Guardian Documentary — James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq

The Guardian has a good but infuriating documentary about the role of retired U.S. Colonel James Steele who Donald Rumsfeld brought into Iraq to assist with counterinsurgency efforts there in 2004. Steele ended up overseeing torture centers and organized the paramilitery Wolf Brigade, which became little more than a death squad.

Bob Woodruff Coverage

It’s interesting that when a journalist is injured in Iraq he or she can garner literally hundreds of hours more coverage on the news than a soldier who is killed there.

On the same day Bob Woodruff and his cameraman were injured, a U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, but the media have so far not chosen to run round-the-clock coverage of that tragedy.

2004 Was Deadly Year for Journalists

At least 129 journalist and other media workers were killed in 2004 — likely the largest number since the International Federation of Journalists kept keeping records of media killings in the 1980s. That number is expected to rise as more information about journalist deaths is collected.

According to the IJF’s annual report (emphasis added),

The IFJ casualty toll includes all employed staff, including freelance who work in all sections of the media industry. Our list includes all journalists and support staff as well as employees who are in the firing line and who are victims because their media have been targeted. We include personnel such as drivers, fixers and translators who died during newsgathering activities. We also include people who have been killed because of
accidental causes while on duty.
We recognize that other organizations do not include some of the victims we have identified. We believe that by ensuring all media employees involved in the support and promotion of journalistic activity are covered by this report it is possible to give a fuller picture of the extent of casualties within the media workforce.

Iraq was, not surprisingly, the most dangerous place for media workers, with almost 50 reporters and other media workers killed in that country. Most of those killed were the victims of terrorist attacks that indiscriminately target civilians, but the IFJ also criticized the United States for failing to conduct thorough and open investigations of killings of media employees by its soldiers.

The next most dangerous place for journalists was the Philippines where 13 reporters were killed in 2004. Not a single person has been detained in the murders of journalists in that country according to the IFJ.

In the United States, the IFJ recorded just a single on-the-job death — a journalist who was killed in Texas when a mobile news van’s broadcast mast collided with powerlines and 23-year-old Matthew Moore was electrocuted.


‘Deadliest’ year for journalists. Chris Morris, The BBC, January 18, 2005.

Journalist and Staff Killed in 2004. International Federation of Journalists, 2005.

Why Did Bush Invade Iraq? To Curry Favor with the Jews, Of Course

Personally, I think the answer to the question “Why did Bush invade Iraq?” is pretty clear — the administration clearly thought that Saddam Hussein had large stockpiles of chemical and/or biological weapons. Hell, Al Gore insisted in late 2002 that Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Both at that time and today I think the administration made a major mistake (one of many involving Iraq) in focusing on WMDs so much and was clearly too insular in critically examining intelligence, but clearly the administration thought that going into the 2004 election it would be able to gloat that it had stopped a terrorist-supporting dictator from potentially turning over WMDs to terrorists.

A popular alternative answer, generally from supporters of the war, suggestion that WMDs were a cover for a broader administration initiative to change the status quo in the Middle East. Certainly this was an important secondary goal — and one that some in the administration probably thought as primary — but the case that this was the main reason for going to war appears to this observer as trying to explain away the intelligence failure over WMDs (which, by the way, has been overblown by administration critics — the lesson of 9/11 was that it is better safe to act on sketchy intelligence than to be sorry later for not having acted decisively and watch a tragedy unfold on national television).

Democrat Sen. Fritz Hollings has a different answer that sounds like it came from some anti-American Middle Eastern newspaper — Bush went to war to appease the Jews.

In an op-ed and then in a speech on the Senate Floor, Hollings asserted that the main reason the Bush administration went to war with Iraq was to try to enhance Israel’s security and to “please American Jews.” And, of course, this wouldn’t be complete without Hollings giving a list of Jews — including columnist Charles Krauthammer and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz — both of whom have publicly supported the view that the United States needed to overthrow Hussein in order to establish democracy in Iraq and thereby hopefully spread it throughout the region.

As Jonah Goldberg noted in National Review, only one politician has gone on record as making the absurd claim that he supported the war against Iraq in order to promote the interests of Israel rather than the United States, and that politician is Hollings, who said in 2003,

The truth is, I thought, we were going in this time for our little friend Israel. Instead of them being blamed, we could finish up what Desert Storm had left undone; namely, getting rid of Saddam and getting rid of (his) nuclear (weapons) at the same time.

Of course Hollings wasn’t the first Democrat to suggest that the real reason for the war was to appease the Jews. Rep. Jim Moran told an anti-war forum in March 2003 that,

If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.

As Goldberg notes, this idea is just plain nuts. Nationally, Jews are only about 4 percent of the electorate and are disproportionately located in states, such as New York, that are solidly Democratic. As Goldberg writes,

. . . the notion that Bush and Karl Rove are pinning their reelection hopes on winning 10 percent or 20 percent of the Jewish vote by getting America embroiled in a risky, dangerous, and costly war is batty.

But not batty enough for Moran or Hollings.


The S.C. Senator & the Jews. Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online, May 27, 2004.

Natasha Walter Argues for “True Equality” and Misfires on Women and War

In April, Natasha Walter wrote an odd column for the Independent complaining essentially that women were not acting enough like women. Walter lead off her column by complaining that,

Where women appear in public life right now in the West, there seems to be nothing distinctively female about what they are doing.

. . .

Does this mean that one of feminism’s old arguments, that more powerful women would make the world a better place, has stalled? After all, you might ask what the point is of going on agitating for women to get into public life — if they are indistinguishable from men once they get there.

Where do these people come up with this stuff? Walter writes as if men and women are completely different species — and to her that’s the feminist point of view. Talk about women as the other!

But not to worry. The only reason there was a war at all is because there is no true equality and men were calling all of the shots. Walter is certain that sexual equality in the United States is a myth, for example, because “just 13 percent of American politicians are women.” She is referring to Congress there, where 13.6 percent of House of Representative member are women and 14 percent of Senators are women. At the state level, women only 25.3 percent of all elective state positions nationwide and constitute 22.3 percent of state legislatures.

But, alas, even in the United Kingdom Walter is likely to be disappointed by women who are acting too much like men. Writing on April 3, Walter wrote of attitudes about the war against Iraq,

THe latest polls on the war show that women in the UK have not been won over by the supposed requirement to support our soldiers in action. A third of women, as opposed to a quarter of men, believe that this war is going badly. . . .

Given the kind of fighting that is now going on in Iraq, that means more and more women are being alienated from what is being done by our forces. Despite the fine words of the coalition leaders, we can see that this war is being fought by trigger-happy soldiers who cannot — or will not– distinguish military from civilian targets, and that the primary victims of this war are injured children and weeping parents.

You do not have to believe in any old-fashioned myths about women naturally being peace-loving to understand why more women than men might tell pollsters that they find this unacceptable. While the gap between the people who do caring work and the people who are powerful is still so great, politicians will go on taking decisions that will alienate more women than men.

Walter must have been sorely disappointed by follow-up polls after the swift conclusion of the war which was clearly fought to minimize casualties on both sides, Walter nonsense to the contrary notwithstanding.

An April 15 poll commissioned by The Guardian found that 60 percent of women polled supported the war — only 23 percent of women said they opposed the war.

Apparently the only serious alienating going on was the alienation of Walter from her stereotypical views of male and female behavior.


Would there have been this war if there was true equality for women? Natasha Walter, The Independent, April 3, 2003.

World Food Program: 40 Million Africans Still on Brink of Starvation

World Food Program Executive Director James Morris appeared before the United Nations Security Council in early April urging the world not to forget the 40 million Africans who are still in danger of starvation.

Morris told the Security Council,

Commitments to humanitarian aid are political choices and this council is the most important political forum in the world. There is so much each of you can do to focus the attention and resources on the food crises now engulfing much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Morris contrasted the situation in Iraq, where the $1.3 billion will be spent over the next six months although Iraq doesn’t have anywhere near the food problems that sub-Saharan Africa suffers from (and is likely to even with the disruption caused by war).

Morris suggested there was a racial double standard at work,

As much as I don’t like it, I cannot escape the thought that we have a double standard. How is it that we routinely accept a level of suffering and hopelessness in Africa we would never accept in any part of the world? We simply cannot let this stand.

The key word there, though, is “routine.” Spending $1 billion or so on Iraq once in the last 30 years is something the world community will step up to the plate over. Hearing that Ethiopia or some other African nation needs massive food aid year after year will obviously erode support for aid to such countries.


40 million Africans on brink of starvation, Security Council told. Press Release, United Nations, April 7, 2003.