Vietnam Casualties

This weblog is rightly criticizing Washington Times columnist Jack Kelly for Kelly’s racist dig at Arabs,

The North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies were bright, skilled, resourceful, well-led, and very brave.

In Iraq, we’re fighting Arabs.

Kelly is also one of many people who do not appear to understand commonly touted statistics about deaths in the Vietnam theater,

In Vietnam, more than 58,000 Americans lost their lives. At the height of the war, 500 soldiers were being killed each week.

In the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation, we have lost fewer men to hostile fire than in a single terrorist attack in Lebanon in 1983. We’ve been losing about a soldier a day since the first of June. At this rate, we’ll reach the Vietnam total in about 158 years.

Sorry, but no. The 58,000 figure is of combat and non-combat deaths in the Vietnam theater. If you’re going to use that statistic, then you need to compare it with total combat and non-combat deaths in Iraq (which, the last time I checked, sat at about two deaths per day).

The level of violence in Iraq is still extremely low — I get the feeling that your average L.A. street gang would be more vicious than these rather ineffective holdout Saddam loyalists. As Kelly points out in another part of his colum, the suicide bombers who attacked the Marine compound in Lebanon killed more Americans in one fell swoop than these jokers in Iraq have been able to do since the beginning of the war.

Not very impressive, except perhaps to the media who seem to find a annual death rate of less than 1 per 100,000 in a war zone to be indicative of enormous problems.

World Bank: Vietnam Must Reform to Continue Economic Growth

This paraphrase of a World Bank officials pronouncement about the future of Vietnam’s economy should win some form of award for understatement,

The bank’s vice president for East Asia and the Pacific, Jemal-ud-din Kassum, says without a modern legal and public administration system in place, Vietnam’s transition to a market economy will run into trouble.

No kidding. And here I thought it was capitalism and globalism that was causing all of the problems in the developing world.


World Bank warns of hurdles to economic growth in Vietnam. Radio Australia, July 15, 2003.

He Had to Make Up the Quote to Save It!

Salon.Com’s Scott Rosenberg had his usual all-over-the-map weblog post the other day which concluded thusly,

Vietnam bequeathed us the bitter remark, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” Every day the Iraq war continues we march a little closer to playing out that paradox on the scale of an entire nation.

Vietnam did not bequeath us this bitter remark. Rather this quote came from a story filed by Peter Arnett who made his career on the back of his Vietnam-era reporting.

But the quote has always had a questionable provenance, with its authenticity only becoming more in question as Arnett has thrown away his career on stories and methods that could charitably be called lousy and uncharitably called fraudulent.

Mona Charen and B.G. Burkett claim that Arnett’s reporting on this remark were wrong on a number of accounts.

First, the village in question that was destroyed — Ben Tre — was destroyed by Viet Cong forces rather than by Americans.

Second, Charen reports that the officer who supposedly made the infamous statement denies ever saying it, adding that he simply remembers telling Arnett, “It was a shame the town was destroyed.”

Given Arnett’s behavior in the Tailwind scandal, and his reporting in both of the Persian Gulf Wars, I think it is the soldier rather than Arnett that deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Wacky Proposal for a Rice Cartel

Sometimes there are stories which are so self-refuting that it’s hard to provide further commentary. Such is the announcement that China, India, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam are investigating ways to cartelize world rice markets. They want to do for rice what OPEC has done for oil.

Rice prices have been in free fall since 1997, losing more than a third of their value in just 5 years. World projections show rice production continuing to increase, so the price of rice is likely to fall even further over the next few years while global consumption is projected to decline.

Under those conditions a cartel is a great idea for producers, but how do they ever expect to enforce cartel agreements? OPEC has had a nightmare enforcing its cartel agreements on oil which is a relatively easy commodity to track and exclude potential competitors (not to mention monitor violators). Since rice can be grown throughout most of the world, there is almost no way cartel efforts can succeed.

Ironically, each of the governments involved has had disastrous experience with state subsidies and internal control of food markets. Apparently they believe that if they simply try the same failed policies on a bigger scale that they might finally work. Don’t bet on it.


Rice producers in ‘cartel’ talks. The BBC, October 9, 2002.

China Leads World in Imprisoning Journalists

A new report by the Committe to Protect Journalists says that China leads the world in imprisoning journalists. China accounted for 22 of the 87 journalists imprisoned worldwide.

The CPJ report noted that China seems to have hardened its stance against journalists over the past couple years, likely in response to the chaos created by rapid Internet adoption.

In previous years, the Chinese government made concessions to international public opinion by carefully stage-managing the release of prominent dissidents, including journalists, at critical moments. Authorities took a harder line in 2000, when not a single journalist was released.

Other countries which had jailed journalists as of December 2000 were,



Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo

The number of imprisoned journalists has fallen dramatically since 1998, when 118 journalists were imprisoned, but these numbers do underestimate the problem since they only count journalists who were still in prison at the end of 2000. A much larger number of journalists were imprisoned for at least part of 2000 but released before the end of the year.

Of course arrest isn’t the only way of intimidating journalists. Last year 24 journalists were killed around the world either in the act of reporting on a story or in retaliation because of their reporting or affiliation with a news organization. The murder of journalists breaks down like this,



Sierra Leone
Sri Lanka

Additionally another 20 journalists were murdered worldwide, but the motive for those murders remains unclear.


Attack on the Press in 2000. Committee to Protect Journalists, 2000.

China: ‘Leading jailer’ of journalists. The BBC, March 19, 2001.

Does Anybody Believe In Free Speech Anymore?

       Once in awhile somebody sends
me an e-mail asking something like “what made you become a libertarian?”
My answer is simple – libertarians are the only group I know who actually
take the idea of free speech seriously. For the traditional left and the
right, supporting free speech often seems to be largely a political act
– to be against freedom of speech is like being against Mom or apple pie,
but in the end neither group has much of a problem compromising free speech
for their own ends.

       On the right, a prime example
of this is the regular efforts to abridge the First Amendment by making
it illegal to deface the American flag. At the moment I have two flags
squirreled away in a closet – one I received at the death of my grandfather,
who served in World War II, and the other I received at the death of my
father, who won a Silver Star in Vietnam. They fought for freedom, not
to treat those whom they might vehemently disagree with as criminals.
To ban the burning or other defacing of the American flag is so absurd,
it is something that reads like a scene out of Alice In Wonderland.

       Not that the left tends to
be any better. Having finished college not too many years ago and working
at university at the moment, IÂ’ve been always been a bit shocked at left
wingers who like to pretend that “political correctness” is a right wing
myth that doesn‘t exist outside of the minds of paranoid conservatives.
The recent McCarthy-like treatment of an University of Oklahoma professor
amply illustrates the Cold War-like persecution of any sort of dissenting
views from the right on AmericaÂ’s campus.

       This controversy started after
a female student wrote an opinion column in the student newspaper saying
that, “Easy access to a handgun allows everyone in this country . . .
to quickly and easily kill as many random people as they want.” In response
to this, David Deming, associate professor of Geology and Geophysics,
replied in a letter to the editor that “[The female writer’s] easy access
to a vagina enables her to quickly and easily have sex with as many random
people as she wants . . . and spread venereal diseases.”

       For his reductio ad absurdum,
students filed more than twenty sexual harassment complaints against Deming
and the Dean of the College of Geosciences, John T. Snow, blasted Deming
in a letter that accused him of, among other things, lowering morale in
the department and upsetting the university president. In typical politically
correct form, that very letter urged Deming to “show due respect for the
opinions of others.” Apparently Snow, like some of the students at Oklahoma,
is unable to actually consider the arguments he uses but rather just repeats
them as simple platitudes.

       The Supreme Court recently
made both left and right wing activists happy ruling that a ban on nude
dancing does not violate the First Amendment. According to the Supreme
Court, a law requiring erotic dancers to wear pasties and a g-string doesnÂ’t
interfere with the conveyances of their message and so is not inconsistent
with the First Amendment when such a ban also serves an important public
interest (in this case reducing crime and other problem associated with
such establishments).

       The error is the same whether
the limitation on speech is made in the name of the left, the right or
a vague “public interest.” Free speech is a fundamental human right,
not some building block to be tinkered with and limited and expanded as
the state may see fit. The only time speech should ever be limited by
government is when it is necessary to do so to prevent direct, immediate
physical harm to people (such as ordering a trained guard dog to “kill.”)
If it canÂ’t meet that test (which bans on flag burning, reductio ad absurdum
arguments, and completely nude dancing all fail), no interference with
speech should go forward.