THE ABC's John Highfield declined this week to revel in the liberation of Baghdad (scroll down for an earlier post), preferring instead to focus on wild dogs eating dead bodies.
Highfield might be interested to learn that the banished regime of Saddam Hussein had its own interest in wild dogs. Joanne Jacobs forwards this Stephen F. Hayes interview with Riadh Abdallah, a former general in Saddam's Republican Guard, published in the Weekly Standard:
ABDALLAH: I was in jail for eleven months. There was no judge. They just put you in. If one was to be executed or put in jail, no judge. They put us in the same room as those five generals who were executed. And they were killed with big knives. Those people were killed with big knives hitting them on the neck. And the room had blood everywhere.
SH: Did you think you might be next?
ABDALLAH: Yes. I thought that they would do the same thing to me. Every day they told me that I will be executed.
SH: How long?
ABDALLAH: Eleven months. Intimidation every day. At that time they found out about a conspiracy by another person who was a big general, a doctor actually, from the same town as Saddam. His name was Raji al-Tikriti. It's a very famous story in Iraq. And they made him a food for dogs.
SH: You were in prison when this happened? You heard about this?
ABDALLAH: They showed me these prisoners that were eaten by wild dogs. They made us--that was one kind of intimidation--they brought all of the generals and officers in the prison to watch it, to intimidate us. . . . They took us from jail and they put some blindfolds on our eyes and they took them off and we saw him. Before the dogs ate him we saw them read the judgment and they said why they were going to kill him. He was the head doctor for all the military, and he was the personal doctor for Saddam Hussein and for former Iraqi president Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.
A HUMAN SHIELD is confused:
Donna Mulhearn can't reconcile the images of cheering Iraqis greeting the toppling of President Saddam Hussein with the blood on the streets of Baghdad.
Can she reconcile it with the blood of the many more people who died in Iraq's jails and torture cells?
"I had to walk through the blood of working class Iraqis," she told journalists.
How could she tell it was "working class" blood? Was it a different colour? Is that what blood types are all about? "Nurse, get me some upper-class blood for Mr Puddington-Whist! Stat!"
She described how hundreds of Iraqis gathered around to haul down statues of their erstwhile president, but in a city of five million, she said such images meant little ...
The rest of the city was grieving, she said, by the bedsides of the injured, or shuttered away in fear, hoping to ride out the latest episode in Iraq's tumultuous history as they did Saddam's rule.
"There was a lot of grief, a lot of anger. There is a lot of cynicism," Ms Mulhearn said.
How the hell would she know? Mulhearn left Iraq for Jordan back on March 30, when she decided her shielding work was over. She hasn't been in Baghdad for weeks. As the old saying goes, you can't spell "shield" without "l" and "i" and "e" ...
MICHAEL DUFFY previews Sunday's anti-war rally:
One of recent history's most bizarre events will occur tomorrow, when good and decent people will march through Sydney to express sorrow Iraq has just been delivered from an odious tyranny.
If Australia's peace marchers had had their way and this war never occurred, what would the residents of Iraq have been doing?
In the State Security headquarters in Basra it would have been business as usual, the regime's jailers torturing away, hanging people from hooks, whipping them with electric cables, prodding their flesh with lit cigarettes. Once they had finished, many of their victims would have been shot or killed more slowly.
Yes, but at least it isn't war with awful Americans. Duffy has some interesting statistics from an Australian academic who might be the opposite of Marc Herold:
Bob Cotgrove from the University of Tasmania has pointed out that the poverty Saddam enforced on his nation created a massive death toll, in which the peace protesters appear completely uninterested.
Mr Cotgrove estimates that, in the late 1990s, 66,900 more people died a year in Iraq than would have been the case had the death rate been the same as in neighbouring nations. Of this number, 41,300 were children.
Where were the marches when this was happening? Why are 600 deaths caused by liberating forces so much worse than 66,900 deaths a year caused by Saddam Hussein?
Maybe the peace folks think Saddam Hussein's murders are some quaint local homegrown cultural deal, and therefore OK. Down with corporate American McDeaths imposed by global capital! Preserve diversity of killing!
The best an ordinary driver can hope for in a FWD car is that it "corners as if on rails" -- no slippage at all. No plowing -- but also no semi-orgasmic "lock in." More typically, if you hit the accelerator in a fast corner, things get mushy up front. The lesson the FWD car seems to be teaching is: Try to go faster, and you're punished. Front-drive cars are Puritans! In a rear-drive car, you hit the accelerator and things get better! Rear-drive cars are hedonists.
He's perfectly correct. I once drove a FWD rally car during a performance driving course; you'd arrive at a slippery dirt-road corner, steer into it, then wait a few seconds until you'd passed the apex and the front tyres gripped. Then you'd exit, almost in a straight line. Dull.
Rear-wheel-drive: arrive at corner, pitch car in opposite direction to turn, hit accelerator, powerslide out at around 70 degrees to the direction of travel, tell rally instructor in passenger seat to stop screaming. Fun.
Four-wheel-drive rally cars combine these characteristics: you get turn-in understeer and exit oversteer, although the adhesion these things generate is so great that making an instructor scream is almost impossible. I only managed it once, due to a sudden, er, tree issue I hadn't anticipated.
COLLECT THEM, swap them, share them with your friends:
American commanders displayed a pack of cards yesterday showing the photographs of the 55 "most wanted" Iraqis. They said the cards had been issued to troops in the continuing hunt for top members of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said the cards contained details and images of "55 individuals who may be killed, pursued and brought to justice".
The image on the top card - the "ace of clubs" - appeared to be that of President Saddam's son Qusay. President Saddam was said to be the "ace of spades".
I must have a set of these cards.
UPDATE. Jim Treacher - currently the Funniest Man on the Web™, by the way - reports:
On Keith Olbermann's new nightly MSNBC show tonight, he went out to commercial by playing Go Fish with a stagehand with those cards, while Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" played. It's good to have him back.
THE IRAQI information minister. What's not to love? Among my favourite lines: "I am here now to tell you, we do not have any scud missiles and I don't know why they were fired into Kuwait."
THE SYDNEY Morning Herald's op-ed Fedayeen isn't coping very well with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the fact that they got everything about the war completely wrong. Here's Adele Horin:
This is no time for gloating. Saddam has fallen. Many Iraqis are relieved. But the world is no safer. Indeed, it is a scarier place ...
It is far too soon to gloat. As Saddam's statue toppled, people cheered around the world. A tyrant was gone. But if television had at that moment brought us images of Baghdad hospitals ...
It is obscene to gloat. No one in their right mind doubted a US victory in the shortest possible order ...
Many Iraqis are relieved? Go to hell, Adele. Hugh Mackay also believes that everything is now Much, Much Worse:
No amount of spin-doctoring can conceal the fact that thousands of lives have been lost, countless seeds of lifelong tragedy sown, and the geopolitics of the region and the world brutally altered.
One unpalatable consequence of victory in Iraq is that we are about to be offered a toxic brew of moral smugness and self-righteousness.
That's from Mr Moral Smugness himself. Remove Mackay's self-righteousness and what remained could fit inside a Tabasco bottle. Completing the SMH's howling loser triple play is crazy old Alan Ramsey, who has this to say about Australia's Prime Minister:
Howard, in his own way, is every bit the despot Saddam was ...
You might feel proud, Prime Minister, but I do not, and I venture to suggest very many of our fellow Australians feel exactly the same as me. And I don't give a toss what the opinion polls say.
Imagine the delight of these freaks if Saddam Hussein had prevailed.
THE COALITION is winning the war, and Jacques Chirac is losing the peace:
Jacques Chirac faced a backlash from his peace campaigning yesterday after warnings from his own party that France had gone too far in opposing Britain and the US, and now faced international isolation.
The French president, described by the newspaper Libération as the "king of peace without a crown", was criticised by leaders of his UMP party for three weeks of silence since the invasion.
Only yesterday, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, did Mr Chirac issue a comment. "France, like all democracies, rejoices," he said in a statement.
I love this paragraph:
Mr Chirac called Tony Blair on Wednesday night to ask if France could be included in the immediate supply of humanitarian aid which he said was "the absolute priority". Mr Blair, who has been one of the targets of Mr Chirac's attacks, did not release his reply.
Well, of course he didn't. You can't publish those words in newspapers.
YOU PEOPLE ARE ALL IDIOTS! John Lloyd tells the Left that it has lost the plot, and quits the leftoid New Statesman.
Looters carted off bottles of wine and whiskey, guns and paintings of half-naked women from the luxury home of Uday, the playboy son of Saddam Hussein. They also picked clean his yacht and made off with some of the white Arabian horses he kept.
Speed-crazy Iraqi street racers will use those thoroughbreds to supercharge dull family sedans. It'll be like California in the '50s.
ARSON, ANARCHY, fear, hatred, hysteria, looting, revenge, savagery, suspicion and a suicide bombing. Welcome to Robert Fisk's cavalcade of chaos!
It was the day of the looter. They trashed the German embassy and hurled the ambassador's desk into the yard. I rescued the European Union flag - flung into a puddle of water outside the visa section - as a mob of middle-aged men, women in chadors and screaming children rifled through the consul's office and hurled Mozart records and German history books from an upper window. The Slovakian embassy was broken into a few hours later.
At least the flag - the precious flag of the European Union! - has been saved.
At the headquarters of Unicef, which has been trying to save and improve the lives of millions of Iraqi children since the 1980s, an army of thieves stormed the building, throwing brand new photocopiers on top of each other and sending cascades of UN files on child diseases, pregnancy death rates and nutrition across the floors.
This "looting" sounds terrifically precise and well-considered. Farewell, stupid UN documents! I'm surprised that the photocopiers were attacked; usually they are guarded by fierce copier cops.
The Americans may think they have "liberated" Baghdad but the tens of thousands of thieves - they came in families and cruised the city in trucks and cars searching for booty - seem to have a different idea what liberation means.
Hail Saddam, who kept the peace.
IN THE comments following this Gareth Parker post, leftist economist and Iraq doompredictor John Quiggin writes:
I am happy to be wrong about the fall of Baghdad.
Quiggin is a respected Australian academic with no shortage of mainstream outlets for his views, yet he blogs for the love of it. He's acknowledging, to his great credit, the flawed war predictions he volunteered at his site.
I doubt we'll see similar retractions from professional pundits. Talk about ethics; most of them never admitted their mistakes on Afghanistan.
SOME PEOPLE, when it comes to Iraq, see a glass half full. Some see a glass half empty. And some - at the ABC - see wild dogs feasting on corpses in the street.
Here's World Today host John Highfield, leading into an interview with ABC correspondent in Baghdad Geoff Thompson:
Well, dawn has broken over Baghdad, welcoming day one of the new freedom, but if this is liberty, then it's far from perfect.
Lazy Iraqis. A whole 12 hours of freedom and they still haven't achieved a perfect society. What's their problem? Highfield's outstanding introduction continues:
Following the bold strokes and brute force by the US and the Coalition troops, even the Red Cross is unable to get power and water to the hospitals where exhausted doctors and other staff are valiantly trying to hold the line against an avalanche of injured and dying.
Civil authority has simply disappeared, and as we've just heard in our montage, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is worried, calling for urgent cooperative steps to redress the situation.
Kofi is worried! There's a scoop. Things pick up slightly when Thompson is introduced, but Highfield quickly hauls his wayward correspondent back to the main story: Baghdad in meltdown! Unprecedented chaos! Wild dogs!
GEOFF THOMPSON: You know, every vehicle you pass by is cheering, is sort of waving white flags ... and they are all, I haven't been into the deep centre of Baghdad. I can't speak for that. I can't speak for the whole city. But I certainly haven't seen any open sort of examples, very open examples of anti-Americanism.
JOHN HIGHFIELD: What is the condition of the streets? We are hearing stories that injured have lain there and dogs have attacked even the injured on the streets, because it's impossible, for instance, for Red Cross and that to move around. Is that the impression you're getting?
GEOFF THOMPSON: Ah, it's certainly a war zone. I mean, every time, I came into Baghdad for the first time yesterday and there were bodies around the streets. In fact, you know, when I first crossed into Iraq a few days ago we saw precisely that, a body which had quite clearly been mauled by wild dogs.
Maybe my news judgment is all wrong, but it strikes me that one or two upbeat angles may have been found in the removal of a dictator who'd tortured and killed millions of his countrymen. Instead the ABC takes our taxes and gives us dogs.
INSTAPUNDIT notes an abundance of liberation celebrations in Iraqi-American communities, and wonders:
So where was all the coverage of how unpopular Saddam was with these folks before the war?
Good question. Prior to liberation we also heard very little from anti-Saddam Iraqi-Australians, who are now partying like free people:
There have been jubilant scenes in the Australian city of Sydney as Iraqi expatriates celebrated news of the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.
At Auburn in west Sydney, home to one of Australia's largest Iraqi populations, men chanted 'down Saddam' and cheered on the footpaths.
Our reporter Marie Scoutas says passing drivers stopped their cars in the middle of the street and joined the celebrations.
Fear may be one reason for the lack of pre-lib coverage. Today a pro-war Iraqi-Australian appearing on Richard Glover's ABC radio program finally used his real name on air. He'd been too terrified to do so during earlier appearances, lest his family in Iraq be harmed.
But I suspect the main reason would be a reluctance by many Journalist-Australians to give aid and comfort to the enemy - in their case, John Howard and George W. Bush.
(Link via Peter Kerr.)
SNEER QUOTES, insane exaggeration, bigoted accusations of cowardice ... this Robert Fisk intro has got the lot:
The Americans "liberated" Baghdad yesterday, destroyed the centre of Saddam Hussein's quarter-century of brutal dictatorial power but brought behind them an army of looters who unleashed upon the ancient city a reign of pillage and anarchy. It was a day that began with shellfire and air strikes and blood-bloated hospitals and ended with the ritual destruction of the dictator's statues. The mobs shrieked their delight. Men who, for 25 years, had grovellingly obeyed Saddam's most humble secret policeman turned into giants, bellowing their hatred of the Iraqi leader as his vast and monstrous statues thundered to the ground.
I wonder what happened to those Iraqis who didn't grovel. Fisk should interview one. Via a spirit medium.
Memories of Umm Qasr, when the American thought, wrongly, they had taken the port town very early in this war, and a marine planted the American flag aloft before being told to take it down.
Margo seems unusually sad today. Something bad must have happened.
WORD FROM THE ARAB STREET:
"Why did he fall that way? Why so fast? He's a coward. Now I feel sorry for his people."
"We discovered that all what the information minister was saying was all lies. Now no one believes al-Jazeera anymore."
"Those who applauded the collapse of Lenin's statue for some Pepsi and hamburgers felt the hunger later on and regretted what they did."
"We Arabs are clever only at talking. Where are the Iraqi weapons? Where are the Iraqi soldiers?"
"There must have been treason."
"It seems there was some deal. Saddam has put himself ahead of his people."
"I can't say that I'm happy about what's going on because these are non-Muslim forces that have gone in and I hope they will not stay."
"They (Iraqis) haven't yet buried their dead and they are honouring the American flag. They haven't seen yet what the Americans will do to them after this; the war has just began."
"I spit on them (Iraqis). I was so disappointed."
"Do those crowds who are saluting the Americans believe that the United States will let them live better? They (Americans) will loot their oil and control their resources, leaving them nothing."
"Whatever I'm seeing is very painful because although Saddam Hussein was a dictator, he represented some kind of Arab national resistance to the foreign invaders - the Americans and the British."
"I don't like the idea of having the Americans here but we asked for it. Why don't we see the Americans going to Finland, for example? They come here because our area is filled with dictatorships like Saddam's."
"This is a message for the Arab regimes, and could be the beginning of transformation in the Arab region. Without the honest help of the Western nations, the reforms will not take place in these countries."
"For a while, there will be a sense of resignation, letdown, that this is one more (Arab) defeat. But what was defeated primarily in Baghdad is Arab oppression, the one party system which was unable to defend its country for more than three weeks, and its capital for more than 48 hours. What was defeated in this battle was not the Arabs but the regime of oppression."
JANET DALEY in The Age wonders if the Left will apologise:
I have this delightful fantasy of left-wingers throughout the Western world putting their hands up and saying: "Well, actually we got that a little bit wrong." And maybe even deciding that, since their analysis of the war was mistaken, their diagnosis of the peace might be open to question too.
But I'm not holding my breath.
WAS THE US to blame for the media hotel attack after all? A BBC correspondent doesn't think so:
The BBC's defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan has cast doubt on whether the missile that killed two journalists in Baghdad today was fired by a US tank, speculating that Iraqi soldiers may have launched the lethal attack.
He added that after examining the scene he concluded it was virtually impossible for the US tank to have fired on the 15th floor room.
"The angle that the tank would have to have reached to hit that roof, it would more or less have had to have shot just round the corner and I don't think even the Americans have got those kinds of weapons."
FROM POLLY BOLTON in California:
There were so many scenes to remember from today for the rest of my life, but my two favorite scenes were:
1. The two men carrying the sign "Go Home Human Shields, You U.S. Wankers."
2. The man carrying an American flag that had a picture of a Harley Davidson in the middle of it. Where the heck did he get that?
Jay Zilber has a shot of the wankers banner. Among my favourite scenes: a jolly Iraqi looter carrying a car tyre (Fox morning host: "Where do you think he's going with that?" Co-host: "I don't know. Maybe he’s got three more") and everything from Sky News correspondent David Chater's extraordinary one-hour walking tour of Baghdad. He deserves all the awards he'll surely receive.
MIRANDA DEVINE on the neo-pacs:
When they could no longer deny that the coalition had the upper hand, the neo-pacs changed tack. Suddenly they didn't want to talk about the war any more. Or if they did it was only to lament how "one-sided" it had been, or to demand to see the weapons of mass destruction, the "smoking gun" that proves al-Sahaf and his regime pals really are liars.
As always, the neo-pacs have a fallback position on WMDs. Any found in Iraq will have been planted there by the Americans. The neo-pacs rolled out a dazzling array of diversionary tactics to avoid talking about the coalition advances. My favourite was the "Western hypocrisy" inherent in the toppling of Saddam statues all over Iraq. "What right does the coalition have to destroy a symbol of Iraq's history," Stephen Hanlon of Brighton, Victoria, wrote to The Australian, comparing the toppling of Saddam statues to the Taliban's destruction of the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan.
IN A defining gesture marking the end of Saddam Hussein's brutal 24-year iron rule, US Marines early today helped the people of Baghdad topple a giant statue of the dictator in the jubilant aftermath of American tanks rolling into the heart of the Iraqi capital.
- The Australian
JUBILATION AND wholesale looting in Baghdad yesterday signalled the end of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
- The Sydney Morning Herald
AMERICAN MARINES toppled a massive statue of Saddam Hussein in the heart of Baghdad early today as the 24-year rule of the Iraqi dictator collapsed in chaos.
- The Age
THE IRAQI president, Saddam Hussein, has joined Hitler in the pantheon of failed dictators, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said tonight.
- The Guardian
IT WAS a moment as historic as the downing of the Berlin Wall or the massacre in Tiananmen Square – the people of Iraq last night rose up against more than two decades of repression.
- The Daily Telegraph
JUBILANT IRAQIS celebrated liberation this afternoon as triumphant US tanks and soldiers poured into the heart of Baghdad, after Saddam Hussein's regime melted away overnight.
- The Independent
SIX DAYS after the "liberation" of Najaf, Iraqis of all ages continue to pack the corridors of Saddam Hussein General Hospital.
- The Arab News
UPDATE. The Arab News has woken up:
US FORCES toppled a giant statue of President Saddam Hussein in the heart of the capital yesterday as Iraqis celebrated the humiliating collapse of his 24-year rule. Cheering ecstatically, a crowd of Iraqis danced and trampled on the fallen six-meter high metal statue in contempt for the man who had held them in fear for so long amid the final throes of the three-week war.
I SHOULDN'T be so happy. After all, I'm a right-wing deathbeast, and the end (or near end) of a war should upset me, because we conservatives lust for war all the time. Except when we have to fight it ourselves, of course. Being chickenhawks and all.
And the toppling of a fascist dictator should have me all weepy and nostalgic for Hitler. Because I'm a fascist, according to much of the mail I receive.
Those Iraqis dancing in the streets? That should really piss me off, because I want to oppress them and steal their oil. Why are they even able to dance? I was promised 500,000 murders, yet thus far only 1,000 or so innocents have died.
So why am I so damn happy? I really can't explain.
I'd go and ask some oppression-hating anti-fascist peace activists about it, but for some reason they're all incredibly depressed.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Hundreds of jubilant Iraqis cheered, danced, waved and threw flowers as U.S. Marines advanced through eastern Baghdad and into the center of President Saddam Hussein's capital on Wednesday.
Reuters correspondent Sean Maguire said crowds mobbed a Marine convoy as it drove through the suburbs to the Martyr's Monument, just two miles east of the central Jumhuriya Bridge over the Tigris river.
"These are quite extraordinary scenes," Maguire said after a morning's drive through first the rundown sprawl of Saddam City and then more prosperous, leafy suburbs.
MEANWHILE, in Carmen Lawrence's version of Australia:
So many people have all but stopped watching and listening to the incessant, if sanitised, coverage of the war. They've turned off the "militainment". They're not ringing or writing to their MPs. They've cut back their consumption to the necessities of life and zipped their purses. They're bunkered down like the poor wretches in Baghdad, many with their fingers in their ears and their eyes covered. It's as if they have decided to change the subject, to avert their eyes, pull the curtains and mind their own business.
Soory forr all th sppelkling miustakes. I can;t see teh keyborad annd I",m typping tfhis with myi ellkbows.
BRIGADIER-GENERAL John Kelly, last of the straight talkers:
Hundreds of Muslim fighters, many of them non-Iraqis, were putting up a stronger fight for Baghdad than Iraq's Republican Guard or the regular army, a top United States military officer said yesterday.
"They stand, they fight, sometimes they run when we engage them," Brigadier-General John Kelly said.
"But often they run into our machine guns and we shoot them down like the morons they are."
General Kelly, assistant commander of the about 20,000-strong 1st Marine Division, said US intelligence indicated that there might be anywhere between 500 and 5000 of the fighters, whom he described as terrorists.
"They appear willing to die. We are trying our best to help them out in that endeavour," he said.
He'll be pilloried for this, mostly by the same people who usually complain about evasive or euphemistic military-speak ("collateral damage" and so on). At least with Kelly you know where you stand. Or, rather, where you don't.
AN E-MAIL exchange with aggressive new lefty blogger Robert Weaver reveals him to be a fine writer. One to bookmark.
WHAT WAR has Phillip Adams been watching?
Imagine the damage being done to the children of Iraq. For those who escape physically will, inevitably, be mentally maimed, haunted for the rest of their lives.
Given current casualty figures, "those who escape physically" amounts to greater than 99% of Iraqi children. The rest of their lives will be not be haunted by Saddam Hussein. Many of them - including these kids, who just "escaped physically" from an Iraqi prison - seem happy about this.
KEL DUMMETT - great name - argues in this letter to The Age that Australia should let Israeli civilians be bombed because that will keep terrorists happy and then they'll leave us alone:
How could you guarantee that Australia would become a pre-eminent terrorist target after this war? Answer: use our military to protect Israel.
That, it emerges, is exactly what our SAS force's main task has been - obviously allocated by the sheriff. And while Australian defence officials have been shy about telling us and the world about this - they obviously know the consequences - not so the sheriff. Our good ol' American buddies announced it to the world at one of their recent press briefings in Qatar.
Yep, those Aussie SAS boys are darn good fighters, we were told patronisingly - they've been protecting the Israelis from Iraqi missile attack.
Kel Dummett, Thornbury
Let's take it a step further - to fully ensure Australia's friendly relations with terrorists, why don't we launch an attack on Israel ourselves? To hell with this "protecting innocent people" crap.
IMRE SALUSINSZKY in today's Australian:
As intellectuals have found themselves marginalised, critique has morphed into disgust at the habits and values of ordinary people - a disgust reflected in the title of a "progressive" tract such as Michael Moore's Stupid White Men - and has been accompanied by a wholesale rejection of the habits and values of the open society.
And rejection of any of their number who aren't reflexively anti-Western. The Age's Pamela Bone has received death threats for supporting Saddam's removal. Imre identifies a way to avoid intellectual leftoid wrath:
A friend who teaches at an Australian university recently told me it was easy to be pro-war in his department. When he sits in the tearoom, harrumphing over his copy of The Australian and making remarks like, "No defeat or punishment is too severe for this monster," his colleagues simply assume he's talking about Dubya and nod approvingly.
ONE OF Margo's loyal margoons takes me to task for guessing wrong on the alleged Basra death warehouse. He should read my post again. Slowly. Perhaps with an adult present.
The issue isn't whether or not the place was a torture zone (I noted that subsequent CNN and NYT reports cast doubt on earlier claims) but whether the Daily Telegraph's coverage - derisively described as a scoop by Margo, although similar reports had appeared in the NYT, BBC, the Independent, MSNBC, Sunday Times, all the wires, etc - represented a Murdoch conspiracy, as Margo had alleged.
One (of only two) pieces cited by Margo as evidence of this wily Murdoch plan turned out to be written by Guardian reporters who filed from Basra. Is the Guardian also running a "relentless pro-war propaganda war"? Comments from British soldiers supported the death house theory. Margo supposed that the Telegraph was wrong in isolation, when in fact all early accounts were apparently (and, I'd argue, with reason) mistaken. As mistaken as Margo "the Americans nuked Vietnam" Kingston usually is.
Still, her Elite Margolian Guardsman deserves credit for boldness. He's sent Margo - who once warned that "there could be a cell in Sydney planning a terriers act in Italy" - a photograph of a pro-war demonstrator who can't spell "moron"; this, he claims, displays the ignorance of the pro-war crowd.
Immediately below this assertion is an e-mail from a Margo fan who thinks we're about to start World War "111" and doesn't capitalise the word "Muslim".
"IF I write another piece related to Iraq I'll go potty," writes the SMH's Alan Ramsey, several columns too late. He continues: "It is an appalling military adventure mounted by appalling people with the certainty of appalling consequences for years to come, not only for the Iraqi people." Poor Iraqis. They don't have Saddam to look after them any more.
BBC World just referred to Iraq's Information Minister as "the public face of Iraqi resistance." Which is almost as accurate as anything the minister himself has said.
Meanwhile Big Gold Dog in Midland, Texas, reports a happy, bias-free experience with the broadcaster. Hey, anything can happen.
THE LATEST column in The Bulletin mentions pale, lumpy women lying on a hillside near Byron Bay, Andrew Motion, Harold Pinter, my seven-year-old niece, Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, Toni Collette, Heath Ledger, the Dixie Chicks, Martin Sheen, Judy Davis, George Michael, Ani diFranco, Saddam Hussein, Bob Ellis, Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, David Zucchino, Simon Crean, Carmen Lawrence, Guy Rundle, Terry Lane, and the beloved Margo Kingston.
AFTER ALL Hollywood has done to help him, Saddam repays the actor activists by watching pirated films:
The palace had been stripped of most personal items, but the building boasted a sophisticated audio-video system. Troops looking in one cabinet found a collection of pirated movies, "Les Miserables" among them.
You know, I bet time will turn up a few other bad sides to this noble Iraqi leader. Just a hunch.
LEFTY Tim Dunlop, always sticking up for the underdog, complains that coalition troops are looting Saddam's palaces. What a terrible, terrible injustice.
MICHAEL MOORE wants to share (his thoughts, not his tacos):
Can I share with you what it's been like for me since I used my time on the Oscar stage two weeks ago to speak out against Bush and this war? I hope that, in reading what I'm about to tell you, you'll feel a bit more emboldened to make your voice heard in whatever way or forum that is open to you.
That rules out Moore's website forum, which he closed months ago after too many dissenting anti-Mikes tried to "make their voices heard".
I said the following from the Oscar stage:
"On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan (from Canada), I would like to thank the Academy for this award. I have invited the other Documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fictitious 'Orange Alerts,' we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And, whenever you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, you're time is up."
Nice attempt, Tubbs. But you can't erase your verbal clumsiness the same way you disappear a dozen Happy Meals. Here's what you really said on Oscar night:
"We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr. Bush.
If Bush had made a similar speech error, the Michigan Waddler would've been screaming about it like ... well, like an enormous hungry guy from Flint who didn't get the supersized fries he ordered. But when Bloato the Clown stumbles, he simply re-writes the script.
Like he does with his "documentaries".
THE ARAB STREET REACTS. Quotes from an AP piece:
"How can we know this is for real and not just coalition propaganda?"
"It is a psychological war. If it is true then it is only a military strategy, to lure the American forces into a trap."
"The Americans can never stay in Baghdad. Baghdad is noble Arab land."
"If the allied forces occupy Iraq, it would signal the beginning of a liberation war against the colonialists."
"Where is your army Saddam?"
"These Americans are relying on false propaganda!"
"Sahhaf said they were not yet in Baghdad, didn't you hear him? The Americans have been lying a lot since the beginning of this campaign so I don't believe them."
"I thought some of the fiercest fighting was supposed to take place in Baghdad. Where are the Republican Guards?"
Wake up and smell the depleted uranium, Hassan. This deal is done.
THERE'S a reason why they're called irregular forces. CNN reports:
Irregular Iraqi forces, some wearing women's clothing, ambushed a U.S. Marine platoon of light-armored vehicles Monday in the central Iraqi city of Ab Diwaniyah, but the U.S. unit escaped without casualties, Marines in the firefight said.
(Thanks to Planet Mongo.)
QUIZ TIME! Guess the author of this lament, issued today:
"So much is being lost and destroyed in this war. Lives. Ideals. Dreams."
Meanwhile, among those whose ideals and lives and dreams have been saved ...
More than 100 children held in a prison celebrated their freedom as US marines rolled into northeast Baghdad amid chaotic scenes which saw civilians loot weapons from an army compound, a US officer said.
Around 150 children spilled out of the jail after the gates were opened as a US military Humvee vehicle approached, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Padilla told an AFP correspondent travelling with the Marines 5th Regiment.
"Hundreds of kids were swarming us and kissing us," Padilla said.
"There were parents running up, so happy to have their kids back."
(Link thanks to Damian Penny, who fights the good fight.)
WELL, THIS turned out to be accurate, although that wasn't Cathy Wilcox's intention. Why is the Sydney Morning Herald shaming its own cartoonist by running a collection of her out-of-date work?
THE UK Telegraph on Iraqi delusion minister Saeed al-Sahaf:
As American forces advanced through the capital, Mr al-Sahaf told journalists: "There are no American troops in Baghdad. We surrounded them, we killed them, we made them drink poison and taught them a lesson that history will never forget."
When coalition troops took Najaf, he insisted that they had been routed. When they occupied the airport, he announced that they had been butchered.
The culmination will come when he is seized during one of his own broadcasts, and hauled off shrieking that the Americans have been driven deep into Kuwait.
I hope Saeed survives the war. He's prime talkshow talent. Imagine the Letterman appearance!
MEDIA WATCH is appalled by Miranda Devine's callous language:
That war can brutalise those left behind is an old lesson of history and we're getting worried about The Sydney Morning Herald's Miranda Devine, who's starting to write about humans as vermin:
'Better to bring [war] on now, at a time of our choosing, with all the cockroaches gathered for a showdown out in the open in Iraq, rather than cower at home … '
- Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April 2003
Where would lovely Miranda ever have learned such a dreadful slur? I know; from Media Watch! Here's what the program had to say about radio announcers involved in the cash for comment scandal of '99:
Legally, Lawsie and the rest of the big brand names in broadcasting are probably on safe, if squishy, ground.
But now at least the light has been turned on - to catch the cockroaches scrabbling for cover.
Obviously in Media Watch's universe it's a greater crime to receive undeclared commercial payments than it is to pay families of suicide bombers, wage war against your own people, seek to acquire weapons capable of terrorising distant countries and otherwise plot the destruction of the west.
POOR Robert Fisk. Now he's even being fisked by his fellow reporters in Iraq. Here's how Baghdad Bob previewed the March of the Infidels upon Saddam's fortified city:
The road to the front in central Iraq is a place of fast-moving vehicles, blazing Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, tanks and trucks hidden in palm groves, a train of armored vehicles ... Anyone who doubts that the Iraqi Army is prepared to defend its capital should take the highway south of Baghdad.
How, I kept asking myself, could the Americans batter their way through these defenses? For mile after mile they go on, slit trenches, ditches, earthen underground bunkers, palm groves of heavy artillery and truck loads of combat troops in battle fatigues and steel helmets. Not since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War have I seen the Iraqi Army deployed like this.
The SMH's Paul McGeough happened to accompany Fisk when the massed might of Hussein's supermen was displayed before them. Asked about Fisk's claims, McGeough told the ABC's Mark Colvin:
Robert gets a bit windy from time to time, Mark. I was on the same bus as him and we saw some tanks, you wouldn't say that we saw an army of tanks.
We saw two or three tanks on that bus run. We saw multiple rocket launchers. We saw a convoy of two or three trucks of soldiers pausing to wash and eat by a creek. But we didn't see an army forming up for war.
Only Robert Fisk was able to see the gigantic phantom army. That's because it existed solely inside his head.
THIS whole "Kill Saddam" idea is really catching on:
Many of Saddam Hussein's elite Republic Guard last night were on the run out of Baghdad as the American forces pushed into the city's heart.
And the populace took to the streets in support of the liberators, hundreds lining the streets imploring them to "kill Saddam".
WHAT IF George W. Bush really was as bad as Saddam Hussein? Michael Totten reports - for the New York Times!
Rupert Murdoch's vast newspaper empire has waged a relentless pro-war propaganda war before and since the war began.
Someone has stolen Chemical's thesaurus. She's particularly upset by these stories in the Daily Telegraph about an apparent death chamber near Basra run by friendly Saddam's men of hench. Here's a clip:
As US forces pressed further into Baghdad, their British allies uncovered an enormous charnel house containing the remains of hundreds of Saddam's torture victims.
Resembling an immense makeshift morgue, the warehouse near Basra contained row upon row of coffins - each with a skeleton - plus piles of reports and photographs documenting how each agonised soul had been executed.
Margo disputes the Telegraph's account:
I saw the vision of the find on TV last night, and noted the British officers remark that it was unclear what the building and its rows of simple coffins was all about. However, the remains were old, he said, and he showed documents and photographs also found on site, which did not scream out torture chamber but rather respect for the dead.
Saddam's soldiers are famous for their respect. Let's hear some more from those British officers; this is from a Sunday Times piece run in Monday's Australian:
Captain Jack Kemp, 40, of the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, the first soldier to enter the warehouse, estimated it contained more than 200 coffins and many plastic bags filled with remains. "I wouldn't like to speculate, but the bones inside are obviously years old," he said.
Moments later, a younger soldier dashed over to him carrying a book containing the grimmest imaginable photographs of the dead. "Bloody hell," he whispered, "these are all executions. You can see the bullets, shots to the head."
Nothing says "respect" like punching a few rounds into some poor bastard's skull. "So," asks Margo, "where did The Daily Telegraph get its scoop information, and why was it so confident of the truth of its story? Who knows." Well, the scoop is that the story wasn't a scoop. The New York Times ran this on Saturday:
Soldiers of the Royal Horse Artillery also found Arabic documents and photographs of men bearing head wounds and showing signs of torture or disfigurement in the warehouse.
The Independent had much the same, plus this:
Outside stood what one soldier described as "a purpose-built shooting gallery".
A tiled foot-high plinth stood in a courtyard, with the brickwork behind it riddled with bullets. Behind that lay a drainage ditch.
Margo cites CNN and NYT pieces filed after the Telegraph's Sunday night deadline, and that cast some doubt on the nature of the supposed death house, as evidence of the Telegraph's Murdoch-driven warmongering madness - a madness also shared by the BBC (which quotes a Human Rights Watch spokeswoman suggesting that the dead may have been military or political enemies of Saddam Hussein) and MSNBC.
The Guardian is part of the Murdoch conspriracy, too. In fact, the second Telegraph article that Margo links to and damns as an example of "Murdoch's war on truth in war reporting" appeared in Sunday's edition of The Observer, the Guardian's sister newspaper. Where did The Daily Telegraph get its scoop information, Margo? From Guardian reporters who were at the scene.
Declares Margo: "I can hardly wait for the correction tomorrow." Me neither.
THIS POST is brought to you by Esser & Co., tyrant bunker builders for three generations:
"Listen," Karl Bernd Esser says. "I am not a Saddamista, I did not build him tanks or guns - a bunker is not an offensive weapon."
Herr Esser, the 45-year-old civil defence consultant to Saddam Hussein, whose grandmother helped to build one of Adolf Hitler's bunkers, does, however, have some explaining to do.
I'll say. Call this a bunker? Esser, you blundering fool!
THEY'RE kissing tanks in Basra:
Confounding the Arab media and the pundits who had talked darkly of a new spirit of Iraqi patriotism resisting the invaders, the people of Basra braved gunfire to dance in the streets and cheer for the British troops who finally broke the grip Saddam's dreadful regime had exerted on Iraq for so long. This reporter saw one Basra citizen even kiss a British tank.
PAUL SHEEHAN does the math:
While an entire standing army has been demolished up and down the country, the civilian casualty rate has been of an order of magnitude of around .005 per cent of the population. Prior to the invasion, the percentage of truncated, fearful lives of Iraqis was of a magnitude of 99 per cent of the population. Not even the army's generals were immune from execution.
And Sheehan's summary of events is terrific:
After just two weeks, all that remains of Saddamistan is a shrinking, ranting, desperate, isolated rump collapsing down to its essence - guns, terror and hatred. There's nothing else left.
Oil wealth: gone. Economy: gone. Territory: almost gone. Ports: gone. Airports: gone. Border control: gone. Credibility: gone. Ideals: never existed.
UPDATE. Aaron Oakley writes:
"A shrinking, ranting, desperate, isolated rump ..." The same summary is also true of Margo Kingston's Web Diary, wouldn't you agree?
MIKE GERHARDT, an American in Japan, encounters pro-war opinion at a Suwa cafe:
I was in the small town of Suwa on Sunday, and had lunch with friends at a cafe owned by an Iranian man. The coffee was good and the chicken curry with flat bread was excellent. We lingered over our coffees, visiting and occasionally chatting with the owner who of course asked where we were from because that's just what you do here when you see other non-Japanese. Three of us are from America, one is Canadian. When it came time to leave, we each paid individually and I was the last to pay. As he said goodbye, the owner added - quietly and with a pleasant smile on his face, "Please kill Saddam Hussein."
Also at Mike's site: this explanation of the war for Japanese children. Shoot the sun!
PRE-EMPTIVE ATTACK: Eternal student politician Natasha Stott Despoja just told ABC radio that she suspected US troops would plant evidence of chemical weapons in Saddam Hussein's palaces. Don't forget all the fake corpses in the pretend torture chambers, Natasha!
UPDATE. The great deception! It begins!
GOTTA LOVE those universally recognised gestures:
Hundreds of Iraqi men greeted US marines in their push toward the Iraqi capital yelling "kill Saddam", as they sliced their thumbs across their throats in a universally recognized gesture.
LIVE FROM the front steps of Saddam Hussein's presidential palace, a US tank commander told Fox News a little while ago that he was going to take a shower in ol' Saddam's en suite. "It's got running water," he said. And gold taps!
Can't wait for to hear Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf's spin on this. "They do not control the shower! We have them trapped in the shower! The taps, the nozzle, dish where soap is placed, all controlled by Iraq!"
MEMO TO Sydney Morning Herald letter-writers, columnists, editors, etc. You might want to refer to this graph before you next blame the US for arming Saddam.
GET BUSY, you lazy Republican Guardsmen! Those infidels won't repel themselves, you know:
What has happened to the Iraqi army? And, indeed, to much of the six Republican Guard divisions – originally totalling 60,000 or 70,000 men? Many experts believe they have discarded their uniforms and gone home. Reports from Baghdad indicate they may be sitting in cafés.
UPDATE. David Gillies writes from Costa Rica:
The 'elite' Republican Guard sitting around in cafes while a conquering army rampages about their capital city? How very ... French of them.
WHAT IS it with people who want to make a powerful statement (in the medium of cake, by the way) but don't want to tell anybody their real name?
(Yes, I know this story is old. But, hey. Cake.)
A WOMAN tortured in Iraq recently tried to present her case for war to George Galloway, the pro-Saddam British MP. Galloway, king of all wimps, avoided her:
So, like all good activists, she went to his Westminster office to question him informally. Mr Galloway ducked down into an underground passage when he saw her waiting and drove off in his Mercedes.
Finally, he answered his home telephone. "I am very suspicious of you," he told Mrs Raper, when she explained her situation. She said that yes, she could provide proof that she was Iraqi, and he finally agreed to a meeting. "OK, come to my office on Monday," he said, before adding: "On second thoughts, don't."
Mr Galloway supports direct action such as marches on Number 10 or the US embassy, although his view is very different when it is his stance that is under scrutiny. "What do you want to talk to me about?" he barked.
"I just want to ask you about Saddam Hussein's human rights record," said Mrs Raper. "As a Western politician, have you ever tried to discuss this in Iraq?"
"I don't have to answer that question," said Mr Galloway defiantly, before adding: "Don't you dare contact me again. If you go to my house again I will have you thrown out and call the police."
Galloway once described the war in Afghanistan as morally grotesque. He'd know.
UPDATE. The Gweilo has more Galloway grotesquerie.
READER DAVE has a domestic quagmire perspective:
At this rate the coalition will get Baghdad quicker than I can get a plumber.
Try getting a Telstra broadband connection, Dave. More quags per mire than any war in modern history.
BACK WHEN John Hawkins interviewed me a year or so ago, I told him that both of Australia's major political parties would support the US in the war on terror. Well, stupid me; I got Labor completely wrong. Under Simon Crean, the ALP has become aggressively opposed to the war on terror.
And Australians have become just as aggressively opposed to Simon Crean.
AFTER PREDICTING in February that "even a short war will almost certainly lead to the hideous deaths of even more innocent civilians than died, for example, on September 11," Robert Manne is now moralising about the deaths of Iraqi soldiers:
It is certain that the number of Iraqi combatant deaths is very high. Coalition sources say in the brief battle for the Baghdad airport more than 300 Iraqi soldiers were killed. This is more than half the number of Australian soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.
Another coalition estimate says in the first incursion into central Baghdad, more than 1000 Iraqi soldiers died. In neither of these encounters was a single coalition soldier killed ... the deaths of so many young Iraqi men, in such technologically uneven battles, is tragic and pitiful in the extreme.
How does "technological uneveness" make their deaths any more tragic? Would Manne prefer bloodier, more equal fighting, with an increased number of coalition dead? Actually, he might:
A too-swift and easy coalition victory may substantially increase the risk of future wars.
Of course, had the war been slow and difficult, Manne would've been railing about quagmires and Vietnams and whatever. Manne dodges and weaves like a 4am Screech drinker.
UPDATE. From Toronto's David Janes:
Jeez Tim, if we're drinking Screech, we're just getting rolling at 4AM!
LAST MONTH Juan Pablo Montoya held a competition for schoolchildren in his native Colombia to draw a helmet design for today's Brazilian Grand Prix. Here's the winning entry, by a young schoolgirl. And here's Montoya in his Williams F1 at Brazil, wearing her design.
Cool. The helmet will be auctioned after the race, to raise money for Colombian charities. Australia's Mark Webber, incidentally, has qualified third - the highest qualifying spot for an Australian since Alan Jones put his Williams on the front row at Las Vegas 22 years ago.
Happy omen alert: Jones won that race, his final victory in F1. Bizarre Vegas recollection: after the '81 race Jones was interviewed by Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret, then goofing around as an F1 writer. Thatcher to Jones: "Were tyres a crucial factor today?" Jones to Thatcher: "Yeah. They kept the car from scraping on the track."
JULIE BURCHILL in the Guardian, on young anti-war protesters:
The day we turn to teenage boys for our moral guidance is the day we will truly be a decadent, finished society.
Want proof? Go read Indymedia.
THIS, from a Guardian reporter in Iraq, sums up the war's progress:
Until yesterday, their enthusiasm for the invaders could have been interpreted as caution in the face of an unknown occupier. Yesterday there was no doubt: they knew Saddam was finished, and they were glad.
Hearts and minds. Read it all.