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Sunday, February 08, 2004

Saddam's Nest Egg

The US believes it has discovered the location of at least some of Saddam Hussein's cash -- but so far, neither the US nor the Iraqi Governing Council can get their hands on it:

The United States believes it has found at least $300 million Saddam Hussein hid in banks, yet doesn't have enough evidence to get countries such as Syria and Switzerland to hand over the money, U.S. and European officials told The Associated Press. The funds at stake could go to the Iraq insurgency or the country's reconstruction — depending on who gets it first. What troubles investigators more is that much of Saddam's cash may already be gone. ...

Much to the frustration of the Bush administration, countries that acted quickly on relatively weak evidence involving al-Qaida funds have been unwilling to do the same on Iraq, partly because of growing doubts about the quality of U.S. intelligence.

While our friends wait for more solid intelligence, no one knows for sure if the $40 billion that Saddam has been estimated to have stashed away still exists, or if any or all of it has found its way into the hands of terrorists and Iraqi insurgents. (For that matter, no one knows how much of it found its way into the pockets of foreign diplomats, either.) Forty billion dollars buys a hell of a lot of RPGs and explosives for car bombers. It could also buy a few chemical and biological weapons, too.

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Monday, December 29, 2003

Saddam Talking?

A report from two Arab newspapers states that Saddam Hussein has acknowledged siphoning billions of dollars to a network of personal bank accounts and is telling American interrogators the names of his collaborators:

Saddam Hussein has acknowledged depositing billions of dollars abroad before his ouster and has given interrogators the names of people who know where the money is, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council said in remarks published Monday. The U.S.-appointed council estimates that the Iraqi dictator seized $40 billion while in power and is now searching for that amount deposited in Switzerland, Japan, Germany and other countries, Iyad Allawi told the London-based Arab newspapers Al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat.

Other members of the IGC dispute the report:

In Baghdad, Ahmed al-Bayak, anouther member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, said he was informed by council members that Saddam had started to talk about names of people inside Iraq who were carrying out attacks against U.S. forces. "But nothing about funds," said al-Bayak.

While we hope that Saddam coughs up as much information as possible, if he hasn't given any names yet on his financial collaborators, they've probably already covered their tracks as much as possible over the past two weeks since Saddam's capture. However, it's not easy to conceal the movement of billions of dollars, especially if people know to look for it, which means that the funds will be hard to convert into fuel for terrorists, at least for a while. It certainly seems that Saddam was much more connected to terrorists than previously thought, and the oil-for-food program needs a thorough investigation to see who else funnelled money out of it and where it is now.

UPDATE: Power Line has picked up this story and accents the focus on Saddam's possible connections with terrorist groups, both pre-war and later.

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Friday, December 26, 2003

Why the Dominoes Fall

The Washington Post explains in more detail why the capture of Saddam Hussein has started to cripple the insurgency, and how American strategy had already impacted the insurgency even before that:

Senior U.S. officers said they were surprised to discover -- clue by clue over six months -- that the upper and middle ranks of the resistance were filled by members of five extended families from a few villages within a 12-mile radius of the volatile city of Tikrit along the Tigris River. Top operatives drawn from these families organized the resistance network, dispatching information to individual cells and supervising financial channels, the officers said. They also protected Hussein and passed information to and from the former president while he was on the run.

At the heart of this tightly woven network is Auja, Hussein's birthplace, which U.S. commanders say is the intelligence and communications hub of the insurgency. The village is where many of the former president's key confidants have their most lavish homes and their favorite wives.

When U.S. forces sealed off Auja in late October, they separated the leaders of the insurgency from their guerrilla forces, dealing the anti-occupation campaign a major blow, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, which is responsible for the Tikrit area.

While it is true that American intelligence knew little about the insurgency at the time of the Baghdad collapse, it is also true that the American military and intelligence services learn quickly and adapt rapidly -- one of the historical strengths of the US armed forces. Read the entire article.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Dominoes Continue Falling

US forces continued apprehending Iraqi insurgents by the dozens after Saddam Hussein's capture today, including several leadership figures:

U.S. soldiers arrested dozens of rebel suspects Tuesday, including several associates of a former aide to Saddam Hussein who is believed to have a leading role in Iraq's insurgency. A U.S. task force in Baqouba, 30 miles northwest of Baghdad, arrested five Iraqis, including one suspected of recruiting guerrillas, said Maj. Josselyn Aberle of the 4th Infantry Division. ... In an earlier raid in Baqouba, U.S. troops detained a former Iraqi army colonel suspected of recruiting ex-Iraqi soldiers to fight the U.S. military. ... Near Fallujah, to the west of Baghdad, a military statement said troops captured "26 enemy personnel including two former Iraqi generals and an Iraqi Special Forces colonel."

More evidence, I suppose, of how Saddam's capture has not made America any safer.

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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Recognition Comes Slowly but Surely

Media recognition of the stunning diplomatic victory of Bush and Blair -- and even Gadhafi -- in Libya's trilateral disarmament agreement yesterday comes slow. Most of the major newspapers covered it as a news story, although both local Twin Cities newspapers buried it. Editorial boards mostly ignored it, with a couple of major exceptions. For instance, the Daily Telegraph in the UK had no problem proclaiming it as a major vindication of the Bush/Blair global strategy in the War on Terror:

The stick has been applied, now a carrot must be offered as an incentive to other rogue nations, like Iraq. As for Mr Bush and Mr Blair, with Saddam captured and Libya tamed, it cannot be denied they have had brilliant end to a difficult year. The world is gradually becoming a safer place. Both their approval ratings should reflect that.

The title of this piece is "A Safer World," which is no doubt intended as a retort to the Dean campaign and its apologists like the Star-Tribune editorial board. Even the New York Times admits that its previous editorials were in error, although they mean the editorials encouraging Bush to drop the sanctions against Libya earlier this year:

Over the past five years, by turning over two suspects for trial, acknowledging its complicity in the Lockerbie bombing and paying compensation to victims' families, Libya finally managed to persuade the United Nations Security Council to lift the international sanctions that had shadowed its economy and its international reputation for more than a decade. Those sanctions were lifted in September. This page recommended lifting American sanctions as well, but President Bush left them in place pending further steps, most notably Libya's decision to end its unconventional weapons programs. It is now clear that he was right to do so. The added American pressure worked just as intended.

Other editorial boards appear to be AWOL on the Libya announcement. Small wonder.

Blogs for Bush has a number of good posts on this subject; be sure to read them all. And Power Line is as stunned as I am about the New York Times editorial. And SWLIP is seeing odd flying animals.

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Ambulance Chaser To The Genocidal Stars

Looks like Saddam Hussein's found himself an American mouthpiece:

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said Friday that he would be willing to provide legal counsel to Saddam Hussein if the ousted Iraqi leader requested Clark's assistance.

"I would seek to help him protect his rights if he needed my help and I felt that there was no one who's willing who could do it better,'' Clark said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I would have no hesitation. That's my work. That's my chosen pursuit - to protect rights. His rights need protecting.''

His rights need protecting, and of course Ramsey Clark needs the publicity. Clark, who has made a career out of associating with such organizations as International ANSWER -- a Stalinist group that organized rabidly anti-American protests over the past year -- manages to get himself interviewed on a regular basis despite his connections to lunatic-fringe groups. This is no exception. I understand the need under the Consititution for everyone to have legal counsel, and of course I believe that Saddam, if he is tried, should be represented by such, although I'd love to see him represent himself instead. But for Ramsey Clark, it goes way beyond his "calling" as an attorney, as the interview explains:

Clark also lashed out at the Bush administration for the military's handling of the ex-Iraqi president since he was discovered last weekend hiding underground near his hometown of Tikrit.

'My two main concerns would be about the way he's being treated from the standpoint of human rights, and my belief that the humiliation that he has suffered causes hatred and will be harmful to the interests of the United States,'' Clark said.

Clark is most concerned about Saddam's civil rights, not his guilt or innocence? Is that how defense attorneys approach cases? What he wants is an international platform with which to bash the Bush administration for going to war in the first place, not for giving Saddam a physical in front of a video camera. Fortunately, Clark goes completely off the rails later on:

The 76-year-old Clark, who was attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, is a staunch anti-war advocate who has met with Saddam on several occasions in the past decade. He most recently sat down with the former Iraqi leader in February, in the days leading up to the U.S. invasion.

Clark described Saddam as dignified, reasonable and an interesting person. ``He is a human being,'' Clark said.

Clark has assisted other despised leaders before. He has consulted several times with one-time Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is on trial in The Hague for alleged war crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Saddam Hussein: "dignified, reasonable, and an interesting person." Perhaps. But so were many of the 400,000 people or so he had murdered and buried in mass graves, quite a few of the women and children he had gassed to death at Halabja, and the hundreds of thousands he had tortured in his prisons. It is not terribly surprising that Clark finds him interesting, as Clark seems to take an interest in plenty of genocidal tyrants like Hussein and Milosevic.

I, on the other hand, do not find Ramsey Clark interesting; I find him pathetic. I wonder why the media keeps finding him interesting.

UPDATE: Power Line is all over this as well, and Big Trunk notes that Clark's heart belongs to Saddam.

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Friday, December 19, 2003

This Is Why Saddam's Capture Makes Us Safer

Despite the blatherings of our local broadsheet, the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein paid off in a spectacular way today:

Libya has tried to develop weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles in the past, but has agreed to dismantle the programs, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday in simultaneous televised speeches.

Bush said Libya's leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, had "agreed to immediately and unconditionally allow inspectors from international organizations to enter Libya. "These inspectors will render an accounting of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and will help oversee their elimination," Bush said.

Gadhafi approached US and British officials in March to discuss the disarmament of Libya. Does anyone remember what was going on in March? And does anyone want to hazard a guess as to why Libya approached Bush and Blair, rather than the UN? It's because with the Anglo-American display of will against Saddam, Gadhafi must have realized that the era of UN dithering had come to a de facto close, if not de jure.

The lesson that this episode should provide to the perpetually benighted Star-Tribune editorial board -- and to Howard Dean and those followers who bought the idea that the Iraq war was a "distraction" -- is that failure to rise to challenges from tinhorn dictators does not encourage others to cooperate with you; it encourages them to defy you. Tyrants do not respond to sweetness and light. They are only interested in gathering and retaining power. And tyranny is the true mother of terrorism.

Spending twelve years chasing meaningless resolutions around the UNSC only demonstrated the lack of will on the part of the global community to confront tyrants and terrorists. Appeasement has never worked as a permanent solution; it only makes the eventual day of reckoning exponentially more expensive in lives and materiel. In the past year, Bush and Blair have demonstrated that they understand the role that a strong projection of Anglo-American power plays in keeping the peace. The fact that Dean and the Star-Tribune still do not understand this reveals their complete lack of credibility in foreign policy.

Hindrocket at Power Line wonders if he will read approving comments from Democratic leadership in tomorrow's papers. I suspect a few will acknowledge this stunning diplomatic victory from a man they keep claiming is bungling American foreign policy. I suspect that more of them will try to spin this, perhaps by whining that not every rogue nation has done this yet.

Just wait. It's going to be a long year coming up to the presidential election, and I suspect that the new, tough foreign policy of Bush and Blair will reap more dividends such as the disarmament of Libya. They have momentum and do not appear to be men who will simply coast to the finish line.

Also covering this development are Blogs for Bush; Hugh Hewitt; Jon at QandO; Strange Women Lying in Ponds; Demosophia; Citizen Smash.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Saddam Tied to Multiple Insurgency Networks

Documents found on Saddam Hussein, and further intelligence gathered from them, links Saddam to at least fourteen clandestine terrorist cells within Iraq, senior military officials are reporting today:

"I think this network that sits over the cells was clearly responsible for financing of the cells, and we think we're into that network," said Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division.

Acting quickly after realizing the significance of the document, which Dempsey likened to minutes of a meeting, troops of the 1st Armored Division conducted raids Sunday and Monday that netted three former Iraqi generals suspected of financing and guiding insurgent operations in the Baghdad area.

But Howard Dean says the capture of Saddam has not made America safer. Never mind that the soldiers in Iraq are now facing fewer insurgents, and those that are there are operating under a damaged leadership structure. Dean says that he "very much" hopes that Saddam's capture makes our soldiers safer. Perhaps Dean doesn't believe that our soldiers are American.

Since the announcement Sunday of Hussein's capture, U.S. military authorities have been bracing for a possible surge in attacks. But Sanchez reported Tuesday that the level of violence against U.S. and allied forces has remained about the same as immediately before the capture, averaging fewer than 20 attacks a day. Dempsey said that the number of attacks in the Baghdad area has actually declined, possibly reflecting a decision on the part of some insurgents "to go to ground" and hide, and see what new intelligence U.S. authorities have been able to glean.

But Howard Dean says the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.

At his news conference, Myers predicted that Hussein's capture would hurt the insurgency by undercutting its ability to recruit new members. "When you take this leader who at one time was a popular leader in the region and find him in a hole in the ground, that is a powerful signal that you may be on the wrong team and maybe should be thinking about some other line of work," the general said.

In the Los Angeles Times, their coverage of the story begins with this:

The small coterie of advisors and friends who assisted Saddam Hussein during his time as a fugitive represents a vital cog in the larger network of former regime loyalists funding and organizing the armed insurgency in Iraq, U.S. military officials said.

These Hussein confidants have relied on funds that may have been looted from the national treasury and stashed around the country to finance anti-coalition attacks, the officials said. The money has been used to hire legions of insurgents, including trigger-pullers, mortar men, bomb makers and others willing to wreak havoc, they said.

Three captured generals, disruption of large-scale financing of terrorism and insurgency, and a homicidal and genocidal anti-American tyrant, that had medium-range missile technology and was buying more of it from North Korea, meekly in American custody being interrogated by American intelligence ... but Howard Dean says the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.


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Tuesday, December 16, 2003

But What Does Lauryn Hill Think About It?

More nonsense from the See, this time in regards to the capture and treatment of Saddam Hussein:

[Cardinal Renato] Martino said he felt "compassion" for Saddam, even if he was a dictator, after seeing the video of the ousted leader having his mouth probed by a U.S. military medic. The tapes showed "this destroyed man" being "treated like a cow, having his teeth checked," Martino said, using the Italian word "vacca."

And if we hadn't bothered to give him medical attention, what would the Vatican have to say about that, Cardinal? [sigh] All this fuss and bother over a tongue depressor. I guess the Vatican is concerned that a routine dental and oral examination is somehow equivalent to this:

Punishments short of death were meted out according to a clear hierarchy, he said. Those who stole had their fingers or hands cut off. Those who lied had 18-pound concrete blocks dropped on their backs. Informers who gave inaccurate information had hot irons put in their mouths, he said, and army deserters had their ears sliced off.

Ali said one fellow Fedayeen member had his tongue cut off for repeating a comment someone else made comparing Uday's shiny clothes to women's garments, while another who disobeyed an order had his fingers cut off.

Yes, I understand now how tragic it was for Saddam to be forced to open wide and say, "Ahhhhh." It's deeply insulting for the genocidal tyrant to receive medical attention, especially after the loving care he gave the citizens of Iraq under his leadership:

An Iraqi soldier, who according to the facility's records witnessed the beatings, said interrogators regularly used pliers to remove men's teeth, electric prods to shock men's genitals and drills to cut holes in their ankles.

In one instance, the soldier recalled, he witnessed a Kuwaiti soldier, who had been captured during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, being forced to sit on a broken Pepsi bottle. The man was removed from the bottle only after it filled up with his blood, the soldier said. He said the man later died.

"I have seen interrogators break the heads of men with baseball bats, pour salt into wounds and rape wives in front of their husbands," said former Iraqi soldier Ali Iyad Kareen, 41.

The next subject for the Vatican will be to ensure that Saddam is humanely and fairly treated during his interrogation and trial. Funny that we don't recall the Vatican making this much noise while justice in Iraq meant this:

The interrogators said separately to both husband and wife that they would cease the torture if they signed confessions admitting to be collaborating with the oppositionists. They refused. The wife was stripped naked and cigarettes stubbed out on all parts of her body whenever she refused to implicate her husband. She was beaten and thrown around the interrogation room. Her children were forced to watch the torture. She was eventually released, having been told that her husband would continue being tortured until she returned to confess. She was arrested again two weeks later and the same pattern of torture was repeated, leaving her a psychological wreck.

During his interrogation, the husband’s arms were tied behind his back and he was then suspended in the air using a hook hung from the ceiling. This caused intense pain as his shoulder muscles and ligaments were torn. After a period, the interrogators entered the room and the husband was unhooked and placed in a chair in the middle of the room. From close range, he was then shot at with a pistol whenever he refused to agree to sign his confession. Sometimes shots were fired which missed his body, at other times the pistol muzzle was placed against his fingers, toes or arms and fired so as to mutilate these areas.

Over the following two weeks further interrogations occurred at intervals, following periods of food and water deprivation. Eventually the husband’s and wife’s wider family paid a bribe to an Iraqi Intelligence officer and both the husband and wife were released. They subsequently escaped from Iraq.

As Atomizer says in his post at Fraters Libertas, these are moments when I am embarassed to be a Catholic. Unfortunately, as recent revelations about our Church have shown, current Roman Catholic leadership seem more intent on averting their eyes than facing down true evil.

The Vatican acts to protect the oppressors of our age by speaking out against action to defeat evil, and then protecting the evil once they have been brought low. How can such cowardly and craven Church leadership hope to inspire its membership to oppose evil? When Christ returns, peace will rule the day and the evil in our world will be utterly cast down. Until that time arrives, we must oppose evil, and the nature of evil is such that talking nice doesn't stop it. Turning the cheek only works when the oppressor has some emotional connection to decency.

That's why Gandhi was successful, by the way; the British saw themselves as bringers of civilization, and when resistance inevitably led to the massacre at Amritsar and other such events, the British saw that they could not be both civilizers and oppressors. Gandhi would not have lasted two weeks against Hitler or Saddam, and would only have been rescued by those who use force to oppose force. It's also the reason no one volunteers to be human shields on Israeli buses or Israeli restaurants; it's a tacit recognition that one side avoids civilian casualties and the other side could care less.

Whose side is the Catholic Church on, anyway? They cannot be neutral in the fight against evil, or else it is an admission that they no longer believe evil exists. Has the Catholic Church embraced moral equivalency?

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Monday, December 15, 2003

NYT: Wong's Wrong

Power Line directs its readers to this odd article in the New York Times, a question-and-answer section with Edward Wong, a reporter in Baghdad, I believe; its introduction is poorly written:

This week, the Times reporter will answer readers' questions from Baghdad.

Are the readers from Baghdad, the questions from Baghdad, or the reporter from Baghdad? In basic English, they teach you to be clear about modifiers. But beyond that, the Times can only scare up two questions for Wong, the second of which is answered so poorly it defies belief:

Q. I wonder if the filming and publication of the videos and stillshots of Saddam Hussein during his medical checkup (being investigated for headlice, having a light shone back onto his tonsils) violates international law for war prisoners. Is Saddam considered a POW? Do the Geneva Conventions apply to him, especially with regard to treating POW's in ways that humiliate them and turn them into “public curiosities.” -- Jim Herriott, Nashville, Tenn.

A. Some Iraqis have expressed anger over the display of the humiliating video footage of Saddam Hussein, while others have found it to be a fittingly ignominious document of the end of a much-hated ruler. Those upset by the video are especially incensed at the images of a doctor prodding at Mr. Hussein’s face and examining his mouth. American officials undoubtedly showed this video to demonstrate the powerlessness of Mr. Hussein. But one could argue that the American government is violating its own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions. Last spring, during the American invasion of Iraq, officials in Washington objected to videos that the Iraqi government had turned over to Al Jazeera showing American prisoners of war. The Pentagon said the videos were humiliating and violated the Geneva Conventions. To stay consistent with that definition, one would have to say that releasing the video of Mr. Hussein also violates the Geneva Conventions.

You would think that a reporter on the Baghdad beat would understand the Geneva Convention and the rules of war, especially if he's arrogating to himself the position of expert in one of the nation's most prestigious broadsheets, but it appears that knowledge isn't a necessary prerequisite for reporters at the Gray Lady. Salient points:

1. In order for the Geneva Convention to apply, captured prisoners have to be in uniform bearing the recognized insignia of a nation-state. Saddam was wearing civilian clothes, according to the information at the time of his capture, probably in order to keep from being caught. If he was wearing civilian clothes, then not only is he not a POW, he could be shot on sight as a spy.

2. We are no longer in a war with the Iraqi Army, which is why we disbanded them and allowed them to go home. We are an occupying power, and what attacks have occurred have been perpetrated by irregulars out of uniform (see above). People arrested under these conditions are not POWs, they are criminals.

Our soldiers were captured in uniform during battle and were therefore POWs and entitled to Geneva Convention protections. Actually, if you saw the video of the Iranian POWs and their treatment by the Iraqis while the cameras were rolling, the Americans got off pretty easily; the Iraqis habitually kicked and punched the Iranian POWs and filmed it all. Saddam was captured in a hole, miles and months from any battle, out of uniform. In other words, no soup for you, Saddam.

But I also share Power Line's incredulity at the NY Times for even entertaining this question, let alone the unbelievably biased and insipid answer they provided.

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