Sunday, July 20, 2003

Well, we've got plenty of stuff to blog about today. The Spanish press is going wild with Tony Blair's political problems, which I think he's going to overcome for several reasons. First, the suicide of David Kelly looks just awful, but going off on wild Le Carre-esque tangents is not precisely carefully reasoned. (The Vangua actually sub-headed yesterday, "A Case for John Le Carre".) It looks like Dr. Kelly had, to put it kindly, some mental-health problems. I personally know something about mental-health problems. My guess is that Kelly had a strong anxiety disorder and major manic-depression; in a manic stage he talked too much to the press and when he got called on the carpet for it he freaked out, hit a serious depressive stage, and his anxiety wouldn't let him cope with the trouble he'd gotten himself into. Quick and dirty solution: suicide. Or, maybe, a suicide gesture that went wrong, since Kelly took some pills and cut his wrists, neither of which is the most effective suicide method.

As for "lying", I still don't see where anybody lied. We had eight million reasons to go to war with Saddam, many of which are detailed in the Economist article we linked to below. (You might follow the links within the Economist story back to earlier articles of theirs about the subject, should you need a reminder of who said what and when.) One of those reasons is we thought Saddam had chemical weapons. Well, we knew he had chemical weapons, since he's used them. The question is what he did with them. But let me repeat: SADDAM HUSSEIN HAS ACTUALLY USED WMD. THEREFORE, HE HAD THEM. DUH. Maybe he did a damn good job getting rid of them without us finding out he'd done it--but that begs logic. If Saddam had really disarmed he'd have informed the Western powers about it so that the embargo would be lifted and so that the Americans would get off his case. Maybe he was such an egomaniac that he couldn't bear to show himself backing down, or maybe he felt that if he backed down he'd lose face and be overthrown. I dunno what he was thinking, but we all do know that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons.

So the charges of "lying" are nuts. Not 100% of intelligence reports are accurate. It seems that Bush and Blair each said something that could be questioned. Bush said that the British had learned that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Africa. Period. Well, Saddam did buy uranium from Niger during the 1980s. If the Brits got hold of info that indicated he had tried to buy some more, I don't blame them for believing it, since it fits the pattern of Saddam's previous behavior--remember the Osiraq nuke plant the French built for the Baathists that the Israelis blew up in '81 or so, and it's a damned good thing they did. Just for example. And I don't blame Bush and the CIA for believing info the Brits gave them. Intelligence agencies are not perfect. Anyway, we've got one questionable statement by Bush out of the many hundreds of official statements he has made about Iraq and Saddam.

As for Tony Blair, what he seems to be under fire for is having said that Saddam had WMD that he could fire off within 45 minutes. Those WMD haven't been found. Maybe Saddam was a paper tiger and he had dismantled those weapons secretly without our knowledge since 1998, when he kicked out the UN inspectors and made everybody really mad. You guys remember that big stink when Saddam kicked the inspectors out and everybody in the West talked real big about what they were going to do and then did nothing? I certainly do. But, at least at one time, Saddam Hussein DID have chemical weapons he could fire off at will, because he did it to the Iranians and he did it to the Kurds. And Saddam Hussein, upon whom the burden of proof lies, according to 17 United Nations resolutions and the cease-fire he himself signed in 1991 (that means that HE HAS TO PROVE he doesn't have chemical weapons; HE has to prove he's NOT GUILTY. He was UNWILLING TO DO SO) refused to prove to us he didn't have those weapons anymore. So we were totally within our rights in assuming that he still had them.

Notice how the people howling about the supposed "lies" told by Bush and Blair seem to be paying no attention to the mass graves that keep turning up?

Did you also notice that NOBODY seems to remember what happened on September 11, 2001? Let me remind everyone. Three thousand of our people were murdered by radical Islamic terrorists. We all swore that such a thing would never happen again, and that we would eliminate both terrorism and the corrupt dictatorial murder states that support it. Well, we eliminated Al Qaeda, we destroyed the Taliban, and we overthrew Saddam Hussein. That seems to be a pretty good start. Remember after September 11 when we were all thinking about when and where the next one was coming? Except for Bali and the Palestinian terrorists' attacks in Israel, the next one hasn't come. Let's make sure it stays that way.

As for the current difficulties in Iraq, did anybody expect it to be a bed of roses? In fact, I was predicting serious civil disturbances in Baghdad when the regime collapsed. They didn't happen--the "looting" now turns out to have been an inside job at the National Museum and a bunch of chairs and sofas dragged out of official buildings. The "Iraqi resistance" movement, as the Spanish press insists on calling the gang of Saddam's thugs that are sniping at the Americans, is operating in a tiny area to the north and west of Baghdad where the Sunnis, and in particular Saddam's own clan, are the strongest. It's not the Kurds or the Shiites, 80% of the country, that are fighting. It's a tiny minority of Sunnis, many of whom probably have connections to the Baath party, Saddam's clan, or the armed forces. And if they keep killing one American per day, they're not going to last very long.

As for the infrastructure, it was so crappy before we captured it that it's quite a job putting it in working order again. Sorry it's not going fast enough. You can't turn Baghdad and Kabul into Copenhagen or Stockholm overnight. But stories about hunger and epidemics are just plain false.

And for the (tiny minority of) American soldiers who are complaining, I'm sorry, but you guys did volunteer to join the Army. Part of the deal, when you join the Army, is that you swear you're going to obey orders. If your orders send you to Iraq for six months or a year, that's a bummer. I understand it's hot and dangerous and extremely unpleasant and I'm certainly glad I'm not there. But I didn't take the King's shilling, either. You did.

I apologize to the great majority of brave and patriotic American soldiers who are not SLAGGING OFF THEIR COUNTRY TO THE FOREIGN MEDIA like a few jackasses did on Spanish TV. General Patton would have had those whiners and sad sacks thrown in the stockade and they'd have been damned lucky if he hadn't shot them.

Well, Barcelona finally signed Ronaldinho, much to my surprise. They offered Paris St-Germain €28 million and PSG took it. His addition will greatly help the club, but what I'd do if facing Barca is simply slap my best defender on him and trust in the general suckiness of the rest of the team. Now they can't buy anyone else, though they did pick up a Portuguese guy named Quaresma who they're hoping will finally replace Figo at right wing. Supposedly they're trying to get rid of Riquelme, who needs to go, and Gerard. They just flat-out released Christianval, who they'd spent €16 million on, and Geovanni and Rochemback are long-gone.

The Tour de France is getting exciting. Armstrong is being seriously challenged by Jan Ullrich; Lance had a fifteen-second lead over Ullrich going into today's stage, which is going to be a real killer. The only other guy still in the general is a dude with a Russian name from Kazakhstan whose name I can never remember, but he's damn good and if both Armstrong and Ullrich lose it in either of the next two mountain stages or the following time trial, he'll win for sure. Everyone else is like five minutes back as of today; Tyler Hamilton is in fifth and he's riding with a broken collarbone, for God's sake. Lance still has to be the favorite, since he's shown what he's got so many times. They're all going to move on him today and he's got to hold on. Carlos Sastre of Spain got a big stage win yesterday on that stage with the two big climbs. Congratulations to him.

Of the top twenty racers, I think six are Spanish. Spain is definitely the country with the overall best level of bike racers in the world. They don't have a real superstar, haven't had one since Indurain, but they have an awful lot of damn good riders.

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