Apparently Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace gave an amusing press briefing yesterday. For starters, we're not supposed to refer to the enemy as 'insurgents' anymore:
"Over the weekend, I thought to myself, 'You know, that gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit,' " Rumsfeld, at a Pentagon briefing yesterday, said of his ban on the I-word. "It was an epiphany," he added, throwing his hands in the air.
Encouraging reporters to consult their dictionaries, the defense secretary said: "These people aren't trying to promote something other than disorder, and to take over that country and turn it into a caliphate and then spread it around the world. This is a group of people who don't merit the word 'insurgency,' I think."
Suppose the insurgents want what Rumsfeld says they do. A strict Islamic theocracy is arguably a very well ordered system, don't you think? However, it's not clear that more than a few of the insurgents are Al Qaeda types:
BAGHDAD -- Before 8,500 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers methodically swept through Tall Afar two months ago in the year's largest counterinsurgency offensive, commanders described the northern city as a logistics hub for fighters, including foreigners entering the country from Syria, 65 miles to the west.
"They come across the border and use Tall Afar as a base to launch attacks across northern Iraq," Col. H.R. McMaster, commander of the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which led the assault, said in a briefing the day before it began.
When the air and ground operation wound down in mid-September, nearly 200 insurgents had been killed and close to 1,000 detained, the military said at the time. But interrogations and other analyses carried out in recent weeks showed that none of those captured was from outside Iraq. According to McMaster's staff, the 3rd Armored Cavalry last detained a foreign fighter in June.
As we now know, there was essentially no Al Qaeda presence in Iraq before we invaded, and I believe there's a consensus that Zarqawi (a Jordanian) and his ilk are not homegrown. My guess is that the vast majority of the insurgents do not want a global Caliphate, but rather a return to Sunni supremacy (military dictatorship or oligarchy) in Iraq.
Finally, Rumsfeld manages to be wrong in yet a third way: the dictionary defines "insurgent" as "[one who is] Rising in revolt against established authority, especially a government." To his credit, in the actual transcript Rumsfeld says "Maybe I'm wrong. I'll have to go to the dictionary."
Another part of the breifing, in which Rumsfeld and Pace were asked about the use of torture by Iraqi security forces, is both encouraging and discouraging at the same time:
When UPI's Pam Hess asked about torture by Iraqi authorities, Rumsfeld replied that "obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility" other than to voice disapproval.
But Pace had a different view. "It is the absolute responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it," the general said.
Rumsfeld interjected: "I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it."
But Pace meant what he said. "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it," he said, firmly.
I'd love to have been a fly on Rumsfeld's head when he and the General next spoke after leaving the press room.
Lindsay: "Ohmygod! I totally don't get LU decomposition!! I'm gonna flunk the test!!"
Becky: "It's easy. By simply writing my notes in this magic box on my Tablet PC, I now have a complete understanding of Linear Algebra. I can't believe you still use paper."
Lindsay: "Hey, where'd ya go??? WTF???"
Becky: "Oh, I don't exist on the corporeal plane anymore."
Lindsay: "You're such a bitch! What ever. Hey, who knocked over my ink well!"
Did you catch President Bush's speech in Anchorage on Monday? He argued that Democrats are rewriting history by questioning today the administration's manipulation of intelligence on Iraq before the war. Reciting quotes taken from pre-war speeches and interviews Democratic politicians had given then, he attempts to demonstrate their supposed hypocrisy.
Not surprisingly, the White House's selective use of these quotes is as deceptive as its selective use of intelligence in 2002 and 2003.
The New Republic's Ryan Lizza (or, as I like to call him, "The Lizza") writes [subscription required]:
How many of those who heard Bush's sound bites on the evening news will hear the rest of the quote? Then again, there may be a reason "[a]lmost six in 10 now say Bush is not honest, and a similar number say his administration does not have high ethical standards."
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are no doubt aware of the controversy surrounding my bjournal entry of this past January 31st (see comments).
To document the current state of affairs at the Beltway Plaza Wendy's in verdant Greenbelt, Maryland, Sandra and I went on a very special dinner-date last Thursday, with a copy of that day's edition of the New York Times in hand. Please enjoy these photographs of our visit.
Dear Kourtney, I assure you that I meant no disrespect ("dis") to you or your family. I am quite fond of the old-timey tables at Wendy's, young lady, and it saddens me to learn that there exist other franchises bereft of these amusing decorations.
My five seconds of fame [last two paragraphs]. Just to clarify, I don't think the average user is going to break the DRM on the Sony CD. But as long as somebody can, and put the music on a P2P network, it doesn't matter — or at least it matters much less.
On a brighter note: Remember Harvey Danger? They were, and continue to be, a Rock and Roll band from Seattle, Washington. Of course you remember them. Who can forget their irreverent hit Flagpole Sitta? "Paranoia paranoia everybody's coming to get me just say you never met me" they sang to a nation looking for direction in the midst of a presidential sex scandal.
In preparing to self-release our new album, we thought long and hard about how best to use the internet. Given our unusual history, and a long-held sense that the practice now being demonized by the music biz as “illegal” file sharing can be a friend to the independent musician, we have decided to embrace the indisputable fact of music in the 21st century, put our money where our mouth is, and make our record, Little By Little…, available for download via Bittorrent, and at our website. We’re not streaming, or offering 30-second song samples, or annoying you with digital rights management software; we’re putting up the whole record, for free, forever. Full stop. Please help yourself; if you like it, please share with friends.
Of course, the CD will also be for sale on the site, as well as in fine independent record stores across the country, in a deluxe package that includes a 30-minute bonus disc that serves as a companion piece to the record proper (retail price for the package is $11.99).
Other bands have tried this, I believe, and I won't hold my breath waiting for this to become the norm. Still, it's pretty cool.