Friday, March 28, 2003

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?™: Associated Press reporter Naomi Koppel writes:

GENEVA (AP)—More than half a million traumatized Iraqi children could need psychological counseling by the time the war ends, the U.N. Children's Fund representative in Iraq said Friday.

"There are 5.7 million primary school age children in Iraq, and we estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of those would need support," said Carel de Rooy. He cited the case of an Iraqi colleague, whose 9-year-old son became hysterical and had to be sedated after a missile fell close to their home.

Missing from this report was a statistic describing the estimated number of Iraqi children who would likely be traumatized by an emboldened Saddam being allowed to continue his reign of terror for another twenty years by a complacent United Nations bureacracy — or, for that matter, the estimated number of Iraqi adults who would opt to for the comforting familiarity of the status quo over the trauma of liberation and freedom.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Late this evening, I'm hearing this information fourth-hand with no further details yet, but here's what we've got right now:

WABC's Batchelor & Alexander radio program is reporting that Fox New's infocrawl is reporting that the Iraqi resistance has been given the order to use chemical weapons against our troops as they approach Baghdad.

Our troops expected this. They trained for it. They're prepared and well-equipped to get through this crisis, hopefully with extremely light casualities.

The greater potential tragedy is that the Iraqi civilian population is wholly unprepared and — as far as Saddam's generals are concerned — inconveniently in the way. This last desperate strategy will only add to the enormous death toll that Saddam has already caused among his own people.

And yet, ironically, if chemical weapons do come into play, there will be a a number of unintended positive consequences:

• France's Chirac has already laid the groundwork for an astonishing feat of acrobatic backflipping, having suggested that he would belatedly support an 18th United Nations Resolution against Iraq if the regime does unleash any sort of WMD's — completely missing the whole point of this exercise, which was to pre-empt their use. If he does fulfill this promise to join the coalition in the last minute of the last hour of the last day of the war, Chirac will be finally, fully discredited as an international joke, and the French will have to seriously reconsider which side of their croissants they'd prefer to have buttered.

• Meanwhile, Putin will clumsily attempt to put Russia back on the right side of history, but Germany's Schroeder will have little choice but to start planning his retirement. The EU's position as a counterweight to American interests will be delayed indefinitely. And that sinkhole of Third World thugs and bureaucrats, the United Nations General Assembly, will be permanently marginalized (if not mortally wounded).

• As a bonus, the abject fraud of Hans Blix's inspection racket having been laid bare, no similar delaying tactic will be given any serious consideration when it comes time to deal with North Korea.

• And while the core organizers of the so-called "anti-war" movement — which still hasn't given up hope of sending Eugene McCarthy to the White House in 1968 — may never reexamine the basic tenets of their core ideology, perhaps some of their fringe-followers will drop their placards as they come to the stark realization that war is not always the greater of any two evils, and that some moral principles are worth fighting for — even at the risk of sacrificing one's own life.

• Best of all: Michael Moore's favorite comforting narrative — that the unelected, selected Cowboy-In-Chief has unnecessarily put our young men and women in harm's way, unilaterally engaging us in an immoral war that pits our Special Forces automatons against helpless civilian Iraqi babies, in a $200 billion carefully-orchestrated public relations campaign for the hearts and minds of gullible American swing voters — will finally be revealed for the malicious self-serving fiction it truly is.

All in all, not an altogther bad trade-off for Saddam's final, most spectacular, single worst error in judgment.

UPDATE: British intelligence has reportedly intercepted a "frantic plea" for Russia to send their best neurosurgeon to Baghdad immediately. With any luck, this foreshadows that yet another prevailing fiction — that Saddam or any of his heirs are still alive and well — will also fall by the wayside before week's end, and that the regime's designated deputies will stand down before they exercise their own version of the "Samson Option."

Monday, March 24, 2003

WE GET LETTERS: My old buddy and logorrheic mentor Harry Broertjes weighs in:

... Like you, I think war was the last resort, and I reluctantly concluded that the last resort had been reached. Enough dots accumulated over the years that, when connected, produced a low-rez but credible picture of what was likely to happen in the absence of disarming and deposing Saddam Hussein.

As Tony Blair put it last week, “What was shocking about 11 September was not just the slaughter of the innocent, but the knowledge that had the terrorists been able to, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000, and the more the suffering, the greater the terrorists’ rejoicing.” I don’t doubt that allowed the opportunity, Saddam would have given the terrorists that ability.

On the nose, Harry. It was never necessary that the Bush administration prove a direct, demonstrable link between Saddam and al Qaeda -- and it was a significant strategic error that his team kept trying to sell the American public on that tenous connection, providing, as it did, mostly grist for the opposition.

...The most frequently cited reason in opposition to the war, however, tells me that some of the marchers are either bubbleheads or people with other agendas. It’s the notion that this is a war about oil.

Let’s see now. If the United States wanted to grab someone’s oil, what would be the easiest way to go about it? Send a quarter-million troops halfway around the world, spend billions of dollars to unleash weapons of mass destruction on a country that presumably still has a few of its own, and piss off much of the rest of the world in the process? Or maybe just ship 10,000 or 15,000 troops into our own backyard and steal Venezuela’s oil fields, which produce more than either Iraq’s or Kuwait’s? Or, hell, why not just take Canada’s oil? (That’d teach ‘em to boo The Star-Spangled Banner at hockey games.)

Besides which, presumably until just a few weeks ago, the United States got eight percent of its oil imports from Iraq, or about four percent of its total consumption. We were already getting Iraq’s oil the old-fashioned way -- by paying for it -- and both the Iraqis and the Americans didn’t seem too put out by that particular bit of reality.

So when people carry signs or shout “No blood for oil,” my reaction is pretty much the same as it would be if they used the N-word in conversation, or started spouting biblical prophecy as the cornerstone of their worldview: I tune them out. No reasonable discussion is possible.

I can't come up with the link on short notice, but it was very likely a post on Asymmetrical Information which laid bare the economic idiocy of the "no blood for oil" meme. The Cliff Notes version is essentially this:

If it were truly "all about oil" -- if Bush really wanted to reward his oil-industry buddies and party donors -- then flooding the worldwide petroleum market with cheap Iraqi oil is the absolute last thing he'd want to do.

Oh, sure -- theoretically, Bush could try to throw a few new consulting gigs to Cheney's pals at Halliburton -- but that's awfully petty stuff in the scheme of things.

What the American oil industry really craves is short supply and high demand -- in other words, conditions which maintain stable high prices. And here's the conundrum: Once the Iraqi oil fields are producing at anything near full capacity again, the worldwide oil market will collapse. In fact, oil futures are already dropping precipitously, in anticipation of the inevitable.

(I'd love to hear one no-blood-for-oiler make a rational case that the chairman of ExxonMobil is looking forward to the next annual stockholders' meeting, when market conditions may not even be able to sustain a price of $20 per barrel by the end of April.)

Harry concludes:

Meanwhile, over on Earth-3, Jay Zilber’s poll went something like this:

A gigantic oil spill has inundated Crawford, Texas, bringing certain death to 1,000 people along with Bush, who is vacationing there. An anti-war protester wearing a “No blood for oil” button is the only person who can save them, by flipping a switch at the gushing wellhead. What should he do?

• Let them all drown in oil. A thousand lives is a small price to pay to get rid of Bush.

• Throw Bush a pretzel so he’ll choke to death before the oil gets him.

Yipe. You really gotta start your own blog, Harry. I wouldn't touch that one with a 300-foot oil derrick.