Along the Tracks

Monday, March 31, 2003

Dead or alive?

Saddam Hussein’s top bodyguard was positioned behind the Iraqi Defense Minister during a press conference late last week - for the first time ever outside of Saddam’s personal presence. The National Review’s James Robbins has an interesting run-through of what this signals today.

What seems certain is this appearance signals something.

Personally, I think Saddam and his sons are dead. The Defense Minister is now in charge (Sultan Hashim Ahmed), but he, in an effort to avoid a mass revolt among the Iraqi people, is maintaining the useful fiction of Saddam’s continued control. Also, there’s no guarantee the Saddam Fedayeen would fight if their namesake is experiencing rigor mortis. Nevertheless, senior Iraqi leaders who cannot be contacted by direct communication (talk on your cell phone and you’re dead!) are informed by the bodyguard’s appearance of the new sheriff in town. That’s my take.

Strategically and operationally, this may have little relevance until the Special Republican Guard is defeated and we roll into Baghdad - then we can challenge the remnants of the Ba’ath Party to produce Saddam or his sons, in a propaganda coup (assuming they can’t). Even so, as Robbins says, it is interesting to speculate on the situation.

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Friday, March 28, 2003

Bogged down?

The assumptions being made, almost universally, concerning our present pause are a) Iraqi resistance is stiffer than expected and hampering our progress; b) our supply lines have unexpectedly failed to keep up with our troop advances; c) commanders are second-guessing their war plan and now holding pat until they work out a new idea on the fly.

All three of these are ridiculous. First, Iraqi resistance is not only not more determined than expected, it has been less so. My evidence? The present pause itself. We raced to Baghdad in the swiftest ground advance in history, and, frankly, outran our supply, because we faced almost zero effective resistance. It’s hard to stop your momentum in such an advance, and if there is no strategic danger to continuing the drive, it continues. Once supply started getting thin, we paused - timed conveniently during a sandstorm, when a further drive would have presented larger than acceptable risks to the front lines.

Want more evidence? The arrival of the 4th Heavy Infantry’s equipment in Kuwait, and the 10-day prep time before those forces are able to advance, should tell observers something. Remember, that force was originally coming in from Turkey. But after the Turks refused to allow passage, was there a big rush to get the 4th to Kuwait? No. In fact, the soldiers are just beginning to deploy from Texas now. That tells me these forces were not expected to be needed until the second week in April - whether they came from the north or the south. They’re the “urban warfare” contingency, so their timing tells me we don’t plan to enter a inner-city Battle of Baghdad until we absolutely have to, which is not for at least a couple weeks.

Also, does anyone recall hearing something about Iraq preparing to use chemical and biological weapons? Why exactly would we charge headlong into those weapons? We are obviously trying to soften up the units which might use them, not only to avoid dangers to our own troops, but the far more likely scenario that thousands of innocent civilians are killed by such attacks. We apparently learned about a “red line” around Baghdad inside which the Republican Guard will fire its weapons of mass destruction, and now we’re sitting firm outside it. That makes a lot of good sense to me.

Sure, we hoped to crack the regime quickly with “shock and awe,” or the threat of shock and awe. But we didn’t simply expect it, only to be left floundering if it did not occur. There is a larger plan at work here, with a lot of contingencies based on what goes on out in the desert and in the cities. That’s what are military strategists are supposed to do, and they’re doing it.

Let’s remember: The former military men, present military men, and assorted other experts are being asked questions based on the above assumptions and from a pessimistic assessment of the present situation on the ground. If one cuts through the “fog of media” and actually considers the explanations and descriptions from a neutral point of view, observers may find the above analysis pretty close to the mark.

I predicted a month-long war from the get-go (before the get-go, if you count my column from last July). I’m sticking to it.

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Thursday, March 27, 2003

‘Quagmire’ Watch

The Washington Post has jumped out to the early lead with this story citing a number of unnamed sources that say, since the Iraqis have not surrendered as one and action still continues - the war will last months and require “escalation” and more call-ups. That, of course, echoes Vietnam.

I told you these things would be said by Friday. I must admit even I am surprised to see them today, and vented in a newspaper with real integrity like the Washington Post. Nevertheless, we knew the naysayers would come out in force at some point, and here they are.

Still, a few things to remember: “Months” could be as little as 60 days; Afghanistan took just over two months before the eviction of the Taliban from power, but “mop up” operations continue even now. In just one week, the allies have operational control (if not absolute on-the-ground command of every square inch) of approximately three-quarters of a country the size of California. Every loss is tragic, but the cold hard calculus of war shows allied KIAs at just a couple dozen, MIAs and POWs even fewer.

Finally, consider where our problems have occurred. The Saddam Fedayeem is a terrorist force - not a military service - which fights using illegal tactics like false surrenders, dressing in civilian clothing and using civilians as shields. Those are always going to be difficult situations for a fighting force such as ours, which cares about civilian lives and operating by international standards. Despite the casualties and captures we will sustain due to these terrorist operations, their actual effect on the allied strategy is almost nil. We may need more armor and troops at the “chokepoints” - and that’s what we’re doing. But this is going to have no effect on the battle for Baghdad.

When the regime collapses, the war will have effectively been won. The “mop up” will look a lot like Afghanistan, with searches for weapons caches, picking off the occasional sniper and putting together larger scale operations when the fedayeem congregate. This may not be a nice, tied-with-a-bow ending - but, as I’ve said before, this is WAR. It is not pretty.

Buck up, we’re winning!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Saddam Fedayeem

Regular readers know how closely, and how in depth, I have studied the situation in Iraq over the past year and a half, as it became clear a confrontation was inevitable. In all that time, and after all that research, I do not ever recall seeing the term “Saddam Fedayeem,” a militia which appears to be the main resistance allied forces in Iraq have seen so far. How can this be?

A few thoughts. First, I’m not sure people fully understood the role these fedayeem play in Iraq. We’ve learned about the Ba’ath party and its fascist tendencies. The fedayeem are the “brown shirts.” They are internal terrorists, meant to maintain party control of the population through fear. When you hear about the families of dissidents being tortured, these are the guys who do the torturing. We’ve been calling them “Ba’ath loyalists” and internal security forces, but media reports haven’t generally given them consideration as a unified, trained militia.

It should also be obvious that the fedayeem are the ones most likely to be working with terrorists - they are the other side of the same coin. Their tactics so far seem pretty familiar: like Hezbollah in Lebanon, like al Qaeda and the “technicals” in Somalia, like Abu Sayeff in the Philipines, like the Palestinian militias in Israel, like al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. They won’t stop us, but they can hurt us. And there is a real danger they will slip out of the country under the auspices of al Qaeda or other terrorist groups - and that they’ll be carrying WMDs on the way.

These thugs will need to be destroyed, both on the battlefield and afterward through a determined hunt.

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Those evil behind-the-scenes organizers

How can a person do anything but laugh when the New York Times’ Paul Krugman comes out with a column like this questioning the true motives of the Rallies for America which have been sweeping across the country the last couple weeks?

I’m a big fan of radio host Glenn Beck, so I, like millions across the country, know exactly who has organized these rallies - because we’ve heard it all on the air (a point Glenn made this morning). The first rally was organized by a local radio station, which invited Glenn to come speak and fire up the audience. It was a big success (surprise!), so other stations did the same thing, putting together rally dates and locations at which Glenn could appear.

Ah, but to the liberal media, there just had to be something sinister about the rallies. Into their collective minds we delve: Let’s see ... Glenn Beck is a syndicated talk show host - AHA! He’s a conservative! He must be doing this to strengthen Bush politically. What else .... he’s syndicated by Clear Channel Communications, a horrible media titan - AHA! Corporate interests! The sleazy connection between Republicans and media conglomerates is up to its old back-scratching!!!

Oh puh-leeez! First, the entire series of rallies has been promoted directly by Glenn Beck on his show - not much of a “hidden agenda” there. Second, the original rally was organized by a station not owned by Clear Channel, so at best, Clear Channel stole the idea very late in the game - or more likely, there’s no organized “idea” or plan behind the events, other than to give voice to the overwhelming majority of people who favor disarming Saddam Hussein. Finally, why is it sinister for a media company - which relies on audience share and the good graces of the public to be successful - to latch on to a cause that’s popular among (by latest polls) 75 percent of the American people?

Still, the worst part of all this finger-shaking by the liberal media is its shere hypocrisy. After all, the “peace” marches are organized by International ANSWER, a front group for International Action, a front group for the Workers World Party, also known as the Stalinist wing of the Communist Party. You’ve got at least three layers of obscurity in the “peace” movement, and the few interviewers who have done their jobs and asked these protesters who organized the events have found the vast majority possess not a clue. I would hardly say the Communist organizers are peace-seeking people, yet that is never, NEVER, the story when the marchers hit the streets with their vitriol. I don’t think you could have more proof of the media’s liberal tilt than by comparing how it has handled these parallel stories.

And anyway, I’d rather march under the banner of Clear Channel than Communism. After all, Josef Stalin killed 25 million people himself (I won’t try to tally the world-historical totals of Communist-inflicted death, but 50 million would be a very conservative estimate). How many graves lie at the feet of Clear Channel?

P.S. - This is also a stark example of the liberals’ lowest-common-denominator: When you lose the argument, switch to baseless accusations and name-calling.

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Monday, March 24, 2003

Holdin’ down the fort

Just lil’ ol’ me here at The Leader office today and Tuesday, so pretty light blogging likely.

War thoughts ... patience, patience, don’t let the round-the-clock news coverage suck you in. Wars are not won in four days or a week or even a month. The quicker the better, of course, but we need to be realistic here; too much of a rush could cost American lives, and that’s a price I’m not willing to pay, personally - at least if the only reason is “speed.” We can wait out the stragglers in Basra and Nasaryeh as long as necessary, and it Baghdad, why fight house to house when the regime itself is crumbling? I say let it crumble, then go in to “mop up” any remnants.

It is truly amazing how few casualties have come, despite this war being a ground-based operation from the start. I keep hearing the more pessimistic commentators claiming maybe our intelligence “wasn’t so good,” that we’ve walked into these ambushes. From what I’ve seen and heard, all this was precisely what we expected - no major organized resistance, just some treacherous Republican Guard troops and some paramilitary Ba’ath Party loyalists until we reach Baghdad. Then, we’ll just have to see how much fight those Guard forces have around the capital.

Still, all of this is going to take time. So, come this Friday or so, when you hear Peter Jennings start talking about the “desert quagmire” we’re in, don’t believe it.

UPDATE: This is exactly what I’m talking about.

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Friday, March 21, 2003

Maybe I should take a nap

Well, there’ve been some scenes, statements and stories which have penetrated my grizzled-gruff exterior and almost choked me up:

  • First and foremost, the loss of our soldiers (including eight Brits). God comfort the families and protect our forces.
  • A little boy, chocolate smeared on his beaming face, cheering “Ameriki! Ameriki!” (as reported by CBS). One of our boys gave him the chocolate.
  • I don’t know why, but watching our soldiers carefully, but respectfully, search the bedraggled Iraqis who were surrendering got to me too. Last night I said something about Americans, through the embedded journalists, would get a valuable and much-needed opportunity to see our young men and women in action - not just, or even primarily, battle, but all the other things they are trained to do in a conflict situation. I said they’d do us proud. They are.

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    Thank you

    To all who watched the discussion on WBGU-TV’s “The Journal,” as well as to Marlene Harris-Taylor, the Channel 27 staff, and my fellow panelists.

    My reflections: First, I hope it came across as clearly over the airwaves as it did in the studio that people can sincerely disagree with each other about these crucial issues and still be civil, still be intelligent and still be Patriotic Americans. I truly believe that if their had been a more polite, sincere and intelligent discussion of the Iraq question, with real contributions (as you witnessed last night) from the opposition rather than a regular default to smears (”Bush is Hitler” or calling him an “unelected president”), falsehoods (America seeks an empire) and anti-Semitic innuendo (Israel’s war; Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz’s war, etc.), we might have developed a consensus policy which had a chance of ending Saddam’s regime without war. I’m a conservative, a Bush voter and a supporter of the present policy - but I feel strongly that only by open discussion, debate and a weighing of options can we find our way toward a policy which keeps America safe and strong, and brings hope to the oppressed people of the world.

    The new plan

    It seems even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then. Yesterday I suggested we may hold off on “shock and awe” until the last minute, forcing the Iraqi leadership to prove its viability - and giving Iraqi commanders every opportunity to defect. So far, that appears to be the new strategy, and so far its working.

    As our troops get closer to Baghdad, the danger will increase; I anticipate those Special Republican Guard commanders will get a last chance to give up while our ground forces are still a safe distance away. If they defect, great - in we roll. However, if they waiver, all hell’s fury will come down on their heads for about two hours - “shock and awe.” Then, they might get a second chance to surrender before their complete destruction.

    We’ll see how it plays out, but even if we need to pound our way into Baghdad, we have already saved countless lives by this new strategy. Bush has proven yet again to be an excellent war commander, willing to adjust to new circumstances on the fly and making the most of opportunities which arise. What can the critics say?

    Intelligence coup

    It is our on-the-ground intelligence which has allowed this war to proceed as cleanly as it has to this point. First, we either kill or cut off Saddam - a snap decision, at that. Then we get “understandings” with Iraqi commanders and roll into the south largely unopposed. While nobody’s looking, we take two airfields in western Iraq and one in the north, and bring in huge numbers of troops to triangulate against the most likely center of opposition - Baghdad and Tikrit. Right now, special forces and intelligence agents are combing through those cities, convincing some enemy units to lay down their guns, marking targets for potential bombing and hunting down the worst of the worst in the Ba’ath Party. It’s been at least as impressive as the efforts a year and a half ago in Afghanistan. Bravo, bravo.

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    Thursday, March 20, 2003

    Did we get him?

    You be the judge. CBS News has this side by side comparison of Saddam from the Dan Rather interview earlier this much and the chubby, rumpled slug of a commander who spoke on Iraqi television this morning without directly mentioning last night’s attack. CBS’s David Martin says many U.S. government analysts and officials think we got Saddam with that precision strike.

    So, now what? Well, I think we should be (maybe we are) blitzing Iraqi airwaves announcing the death of Saddam. Let the Iraqi army start surrendering. Let the top Ba’ath Party and military leaders start defecting, offering to assist the U.S. in finding illegal weapons, etc. If Saddam is still alive, force him to prove it with something better than the sloppy fake of this morning. If his sons want to take over, make them announce it publicly. Force any remaining elements of Saddam-loyal leadership to come out from hiding to regain control. If there is proof of Saddam’s survival (or the maintenance of a leadership still loyal to Saddam), then let “shock and awe” begin. However, if all we hear is dead silence from the dictator and his close allies, and if it appears the Iraqi military - particularly the Republican Guard - is giving up, we should hold back another day or two. Events inside Iraq will prove rather quickly whether the regime has been “decapitated,” and surrender talks can begin.

    If so, we will have already won the war.

    UPDATE: Rumsfeld’s statement (third and fourth paragraphs) is pretty encouraging.

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    Wednesday, March 19, 2003


    Late, late postings after a late, late - and largely sleepless - night, followed by an early, early morning ... enough already. At least I’m not trying to sleep on sand. God bless our troops!

    Tonight’s the night

    I would be shocked and awed more than a Republican Guard foot soldier if the war does not start tonight at approximately 8:01 p.m. (that’s 4 a.m. Thursday, Baghdad time, if I’m not mistaken - okay, 4:01). The only dirt in the ointment is actually sand - a giant sandstorm sweep Kuwait and southern Iraq right now. Helicopters have been grounded, and they’ll be in front of any ground action. However, bombing will precede the choppers and hoofers for at least a while, probably a day or two, so I don’t believe the weather will be a factor in timing the start of the war - only the next phase. Reports from London indicate some shooting has already begun around the port city of Basra as special ops from the U.S. and U.K. prep the landing zone for an amphibious assault. That kind of thing doesn’t occur very long before the assault itself. The Marines may be in Basra tonight.

    Operation Iraqi Freedom

    I like the name chosen for this military operation. It makes our goal clear, and it sounds exactly like what it is: the sequel to Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In fact, although historians are likely to put this and Afghanistan (and, God forbid, whatever is next) under the War on Terrorism umbrella, I kind of like the idea of calling these the Freedom Wars.

    Think about it. Terrorism is a state-supported form of war. Those states are invariably unfree, authoritarian. Other countries “build” and “supply” these “weapons” - the terrorists - to groups aligned and directly supported with the terror states. How do countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt “build” terrorists? Through oppression - the lack of freedom. It’s not about poverty, it’s not about Israel, it’s not even about Islam. It’s about the lack of basic liberties. To win, truly win, the war on terrorism, we must bring freedom and individual rights to that part of the world. It need not always require forceful regime change, but it will require change. Thus, freedom is the central core of our efforts, and the measuring stick of success.

    Scruffy, ponytailed TV star

    Well, star might be a stretch ... nevertheless, I thought I should let all who find some value in rummaging through the issues with me that I will appear on WBGU-TV’s “The Journal” tomorrow (Thursday) night at 10. That’s Channel 27 for dark-age types like myself who have antenna reception. Otherwise, check you local cable listings.

    On the program, I will defend American policy toward Iraq, facing off with Mike Ferner. Mr. Ferner is a devoted peace activist, as well as being a former Toledo city councilman and mayoral candidate. He recently visited Iraq for about a month (he does not like the term “human shield,” from what I’ve read), and has been a local organizer of protests. He was apparently among the protesters arrested Monday night in Toledo when they blocked entrance to a military recruiting office.

    Hope you’ll tune in.

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    Tuesday, March 18, 2003

    Daschle alert!

    Events in the showdown with Iraq have been set in motion. I say this not only based on the president’s forthright statement last night, but on a quantum indicator, a “spooky action at a distance” (to quote Einstein) event that portends something major within the next couple days: Sen. Tom Daschle has made a statement to the press.

    Daschle has this uncanny ability to blurt out “concerns” - always without alternative options answering the problem in question - just before his very criticism is plainly demonstrated by events to be either false or irrelevant.

    Yesterday - before the Bush speech, it should be noted - Daschle blamed the crisis and nearly inevitable war with Iraq on ... you guessed it, George W. Bush. Daschle said Bush “failed so miserably” at diplomacy that America stands at the brink of war. The Democratic Minority Leader did not offer any alternatives to the process the Bush administration and our allies, Great Britain and Spain, could have followed for a different ending to the Security Council debate. And most importantly (and this goes for most critics who cite the supposed “diplomatic failures”), Daschle did not explain how any form of diplomatic maneuvering would have avoided war, considering the 12-year-proven fact that Saddam will not give up his weapons willingly. “Unwillingly” means the use of force, ultimately. If the use of force is inevitable, what exactly does delay achieve.

    No answer from the clueless prophet Tom.

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    Monday, March 17, 2003

    Crucial moment

    It’s been quite a day at The Leader (and out on Road K - you don’t wanna know!), so I haven’t had much time to put together a crackerjack post.

    Nevertheless, today is such an important day for the world, so much is happening so quickly. Some rapid-fire thoughts:

  • The diplomatic game was over last week when France made clear it would veto anything that had the word “Iraq” in it. The president was right to call the French on their destructive posturing. The next resolution we ought to request is one ordering France out of the Ivory Coast. Let’s see how they come down on that one.

  • Turkey is suddenly accepting U.S. troop staging. That’s good, I guess, but I sure hope we have not sold out the Kurds for this courtesy. The troops in question will have little or no use in the coming conflict, but they will be able to secure Kurdistan from Iraqi reprisals and Turkish occupation. Some are probably already passing through Turkey right now.

  • I await, with everyone else, tonight’s statement by the president. I’ve heard an ultimatum of as much as three days will be given. I hope not. We all know Saddam is not going to step down unless he has a stroke or something. An ultimatum would only serve to set up a “pre-emptive” strike by Saddam against our forces, the Kurds, or - most likely - Israel. Why give him that chance? He’s had 12 years, for goodness’ sake. It’s OVER!

  • May God protect our troops, those of our allies, innocent people throughout the region and inside Iraq, and people around the world confronting terror, aggression and evil.

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    Friday, March 14, 2003

    Where from here?

    The United Nations process is officially a shambles, thanks to one country: France. The United States, the United Kingdom and Spain have gone the extra mile, the second extra mile and then another 10 kilometers in their effort to bring unity to the Security Council. Yet France has said flatly it will veto any new resolution on Iraq. That stand has given cover to all the little nations in the middle who don’t want to vote for a war, despite their responsibilities as Security Council members. The resolution is doomed.

    At last week’s news conference, President Bush said he would call a vote no matter what the “whip count,” and force every country to put their cards on the table. I commend his sense of honesty, his effort to shine a light on the hypocrisy of the French position - and it made sense when the resolution was the simple statement of fact that Iraq had failed to live up to 1441.

    Things have changed over the past week. Now there are amendments, public if not “official,” which muddy the resolution, setting timelines and tests for Saddam rather than stating the truth of his failure. If there is still a determination to call a vote - now perhaps not until early next week - it should be a straight up or down on the original resolution. If that is not diplomatically feasible, then we should call no vote at all. The weighed-down version clouds the real issue - Saddam’s intransigence - and its failure to pass, whether by majority or veto, could have repercussions in international law which would not be in America’s interest (whereas I believe the straight “Saddam has failed” version could have positive effects, whether it passes or fails). Bush may have to explain he was wrong about calling a vote. So be it.

    Rumors are swirling of a summit between Bush, Blair and Spain’s Aznar this weekend. I hope they decide to withdraw the resolution, and make a joint statement that they will now act where the Security Council has failed, and disarm Saddam immediately.

    UPDATE: Bush, Blair and Aznar will meet.

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    Thursday, March 13, 2003

    Calling Dr. Kevorkian!

    Dr. Death better use his one phone call a week to get ahold of his old pal, lawyer and one-time Democratic Michigan gubernatorial candidate Geoffrey Fieger. The Chinese are infringing on his franchise!

    Hey, where did Dr. Death park that van before sentencing, anyway?

    (Link found courtesy The Weekly James and Instapundit.)

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    Wednesday, March 12, 2003

    Keep an eye on Tom

    I have discovered an important statistical correlation which may allow the prediction of world events, and in particular, actions directed by President George W. Bush:

    Every time Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle goes public with sharp criticism of a specific Bush administration policy, something important happens which directly contradicts, in excruciatingly embarrassing fashion, that Daschle criticism.

    I have been unable to determine if the correlation is a cause-effect or merely associative, but it has been nothing short of stunning. Let’s consider:
  • Last year at this time, Daschle made the “first move” by Democrats to end the “shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush” position on the war on terrorism by showing up on all the Sunday talk shows to announce he was “concerned” about our efforts in the war and “questioned” the president’s determination. In a matter of hours, Operation Anaconda broke into the news, making Daschle appear self-absorbed, political and cynical.
  • Last summer’s warm-up to confronting Iraq culminated in a Daschle press conference where he offered his “concern” that Bush was about to launch a unilateral war on Iraq without congressional or U.N. approval. The administration announced its desire for both just a couple days later, making Daschle appear self-absorbed, political and cynical.
  • Still reeling from his party’s stomping at the polls in early November, Daschle blurted out his shock that the president was alienating allies and failing to gain consensus in the U.N. on Iraq. I believe it was the next day that 1441 was passed, 15-0, making Daschle appear self-absorbed, political and cynical.
  • Last week, Daschle held a news conference to boldly announce his “concern” that the president was losing the war on terrorism because of his focus on Iraq. A few hours later, news broke that al Qaeda chief of operation Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had been captured in Afghanistan along with a treasure trove of names and documents and, perhaps, information on Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts - making Daschle appear self-absorbed, political and cynical.

    These are just the major events; numerous lesser examples are available - I’m thinking of making a database.

    Still, for this to be scientific, we need a test. So:

    When (don’t worry, it will happen) Daschle comes out to announce his “concern” that the president’s Iraq policy is a unilateralist failure and we should delay any action until a U.N. resolution passes unanimously, expect a major event to occur within 48 hours. Either a) a resolution will pass unanimously; b) Saddam Hussein will take provocative action against us or our allies; or c) the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq will begin with a host of allies on our side, some of whom we may not have heard about previously.

    I’ll watch the news closely, and let you know when the 48 hour countdown begins.

    Can somebody loan Canada a helicopter please?

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    Or the big, public enchilada

    Tom Friedman and Mickey Kaus are also pretty persuasive: Offer a sweeping resolution, with “benchmarks” and a very substantial delay (Mickey suggests nine months), but with the automatic trigger for force if any benchmark is missed, non-listed weapons are found, etc., or the whole enchilada is not resolved by the final deadline.

    Politically, both around the world and inside the U.S., this is a huge winner for Bush. His poll numbers would skyrocket. A French veto would demonstrate Gaulic cynicism clearly and decisively, and French acquiesence would allow the unity Bush has sought. I think the economy would probably come out of its hesitation, at least for a while. As Mickey says, the troops could weather it out, and some could be diverted to East Asia for our other major crisis, North Korea. And to top it all off, if (when) Saddam fails and the deadline is reached, around Thanksgiving time, the president can start the war when it will be most advantageous for him and most disastrous for the Democrats - right at the start of primary season. He can ride the goodwill wave into a second term the following fall against a candidate selected by the antiwar fringe of the Democratic Party - a candidate who will have to explain why winning in Iraq, supporting the U.N. and fighting terrorism aren’t good enough.

    Wow! Sign me up ... except:
  • France will never go for it. They will find some way to claim Iraq has “complied,” and just keep stirring up trouble over and over again. Remember, they voted for 1441 and now claim its words don’t mean what they mean.
  • Saddam will test the Security Council’s resolve at moments most advantageous to him and least for the U.S. and U.K.
  • Saddam will continue to fund terrorism in Israel, and the momentum for reform inside the Palestinian Authority will grind to a halt as Israel is forced to make regular incursions to root out the killers.
  • Far too many people are underestimating the danger of allowing Saddam another reprieve. He will not waste the time he’s given, just as I have no doubt he has not wasted the past six months. If he has a smallpox supply, he most certainly has looked for some way to provide it to terrorists while maintaining some type of control over its use. A “final” deadline - if he believes the world is serious - so far in the future gives Saddam and his intelligence service and terrorist allies months to plan out an attack in detail, and a willingness to accept more risks in an unauthorized release. Attacks with chemicals and other biologicals are also, undoubtedly, in deep planning. Hitting him now, or very soon, may keep most of the stores of weapons inside Iraq - minus the ones already smuggled out. But waiting will certainly create a far greater danger of a terrorist hit using weapons of mass destruction.

    If Bush was like Clinton, I have no doubt he’d wait for the advantages mentioned further above to roll his way. Thank God, Bush is not Clinton. We will be liberating Iraq in a matter of days.

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    One sentence resolution

    Charles Krauthammer nails it in his column for the Washington Post. We are going to lose the U.N. resolution vote, certainly by French veto, very probably by “whip count.” Why go through the agony of a tortuous listing of “tests” for Iraq and a deadline extended further into the hot and windy Iraqi spring?

    “The Security Council finds Iraq in violation of Resolution 1441, which demanded ‘full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions.’”

    Krauthammer’s single sentence is eminently true, as every member of the Security Council knows. Let them vote against it and prove their own cynicism. Maybe - just maybe - they’ll realize what they are doing to the legitimacy of the body by denying the facts and rescinding their own words from 1441. And maybe that will finally turn them around to the side of the U.S. and U.K. - the side of right.

    I know, I’m forever the optimist ....

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    Tuesday, March 11, 2003

    You say ‘Moran,’ I say ‘moron’

    Another antiwar “thinker” among the Democrats has made a brave statement of “truth” to power. Last week, it was Rep. Marcy Kaptur comparing Osama bin Laden to the Founding Fathers. This week, it’s Rep. James P. Moran Jr. of Virginia, who says those sinister Jews are pushing us to war.

    Let’s recall, in December, when Trent Lott made ridiculous, racist statements, conservatives were nearly universal in condemning them, and the majority of Republicans wanted him removed from leadership - and he finally stepped down.

    So far, liberals and Democrats have been muffled or completely silent about these latest insults from among their own. I hope the voters remember that.

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    Monday, March 10, 2003

    I hate to say it, but ...

    I largely agree with Democratic Senator Joe Biden’s analysis in today’s Washington Post. While the Bush administration has been dead-on on its policy toward Iraq, and even, for the most part, in the implementation of that policy, its diplomacy has been shaky - not so much the work of Powell, Rice, and the president himself, but some of the shoot-from-the-hips comments we’ve heard from Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle (not part of the administration, but closely allied) and a few others.

    Let me make this clear: I’m not saying these people are wrong when they point out problems with France, Germany, etc., I’m just saying that, as part of an administration seeking a united diplomatic front against Iraq, their statements tend to undercut Bush’s efforts. France in particular has been bone-headedly wrong in this whole charade, first by voting for 1441 when it apparently had no intention to follow through on the clear language of the resolution, then when it ambushed Colin Powell at the U.N. on Iraq policy, just before Blix’s first report in late January. The administration, with the help of America’s allies in Europe and around the world, was well on its way to isolating the French position (remember the “European Eight” and the “Vilnius Ten” letters?), but side comments from certain administration officials (who Biden leaves unnamed in his op-ed but who I have named above, and in particular, Rumsfeld) helped the French and their German tag-alongs make the argument that the Bush administration was “bullying” other countries, and solidified their opposition and resolve.

    These guys - again, particularly Rumsfeld - are quick-witted and sharp as a knife when they toss out their comments. I’m just saying they aren’t necessarily very helpful.

    I’m not sure about Biden’s closing suggestion concerning a compromise resolution, perhaps based on the Canada proposal, setting a March 30 deadline with stringent, specific disarmament guidelines. As Condi Rice eloquently stated on the talk shows yesterday, Saddam Hussein could come out and announce a change of heart right now, produce the documents the inspectors have requested, lead the inspectors to hidden sites and tell them they will bring the thousands of chemical-filled warheads to a specific location for cataloging and destruction. He could probably have all the stuff we know about at least placed under U.N. guard by the March 17 deadline in the current resolution - and let’s face it, if he did so, the U.S. would be bound to honor the inspectors’ assessment, at least until it could be proven that he was still hiding some weapons. War would, at least for a substantial period of time, be averted.

    Why March 30 is better than March 17 is tough to see, other than the somewhat ephemeral hope that France will change its mind and vote for (or at least abstain on) the resolution. France has stated flatly it will not allow any resolution which automatically and explicitly authorizes military operations to pass. That’s precisely what a deadline, any deadline, does. Anything less than that is of no value to the U.S., Great Britain or our other allies. Thus, an impasse.

    The worst facet of such a delay involves military realities. A war started so late poses a real danger of stretching into the spring heat of the desert, making heavy chem-bio suits extremely difficult for our soldiers to wear, slowing the operation and endangering both our troops and the civilians caught in Saddam’s brutal chemical crosswinds. Another consideration must be the extra time Saddam would have to place terrorist allies in position to strike the U.S. and friends. The on-the-ground effect of any delay is to stretch out the war and kill more people.

    Thus, although Biden’s criticism is astute, his remedy is unconvincing. At present, I believe, all the Bush administration can do is work France, attempting to bring them to the realization that their long-term security interests are precisely aligned with the U.S., and this effort to resolve a 12-year problem will benefit them far more than any short term gain as a U.S. “counterweight.” This is apparently the course being followed right now, and in the end, it may yet succeed.

    If Rummy will just stay away from the microphones for a week .....

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    Friday, March 07, 2003

    A liberal alternative to war

    Tired of hearing all the critics on the left carping against the president's Iraq policy, while offering no serious alternative which supports the ideal of freedom for the Iraqi people, I came up with one myself - for argument's sake.

    The column was published in the March 1 Bryan Times. Shortly thereafter, Marlene Harris-Taylor of WBGU-TV Channel 27 invited your humble reporter to appear on that PBS station's public affairs program, "The Journal," to debate Iraq policy with former Toledo city councilman and recent Iraq visitor Mike Ferner. The show airs live March 20 at 10 p.m. I'm looking forward to the opportunity.

    Here is the column:

    A little help for liberals
    Recent “peace” demonstrations are just the latest manifestation of a half-year-long effort by liberal critics to make public this declaration: “War is not the answer.” But like a derelict college student taking his multiple-choice midterm after an all-nighter, these liberals have faced the Iraq issue by rubbing their brows, circling and scratching out, finally settling on “None of the above.” Unfortunately, in the real world of terrorists, VX, missiles and nukes, that is not an option.

    The determination of President George W. Bush to face this issue has forced his opponents to either develop a sensible, liberal alternative to war in Iraq or coast along with platitudes and empty, useless criticism.
    Unfortunately, useless criticism has won the day.
    Therefore, though it pains me as a conservative, I will provide the left with a coherent, active strategy on Iraq which is logically defensible and arguably an effective alternative to war:

    Instead of sending “human shields” to protect Saddam and his murderers, send “human lifelines” into Kurdish-controlled Iraq, assisting innocent Iraqis in their quest for freedom by providing humanitarian services, opportunities for political expression and protection for dissidents. Tether more lifelines from Kuwait into Shi’a-dominated southern Iraq, rescuing the Marsh Arabs from Saddam’s brutality and helping them organize peaceful resistance. Create a grassroots revolution in Iraq, one based on non-violent protest and aimed at regime change - after all, Saddam runs one of the most illiberal governments in the world.

    Rattling the cage of a dictator can be dangerous work, not only for the activists but for neighbors who may receive the angry blows of a falling totalitarian. Thus, “human shields” would be valuable - in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and, especially, Israel. Put a peace activist in every pizza shop and dance club. Place lines of tents on the Iraqi border. Put flowers in the barrels of Iraqi tanks.

    Of course, with Saddam’s ties to terrorism, dangers are spread across the globe. Shields will be needed at all American overseas military bases, diplomatic outposts, churches and synagogues - and those of our allies. Landmarks will need protection, too; how about placing small, rotating groups inside the U.S. Capitol, the Empire State Building, Disney World, the Eiffel Tower, the House of Commons, the Church of the Nativity and all of America’s sports stadiums and NASCAR tracks?

    The diplomatic front would be important, as well. Activists could march on governments around the world demanding humanitarian supplies and “resistance assistance” to all the nations which neighbor Iraq. Non-governmental organizations could be used for the distribution effort. Active use of air power for humanitarian drops might even be considered.

    All in all, such an overarching liberal strategy would be expensive, in both human and financial terms. Many thousands of brave “shielders” would have to commit to the cause, although such a commitment would not be fundamentally different than the commitments made by the all-volunteer military. Supplies and assistance alone would run tens of billions of dollars, but war estimates approach $100 billion.

    The pressure from below would undoubtedly crack Saddam and his top-heavy regime - Iraq’s population would drain into the safety zones behind the “shields,” and soon Saddam would not have much of a country to run. The very effort would have the added benefit of transforming the stifling political climate of the Middle East, by the daily interactions between Westerners placing their lives on the line for freedom and the Arab masses gasping for liberty. Indeed, the U.S. government might find it easier to convince Saudi monarchs and Turkish Islamists to host military troops than true peace activists.

    This strategy would have yet another benefit: Uniting all the Western world in common cause for the liberation of oppressed masses. Peace marchers guarding American troops from chemical attack, activists training Iraqis in organizing strikes and protests, Doctors Without Borders crossing borders without doctors.

    Would this liberal alternative to war succeed? Conservatives could make a solid case why it would not prevent an Iraqi-terrorist attack or stop Saddam from developing weapons while the strategy takes form. Yet, it would be a true, defensible alternative. A dream, perhaps, but an eminently doable dream.

    Nevertheless, a dream without hope, and here is why: The left is no longer the home of idealism; it is the home of egoism. There is no need for freedom of thought, debate and choice; the left has all the answers. “Liberals” no longer follow causes to liberate the oppressed; at best, leftists seek to replace one form of oppression with another, at worst, they defend oppression when it pays deference to their egos.

    Critics on the left will continue to carp aimlessly, not because they are against war, but because they are against liberation. They will take the “high moral ground” of multiculturalism, not in defense of other cultures, but in attack on the West. And they will “shield” Iraqi civilians America does not wish to harm, rather than innocents around the world Saddam and the terrorists seek to destroy.

    And so, with no political will to offer an option to end Iraq’s threat without the use of force, and with Saddam’s continued refusal to disarm, America and her allies are left with no alternatives.

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    Paybacks are hell

    I guess I wasn’t the only one who noticed the snub of Helen Thomas at last night’s presidential press conference.

    That was one tradition in serious need of breaking. Thanks, GWB!

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    Not about process, but compliance

    The Ohio school funding lawsuit has dragged on for 12 long years. First the Perry County court, then the Ohio Supreme Court, found the state system for funding schools was unconstitutional, due both to its inadequate levels and its reliance on property taxes.

    During the booming 1990s, state politicians were able to find extra money to toss into the education kitty, and repeatedly exclaimed, “There, we fixed it!” The Ohio Supreme Court never agreed. What two governors and a Republican-led legislature could not get through their very thick skulls was the ruling’s simple statement that the system - the system - was inadequate. Shunting over some extra funds was not a repair to the system, and as the numerous rulings pointed out, should the economy slow, the money would quickly dry up, precisely becaue it was “extra.” “Fix the system,” the justices ruled five times.

    Well, the state never has “fixed the system,” and sure enough, yesterday Gov. Bob Taft cut funding for elementary and secondary education. So now, not only is the system still unconstitutional, we’ve also returned to a state of inadequate funding. Square one.

    The Akron Beacon Journal has a sharp editorial questioning whether the defiance of the state’s executive and legislature are about to be rewarded. The group which filed the original lawsuit in 1991 has asked the Perry County court to supervise the execution of the numerous rulings against the state. The state, rest assured, will appeal yet again to the Ohio Supreme Court, hoping a newly elected Republican justice will swing the court over to the state’s side. The Beacon Journal editors seem hopeful that Justice Maureen O’Connor, the former lieutenant governor under Taft, will see the merits of the case, as well as repeated defiance by Columbus, and hold the state to the standards set by the previous court.

    I’m not nearly so optimistic. If the court, now dominated by Republicans, lets Taft and the state GOP leadership off the hook, it will be a travesty of justice, and a sad day for both students and property owners in poorer districts.

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    Thursday, March 06, 2003

    The Bush drive to strengthen the U.N.

    The patience President George W. Bush has displayed regarding Iraq has convinced me he and Secretary of State Colin Powell have a larger goal, a “grand vision,” if you will, for the future authority of the Security Council. My thoughts, in depth, are found here, at the web site of my alma mater’s newspaper, the BG News.

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    Note to regular readers

    Back in December, I decided to start a little feature called “Condensed version.” Each day, I went through the regions newspapers (and the Washington Post, always tops on the list) scouring the editorial pages for particularly interesting or entertaining opinion pieces.

    I’ve decided to suspend CV - or at least do it only on occasions when there actually are a fair number of good op-eds out there. Frankly - not trying to be arrogant here, just honest - most days it is a real stretch to find five “should-reads,” let alone “must-reads.”

    I still think it’s important to provide you with the Great Lakes point of view, however, so I’ll still be looking for the best pieces. I’ll probably comment on them at more length, as well as linking to them. I just won’t be rounding them up into the “Condensed version” posts anymore. Good idea? Bad idea? Let me know.

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    Osama next?

    I sure hope Brian Ross isn’t just toying with our emotions here.

    The downfall of Marci Kaptur

    Marcy, oh Marcy - do you know what you are saying?

    Marci, in a discussion Friday, tossed out a variety of objections to a war in Iraq - many of them legitimate and reasonable, even though I would disagree. But for some inexplicable reason, she felt the need not only to argue against war on its merits, but to impugn the founders of her own nation, and by extension, the ideals for which they fought.

    Her central tenet:
    “One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown.”

    I wish her words made me angry; they just make me sick.

    Marcy always struck me as an honest, forthright populist, standing on liberal principles - with a freedom-defending libertarian streak. I often thought she was mistaken in her analysis, sometimes woefully so, but I was convinced her heart - the key organ in any liberal - was in the right place. And I would never - never - have questioned her devotion to America.

    Her comment comparing the Green Mountain Boys and other American revolutionaries with al Qaeda leaves me dizzy. Were there illegitimate acts of violence, aimed at non-combatants, during the Revolution? Certainly (few and far between, but an honest answer is they did happen), but they were on the periphery, not organized and sanctioned by the Green Mountain Boys or any other of the forces which assembled to fight for independence from Britain.

    And, very importantly, what were these revolutionaries fighting for? The Declaration of Independence spells it out: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, under a government of laws answerable to the people. Those are liberal values, in the original, best sense of the word. How on earth can Marcy compare liberal revolutionaries with organizations which see all members of other religions, and all fellow religionists who do not subscribe to their strict interpretation, as enemies?

    Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad - these are terrorists, not because we label them as such, but because THEY TARGET CIVILIANS FOR DEATH IN AN EFFORT TO CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF TERROR. The Green Mountain Boys didn’t do that. George Washington’s Continental Army didn’t do that. The various colonial militias didn’t do that. And that targeting of non-combatants with the goal of instigating fear (it seems so obvious I can hardly believe I’m writing it yet again!) is THE defining characteristic of a terrorist group.

    Doesn’t Marcy believe, truly believe, in those founding principles for which our forefathers (and mothers) fought? This is crucial; if she questions the war on terrorism based on moral relativism - we are (were) no better than the terrorists - she must question the motives of our own American revolutionaries. Those motives are spelled out in the Declaration and the subsequent United States Constitution. Those are documents she swore an oath to uphold. If she now questions America’s founding principles - for which the Green Mountain Boys, George Washington, and others she compares with mass murderers fought - she has no business being in Congress.

    She should resign her seat.

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    Wednesday, March 05, 2003

    Condensed version

    In the Washington Post, Michael Kelly is optimistic about the military’s plan to “embed” media inside fighting units.

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer analyzes the Turkish parliament’s failure to approve the staging of U.S. forces in case of war with Iraq.

    The Akron Beacon Journal joins the throng pondering “why they hate us.”

    The capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has the Lima News excited.

    In the Detroit News, Thomas Bray argues we don’t need another vote on the Security Council to know whether or not the U.N. is “irrelevant.”

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    Tuesday, March 04, 2003

    Condensed version

    In the Washington Post, David Ignatius discusses this “crossroads” in history with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.

    The Cincinnati Post praises the intelligence work that went into the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

    The Lima News wonders how much money could have been saved over the last five years if the head of the Ohio School Facilities Commission had sought competitive bids - and had not accepted gifts from the vendors.

    The Indianapolis Star notes the Congressional introduction of Bush’s proposed plan committing $15 billion to fight aids, and argues for grassroots support.

    The Detroit News points out a drawback of stiffer emissions rules: The elimination of more-efficient diesel vehicles from the market.

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    Monday, March 03, 2003

    Critics’ choice

    Don’t you find it interesting that Eminem is considered a “serious artist” while rapping about beating gays and “bangin’ ho’s” while the critics get upset by a pro-military country ballad. As usual, “social criticism” is wonderful to the high-minded elites - as long as it’s from the left.

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    War start date

    I’ve made two predictions (here and here) on when the war would start, along with a detailed operational description. Both were wrong. In each case, I’ve underestimated the Bush administration’s patience and its determination to drag the United Nations into the realm of responsibility. I’ll lay out my explanation first, then try a third (and hopefully, last) try at a prediction for the war’s start date:

    When 1441 was passed unanimously, I was quite certain Colin Powell had achieved an “iron-clad” agreement with the waiverers, i.e. China, Russia, and, especially, France, to pass a second resolution authorizing force if, at the time of the first inspectors’ report Jan. 27, Saddam had not fully accounted for his weapons and their dismantling was well underway. I am still quite certain that was the case - more so, in fact. Powell’s complete, angry turnaround after the French-German PR offensive against war just before the Blix report. It was a betrayal of a behind-the-scenes understanding. It at the least delayed, at the most scuttled, a second resolution authorizing force. Bush and Powell have chosen to boldly push forward on the U.N. front, partly for the UK’s Tony Blair, but mostly because they really believe in a broader vision for the U.N. in the dawning century.

    As I’ve written in an op-ed (currently being shopped around - any takers?), Bush is seeking to establish a new precedent in the U.N., making the Security Council a powerful tool for world order - the “new world order” his father first envisioned. A more robust Security Council would be unlikely to tie the hands of the U.S., but would provide some constraints to other large powers less concerned with world opinion at present.

    In a globalized world, public opinion provides a growing restraint against the unilateral use of force - a sign of democratization, therefore a positive. For the U.S., such opinion is already effective. But for newcomers to world markets, particularly Russia and China, old interventionist ways die hard. The Bush-Powell initiative in the U.N. is to set up a process where the major powers can acquire the imprimatur of legitimacy for intervention against states bent on disrupting world order - be it by proliferation, terrorism or gross violations of human rights.

    The “Iraq process” has been long and slow - 12 years in the making. This has been, perhaps, frustrating, but potentially valuable. The lack of a “rush to war,” despite claims to the contrary, sets some high hurdles for foreign interventions where the dangers are not immediate. Yet a positive Security Council vote for action against Iraq would demonstrate the final goal of correcting an international problem through the U.N. is achievable. This, in turn, would allay many concerns Russia and China may currently hold about U.N. limits to their freedom to act.

    Thus, the wild card becomes France (also a reprobate interventionist, see “Ivory Coast”), which must decide whether it is better to build long-term world stability through the U.N. process or exploit misinformed anti-Americanism over the short term.

    Bush and Powell are betting on a French vote for U.N.-brokered stability. They believe in this new paradigm of international sanction so much, they are willing to go an incredibly long way to get it. In fact, they may believe a positive council vote which includes the “yeahs” of Russia and China, but is vetoed by France, still establishes the desired precedent, if less emphatically. But they want France badly. Interestingly, the administration’s patience with Turkey, even now, is powerful evidence that the window for an attack is at least 11 days away (count ‘em: Turkish parliament votes tomorrow; if they vote “no” again, it will take 10 days for the hardware to pass through Suez and get to Kuwait; it could be unloaded and prepped - a week-long affair - as the initial invasion gets underway).

    And so, the date for action (post March 14) becomes either the day after a French vote for war (or at least an abstention) is gained - or when the military says it’s go now or wait till fall. The action of Special Forces already inside Iraq, the start of defections, the training of Iraqi nationals to be involved in the invasion, all point to the fact Bush will not put things on hold until cooler autumn weather. And military “worst case” scenarios for securing Iraqi mass destruction weapons and the oil fields is one month - the final toppling of the Ba’athists in their holdouts could take longer, but in small groupings, they do not pose the kind of risks which require thousands of troops in stifling NBC suits. The Iraqi desert really starts heating up by mid April, so that puts a start date in mid-March, at latest.

    Prediction: Bush will push for the French vote right up to the absolute deadline. A major effort will start after the March 7 Blix report. The inspectors are scheduled to report again on March 14. I don’t think Bush is going to want to give a lot of time for Saddam to muddle things after that report with another ploy, like agreeing to turn over some mobile labs or anthrax barrels or something. The French will be given Saturday to think about things. The U.S. will call for a Security Council vote on Sunday, March 16. Whichever way the vote goes, military action will begin that night.

    BTW - the war itself will largely follow the scenario I laid out last summer, and this is my last attempt at a predicting a start date. :-)

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    Condensed version

    The Washington Post is rightly skeptical about the Bush administration’s excuses for not offering estimates on the costs of a war, and continuing to push for a huge tax cut which will increase deficits according to White House projections.

    The Dayton Daily News says “Cool it!” to Rep. Tom Delay for his “appeasement” slur against anti-war Democrat Howard Dean, but inexplicably claims liberals have not used equivalent slurs against “hawks” - “No blood for oil!” anyone?

    The Detroit News has a “hopeful” piece on the prospects of peace in the Middle East.

    The Cincinnati Post has some harsh words for Vladimir Putin and his threatened Russian veto of the second Iraq resolution in the U.N.

    The Toledo Blade - reclaiming its title as one of America’s worst newspapers - criticizes the Patriot Act, claiming that if the British had similar laws at the time of the American Revolution, the original patriots might have been in danger of arrest - in fact, the British had far more stringent laws, and the original patriots were hunted and often arrested, because they were fostering a revolution against the government, even though we agree with their cause (p.s. - they didn’t typically use the blunt instrument of terrorism against civilians). Do the Blade’s editor’s possess a history book? I already knew they have no references on “logic.”

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