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Michael Ubaldi, March 23, 2005.

Hobbled twice but never destroyed by Allied and Iraqi authorities, Iranian-instructed Islamist thug Muqtada al-Sadr has been stirring up to whatever lengths and in whatever place he can, which now appears to be Basra — and the university campus. From Sunday, in USAToday:

Shiite Muslim fundamentalists loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr waded into a picnic of about 700 Basra University students last week. They beat several students with sticks and fired their guns in the air.

Iraqi blogger Zeyad, practicing medicine in and around Basra, has commentary on al-Sadr's gang's mild resurgence after a stillborn putsch in April of 2004 and a complete collapse that August. He notes that Times of London has reported two bludgeon deaths. The reporter, however, is one who set as lede to an irresponsibly titled, jaundiced article the false testimony of Italian communist agitator Giuliana Sgrena; the account should be taken with skepticism. Zeyad, to his credit, has made accusations initially thought to be outrageous before facts proved him correct; but he is, I learned from a personal exchange, very suspicious of Ayatollah Ali Sistani and now seems from his concluding remarks in the referenced entry in a state of contempt. And the rather bitter alarmism is reminiscent of his unhelpfully erroneous account of last year's Bloody April.

The USAToday article is more broadly contemplative and places the Sadr row as one element in Iraq's enormous and comparatively liberal youth population:

The non-partisan Iraqi Prospect Organization says 60% of Iraqi university students believe democracy is superior to any other form of government, according to a nationwide poll published today.

..."Iraqi youth are the ones who will make or break the democratization of the country," said Ahmed Shames, chairman of the Baghdad-based Iraqi Prospect Organization, which interviewed 834 Iraqi university students about democracy in December and January.

The article suggests Iraqis' incomplete understanding of democracy is problematic but most results of the poll indicate a healthy trajectory, considering where the society began two years ago, which at the present more than meets historical expectations of a democratizing country. And actions speak to a pluralist spirit more loudly:

Students and their families demonstrated for three days in Basra after the assault. Some university students in other parts of the country reacted with outrage or apprehension over the fundamentalists' attack.

"The religious leaders have their social positions and respect, but that doesn't mean that they have the right to make others obey their orders by force," said Furssan Salah Al-Deen Ahmed, 22, a third-year political science student at the University of Baghdad.

What is Muqtada al-Sadr up to? What is he capable of? The half-wit gangster is one to prey on the weak but it looks as though his chosen quarry, unarmed college students, illustrates his own impotence. Whether the conflation of Shiite parties' electoral success with al-Sadr's is work of the elite media or in-country dissemblers, it's still off. "Mookie" and his party were roundly rejected by Iraqi voters, and Basrans, however worried, have no sympathy for the rabble. When only a clever and discreet agent provocateur can exploit a liberal society's desperation of want, al-Sadr is nothing of the sort; and even in the ripest of circumstances, is hardly guaranteed success.

Michael Ubaldi, March 22, 2005.

Autonomy begets independence, understood well by Ally and Iraqi alike:

The first class of the new Iraqi Army Support and Services Institute kicked off March 21 with 153 students from the 1st Division of the Iraqi Intervention Force. The students are divided into six classes — transport supervisors, wheeled maintenance, armored maintenance, supply supervisor, basic logistic officers for supply and basic logistic officer for maintenance and transport.

The school was established from a need to create a logistics system that would enable Iraqi Army units to be self sustaining, according to Australian Captain Ilona Harmstorf, of the Multi-National Security Transition Command — Iraq’s Coalition Military Assistance Training Team.

"A working logistic system will enable the Iraqi Security Forces to be self-sustaining, thereby decreasing reliance on the coalition," Harmstorf said. "While there is a great deal of training and effort required across all levels to ensure the successful implementation of a logistics system, the benefits to the Iraqi Security Forces will be substantial."

Technical regeneration is another strength Iraqis will be able to press against terrorists as human resources continue to grow: over 3,000 soldiers, more than three-quarters with prior military experience, have graduated from respective training camps and will soon report for active duty. About 800 recruits appear to be from a highly successful recruiting drive a fortnight after January's elections. On the civil side, three hundred policemen — one half of them trained for basic work and the other for an impressive array of Western crime prevention and solving techniques — will begin enforcing Iraq's rule of law. According to Central Command, the number of Iraqi policemen, despite persistent terrorist attacks against applicants, recruits and constables themselves since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is well into the tens of thousands.

Not so much can be said, thankfully, for Iraq's enemies. A "complex" medium-arms attack from terrorists fell face forward. As trouble at the specific location has risen in frequency lately without corresponding terrorist gains, the disruption of already flagging enemy numbers and organization must be incredible. At the same time, the enemy is continually losing materiel for murder before his strikes fail. And with an increasingly bold and indignant population, watching his back is not enough to elude authorities.

From the beginning we knew the Near East's strongmen and their terrorist hordes would fight horn and claw. But in the same moment, two years ago, the Iraqis showed us that free men would prevail.

THE END OF THE BEGINNING: Austin Bay shares my belief that Iraqi democrats won the day before summer of last year.

DON'T MESS WITH IRAQIS: Via Glenn Reynolds, another citizen protecting his family and home through his right to bear arms.

Michael Ubaldi, March 21, 2005.

If my writing and consideration favors foreign policy it is because matters abroad are set in the barest terms, literal terms, of liberty and slavery. One comfort of residence in freedom is that every liberal moral argument, no matter how bitter, takes place in civility; that comfort, since September 11, 2001, has also become a cautionary. As I am not too interested in, say, the finer concrete points and nuance of Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese polity so I find the various American domestic stalemates to be a lesser use of my resources than that which did, and could again, subordinate all things vernacular.

Having said that, I nod to National Review for their stand in the case of Terri Schiavo, supportive of Congress exercising its prerogative to, right or wrong, review federal supremacy by Article VI of the Constitution against a state's claim to the Tenth Amendment. National Review fellow John Derbyshire plays black sheep on this one, neutral to the question. He's been fielding letters from readers and I paid it little mind — save for one correspondent's antagonism, a smarmy remark about "good, conservative Christians":

But is it necessary for everyone to go through these experiences before they can grow out of the denial that seems to be the standard attitude about death in our society? Or can we bring about a healthier realization of its naturalness and inevitability at the same time we work to extend length and quality of life? (And by the way, aren't good conservative Christians taught, especially this week, to see death as a beginning, not an end?)

Good Christians. This is exactly the kind of shallow caricature of Christianity that underwrites all sorts of horrors. Derbyshire's correspondent might wish to actually read the Bible to learn that Christ was not unafraid of His impending pain and death; nor was His execution, however a part of a Divine plan, just; nor is death itself, regardless of any noble accomplishments made therein, at all celebrated by God. If we're to talk Christianity, death is a consequence of temptation in the Garden. Christ's sacrifice appealed to grace for the damned upon death, damned by sin in life, which is certainly not some sort of trivial interlude before the correspondent's ghoulish idea of surcease. Pain, I'm sorry to say, has chilled the correspondent's blood to ice.

The "enlightened" should remember that when incapacitation is judged life inferior, the infirmed, elderly, infant and retarded are condemned. Whatever our duty to the helpless, it's not to write them off. On that, James Lileks, no scold, reminds us through fiction how deafening subtle implication can be.

'UNTOUCHABLES': More from Robert P. George.

Michael Ubaldi, March 20, 2005.

Freedom House is reporting a stir from within dead halls:

As the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights convenes this week in Geneva, a group of leaders of human rights and pro-democracy organizations has issued a call for action to the newly created UN Democracy Caucus. The caucus is mandated by the Community of Democracies (COD) process, a global coalition of over 100 democratic and democratizing nations committed to the promotion and strengthening of democracy and human rights.

The group appealed in a letter to the foreign ministers of the Convening Group countries of the COD to ensure that the Democracy Caucus takes a lead role in Geneva in fully airing, examining, and forthrightly censuring some of the world's worst human rights violations. In particular, the caucus should address ongoing abuses in places such as Burma, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba, and in Sudan's Darfur region, among others.

The Convening Group is composed of Chile, Czech Republic, India, Mali, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, South Africa, and the United States.

The United Nations is, today, only useful as an expedient political channel. Built on the concentrated foolishness of naifs and aristocrats who placed liberty and tyranny in parity, its charter was morally and philosophically flawed at the time of inception in 1946 and the transnational organization has since rotted to the core, standing as little more than a bastion of authoritarianism. At the same time democratic nations have no need for a pseudo-sovereign bureaucracy to conduct bilateral or collective business, dictatorships subvert all forums of good faith to their own ends. A democracy caucus cannot reform the United Nations but it can serve as a proper vessel of exodus from Secretariat.

Michael Ubaldi, March 18, 2005.

Heavyweight meets heavyweight: American-born sumo star Konishiki, who uBlog has spotted before, warmly greeted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice upon her arrival at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Her second visit to Japan in as many months, Rice is to talk policy and progress, emphasizing the justifications for elevating the world's second-largest economy and third-largest navy to the United Nations Security Council.

Before landing on Honshu, Rice was in Islamabad and described for dictator and US ally Pervez Musharraf Pakistan's bright future in democratization:

"We did talk about the importance of democratic reforms in Pakistan, about getting on the road to democratic reforms that will in fact lead to free and fair elections in 2007," she told a joint press conference with Kasuri on Thursday.

With an eye to Beijing and Pyongyang, Rice will work to solidify the emerging American-Japanese alliance.

If such great attention is being paid to Tokyo, it is largely because the Japanese, steadfast in uncertain times, have done much to earn Washington's trust:

Italy's possible scale-down of its troops in Iraq will have no effect on Japan's deployment of 550 troops in the country, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said today.

"Italy is Italy, Japan is Japan," Koizumi told reporters when asked if the prospect of a pullout by Rome could lead to a similar move by Tokyo. Japan has been a vocal supporter of the US-led military mission in Iraq and has dispatched 550 troop to the southern city of Samawah on a humanitarian operation in support of reconstruction.

Japan's realization of sovereignty is gradual but diligent, and showing promise:

The Self-Defense Forces should be formally recognized as military forces under strict civilian control and Japan's right to self-defense should be declared in a new constitution, according to the Liberal Democratic Party's latest recommendation released Monday.

...The LDP committee said the second paragraph of the article needs to be amended to recognize the SDF as military forces, while the first paragraph, which renounces war, should basically remain as it is now. ...The LDP committee, chaired by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, is scheduled to draft its proposal for a new constitution in April, aiming to settle the debate by the end of the month.

Just a few years after Japanese Prime Minister Kinjuro Shidehara and Supreme Commander of Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur agreed upon Occupied Japan's pacifist constitution, Washington's "Reverse Course" policies armed the beaten Axis country anyway as the Cold War began. Though its armed forces have grown considerably, Japan's constitution must not so much reflect the country as it is but drive more deeply, and acknowledge the necessities of a liberal democracy in a world still habited by tyranny.

To that end, Tokyo is pursuing a closer economic and strategic relationship with New Delhi at a time when India may be working on its own community. It's a work in progress, this assembly of freedom, but in a good stride.

Michael Ubaldi, March 17, 2005.

Robert Mayer calls it "Rage against the Regime," and it fits well. Iranians still struggle for freedom:

According to received reports from various cities in Iran, today which marks the first celebration of the Iranian New Year's Festival of Fire was met with celebrations as well as huge protests and demonstrations against the Islamic regime of Iran. The protestors chanted: "We need no Sheikh or Mullah, we curse youRuhollah!"

A report from Tehran: Young celebrants today set scarecrows in the likeness of various Mullahs, such as Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Khatami, Sharoudi, Jannati, etc. on fire in the streets. They cried out slogans such as: "Referendum, referendum, this is the people's dictum."

In various parts of the capitol, celebrations and parties rage on. ...In another area of the city people took to setting the French flag on fire while chanting: "Europe is finished and so are their Mullahs," or "Bush, Bush, where is Bush?" (In Persian this rhymes: Bush, Bush, kush, kush!)

Michael Ledeen wonders, too, if the president's promise will be kept. With all due respect to Ledeen, President Bush occupies the conjunction between vision and practice, desire and means; he understands the limitations of his office well. The president's work for freedom and peaceable government has been as diligent in its labor as consistent with its standard for strategic efficiency. Bush and his administration have chosen priorities and will not exert full power on secondaries. We've seen it over the last months: only after the fall of Saddam did the White House gracefully redesignate Syria as an enemy, and only after the Iraqi election day's cultural nova did the president refine his inaugural address into manifest policy — calling out despot regimes by name. Following this manner, we might expect Lebanon to be reclaiming liberalism, leaving Syria crippled, just as Tehran's mullahs spurn the last European parley, forcing Bush's allies to hold up their end of the bargain — and confront Islamist Iran.

Michael Ubaldi, March 16, 2005.

Dawdlers fell to the decisive today when United States senators voted to approve oil exploration in a speck of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Democrats were unhappy and unguarded:

"We won't see this oil for 10 years. It will have minimal impact," argued Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a co-sponsor of the amendment that would have stripped the arctic refuge provision from the budget document.

Poor choice of argument. If not for Cantwell and her party, we'd be three years along.

As for the effects of drilling on wildlife — ask the caribou.

Michael Ubaldi, March 16, 2005.

Gentry media is bent on marring the day but President Bush's statement on Iraq's first freely elected parliament with constitutional prerogative — a "bright moment" — will coronate the memory.

CASE IN POINT: While the mainstream press was fine-tuning its "crumbling coalition" meme, Germany completed an agreement with Iraq and the United Arab Emirates on the training and furnishing of Iraqi military engineers.

LOOKING UP: A poll of Iraqis from fifteen of eighteen provinces shows two-thirds pleased with their livelihood (Hat tip, IP and Geopolitical Review). Good news in its own right, this suggests that Iraqis — despite far greater trials — may avoid the postwar societal depression that enveloped the Japanese.

Finally, another nail in Savagism's coffin: only one out of twenty-five respondents believed Islamic Sharia law should carry any weight in the country's constitution.

Michael Ubaldi, March 15, 2005.

Saturn and daughters. If this were an artist's conception, we might call it contrived. As nature, a quintessence of order.

On the other side of the solar system, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, having persevered their intended lifespan nearly five times over, continue to astound NASA scientists with their resilience and longevity.

Michael Ubaldi, March 15, 2005.

Sometimes academic quotation is necessary. Often, it's misused intelligence; replacing principle, which is accessible to all, with the rigid exclusivity of rote.