Archive for July, 2008
28 Jul 2008

My Kind of Olympics

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Guy and Will have some ideas on how to make the Olympics more interesting.

28 Jul 2008

New Obama Ad

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Via Marc Ambinder.

0:30 video

From Moveon.org. Chic, witty, and featuring Tara from Buffy, but do you really want to compare what your candidate is peddling to a Venereal Disease?

You need to see this one in order to be ready to enjoy the parodies to come.

28 Jul 2008

Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!

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Penn & Teller get members of the public at a Worldfest gathering to sign one more environmentalist petition.

3:23 video

Is there really any difference between these people’s decision to support this particular environmentalist initiative and their decision to support any of the many others they currently support? Answer: Nope, not one iota of difference.

You can support this environmental action cause, too. link

Hat tip to Fred Karp.

28 Jul 2008

He Creeps Me Out, Too

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Obama totally creeps out Rick Moran.

28 Jul 2008

Nicht so Schnell, Herr Spörl

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William Kristol mocks Spiegel’s premature coronation of Barack Obama, and dies a fine job.

Life is full of disappointments.

Early Friday, I went to the Real Clear Politics Web site, as I do every morning, for my fix of political news and commentary. I perked up when I saw the third entry on the list of that day’s notable articles — “No. 44 Has Spoken.”

“Hank Aaron has spoken? Wow,” I thought as I clicked through.

Nope. The article was by Gerhard Spörl, the chief editor of Der Spiegel’s foreign desk. “No. 44” didn’t refer to the uniform number of the man some of us still consider the true all-time major-league home-run champion. It referred to the next president of the United States. The article’s premise was that an Obama victory is a foregone conclusion: “Anyone who saw Barack Obama at Berlin’s Siegessäule on Thursday could recognize that this man will become the 44th president of the United States.”

So it wasn’t Hank Aaron speaking. It was just another journalist fawning over Obama. That was a disappointment. But disappointment was quickly replaced by the healthier emotion of annoyance.

“Nicht so schnell, Herr Spörl,” I thought, drawing on what Obama would consider my embarrassingly limited German. Not so fast.

Don’t the American people get a chance to weigh in on this in November? Maybe they’ll decide it’s more important to have John McCain as commander in chief than Barack Obama as orator in chief. Maybe they’ll further suspect that 200,000 Germans can’t be right.

I was cheered up by this notion.

Read the whole thing.

28 Jul 2008

The Right at Yale

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James Kirchik, a liberal writing at the libertarian DoubleThink, describes undergraduate political life at Yale, the parties currently making up the Yale Political Union, and winds up ruefully paying tribute to an organization I belong to: The Party of the Right (POR).

Mr. Kirchik is misinformed on one detail. The current Conservative Party was formed in the 1990s by a gentleman who had been defeated for a second time seeking election as Chairman of the Party of the Right. The name “Conservative Party” was technically vacant, since the real Conservative Party, tracing its history back to Union’s 1930s beginning, had in a moment of 1980s flaccidity changed its name to the “Independent Party,” having become ashamed even to be called Conservative.

The Party of the Right, early in its history, chose to create a cult of devotion to the memory of King Charles I of England, on the basis of his martrydom for the simultaneous causes of Legitimacy and Liberty. The POR Chairman wears a medal commemorating Charles I, and POR toasting sessions (a formal drinking bout held at Mory’s) are opened by the Chairman reciting Charles I’s scaffold speech, which, in part, goes:


For the people. And truly I desire their Liberty and Freedom as much as anybody whomsoever. But I must tell you, that their Liberty and Freedom, consists in having of Government; those Laws, by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean, that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves.

Sirs, It was for this that now I am come here. If I would have given way to an Arbitrary way, for to have all Laws changed according to the power of the Sword, I needed not to have come here; and therefore, I tell you, (and I pray God it be not laid to your charge) That I Am the Martyr of the People.

It’s easy for the average student to poke fun at the bow-tied, intellectual conservative. The conservatives have fewer (though closer) friends; they are not members of the once-vaunted secret societies (with few exceptions, visible campus conservatives have been unofficially barred from Yale’s secret societies); they are not characters on the campus party scene, opting instead for “game nights” with their fellow party members. But, I suspect, many Yale students know, deep down, that they are missing out on something by avoiding the political union and its misfits. Amidst all of the average Yalie’s resume-whoring extra-curricular activities, hard-partying, and frantic searching for top internships and jobs, the intellectual life they had hoped to find at Yale, indeed, that they assumed would just appear the minute they walked through its ivy gates, proves ever elusive. Having become pre-professional training colleges, the modern liberal arts university is simply not what it appears to be in the movies and novels of old. Meanwhile the right-wing subculture at Yale has become the bastion of intellectual life on campus. At the PU, I always knew that getting into a debate with a Tory, Con, or a member of the POR would be more challenging than any classroom discussion. Yale students suspect that this is more or less the truth of the matter. They just wish it weren’t so.

As the POR chairman said in a recent YPU organizational meeting speech, “Getting drunk and hungover at every opportunity may be intense, but without something more, you’ll wake up one day and find yourself as empty as the keg by your head. You may find something intense in varsity sports, musical organizations, secret societies, and debating clubs, but make sure that your college experience informs your life. You need authenticity.”

I will forever remember my days in the Yale Political Union with great fondness. There really is no body like it in the world. I know that new characters will replace the old ones, but the PU will remain its lively, irascible old self. And while I will not soon be joining any secretive conservative organizations, I will, at the very least, have a greater appreciation for Charles the Martyr.

Hat tip to Matthias Storme.

27 Jul 2008

Political Poison Pen Letter, Florida-Style

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When you or I get angry at one of our local politicians, we post an angry letter to the local newspaper. In Deltona, Florida, unhappy constituents (clearly originally hailing from more tropical climes) leave a Voodoo doll and candle by the offending politicians mailbox. Uh oh!

News-Journal

City Commissioner Zenaida Denizac’s happy day after a church picnic this past weekend was briefly ruined by the discovery of a voodoo doll on her lawn.

The doll was stuck with many pins and included a photo of the commissioner’s face pinned on the doll’s head. The doll, inside a black plastic tray, was found by Denizac’s husband next to a periwinkle plant near the base of her mailbox Saturday afternoon.

Jose Denizac said he saw the package when he left at 4 a.m. to fish but thought it was trash. When he returned at 5 p.m. he saw the object while parking his boat and checked it out.

“As soon as I saw the doll and the pins and the candle, I knew what the intention was,” Jose Denizac said. “It is envy. My wife has always been a leader who does not hide anything and speaks with frankness.”

Sheriff’s deputies are investigating the unusual incident, although they do not believe it is a direct threat to the elected official, said spokesman Brandon Haught.

27 Jul 2008

P.J. O’Rourke Remembers the 1980s

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P.J. O’Rourke remembers the good old times when Good King Ronald ruled the land:

Weren’t the eighties grand? Cash grew on trees or, anyway, coca bushes. The rich roamed the land in vast herds hunted by proud, free tribes of investment brokers who lived a simple life in tune with money. Every wristwatch was a Rolex. Every car was a Mercedes-Benz. A fellow could romance a gal without shrink-wrapping his privates and negotiating the Treaty of Ghent. Communist dictators were losing their jobs, not presidents of America and General Motors. Women wore Adolfo gowns instead of dumpy federal circuit court judge robes. The Malcolm who mattered was Forbes. Bill Clinton was only a microscopic polyp in the colon of national politics, and Hillary was still in flight school, hadn’t even soloed on her broom. What a blast we were having. The suburbs had just discovered Martha Stewart, the cities had just discovered crack. So many parties and none of them Democratic…Back then health care was a tummy tuck, not an inalienable right. If you wanted a better environment, you went to Laura Ashley.”

From Samizdata via the Barrister.

27 Jul 2008

Batman’s Secret Identity Revealed in WSJ

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Novelist Andrew Klavan dispels the rumors long swirling about eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne, and explains that Batman is really none other than George W. Bush.

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history ($311+ million in 10 days), is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

Conversely, time after time, left-wing films about the war on terror — films like “In The Valley of Elah,” “Rendition” and “Redacted” — which preach moral equivalence and advocate surrender, that disrespect the military and their mission, that seem unable to distinguish the difference between America and Islamo-fascism, have bombed more spectacularly than Operation Shock and Awe.

Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense — values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right — only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like “300,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Narnia,” “Spiderman 3” and now “The Dark Knight”?

The moment filmmakers take on the problem of Islamic terrorism in realistic films, suddenly those values vanish. The good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us. Why should this be?

The answers to these questions seem to me to be embedded in the story of “The Dark Knight” itself: Doing what’s right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.

Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They’re wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don’t always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them — when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, “He has to run away — because we have to chase him.”

Alfred the Butler (Michael Caine) explains that it’s impossible to deal rationally with some villains like a Burmese war lord he encountered in his British army days, who simply threw away his loot, and returned to his hideout in a vast and impenetrable forest after a sanguinary raid.

Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. Some just want to watch the world burn.

“What did you do?” asks Batman. “We burned down the entire forest.” Alfred replies.

27 Jul 2008

Tilting at Hayek From the Left

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Friederich August Hayek

Jesse Larner, writing in Dissent, makes a valiant attempt to dismiss Hayek from a post-Soviet-collapse, “we’re only advocating voluntary collectivism,” progressive perspective. Hayek overlooked “spontaneous collectivism” you see.

Ilya Somin, at Volokh Conspiracy, offers an intelligent critique of Larner.

26 Jul 2008

One Source Retracts “Obama Snubs Troops” Report

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Thanks to commenter Pete-at-home who brought this to my attention.

James Gordon Meek, in the New York Daily News (7/25) reports that Army officials took steps to refute an email posted by the Blackfive blog on July 23, sourced to an unidentified “Air Force captain.”

The latest chain e-mail smear against Barack Obama: He “blew off” troops at an Afghan base to shoot hoops for a publicity photo.

The letter was apparently written by a Utah Army National Guard intelligence officer in a linguist unit at Bagram Airfield who claimed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was rude to G.I.s.

“As the soldiers where [sic] lined up to shake his hand he blew them off,” wrote the Task Force Wasatch “battle captain.”

But angry Army brass debunked the Obama-bashing soldier’s allegations, which went viral Thursday over the Web and on military blogs such as Blackfive.

The e-mail claims Obama repeatedly shunned soldiers on his way to the Clamshell – a recreation tent – to “take his publicity pictures playing basketball.”

“These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect,” said Bagram spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, who added that such political commentary is barred for uniformed personnel.

Obama didn’t play basketball at Bagram or visit the Clamshell, she said. Home-state troops were invited to meet him, but his arrival was kept secret for security reasons.

“We were a bit delayed … as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs,” Nielson-Green said.

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On his Mouth of the Potomac blog, Meeks reports that the email’s author has issued a retraction.

Now the Bagram captain is dialing back, having signed the viral e-mail with his name, rank and unit – a possible violation of military regulations barring political statements. This morning, he sent The Mouth a new statement (punctuation corrected):

“I am writing this to ask that you delete my email and not forward it. After checking my sources, information that was put out in my email was wrong. This email was meant only for my family. Please respect my wishes and delete the email and if there are any blogs you have my email portrayed on I would ask if you would take it down too. Thanks for your understanding.”

An Army officer familiar with the incident told The Mouth today that the writer is “devastated that the letter was made public. It was never his intention that it go beyond members of his family.”

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There is some confusion which needs to be cleared up. Blackfive deliberately identified the email’s author as an air force officer in order to protect his anonymity, which effort failed. Some reports claim that the army captain had mistakenly forwarded a hoax email of which he was not the author. Apparently, such reports are incorrect.

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Snopes likes to pretend to be a purely objective source, but political prejudice creeps in. Snopes was perhaps a little overly eager to debunk this particular account.

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Confederate Yankee (7/25) correctly notes that the official refutation only contradicts two minor details and notes that we haven’t seen any refutation of the second email posted by Blackfive one day later.

It is vitally important for us to know that Barack Obama didn’t play basketball in Afghanistan, nor did he visit a specific tent. We should be grateful that Meek ferreted out the truth and debunked those scurrilous allegations.

But LTC Nielson-Green’s refutation of these two rather minor specific points does not at all address the most important allegation made in the viral email, the author’s perception that soldiers on base were “blown off” by the junior Senator.

In fact, the PAO admits that Obama only met with selected soldiers. Only service-persons from Illinois were invited to meet him, and soldiers not from Illinois (the author of the email is from Utah) were indeed not met by the junior Senator. Though no doubt a touchy situation for the military, the key premise holds.

The same handful of faces are seen in all the pictures released to the media from Obama’s visit. If you were not a soldier from Illinois or otherwise selected serviceman, you were not allowed to meet Obama. The question then arises whether the decision to limit contact with the troops was a decision made by the military brass, if that was a decision made by the Obama campaign, or by joint agreement.

The second email published, from someone at an air base as Obama swung through Iraq stated in part that Obama’s visit was “A disgraceful PR stunt, using the troops as a platform for his ego and campaign.”

To date the second email has gone unchallenged and a senior officer I interviewed confirmed on background that Obama’s visit to Iraq was nothing more than a campaign stop masquerading congressional delegation visit.

Captain P’s retraction may very possibly have merely been a prudential response to pressure from command. It is hardly unlikely that he was threatened with prosecution for violating regulations by publishing political statements.

The left would like to believe that the US military is full of Obama supporters, involuntarily-closeted gays, and disgruntled pacifists all itching to vote democrat, but none of that is true. Common sense suggests that Obama would be wise to restrict access of military personnel to his campaign-oriented visits to the front. Most of those stationed in Afghanistan have probably already served in Iraq, and they just might not be the world’s biggest fans of someone publicly committed to reversing their efforts and throwing away their personal sacrifices. Obama doesn’t need to be photographed surrounded by hostile, booing troops.

25 Jul 2008

Two Reports: Obama Snubs Troops

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Obama Playing Basketball

Ken Timmerman says that Obama didn’t win a lot of votes while visiting the troops (for benefit of media cameras) in Afghanistan.

Everything seemed planned for the future campaign commercials — at least, that’s how it seemed to a U.S. Air Force captain when Sen. Barack Obama and his entourage swooped into Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan for an hour-long visit last Saturday at the start of a week-long foreign tour.

“He got off the plane and got into a bullet proof vehicle” without pausing to acknowledge the U.S. troops who had been waiting all day just for the opportunity to meet him, the officer told the Blackfive (7/23 posting) pro-military blog.

As the soldiers lined up to shake his hand, the Illinois senator “blew them off and didn’t say a word,” ducking into the conference room to meet the general.

Then the armored vehicles took him to where “he could take his publicity pictures playing basketball. He again shunned the opportunity to talk to soldiers to thank them for their service,” the captain wrote.

“As you know, I am not a very political person. I just wanted to share with you what happened” during Obama’s visit, the captain related.

“I swear, we got more thanks from the NBA basketball players or the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders than from Senator Obama,” he added.

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Blackfive 7/24 has a second very similar account from a location in Iraq:

When his plane arrived (also containing Senators Reed and Hagel, but the news has hardly mentioned them), there was a “ramp freeze.” This means if you are on the flight line, and not directly involved with the event in question, you stay where you are and don’t move. For a combat flight arriving or departing, this takes about ten minutes, and involves the active runway and crossing taxiways only. For Obama’s flight, this took 90 minutes, during which time a variety of military missions came grinding to a halt. Obviously, this visit was important, right?

95% of base wanted nothing to do with him. I have met three troops who support him, and literally hundreds who regard him as a buffoon, a charlatan, a hindrance to their mission or a flat out enemy of progress. Even when the rumors were publicly admitted, almost no one left their duty sections to try to see him, unless they were officers whose presence was officially required.

Mister Obama’s motorcade drove up from the flight line and entered the dining hall toward the end of lunch time. Diners were chased out and told to make other arrangements for food, in the middle of the duty day.

Now, there are close to 8000 troops on the base and its nearby satellites. No one came up from the Army side (except perhaps a few ranking officers). The airbase resumed operation, once he cleared the flightline, as if nothing had happened. The dining hall holds about 300 people and was not full. The troops did not want to meet him and the feeling was apparently mutual. In attendance, besides the Official Entourage, were the base’s senior officers, some support personnel, and a very few carefully vetted supporters who’d made special arrangements. No photos were allowed. No question and answer with the troops. No real acknowledgment that the troops existed.

Obama left around 1530, during the Muslim Call to Prayer, so he’s not a practicing Muslim. He was in a convoy guarded by (so I’m told) both State Department and Secret Service Personnel.

Less than three hours…

Within 48 hours he was in Afghanistan. It takes most troops longer than that to in-process and get cleared on safety, threats, policies and such. Yet he somehow made a strategic summary by not talking to anyone and not seeing anything.

Twenty-four hours after that, he was in Kuwait, back here, and then home, so fast we didn’t even know he arrived the second time at this base.

I can’t imagine any officer of the few he met told him anything other than what they tell the troops, and what their own leadership at the Pentagon tell them—we’re winning. Our troops are stomping the guts out of the insurgency. The surge worked and is working. If the insurgents have to divert to Afghanistan, it means they can’t fight in Iraq anymore. We should not change the rules and retreat with the enemy on the ropes as we did in Vietnam. We should finish kicking their teeth in. The Iraqi government now controls 10 of 18 provinces, with US assistance in the rest. Let us win the war. 90% of the troops I know, even those opposed to the war, say that is the way to win. Victory comes from winning, not from “change.” In fact, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is on record as opposing Obama’s strategic theory.

Since he obviously knew in advance that’s what they’d tell him, and since he didn’t care to talk to the troops (we’re told by the Left that the troops are horrified, shocked, forced to commit atrocities with tears in their eyes, distraught, burned out, fed up with losing, etc) and find out how they feel, and was barely in country long enough to need a shower and a change of clothes, we can only call this for what it is.

A disgraceful PR stunt, using the troops as a platform for his ego and campaign.

25 Jul 2008

Maybe Appointing His Transition Team Was a Little Premature

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Hey! wait a minute. What do you know? It’s not actually over.

The LA Times reports that Obama’s poll numbers are not rising, Clinton supporters are not rallying to elect him, a majority of Americans find him elitist or exotic.

Can it be that he’s in trouble?

Even as his turn on the global stage hit an emotional peak Thursday with a speech before a cheering crowd of more than 200,000 in Germany, Barack Obama faced new evidence of stubborn election challenges back home.

Fresh polls show that he has been unable to convert weeks of extensive media coverage into a widened lead. And some prominent Democrats whose support could boost his campaign are still not enthusiastic about his candidacy.

Several new surveys show that Obama is in a tight race or even losing ground to Republican John McCain, both nationally and in two important swing states, Colorado and Minnesota. One new poll offered a possible explanation for his troubles: A minority of voters see Obama as a familiar figure with whom they can identify.

Republicans are moving to exploit this vulnerability, trying to encourage unease among voters by building the impression that Obama’s overseas trip and other actions show he has a sense of entitlement that suggests he believes the White House is already his.

In Ohio on Thursday, McCain hit that theme: “I’d love to give a speech in Germany . . . but I’d much prefer to do it as president of the United States, rather than as a candidate for the office of presidency.”

Obama also faces discontent from some of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most ardent supporters, who are put off by what they describe as a campaign marked by hubris and a style dedicated to televised extravaganzas.

Read the whole thing.

Not to worry, he can always run for president of Europe.

25 Jul 2008

Arms Convoy Intended for Hezbollah Explodes in Teheran

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Telegraph:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have launched an urgent inquiry after a mysterious explosion wrecked a military convoy in Tehran, killing at least fifteen people and injuring scores more
The explosion took place in the Tehran suburb of Khavarshahar as the military convoy left a munitions’ warehouse controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. According to reports received by Western officials, the convoy was taking a consignment of military equipment to Hizbollah, the Shia Muslim militia Iran supports in southern Lebanon, when the explosion occurred.

Senior Revolutionary Guard commanders immediately imposed a news black-out following the explosion, even though it could be heard throughout the capital Tehran, and no details of the incident have so far appeared in the Iranian media.

But Western officials yesterday said they had received reports that the explosion took place in Tehran on July 19, and that the Revolutionary Guards had launched an investigation into the causes of the blast.

“This was a massive explosion that was heard throughout Tehran,” one official told the Daily Telegraph. “Even though lots of people were killed the Revolutionary Guards are trying to conceal what really happened.”

Iran is believed to have recently stepped up arms shipments to Hizbollah in preparation for any future armed confrontation with the West over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.

Kudos to the foreign intelligence service, Israeli or American, responsible.

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