Posts

Showing posts from February, 2005
Walls crumble in Arab world

Mark Steyn:

Three years ago - April 6 2002, if you want to rummage through the old Spectators in the attic - I wrote: "The stability junkies in the EU, UN and elsewhere have, as usual, missed the point. The Middle East is too stable. So, if you had to pick only one regime to topple, why not Iraq? Once you've got rid of the ruling gang, it's the West's best shot at incubating a reasonably non-insane polity. That's why the unravelling of the Middle East has to start not in the West Bank but in Baghdad."

...

Three years ago, those of us in favour of destabilising the Middle East didn't have to be far-sighted geniuses: it was a win/win proposition. As Sam Goldwyn said, I'm sick of the old clichés, bring me some new clichés. The old clichés - Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Islamism, Arafatism - brought us the sewer that led to September 11. The new clichés could hardly be worse. Even if the old thug-for-life had merely been replaced by a ne…
Israel says it will present evidence of Syrian involvement in latest attack

Jerusalem Post:

...

Delegations from the Israeli defense establishment embarked Monday to Washington, Paris and London, in order to present intelligence information which Israel has collected against Syria revealing its role in the deadly bombing in Tel Aviv Friday night, which killed five people. Israel said Sunday that it would use intelligence information to prove Syria was behind Friday night's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet Sunday.
...
Sharon's associates said the goal of releasing the information is to pressure the Syrians ahead of Tuesday's summit on building the Palestinian Authority in London. Foreign Ministry officials said they hope the Security Council will condemn the attack and perhaps even censure Syria on Monday. "We have intelligence information that the orders came from the Islamic Jihad in Syria,"…
Dems need treatment to deal with good news for US

Noemie Emery:

WITH THINGS LOOKING UP for a change, this has been a rough patch of time for the Democrats. They have been suffering from Election Shock Treatment; which means the success of the Iraqi elections has shocked them into the realization that they may have to seek treatment, because of the trauma induced by the growing suspicion that President Bush has been right all along: right in the decision to go into Iraq; right in the decision to hang tough in Palestine; right in the belief that Muslims and Arabs may also want freedom; that elections there can be held, and succeed. But even before this last "bad" (read, good) news, things had turned grim for the quagmire addicts, with the terrible realization that events elsewhere had not taken a turn for the worse....


Read it all.
Bin Laden tells Zarqawi to attack inside US

Fox News:

Recent communications between Usama bin Laden (search) and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) indicate that bin Laden has "encouraged Zarqawi and his group to focus on attacks inside the United States," multiple U.S. officials told FOX News on Monday.The sources would not get into detail about how the communication was made or how it was intercepted by the United States. They also said that there is nothing specific in the message, such as maps or references to particular cities or buildings. Rather, the communication simply encourages a "focus" on attacks inside U.S. borders, sources said.Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda (search) in Iraq and believed to be the inspiration of the ongoing bombings, beheadings and attacks on Iraqi and American forces, pledged his alliance to bin Laden last year and changed the name of his group in Iraq to reflect his ties to Al Qaeda. Iraqi officials said they expect to take Zarqawi soon;…
Pro Syrian Lebanese government resigns after demonstrations

AP:

With shouts of "Syria out!," more than 25,000 flag-waving protesters massed outside Parliament on Monday in a dramatic display of defiance that forced the resignation of Lebanon's prime minister and Cabinet two weeks after the assassination of an opposition leader.Cheering broke out among the demonstrators in Martyrs' Square when they heard Prime Minister Omar Karami's announcement on loudspeakers that the government was stepping down. Throughout the day, protesters handed out red roses to soldiers and police."It is the first victory, but it will not be the last," opposition leader and former information minister Ghazi al-Areedh told the crowd in a scene broadcast live around the Arab world.Freedom marches on.
The little girl with the beaney baby who saved a Marine convoy

Tim Chavez:

The little Iraqi girl would not move from the road where she sat.She kept clutching the white Beanie Baby bear she had received only weeks earlier from a U.S. Marine. Now, a Marine convoy approached.Here's how Gunnery Sgt. Mark Francis of the II Marine Expeditionary Force described what happened next:''Our lead security vehicle stopped in the middle of the street. This is not normal and is very unsafe, so the following vehicles began to inquire over the radio. The lead vehicle reported a little girl sitting in the road and said she just would not budge.''The command vehicle told the lead to simply go around her and to be kind as they did. The street was wide enough to allow this maneuver and so they waved to her as they drove around.''As the vehicles went around her, one of the Marines soon saw her sitting there, and in her arms she was clutching a little bear that he had handed her a …
Dean's "good" not good enough in Kansas

Mickey Kaus:

The Matter With Kansas (Dems): From the Lawrence Journal-World account of DNC chair Howard Dean's visit to Kansas:"This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."--Howard Dean"I feel like he could have gone even stronger with his language."--Katherine Dessert, a student and preschool teacher in the audience. P.S.: Does Dean now come with such built-in expectations in the Righteous Anti-GOP Fury department that he inevitably fails to meet them, with the result that he is actually unable to rally the hard-core faithful he supposedly had the unique ability to rally? ...This explains a lot about why the Democrats are so ineffective at arguing political points with Republicans. If you view your opponent as evil, you do not have to listen to his argument. You just demonize. The second quote, suggest there is a hunger among some Democrats for greater demonization. The death spiral of th…
The Austin Bay v Mark Steyn smackdown continues:

...

I recall a discussion I had with a Syrian Arab. We were in a language school together in Germany in the early 1980s. The first two months we were together he came on hard with the Arab anger and Mulism militant act. He hated Americans and he hated “Jews” (Israelis). He bullied the other Americans at the school with this moral castigation hustle, but I flat told him to stuff it. If he hated Americans, well, I’m a Texan, get over it. That perfect wisecrack puzzled him for 24 hours and once he figured out I was playing Texas cowboy in response to his angry Arab, it amused him. This fellow was also smart and witty and both of us enjoyed making puns in German (we were both in an intermediate class, didn’t speak it well, but what German we did speak we both played with). He also liked jazz and hung around when I played piano (blues and bop, mostly). I got the facts by osmosis: he had had family jailed by Assad, but in Syria who hadn’t? His …
Transitions in mideast

Jackson Diehl:

As thousands of Arabs demonstrated for freedom and democracy in Beirut and Cairo last week, and the desperate dictators of Syria and Egypt squirmed under domestic and international pressure, it was hard not to wonder whether the regional transformation that the Bush administration hoped would be touched off by its invasion of Iraq is, however tentatively, beginning to happen.Those who have declared the war an irretrievable catastrophe have been gloating for at least a year over the supposed puncturing of what they portray as President Bush's fanciful illusion that democracy would take root in Iraq and spread through the region. They may yet be proved right. But how, then, to explain the tens of thousands who marched through Beirut last Monday carrying red and white roses and scarves -- the colors of what they call the "independence intifada" -- and calling for "freedom, independence and sovereignty" from neighboring Syria? O…
10,000 get through government cordon to protest in Lebanon

AP via Washington Post:

Defying a ban on protests, about 10,000 people demonstrated against Syrian interference in Lebanon on Monday, as opposition lawmakers sought to bring down the pro-Damascus government two weeks after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hundreds of soldiers and police blocked off Beirut's central Martyrs' Square, but there was no violence, even as more and more protesters managed to evade the cordon and join the demonstration.
Protest leaders urged their followers not to provoke the security forces, who refrained from trying to disperse the crowd. Opposition legislators sought to bring down the pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Omar Karami in Monday's confidence debate. It was the first time the legislature discussed the Feb. 14 assassination of Hariri, who was killed with 16 other people in a massive bomb blast. "The assembly seeks answers to one question…
Protesters in Lebanon challenge pro Syrian government

Reuters:

Thousands of demonstrators massed in central Beirut overnight to defy a government ban on protests on Monday ahead of a fiery debate in parliament over the assassination of the country's former prime minister. Opposition groups have called a demonstration at central Martyrs Square and a one-day strike to coincide with the debate on Rafik al-Hariri's killing on Feb. 14 that for many recalled Lebanon's bitter 1975-90 civil war. Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh called on security forces in a statement on Sunday "to take all necessary steps to preserve security and order and prevent demonstrations and gatherings on Monday." The Syrian-backed government's protest ban is due to come into effect at 5 a.m. (0300 GMT). Late on Sunday, soldiers manning barriers set up in central Beirut stopped hundreds of protesters from entering Martyrs Square, which is near Hariri's grave. Thousands of de…
Recruiting injured veterans

Washington Post:

Army Capt. Lonnie Moore lost his right leg and -- he thought -- his career last April when his convoy was ambushed on the road to Ramadi, in central Iraq. The injury led to some dark days in Walter Reed Army Medical Center as Moore, 29, began his recuperation and contemplated life outside the military. Within months, however, he had received job offers from a munitions company, an information technology firm, and the Department of Veterans Affairs itself. And that's without sending out a résumé.
"People tend to seek us out," Moore said of the veterans, particularly those who have been injured, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. "They know we'll be an asset to their companies, and that we're not going to let our injuries stand in the way. . . . Everybody I've known that's gotten out, they're not having a hard time finding jobs."Through broad initiatives and individual requests, corporations have bee…
Monday showdown in Lebanon

CNN:

Lebanon's interior ministry on Sunday ordered troops to "use all necessary means" to prevent demonstrations Monday against Syria's military deployment, but protesters vowed to hold them anyway.The demonstrations are to center on whether Syria played a role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the capital on February 14.Since then, thousands of demonstrators have peacefully protested Syria's military presence in Lebanon.Monday's demonstrations were expected to be massive: Lebanon's pro-Syria government faces a possible vote of no confidence Monday. In advance of that parliamentary action, tens of thousands of Lebanese were hoping to take to the streets.
Syrian sanctuary no more for Saddam's brother and 29 others

AP:

Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syrian authorities had captured Saddam Hussein's half-brother and 29 other officials of the deposed dictator's Baath Party in Syria and handed them over to Iraq in an apparent goodwill gesture.The arrests dealt a blow to an insurgency that some Iraqi officials claim Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan was helping organize and fund from Syria. The U.S. military said two American soldiers were killed Sunday in an ambush in the capital.Al-Hassan, a former Saddam adviser, was captured in Hasakah in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border, two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press by telephone on condition of anonymity. Hasakah is about 30 miles from Iraq.They added that al-Hassan was captured and handed over to Iraqi authorities along with 29 other members of Saddam's collapsed Baath Party, whose Syrian branch has been in power in Damascus since 1963.
...
"The capture appeare…
Saddam's half brother and terrorist leader captured

Washington Post:

Saddam Hussein's half-brother, who once served as the former Iraqi leader's intelligence chief, has been captured by U.S.-led coalition forces and will be turned over to the Iraqi government, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Iraq said Sunday. No further details were given on the arrest of Sabawi Ibrahim Hasan Tikriti.
Once a close confidant of Hussein, Tikriti has been accused by Iraqi officials of being a major organizer of the violent insurgency plaguing Iraq since Hussein was toppled in early 2003.In a statement, the Iraqi government said that Tikriti "contributed effectively in planning, supervising and carrying out many terrorist acts inside Iraq." This guy appears to have been responsible for terror operations before and after Saddam was overthrown. He is a great example why those who suggested there was no terror in Iraq before the war are wrong. Before the war socialist Ira…
Putin must not have seen this story when he said Iran not interested in nuclear bomb

Washington Post:

International investigators have uncovered evidence of a secret meeting 18 years ago between Iranian officials and associates of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that resulted in a written offer to supply Tehran with the makings of a nuclear weapons program, foreign diplomats and U.S. officials familiar with the new findings said. The meeting, believed to have taken place in a dusty Dubai office in 1987, kick-started Tehran's nuclear efforts and Khan's black market. Iran, which was at war with Iraq then, bought centrifuge designs and a starter kit for uranium enrichment. But Tehran recently told the International Atomic Energy Agency that it turned down the chance to buy the more sensitive equipment required for building the core of a bomb.
There is evidence, however, that Iran used the offer as a buyer's guide, acquiring some of the pricier items elsewhere, officials s…
Rooting for failure

Norm Geras:

In the March issue of Prospect magazine Bartle Bull, who has reported on Iraq for the New York Times, wonders whether the big media were hoping for the failure of the election in Iraq. He writes (subscription required): There is a fine defiance here. In one incident I did not see but that has been widely reported, a Baghdad policeman spotted a suicide bomber outside a polling station and dragged him away from the crowd before the bomber detonated his belt, killing them both. The queues rose tenfold as the story of the policeman's martyrdom spread. Iraq is not about America any more. This has been increasingly true every day since last June, and the failure - or refusal - to recognise this has underpinned much of the misleading coverage of Iraq. In the evenings leading up to the election, I sat on carpets on the floors of a variety of shabby houses in the Baghdad slums. But the daily BBC message I watched with my various Iraqi hosts never budged. Th…
The Iraqi Darwin Awards

Jack Kelly:

Lt. Col. Jim Stockmoe, chief intelligence officer for the First Infantry Division, roared with laughter as he recalled the increasing missteps of the resistance in Iraq in an interview earlier this month with British journalist Toby Harnden, writing for The Spectator.

"There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone," Stockmoe said. "They were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off." The surviving brother sought refuge in a nearby house, but the occupants "beat the crap out of him and turned him over to the Iraqi police," Stockmoe told Harnden, "It was like the movie 'Dumb and Dumber.' " "The nine election day suicide bombers averaged about three victims each, a strike rate so bad that Allah might soon start rati…
Watching the Euros fail

Mark Steyn:

A week ago, the conventional wisdom was that George W. Bush had seen the error of his unilateral cowboy ways and was setting off to Europe to mend fences with America's ''allies.''I think not. Lester Pearson, the late Canadian prime minister, used to say that diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way. All week long President Bush offered a hilariously parodic reductio of Pearson's bon mot, wandering from one European Union gabfest to another insisting how much he loves his good buddy Jacques and his good buddy Gerhard and how Europe and America share -- what's the standard formulation? -- ''common values.'' Care to pin down an actual specific value or two that we share? Well, you know, ''freedom,'' that sort of thing, abstract nouns mostly....

...

Even more remarkably, aside from sticking to his guns in the wider world, the president also found time to cast his eye upon Eur…
The Euro comparison

Victor Davis Hanson:

Recent books have raved that the European Union is the way of the future. In contrast, a supposedly exhausted, broke and postimperial United States chases the terrorist chimera, running up debts and deficits as it tilts at the autocratic windmills of the Arab World.That caricature framed the visit of the president to Europe as trans-Atlantic pundits demanded a softer George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. Stop the childish bickering and the tiresome neocon preening, we are lectured ad nauseam by Euro and American elites. Don't divide Europe, we hear endlessly. Even though the European press, EU leaders, and their wild public have dealt out far more invective than they have received, American circumspection is the order of the day, the expected magnanimity from the more aggressive (and stronger) partner.Europe is huffy, but strangely tentative in its new prickliness. Short-term positive indicators--trade surpluses, the strong euro,…
Comparative economics

Alan Greenspan:

...

The East-West divisions following World War II engendered an unintended four-decade-long experiment in comparative economic systems--Smith versus Marx, so to speak. The results, evident with the dismantling of the Iron Curtain, were unequivocally in favor of market economies. The consequences were far-reaching. The long-standing debate between the virtues of economies organized around free markets and those governed by central planning came to an end. There was no eulogy for central planning; it just ceased to be mentioned, leaving the principles of Adam Smith and his followers, revised only in the details, as the seemingly sole remaining effective paradigm for economic organization. A large majority of developing nations quietly shifted to more market-oriented economies.But even earlier in the postwar decades, distortions induced by regulation were viewed as more and more disturbing in the developed world. Starting in the 1970s, American Preside…
A Marine hero in Falluja

DesMoines Register:

During the urban house-to-house battle for the Iraqi insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, 1st Sgt. Brad Kasal, a former Iowa high school wrestler and linebacker, learned three fellow Marines were wounded inside an enemy-controlled house.

"The insurgents would kill them, or worse - torture them and then kill them, so time was essential," Kasal said. "So I gathered up a bunch of young Marines and tried to enter the building to rescue them."

Kasal, 38, was shot seven times after leading his men into the house, and he suffered more than 40 shrapnel wounds after he bear-hugged a wounded Marine inside to protect him from a grenade explosion. He killed one enemy fighter in an exchange of rifle fire at point-blank range. One Marine died in the Nov. 13 rescue mission, but the other Americans came out alive.

...

Killed in the assault was Marine Sgt. Byron Norwood, 25, of Pflugerville, Texas.
Sgt. Norwoods parents where with Laura Bush durin…
Damascus based group takes responsibility for Tel Aviv attack

Washington Post:

Palestinian and Israeli security forces arrested seven Palestinians Saturday in connection with the deadly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv the night before, while the radical Islamic Jihad leadership in Syria asserted responsibility for the attack, saying that it had only agreed to a one month period of calm, which had expired. Among those arrested were two of the bomber's brothers and the man who allegedly drove the bomber to the popular Tel Aviv night club where he detonated his explosives, killing himself and four others and wounding about 50 people. Most of the casualties were young Israelis waiting in line to enter the club, a karaoke singing bar called the Stage
Confusion reigned for much of the day as both Israeli and Palestinian officials accused Hezbollah, a radical Shiite group in Lebanon, of being behind Friday's attack. But Saturday night, the Islamic Jihad leadership in Damascus claimed…
Misplaced outrage in Muslim community over man charged with threats to President

NY Times:

When the Saudi police burst into a classroom at the Islamic University of Medina during final exams two years ago and whisked away an American exchange student named Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, his imprisonment swiftly reverberated through the among Muslims in this Washington suburb.

Mr. Abu Ali was never charged, and he spent 20 months in a Saudi prison where his family says he was whipped, tortured and starved. This week, he was finally returned to Virginia - only to face an accusation by American prosecutors that he had plotted with members of Al Qaeda to assassinate President Bush.The charge has outraged members of Northern Virginia's growing Muslim population and escalated a conflict with federal law enforcement authorities over terrorism investigations into religious leaders, mosques, businesses and private Islamic schools in the region."Our whole community is under siege," said Imam Jo…
A 9-11 Republican

Cinnamon Stillwell:

As one of a handful of Bay Area conservative columnists, I'm no stranger to pushing buttons. Indeed, I welcome feedback from readers, whether positive or negative. I find the interplay stimulating, but I am often bemused by the stereotypical assumptions made by my critics on the left. It's not enough to simply disagree with my views; I have to be twisted into a conservative caricature that apparently makes opponents feel superior. They seem not to have considered that it's possible to put forward different approaches to various societal problems and not be the devil incarnate. But in some ways I understand where this perspective comes from, because I once shared it. I was raised in liberal Marin County, and my first name (which garners more comments than anything else) is a direct product of the hippie generation. Growing up, I bought into the prevailing liberal wisdom of my surroundings because I didn't know anything else. I wrote o…
Democracy on the march in Egypt

AP via NY Times:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday ordered a revision of the country's election laws and said multiple candidates could run in the nation's presidential elections, a scenario Mubarak hasn't faced since taking power in 1981. The surprise announcement, a response to critics' calls for political reform, comes shortly after historic elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, balloting that brought a taste of democracy to the region. It also comes amid a sharp dispute with the United States over Egypt's arrest of one of the strongest proponents of multi-candidate elections.
``The election of a president will be through direct, secret balloting, giving the chance for political parties to run for the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate for the people to choose among them with their own will,'' Mubarak said in an address broadcast live on Egyptian televi…
The "Draft Condi" movement

Julie Mason, Houston Chronicle:

They call themselves "Condistas," and they are writing songs, selling bumper stickers and buying radio ads in Iowa touting their preferred 2008 Republican presidential nominee. So far, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, last seen in Germany wearing a striking black coat-and-boots ensemble reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, has expressed no interest in elective office. Her enthusiastic supporters hope a draft movement will convince her."We ordered close to 200 T-shirts, and they are gone," said Richard Mason, the Miami physician behind the Web site, AmericansforRice.com. "I wondered if I was ordering too many, if 2008 would come and I would be stuck with 100 Condi T-shirts, all in sizes that don't fit me."
...
"I think, in their heart of hearts, most political junkies are just pining for a Hillary-Condi matchup," said Jim McGrath, a Houston communications consultant…
The "Draft Condi" movement

Julie Mason, Houston Chronicle:

They call themselves "Condistas," and they are writing songs, selling bumper stickers and buying radio ads in Iowa touting their preferred 2008 Republican presidential nominee. So far, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, last seen in Germany wearing a striking black coat-and-boots ensemble reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, has expressed no interest in elective office. Her enthusiastic supporters hope a draft movement will convince her."We ordered close to 200 T-shirts, and they are gone," said Richard Mason, the Miami physician behind the Web site, AmericansforRice.com. "I wondered if I was ordering too many, if 2008 would come and I would be stuck with 100 Condi T-shirts, all in sizes that don't fit me."
...
"I think, in their heart of hearts, most political junkies are just pining for a Hillary-Condi matchup," said Jim McGrath, a Houston communications consultant…
The "Draft Condi" movement

Julie Mason, Houston Chronicle:

They call themselves "Condistas," and they are writing songs, selling bumper stickers and buying radio ads in Iowa touting their preferred 2008 Republican presidential nominee. So far, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, last seen in Germany wearing a striking black coat-and-boots ensemble reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, has expressed no interest in elective office. Her enthusiastic supporters hope a draft movement will convince her."We ordered close to 200 T-shirts, and they are gone," said Richard Mason, the Miami physician behind the Web site, AmericansforRice.com. "I wondered if I was ordering too many, if 2008 would come and I would be stuck with 100 Condi T-shirts, all in sizes that don't fit me."
...
"I think, in their heart of hearts, most political junkies are just pining for a Hillary-Condi matchup," said Jim McGrath, a Houston communications consultant…
The unicycle of violence hist Tel Aviv

AP:

A Palestinian suicide bomber carrying 20 pounds of explosives blew himself up in a crowd of young Israelis waiting outside a nightclub near Tel Aviv's beachfront promenade just before midnight Friday, killing at least four other people, wounding dozens and shattering an informal Mideast truce.A senior commander of a Palestinian militant group, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran and has been trying to disrupt the cease-fire, hired a Palestinian from the northern West Bank to carry out the bombing. Palestinian security officials also implicated Hezbollah.A Hezbollah official in Beirut denied involvement: "As far as we are concerned, there is no need to respond to such lies."Israeli officials indicated that the attack would not derail the tentative peace efforts. But the bombing put new pressure on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to take action against militants w…
Chavez looks to relace Soviet Union as financial supporter of a failed system

Reuters via CNN:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday embraced socialism as his ideology of choice in a political statement that sharpened his antagonism against the United States.Chavez, a firebrand nationalist who has governed the world's No. 5 oil exporter for six years, has persistently declined to define the precise ideology of his self-styled "revolution."But, addressing an international meeting on poverty in Caracas, he said Western-style capitalism was incapable of solving global economic and social problems."So, if not capitalism, then what? I have no doubt, it's socialism," said Chavez, who also rebuffed U.S. criticism of his left-wing rule in Venezuela and denounced U.S. President George W. Bush as the "great destabilizer of the world."Since coming to power, he has irritated Washington by developing alliances with China, Russia and Iran and flaunting a cl…
Alleged al Qaeda head chopper captured in Iraq

AP via ABC News:

Iraqi forces captured the leader of an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist cell allegedly responsible for carrying out a string of beheadings in Iraq, the government said, and 30 people were killed in a string of bloody attacks, among them three American soldiers. Also Monday, the Iraqi government said that Iraqi forces had captured a key aide to Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who leads an insurgency affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. The man, identified as Talib Mikhlif Arsan Walman al-Dulaymi, also known as Abu Qutaybah, was captured during a Feb. 20 raid in Anah, about 160 miles northwest of Baghdad, a government announcement said.
"Abu Qutaybah was responsible for determining who, when and how terrorist network leaders would meet with al-Zarqawi," the government said.
Screening test for 4 1/2 year old

Lileks:

...

This morning I took Gnat to get screened for school. It’s mandatory. They test the eyes and ears, put the kid through a battery of tests designed to test all sorts of skills. Fill in the blank, name opposites, identify adjectives, repeat patterns, find rhymes, identify alliterations, reconcile Social Security expenditures with income in the out years, etc. The building where the tests were held were in a “changing” neighborhood – inner-city Chicago avenue, which has been down so long most of the gentrifying influences of the 80s and 90s passed it by completely. It looks oddly timeless in its crummy decreptitude.

We were buzzed inside an early 60s institutional building – one of those low-slung windowless bunkers that used to say Progress! And Modernity! Here our children will learn to confront and vanquish Sputnik! It’s a confusing place – no front desk, just a few signs taped on the wall, hallways branching off in peculiar directions. We foun…
Syria to reduce boots on the ground in Lebanon

Scrappleface parody:

In response to international pressure, Syria again announced today that it would begin to comply with the 1989 Arab-brokered Taif accord, this time by reducing Syrian military "boots on the ground" in Lebanon by 50 percent. "Starting today, our troops stationed in Lebanon will never have more than one boot on the ground at a time," said Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem. "This will be an inconvenience to our men, who must now hop rather than march, but it effectively reduces our Lebanese footprint by 50 percent."
...
Reid to throw GOP into briar patch

Hugh Hewitt:

"The Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, has said that if the Republicans made good on their threat and ruled filibusters out of order, he would see to it that Senate business came to a halt."Reid's threat to "go Gingrich" is the greatest gift a Democrat has given the Republicans in many year. Shutting down the government, Harry? Because you don't want majority voting on judicial nominees. Yes, that will work very well with the public.Arlen Specter clearly hopes to entice the Dems into some face-saving back-downs on previous judicial filibusters, but shortly after Specter …
Yes! A "GATE" free zone

Austin Bay:

Roger L. Simon dropped me a note recently. He hates “the Gates.” No, I don’t mean Cristo in Central Park. Roger objects to EasonGate. RatherGate, ContraGate, FosterGate, MonicaGate, GannonGate. The last sylllable of “Watergate” signals scandal –but it’s become a bore, a cheap motif. Time to close the floodgate and end GateGate. If Berkeley, CA and Takoma Park, MD can declare themselves “nuclear free zones,” this blog can declare itself a “Gate-free zone.”Join the Movement. Become “A GATE free zone” (or at least a GATE free web blog or publication).Besides, I think “The Eason Jordan Affair” has an Eric Ambler ring to it. And “The Monica Affair” is also a much more accurate description. Two of the best writers with blogs have a point.
Bad news for Dems

Reuters:

The U.S. economy grew at a 3.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the government reported Friday, much stronger than previously estimated due to a stronger trade and investment performance. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economy, grew at the revised rate in the quarter rather than the 3.1 percent rate reported a month ago. That was slightly stronger than the 3.7 percent rate that Wall Street economists had forecast and only a small decline from the third quarter's 4 percent pace. Nearly half the revision stemmed from a stronger trade performance, reflecting more robust exports than previously thought.
Chavez is underwriting a communist resurgence in South and Central America

Oliver North:

Now for the bad news. Two weeks ago, the mainstream media were chasing after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her whirlwind debutante tour of Europe, commenting on her elegant ensembles and disarming smile. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was accusing the United States of trying to assassinate him. This week, the potentates of the press were mused over President Bush's efforts to melt the iciest of 'Old European' hearts. But within four hours of Florida, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega -- still the head of the communist-inspired Sandinista Party -- was endorsing Chavez' call for the creation of a "Bolivarian Army" -- comprised of soldiers from "like minded nations" throughout Latin America. Such an armed force would "protect these countries" from "U.S. imperialism."

Compared to Russia's intent to supply the rad…
Looking for a good cowboy

Austin Bay:

Chalk it up as a second VE Day (Victory in Europe), and credit President Bush for following Winston Churchill's wise counsel: "In victory: magnanimity."
Mr. Bush's low-key shellacking of France's crook in chief, Jacques Chirac, signals the political defeat of "Old Europe" on the issue of Iraq. On Monday, before a state dinner in Belgium, a reporter asked Mr. Bush if he would invite Mr. Chirac to his Texas ranch. Mr. Bush quipped, "I'm looking for a good cowboy."
Remember, "cowboy" is Euro-snob code for "pathological American suffering from hyper-power and gigantisme militaire."
Mr. Chirac responded by praising the excellence of U.S.-French relations.
Yes indeed, my Parisian pod-nuh, we're all cowboys now -- "High Noon" cowboys dedicated to defending justice and freedom.
With a 10-gallon grin, Mr. Chirac's "Western front" -- a politic…
Combined action with Iraqi commandos

David Ignatius:

Let's call it the "Adnan and Jim Strategy." These two soldiers exemplify the new U.S. plan to stabilize Iraq by training Iraqi security forces and embedding U.S. combat advisers with them. If their success can be multiplied many times over, then the Iraqi government should, over time, be able to contain the insurgency. But that's a big "if." Adnan is Gen. Adnan Thabit, the leader of the Special Police Commandos. He's a big man, dressed in a black leather jacket, sporting a diamond pinkie ring and a mustache even Saddam Hussein would envy. Barking out orders at his headquarters in a bombed-out Republican Guard barracks in western Baghdad, he looks almost like a Mafia don.
Gen. Adnan, as he's known, commands a force of about 10,000 men. He formed the commandos last summer, when security here was spinning out of control, at the urging of his nephew, the current Iraqi minister of the interior. He ha…
Canada to continue to free ride on defense

Washington Post:

Canada announced Thursday that it has decided not to participate in a U.S. missile defense system, dealing a symbolic setback to the experimental project and a blunt rebuff to President Bush, who had personally lobbied Canada to join. The decision by Prime Minister Paul Martin, who had earlier signaled he favored signing on to the system, was an acknowledgment of the deep dislike Canadians feel both for President Bush and his administration's project to shoot down missiles headed toward the United States.
"We will continue to work in partnership with our southern neighbors on the common defense of North America," Martin said. "However, ballistic missile defense is not where we will concentrate our efforts." It is hard to say where the Canadians will concentrate their efforts. At this point the Texas National Guard is probably more potent, and is certainly making more of a contribution to defendin…
Analyzing the Secretary of State's state of dress

Washington Post:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield on Wednesday dressed all in black. She was wearing a black skirt that hit just above the knee, and it was topped with a black coat that fell to mid-calf. The coat, with its seven gold buttons running down the front and its band collar, called to mind a Marine's dress uniform or the "save humanity" ensemble worn by Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix." As Rice walked out to greet the troops, the coat blew open in a rather swashbuckling way to reveal the top of a pair of knee-high boots. The boots had a high, slender heel that is not particularly practical. But it is a popular silhouette because it tends to elongate and flatter the leg. In short, the boots are sexy.
Rice boldly eschewed the typical fare chosen by powerful American women on the world stage. She was not wearing a bland suit with a loose-fitting skirt and short boxy …
Euro media unfair to Bush

Bill Sammon:

The prime minister of Slovakia yesterday blamed the media for unfairly turning the European public against President Bush by negatively slanting coverage on Iraq.
After meeting with Mr. Bush twice in less than a week, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told reporters that the president also blamed the press for portraying him as eager to invade Iran to eradicate its nuclear program.

...

The prime minister was reminded that while the governments of Central and Eastern Europe supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, the populace was much more skeptical, according to polls.
Mr. Dzurinda responded by telling the journalists, including one from CNN, that he was "shocked" to see media outlets like CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) showing "only American soldiers killing people. But nobody was able to show Saddam Hussein, who killed many, many thousands of Iraqi people."
"It was impossible to see a real picture of…