Saturday, October 16, 2004
This movie is a must for any Republican. Jeneane Garafolo gets the top of her marionette head blown off while Michael Moore explodes in an orgy of suicide bombing. Country kitsch gets slammed, as well, but the real target is American liberals. This flick is the answer to Farenheit 9/11, and I recommend it to anyone above the age of, say, 16. There is a lot of cussin' in this film, especially the film's theme song, "America! F*ck Yeah!" There is also a howler of a projectile vomiting scene AND hot, steamy puppet sex.
Ron Jeremy, your day is done, pal!
UPDATE: P.S.: the other movie I'm trying to get to is Mamoruu Oshii's Innocence: Ghost in the Shell, the sequel to the 1995 anime adaptation of Shirow Masamune's cyberpunk classic, Ghost In the Shell. I've had forebodings about this, as Oshii tends to dwell on the color of his angst, the meaning of it all, what is God, and his freaking dog. My cousin and co-editor is taking this film in in Sarasota, Florida, so I'll try to get a review of his posted as soon as possible.
If you can't see Innocence, please see "Team America". It will make your week.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Hugh Hewitt has posited a question for his Weekend Symposium of bloggers. To wit:
Weekend Symposium 3: How deep a hole have John Kerry, Mary Beth Cahill and the Edwards dug for themselves? How lasting the damage?
The short answer from here at Section 9? Senator John F. Kerry killed any momentum he might have garnered from his performance in the first debate in Coral Gables. Now while that might not be enough to keep him out of the White House, the Massachusetts Democrat has stalled at a critical time. Kerry has placed himself in a position where it makes it harder for his Campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and its outriders in the Partisan Media to help pull ahead of Bush by November 2nd.
Allow me to explain by describing the terrain. Going in to the convention season, both campaigns were somewhat tied through July, with Kerry holding a small lead averaging between two and three points. Kerry received no bounce out of his convention, and Bush was able to pull even with Kerry by the time the former's convention in New York rolled around. Bush pulled ahead all through September, but the decisive debate season was ahead. The Partisan Media had built Bush up all through September. I remember being confident about a Bush win during that period. What I should have been paying closer attention to was the fact that in several polls, Republicans were being oversampled. Bush was posting nine to fifteen point leads in several polls. It was foolish for us to accept any of those polls at face value, and I include myself in that criticism.
The President was being set up for a huge change in storyline: the Kerry Comeback.
Like Hugh, I too believed that Bush won the University of Miami debate on substance. My take was like that of most Americans, however: Kerry had a good night for himself, and got the American people to think of him as a serious alternative to Bush. I suspect that his rise in the polls after the September 30th debate in Florida has less to do with a sea-change in opinion about Kerry than it did with the solidification of the Democratic Party around Kerry. However, what Kerry did not do, was give himself the kind of bounce that Al Gore got out of his 2000 Democratic National Convention acceptance speech. At least, not in retrospect. However, he was helped. The press declared a tie or a very small lead in several polls, itching as it was to describe a Kerry surge.
What happened over the next week was simple. Bush stabilized in the minds of the American people as his campaign opened up a barrage on John Kerry's Senate record, something the Bush people hadn't really dwelled on since the campaign began back in February. Kerry tried to take the offensive, but Bush had plenty of fodder for campaign commercials about the "Global Test" and Kerry's ambitions for a National Health Care system. I suppose he wanted to be regarded as a latter-day version of Clement Atlee. According to our friends over at CrushKerry.com, the Bush people had been lying in wait for Kerry for most of the year. Money graphs:
“October,” the operative, who asked to remain nameless, told us. “We couldn’t stay quiet all year. And if we’d been hitting him [Kerry] on his liberal record all year, it would have grown stale and lost its punch, like the flip-flop stuff has. The plan was always to barrage him with his record and brand him a Massachusetts and Washington liberal during the crucial month of October.”
So the “flip-flop” stuff was just entertaining background noise?
“That’s exactly right,” we were told. “Look, we know we can beat John Kerry on his liberal voting record. But that decision is made in finality by most voters during the closing days of an election. We needed to give people something to talk about for the past year while Kerry has tried to slash the President down with his vicious, negative attacks.”
Now, if, in the wake of the final debate, Bush starts pulling out to a four to five point pad between himself and the Senator, you can explain it by two things: the reassuring performance Bush gave in the second and third debate and Bush's concious decision to make the Senator's record an issue. But the point is, as of this moment, and certainly going into the final debate, this is a race that remains in the Senator's reach, but out of his grasp.So how did Mary Cheney get mixed up in all this?
If you can't catch your opponent, you have to find a way to bring him down to your level.
As Hugh and others have rightly pointed out, some clown in John Kerry's retinue thought it would be a neat idea to depress the evangelical vote by pointing out that Mary Cheney is a lesbian. Karl Rove had been pining for his "lost evangelicals" since 2000. Rove believed that four million of them stayed home, and a significant number of them stayed home because of the DUI story that painted Bush not as a Christian man, but as a libertine. The Kerry Campaign has to find a way to keep the evangelicals home in places like Ohio and Florida. The campaign first trotted out Edwards to use this oblique line of attack in the Cheney-Edwards debate. I don't know what response their internals told them, but they went ahead and told John Kerry to do the same thing. And he did. And it was beyond stupid.
What Mary Beth Cahill and Elizabeth Edwards said in reaction to the Cheney story was simply to add insult to injury.
Both polling and anecdotal evidence since the Tempe debate have given Hugh cause to think that the Mary Cheney gambit was a collossal mistake. Several polls have shown a small but noticable stream of undecideds and women beginning to flow towards Bush. Kerry has neither built any sort of lead nor been able to stay in a tie with the President. My thinking differs from Hugh's in that Kerry's position is recoverable, but I'm not sure how much. Kerry had to maintain the kind of momentum that would have given him a permanent lead in the last week in October. He did the opposite; he angered viewers (especially women) and stalled visibly. Watching George Stephanopolous spin for Kerry on Good Morning America the next morning was enough to tell me that the media understood that Kerry, their boy, needed help.
Kerry can still win, however. He simply didn't help himself do so in a very close race.
...the National Lampoon magazine did a spoof of American civics. One of the things they did was to give their version of the Greek source words for the English word, "democracy". According to the Lampoon, democracy is derived from two Greek words:
Literally, "the people are cretins". Anyhoo, it is in that spirit that I find that we get the kind of hip hop music we deserve. A rapper known as "KRS-One, a self-described anarchist, declares that black folks "cheered when 9-11 happened". Money quote from this fine, upstanding citizen:
The atrocity of 9-11 "doesn't affect us the hip-hop community," he said. "9-11 happened to them, not us," he added, explaining that by "them" he meant "the rich ... those who are oppressing us. RCA or BMG, Universal, the radio stations."
Now I would like to ask you all to go and reread what this individual really says: the true danger to The People doesn't come from righteous Muslims angered at American Imperialism and Zionist Occupation Policy, it comes from the Record Companies and the Agents who are taking too much coin out of KRS-One's pocket.
There is an old saying that applies here: "It is best to go through life and play the fool, rather than open one's mouth and immediately remove all doubt."
Thursday, October 14, 2004
...the debates, that is.
Thanks be to God, of course. My take is rather simple: Kerry won the first one, but not enough to pull ahead of Bush. This was proven by Kerry's inability to pull ahead at all in virtually all of the serious polls taken within a week after the first debate. The second debate went to Bush because he did "better than expected". The third debate also went to Bush, because he thrived in the domestic agenda thicket, Kerry's strong suit. If you ignore the media spinners, who are shilling for Kerry by and large, then out of all of this, Kerry did himself little good other than to stay in the game.
After all this, he still averages between one and three points behind Bush.
To reiterate: this is not about who was the better debater. That title goes to Kerry. Rather, it is about who was able to close the sale with the American people as a whole. I'm not sure that Bush closed the deal, but he came damn close last night. Here's why.
This is a khaki election. We are in the midst of war, and the outcome remains uncertain. In the back of everyone's mind is the eventuality of an Al Qaeda follow-up attack on the American homeland. Women are mindful of the Beslan attack, in which schoolchildren were deliberately massacred. I was reading Fort Lauderdale's liberal fishwrapper, the Sun-Sentinel yesterday, and came across a column by Kathleen Parker that had been published back in early October. She starts by quoting Aragorn of Gondor in a climactic scene from J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:
"A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day. This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!"
Parker believes that this is an election between people who believe that this war is a climactic, titanic struggle between the Evil and the Good and those who believe that the struggle is manageable. Money graph:
The nation is essentially divided into two cinematic camps: (1) those who believe that America's story was best told in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, and (2) those who think Peter Jackson pretty much captured the essence of current events in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's literary masterpiece of the same name.
In Moore/Kerry metro-blue-state world, Bush is a moron and the war on terror, especially the war in Iraq, is a tall tale told by an idiot. In Tolkien/Bush retro-red-state world, we are in a global struggle against Mordor's Orcs (radical Islam's terrorists) to save Western civilization.
Her conclusion is foreordained, even if one should agree with it:
Such is the Tolkien view and the Bush view, even if it takes a Tony Blair to articulate it clearly. Those who believe that the Orcs are hellbent on snuffing out the light of Western civilization will vote for Bush. Those who believe that we've merely stirred up a hornets' nest by taking the war to Iraq and need a more nuanced, law-enforcement approach to terror will vote for Kerry.
And so, fortified by such a column, I turn to Bevan's column at RealClearPolitics.com today. He appears to see the khaki election in the background, as do I. Here's the nub of his opinion:
But I still firmly believe this is a national security election at its core and that in order for the average middle-class voter to even get to the question of jobs and healthcare they first have to be satisfied that John Kerry will keep the country safe. I'm not convinced he's fully passed that test yet with the American people as a whole, let alone middle-class voters in Ohio and Wisconsin.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe John Kerry has made the sale on the War on Terror and national security - even though the internals of the polls don't show it. But if, over the course of nine months, a convention, three debates and tens of millions of dollars in advertising, John Kerry still truly hasn't convinced the American public he'll fight the war on terror and keep them safe, there is little reason to believe he'll be able to do it over the course of the next 18 days.
Kerry did not come close to closing the deal with the American people, either last night or in the two previous debates. He did not match Kennedy's achievement of 1960, and in an environment in which the Republican Party has matched the Democratic Party in its turnout and ground game efforts (something that Republicans simply didn't have in 1960, or in the year 2000, for that matter...), I continue to believe that Bush still holds the strategic high ground going into the last eighteen days of a long campaign.
Monday, October 11, 2004
...takes apart Matt Bai's homage to John Kerry's foreign policy doctrine in the New York Times Magazine. Read today's edition of The Belmont Club. Read the whole thing.
The key to understanding Wretchard's analysis is to understand that John Kerry is offering America an old policy in new clothing. My take of Wretchard is that he believes that Kerry longs to return to the multilateralism of the 1990's. Such a return implies a reduction in American maneuvering room, both diplomatic and military (my conclusion, not necessarily Wretchard's). While this policy may gain Mr. Kerry plaudits in the editorial pages of The Guardian and Le Monde, it does nothing to restore the world as Kerry believes it to have been in the 1990's.
Kerry's foreign policy campaign strategy is to argue that Bush has inflated the threat from Al Qaeda and has unneccesarily connected a melange of loosely connected and shadowy terrorist organizations with state benefactors. It is important to understand that Kerry actually means what he says when he believes that the campaign against Saddam was a distraction. Kerry does believe that Qaeda needs to be dealt with, but he separates the organization's leadership from any larger currents in the Islamic world; one solves the problem by killing bin Laden. There is no thought of a larger ideological struggle with Islamic Fascism. The unstated assumption of John Kerry and the foreign policy team around him is that there is no need for a radically new approach to the world, the presence of bin Laden and his cohorts notwithstanding. He advocates a return to a European centered diplomatic approach to the war. Money graph from Bai's piece (hat tip, Wretchard):
He would begin, if sworn into office, by going immediately to the United Nations to deliver a speech recasting American foreign policy. Whereas Bush has branded North Korea ''evil'' and refuses to negotiate head on with its authoritarian regime, Kerry would open bilateral talks over its burgeoning nuclear program. Similarly, he has said he would rally other nations behind sanctions against Iran if that country refuses to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Kerry envisions appointing a top-level envoy to restart the Middle East peace process, and he's intent on getting India and Pakistan to adopt key provisions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (One place where Kerry vows to take a harder line than Bush is Pakistan, where Bush has embraced the military ruler Pervez Musharraf, and where Kerry sees a haven for chaos in the vast and lawless region on the border with Afghanistan.) In all of this, Kerry intends to use as leverage America's considerable capacity for economic aid; a Kerry adviser told me, only slightly in jest, that Kerry's most tempting fantasy is to attend the G-8 summit.
Wretchard's conclusion is devastating:
Bai's article reminds me of one of those products which are described on the packaging as being a new space age, high-technology, portable illumination aid which on closer inspection turns out to be a flashlight. When the newfangled description of terrorism as a "blended threat" is subtracted, the entire program consists of the policies of the late 1990s. Bilateral talks with North Korea. Oslo. G-8. The United Nations. Warrants of arrest. Extradition requests. Not a single new element in the entire package, except the fancy rationale. There is nothing wrong with that, any more than there is anything objectionable about a flashlight, but a more candid characterization of Kerry's proposals is not a voyage into uncharted waters so much as return to the world of September 10; in Kerry's words "back to the place we were". It has the virtue of producing known results, and suffers only from the defect that those results do not include being able to prevent massive attacks on the American mainland.
Mr. Kerry advocates a return to the Nineties, and that is the entire rationale of his campaign.
That world was a world of make-believe. During this Romantic Period of American diplomacy, the world was thought to have graduated from the Cold War era of General Ripper and Curtis LeMay. Diplomacy and "soft power" were all the rage. Economics was thought to be the driving force behind a Brave New World (apologies to Aldous Huxley). Russia had retreated as a serious threat to the West. The Eastern Bloc was no more, and was free to go about the business of making money. It was believed that the Finance Ministers of the world could lead a penitent Russia and a newly robust Third World into the "broad, sunlit uplands" of common prosperity. Shakespeare's "undiscovered country" of peace appeared to be at hand.
But throughout that decade, while America concentrated on making money, Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, O.J. Simpson, and the death of the Princess of Wales, something terrible stirred in the East. The moneymaking was a great distraction, and deceived even one who should have known better, like John Kerry. Tolkein records this in his own way, describing another time and place.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his Dark throne
In the land of Mordor, where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
The West deceived itself. No one in Europe and the United States, least of all John Kerry, wanted to believe that a new evil was abroad in the world. The men of the West remained silent as the Nameless Fear grew. The first attack on the World Trade Center led back to Ramzi Yousef and, indirectly, to Saddam's Mukhabarat (after the first attack, one of the planners fled the U.S. and ended up in Baghdad, like a lot of other folks in the Jihadi International). The Qaedist offensive in Somalia, the destruction of the Khobar Towers, the attack on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, gave the impression that a new force existed in the Islamic World. That force was the vanguard of a new Islamic Order that would humble the West, restore the Lost Caliphate, reverse the verdict of Lepanto and establish an Islamic dominion of Europe.
The Qaedists shook their fists at the West, and the Arabs silently gave their consent for violence. The threat grew, and the Western powers ignored it. Only when George W. Bush came to power in 2001 was an offensive against Al Qaeda in its mountain citadels seriously considered. However, by the time the President was ready to move, as the new Operational Plan to destroy Al Qaeda was placed on the desk of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Ringwraiths had been sent out to destroy Americans in their thousands. Forty-eight hours prior to the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, bin Laden had struck first. Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of the Panjshir Valley, had been struck down. The first move had been made. Indeed, it was Knight to Queen's Bishop 3, in my humble opinion. Characteristically, it was Bin Laden's game. As such, the Terrorist abandoned the Rules: the black Knight moved first. With the death of Massoud, the old world of the Nineties had passed into history.
From the rise of the Black September movement in the 1970's through the blossoming of Al Qaeda in the late Nineties, terrorist groups in the Arab world moved in and out of relationships with various benefactors within the ruling classes of the Middle East. These ruling classes had good reason to help the terrorists. Wahabist clerics asserted that the Islamic World in general, and the Arab world in particular, struggled under the boot heel of the Western Crusader. Naturally, the depravity of the Jew and the Crusader distracted the Arab peoples from the squalid kleptocracies under which they lived. But there was no revolution in the Arab world: it was not that they hated their rulers less, but they despised the Jews and the Christians more.
And so, money found its way to bin Laden, and before him, to Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, Arafat, and the men of Hezboallah, Hamas, Amal, Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. It was a huge payoff, protection money spent by the rulers to keep the angry young men of the Arab world busy in Europe, Israel, and the United States. Sometimes it didn't work, as with the massacre at Luxor in Egypt and the embarrassing episode at Khobar Towers in the Saudi Kingdom. But the cooperation between states and terrorists not only existed, but also made sense for all parties. At least until thieves fell out, of course.
John Kerry does not see this new thing. He fails to see the larger ideological struggle with a reborn Fascism, this version energized by a militant faith and a burning resentment. He does not see the connection between States and Jihadists, the former truly terrified of the fanatical determination of the latter to make the world and Islam as one. That is the story of John Kerry's "doctrine", and it is what makes this campaign so decisive and so important. Kerry does not see the One Ring, but is instead mindful only of the seductive power of the Nine.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
The LAT has a story coming out in Monday's edition that states that the Administration is delaying the investment of Al Fallujah and Ar Ramadi until after the election.
I believe that this story is disinformation, deliberately planted in the news media to throw off the jihadi high command to the timing and location of our upcoming offensive.
The highway leading west out of Baghdad runs through Al Fallujah, Al Habbaniyah, and Ar Ramadi, the provincial capitol of Al Anbar Governorate. It is the smuggling route that leads to the Syrian and Jordanian frontiers. It is the highway through which passes most of the weapons and personnel that reach the jihadi in Al Anbar Governorate. Most of the casualties that have occured in Iraq have taken place along this highway and within these towns. Our story begins not here, however. Rather, it begins in a city to the north.
About a month and a half ago the ruling tribal sheiks of Samarra, a medium size city to the northwest of Baghdad, had come to a settlement with the Government of Iyaad Allawi and the commanders of the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Almost immediately following the settlement, jihadi flying the black flag of Tawhid wal Jihad, the fedayeen led by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, rolled through Samarra in Toyata pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns. This was a "show-the-flag" demonstration to inform the locals who was boss.
Allied reaction was immediate. As Wretchard pointed out in his excellent blog, The Belmont Club, four Marine infantry and two Iraqi commando and infantry battalions were able to overrun most of Samarra in one night in a spectacular coup de main. Further, the Iraqis took down the Shi'ite mosque and other targets in the city that might have been held on to by the "Hajis" for great media effect. After several day's fighting, the city was in Allied control and the locals had been convinced that the Allies were in town to stay.
One of the highlights of this action was the fact that the Allies were able to invest Samarra by surprise. The jihadi were caught flat-footed, apparently, and had little if any idea that they were about to be attacked by four battalions.
Within a week, First Marine Division had dispatched a two-battalion force to overrun targets in Babil province. to the south of Baghdad and along the highway that leads to the Kuwaiti frontier. Apparently, the decision had been made at higher levels to increase the operational tempo of the war.
Which brings us to the cockpit of the war, the three towns of Al Fallujah, Ar Ramadi, and Al Habbaniyah. These towns have been under effective insurgent control since earlier this year, most notably in Al Fallujah. Earlier this year, the First Marine Division staged an abortive offensive against Al Fallujah's motley battalion of Ba'ath sympathizers, nationalists, Wahabi fundamentalists, and Zarqawi's force of some 700-1000 Qaeda men. The offensive would have succeeded, but had to be called off due to the probable collapse of the Governing Council of Iraq. So, a face-saving compromise called the "Fallujah Brigade" was brought about. The Brigade was made up of local Iraqis under the command of a former Saddam general. It fell apart within a few weeks, as members succumbed to local pressure, joined the jihadi, sold their services to the local organized crime syndicate, or simply went home. Flush with pride and overconfidence, Tawhid wal Jihad continued a campaign of kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombings. In a decided shift in strategy, the jihadi attacked Iraqi policemen and national guard outfits, as well as symbols of Shi'ism and any forces allied with the supreme Shi'a authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. I believe that the summer and fall terror campaign was a strategic error on Zarqawi's part. In overplaying his hand, Abu Musa al-Zarqawi forced the Allies into a position where they had to eliminate his force as well as those of his coalition. He carried things to a point where his continued presence became intolerable to the Iraqi government and to many Iraqis who might sympathize with his aims, but are repelled by his viciousness.
Consequently, I believe that sometime in August or September, a decision was made at the Presidential level to put paid to the insurgency along the Baghdad-to-Amman highway.
The political reason is obvious. Iraqi elections are set for January. The Wahabist insurgency will attempt to create chaos in an attempt to deligitimize any election, or better yet, delay it indefinitely. There is a reason that the Ba'athist-Wahabist coalition must do this. Elections tend to confer legitimacy on the elected. Recall the election in El Salvador in the early 1980's. There, the election of the conservative Christian Democrats and the strong showing of Roberto D'Aubuisson's ARENA party basically killed off the political fortunes of the Soviet-backed Farabundo Marti Liberation Front. Within a few years, the Communist insurgency had gone the way of the dodo. The same fate most probably awaits the Ba'ath-Wahabist alliance of convenience should it fail to stop the elections.
And so, to the present day. The Los Angeles Times is running a story stating that a Sunni triangle offensive (which is, in the main, all about Al Fallujah) is being put off until after the election. I believe that this is disinformation, simply because it follows a pattern of psychological operations used by the Central Command against Saddam and other enemies. Because of the necessity to have a demonstrable victory over the insurgency by a combined arms army of Iraqis and Americans, I believe the offensive will be conducted sooner rather than later, and at a speed and pace that will surprise everyone.
As one observer of the situation wrote to Section 9:
Our options are limitless and our Marines are the absolute experts in optimizing their strengths and exploiting weaknesses in the enemy that he isn't even aware of. How we prosecute the offensive in Fallujah will not come from any textbook. But it will become a textbook. I look forward to seeing the enemy die in great numbers.
I strongly suspect that the jihadist control of the Baghdad-to-Amman highway towns is coming to an end. And soon.