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As usual, my chain smoking simian research staff has been doing some excellent work lately:
  • Baghdad Journal Part 8: Yet another exceptional Mumford column. This installment details his experiences while embedded with a few US Military units. Interestingly, when I first read this article, it was in more of a journal format, including some more mundane observations (but no less interesting, imho) about life as an embedded reporter, but the article seems to have been significantly edited since then, giving greater attention to the more dramatic episodes in Mumford's Journal. One of the remaining episodes that Mumford tells is the confrontation between an Imam who had organized a protest and an American officer, Captain Ricardo Roig. It demonstrates the fine line that such officers must walk between balancing the wants and needs of the Iraqis with the safety of his troops:
    The Imam is a handsome man who looks to be in his early 30s, with an elegant white turban, smoldering green eyes beneath a monobrow. He tells Roig through our translator that he's giving him two days to release the prisoner. Roig looks offended by the Iraqi's ultimatum.

    "You come to me with these demands -- when I ask for your help, you ignore my requests. You're supposed to get a cooperation request before having a demonstration. You don't bother.

    "When have I ever gone into your mosques? When have I ever bothered your women? We try to understand your culture and be sensitive to it, but there are some bad guys out there who want to kill us. I'm not going to let my men get hurt."
    The confrontation goes on, and it is a fascinating read. Also, the art included in this installment appears to be of a higher quality than usual. I've updated this post so that it still contains all of Mumford's columns.
  • Sabotaging the Soviets: Since the end of the Cold War, interesting espionage stories like these have been coming out.
    In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union through covert transfers of technology that contained hidden malfunctions, including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline, according to a new memoir by a Reagan White House official.
    Stories like this, or Operation Ivy Bells or any other of a host of Cold War espionage stories that I find fascinating, always make me wonder what sorts of things will be coming out twenty or thirty years from now. What sorts of espionage are we conducting against terrorists now, if any? [via Power Line]
  • U.S. Push for Mideast Democracy: An ambitious U.S. effort to promote democracy in the Middle East. Word of this plan has been circulating quietly for a while, and it is always compared to the interestingly successful Helsinki Accords of the 1970s, which provided a framework for pressing democracy in the communist East Bloc. The only problem is that the Helsinki Accords' most helpful bits about human rights and whatnot, if I understand correctly, were sort of snuck in as an afterthought. The Soviets would never have participated had they actually known how the accords would play out. In comparing this new plan to the Helsinki Accords, aren't we telegraphing the blow to our enemies? [via OxBlog]
  • Full Text of Zarqawi Letter: This letter has often been commented upon, but the full text, as usual, provides a better understanding of what Zarqawi is actually getting at than the media (and thus the susequent analysis based on media accounts). There are some things that do indicate American success, but there are also plenty of discouraging things in the memo as well.
  • The Family Guy is Coming Back! On a lighter note, this show was one of the funniest I have ever seen, and it's lack of new episodes despite it's briliance was to be a subject of a rant on the blog at one time or another. Apparently, though, new episodes are coming. Score! We'll have to wait until 2005 to get them, however...
Posting has been somewhat sparse lately, but you can still expect the weekly Sunday updates, even if the mid-week updates don't happen as often...