November 29, 2003


How surprising to find out last night that our President flew to the other side of the world to spend Thanksgiving with the troops in Iraq. How fitting, and how gallant.

The speech he delivered was brief, but deep. If I had to cast around to find another presidential speech to compare it with, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address would do. Lincoln's speech was just as packed with meaning yet far shorter and therefore better written, but Bush's Baghdad speech compares well against it.

For the second time since the Iraq war began, President Bush has risked his life to spend time with the troops. The first was the now maligned flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1st. That trip entailed a landing aboard a moving aircraft carrier, and though our Navy pilots who execute such landings are the best in the world, the fact remains that all carrier landings are amazingly dangerous things to do. Bush has never received proper credit for that risk, and the trip itself has become a political football. Landing in Baghdad, a war zone, even under the cover of darkness was a brave thing to do, and our President did it.

I'm sure his political enemies in the press and Democrat party will find something to gripe about, but the rest of us should ignore them. Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad was the right and honorable thing to do.

UPDATE: Yeah, I know, I said we should all just ignore the carpers. And I was doing a good job of it too, but then I came across this little gem over at Counterpunch--a parody that equates President Bush with Osama bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein, take your pick. It seems to me that the left simply has no sense of proportion, or of morality, if its idea rags can print things like this.

A tape today surfaced in U.S. media outlets of someone purporting to be George W. Bush at a U.S. military base in Baghdad.

Intelligence analysts around the world are studying the videotapes. "It certainly looked and sounded like him, but we get so few glimpses at Bush in real-life situations that it is hard to tell," said one operative from a Western intelligence agency.


While the quality of the tape was not poor, the alleged Bush did appear tired in portions of it, prompting speculation that he is on the run.

The man claiming to be Bush said: "We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost in casualties, defeat a brutal dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."

Analysts pointed out that given the ongoing nature of the Iraqi resistance since "the end of major combat operations," that comment could have been recorded anytime in the past six months.

Real nice. Maybe it's the inexplicably dark mood I'm in today, but I really think if these people ever get power again in this country, it's over. The war, basic freedom, the works, all gone.

Posted by B. Preston at 12:00 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 26, 2003


Has the blogosphere forgotten about al Qaeda? On Tuesday, Yemeni cops arrested Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, the Qaeda terrorist believed to have masterminded the USS Cole bombing, as well as the 2002 bombing of a French tanker. His arrest is major news--yet the 'sphere is silent.

Now, Yemeni cops are on the trail of one of Hamdi's close associates, Abu Ali al-Kandahari. Hamdi and Kandahari (that name superficially indicates Afghan origins...) are the top two Qaeda leaders in Yemen, a hotbed of terrorist networking, financing and other activity. Getting these two would be a big deal, possibly a crippling blow to al Qaeda operations in that part of the MidEast.

Terrorist leaders like Hamdi and Kandahari are important as planners and facilitators, people who make the top-level strategic decisions that lead to terror strikes carried out by local dupes. Presumably, both were trained either in the Sudanese or Afghan training camps, facilities that don't exist today thanks to bin Laden's expulsion from Sudan and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Without the camps, al Qaeda will have a difficult time replacing Hamdi and Kandahari. The next tier under them was probably trained in the camps but is less experienced, and if we take out that layer, we have in all likelihood reached the extent of the terrorists' depth chart. In fact, Kandahari is himself a second-stringer:

Al-Kandahari is believed to be hiding in the northern provinces of Marib and Jawf, and security forces are closing in on him, said officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

He is reported to have replaced Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi in the Yemeni al-Qaeda leadership after he was killed by a missile fired from a U.S. drone last year.

So Hamdi and Kandahari may have filled the last slots on the terror depth chart. Meanwhile, we're making new soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines every day, and we make the best troops in the world. As long as we keep the pressure on, keep the terrorists from regrouping and re-establishing bases to train new recruits, time is on our side (presuming that Iran or Syria haven't already agreed to host al Qaeda bases). But if we let down our guard anywhere and al Qaeda gets to hang out its shingle again, we'll probably have another 9-11 before long.

Posted by B. Preston at 02:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


...the JYB is back. Just in time to take a couple more days off.

Been busy lately, with family in town for a pre-Thanksgiving visit. We did lots of touristy things around Baltimore--the water taxis across the harbor, to Ft. McHenry (birthplace of the National Anthem), to various and sundry local things and sites.

Note--if you plan on seeing Master and Commander (and you should), go see an old ship first. That's what we did, in an impromptu visit to the USS Constellation that was so perfectly timed TMQ should work out the probabilities. The Constellation is moored in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. It's an 1854-vintage sloop of war, parlance of the time for a destroyer, roughly the same size as the HMS Surprise in the film. Without planning it, we arrived at the very moment the Constellation's gunnery expert was prepping to fire an 8-inch cannon from the main deck. After watching that, we toured the lower decks and then returned to the main for the striking of the colors (that's when they pull the flags down). From these two ceremonies and the tour of the decks below, we were primed for Master and Commander, which is a great film both for the cinematography and historical accuracy. Storywise it keeps you guessing, mostly about who'll be the next poor sap to catch a cannonball. Don't go see it expecting weighty philosophy, though there is a smattering of that here and there--just go see it for the battles, for the ship life and for the fun of rooting against the French.

During the visit I mostly ignored the news and politics. Sometimes you need to just step away from the keyboard, lose the desire to blog every last thing and just exist.

Did watch some football, though, and managed to catch most of the Dallas win over Carolina. Now that they're guaranteed at least a .500 season and have beaten at least one solid team, the Dallas Cowboys are officially back.

And so are we. Now I just need something to write about.

MORE: I found something to write about! During the brief blog vacation, I mostly ignored the news and politics, but did stumble accidentally across a snippet of the Democrat presidential debate. Might have been the actual debate, might have been a cut from it, I don't remember. But what I saw typified what's wrong with politics, Washington, the whole deal.

It was an exchange between Kerry and Dean. Kerry seems to have gone into Rock-em-Sock-em Robot mode, just wildly throwing punch after punch at Dean hoping to land something, anything, that could damage him enough to let others like himself get back into the race. Kerry's missing the big picture here, which is that issues don't seem to mean much in the Dems' race right now. It's all about image and about who looks like they can beat Bush. Evertything else, like, for instance, a candidate's stance on the war, is secondary to the one overriding principle of electability. Thus Clark can flip around on the war from for to against to maybe to maybe not and stay within the top tier of candidates. It's not about his or anyone's stance per se, it's just mostly the Anyone But Bush issue driving things. That will change as the primaries get closer. But Kerry is looking more and more like the combative 2000 debate-model Al Gore, and this year that model won't work. He's up against a far more charismatic speaker in Dean, and should he fool around and beat Dean he'll find himself up against an incumbent who, say what you will about Bush, everyone knows where he stands on the war. Outside lefty moonbat land, Bush is seen as mostly trustworthy and an able wartime leader, even by people who disagree with him on specific issues. Rock-Em-Sock-Em Kerry the policy wonk will have a hard time beating Bush, if he even gets past Dean.

Anyway, in the clip Kerry peppered Dean with a series of questions about one thing--growth in Medicare. Kerry tried to pin Dean down as to whether as president he'd slow down the growth in Medicare spending. Dean tried several ways to wriggle around the question without just giving a yea or nay--Mickey Kaus has commented on the exchange here, complete with a few lines from it. But he edited it too soon, because Kerry's next line was something like "Because slowing the growth is a cut."

Which is a lie.

We've all seen the stats--Medicare is going to bankrupt the country if we don't fix it (or scrap it, privatize it, whatever). Slowing the growth in spending is not only not a cut, it's probably the only way to keep Medicare going in the long term (if that's what you want to do). But in Washington-speak, if you slow down the growth in some budgetary item, you're "cutting" it. Kerry is obviously used to spending other peoples' money--yours, mine, his rich wives', etc--because to people who spend their own money, slowing growth in some spending item isn't a cut. It's just a commonsense way to deal with a difficult budget, one that will bloom in the next few decades as baby boomers start to retire and reap the prescription drug benefit they just got passed but did not pay for while they were working. My generation gets to pay for it, and so will my kid's generation. But the boomers get to use it, and possibly break the system in the process. Thanks a lot, baby boomers. That generation tends to wreck whatever society had built up before its arrival.

As for Kerry, he ultimately lost the exchange with Dean anyway. Dean got off a funny line about controlling the growth of the debate, seemed unruffled and generally confident, and stated flatly that he wouldn't cut Medicare. Kerry just seemed like a pest.

Posted by B. Preston at 11:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack