed any dissent from the Bush administration. O’Donnell also defended the United Nations as a "world voice" and took a shot at Iraq war ally Britain for being "on our side and in our pocket." The liberal O’Donnell then went on to tell conservative co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck to not be afraid of terrorists:
Rosie O’Donnell: "Faith or fear, that's your choice. You can walk through life believing in the goodness of the world, or walk through life afraid of anyone who thinks different than you and trying to convert them to your way of thinking. And I think that this country–"
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: "Well, I'm a person of faith, so I, but I also believe–"
O’Donnell: "Well, then, get away from the fear. Don't fear the terrorists. They’re mothers and fathers."
Three flights and 11 hours after leaving Ithaca I made it to our rendezvous spot in Charleston, SC, the Sheraton North, and met two of my three team members: Navy Lt. Corey Schultz of CENTCOM, who did an absolutely wonderful job organizing the trip stateside and who will now accompany us to and around Iraq, and Dave Kelso, classic rock DJ extraordinaire at KRXO in Oklahoma City.
We shared dinner in the hotel restaurant, and I rolled tape [as you'll see the lighting was dim but the stories were good enough to justify sharing less-than-perfect footage with you]. In this montage, Corey explains the reason behind our middle-of-the-night flight schedule, and Dave tells a moving story from a previous trip to Iraq.
Although not as bumpy as the road the GOP encountered last night, I've hit some turbulence on the first day of my Iraq trip. With weather socked in on the East Coast, my US Airways flight out of our little Ithaca airport was cancelled. A quick phone call later I was on the road to Syracuse. For my sins I decided to listen to Air America all the way - the Stephanie Miller Show as it turned out. They spoke of being in "full gloat mode," and that was no overstatement. Multiple renditions of the "nah-nah-nah-nah, goodbye" song, endless repetitions of Paul Begala's slur of Rush Limbaugh, fantasies of Tom DeLay slipping in his own sick - a class act all around.
Oddly, I didn't find it getting under my skin much. After 12 years in the wilderness, I suppose it's just human nature for Dems to revel in the moment. Every dog has its day. Then again, on election night 1994 I don't recall the GOP revolution, welcome as it was, sending me into paroxysms of puerile chest-pounding. Sidenote: the Air Americans mocked the Fox & Friends cast's notion that, after all, many of the successful Dem candidates were of a moderate to conservative stripe. Miller & Co. are apparently expecting Pelosi to govern in accordance to what they gleefully referred to as her "San Francisco values."
As some of our readers know, I'm heading off to Iraq, where I'll be reporting for CNS, the news agency of MRC.
Our focus at NB is of course exposing liberal media bias, and to the extent I have a chance to "cover the coverage" I'll certainly be blogging on that. At the same time, I'm thinking that our NB readers might enjoy experiencing more generally some sights, sounds and impressions from the trip. So, with the indulgence of my editors, I'll maintain an 'Iraq Diary' here with written reports, photos and even some video clips - internet connections permitting.
Here's the schedule, which is of course subject to change:
November 8th - travel commercial from Ithaca to Charleston, SC November 9th - fly from Charleston AFB to naval base in Rota, Spain, near Gibraltar Nov. 10th - arrive Rota Nov. 11 - depart Rota, arrive Balad, Iraq. Nov. 11-13 - International [Green] Zone. Visits with Gulf Reconstruction Divsion of Army Corps of Engineers and military hospital featured in HBO documentary 'Baghdad ER.' Nov. 13th-20th - With Marines in Fallujah. Nov. 21st-23rd - heading home Nov. 23rd [Thanskgiving] - arrive base Dover, DE
A few weeks ago on the Right Angle TV show I host, my guest was Barry Strauss, the brilliant professor of history and the classics at Cornell University. Our conversation focused on his recent book, "The Trojan War", which one reviewer has described as so authoritative "it may well preempt future historians from ever trying to improve on it."
Toward the end of the show I invited Prof. Strauss to comment on whether he saw any parallels between the fall of Greek and Roman civilizations and the situation in the West today. While eschewing sweeping generalizations, the professor did observe that one sign of a civilization in decline is its disinclination to believe in itself coupled with a loss of will to fight for its survival.
...memories of 1980s media bias when it comes to U.S. coverage of Nicaragua.
Fans [of Daniel Ortega] waved a sea of Sandista [sic] flags -- some in the traditional red-and-black stripes of Ortega's 1979 revolution that toppled the corrupt Somoza dynasty...
Somoza was toppled by a broad coalition the goals of which were subsequently hijacked by the Marxist-Leninist Ortega brothers.
During his first presidency, Ortega became a symbol of U.S. fears that a communist wildfire could sweep the Americas in the 1980s.
Ortega is more than a symbol. He's a real guy, and USSR and Cuba-funded civil wars were not a "fear" in the 1980s, but a reality. The civil war in El Salvador, for instance, really happened.
As the seventh leftist leader to win office in recent years in a Latin America increasingly at odd [sic] with U.S. dictates, Ortega's victory represents both a symbolic and a strategic blow to President George W. Bush.
Many political analysts called it a self-inflicted wound, saying United States made the Cold War dinosaur who will lead this desperately poor, banana-exporting, New York-sized nation of 5.5 million into a far more important figure that he is.
Today's Wall Street Journal online edition features an important essay by sociologist James Q. Wilson examining how the American press has turned into an unpatriotic and anti-war entity. He also explains why this matters: because educated people are likely to be swayed by the media's coverage of events, whether that coverage is accurate or not.
A few excerpts:
We are told by careful
pollsters that half of the American people believe that American troops
should be brought home from Iraq immediately. This news discourages
supporters of our efforts there. Not me, though: I am relieved. Given
press coverage of our efforts in Iraq, I am surprised that 90% of the
public do not want us out right now.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2005,
nearly 1,400 stories appeared on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news.
More than half focused on the costs and problems of the war, four times
as many as those that discussed the successes. About 40% of the stories
reported terrorist attacks; scarcely any reported the triumphs of
American soldiers and Marines. The few positive stories about progress
in Iraq were just a small fraction of all the broadcasts.