Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Friday, February 14, 2003
And Now: the Council

The inspections are working, blah, blah, need more time, blah, blah...
I'll blog about this later.
(sorry about the typo's in the last few posts, but I was listening and typing at the same time)

There you have it: Syria is already saying the things I typed three lines ago. And drawing in the Israeli-Palestine issue.

El Baradei VIII

Claims intrusive inspections are effective, even when no cooperation is forthcoming. Cooperation would speed things up, though...

El Baradei VII

"No evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear activities". Some things are still under investigation, so no definite conclusion yet: more inspections are needed!

El Baradei VI

The Iraqi WMD-law: step in the right direction under the fullfilment of the resolutions. IAE will continue its work, and will strengthen their inspectors by adding more staff and translators. Also stricter monitoring of imports, and more interviews on IAE terms, inside and outside of Iraq. More monitoring equipment to check dual-use equipment.
Happy about the planes sent by other countries (U2, Mirage, Antonov and drones).
Claims all these measures will make the inspections a succes.

El Baradei V

Documents found in home of Iraqi scientist: mostly tech reports and meeting reports, copies of publications, student papers, research stuff. Mostly about laser-uranium enrichment. The docs seem to have been property of the scientist, not part of Iraqi program.

El Baradei IV

Carbon fibers: seem not to have been for rotor tubes... specs not up to snuff for it, and material observed in other applications.
HMX explosives: Iraq claims this was for production of industrial explosives to be used in cement quarries. IAE not sure on this, but no method to verify if the Iraqi story holds up.

El Baradei III

Talking about the procurement of proscribed materials: uranium, magnets, aluminum tubes... Iraq denies doing this, or it was for conventional rockets, blah, blah. Questions being asked on the tight requirements the Iraqi's demanded of the suppliers of these tubes, because they would not have made sense for rockets. Documents on this were given to the inspectors, and are being investigated right now.

El Baradei II

Samples have been taken at various locations, in order to detect traces of nuclear activity. More samples will be taken, and gamma-surveys will be undertaken too, by car and helicopter, real soon now. Key personel has been interviewed. Recently, four private interviews were conducted, but they were taped by the scientists.
Iraq confirmed intention of allowing private interviews...

El Baradei I...

Giving an overview of the phases of the inspections: reconnaissance is over, investigative phase has begun. 19 new locations have been investigated, and access was provided by Iraq. Monitoring installed at many sites, to make sure the equipment is not used.

Blix X...

So there you have it: disarmament is still possible, "if Iraqi cooperation is immediately forthcoming".

Blix VIV...

On the time needed for inspections: depends on the goal. Monitoring or disarming? Monitoring could go on for ages... Disarmament should have gone quicker, but was blocked by Iraq in 1991 and later.

Blix VIII...

Talking about the Powell presentation now: the moving of stuff before inspectors showed up. The site of which satelite pics were shown was a known site, which the Iraqi's expected to be inspected anyway, and the movement could have had to do with convential weapons anyway...

Blix VII...

Now claiming that info coming from intel agencies will remain confidential... (hehehehe)

Blix VI...

Talking on the 'anti-WMD' legislation voted through today in Baghdad: not enough known about this yet to make a comment.
Role of foreign intelligence: Blix is complaining about the lack of info coming from U.N. countries, citing the example of the previous inspections where this info did came forth.

Blix V...

On private meetings with scientists: only interviews in Baghdad done to date, and some people refused them or requested taping/presence of government party present.

Blix IV...

Now talking on anthrax: no proof existing stocks were destroyed, Iraqi claims to the contrary hard to prove.
Iraqi inspector team formed after the find of empty chemical missiles has had its mandate extended to look for other proscribed stuff too.

Blix III...

More on the missiles: listing a whole slew of things Iraq posseses or has researched which it wasn't allowed....

... and there goes my connection to the audio stream!

Blix II...

Hmmm, this sounds better: slamming the incomplete declaration of last year, and talking about the proscribed missile programs found recently. Saying Iraq is in violation of a resolution by having this missile system, and noting the lack of declaration of it...


Listening to Hans Blix right now. He doesn't sound very willing to declare Iraq in material breach, I must say. Listing examples of Iraqi 'cooperation' of recent...

Islam and Democracy

Two days ago, I watched a debate on BBC television about a possible war on Iraq. One of the participants of the debate was the Saoudi ambassador to the U.K. When asked what his opinion on a democratic Irak was, he stated he was in favour of a form of government 'with participation of the people'. When pressed on this, he had to concede he was not in favour of democracy. When asked why, he said: "Democracy is not compatible with islam".
Enough said...

Duct Tape and Cover

The Joy of Tech! has an interesting take on the growing fear of an NBC attack in the USA...

Even More Redecorating

I've also moved around some other stuff on this page: the counter should now be in the sidebar, and some of the entries in my blogroll have moved too...

Thursday, February 13, 2003
And More Innovation!

If all goes well, my webcam should be up too now... (sorry I didn't shave for the occasion)

Rattle, rattle...

You might have noticed the shiny new donations button in the left sidebar. Not that I suddenly expect to earn a living off my blog, but if I manage to raise $50 I'm going to upgrade to Blog*Spot Plus. If not, blogging will continue as usual...

I'm not an International Lawyer

But maybe one of my readers is ;-) I have a question I've been wondering about lately. With all the diplomatic wrangling going on to get a second (well, fifteenth or so) U.N. resolution authorizing war in Iraq, would't there be another way for the U.S. to go to war 'legally'? Might there be a loophole in one of the previous resolutions? More specifically:
Would (some of) the reasons in the U.N. resolution authorizing the first Gulf war still be valid, and if so, could this resolution still be used to justify an attack now?

I'm just asking, because I remember a few years ago Belgium made peace with Zaïre after more than thirty or forty years of an ongoing 'war' the diplomats had apparently forgotten to end. In practice, the war had been over for decades: trade and normal relations had long since resumed. But technically and legally, both countries were still at war.
If I remember correctly, no peace treaty was ever signed with Iraq after the previous war, just a cease-fire. Is this correct? And if so, could hostilities just be resumed like that? It would of course have been neccessary for the U.S. to have officially declared war on Iraq back then. I'm not sure, but I don't think it did. At least, I can't find any 'Declaration of War' right now.
Anyone feel up too look into this?
I realise this is highly hypothetical and would certainly be frowned upon by the international community, but could it be done?

Backlash Against Belgium has Begun?

This morning a representative of the diamond and gold traders in Antwerp was on the radio, complaining that many deals with American customers were being cancelled or delayed. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister claimed that a backlash because of Belgian foreign policy was non-existent, and that, in fact, he had just persuaded another American corporation to build its European headquarters in Belgium (I forgot which one, unfortunately).
The irony of the Antwerp events is that many of the traders there are in fact Jewish, and the Israeli's aren't very happy with Belgium either at this moment, because of the Sharon-decision by a Belgian court of law. They even recalled their ambassador today, for consultation...

Belgium's Past

Jim Miller blasts Belgian history in this article on his blog. While much of it is true, it omits many key facts or doesn't go deep enough.
Yes, it is true that Politics in the nation have been characterized by ethnic divisions between the French and Flemish speaking parts of the nation, widespread corruption, and even a massive pedophile scandal.
But we're also about the only country in the world where this kind of ethnic divison hasn't led to violence. And the corruption is not that bad compared to some other countries in Europe. And I'm sure the pedophile actions of a few lone nutballs shouldn't be used to paint an entire country. On the contrary: 300.000 people (of a total of 10.000.000 inhabitants) marched to protest against this! I haven't seen similar marches in the States after the pedophile priest scandals...
As to the Belgian war record: Belgium was in fact prepared, but for the wrong kind of war. Just like France, the Belgian defense plan was based on massive fortifications, which, alas, proved no match for the German Blitzkrieg and airborne assault. As to collaboration: yes, that happened, but the backlash against it after the war was so severe that many people even today haven't had their full civil rights restored because their grandfather was a minor collaborator!
And the Belgian government-in-exile certainly stood firmly by the allies: where do you think the uranium for the two first American nuclear bombs came from? Belgian-Congo, indeed...
Anyhow, don't get me wrong: I still think our foreign policy with respect to Turkey and NATO is totally wrong. But that doesn't mean we are a nation of cowardly, Jew-hating, racist pedophiles who happen to make good beer and chocolate.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003
Tell Guy How You Feel About Belgium Yourself

As a service to my American readers:
Invest in Belgium - road show
Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance will visit several world cities to talk about investing in Belgium and answer all your questions. These are the dates and places:
12-02-2003 New York
13-02-2003 New York

Well, it specifically says 'all your questions', so go ahead, ask...

Belgium's Secret Plan

Guy: Louis, we need to talk, urgently...
Louis: Yes, Prime Minister?
Guy: You're the Foreign Minister, so explain it to me again, why exactly are we opposing NATO action to help defend Turkey?
Louis: Well, because we refuse to go along with American war logic, and to help the people of Iraq, also, to avoid a terrible war before all diplomatic options are exhausted...
Guy: No, not the reasons we tell the press, the real reasons...
Louis: Oh, sorry! Well, it's a brilliant plan, as you are probably aware. But let me summarize it for you.
Guy: If you would... I'm kind of anxious about the whole thing, because I'm leaving on a trip to the U.S. in a few days to promote Belgian trade and industry, and I've heard Americans don't like this kind of thing...
Louis: Don't worry, I've got you covered!
Guy: How?
Louis: Well, first of all, you know we're all doing this to score points with our own voters. Only four months left until the elections, and a bit of anti-Americanis... eh, pacifism plays well with the sheepl... eh, people. Secondly, we do this to score points with our good friends in Germany and France. When they take over the European Union, I'm sure they won't forget us!
Guy: Yes, I know about the elections! I was just talking to Gerhard, and if it worked for him last time, it should work for us. But what about the Americans!?
Louis: Don't worry! You know they are such cowboys, don't you? Naive, dumb, unsophisticated,... ils sont très simplistes (and not 'simplisme', as they would write it, once more proving their ignorance)!
Guy: Yes, and it scares me! I'm going over there in a couple of days, you know. They might even start shooting at me! I hear everybody is allowed to have guns there!
Louis: Well, and this is where the brilliant part of my plan kicks in! Nobody will shoot you, call you names or insult you. And do you know why?
Guy: Umm, no? Because I'm such a nice Guy? Get it... guy/Guy?
Louis: No, seriously. You'll be perfectly safe, because Americans are so stupid they don't even know where Belgium is, much less what our international policy is.
Guy: But, that's outrageous!! How can they be so rude and ignorant? Don't they know Belgium has...
Louis: I know, I know... I feel your pain, believe me! But in this case, we can actually turn this to our advantage! We can score points with the voters, the French, the Germans, and there will be no consequences at all from the Americans!
Guy: And Saddam will be grateful too, we might even score some oil contracts in a few months...
Louis: Yeah, right, if he is still alive and in power... You don't honestly believe we can stop this war, do you?
Guy: Haha, got you there for a moment!
Louis: Whew, you really had me worried...
Guy: But are you sure the Americans won't know what we're up to?
Louis: Sure! The French and the Germans are taking all the blame, anger and potshots. Just look at these quotes I had some lackey look up on the World Wide Intraweb thingy down at the office. Do you see any mention of Belgium in there?

  • James Lileks: did you ever think you’d live to see the day when Eastern Europe was our ally, and France and Germany our enemies?
  • InstaPundit: I think that French (not so much German) efforts to play spoiler here have as much to do with poisoning the well on this front as they do with the matter ostensibly at hand -- though I agree with the increasing number of people in and out of the blogosphere who believe that the chief motivation may be covering up evidence of French (and German) collaboration with Saddam.
  • USS Clueless: Having made the case that French and German opposition to the US is motivated by a desire to dominate the EU, or by fear of damaging revelations coming out of post-war Iraq, there is an entirely different way of looking at it: it's a clash of cultures.
  • Little Green Footballs: In their latest desperate move to throw a (cheese eating surrender) monkey wrench into the effort to disarm Saddam Hussein, France has vetoed NATO plans to protect Turkey. (well, to be fair, Belgium is mentioned in passing in the remainder of the article)
  • Jeff Jarvis: I bet you that France lost billions of American trade and tourist dollars because of this tension
    The danger of thumbing your nose at us today is that a new generation could adopt this same attitude: The French don't like us? Well, we'll make it mutual.

Guy: Haha, 'cheese eating surrender monkey wrench'... I'll have to remember that for my next lunch meeting with Jacques. Anyway, it seems like your plan is working, Louis! Very well, keep up the good work...

Bear's Five

I've linked to it before, and now I'm participating in it myself: the Cross Blog Debate on Iraq launched by The Truth Laid Bear and Stand Down. Basically, each side of the Iraq debate got to pick five questions they'd like to be answered by the other side. As I am pro-war, this means I have to answer the following questions:

1. Attacking Iraq has been publicly called a "pre-emption" of a threat from Saddam Hussein's regime, whose sins include launching regional wars of aggression. Do you think there is a clear and reliable difference between pre-emptive and aggressive warfare, and if so, what is it?

This is a tricky question, since what constitutes aggression is very much in the eye of the beholder. Even Hitler claimed he was 'counterattacking' Poland in 1939, after all, and further claimed he was unjustly attacked by the allies. So whatever the motives of an attack are, it is always going to look like an aggression to someone. Tough luck...
It is my belief that the motives for an American attack are currently justified. Naturally, Saddam will dissagree. But then again, he's a bloodthirsty dictator, so he can talk to the hand, because the head is not listening.

2. What do you feel are the prospects that an invasion of Iraq will succeed in a) maintaining it as a stable entity and b) in turning it into a democracy? Are there any precedents in the past 50 years that influence your answer?

The obvious answers would be uncertain, very good and Japan and Germany. But we might as well add Italy to that list, and Austria. Oh, and then there's Korea (the south, at least), and Afghanistan, so far. From the top of my head, I don't know any other countries the U.S. has invaded and fully occupied since the Vietnam war. Invaded, yes, but not a full-blown military occupation lasting for years. Hmm, Kosovo, perhaps, now that I think of it. Didn't they have elections there recently?
As to the 'stable entity', well, perhaps not. But three 'stable entities', all under democratic governance? Quite possible: Kurds, Shia's and Shi'ites, each in their own mini-state. Perhaps even in a kind of federation, if they can stop hating each other long enough.

3. How successful do you think the military operations and "regime change" in Afghanistan have been in achieving their stated objectives? Does this example affect your feelings about war in Iraq in any way?

Well, anybody who claims the regime in Afghanistan hasn't changed for the better is as blind as a bat. Ask any woman or girl who can now go to school or work again. Ask the children who can fly kites again. Ask the men who are allowed to laugh in public again. Of course, the place still isn't a fairyland utopia, but that is now for the Afghan people to work on. But the example is indeed encouraging in view of a possible operation in Iraq.
In any case, Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists, which, I believe, was the stated goal of the military operation. Most of the Taliban and Al Quaeda forces in the country have been reduced to brown smears on cave walls, and will no longer threaten anybody. This also sent a clear message to any state or group thinking about following their example.
Another thing the Afghan campaign has made painfully clear is that American forces are practically invincible and invulnerable when fighting lower-tech opponents. I'm sure this will come in handy in Iraq too, as the Iraqi dictator seems not to have gotten the Afghanistan message clear enough.

4. As a basis for war, the Bush Administration accuses Iraq of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, nuclear), supporting terrorism, and brutalizing their own people. Since Iraq is not the only country engaged in these actions, under what circumstances should the US go to war with other such nations, in addition to going to war with Iraq?

When such country presents a danger to American interests, it should be at the top of the list. And when such a country already has WMD's, it's too late for a quick, short war. Attacking a nuclear armed North Korea or Iraq would mean huge casualties on the American side, and armageddon on the other side. Better strike first at nations trying to go that way. Next on the list should be nations supporting terrorists.
And then? Well, my gut feeling tells me it would be a good thing if the world's democracies got together to free the parts of mankind suffering under dictators and tyrants. But then again, democracies tend to get selfish: what's in it for them, except for dying in foreign lands for someone else's freedom? Alas for the unfree part of mankind, we're the only chance they've got against their modern-army-equiped overlords... The time when it took a handfull of brave men and some muskets to overthrow a tyranny are over.

5. The Bush Administration has issued numerous allegations about the threat represented by Iraq, many of which have been criticized in some quarters as hearsay, speculation or misstatements. Which of the Administration's allegations do you feel stand up best to those criticisms?

Saddam has WMD's. Ask any Kurdish villager or Iranian soldier. Saddam has to prove he destroyed them, as demanded of him in nearly a dozen U.N. resolutions. The inspectors don't need to find them first, nor would they even have to look for the evidence themselves, they should be brought to it by Iraqi officials! So far, Saddam isn't being very helpful (nor has he been for the past eleven years). He is mocking the oh-so-important U.N., and the sad thing is that he does it with impunity. About time somebody says "Game's over"...

Monday, February 10, 2003
News from the Latest Member of the Axis of Weasels

Just heard on the radio this morning: Belgium to block NATO support to Turkey... Foreign minister Louis Michel had until 10.00 a.m. to send in his veto to Lord Robertson. But first he called Paris, to make sure they would veto too. All this, semi-live on national radio: reporters were actually waiting in the room next door, while he went and got his 'orders' from French foreign minister De Villepin over the phone. After all, if France would have given in, Belgium wouldn't have vetoed, Michel said. No point in being the only country blocking this (Germany is sending Patriot missiles to Turkey anyway, under a bilateral agreement).
Disgusting! What the hell does Louis Michel think he is gaining by this? The eternal gratitude of Saddam Hussein? Massive trade agreements with France? Or does he seriously believe Belgium is going to halt the United States from going to war? In that case, he is in need of a serious reality check...

Shirky on Weblogs

Clay Shirky has an explanation for the fact that InstaPundit gets more traffic than Live from Brussels: Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality. Not that it matters much, anyway. Just knowing that at least some people read my daily rants, quips and remarks is its own reward. As is the observation that my readership is slowly growing over time: my SiteMeter counter (scroll all the way down) tells me I now get about 70 visitors each day (visits, not hits). Which is nice, as a few months ago it was only 20 or so (on a good day).
Anyway, thanks for reading my stuff!

Sunday, February 09, 2003
Ashamed to be Belgian

Apparently, Germany, France and Belgium have blocked a NATO-decision to provide support to Turkey (another NATO member) in its defense in case of a war. Yeah, yeah, no actual attack against Turkey has happened yet, and the NATO charter probably doesn't involve 'pre-emptive defense force positioning', but come on... I think the chance that Turkish troops will ever assist in defending Belgium has just become very small, and the significance of NATO has become even smaller.
I'm watching a re-run of Louis Michel (the foreign minister) explaining that he knows Saddam is a dictator, but no, he has not saved him from war, nor is he trying. He is just trying to save the Iraqi people from war, and he is representing the Belgian population, and blah, blah, blah...
Saving the Iraqi people from a dictator apparently is not important.
Well, I don't agree, and he's not representing me... would someone please save me from this dictator? Oooh, four months left before the next election here...