11-20 April 2003
|20 Apr||Legal questions|
|20 Apr||Land mines|
|20 Apr||Bioethics Bookshelf|
|18 Apr||Singapore's Exports of Chemical Ingredients to Iraq|
|17 Apr||Syria's gambit|
|15 Apr||Iraq Kaleidoscope|
|15 Apr||Iraq update: Fresh treachery|
|15 Apr||Amazing Honda Ad|
|12 Apr||The Iraqi (Mis)Information Minister|
|12 Apr||Saddam's Statue Toppled: Flag controversy|
|12 Apr||Saddam's Statue Toppled|
|12 Apr||A Legacy-Free PC?|
|12 Apr||SARS: Updates, Webcams|
|12 Apr||It's Blogging time...|
20 April 2003 11:35 PM SGT (link)
I've said to many people that in the future, if/when I engage a lawyer, that fellow's going to be pretty busy because every now and then I think of tough, mostly hypothetical, problems and he/she'll have to write reports almost like submitting it to some journal. Come to think of it, this lawyer could also be very rich after it all, at my expense. Well, here are some issues that have cropped up that I can remember now, and I'll talk about them as they crop up:
- Property: there's a strong sentimental (or rather, anti-sentimental) case for not wearing the SAF-issued New Balance shoes after I ORD (both old and new types) - of course, it reminds me of the SAF. My reply used to be that (1) I didn't see the need to spend quite a sum of money for new shoes just to feel freer from the SAF (2) they're perfectly good shoes! Now my reply can be more succinct: watch Children of Heaven.
OK, the legal question I'm pondering has to do with the "Property of SAF" label that's on the shoes: can an organisation claim the property to be theirs even when the user has been me all along? (My friend brought up the notable point of a house financed by and under the name of one's parents, but that has specific, special legal recognition, I think.) Granted that I didn't pay the SAF for my shoes in cash, but does it mean that the shoes are technically on loan to me, that 30 years from now some SAF officer can knock on my door and demand the shoes back?
The question gets even more murky when you bring in the Ah-ma's and Ah-pek's that wear the shoes because their SAF-linked relative, presumably, bought it for them. They didn't use any credits of the SAF, so: the owners are themselves, or the buyers, or the SAF? And is this a special case because the SAF is, after all, the SAF? Can Nike, for instance - though they probably won't do that - slap a label "Property of Nike" and the shoes are still theirs even though you paid for it & you are using it?
What I'm inclined to think is that paying an agreed price for the product necessarily means a transfer of ownership, though the situation might not be so clear for items where you don't pay for them at all, like the SAF shoes.
- Buying and selling: This came out of a hypothetical case among colleagues at the canteen. Supposedly the noodle store operator thinks you're ugly - or for some other reason, decides not to sell you noodles, or else charges you extra. Are there laws in Singapore against such discriminatory practices? Methinks surely there's legislation against racial or religious discrimination - "I won't sell my noodles to Indians", for instance - with the notable exception of the HDB racial quotas. Do discriminatory practices have to be spelled out clearly in writing - methinks sellers can't alter the conditions of sale at their whim and fancy, depending on the buyer, but again that's complicated by the example of the seller of a flat who may decide (internally) to demand a higher price.
On the other hand, if the law compells sellers to sell their products to anyone without discrimination, that is, that they are not allowed to alter the price or other conditions depending on who shows up to buy, sounds very draconian to me too - the house example again.
So in short, this whole issue of what rights sellers have, versus that of the buyer's, is pretty perplexing to me.
20 April 2003 10:17 PM SGT (link)
A programme like The West Wing is really a treasure trove for public issues, and in a recent episode I watched, the subject of land mines came up. The episode, called "The US Poet Laureate", was about, well, the US Poet Laureate (played by guest star Laura Dern, Jurassic Park) threatening not to attend a dinner in her honour unless she be allowed by the administration to air her views opposing the use of land mines.
Oh, before I get to the subject of land mines, Footnote TV has excellent informed commentary on the main issues raised in each episode (the commentary for "The US Poet Laureate"). The West Wing Episode Guide has links to things major & minor mentioned in each episode; for "The US Poet Laureate", that ranges from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a good word used: gravitas (courtesy of Sam).
The International Campaign to Ban Land Mines was formed in the 1990s, and in 1997 they succeeded in getting the Mine Ban Treaty negotiated and signed by 120 nations; it entered into force in 1999. Among the non-signatories are the US - the Poet Laureate says that only the US & Cuba refused to sign the treaty; that's actually for the Western hemisphere only. Toby argues that that was because the administration thinks land mines necessary for defending South Korea, although the Poet Laureate counters this by saying that some ex-military personnel have said that land mines are not necessary for this, and in fact could impede any counterattack and result in casualties on their own side. Of course, this is not even mentioning the menace of unexploded land mines that have caused deaths and amputations for years after the conflict is over. In real life, although the US is not a signatory, the Clinton administration was committed to signing the treaty by 2006, and currently there's been no word on any change to that. For more details read Footnote TV's page or the ICBL's site.
Land mines in Singapore
More interesting stuff: According to ICBL's list of non-signatory countries, as at November 2002 there are 48 holdouts, and I was quite surprised to see our little nation's name in that list. I wondered what problem our government could have with getting rid of such weapons, when they have no problems with banning chemical, biological and nuclear weapons (see UN - Peace and Security Through Disarmament for details, especially the Treaty Status page, which allows you to check which countries signed what. The interface is a bit clumsy though).
(I had also heard anecdotes in the SAF about use of land mines, so that piqued my interest.)
Digging into the ICBL site, I found the Landmine Monitor Report for Singapore, 2001 (the 2002 report is the latest, but the 2001 report has more details). This is a must-read for everyone who cares about Singapore's military defence and what the SAF and government is doing about this and land mines. Let me share my comments as I read the report:
- The Republic of Singapore... believes that a "blanket ban on all types of anti-personnel landmines might be counterproductive since some countries need to use anti-personnel landmines for their defence and security."
It is highly questionable that anti-personnel land mines should be an option for "defence and security" when they are hardly necessary and, Singapore being such a small place with hardly any land boundaries with which to use land mines on, will definitely result in the civilian population being affected with loss of life and limb for years after hostilities end.
- In July 2001, Singapore's Ambassador to the United States said, "We do not condone the indiscriminate use of APLs, especially against civilians. However, we believe that the legitimate security concerns and right of self-defence of states cannot be disregarded."
How are anti-personnel land mines going to be used "discriminately" by our SAF? The only way to do that is making sure that we target enemy vehicles or personnel while leaving our own forces, and civilians, safe - it seems to me that land mines are uniquely ill-suited to such goals. What's going to happen if land mines are deployed is that they are scattered over large areas, not all will be retrieved, disabled or accounted for, and non-combatants pay the price. According to the Landmine Monitor, there are an estimated 15,000-20,000 new casualties (killed or injured) due to land mines every year. It's precisely because such weapons do not recognise friend, foe or non-combatant that they were banned!
Nobody is disputing our right to "self-defence": it's enshrined in the UN Charter, so how come the 120+ nations who signed the treaty (and most of them ratified too) are willing to "give up" their right?
For a strategic perspective, let's look at which countries in in the region have not signed the Mine Ban Treaty: Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Singapore. Yes that's right, a repressive military dictatorship, two poor communist countries and Singapore. Let's look at our neighbours: Malaysia signed the treaty in 1997, ratified it in 1999, and by January 2001 had completely destroyed its stockpile of anti-personnel land mines (Landmine Monitor 2002 report on Malaysia). Indonesia signed the treaty in 1997 but has not ratified it yet (Landmine Monitor 2002 report on Indonesia); an official said that "there were no major obstacles to ratification and that it was simply a matter of legislative priorities." Granted that land mines are deterrent, not offensive, weapons, I am still puzzled that Mindef/SAF is willing to let us become the pariah of the region because of its erroneous belief that land mines enhance our security.
- In a 16 July 2001 letter to Landmine Monitor, the Ambassador of Singapore to the United States said, "ST Kinetics is the only company in Singapore that produces APLs. The APLs produced are meant solely for use by our armed forces for self-defence purposes only. ST Kinetics does not export APLs as Singapore had, since Feb 1998, declared an indefinite moratorium on the export of all types of APLs."
So now all of you know which company is responsible for this. What I inevitably wonder is which countries we exported anti-personnel land mines to prior to Feb 1998, if any. This, of course, is closely related to the letter I sent to the Forum a few days ago asking the same about chemical ingredients exports to Iraq. Never mind our stockpile and use of land mines - if we were to be a arms exporter of these weapons that would not be morally reconciliable with our stand that we are entitled to the use of these weapons for our "defence and security".
Lastly, the ThinkCentre organised a campaign to ban land mines in 2001 (What Singaporeans can do to Ban Landmines) but to no avail; it seems I missed that at the time. It's sad that the status quo is apparently going to continue, and in some future conflict our descendants are going to be scarred by Mindef/SAF's obstinacy and paranoia.
20 April 2003 9:46 PM SGT (link)
UPI comments on Regime change a la Francais: "There was a time when France was not so squeamish about regime change." It has some examples of how France has intervened in sub-Saharan Africa to prop up regimes or keep the peace, contrasting it to its "squeamishness" about doing the same with Saddam's Iraq.
Pro-war folks like Den Beste have never taken kindly to France's intransigence at the Security Council, but in this long post, backed up by some worrying information especially that of The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris, he expounds on the theory that France as a nation is heading towards economic and socio-political crisis and this is Chirac did what he did.
...I've variously entertained the idea that what has motivated the French behavior was resentment about their diminished place in the world, a sinister attempt to create and lead a world anti-American coalition (especially including much of the Arab world), actual delusions that they were more important than they really are, straightforward pandering to the crowd that got out of hand, a sustained case of miscommunication with America based on deep and unrecognized differences in cultural assumptions, outright fear of American power and American motives, attempts to cover up years of illegal deals between French companies and Iraq in violation of UN sanctions, outright corruption of the French government due to direct bribery by Iraq, Iraqi blackmail of key French political figures, fear of an armed insurrection by France's large and increasingly hostile Muslim minority, fear of the economic damage to France if it loses access to the Iraqi market and loses its privileged place in the UN "oil-for-food" program, personal ambition by Chirac to "leave a political legacy" (and he will, but not the one he wanted to), personal fear by Chirac that once he leaves office he'll cease to be immune to criminal indictment in a major bribery scandal.
To some extent probably many of these are factors, but none of them has ever really seemed adequate. The prizes in each case don't seem to match the price being paid.
But it seemed to me that there may be at least two other factors involved: desperation and resignation. In both of these, it's not really current events which motivates them as much as the fact that the long term outlook for France is truly dismal...
- USS Clueless, Extreme solutions
Does the bell really toll for France? I can't say I have an educated opinion about that, but to compare France to other political sinking ships might be a tad exaggerated. Or maybe I just can't believe a nation with such a proud heritage could implode just like that.
20 April 2003 12:02 AM SGT (link)
From the (US) President's Council on Bioethics:
Bioethics generally touches matters close to the core of our humanity: birth and death, body and mind, sickness and health, freedom and dignity are but a few. From the beginning, human beings have addressed these matters in works of history, philosophy, literature and religious meditation.
These works can be invaluable companions as we grapple to understand our brave new biotechnology...
I notice that under "Search for Perfection" they included the screenplay to Gattaca, a movie I liked very much. So that's one of the must-reads. Surprisingly they missed out Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, surely one of the first books to touch on the disturbing prospects of biotechnology.
Singapore's Exports of Chemical Ingredients to Iraq
18 April 2003 12:30 AM SGT (link)
A New York Times article "The Poisons That Came From the West" (April 13, 2003) [Wisconsin Project copy] claims to depict the sources of Iraq's chemical weapons programme from "data... given to United Nations inspectors in the late 1990's, and... reconfirmed in Iraq's 12,000-page declaration last fall." (I am attaching the infographic for your reference.) The article was written based on information from the Wisconsin Project, a research group that tracks weapons of mass destruction.
Under "Ingredients", Singapore is listed as having exported 4,515 tons of "sensitive chemicals used for making proscribed weapons, though all of the chemicals also have military uses." The graphic indicates the possible weapon uses for these exports to be "VX, tabun, sarin and mustard gas" - among them, the deadliest nerve agents known to mankind. As little as 10mg of VX might be lethal.
Singapore supported the recent war against Iraq because it repeatedly violated UN resolutions to disarm and cooperate fully with inspections for chemical and biological weapons. Hence, I think it is vital that the relevant authorities comment on this information regarding chemical exports to Iraq, if it turns out that we had a role to play in arming Iraq:
- Were there, in fact, such exports?
- When were these exports made?
- Which companies were involved? Are they private or public companies?
- What chemicals were they, and do they indeed have "non-military uses"? If so, why were the exports allowed knowing that the Iraqi regime was actively developing and using chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds?
- Are such chemicals still exported, especially to regimes that are not signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention? Would this be a violation of this convention that Singapore signed and ratified?
Mr. Lin Ziyuan.
17 April 2003 10:37 PM SGT (link)
I had not realised the possible ramifications of Syria's proposal to the Security Council for a resolution to declare the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction (Syria backs anti-WMD resolution in U.N., UPI). Of course it has been read as a move by Syria to get Israel to show its hand with regard to nuclear weapons and possibly chemical weapons (Israel has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention but not ratified it). Unmedia (why does Israel need WMD?) links to the DailyKos's assessment:
... The move comes as some in the US side scream about Syria's alleged WMDs. Thus Syria's move is nothing short of genius. If the US is truly serious about ridding the Middle East of WMDs, it should have no problem endorsing a resolution that would compell Syria to disarm. Right?
Wrong. The resolution would have the (intentional) effect of forcing Israel to surrender its nuclear arsenal -- a course of action Israel would never accept. And the US, Israel's most loyal ally, will thus be forced to veto the resolution.
So picture this -- the US vetoing a resolution calling for the banning of all WMDs from the Middle East. In one fell swoop, Syria has negated the charges of WMDs against it, exposed the US's hypocrisy on WMDs (our allies can have them, everyone else can't), solidified its leadership of the Arab world, and forced the US to veto a seemingly common sense resolution, after blasting France and Russia for threatening vetoes on Iraq.
- DailyKos, Syria countermoves, scores against US
Also read Unmedia's comment for more on whether Israel really needs its WMDs. I mean, from the perspective of a neutral party, such a turbulent region free of WMDs would certainly be welcome. But it seems we're in for some political games before this happens, so I'll stay tuned to see what happens with the resolution.
15 April 2003 12:54 AM SGT (link)
On to the next quagmire!
Simply excellent; read the whole thing.
On to the next quagmire! Don't get mired in the bog of yesterday's conventional wisdom, when the movers and shakers have already moved on to new disasters. America may have won the war but it's already losing the peace! Here's your at-a-glance guide to what the experts who got everything wrong last week will be getting wrong next week:
1) "Iraq's slide into violent anarchy" (Guardian, April 11). Say what you like about Saddam, but he ran a tight ship and you didn't have to nail down your nest of tables: since the Brits took over, Basra's property crime is heading in an alarmingly Cheltenhamesque direction. MBITRW (Meanwhile Back In The Real World): A year from now, Basra will have a lower crime rate than most London boroughs...
10) America is already losing the peace. MBITRW: In a year's time, Iraq will be, at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world and, at best, pleasant, civilised and thriving. In short: not a bad three weeks' work.
Well, we could be generous and say that the media have to try to anticipate what's going to happen, or at least have something intelligent to say.
Some good articles describing how what seemed like a military quagmire to some turned into success: Washington Post, Confused Start, Decisive End, with plenty of details on high-level strategic moves; Washington Post, What Counted: People, Plan, Inept Enemy, an older article; the New York Times (f.r.r.) How 3 Weeks of War in Iraq Looked From the Oval Office, the view from Washington D.C..
Wired's Take on Al-Sahaf
Wacky Iraqi Minister a Web Star has more links to fan sites, and a new hypothesis about his behaviour:
... Al-Sahaf's patently absurd claims about the course of the war, his florid insults against U.S.-led forces and the fact that he appeared to be about to bu[r]st out in laughter -- all have been recognized by many as signs that the minister was enjoying an outrageous private joke.
- Wired, Wacky Iraqi Minister a Web Star
Arab world reaction
...If the collective Arab mind decides that the fall of Baghdad came about because a corrupt dictator had lost the loyalty of the people whom he had brutalized for thirty years, then sanity may begin to emerge. But if, on the other hand, this same collective mind begins to look for another consoling myth, it is sure to find one readily available. And if you doubt this, simply recall the Arab theories of 9/11...
- Tech Central Station, Confronting the Myth
Also see The Iraq the Arab World Saw All Along (New York Times). Make no mistake: the degree of success of Iraq's reconstruction is crucial for the entire Middle East.
Iraq update: Fresh treachery
15 April 2003 12:42 AM SGT (link)
Documents discovered in Iraq indicate Russia helped Saddam Hussein's intelligence services in the months leading up to the war, according to a British newspaper.
Moscow passed on information gathered from western countries about the determination of the United States and Britain to launch military action, The Sunday Telegraph reported...
...What is a surprise is that Vladimir Putin has shown that not only is the Russian state still the enemy, its leaders are not nearly as smart as I had given them credit for, given they have been caught having given active support to the Ba'athists even to the extent of acting as an employment agency for assassins on their behalf.
To have squandered such a large pool of political capital and good will by continuously passing intelligence and weapons to the Iraqis right up to the start of the war is utter madness. Did the Russians think any outcome was possible in the long run other than an Allied victory over the Ba'athist regime? And surely once that fact is grasped, how could they think that news of their treachery would not eventually come to light?...
- Samizdata.net, Behold, the enemy is once again revealed
Amazing Honda Ad
15 April 2003 12:38 AM SGT (link)
If you haven't seen the 2-minute Honda Accord ad with the domino-falling mechanical parts, you simply have to. What's amazing is that it was all (OK almost 100%) done in real-time - no computers or tricks. The Slashdot post and Telegraph article that reveals the toil and frustration involved in producing this ad (Lights! Camera! Retake!).
14 April 2003 10:12 PM SGT (link)
Continuing to catch up on war coverage:
This Washington Post article (An Iraqi Official's Better Home and Garden) details what was found at former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz's mansion, like his books and DVD collections. Although I know that he's one of Saddam's henchmen and probably cannot be distanced from its terrible deeds in all its years, strangely, I feel a bit sad for his family. Extraordinary excerpt:
...In a ground floor office are photographs of a man in his forties who appears to be Aziz's son. White business cards bearing the name Ziad Tariq Aziz are on a large oak desk. On the floor is a box of cigars, a backgammon set and a bottle of Cartier cologne. Brochures advertising Smith & Wesson and Remington firearms are scattered on the office floor. A Princeton Review test preparation book, titled "Cracking the GMAT," is marked with notes in the margins.
- Washington Post, An Iraqi Official's Better Home and Garden
Also, more cheering from Charles Krauthammer: Killing a Regime, Not a People (Washington Post).
The Iraqi (Mis)Information Minister
12 April 2003 10:29 PM SGT (link)
The man is famous now, even as he disappeared with government minders for the journalists in Baghdad's Palestine Hotel the same morning when Saddam's statue was toppled. Audiences from the Arab world to the U.S. were fascinated by his ability to deny even the most obvious, and in what was probably inevitable these days, some created a fansite for him. We're still waiting for all the media who unabashedly took his propaganda for the truth to come out and admit that he was bullshitting, at least, but I don't think that will happen.
...Sahaf became a cult figure on television with his daily briefings, appearing from behind a sea of microphones as he condemned the American "infidels" and often flatly denied what viewers around the world saw unfolding on their TV screens.
In one of the great moments in public-relations history, Sahaf confidently boasted that Baghdad was safe and the invaders would be slaughtered, even as U.S. tanks rumbled down streets nearby.
- News.com, Iraqi minister becomes Net star
More press: the Economist examines his "demented genius" of speaking (The Scheherazade of Baghdad). Earlier Slate's Chatterbox posted PR Tips for Mohammed Al-Sahhaf - tips garnered from PR professionals. I found this feedback funny, yet sadly true; it seems that the wilder his invectives against the "infidels" grew, the less I believed him, and the more pity I felt for him.
...Mike McCurry was Bill Clinton's press secretary and is now a communications consultant in Washington. "The problem with this guy is that there's going to be an M-1 tank that shows up in the background of his pictures, and it sounds like sooner rather than later." He adds, "I'm sure the poor guy has to do this because someone's going to shoot him if he doesn't. At least I never had that problem."
- Slate, PR Tips for Mohammed Al-Sahhaf
Also from Cairo Times: A star is born: "Charming, entertaining and with a great vocabulary, Sahhaf's increasingly intriguing pronouncements have earned him a following." To elaborate on that skit-like scenario that would have been the funniest thing of the decade - I almost regret it didn't happen:
...One Western television channel's live translator actually started cracking up in mid-sentence. Back at the parade grounds, the Fox News reporter relayed Sahhaf's sentiments to a US soldier who responded, "Maybe we should go over and say 'hi.'" Indeed it seems like the only appropriate ending for this televised point-counterpoint would be for a US tank to roll by in the background of one of Sahhaf's live shots with a soldier holding up a "Hi mom" sign.
- Cairo Times: A star is born
Trivia: Although I wasn't able to view the website - they say it's being moved to a new server that can take the load - many media outlets have reported that their choice of actor to play Sahaf would unquestionably be Sydney Pollack. Now that they mention it, there is quite a good resemblance.
To finish, the Absolutely Final al-Sahhaf Item from Slate's Chatterbox.
Saddam's Statue Toppled: Flag controversy
12 April 2003 8:43 PM SGT (link)
I gave a silent gasp when the U.S. flag was unfurled on top of the face - almost instantly, conditioned by BBC and other publications, I was going "What's the Arab world going to think about this?" & that was the reaction from most of the mainstream press too. MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) has a report on Arab and Muslim Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad. The Washington Post too: TV Images Stir Anger, Shock and Warnings of Backlash, and Arab Media Confront the 'New Rules of the Game'.
But then later I thought, while this gave Al-Qaeda and other anti-American terrorist groups something to rally around and slap on T-shirts and placards, both acts by American forces so far in hoisting the Stars and Stripes - at Umm Qasr and over Saddam's face - were perfectly understandable from the point of view that the Americans had fought hard to defeat the Iraqi forces at Umm Qasr, and putting the flag over Saddam's face was a clear signal that Saddam's regime was finished. What's more, according to eyewitnesses and the Marine who put up the flag, the U.S. flag was shortly after taken down, replaced by a pre-Gulf War Iraqi flag. Evidently the prevailing view is that such "photo opportunities" should be rooted out from now on (Reuters, U.S. Troops Told: No More Stars and Stripes in Iraq). While I'm not in favour of flying the U.S. and British flags everywhere as a symbol of conquest - at major government buildings or cultural sites, for instance - I just wonder what the troops feel about having to be discreet, even embarassed, about their flag and their identity for all the contributions they put towards getting rid of Saddam and working towards a better future for Iraq.
...About the same time, a Marine draped the American flag over the head of the statue -- a gesture that drew a muted reaction from the crowd, gasps in a Pentagon briefing room and anger from a commentator on the Arab news network Al Arabiya.
The crowd was happier to see the Marines take down the U.S. flag moments later and hang a pre-1991 Gulf War Iraqi flag around the statue's neck. That flag also was removed before the statue was pulled down.
...The Iraqi crowd cheered when the US flag was raised. Rageh Omah, BBC reporter on the spot, could not hear the sonorous commentary in the studio, and made the possibly career-limiting mistake of answering the question "How is the crowd reacting to the American flag?" with the simple truth. This answer has obviously not been repeated in evening bulletins.
Many Arabs both in and out of Iraq were displeased with the display Wednesday before the Marines toppled the statue, saying the act came too close to declaring a U.S. occupation of Baghdad.
But Cpl. Edward Chin told CNN's Paula Zahn that the display of the American stars and stripes, and the subsequent removal of that flag and hanging of a pre-Gulf War Iraqi flag, were "more like a symbol that we were here to give (Iraqis) their country back."
"They wanted a flag on his head, the American flag," Chin said. "They brought it up to me and I put it on there for a brief moment.
"The Iraqi crowd, they were egging us on," he said. "They were happy to see us do it. We took it down after a brief moment and put their flag up."
The corporal removed the Iraqi flag before the Marines fired up their armored tank recovery vehicle and dragged the statue down...
It sounds like the biggest gasps were from the reporters themselves. Another interpretation:
...You hope Saddam's alive to see this, to see the hailstorm of footwear, the burly men taking sledgehammers to his statue's polished podium, to see the American flag draped over his cruel empty mug. That last point was one of the more remarkable moments today - the soldier put the flag over Saddam's iron face, then removed it and replaced it with the old Iraqi flag. It's a potent message. A show of power, then a show of respect. Our flag first; your flag for ever after. Don't forget how the latter was made possible by the former.
The Editor of the London Arabic Daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Criticizes the Arab Media's War Coverage (MEMRI again). Amir Taheri, an Iranian, has even harsher words:
...The Iraqis did not wish to suffer the fate of the Palestinians, that is to say to die in large numbers for decades so that other Arabs, safe in their homes, would feel good about themselves. The Iraqis know that had the Palestinians not listened to their Arab brethren, they would have had a state in 1947, as decided by the United Nations Security Council. The Iraqis know that each time the Palestinians became heroic to please other Arabs they lost even more.
These days the Arab media are full of articles about how the Arabs feel humiliated by what has happened in Iraq, how they are frustrated, how they hate America for having liberated the people of Iraq from their oppressor, and how they hope that the Europeans, presumably led by Jacques Chirac, will ride to the rescue to preserve a little bit of Saddam's legacy with the help of the United Nations.
Thank God, the peoples of Iraq, not deceived by Arab hyperbole, are ignoring such nonsense.
Are the "long-distance heroes" humiliated? If they are, so what? They should jump in a river. Today, Iraq is free and, despite its legitimate concerns about the future, cautiously happy.
Saddam's Statue Toppled
12 April 2003 8:43 PM SGT (link)
(Courtesy of Reuters)
This was nothing short of amazing: a crowd of hundreds of people gathered at Firdos Square in Central Baghdad, taking sledgehammers to a big statue of Saddam, later asking the Marines for help. The Marines used an M-88 Recovery Vehicle with a noose around Saddam's neck, pulls, then the statue breaks at the legs (seen in the photo above) before collapsing to the ground. The roaring crowd then rushed towards the statue, stamping on it furiously, and later some youths were dragging Saddam's head along the streets. Comparisons made to the toppling of the Berlin Wall and the numerous statues of Stalin and Lenin across Eastern Europe and the Russian republics at the end of the 80s.
Fred Kaplan of Slate makes an interesting comment:
I am reminded of 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Baltic nations took their own hammers to their most prominent statues of Lenin. Much could be discerned about national style from the effort. In Lithuania, the most emotional of the republics, the crowd just went at it, using all tools at hand, bringing down Vladimir Ilyich with great gusto. In Latvia, some engineers assumed the task, judging the statue's material, pulling up a crane, and taking it down very systematically. In Estonia, the town leaders coolly hired a Finnish firm to do the job.
- Slate, Toppled
More impressions on toppled statues of the past: Must What Goes Up Also Come Down? (New York Times) and Lithuania's Answer to Disney: I'm Going to Stalin's World! (Fortune), about a park dedicated to salvaged Soviet sculptures. If I ever go to Vilnius I'lll definitely visit it.
More about the statue episode in the next post...
Update: Found another good commentary:
...Others sought to compare the humiliation of Saddam to that of Mussolini after his execution by Italian partigiani in 1945, his corpse dragged through the streets of Milan behind a car. It was the spectacle of Iraqi kids hitching a ride through the streets of Baghdad on top of Saddam's decapitated head that left this impression. But it's worth remembering that Saddam (be he alive or be he dead) was not yet in the hands of his political foes.
This dictatorship was sui generis. You can see this, symbolically, in the actual destroyed statue in Firdos Square, which did not fall with a giant Ozymandian weight, like those sturdy (whatever else you can say about them) Stalins and Dzerzhinskys that used to dot eastern Europe. No, this thing was cheap, hollow, and phony. When the statue started toppling, it just sagged. It didn't have enough weight to snap the pipes with which it had been tacked onto its plinth. It wasn't even a block of stone, but a collection of screwed-in modular parts, as in a model-airplane kit. But there was nothing "symbolic" about the terror of Saddam regime, which was also sui generis. The same morning the statues were toppled, news broke that the allies had liberated a "children's prison" set up for those kids whose parents had not let them join Baath-party youth organizations. A political prison for children!
- Weekly Standard, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackguard
A Legacy-Free PC?
12 April 2003 8:46 PM SGT (link)
Your Next PC: Legacy Free?: "IBM's PC AT has cast a shadow over PC system architecture for more than two decades." This InformationWeek talks about the obstacles of moving beyond outdated architectural elements of the PC we have grown to know & probably not love: the BIOS, ports, slots, the floppy drive etc., and recent efforts towards "breaking the legacy bottlenecks", as it says. Worth reading.
SARS: Updates, Webcams
12 April 2003 7:58 PM SGT (link)
Well not the latest (for that see Channel NewsAsia), but just wanted to note that, in reference to what I last wrote, they've found the likely source of infection for the new SGH cluster of doctors and nurses coming down with SARS (CNA: Source of SGH SARS infections traced to one patient).
There has also been more recognition of the contributions of our health care workers in the present crisis; for instance, CNA's Outpouring of gratitude to healthcare workers at forefront of SARS battle, with some mentions of RJC students and what they are doing for this cause (what I wrote before).
Lastly, after some folks irresponsibly disobeyed their home quarantines, and might have got others infected, the MOH decided that quarantined people would have to report in front of webcams: Webcams installed to monitor those under home quarantine (it was mentioned in the CNN article I linked to). I was just wondering whether anyone could conceivably cheat the system, like in Speed. Haha, a wild thought.
It's Blogging time...
12 April 2003 7:52 PM SGT (link)
I know I haven't written about the amazing events that happened on Wednesday, something reminiscent of the coming down of the Berlin Wall or the collapse of the Soviet Union. Folks, there's no more question about what will be the picture, or story, of the year :-) I have been struggling to catching up on the news reports, commentaries and blogs about this event and many others - but I'm ready now.