Friday, May 21, 2004


In an unusually obtuse op-ed piece this week, Senator Fritz Hollings writes the following:

“Led by Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer, for years there has been a domino school of thought that the way to guarantee Israel's security is to spread democracy in the area… Bush felt tax cuts would hold his crowd together and spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats.”

In other words, as James Lileks puts it, Charles Krauthammer and other wily Jews created the war by using their Jew-beams to manipulate the goyim. Clearly Hollings’sentiments are repugnant. Even the usually partisan ADL has condemned his comments, much to its credit I might add. The disturbing trend of anti-Semitism coming from the American left couldn’t be any clearer.

At this point in time, who’s the most embarrassing Democratic Senator? The competition is fierce. In a field that includes Kluxie Byrd and Ted Kennedy, the bar has been set pretty high.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


Lowe is one of the most overrated pitchers in baseball. Even in his breakout year, he was the beneficiary of outsized offensive support. Lowe’s rep is out of line with his actual skills. People around here act like he should be a perennial Cy Young candidate when the truth is he’s a solid 3rd or 4th starter, nothing more. Want to enjoy the Derek Lowe experience? Learn to expect mediocrity and enjoy the occasionally stellar start. Think of him as an elongated Bob Stanley, which is what he is, and outings like last night’s will cease to be a shock to the system.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this week, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Armitage were the star witnesses. During the hearing, the increasingly insufferable Joe Biden asked a “question” that was over ten minutes long. Could there be any greater evidence that for a preponderance of our solons, hearings of this sort are nothing more than a forum to grandstand and bloviate? Here Biden sits with two of the architects of the administration’s Iraq policy sitting before him, and obviously he doesn’t care what they have to say. He would rather hear the sound of his own voice. The whole episode provokes a constructive suggestion for hearings of this sort: Guys like Armitage and Wolfowitz have a war to run; if their testimony is needed, then clearly they should testify. But they should not be forced to endure ten minute “questions” from the likes of Senator Biden when there is important work to be done.

It is difficult to describe how poorly the Senate has acquitted itself the last few weeks.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


Quoth the minority leader during a time of war: ''I believe that the president's leadership and the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience…The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality?'' One must wonder whether Pelosi or her fellow Bush bashers give any thought to how these attacks play with our enemies. Do they not realize that comments like these embolden our foes and encourage them? The enemy views America as inherently weak and divided. Comments like Pelosi’s bolster that view.

You know, people like Pelosi often complain that Republicans question their patriotism but can’t point to a single Republican engaged in the act. As a public service, I will, here and now and explicitly, question her patriotism. If she loves America, her love for America is outweighed by her hatred for Bush and the Republicans up to the point where she will knowingly provide succor to those who seek our destruction. Some patriot.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


Sorry there haven’t been any postings since Monday. Some weeks don’t lend themselves to this endeavor. To make up for lost time, I’ll be popping in frequently today jotting off some quick thoughts on the players and the events of the week.

Dave D’Allesandro – the relentlessly self-aggrandizing John Hancock chair had an op-ed piece in the Globe this week whose theme was that he wouldn’t allow his child to go to Iraq just as surely as President Bush wouldn’t allow his children to go to Iraq. Apparently possessing an uncanny ability to read George Bush’s mind, D’Allesandro knows that Bush “won’t let” his daughter serve her country. From this dubious conclusion, D’Allesandro extrapolated that we all know the Iraq war is wrong (including President Bush – there’s a revelation!) and that no rich person would make the sacrifice to serve a questionable cause. I’m not oversimplifying or distorting D’Allesandro’s argument. It really is that simplistic and that obtuse. What concerns me about his piece is how it reflects a significant segment of American society – the fatted baby boomer for whom self sacrifice is an utterly foreign concept. D’Allesandro finds the actual cases of a Jim Meeks or a Pat Tillman to be literally unimaginable. Nowhere does he deal with the reality that tens of thousands of Americans have made enormous sacrifices to be part of this cause. Again, for D’Allesandro, the notion of self sacrifice is inconceivable.

I wish I were doing business with John Hancock so I could cancel my account as a protest.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, May 17, 2004


To say the first two years of the Civil War went poorly for the Union would be an understatement. In spite of vastly superior resources, Union generals in the Virginia theatre were consistently outperformed by their opposite numbers on the Confederate side. Robert E. Lee in particular scored an uninterrupted string of victories over the Union through a combination of dash, élan, and his historically unprecedented willingness to take military risks. It oversimplifies things only a bit to say that Lee’s and the Confederacy’s successes during the first two years of the struggle were due to the combination of his boldness and the Union generals' timidity and risk aversion.

Because his military leaders were being so thoroughly outperformed, Lincoln constantly had to search for a general with the willingness to match Lee’s audacity and brilliance. From the start of hostilities in the Spring of 1861 through the Spring of 1863, Lincoln changed his head of the Army of the Potomac no fewer than six times. While in the less strategically vital western theatre, Lincoln had an emerging superstar in U.S. Grant, there were no such bright prospects in the East.

Even in the West, all was not smooth. Grant was frequently maligned by his colleagues for his alleged taste for whiskey. Lincoln responded that he would like to buy each of his generals a barrel of the same whiskey which Grant allegedly favored. Getting serious, he said that he needed Grant because, “He fights.” Lincoln knew he needed a leader with a similarly combative nature for the Virginia theatre.

Upon the arrival of Spring 1863, the President once again shuffled the deck on the Potomac and elevated the famously pugnacious “Fighting Joe” Hooker to command the Army and confront the wily Lee. Hooker’s courage and willingness to fight were beyond question. The questions regarding Hooker concerned his ability to manage a force the size of the army of the Potomac (at the time the largest single fighting force in the history of the planet) and to think strategically and creatively about how to use that force in battle. In other words, his bona fides as a warrior were beyond doubt; his skills as an administrator and a tactician at this ultimate level were as yet unproven. As was the case with Grant, Lincoln knew that at the very least in Hooker he had a general who would fight. He even felt compelled to caution Hooker against “rashness” upon his elevation.

Hooker quickly put any issues regarding his organizational capacities to rest. He immediately whipped the Army of the Potomac into the best shape it had been in since the renowned administrator George McClellan had been in charge. Many of Hooker’s underlings were pleasantly surprised by the heretofore hidden talents that Hooker displayed. The rank in file, which had loved McClellan as no other leader, quickly took to the flamboyant Hooker and morale soared to unprecedented heights. Given the routine drubbings the Army of the Potomac had taken over the previous two years, Hooker’s performance was remarkable.

Having thus strengthened his army, Hooker, unlike his predecessors, intended to use it. Like Lincoln, Hooker intuitively understood that if he could destroy Lee’s Army (which he outnumbered by over a 2-1 basis) the war would be over. To achieve that end, Hooker made plans to confront Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia at Chancellorsville. Historically, Lee’s successes had come about because of his unusual willingness to divide his forces and attack the Yankee lines where they were thinnest. This tack assumed that the timid Yankee generals would fail to take the initiative and reliably eschew attacking Lee where he had left himself thin. For two years, this strategy had never failed – Yankee generals never assailed Lee’s divided forces and Lee, dictating the terms of battle, registered an uninterrupted string of victories.

But now Lee faced Fighting Joe Hooker who vowed things would be different. Hooker designed an ingenious set of maneuvers whereby the Union would deliver the knockout blow that Lincoln had so long sought. Having crossed the Potomac and the Rappahannock, Hooker’s army stood in front of Lee’s Army of Virginia. Staring out from his Fredricksburg base, Lee saw that he confronted a Union force that was slightly numerically superior to his own. That didn’t particularly concern Lee – he had been defeating numerically superior forces throughout the war.

What Lee didn’t know was that Hooker had also managed to place a force of over 70,000 troops to his rear. Lee was surrounded by two superior fighting forces, each of which on its own had more troops than his entire complement and each of which held the higher ground. The Union was at long last ready to replay the destruction of the Roman military at Cannae. The war was about to be won. Amongst the Army of the Potomac’s command, there was jubilation on what all figured was the eve of battle. They offered praise to Hooker whose audacity and brilliance had paved the way for this moment. All that was left was to deliver the blow.

And then, for the first time, Fighting Joe Hooker was assailed by doubts. The doubts didn’t come from anyone on his staff – his generals to a man were ready to fight. But in his head, Hooker suddenly began to second guess his plans which he had taken months to realize. He began to think it had been too easy getting to Lee’s rear. Lee had been outperforming the Union generals for years – the suddenly fearful Hooker figured it could be nothing other than a trap. His spies told him that Lee had no idea he had been so thoroughly flanked, but Hooker suddenly refused to believe that Lee had so easily put himself in a position to be destroyed.

So Hooker decided not to attack. Moreover, he decided to pull back. The generals on his staff were furious. But Hooker reminded his staff that Lincoln had cautioned him against “rashness” before giving him command and now he had to take heed of that counsel. By pulling back, Hooker did something even worse than letting Lee off the hook. He left himself in a position of great vulnerability. The Battle of Chancellorsville turned out to be the biggest disaster of the war for the Union in a war that was full of disasters. Rather than being recalled for Joe Hooker’s brilliance and audacity, it is instead most remembered today for the genius (and death) of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson.

In the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe (and Chancellorsville, unlike certain contemporary events, merits the label “catastrophe” – the Union suffered over 17,000 casualties), Hooker, in the manner of Generals dating back to the Roman Empire, blamed his staff and circumstances. But a mere few weeks later, Fighting Joe had become more contemplative. Shocked by his own hesitation, Hooker proclaimed, “I was not hurt by a shell, and I was not drunk. For once I lost confidence in Joe Hooker, and that is all there is to it.” The sobriquet “Fighting Joe,” which had always been one of honor and respect, has gone down as one of the more ironic nicknames in the annals of military history.

Doubt, vacillation, hesitancy, a proclivity for second guessing oneself – these are not a commander’s friend during war. Any wartime commander will make mistakes. That’s a given. Eisenhower famously boasted that his command’s greatest strength was that it didn’t make the same one twice. But you can’t prosecute a war being overly fearful (or perhaps fearful at all) of error. And you certainly can’t be victorious by endlessly tormenting yourself over events once done.

Contemplative self awareness might be a lovely characteristic to find in a poet or a mate or even a United States Senator. War requires different stuff.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Friday, May 14, 2004


The last fortnight has been a tough one for Bush supporters. A regular correspondent, to maintain my occasionally flagging spirits, has repeatedly reminded me that the day’s setbacks are nothing compared to what Lincoln faced. To make his case, he submits the following:

“1864, IN BRIEF

In the summer of 1864, Lincoln was wildly unpopular and was expected to lose the November election. Even Lincoln thought he was going to lose. A large portion of the Democratic party was in favor of negotiating a peace treaty with the Confederacy that would have let the South go its own way. These folks were called “Copperheads” and they actively worked to politically undermine the war effort. In fact, the Democratic party platform had a plank calling for a cease-fire with the Confederates.

The Democratic candidate was George McClellan, a consummate “political general”. McClellan was extremely intelligent (I think he was at the top of his class at West Point), well connected in Washington, handsome and an organizational genius. The problem was that he was a lousy field general and lacked the killer instinct. After a number of Union losses to Lee in 1862, Lincoln fired him and then struggled to find a winner for the next year until Grant emerged from the Western Campaign in the summer
of 1863. During this time, many of McClellan’s supporters claimed that had he still been in charge of the Army in the East, Lee would have been defeated.

Despite McClellans’s battlefield failings, he was embraced by the Democrats because of his many other politically attractive qualities. President McClellan was widely expected to negotiate a peace treaty with the Confederates, even though he said he was in favor of finishing the war with a victory. McClellan’s polished Eastern credentials were even more attractive given that many people dismissed Lincoln as an ignorant hick from the West, a hairy “ape” and a series of racially-tinged slurs due to his freeing of the slaves.

Despite the fact that the collapse of the Confederacy was a mere 9 months away, the summer of 1864 was a political and military mess for Lincoln. Sherman’s army of the West, having won a brilliant victory at Vicksburg the year before, was bogged down in the mountains of Southeast Tennessee and Northern Georgia against an entrenched Confederate Army before Atlanta, The Army of the Potomac suffered horrendous casualties as Grant implemented his winning (but bloody) attrition strategy which ultimately bled the Confederate Army to death. Confederate raiders destroyed American shipping in large quantities on the high seas, war with Britain or France remained a real possibility because of their toleration of Confederate raiders using their ports and their long term interest in splitting the US. France even took advantage of America’s distraction from Latin America to prop up a puppet monarch on the throne of Mexico. There was even talk in the Republican party about dumping Lincoln.

In short, things were a damned mess for Lincoln. And you know what happened? Sherman broke the siege of Atlanta in September and marched all the way to the Atlantic, slicing what was left of the Confederacy in half. Grant penned Lee up in the Richmond area and began the process of starving what was left of Lee’s army. The Union Navy caught and sank the Alabama, the South’s most successful commerce raider. Things calmed down diplomatically with the English and French. And in November Lincoln won an electoral landslide and a decent (55%-45%) popular vote victory.

So, that’s a very long way of saying, things can look very bad for a sitting President in May and turn out differently in November.”

A few additional thoughts:

1) McClellan had definite talents but he was not the man to lead an aggressive war. Those abilities were not in his skill set. The challenge for a President is to find the appropriately skilled individuals for the tasks at hand. Before finally finding Grant, Lincoln went through Fremont, Rosencrans, Burnside, Hooker, McClellan, Sumner, Pope, and maybe a couple of others I can’t recall. Grant lost more troops than any of his predecessors and yet Lincoln stuck with him where he had cashiered the others. Why? Because Grant had the needed talents for the task at hand. If we had President Boot or President Will or President Kristol or President F. Buckley during the Civil War, we’d all be speaking Confederatese today.

2) French perfidy is nothing new.

3) When Ted Kennedy refers to the U.S. as being the equivalent of Saddam Hussein, make no mistake that he is picking up where the Copperheads left off. Over 500 U.S. soldiers were executed during WWII for war crimes involving the mistreatment of enemy combatants; you will not find one Senator of that era speaking as Senator Kennedy spoke this week. One has to go back to the Copperheads to find an elected official using such rhetoric to condemn the United States during a time of war.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


By now you’ve probably heard of the Boston Globe’s problems. No longer content with being merely a regional embarrassment, the Globe this week took its sorry act on to the national stage.

To summarize the scandal quickly: On Monday, Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, a locally notorious nutcase charlatan, had a press conference where he revealed photos that he claimed were of American soldiers gang raping female Iraqi prisoners. The photos depicted several uniformed individuals surrounding a buxom naked woman in the woods. Aaah, those famous Iraqi woods. The authenticity of the photo could of course not be verified. Nonetheless, the Globe chose to publish Turner’s charges along with the photo, which it turns out was not of actual American soldiers preparing to have their way with an actual busty Iraqi prisoner but was instead downloaded from a pornographic website. The Globe, in other words, decided to give prominence to implausible charges leveled by a source that could charitably be labeled as suspect.

Don’t believe me about Turner? Then take it from the Globe. In an editorial this morning, the Globe describes some of Turner’s past antics: “Unsubstantiated charges are becoming common in Turner's repertoire. Last September he accused City Council President Michael Flaherty of ‘institutional racism’ when Flaherty tried to steer council business toward local concerns and away from resolutions on the Iraq conflict. One year earlier, Turner suggested that a police officer, not a robbery suspect, might have shot a 3-year-old boy. Again, he offered no credible evidence. He could be working to improve housing, education, and job opportunities for his constituents. Instead, he makes a mockery of his office by mounting a bogus photo exhibit with Sadiki Kambon, a black activist known for barring whites from Kwanzaa celebrations.”

So the Globe itself knew he was a fraud. And yet it decided to publish his charges as if the source were legitimate. One must wonder why? If I were cynical, I might think the Globe is on some level enjoying the embarrassment caused by the Abu Ghraib scandal. Either that or the people running the Globe aren’t particularly bright. Granted, both are plausible theories.

The publication of these photos created a national scandal. The blogosphere was inflamed as was the mainstream media; at last, here was a “smoking gun” that shows left-wing media bias.

In an attempt to tamp down the flames, the Globe’s ombudsman waddled in this morning. She writes: “The photo quickly became the subject of talk shows and websites. It was held up as evidence of the Globe's 'anti-Americanism,' its desire to 'bring down Bush' or discredit US troops. I think that criticism is off the mark. Yet the error could not have come at a worse time. Emotions about Iraq were running high even before the beheading of Nicholas Berg. That the Berg story shared the May 12 paper with the inappropriate photo only made things worse. Some readers called for the firing of various Globe editors. ‘We are not firing anybody,’ responds Baron. What will happen, he says, is conversations with staffers about following proper procedure.”

So the Globe won’t fire anybody. I’m shocked! Really. Because the rallying cry heard ‘round the Globe the last couple of weeks is that Donald Rumsfeld must be held “accountable” for his department’s sins. Gullible me. I thought the Globe was giving voice to a deeply held principle with all of those “Rumsfeld must resign” editorials. Apparently not. It appears that if Rumsfeld wanted to get the Globe off his back, all he should have done was promise to have “conversations.” Yes, conversations – that will teach ‘em.

Gosh, and people thought the Globe might have published those bogus photos because of its eagerness to embarrass the Bush administration. Silly people.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, May 13, 2004


There’s a certain class of people who are endlessly titillated when history repeats itself. Amongst this class there’s a subset that is boundlessly amused when history repeats between Bush 41 and Bush 43. For that subset, this has been a very good week.

One of the forgotten elements of Bush 41’s doomed reelection campaign is the way the right wing punditocracy turned on him like a pack of rabid Yorkshire terriers. From Safire to Will all the way over to Buckley, they lined up (justifiably) to take potshots at George Herbert Walker Bush for his many betrayals of the Reagan Legacy.

This week, it was the son’s turn. Below are a couple of samples:

“Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's failure to offer his resignation over the Abu Ghraib scandal is sadly typical of the lack of accountability that permeates the U.S. government.

We have suffered some catastrophic failures during the last few years. On Sept. 11, 3,000 people might have been saved if FBI, CIA, immigration and customs officers had been a little more diligent and a bit more willing to cooperate with one another. More recently, we went to war in Iraq based on the assurance of the intelligence community that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

How many people have been canned for these egregious cock-ups? Zero.”

Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times, 5/13/2004

“The first axiom is: When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president's 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud -- the story of Iraq's attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today's insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable.”

George F. Will in the Washington Post, 5/12/2004

The key word above seems to be “accountable.” Will and Boot aren’t alone. David Brooks also took some shots this week and the dean himself, William F. Buckley, returned to Republican bashing to also intimate that Rumsfeld should resign. The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol has been a persistent critic of Iraq policy for months now. And these are the administration’s friends. Friends they may be, but they want “accountability.”

The Will and Boot quotes offered above are typical of the line of attack. The thinking goes, stuff has gone wrong and someone must be “accountable.” For the administration to show an adequate commitment to achieving results, it must apparently respond to adverse results by making a sacrifice to the “accountability” gods.

This flabby logic first took hold amongst the right wing pundits with the George Tenet controversy. I’ll be the first to admit, from an outsider’s perspective it doesn’t seem like the CIA has gotten a whole lot right under Tenet. The CIA missed 9/11 and blew the pre-Iraq intelligence. The results have clearly not been good.

But does that tell us all we need to know about whether or not Tenet is doing a good job? Do we have any idea what resources are available to him and how well he’s doing marshalling those resources? Is it possible that he has maximized his resources, but, due to no fault of his own, the resources themselves were lacking?

All I’m saying is that unless you have an extraordinary security clearance, you have no idea how well George Tenet performs as the director of the CIA. You’d think whether or not he’s good at his job should be a consideration when one is debating whether or not he should retain his job. If Tenet is a good director of the CIA, if he performs well at the task, we would be unwise to jettison him.

While tempting, it is intellectually lazy to conclude that he is a bad director of the CIA because of the notorious and damaging failures of his organization. Of course, the calls for his dismissal have been legion. Engaging in simplicity will always be a more pleasant pastime than practicing intellectual rigor.

Will’s and Boot’s calls for Rumsfeld’s dismissal are also intellectually lazy. Nowhere in their articles do they engage the issue of whether or not Rumsfeld has been a good Secretary of Defense. It seems to me that many of their ilk were ready to put Rummy on Mt. Rushmore not so long ago for his commitments to transformation and 21st century blitzkrieg. They also fail to engage the even more important question of whether he possesses the talents one would want in a Secretary of Defense at this point in history. Being at war and all, shouldn’t that consideration at least rate a mention?

In his a recently published autobiography, Robert Rubin tells a story about his successor, Paul O’Neill (who managed the almost impossible feat of being fired by Bush 43) to illustrate the differing philosophies of the two men:

“Paul O’Neill, the Bush Administration’s newly appointed Treasury Secretary, said he liked the Mexican (bailout) program because it worked. ‘We gave them money, it stabilized their situation. And they paid back the money ahead of schedule,’ he said. ‘I like success. I’m not a real fan of even well-meaning failure.’ Where O’Neill said he liked what worked, my view was that decisions shouldn’t be valued only on the basis of results. Even the best decisions…are probabilistic and run a real risk of failure, but the failure wouldn’t make the decision wrong.”

Thinking like O’Neill is easy, thinking like Rubin is hard. Unfortunately, in this war, the easy way seldom seems to be the best way.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


Random thoughts during a busy news cycle:

1) Should the execution of Nick Berg be shown? Should we watch it? I think it would be helpful for some people to view the tape and hopefully gain an understanding of our enemy’s nature. One of the problems we’ve had with the war on terror regards the domestic left and our putative Western European Allies - they just don’t understand the desires and capabilities of the Islamic fanatics that we face. The Berg tape could thus have a clarifying effect. It’s an understatement to say that we’re up against some very bad people.

2) Should the views of Berg’s family regarding the dissemination of the video be taken into account? This was a big issue when Daniel Pearl was killed in a similar fashion a couple of years ago. Unfortunately for Berg’s family, his execution now belongs to history. It’s a reality of our day and our age. Although Berg’s killing obviously affects his family most profoundly, the event does not belong to them exclusively. They, like then Pearls before them, have no right to embargo the tape, though any wishes they might have in that regard would be understandable.

3) Rumsfeld went to Baghdad this morning. For those of us hoping he’ll remain in his post, that’s a good sign. It would be beyond bizarre if Rumsfeld were to go to Baghdad on a morale boosting mission one day, and literally resign the next. Perhaps Rusmfeld’s trip can be taken as a sign that the administration will not succumb to the wishes of the wobbly conservative press (George Will, William F. Buckley, The Weekly Standard) and serve the Defense Secretary’s head on a platter.

4) The New York Times reports this morning: “In the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a high-level detainee who is believed to have helped plan the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, C.I.A. interrogators used graduated levels of force, including a technique known as ‘water boarding,’ in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown.” How many Americans have a problem with this guy being treated roughly? Indeed, the real scandal would be if Mohammed had relevant information that we weren’t getting because we weren’t being rough enough. Can you imagine the outcry if a dirty bomb attack could have been prevented if we had only been a bit more aggressive with this particularly odious “detainee?” I’m not dismissing the arguments against torturing terrorists – many of them are strong. But as a society, can there be any doubt where the bulk of the populace stands on this issue?

5) Alan Dershowitz came out a couple of years ago arguing for the moral necessity of torturing terrorists. Where’s he been the last few weeks? Don’t tell me Harvard’s most famous law professor has suddenly become media shy.

6) There are more photos of prisoner abuse atrocities and the big controversy of the morning so far is whether or not to release them. I don’t care if they’re released or not; bad stuff obviously went on and the wrong-doers should be punished. But can we not all agree that it’s time to move on? Is there any piece of analysis regarding Abu Ghraib still yet unspoken? Kennedy’s disgusted, Kerry’s outraged, McCain’s McCain. We got it. Now let’s go kill us some terrorists.

7) Al Hunt in today’s WSJ relays a story of a small dinner party in the past year that Rumsfeld attended. From Hunt’s account, it sounds like he was there as well. Other attendees included Kofi Annan and spouse; the host was head of the World Bank. According to Hunt, Rumsfeld stormed out when some of the other guests (obviously morally infallible themselves) began grilling him in regards to the treatment of prisoners. What a perfect example of inside the beltway thinking this column is! Only in Washington would an alleged dinner party faux pas be elevated to a hanging offense. It’s hard to imagine how Hunt would view this little anecdote to be of any relevance whatsoever.

8) Instapundit, the most popular blog on the web, had over 200,000 hits yesterday. (Soxblog had somewhat fewer, in case you’re wondering.) One of the principle effects of the ‘net has been the way it’s empowered people to get information on their own, often from primary sources. Before the internet, the big media outlets served as a gatekeeper for determining what was newsworthy and what wasn’t. No more. LBJ lost Cronkite and soon thereafter lost Vietnam. Bush has lost Brokaw, Koppel, Rather, all the anonymous boobs on CNN , and a hundred others whose names aren’t worth recalling, all to no effect. Sometimes paradigms change.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Why did the terrorists attack in the manner in which they did on 9/11? Because they lacked a more efficient means to wreak even greater destruction.

There can’t be any doubt that Al Qaeda and its murderous minions will inflict as much damage on the United States as their abilities allow. As the footage of Nicholas Berg’s beheading shows, we are battling a uniquely savage and remorseless enemy. This enemy is constantly seeking out greater and more dramatic ways to kill us. If it develops the means by which to kill hundreds of thousands or even millions of Americans, this enemy will deploy those means.

So the overarching goal of the war on terror is to prevent this foe from ever developing the ability to meet its murderous ambitions. The best and most efficient way of seeing to this is to kill the enemy before he has the chance to strike.

So Part I of the strategy is to kill the bad guys. Part II of the strategy is to leave behind conditions after the bad guys are dead that makes the renaissance of similar bad guys less likely. That’s where the idea of leaving a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq came from. If the Iraqi people were prosperous and free, and their prosperity and freedom spread throughout the region like some sort of benevolent virus, then the fanatical tyrants would have no fertile ground for their pernicious blend of fundamentalism and hatred.

But was leaving Democracy in our wake in Iraq a reasonable goal? On the one hand, one can argue that Iraqis are as capable of hosting a free and just society as anyone. After all, who in this world doesn’t yearn to be free and live in peace? Do the Muslims of the Middle East not harbor the same dreams that animate the rest of humanity?

Perhaps not. Golda Meier once famously observed that peace in the Middle East would only be possible when the Arabs came to love their children as much as they hated the children of their foes. That sentiment might appear to be hopelessly condescending until one takes a look at the events in that region. In what other society do the old joyously sacrifice their young in suicide attacks? Meier’s comment preceded suicide bombers by three decades; she showed an eerie prescience.

Perhaps at this point there’s no way that Iraq could serve as a fertile host for a Jeffersonian democracy. Indeed, perhaps the entire region is still quite a distance from being ready to join the community of civilized nations. Let’s face it – things happen in that part of the world that make you wonder sometimes if Middle East denizens share the same basic DNA as the rest of humanity. In general, the region is characterized by its willingness to sacrifice its young and its eagerness to perpetually marinate in hatred, bigotry and bitterness.

Specifically, some of the things that go on there are so savage, so barbaric, that they almost defy belief. Just in the past week:

1) 2 Palestinian terrorists attacked a car driven by an Israeli woman (who was 8 months pregnant) that was carrying her four daughters, ages 2 – 11. After the car was disabled, the gunmen walked over to the car and killed all of the occupants execution style with a bullet to the head. Special attention was given to riddling the pregnant woman’s belly with gunfire. The attack was hailed by Hamas and much of Palestine as “heroic.”

2) 6 Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinians in Gaza. That’s the normal wages of war – no big story there. What happened next, though, is stomach turning. The bodies were dismembered. Joyous Palestinians then played soccer in the streets with the body parts of the deceased. Hamas is currently trying to hold the remaining body parts hostage and negotiate a release with Israel.

3) Most famously, Nicholas Berg was beheaded by his Al Qaeda captors over the weekend. His captors decapitated him in front of a rolling camera and then joyously held his head aloft while shouting praises to Allah. There has not been a single condemnation of this despicable act by an Arab leader although many were quick to condemn the comparably mild atrocities at Abu Ghraib.

What’s most disheartening about these incidents isn’t so much their occurrence but the reaction they occasion from the Arab world. The acts above have been greeted with celebration in the first two cases and a deafening indifference in the last. It makes one wonder whether that part of the world is ready for what America is offering.

Which brings me to my novel theory: Perhaps Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith et al. knew all along that the Iraqi Hamiltons and Jeffersons have yet to be born. Perhaps they knew that achieving a peaceful democracy there that valued the rights of minorities was a hopelessly utopian pipedream. And perhaps they thus reasoned that the battle of Iraq would be but the first step in getting that entire region to heal. Reconstructing Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy would be impossible, but maybe reconstructing it so we’d have to go in and kill the bad guys less often rather than more often would be a laudable and achievable goal. Perhaps they didn’t plan for “the peace” because they felt that a “peace” worth the name, given the nature of the region, was probably a generation away. Perhaps they figure that the fighting in and around Iraq has, historically speaking, just begun.

On his website this morning, Victor Davis Hanson wrote that he hoped today’s 10-12 year olds are made of tough stuff because this war is just beginning and they’re going to have to do the real heavy lifting. Hanson predicts it’s going to be a wild ride. If Israel’s 55 year existence proves one thing, it is this: You can’t negotiate peace with your adversaries if your extirpation is one of their unalterable demands. We know we have foes in the Middle East for whom our extirpation is their only demand. What we don’t know is how long it will take to defeat and destroy them entirely.

But that is the necessary task, for they will seek our destruction as long as they are able.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


A little more than ten years ago I coached a basketball team of 13 and 14 years old. A string-bean named Jimmy Meeks was one of my players. I knew Jim a little before he was serendipitously plunked on my team. His father, a renowned orthopedic surgeon at Beth Israel, was friendly with my father and step-mother. Jim wasn’t a great player (if you’re reading Jim, sorry, but it’s true) but he exemplified everything that could be right in a teammate and a teenager. God, he was such a good kid.

At the end of our season, I was delighted to find out that Jimmy was applying for 9th grade admission to Milton Academy. I was an adjunct member of the faculty at Milton the time and figured I would take a walk down to the admissions office on his behalf. I had grandiose visions of paving this wonderful kid’s way to a brighter future, so I was a little disappointed to find out that Jimmy didn’t need any help from me to get into Milton; the director of admissions told me they were already engaged in mortal combat with the other top prep schools around New England trying to convince Jim to attend their school.

Milton won the recruiting wars, and Jimmy enrolled there. I haven’t seen Jimmy since shortly after he started Milton over ten years ago, but my family was still in touch with his family and every now and then I’d get an update on the great things that he was up to.

Several years ago I heard that he was doing great at Milton and that Harvard would be next. A few years after that, I heard that he was predictably tearing it up at Harvard and that maybe he’d be following his father into medicine.

This morning, for the first time in a few years, I came up to date on Jim’s exploits. Bryan McGrory in the Boston Globe wrote of Jim’s extraordinary decision of where to do his graduate work. Moved by 9/11, Jim resolved to serve his country. When he received his Harvard degree in June 2002, Jim joined the Army.

About seven weeks ago, Jim, now a Lieutenant, shipped out to Iraq. He became the warden of a small detention center in the Sunni triangle. This past Sunday, Jim was grievously wounded when insurgents attacked a convoy he was riding in. According to McGrory’s column, it sounds like the wounds, though serious, will heal.

When someone leaves your life, they tend to stay in frozen in your mind as they were at the time of their departure. Thus, for me, Jim is perpetually the intelligent gifted adolescent who was a leader on his team even though he was one of the team’s youngest and less talented players. I see that kid in my mind’s eye, and it’s not too surprising that he’s now grown up to be a great man. How can anyone not be inspired by his example? This is a man who could have had anything, and instead he opted to serve.

Jim of course is not alone or unique. While he surely had many more options than most of his brothers in arms, all of our troops are sacrificing much and risking all. They know what some in America amazingly forget – they’re fighting a good and necessary fight against a savage foe who’s intent on our destruction. We are still a great nation if we’re turning out men like Jim Meeks.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, May 10, 2004


I’ve been meaning to say something about this for the past couple of days.

Lord knows, David Brooks is a voice of sanity on the New York Times op-ed page. Of course, when your work appears alongside Paul Krugman’s on a regular basis, it would be tough not to appear insightful and thoughtful.

On Saturday, Brooks’ article was harshly critical of the White House and the Pentagon. The piece hits what’s become a couple of recurring themes in the conservative press amongst the children of Bill Kristol: Rumsfeld is arrogant and he butchered the peace; and the White House had better figure out what we’re doing in Iraq quick because they’ve screwed everything up so far.

Brooks concludes, “We've got to reboot. We've got to come up with a global alliance of democracies to embody democratic ideals, harness U.S. military power and house a permanent nation-building apparatus, filled with people who actually possess expertise on how to do this job.”

Brooks is suggesting that there are people who have experience doing what we’re trying to do in Iraq. Unfortunately, no one has ever done a job like this before. There’s never been a country that’s been tyrannized and repressed and magically transformed into a Jeffersonian democracy in 24 months. Moreover, there’s never been a country with the preponderance of Islamic fanatics that Iraq possesses that has become a Jeffersonian democracy.

Brooks’ conclusion suggests that there’s an answer manual out there somewhere that the Pentagon has stubbornly refused to consult. The fact is, what America has undertaken here is both audacious and unprecedented. You can search for historic analogies between other nation building exploits, but each one is limited. Comparing the education and historic affluence of post-War Germany to modern day Iraq is instructional. It’s also helpful to note the many cultural differences between post war Japan and modern Iraq.

I’m not saying that the Pentagon hasn’t made mistakes. It has. But to suggest, as Brooks does, that there are people who have “expertise” on how to do “this job” is ludicrous. This is the first time for all of us.

He’s still better than Krugman, though.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


I don’t use the rhetoric of the disheartened. You know how it goes, someone like John Kerry will say something like, “I’m saddened by the way George W. Bush cares more for giving billionaires outrageous tax cuts than he cares about our malnourished and illiterate youth.” Of course, the imagery is ridiculous. Kerry’s not depressed and morose about Bush’s tax cuts. Nor for that matter is Kennedy or Kucinich or Clinton. It’s just a pouty little figure of speech that’s supposed to convey god only knows what.

So when I say I’m saddened by the Democrats’ hunt for Donald Rumsfeld’s scalp, I mean it. I’m really depressed about it, because it’s a big deal. Not because they’ll actually have Rummy’s pelt on the Fleet Center door by convention time, but because of what it says about our country at this pivotal moment in our history. One of our major political parties has completely lost its way.

During the 9/11 Commission hearings, several Democratic commissioners like Bob Kerry and Richard Ben Veniste complained that Bush administration did not deal with the Al Qaeda threat with the appropriate levels of seriousness and resolve prior to 9/11. Senator Kerrey memorably put it, “They were on a war footing, but we were not.”

Right now, we are literally at war. Are we on a war footing? Are we dealing with matters with the appropriate levels of seriousness and resolve? Specifically, is the Democratic Party composed of people who are behaving as responsible leaders? The record on that score is dispiriting.

It’s one thing to give our media and entertainment industries a pass. Smart people knew going into the war on terror that those entities had become sufficiently debased that it was unlikely they would be able to lend much of a hand in the struggle ahead. It comes as little surprise that many of those with the biggest megaphones in our society have chosen to shout more about Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Kobe Bryant than the far more consequential matters that our society now confronts.

I would also argue that the same goes for our courts. An increasingly arrogant and independent judiciary has spent decades seemingly obsessed with sticking a thumb in society’s eye. It’s one thing when the issues the judiciary mishandles are relatively trivial like nativity scenes. It’s quite another when those issues might involve dirty bombers and the like. Nonetheless, observers of our court system knew on 9/12 that that legal system would not aid in this critical high stakes battle and indeed would make itself an obstacle to any goals we might pursue.

But I had higher hopes for the Democratic Party. I really did. Most people who get into politics do so for two reasons: Vast ambition and a desire to lead. The two things aren’t necessarily hostile to one another. The better one leads, the more likely one’s ambitions are to be fulfilled. Most politicians are serious people, and these are serious times calling for serious leadership. There was no reason to think the Democrats wouldn’t be serious about the war on terror. They might be wrong about a lot of things, but there was at least the hope that they would deal with the war on terror with the seriousness that opposition parties in the past had shown at times of war.

But they haven’t. During the war on terror, the Democratic Party has been a failure. The last six weeks have been a sorry chapter in the party’s history. The antics of the Democrats on the aforementioned 9/11 Commission got things rolling. No one who saw the hearings would deny that both Richard Ben Veniste and Bob Kerrey cross examined Condi Rice. In a cross examination, as any lawyer will tell you, the goal is to ask questions that you already know the answer to in order to frame the facts in a certain light. When Richard Ben Veniste snarled three times at Condi Rice, “Do you know the name of the PDB?” he was only doing so in order to embarrass the witness.

Of course, a cross examination was wildly inappropriate given the nature of the Commission’s charge. The Commission was supposed to gather evidence in order to make recommendations. The purpose of having witnesses was to inquire and to learn. That being the case, why would the Commissioners ask questions to which they already knew the answers? Doing so was antithetical to their mission. Of course, the Commissioners in question had quite a different mission in mind than the 9/11 Commission’s true charge. The Commissioners in question were, above all else, trying to score political points.

Ben Veniste’s and Kerrey’s cross examinations were but two of many ways the Commission embarrassed itself. From the celebrated Jersey Girls who eager Democrats tirelessly shopped to media outlets to better embarrass the President, to Bob Kerrey’s appearance on the Daily Show where he yukked up the Commission’s work with host John Stewart, the Democrats associated with the 9/11 Commission showed no sense of the gravity of its mission.

But the events of the past week regarding the Secretary of Defense have been the party’s absolute nadir. Now one can make a good case for why Don Rumsfeld should resign, irrespective of the goings on at Abu Ghraib. Obviously it’s a case I would find without merit, but there are reasonable points one could make. You could say that the Pentagon arrogantly miscalculated the cost of the war and the amount of troops necessary. You could say that Rumsfeld has been slow to adapt to disquieting facts on the ground. You could say he’s hopelessly antagonized military leadership and that it’s time for a fresh direction. You could even say that someone has to be sacrificed to appease our Arab and European “allies.: For a wealth of reasons, I think all of those charges are poorly thought out critiques, but one could level them in good faith. Hell, the Weekly Standard’s practically been saying as much.

But calling for his resignation based on Abu Ghraib? Frankly, that’s tough to defend. The resignation camp has to acknowledge one key thing: There was no cover up, nor was there an attempted cover up. That leaves the resignation camp with two things left to argue.

The first is that Rumsfeld in effect allowed the events at Abu Ghraib by setting conditions so that the soldiers at Abu Ghraib were victimized by their small numbers and lack of training. This line of thinking assumes that the losers now awaiting their richly deserved military court martials were ordered to interrogate the prisoners in something resembling the fashion that they did. The soldiers are to be pitied for they were handed a complex job that they weren’t prepared to handle.

It’s hard to fully convey how spectacularly dumb this theory is. The soldiers at Abu Ghraib were victims? Come on, must everyone be a victim in our society? To suggest that their poor training led to their despicable actions is utterly ridiculous. One can foresee the following snippet from Private England’s trial: “If I had had better training, I would have learned that pointing at the prisoner’s genitalia with a gleeful sadistic grin while being photographed and flashing the thumbs up sign was improper. But lacking such training, how was I to know better?” The soldiers in those pictures were rogues, pure and simple. One look at the pictures shows as much.

The other critique that cries for Rumsfeld’s head is that he should have been more proactive in notifying the President and Congress. This is another bogus charge. The story regarding the abuses at Abu Ghraib was in the New York Times in January. You didn’t need a high security clearance to know about Abu Ghraib. Any citizen with an outsized tolerance for dreary prose and imbalanced reporting could have learned all the Times had to report. Even a Congressman could have become a virtual Abu Ghraib expert. Now if Rumsfeld had been appropriately sensitive to the politics involved here, he would have rung the alarm. But suggesting that the leader of the military should resign in the middle of the war because of this? It beggars belief.

The attack on Rumsfeld comes from the personal animosity that he’s engendered due to his imperious ways and the Democrats’ incessant pursuit for the upper hand in every news cycle. Is either one a good reason to leave our military devoid of leadership at a time of war? What will it take for the Democrats to realize that this war is a serious matter and not something to be played for political advantage? One can only wonder.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Thursday, May 06, 2004


I never played much baseball. My sub-mediocre career came to an overdue end after Little League. So when I analyze a player’s performance from a technical perspective, I’m every bit as ill informed and ignorant as Dan Shaughnessy.

That being said, I have a theory about Pedro and why tonight’s game may signal a turning point of sorts. Every game that he starts, going back to last fall, he works his way into shape in the early innings. He begins by throwing easy and by the end of the game he’s airing it out and looking something like the old Pedro. The early inning soft-ball fests suggest that he's been afraid that he would injure himself if he threw too aggressively before he was sufficiently limbered up.

Tonight he again began the game by lobbing an 86 MPH down the pike; Matt Lawton promptly drilled it into the bleachers. Pedro continued to lob it up there for the next few batters and it looked like he might be chased early for the second consecutive game.

And then, it seemed like all of a sudden he said to himself, “Enough of this shit!”, and began to throw the ball. It seemed like he was saying he’d rather injure himself than be the skinny Dominican Bob Stanley.

Boy he was great the last six innings. You know, for the past 18 years the Red Sox have trotted out a pitcher once every five days who had the chance of being spectacular. I think Sox fans have come to take it for granted, sort of like Bruins fans came to take Ray Bourque for granted. Unless Tim Wakefield adds a 102 MPH fastball to his repertoire, those days are coming to an end – five months and counting.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


I tried to head this off. On Saturday I pleaded with America to keep the events in Abu Ghraib in perspective. Alas, I failed. Abu Ghraib has become this week’s scandal of the century. In the words of Senator Jay Rockefeller, it’s “one of the worst things that ever happened in American history.” So it’s officially a big deal. Let’s take a look at a few aspects of this story.

1) Arab Outrage - Even Peggy Noonan, normally a voice of sanity on the right, wrote that the events in Abu Ghraib would inflame our enemies. So true, so true. They might be so outraged, they might jump a car full of American contractors in Fallujah and then dismember and burn their bodies. Or they might fly air-planes into civilian centers. Peggy, our enemies are perpetually outraged. What happened in Abu Ghraib was sickening, but I don’t think it will drive Al Qaeda’s minions to extremism; they’ve been residing there comfortably for quite some time.

2) Will this become the face of the war for history? Several of the members of the media and Congress have opined that it will. Whether or not Abu Ghraib becomes one’s dominant image of this war will depend on how one viewed American history up to this point. If you’re the type of person who believes that America’s exceptional and thinks America’s soul was defined at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, and Normandy, you’ll probably think that Abu Ghraib was the exception not the norm. If, however, you feel that the American story is little more than slavery and the butchery of native Americans and the exploitation of noble third world types with the occasional My Lai or Wounded Knee as an exclamation point, than Abu Ghraib will be the defining moment that you’ve been waiting for the past 12 months.

3) Actions of the Loyal Opposition - This has been a sorry week for the Democratic party. We’re at war and it’s obvious that many leading Democrats are using an embarrassment in that war to crassly seek political advantage. Take Rockefeller’s quote from above: Can he possibly believe that this is one of the worst things in history? Joe Biden said on the Senate floor this afternoon that it would have been less damaging if the prisoners had just been shot. Ted Kennedy said that he’s convinced this is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Now Senator Kennedy is a reliably sober and judicious public figure, but it’s outrageous that he would make such a statement without any support. One has to wonder whether he’s wishing that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

4) Throw Rumsefeld Under the Bus - Loyal Soxblog readers know I love Rummy so obviously I think he has to stay. I do have a theory of how this happened on his watch. It sounds like Rummy knew about the goings on at Abu Ghraib a while ago. And yet it didn’t strike him as a big deal. Why? Probably because he views it as his job to kill the enemy and flagellating himself and the Armed Forces over the actions of the sadistic loser guards at Abu Ghraib would just have to wait. He didn’t view the thing as a priority. Let’s call him officially guilty of having a political tin ear.

5) WWJKD - What would President John Kerry do? Let’s say he had a Secretary of Defense that he considered able but who embarrassed him during an election season. And let’s say many members of the media, the opposition party, and his own party wanted the Secretary’s scalp as a sign that the President was really remorseful and committed to change. Would President Kerry toss his embattled Secretary of Defense’s scalp aside like he did his Vietnam medals (or his ribbons or someone else’s medals or ribbons)? Is there any doubt?

6) Should the President Apologize – Again with the apologizing stuff. The national media just won’t let up until Bush gives them at least one Clintonian jaw jut followed by a false show of contrition. I’m sorry, but the most important thing for the United States right now is to appear strong and resolute. Weepy apologies may knock ’em dead in Georgetown, but there’s a wider stage to consider. We’re at war now and the wimps have to repair to the sidelines. Unfortunately a soggy Clinton style apology would garner not forgiveness from the Arab world but contempt. That’s something that we simply cannot afford.

7) Reasonable Standard – We have 130,000 troops there. Some of them will be bad actors. If you haven’t checked out the profiles of the guards at Abu Ghraib, do so; these were not the best people that America has to offer. Apparently, they were rotten folks before the Army and rotten in the Army. But is it reasonable to expect a complement of 130,000 to have no bad actors? Of course not. But of course it’s also reasonable to expect that those bad actors will be policed by their betters. Isn’t that what’s happening now.

8) Tomorrow - Another high stakes Senate hearing. Rumsfeld will go and confront his accusers in the Senate. What a spectacle – a blowhard like Biden trying to ruin the career of a great man like Rumsfeld. My money’s on the Secretary of War.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick DwighT

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Not to nitpick but…

Last week 52 British diplomats sent a letter to Tony Blair that said in so many words that Israel stinks and that Blair shouldn’t be supporting the Sharon government. Blair’s correspondents saw their moral purity undermined a bit later in the week when the Telegraph revealed that most of them have links with Arab governments or are actually paid by pro-Arab organizations.

Apparently jealous by the attention garnered by their across the pond colleagues, 60 washed up American diplomats sent President Bush a similar letter this morning. The letter reads in part:

“Your unqualified support of Sharon's extra-judicial assassinations, Israel's Berlin Wall-like barrier, its harsh military measures in occupied territories, and now your endorsement of Sharon's unilateral plan are costing our country its credibility, prestige and friends.” (Emphasis added)

There’s a lot about that sentence that’ offensive and stupid, but I want to focus on the part that’s merely ignorant. Israel has built a Berlin Wall? Huh?

The Berlin Wall was not built to prevent suicide bombing West Germans from invading East Berlin. Nor was it built to keep West Berliners out of East Berlin at all. East Germany built the Berlin Wall to imprison its own citizens.

Whatever one might think of Israel or its security fence, no one would argue that Israel erected it to prevent Israelis from escaping Israel in order to partake in the freedom and prosperity of Palestinian society. Truth be told, that hasn’t been much of a problem.

Of course the Israeli security fence and the Berlin Wall have absolutely nothing in common. Even a bunch of has been Foggy Bottom employees surely know that. The Berlin Wall thing is used as a smear, an imprecation. The Berlin Wall was one of the great symbols of evil in the world for decades. Can it be a mere coincidence that the authors of this letter so casually and incorrectly linked it to Israel or does it reveal some deep sort of bias?

Like anti-Semitism?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


Over the weekend on Gaza, a pregnant woman and her four daughters were killed by Palestinian terrorists. As the woman and her children drove, the killers ambushed their car and riddled it with gunfire. After the initial damage was done, the Palestinians walked over to the car and killed each of the car’s occupants execution style with a gunshot to the head from point blank range. The woman’s daughters ranged in age from four to eleven. The gunmen were later killed in an ensuing shoot-out. Hamas, who claimed responsibility for the attack, called it “heroic.”

I don’t think anyone in America would have a problem labeling the killing of a pregnant woman and her four daughters an atrocity. That’s our values, it’s who we are. If American troops were ever involved in such a despicable act, the American media would rightly be all over it and America’s citizenry would be outraged.

But how does such an attack go down in other parts of the world? The following is Al Jazeera’s coverage in its entirety:

"Two palestenian fighters were killed when they opened fire on an Israeli vehicle near the entrance of a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, killing 4 Israelis.

The attack near the entrance of the Gush Katif bloc of settlements came as the ruling Likud Party was holding a referendum on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of Gaza.

The attack was the deadliest on Israeli settlers in Gaza in months, and it was unclear how it would affect Sunday's vote. Polls have shown voters are closely divided over the withdrawal plan.

In Gaza, an 8-year-old Palestinian boy was killed Saturday and 12 Palestinians were wounded, 10 of them minors, by army fire near Israeli settlements, hospital officials said. The army said soldiers fired in response to an anti-tank missile and several firebombs. Two teens got too close to a settlement, the army said.

In the West Bank, a 22-year-old Palestinian died of wounds suffered during a clash with Israeli forces, doctors said. Palestinians said he was a bystander."

From our perspective, it might seem that they’re missing what to us would be the point, no?

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Monday, May 03, 2004


William Faulkner once famously stated that in the breast of every young Southern boy lived the moment just before Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg when victory for the South in the Civil War still seemed possible and Southern élan and dash had yet to meet the steel of Union resolve.

Similarly, every young Red Sox fan will forever carry the moment last Friday when his team bestrode the American League East like an unbeatable colossus having registered a 15-6 April only to be sabotaged by yet another puerile outburst by its selfish ace pitcher. Like Pickett before him, Pedro launched an unfortunate and doomed charge that has fatally undermined his cause.

Is there any doubt it’s over? The good feelings are gone, the bloom is off the rose. Johnny Damon may as well get a haircut because this clearly ain’t the year. This team just can’t hit, and one of the two guys that really can hit is an injury prone head case. Not only can’t they hit, they choke in the clutch. They’re hitting like.042 as a team with runners in scoring position. Choking and the Red Sox – who ever thought those two things would be linked?

The pitching staff has overachieved to date – the bottom will fall out soon. Nomar and Trot will probably never come back. In regards to Trot, remember what back problems did to Larry Bird? And Nomar may be the most fragile great player since Joe Dimaggio. The Sox will limp along, maybe contending for the wildcard, but the Curse lives.

By the way, the foregoing was tongue in cheek. But Pedro should shut up.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight

Saturday, May 01, 2004


Just when everything was going so perfectly…

One of the things we’ve come to expect over the last couple of decades in Red Sox Nation is a periodic spasm of remarkably infantile conduct from the team’s pitching ace. For ten years, Roger Clemens provided the entertainment. Most Sox fans of a certain age doubtlessly recall Clemens lamenting his mistreatment at the hands of an allegedly classless Red Sox organization. His prime example of the Sox’ shabbiness? They made him and his teammates carry their own luggage. Surprisingly, this allegedly atrocious treatment failed to outrage the Red Sox’ fan base.

In 1997, Clemens carried his luggage all the way to Toronto, and a year later Pedro came along. At first Pedro seemed like he would be the perfect antidote to Clemens and his head-strong Texan ways. The media clucked over Pedro’s maturity and professionalism. They admired the way he had mastered English even though it was his second language. The joke around town was that he spoke English better than Clemens.

Unfortunately, Pedro has not exactly turned out to be the second coming of Ray Bourque in the classy deportment department. Over his six seasons here, Pedro has amassed a history of annoying interviews that remarkably has begun to rival Clemens’ impressive body of work in that area. Pedro submitted his latest effort last night. With the club cruising and standing atop the division having turned in a sizzling 15-6 April, Pedro figured it was time to liven things up with a little controversy. As the Boston Globe breathlessly reports, “Declaring ‘enough is enough,’ Pedro Martinez last night closed the door on contract negotiations with the Red Sox, saying he will enter free agency after the season and play next year where he is wanted, even if it's the Bronx.”

Pedro’s pissy because the he feels the Red Sox won’t pay him what he’s worth. The problem is, I bet, the Red Sox will pay him only what he’s worth. Down Route 1, Bill Belichick has shown us how to do it and I’m sure Theo and the gang have been watching: If you want to get ahead, pay athletes for what they’re going to do, not for what they’ve done. A certain loudmouthed cornerback didn’t like the repercussions of that policy, and Pedro won’t like them either.

When opening day roles around next year, Pedro will be 33 years old with a history of physical concerns. His future is so questionable, it might be appropriate if he dressed like Batman’s nemesis the Riddler instead of wearing his familiar number 45. To put it delicately, his upside is limited, his future cloudy. Sure there’s a chance that he could go away and do a “Clemens” on us and rack up a few Cy Young awards, but it’s not likely. If you’re a smart guy like John Henry, that’s not a scenario you’re going to bet on. Pedro also has the same issue as Manny regarding his conduct. Pedro’s a real pain in the ass. If he’s leading the league in ERA, he’s still a pleasure to have around. But as his skills erode…

So I’m telling you now Pedro – there’s no way you’re going to get the contract you want from the Red Sox this season. Zero possibility. The smart guys running the show there probably value your future less than most of the management teams in the game.


Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight


None of what follows should be misinterpreted as an excuse for or a defense of the American soldiers who mistreated their Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Baghdad. Their actions were sickening, and have besmirched an entire nation. Indeed, “Abu Ghraib” may well enter the American historical and political lexicon next to entries like “Mai Lai” and “Wounded Knee” as a kind of shorthand for America’s moral fallibility.

But before it does, let’s have a little perspective. In an Army of 150,000 or any assemblage of similar size, there will doubtlessly be some miscreants. Demanding or expecting moral perfection from a group as large as the American occupying force would be ludicrous. We should also remember that this isn’t just any old group. This is a fighting force that’s currently at war. That doesn’t mean the perpetrators shouldn’t be punished or that we as a nation aren’t accountable for their acts; it just means the “shock” over misdeeds at a time and place of war are inappropriate. Outrage yes, shock no.

Perhaps the greatest force of good in the history of warfare was the Allied forces in WWII. I don’t think many historians would have a problem with that assertion. And even those troops committed acts that shame our nation. Rick Atkinson writes in his Pulitzer Prize winning An Army at Dawn: “Soldiers boasted of using (Arab) natives for marksmanship practice, daring one another to shoot an Arab coming over a hill like a target in an arcade. Others fired at camels to see the riders bucked off, or shot at the feet of Arab children ‘to watch them dance in fear’ as one 34th Division soldier recounted.” While none of this exonerates or even mitigates the American actions at Abu Ghraib, it does underscore the fact that at times of war even the representatives of a good people sometimes do bad things.

But where perspective is most needed is in the contrast between our actions and those of our foes. Two years ago, Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and his torture and his beheading were shown on Al Jazeera to the acclaim of both the network and its viewers. Indeed, the tape became a recruiting tool for various terrorist organizations throughout the Arab world. More recently, an Italian contractor’s ghoulish execution was taped and again broadcast on Al Jazeera. And, lest we forget, the summary executions of American troops during the opening days of the most recent Gulf War were shown to the enraptured delight of Al Jazeera’s audience. This is who we fight.

My point is, in spite of the activities at Abu Ghraib, if you take the long view of history as one would when looking at the Second World War, we’re the good guys. We’re not perfect, but morally we’re a whole lot better than the people who beheaded Danny Pearl and the people who cheered his executioners on. The reaction on the Arab street to Pearl’s execution when compared to the American reaction to Abu Ghraib is most enlightening.

Conventional wisdom holds that this will be a fatal moment in our quest for Arab hearts and minds. I don’t think that’s so. The Arab street, and the Iraqi street, will support the winner, or what Osama bin Laden referred to as the strong horse. When it makes sense for the Arab street to befriend America or to not seek conflict with America, then the Arab street will do so. As usual, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is informative in this regard. Sharon has virtually pummeled his Palestinian adversaries into submission, and lo and behold a nascent Palestinian peace movement is arising. Arafat’s minions are even beginning to concede Israel’s right to exist.

The most lasting repercussions to Abu Ghraib may well be felt in America. Many of us feel that what we’re trying to accomplish in the Arab world is both a noble and necessary mission, but that’s hardly a notion universally shared across the political spectrum. The justification for our actions rests almost entirely on the fact that we are the force of good in the world, and our foes as personified by Al Qaeda and Baathist dead-enders are a force of evil. In order to continue the mission, American society has to be behind it. Anything that muddies the waters regarding who’s good and who isn’t has the potential to inflict great damage on the cause. If the moral confusion regarding who’s good and who’s evil infects the bulk of American society as opposed to being confined to certain fevered swamps of the left as it is now, then the soldiers at Abu Ghraib will have landed so severe a blow to America that the damage will be incalculable.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at

James Frederick Dwight