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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Shoulda Listened To His Daddy

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well.

Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.
"Why We Didn't Remove Saddam"George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft Time (2 March 1998)

That's a snarky title, but it's quite true anyway. There are going to be many different ways to evaluate this period in our history, but the prism of the father-son relationship is perhaps the most compelling --- and maybe the most important. That combination of the second rate son with the manipulating neocon advisors is the stuff of Shakespeare.

Look at what Scowcroft and Bush Sr were saying and look at the state of Iraq today. It is breath-taking, isn't it? It can really only be explained by magical thinking on the part of the neocons and the long frustrated desire on their part to conquor something. And Georgie just wanted to do what his father didn't do --- take out Saddam and win a second term. By that standard he's been a rousing success. One wonders if he feels satisfied. He doesn't look it.

In our endless search for explanations as to why they really did this inexplicable thing, Junior's relationship with his father and the neocon psyche are probably the places where the answers truly lie.

I wonder what would happen if a reporter were to ask Junior how he felt about the fact that his father's predictions of failure in Iraq had all come true? I'd really like to see that.

Thanks to Chris K for reminding me of this article.

No Claims Of Fairness Here! :)

I often get a little bit annoyed when people automatically dismiss something written in a partisan publication purely because it is partisan. It's tempting to do that, but it skews your world view if you assume that all conservative or liberal newspapers and magazines are liars. It's important to read them and try to see them as objectively as possible if you want to understand the real state of the debate. Certainly, their editorial policy and choice of stories will favor their side, but I have always assumed that the reputable publications do try to adhere to basic journalistic standards when it comes to straight reporting.

So, this exchange of e-mails between a National Review reader and an investigative writer shows me once again that I have been far too trusting. Evidently NR writers proudly admit to only using Republican sources. And they admit to it with all the naive earnestness of Jimmy Olson:

In hindsight, I really could have worded that sentence better. I certainly wasn't trying to mislead readers or skew the facts. Based on additional research I did this morning, I can see your take is correct.
As far as my heavily GOP sources go, I do write for the biggest U.S. conservative publication. No claims of fairness or objectivity here! :)

Thanks to Matt Stoller for the tip. Read the whole thing. It's a fascinating exchange and a very interesting insight into the way that conservative "reporters" think. Note especially the fact that even though the reporter thinks that Doug Forrester is toast in New Jersey, he happily writes a phony, error riddled probe of Jon Corzine anyway. Just for fun, I guess.

Lock-step Agreement

Reader Richard M sent in this link to an article written by David Shipley regarding the function of the op-ed page of the Ny Times:

The Op-Ed editors tend to look for articles that cover subjects and make arguments that have not been articulated elsewhere in the editorial space. If the editorial page, for example, has a forceful, long-held view on a certain topic, we are more inclined to publish an Op-Ed that disagrees with that view. If you open the newspaper and find the editorial page and Op-Ed in lock step agreement or consistently writing on the same subject day after day, then we aren't doing our job.

How odd then that the editorial page runs a plaintive request for Judith Miller's freedom and the next day the op-ed page runs Bob Dole's spirited defense of Miller's position. It would seem that the gamut of opinion on the subject runs from Miller being a valiant journalist protecting the first amendment and her sources to Miller being a courageous reporter protecting her sources --- and the first amendment.

I'm looking forward to further stirring justifications of Miller on the op-ed pages. Perhaps they could even get Judy herself to write one. After all, she hasn't written one thing on the subject.

"Kick 'Em Out"

I hear liberals say in frustration that they'd like to leave the country or that they'd like to secede, things like that. But I never hear them say that they'd like to kick their political rivals out of the country. Perhaps it's a fine distinction, but it's a distinction nonetheless. Via media Matters, here's Rush:

We just had Stephen Breyer saying, oh, yeah, totally appropriate, we must import what they're doing around the world in other democracies, it will help buttress their attempt to establish the rule of law, and we might learn something, too. Well, here's something I'd like to import. I'd like to import the ability that the Brits are doing to export and deport a bunch of hate-rhetoric filled mullahs and imams that are stoking anti-American sentiment. Wouldn't it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick 'em out. We'd get rid of Michael Moore, we'd get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law. That would be fabulous. The Supreme Court ought to look into this. Absolutely brilliant idea out there.

That first amendment has outlived its usefulness now that the right people are in charge anyway. (Calling the government "jack booted thugs" would be fine under certain circumstances, but not in others, I assume.)

So Rush just openly fantasizes in front of his 20 million listeners about deporting Michael Moore and half (only half?) of the Democratic Party. I'm sure all those Real Americans in their offices and cars just sat back and thought, "yeah, wouldn't it be great is we could just get rid of all those people once and for all?"

In modern parlance I think that could be called "political cleansing." It's been done before --- usually by communists, the modern republican's favorite role models. Totalitarians 'R Us.

Et tu Gail Collins?

The day the so-called liberal New York Times has that old fuck Bob Dole carrying its water for them is the day they have finally sunk to irreparable ignominy.

Yesterday they editorialized about poor little Judy and the freedom of the press:

An investigative reporter for The Times, Ms. Miller was ordered to testify as part of an investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a covert operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is not yet clear where the investigation is going, or why Ms. Miller's testimony was demanded by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor. Intentionally revealing the identity of a covert operative by a government official is a crime, but at this point, the only one serving time in jail is a civilian, Ms Miller.

It is true that some journalists have abused and overused unnamed sources over the years. But in the main, the secret source is not a convenience for the news media or a shortcut for an easy story. He or she is the backbone of a free and independent press. Think about the civil servant who sees a superior lying and breaking the law. Think about the employee who sees a manager whitewashing a report on a hazardous product.

Think about a powerful government official leaking sensitive classified information to the press solely to discredit a critic of the government's policy.

Think about a journalist using the reporter's shield law to protect her from having to testify about her own role in discrediting a critic of the government's policy.

Think about a reporter never being required to write a story about her involvement in a huge case reaching the very highest levels of government.

Think about a reporter lying to her employers to save her own skin.

But it wasn't enough to beat their chests one more time about freedom of the press (to be manipulated by powerful forces), they then hired Dole to follow up with a stirring defense of poor Judy on the op-ed page today. I've been following Dole my whole life. He has a good sense of humor but he's always been a mean partisan asshole. In his old age, especially, he has become a very nasty and willing to say anything. Last summer he used his credibility as a severely wounded WWII vet to go after John Kerry's medals. Now he's weighing in on the Plame investigation as one of the sponsors of the Intelligence Protection Act to claim that Plame wasn't covert.

He boo-hoos about whistleblowers and freedom of the press for half the article. (As if he really cares; this is Bob Dole we're talking about. You can practically see the eye-rolling and the yada-yada-yada.) Once he gets that out of the way, he launches into the impending GOP Fitzgerald meme --- the "out-of-control" prosecutor.

With the facts known publicly today regarding the Plame case, it is difficult to see how a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act could have occurred. For example, one of the requirements is that the federal government must be taking "affirmative measures" to conceal the agent's intelligence relationship with the United States. Yet we now know that Ms. Wilson held a desk job at C.I.A. headquarters and could be seen traveling to and from work. The journalist Robert D. Novak, whose July 14, 2003, column mentioned Ms. Wilson, using her maiden name, and set off the investigation, has written that C.I.A. officials confirmed to him over the telephone that she was an employee before he wrote his column.

I, of course, do not know what evidence Mr. Fitzgerald has presented to the grand jury, nor will I hazard a guess as to the final outcome of his investigation. But the imprisonment of Judith Miller will be even more troubling if it turns out that no violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act has occurred.

No he doesn't know what the evidence is, but he and the NY Times are working in tandem to make it look like Pat Fitzgerald is out of control. The liberal media strikes again.

If they think that Bob Dole would ever come to their defense if the shoe were on the other foot, they are out of their minds. Dole would be the first one on the "law 'n order" bandwagon. In fact, you can just feel the dripping sarcasm in his voice as he chokes up over poor little Judy's plight, while softening up Fitzgerald for shiv.

The NY Times is foolishly putting all its eggs in Judy Miller's basket and it's costing them. It's one thing for them to support her legally and financially. But considering the huge controversy about her role in the case, for them to be helping the Republicans discredit the investigation is beyond the pale. They need to recognise that when their editorial stance echoes partisan Republican attempts to discredit the investigation itself, they are in serious danger of putting their loyalty to Miller in service of politics in the worst way. Ironically, that's exactly what Judy has done for the last decade.

Actually, now that I think about it, that's exactly what Howell Raines did throughout the 90's too. Indeed, this is just par for the course in our liberal media. You really can't go wrong if you sidle up to the Republican character assassins. Good copy, big ratings, easy access. It's good business.

Update: According to Arianna's spies, Miller is receiving visits from John Bolton in jail which just strikes me as a foolish thing for both of them to do. Are they that close or are they both just that arrogant?


There is nothing worse to the Bush administration than missing deadlines. They have a fetish about it. Going back to 2000, the post-election argument rested entirely on the idea that if they missed any deadlines for any reason the world would explode. Nothing but nothing, must interfere with a meaningless arbitrary deadline.

There is a reason for this, of course. They are always scrambling to get something finalized before their ill-conceived plans or public lies are exposed. We are witnessing this happening before our eyes once again:

Some specialists said the administration is fixated on artificial deadlines at the expense of addressing substantive issues. "There's no doubt the administration has the ability to force an agreement in the next seven days," but if it is one that does not resolve the underlying issues "that's a much, much bigger failure than failing to meet a deadline," said Judith Kipper, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"There's a bit of a message to the administration: 'Don't rush this. . . . We need to do this right, not fast,' " said Noah Feldman, a New York University law professor who advised the U.S.-led occupation authority on constitutional issues. The bid to meet the deadline, he added, was driven by the political imperative of bringing troops home as soon as possible. "It's shameful," he said. "It's constitutional malpractice."

But their reasons have nothing to do with what is good for Iraq. They are rushing for the benefit of George W. Bush's political standing. Whenever he's losing support they pull out another artificial deadline. This time, they have real rootin' tootin' experts saying so on the record:

As Gelpi described it, the American people remained supportive of the Iraq effort despite extensive violence when they saw incremental goals being met -- first the handover of partial sovereignty last summer, and then the democratic elections in January.

Since then, he said, public support has fallen because there are no more intermediary benchmarks. Bush could have laid some out in his speech short of a timetable for withdrawal, Gelpi said, such as setting targets for how many Iraqi security forces would be trained by certain dates. That, he said, would give the American public a sense of moving forward as these benchmarks are attained.

"What's important for him now to keep the public with him is to look forward and say we're going to make progress and this is what progress looks like," Gelpi said.

So, they are rushing Iraq to finalize a constitution so that Bush can be perceived as "winning" in Iraq. Let us all wave a purple finger and get a bounce in the polls. And if a few little hitches develop, well, they'll deal with that down the road. hopefully after the 2006 elections.

Besides, Condi is very confident. Even if the talks are stalled on certain sticky issues, she knows what the Iraqis really want:

"It's quite remarkable how much the process has become more inclusive over the last couple of months," Rice said. She added that any final document should guarantee women's rights. "We've been very clear that a modern Iraq will be an Iraq in which women are recognized as full and equal citizens," Rice said. "And I have every confidence that that is how Iraqis feel."

Perhaps the Iraqis "feel" that the Americans "have been very clear that a modern Iraq will be an Iraq in which women are revognized as full and equal citizens" but it looks like they also "feel" that the Americans can go piss up a rope. But whatever. So half the population winds up less free than they were under Saddam. Big deal. It's not like it's really important in the grand scheme of things.

The only thing that matters is that Junior is able to have a press conference and announce "progress" in Iraq so the idiot Americans will be appeased for another month or two. That's the plan anyway.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Shameful Indifference

Speaking of the anti-military right, check out The Editors' "Wanker of the Week" for August 8th, Michel Ledeen:

This is to mourn the murder of the free lance journalist Steven Vincent, a victim of the Sadrist thugs (that is to say, the Iranian-sponsored terrorists) in Basra. His crime was to have written about the fanatics in Basra, who are attempting to create a mini-islamic republic in the south, to the shameful indifference of the British forces and Coalition commanders, and the so-called Left in this country and Europe. If there is ever a day of reckoning, those opinion makers who have remained silent in the face of the monstrous terrorist campaign against the Iraqi people will find it quite impossible to explain their de facto collusion with the terrorists.

He hasn't quite made it as far as the Powerline boys to include the Iraqi people in that litany of traitors, terrorists and incompetents but give hime time.

If only they'd listened to him and sent in General Ahmad Chalabi and his boy scouts this thing would have been a cakewalk. The plan had so much promise. And he looked so cool in his black GI Joe t-shirt:

Memo to those on the right who say the Left supports Islamic fundamentalists: we're the Godless Heathens, remember? We're against the religious zealots running governments across the board. Of course, that includes your "base" here in the US too so you'll have to pardon us for our consistency and ask yourselves why we find you incoherent on this matter.

We always understood that while deposing Saddam was easy, the risk of civil war or an Islamic theocracy were very high. We thought it might be worthwhile to wait for just a fucking minute to see how this little terrorism problem played out before jumping into the middle of the hornets nest and swinging wildly. So, please don't blame us. We don't like totalitarians. We don't like theocrats. And we understood that when you go mucking around in the middle east at the direction of con-men and ideologues, you are likely to fuck things up.

America isn't magic. The military does not have magical powers. We knew this. Michael Ledeen and his fanciful cohorts apparently didn't. Now they are blaming everybody --- and I mean everybody --- but themselves for the failure they have wrought.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cheeseburgers In Hell

The cunningrealist caught an interesting Powerline post in which we learn that the "good guys" and the "bad guys" down in Crawford can easily be differentiated.

I'm waiting for the inevitable stories of the hairy, smelly, dirty protesters living like pigs. It's like the sun coming up in the morning.

Meanwhile in case you are wondering how to spot them, here's a picture of a couple of the alleged good guys. Their signs, which feature pictures of Casey Sheehan, say "Freedom isn't Free."

No word on whether either of these two "good guys" ever sacrificed anything for freedom.

Are They Necessary?

Atrios brings up something I've been wondering about. It's assumed by most of us that one of the reasons we are in Iraq is because we want to establish permanent military bases there -- presumably because we had to remove the "temporary" ones we had in Saudi Arabia (at bin Laden's rather dramatic request on 9/11.)

Maybe it's just because I don't fully understand the military dimension but why do we need permanent bases in either Saudi Arabia or Iraq?

We have bases in Turkey. We will have bases in Afghanistan forever. We can get halfway across the world in hours. Our ally Israel is right there. We have ships and subs of all kinds. We have troops in Europe. We have ICBM's armed with nuclear weapons. Hell, we're trying to weaponize space.

I realize that the all knowing PNAC recommends that we create new bases all over the place, partly as a way to reduce the carrier fleet and to redeploy after the cold war, but I've never really understood why we absolutely have to have big, expensive bases smack dab in the middle of hostile territory in the modern world. And as far as I can tell, the neocon braintrust has never fully explained it.

I suspect that there really isn't a military rationale that makes any sense. I suspect that it is another of those show-of-force military pageants of which the neocons are so fond. If we just swagger around in their faces they will be afraid, very afraid.

There is the Israel factor, which I realize. Perhaps that's the only reason, but if so it is not sellable to the American public and it shouldn't be. We support Israel, but invading countries, installing governments, creating chaos and spending 200 billion plus to create bases to protect it when it does a very good job of protecting itself is crazy.

I may very well be wrong on this and there is a perfectly good geo-strategic reason to have 30,000+ troops permanently stationed in the middle of a hostile desert. Please fill me in if you know the answer.

Now watch this spill

Somebody needs to get Karen Hughes on the horn stat. Her boy is really making a mess.

President Bush, noting that lots of people want to talk to the president and "it's also important for me to go on with my life," on Saturday defended his decision not to meet with the grieving mom of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

The comments came prior to a bike ride on the ranch with journalists and aides.

He just needs put all this unpleasantness behind him and go on with his life. All this obsession with war,war,war --- death, death death could just drive a boy crazy. Besides, being all thoughtful and sensitive is hard work. It makes him feel unbalanced.

Dying for nothing

"When it all started, we were hearing about nuclear weapons, gas, biological weapons, all sorts of stuff," Blake says. "Of course I thought we should get rid of stuff like that. But now we know that was all bull, and so I now believe I was wrong. But maybe wrong because I was lied to from the start. How are we going to get out? That's what I want to know."

"A couple of years ago, I thought the invasion of Iraq was justified. I believed the reports that stated Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and figured it would only be a matter of time before they were found.

Presidential press conference March 6, 2003, a little more than a week before the invasion:

We have arrived at an important moment in confronting the threat posed to our nation and to peace by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of terror. In New York tomorrow, the United Nations Security Council will receive an update from the chief weapons inspector.

The world needs him to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed as required by Resolution 1441, or has it not?

Iraqi's dictator has made a public show of producing and destroying a few missiles, missiles that violate the restrictions set out more than 10 years ago. Yet our intelligence shows that even as he is destroying these few missiles, he has ordered the continued production of the very same type of missiles.

Iraqi operatives continue to hide biological and chemical agents to avoid detection by inspectors. In some cases these materials have been moved to different locations every 12 to 24 hours, or placed in vehicles that are in residential neighborhoods.

We know from multiple intelligence sources that Iraqi weapons scientists continue to be threatened with harm should they cooperate with U.N. inspectors. Scientists are required by Iraqi intelligence to wear concealed recording devices during interviews. And hotels where the interviews take place are bugged by the regime.

These are not the actions of a regime that is disarming. These are the actions of a regime engaged in a willful charade. These are the actions of a regime that systematically and deliberately is defying the world.

If the Iraqi regime were disarming, we would know it because we would see it. Iraq's weapons would be presented to inspectors and the world would witness their destruction.

Instead, with the world demanding disarmament and more than 200,000 troops positioned near his country, Saddam Hussein's response is to produce a few weapons for show while he hides the rest and builds even more.

Inspection teams do not need more time or more personnel. All they need is what they have never received, the full cooperation of the Iraqi regime. Token gestures are not acceptable. The only acceptable outcome is the one already defined by a unanimous vote of the Security Council: total disarmament.

Great Britain, Spain and the United States have introduced a new resolution stating that Iraq has failed to meet the requirements of Resolution 1441. Saddam Hussein is not disarming. This is a fact. It cannot be denied.

Saddam Hussein has a long history of reckless aggression and terrible crimes. He possesses weapons of terror. He provides funding and training and safe haven to terrorists, terrorists who would willingly use weapons of mass destruction against America and other peace-loving countries. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people and to all free people.

If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force even as a last resort, free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction. We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.

All. Bull.

When you fuck up on that grand of a scale, when you look people in the eye and tell them that you know unequivocally that something is a threat and it turns out that there was nothing --- you are either a liar or an idiot. Or both.

He can run but he can't hide. The chickenhawks are coming home to roost.

Ungrateful Ragheads

Examining the ever expanding list of victims to blame for the cock-up in Iraq, John at Blogenlust notices that Hindquarters has found the ultimate betrayors of America --- and when you think about it, it makes so much sense. Did the right ever seem very comfortable throwing their lot in with a bunch of ... arabs?

This morning, Hindrocket takes Frank Rich to task for saying the war is over, while completely ignoring the Washington Post article that essentially says the same thing. Then he fires the opening salvo of what will surely be the Mother of All Blame Games:

In the medium and long term, what happens in Iraq is up to the Iraqis. It is certainly possible that they might forfeit what the Bush administration and America's armed forces have given them: a chance at freedom and the opportunity to live in peace with their neighbors. But if the Iraqis fail, it won't be because liberals stampeded the United States into abandoning them.

Yes, let's blame the Iraqis. How dare these ungrateful bastards reject the freedom and peace we've provided them?

I don't think Highpockets thought that one through, actually. Regardless of whether the military have become a bunch of bedwetters, or whether the Iraqis are a bunch of ungrateful ragheads --- no one is more responsible for the greatest strategic blunder in American history than liberals.

This just shows how rattled the right is at the moment. They've temporarily forgotten who the real enemy of the people is.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Biggest Strategic Blunder In American History

We broke it, we bought it and now we are throwing it in the trashcan

Yes, very noble.

We're winners.

In case anyone's wondering, aside from the hideous loss of life for no good reason, we have also spent so far 187 billion dollars to depose Saddam and turn the country into an Islamic theocracy and send it into anarchy. Excellent. Very noble. Worth every penny and every life.

The question is, has anyone told the president all this stuff because he doesn't seem to be getting the news. Look for him to angrily deny all this and say that he's the one making decisions and these people don't know what they are talking about.

Maybe it's all trial balloons, but this has a whiff of panic about it. I sense some very serious disarray within the administration. They are all over the place. I'm wondering if a palace coup isn't taking place before our eyes.

Update: Frank Rich says "Somebody tell the president the war is over."

Update II: And then there's this from William Kristol:

The president knows we have to win this war. If some of his subordinates are trying to find ways to escape from it, he needs to assert control over them, overrule them, or replace them. Having corrected the silly effort by some of his advisers to say the war on terror is not fundamentally a war, he now has to deal with the more serious effort, emanating primarily from the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, to find an excuse not to pursue victory in Iraq. For if Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, we need to win there. And to win, the president needs a defense secretary who is willing to fight, and able to win.

Update III: Bush slapping down the Generals
More on military dissatisfaction from BTC News.
Dr Tom More thinks he knows who one of the unnamed senior administration sources is.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the general who was fired recently was having an affair with a female civilian, was separated from his wife and was let go because he was told to end the affair but he called her on the phone. There is something so wrong with that story.

The Latest

I know this isn’t going to popular on this website, but may I just point something out?

A soldier’s #1 job is to stay alive. If you die, you can’t accomplish the mission, and you weaken your team and put your buddies in danger.

Obviously Sheehan’s son, I forget his name at the moment, didn’t die on purpose, and he may well have have had no control over the circumstances that let to his death.


In war, there are no excuses. You find a way to stay alive, whatever it takes — if you’re a good soldier. Sheehan’s son didn’t do that. He paid the price. but he als failed the mission and let down his buddies.

As a soldier, he was a failure. He was brave (maybe), but he was also incompetent.

So, really, how much exactly are we supposed to grieve over this guy? Isn’t a certain amount of disapproval in order for the guy — and by extension his mom, for making such a fuss over a person who was, in the last analysis, by definition a loser?

So shouldn’t Mrs. Sheenhan be showing a little more shame about the situation and maybe not wanting to get her son and his shortcoming splashed all over the media?

Something to consider, anyway.

I shouldn't have stolen that from Andrew's comment section, but I needed to get it out there. To start the meme. To provide the right with the argument they've been waiting for.

I've been thinking for a while that we might be seeing the beginning of a new trend in American politics --- the anti-military right. Rush is calling marines "pukes," veterans are being called cowards and fakers, disabled vets are mocked for not having the right wounds or getting them in the right way, GOP hags are wearing cute little "purple heart" bandaids on their cheeks. People are selling busts of the president using his lack of combat experience as a selling point saying outright that physical courage is no longer particularly worthy of conservative approbation. Being a veteran buys you no credibility and no respect in today's Real Murika.

This is how they transform Chickenhawkery into a badge of courage.

I suspect that what we are hearing (aside from the self-loathing fidgeting of those who loudly beat wardrums yet are too selfish to serve) is the distant rumblings of a massive rightwing frustration with the military's inability to just "win" this damned thing so we can move on to our next country. It was supposed to be a cakewalk. They are reading things like this and seeing red:

Administration officials have all but given up any hope of militarily defeating the insurgents with U.S. forces, instead aiming only to train and equip enough Iraqi security forces to take over the fight themselves.


Top Pentagon officials have made no secret in recent weeks of their eagerness to begin withdrawing some troops to ease the strain of lengthy deployments. At the same time, military commanders have cautioned against expecting that Iraq's new army and police forces will develop quickly enough to operate on their own within another year or two.

"It's a race against time because by the end of this coming summer we can no longer sustain the presence we have now," said retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who visited Iraq most recently in June and briefed Cheney, Rice and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "This thing, the wheels are coming off it."

But none of this can't be Dear Leader's fault. He's the man with the real courage.

Bush distanced himself from such predictions Thursday, pointing out that he, not the generals, would have the last word.

"The decision finally will be made by me — upon the recommendation of Gen. Casey, through [Defense] Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld, to me," Bush said.

Well thank god for that. None of those pukes over there know what they're doing. It's a blessing that our commander in chief, the man with the political courage to start wars for no reason and bankrupt the country, is in charge. All hail Dear Leader.

Update: Guys, I realize that this might be a parody --- or it might not. Wingnuts are just this crazy these days. That's why wrote the little thing about getting the meme out there and providing them with an argument. It's that absurd.

The larger point, however, is not. The right is getting a little bit disresepctful toward the military these days. It's not marching quite to their tune the yway they want it to --- which is to kick ass and move on.

It's About Time

Check out Arthur's response to the inchoate anger towards Cindy Sheehan. It's a good one.

Returning to the present controversy about Mrs. Sheehan, one aspect of John Cole’s remarks deserves comment:

I think Cindy Sheehan has moved beyond the role of grieving mother, and is now a political figure who gets no free pass for her bizarre, outrageous, and offensive statements.

No one has ever maintained that Cindy Sheehan’s views are entitled to a “free pass.” But it is not her views that are being attacked: it is Cindy Sheehan as a person. Cole thinks many in the “anti-war left” are “cynically exploiting” Mrs. Sheehan’s tragedy. Perhaps some of them are. If that’s true, I wouldn’t like it much (although my mind-reading skills are not too advanced, so I can’t determine people’s motives that easily in the absence of sufficient evidence).

But here’s the truth, which I do not hesitate to name: given the propaganda onslaught that’s gone on for the last several years with regard to Iraq—and the propaganda onslaught that is now underway with regard to Iran, with a still willing and still servile media—I don’t give a damn. Cindy Sheehan is being “cynically exploited” in order to stimulate a national discussion about whether we should get the hell out of Iraq? Good. It’s about goddamned time.

Exactly. Although I'm pretty sure that Cindy Sheehan hasn't been guided or exploited by anyone in her quest. "The left," if you're talking about organizations, can't get it up to do anything that effective. Believe me, the Democrats would have peed their pants at the idea of sending a woman to Crawford to demand to see the president. It's so awfully unseemly you know. Someone might get upset. Besides it isn't manly and we want ever so much to be super-duper manly.

In fact, last year at this time, if you'll recall, Max Cleland went down to Crawford and wheeled his chair right up to the gate. The Democrats got all nervous that it was too ... undignified. Max was getting a little bit shrill, you see, and looked like he might be getting ready to force the secret service to push him off the property in his wheelchair. How indelicate.

No, this was a grassroots move started by one individual who felt strongly enough to put herself on the line. No leftwing group could have ever orchestrated anything this successful.

They're New At This

Here's a blog report from Camp Casey yesterday when the counter protestors arrived. I'm sure everybody's heard by now that they were all chanting "we don't care" which is right up there with "hey, hey ho, ho, social security's got to go" for sheer political brilliance.

But this really cracks me up:

They've got a whole bunch of counter-protesters walking down the street towards Camp Casey like a parade, about 50 people. One is holding a sign that says "Help, I am surrounded by American-hating idiots!" He is apparently quite proud of his sign, Not exactly the brightest bunch!

I just want to shake that guy's hand. He was a plant wasn't he? Wasn't he?

Mendacious, outrageous...

Yesterday I said that Cindy Sheehan is driving the Republicans crazy because she is asking the unanswerable question. The cognitive dissonence is short circuiting their cerebral cortexes. Today The Poorman catches John Cole having a total meltdown, which doesn't surprise me because Cole actually has a brain and he often uses it. These are the first to have their heads explode in situations like this.

If you haven't linked to this Poorman post from Atrios' site already, do so at your own risk. You will laugh until you cry but the evil kitten-man will also implant the nastiest, most unkillable, earworm you've ever had in your life. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Friday, August 12, 2005

The Other Opinion

"Our interest in the event is consistent with our past support of causes related to the victims of September 11 and the veterans of wars past and present," said Eric Grant, spokesman for The Post. "The event was never presented to The Post as a rally to support the war. We would be disappointed if it took that approach."

The Pentagon spokewoman seems to think something different:

Mrs. Barber said organizers and police expect anti-war backlash. "It would be naive to do anything in Washington and not expect the other opinion," she said.

Protesting the walk, she said, would be tantamount to "protesting the events of September 11 or protesting our veterans."

Clearly, this is not expected to be a standard fourth of July, John Philip Sousa freedom-fest. Any child can see exactly what's going on. The pentagon is very cynically using 9/11 as their 3,000-dead-civilian-humans shield to stage a war rally. The bastards.

We have a day set aside to honor Veterans. It's called Veterans Day. The whole country gets the day off and everything. We also have a holiday set aside to commemorate the fallen in wars throughout our history. The whole country gets the day off for that too. It's called Memorial Day. Both of those holidays are appropriate days for the Pentagon to hold events. Veterans Day is the perfect day for a march and a concert --- and they've been holding them on that day for many, many decades. Memorial Day, of course, should be more solemn with the traditional ceremonies at the various War Memorials.

September 11th is a civilian day of mourning. If the Pentagon wants to hold a memorial service for those who died in the Pentagon that day, fine. Staging a march and a concert is in terrible bad taste. And if I'm not mistaken, there were some who were very upset at this kind of thing not long ago --- and that event wasn't paid for by the tax payers and sponsored by the media:

"What a complete, total, absolute sham," said Vin Weber, a former U.S. representative from Minnesota. "The DFL clearly intends to exploit Wellstone's memory totally, completely and shamelessly for political gain. To them, Wellstone's death, apparently, was just another campaign event."

September 11th apparently is just another opportunity to sing along with "I-raq and Roll."

But.... for those of you who won't be able to make it to the big event in Washington, in New York the day before you can go to another memorial rally, organized by Take Back Our Memorial --- which is not sponsored by 9/11 families as it appears, but is instead the work of a confused gay right wing blogger who has a blog called Lime Shurbet. (Like all cosmopolitan, hypocritical wingnut fag hags, Michelle Malkin is a big fan.)

For those who are looking forward to attending the solemn event in New York on the 10th, lets hope that Robert will be there to provide some inspiration on that sad day. Here's what you might expect:

I hope Cindy Sheehan brought lube to Crawford because every anti-war moonbat in this country looks to be jockeying for a chance to ride her ass.

Update: I understand from Robert Shurbet that the web site Take Back Our Memorial, while not being officially sponsored by the some 9/11 family organizations, is acting as a clearing house for various activities they support. Shurbet says these groups are sponsoring the rally so I stand corrected.


I think we've found Kaye Grogan's day job:

President Bush is a Leader who has the courage to lead. It is political courage. It is not poll driven it is conviction driven. It is consistent and does not change because of pressure or threats of political survival. It is reconfirmed every day. It differs from combat courage in that it is thought oriented not reaction oriented. Combat courage does not necessarily translate into political courage. Combat courage is admirable and you only know if you have it when you are in combat. President Bush has demonstrated that he has political courage and this is why he was re-elected. By owning a bust of President Bush, Commander in Chief you will be making a statement and in a politically charged environment, it takes courage.

Unless your decorating style is early meth lab, it takes courage in any environment. I think the eyes move and everything.

"Combat courage" while admirable (I gue-uss) is nothing compared to "political courage." See, warriors are "reaction" oriented instead of "thought" oriented like our brave preznit. In fact, the whole military is nothing but a bunch 'o pukes when you stop and think about it. Real men don't fight wars. They join the Republican party and run for office and then get re-elected by demonstrating political courage.

And the neat thing is that he's wearing his hot chippendales flight suit in the sculpture. That's because even though he isn't a puke, he's still our Commander in Chief and he looks better in a uniform than any old combat puke ever could.

Update: Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast astutely observes that "resoluteness" and consistency is exactly what child psychologists advise that parents must show to young traumatized children. TV's Supernanny says the same thing -- routine, predictablity are what young children need to feel safe. Jill writes:

In the nearly four years since 9/11, Americans have been like the young children who are the subject of the above article, and they have responded to the President's "consistent" message the way a child would -- as a sign that everything's going to be OK, instead of as an adult should -- by comparing the message to the reality and realizing that this president isn't "resolute", he's delusional.

Changing one's mind and one's approach in light of new evidence is what an adult does. Only a child continues to insist that Santa Claus is real even after catching Mommy and Daddy putting the presents under the tree and eating the cookies. But this insistence on believing everything George Bush says is a symptom of the persistent juvenile state in which American adults have wallowed since 9/11. His "consistency" and the petulant way he has of continuing to insist that the Iraq war ws the right thing to do are reassuring to adults having who are still unable to accept that there's nothing special about our status as Americans that is going to keep us safe in this current world. It's that reassurance that keeps them from facing the lies that he told about why he wanted to go to war in Iraq. Because if Daddy doesn't know what he's talking about, it feels to many people as if the rug was pulled out from under them.

It's polite to say "Americans" but she's really talking about Republicans. The rest of us have felt much more insecure since our "Daddy" sat stunned at the moment of crisis and ever since then has been acting like a drunk 15 year old with the keys to his brother's corvette.

The Appearance Of Winning

This cracks me up. In a story called "No Clear Finish Line" Peter Baker examines the fact that the administration is really becoming stuck in its Iraq policy as the country turns against the war.

Failure to meet the deadline, analysts say, would be a devastating setback to Bush and could accelerate the sense at home that the process is not going well. Alarmed by falling domestic support for the war, Bush aides resolved in June to rally the public by having the president take a more visible role explaining his strategy and predicting victory. Bush flew to Fort Bragg, N.C., to deliver a prime-time address pleading for patience, part of what aides said would be a sustained campaign.

But Bush then largely dropped the subject until yesterday's meeting at the ranch, addressing the war mainly in reaction to the latest grisly events on the ground. In the ensuing vacuum, Rumsfeld and the U.S. effort in Iraq have come under increasing fire even from Bush supporters, such as Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol and the American Spectator magazine.

"The Bush administration has lost control of its public affairs management of this issue," said Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose analyses of wartime public opinion have been studied in the White House. "They were so focused on this through 2004. . . . I don't know why they've slipped."

Now let's think about this. In 2004 what was going on? Oh that's right. A presidential election. And who was running that election? Oh that's right, Karl Rove. Hmmm --- what's happened since then that would put them so off their game?

And even more astounding, what could have happened in Iraq that made them lose control of the public affairs management? Could it be --- reality?

Gelpi, if you recall, is one of the public opinion experts who told the president that people don't care about why a nation goes to war, only if it can win:

In shaping their message, White House officials have drawn on the work of Duke University political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher F. Gelpi, who have examined public opinion on Iraq and previous conflicts. Feaver, who served on the staff of the National Security Council in the early years of the Clinton administration, joined the Bush NSC staff about a month ago as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform.

Feaver and Gelpi categorized people on the basis of two questions: "Was the decision to go to war in Iraq right or wrong?" and "Can the United States ultimately win?" In their analysis, the key issue now is how people feel about the prospect of winning. They concluded that many of the questions asked in public opinion polls -- such as whether going to war was worth it and whether casualties are at an unacceptable level -- are far less relevant now in gauging public tolerance or patience for the road ahead than the question of whether people believe the war is winnable.

"The most important single factor in determining public support for a war is the perception that the mission will succeed," Gelpi said in an interview yesterday.


In studying past wars, they have drawn lessons different from the conventional wisdom. Bush advisers challenge the widespread view that public opinion turned sour on the Vietnam War because of mounting casualties that were beamed into living rooms every night. Instead, Bush advisers have concluded that public opinion shifted after opinion leaders signaled that they no longer believed the United States could win in Vietnam.

Most devastating to public opinion, the advisers believe, are public signs of doubt or pessimism by a president, whether it was Ronald Reagan after 241 Marines, soldiers and sailors were killed in a barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983, forcing a U.S. retreat, or Bill Clinton in 1993 when 18 Americans were killed in a bloody battle in Somalia, which eventually led to the U.S. withdrawal there.

The more resolute a commander in chief, the Bush aides said, the more likely the public will see a difficult conflict through to the end. "We want people to understand the difficult work that's ahead," said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to speak more freely. "We want them to understand there's a political process to which the Iraqis are committed and there's a military process, a security process, to which we, our coalition partners and the Iraqis are committed. And that there is progress being made but progress in a time of war is tough.

There is nothing that isn't just a matter of PR and marketing to these people. Unfortunately when your soft drink tastes like horse piss, you have a problem no matter how resolute you are about saying it tastes good. Apparently they all agree that if the president just goes around singing "I'd like to build Iraq a coke" until you feel like jamming icepicks in your eardrums, everyone will be satisfied.

Here's the problem. People might be willing to stay the course and stick with the mission --- if they knew what it fucking was. They've changed their rationale so many times that nobody has a clue. And people aren't as dumb as these guys think they are. Setting phony "benchmarks" in a process nobody understands isn't "winning."

What does winning in Iraq mean? That we've created a beautiful Jeffersonian democracy in the mid-east that is so successful that everybody sees it and says "I want that too?" Or is it "training" the Iraqi forces to become the new strongman's Gestapo? Is it an Islamic state along the lines of Iran? Or is it as David "let them eat cakewalk" Ignatius says, we will have won if Iraq finally gets down to having a functioning society 30 years from now?

Ridding the world of evil, or winning the war on terror, or spreading freedom and democracy are impossible to quantify. It's undoubtedly one of the reasons why,as Wolfowitz put it so prosaicly, WMD was the only reason "they could all agree on." (And then there turned out not to be any...)

You can't convince people they are winning a war that has no real purpose and is unwinnable in any real sense. These are slogans not goals. The president can blather on forever about how resolute he is but unless he can convince people that he knows what winning is, and that it's a cause the American people actually want to win (as opposed to installing a new Ayatollah in iraq)and that we are actually, you know, winning, it cannot work.

It was fine during the presidential campaign when people were making a one on one comparison and judged that he was the one they thought could "win" --- whatever it was. Now that he's out there on his own, he's actually going to have prove it. And he can't. Because I don't think he gives a shit about freedom and democracy and wouldn't have th first clue about how to define what winning in Iraq would be.

He's probably going to declare victory and strut around in a codpiece sometime around election day. It bought him some time before --- at this point I think all he cares about is getting through these next three years and then demanding blow jobs from the Carlyle Group for the rest of his life. The only winning he ever cared about was winning the last election.

Gearing Up

Amanda Marcotte
and quite a few others are upset that NARAL pulled their ad. But I think the ad did what it was intended to do. They were only running it in a couple of states, remember. It was designed to cause controversy. And it succeeded. Yesterday the story was on the front page of the NY Times.

They used the swift boat model. Oh yes, all the congoscenti are clutching their pearls and the anti-choice groups are running their own ads and everybody's in a tizzy. But just as the swift boat ads were targeting veterans and military types who were possibly lulled into complacency by Kerry's war record, NARAL is targeting pro-choice women who may not yet realize how high the stakes have suddenly become. They are trying to wake them up to the threat and sometimes it takes a firestorm to do that. The details don't matter, it's the headline and the image.

I don't know if the tactic succeeded, but I don't believe it hurt the greater cause any, despite the handwringing about its "intemperence." (Where would we be if liberal pundits couldn't call for the smelling salts everytime some liberals forget their manners.) They could put on a tea party and have everyone wear white gloves and the right would still say the feminazis are on the march.

NARAL is playing a rough game and they are willing to take some heat to do it. They give cover to pro-choicers in the Senate who feel they must pretend to be above such nastiness to do their solemn duty (although why the other pro-coice groups piled on is beyond me.) They'll now put out a more "temperate" ad that will not inspire nearly the same level of vitriol --- and the other side is running ads about ads, always a good thing. I think it was a pretty good play.

Let's face some ugly facts. Roberts is almost assuredly going to be confirmed. I wish I had some hope that we could stop him -- hell, I wish we could stop all of them. Not that we shouldn't try, but unless something really shocking is revealed I just don't see it. There is no way that the gang of 14 is going to go along with a filibuster on this guy and it will take pictures of him dressed in his Peppermint Patty costume with Karl Rove naked on a dog leash to get enough Republican defectors. (That would probably lock in their support, actually)

No, the point here is to punch hard for Rehnquist's seat --- the one that will swing the court definitively. I know we don't want to have to face this, but the fact is that when we "lost" last November it always meant that a guy like Roberts, right wing hit man that he is, would probably be the best we could hope for. Which is nothing.

For the pro-choice advocates, the stakes could not be higher. If Roe vs Wade is overturned, they are looking at spending years -- decades -- fighting tooth and nail in places like Alabama, Missouri, Utah and Mississippi to try to win back for women the rights they have had for the last 30 years.

I know that some people think that's a radical and unlikely outcome, and I can't figure out why. It is quite clear that a fairly large number of states are going to make abortion illegal and very quickly too. While some Democrats blithely discuss whether it wouldn't really "be better" if the states handled abortion and allowed the local people to decide such a thing (never mind that the woman who needs an abortion and can't just jump on a plane to California will just have to take one for the team) for pro-choice advocates it means that they are going to have to ramp up their advocacy to unprecedented levels, hire huge staffs to begin the legal challenges and defenses that are going to be required in probably at least 25 legislatures and courts.

They are rallying their troops in hopes that they will be able to stop that horrid eventuality, but if they can't they are going to need lots and lots of help and they know it. And all the while the constitutional right to privacy that undergirds the entire panoply of reproductive freedom issues is going to remain under assault.

I would suggest that any young lawyers out there who are sympathtic with this cause study up on the history of abortion law in your state and begin to think about strategies. It's highly unlikely that Roe vs Wade is going to stand. No matter how much people believe that keeping it legal is a masterful Rovian strategy to keep the rubes hungry, they are going to have to deliver someday. They will do it by throwing it to the states. The rubes will then be more than thrilled to keep fighting for the fetus there.

Update: I just realized that none other than Bob Novak, who must be back on his meds (or I need to go on some) more or less agrees with me that this isn't really about the Roberts nomination and that NARAL is playing a longer game.

The current hard count for Roberts is 60 senators. That would be more than enough to confirm him and barely enough to end a filibuster. But it is not enough to further the grand strategy for a conservative court. At least 70 votes for confirmation may be needed to make it comfortable for President Bush to name somebody at least as conservative as Roberts to the next vacancy, which soon may be in the offing.

The 30-second television ad aired nationally by NARAL Pro-Choice America this week claimed that Roberts as a young Justice Department lawyer supported bombing of abortion clinics. In fact, he worked on a brief intended to protect peaceful picketing. NARAL's approach was not meant to sway the Senate but to pick off nervous Democrats and perhaps a Republican or two, keeping Roberts as close to 60 votes as possible. The president and his closest advisers then would have to ask themselves: If a nominee as squeaky clean as John Roberts cannot do better than this, can we risk nominating another conservative for the next vacancy?

For those of you playing at home, if Novakula is right we have at least 14 5 Democrats who are going to vote for Roberts. I say "at least" because it's theoretically possible that a Republican or two (or Jeffords) might not. There will be no filibuster.

Novak is probably right that in that case, barring a shocker, this is all about keeping the vote low enough that Bush doesn't think he can nominate Randell Terry next time. The best we can hope for is to play at the very margins. Depressing.

When Will Iraq Be Free?

An e-mail from Rick Perlstein and some of the comments from others to my post below, have made me realize that there is a corollary to The Question:

George Bush said that Casey Sheehan died in a noble cause. We know that this noble cause was not to "disarm Sadam Hussein" because Saddam Hussein had already been disarmed. Perhaps some thought that he hadn't and so pushed for war, but that is not noble. That's a terrible mistake.

We know that this noble cause was not to fight terrorism. There was no terrorism in Iraq, it had no association with 9/11 and they knew it. The terrorist mastermind of 9/11 remains at large -- his number two guy just put out another video. By all accounts the invasion of Iraq has inspired terrorist recruiting. And terrorists just attacked London, the capital of our closest ally. Perhaps some thought that invading a country that had nothing to do with terrorism in order to fight terrorism was noble, but it isn't. That's a horrible delusion.

So, we are left with the final reason. We are there for the noble purpose of bringing freedom to the middle east.

The question then becomes: Have we brought freedom to Iraq?

It is occupied by a foreign power and is dividing and sub-dividing among ethnic and religious factions that are killing Americans and each other. And they are very likely to put in place religious laws that will make half of the country, along all religious and ethnic lines, demonstrably less free than they were under Saddam. Our occupation is creating conditions that make freedom more unlikely than if we leave. As president Bush famously said, "they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either."

So, I ask these people who can so easily dismiss all the earlier reasons they fervently believed demonstrated that invading Iraq was a noble and just cause: If we haven't yet brought freedom to Iraq, when will Iraq be free?

I certainly hope that nobody is going to say that Casey Sheehan died so that Iraq can spend the next thirty years in a civil war, as the Marie Antoinette of the beltway, David Ignatius, suggested. He believes that America's noble cause will be a success if we turn Iraq into Lebanon circa 1975:

The alarm bells are ringing in Iraq this summer. I don't agree with Gaaod that it's time to abandon Iraqi democracy. And I don't think the Bush administration should jettison its baseline strategy of training Iraqi security forces to take over from U.S. troops. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's trip to Iraq this week carried the implicit message that America's time, money and patience in Iraq are not endless. The Iraqis must step up and find their own solutions.

Wise observers see new cause for anxiety. John Burns of the New York Times suggested last Sunday that an Iraqi civil war may already have begun, in the Sunni suicide attacks against Shiite targets and in the anti-Sunni death squads that are said to have been organized by Shiite militias. Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Beirut Daily Star, wrote a column yesterday, "Preparing for a shipwreck in the Middle East," in which he cautioned: "The American adventure in Iraq -- creative, bold and potentially revolutionary -- threatens to sink under the weight of a Sunni insurgency that has fed off the Bush administration's frequent incompetence in prosecuting postwar stabilization and rehabilitation."

A useful rule about Iraq is that things are never as good as they seem in the up times, nor as bad as they seem in the down times. That said, things do look pretty darn bad right now, and U.S. officials need to ponder whether their strategy for stabilizing the country is really working.

Pessimists increasingly argue that Iraq may be going the way of Lebanon in the 1970s. I hope that isn't so, and that Iraq avoids civil war. But people should realize that even Lebanonization wouldn't be the end of the story. The Lebanese turned to sectarian militias when their army and police couldn't provide security. But through more than 15 years of civil war, Lebanon continued to have a president, a prime minister, a parliament and an army. The country was on ice, in effect, while the sectarian battles raged. The national identity survived, and it came roaring back this spring in the Cedar Revolution that drove out Syrian troops.

What happens in Iraq will depend on Iraqi decisions. One of those is whether the Iraqi people continue to want U.S. help in rebuilding their country. For now, America's job is to keep training an Iraqi army and keep supporting an Iraqi government -- even when those institutions sometimes seem to be illusions. Iraq is in torment, but the Lebanon example suggests that with patient help, its institutions can survive this nightmare.

I'll probably be dead by the time Iraq would get through the next 35 years of bloodshed, along with hundreds of thousands of much younger Iraqis and Americans who will be killed before their time, so I won't be able to celebrate the noble success of keeping institutions, as opposed to people, alive.

Spencer Ackerman in TNR said it best:

In this blithe description, fifteen years of carnage and atrocity followed by a further fifteen years of foreign domination was merely a prelude to the hopeful scenes of Martyrs' Square. (Hey, you need martyrs, right?) It's a debatable contention whether the "national identity" of Lebanon survived, though sectarian loyalty certainly deepened. What aren't debatable contentions are that 100,000 people didn't survive, nearly another million were displaced, and one of the world's premier jihadist networks, the still-powerful Hezbollah, was born. These aren't footnotes, and I have a feeling that the participants of the Cedar Revolution would never dream of treating them as such.

So, yes, an Iraqi civil war--which could be as bad as, or even worse than, Lebanon's civil war--really is the end of the debate about whether the decision to invade Iraq was justified. (As TNR editorialized a year ago: "Iraq's political future could well be decided by guns rather than ballots. If another dictator murders his way to power, or the country dissolves into violent fiefdoms, the war will have proved not just a strategic failure, but a moral one as well.") Sure, something would follow a civil war, but our enterprise won't and shouldn't be judged by that far-distant outcome. Instead, it should be judged by the path that led, under U.S. auspices, to widespread sectarian violence.

If we invaded Iraq to liberate it only to watch it decend into chaos,sectarian violence or fundamentalist theocratic rule (which we will, of course, eventually escape because as Don Rumsfeld says, "our patience is not infinite") then invading Iraq will finally, definitively not be a noble cause. Freedom may be untidy --- this is a bloody misbegotten mess. It is possible that this will not happen. But each day that goes by the odds are getting worse. And in every measurable way so far, the Iraqis in their everyday lives are less free than they were before. They are in constant danger of being killed in random and not so random violence over which they have no control. Violent anarchy is not freedom.

Oh, and by the way, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism continues unabated.

The Question

I've been wondering what it is about Cindy Sheehan that's gotten under people's skin. Her loss is horrible and everyone can see that she is deeply pained.(Only the lowest, cretinous gasbags are crude enough to attack her in her grief.) She's a very articulate person and she's incredibly sincere. But she's touched a deeper nerve than just the personal one.

A couple of months ago, when the Downing Street Momos came out and the media elite pooh poohed them as nothing but old news, I wrote a post called "The Elephant":

...the Downing Street Memo gives the press the chance to ask, finally, why we really invaded Iraq.

Have any of you been at a social gathering in which this question comes up? Have you felt the palpable discomfort? Nobody really knows. Those that adhere to the "CIA fucked up" rationale can't explain Downing Street. Those who think you had to back the government in a time of war, are visibly discomfitted by the fact that we never found any WMD. Flypaper is crap...

Yes, we already knew the intelligence was fixed, we knew they understood that Saddam was no threat, we knew they lied to the American people and we knew that they intended to go to war no matter what.

But we still don't know for sure why they did all that. Until we do, I don't think we will be able to figure out how to deal with it.

I asked "why did we invade Iraq" and commenters had dozens of possible reasons. Everybody "knows" why Bush did it -- oil, revenge, imperial ambition, because he could etc, etc etc. There are many possible reasons and perhaps the truth is that there wasn't one reason. But we really don't know.

Atrios posted a question from a reader around that time about the same subject in which he or she asked:

...Can’t someone come up with a pithy sound bite that captures this and makes it accessible to a non-political, non-foreign policy public? I love your indignation and your explanations, but I have a hard time seeing this go anywhere without a talking point that even a Democratic senator can remember.

That's what Cindy Sheehan has finally been able to do. And it's why she's driving the Republicans crazy.

I said I want the president to explain what was the noble cause that my son died in, because that's what he said the other day when those 14 marines were killed. He said their families can rest assured that their sons and daughters died for a noble cause. And I said, "What is that noble cause?"

It is not an academic exercise for her. She lost her son --- and she'd like to know why. Nobody can explain to her -- or to any of us --- why we invaded Iraq and why people are dying. They said it was to protect us -- but it wasn't a threat. Then they said it was to liberate the Iraqi people, but Saddam and his government are a memory and yet the Iraqi people are still fighting us and each other. Our invasion of iraq has inspired more terrorism, not less. Oil prices are higher than they've ever been. The country is swimming in debt. People are being killed and maimed with the regularity of the tides.

And everybody knows this. Deep inside they know that something has gone terribly wrong. We were either lied to or our leaders are verging on the insanely incompetent. That's why when Cindy Sheehan says that she wants to ask the president why her son died --- in those simple terms --- it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It's not just rhetorical.

She literally doesn't know why her son had to die in Iraq. And neither do we.

And I Thought That Horse Story Was Bad.

TBOGG "just made America throw up a little in its mouth."

I may never recover.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Love Those Nurses

Poor Arnold. He's working so hard to "get dah special intests oud of Sahcramento" that he hardly has time for anything else. He needs to have some fun.

Sticky Fingers! Arnold wants $100k To Hang Out at Rolling Stones Concert With Him

Dear Boston Rolling Stones Fans,

This Sunday Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will join you at the Fenway Park concert. His guests, likely to include some of MA's biggest corporations and most devoted Republican funders, will be paying $100k to hang out with the Governor. Isn't ticket-scalping illegal? The 'cheap seats' will be section B4--this is where the little corporations (those only coughing up $10k of their shareholders' money) will be seated. Turn and say hi. And know that the money raised is going to cut school funding, attack nurses and other union members, subsidize drug companies, and restrict choice/privacy rights.

Dear Mick--how about changing "My Sweet Neo-Con" to "My Sweet Schwarzen-Con?"


California's Nurses

Be Sure To Wear Red

Hey, what's a little Triumph Of The Will march among friends? Christopher Hayes contributing editor, In These Times, says:

Yesterday we learned that the Department of Defense is planning a massive "America Supports You Freedom Walk" for the fourth anniversary of 9/11. Bracket for a moment the heinous company in which this this places the Bush administration (Cuba, Iran, and China, just to name a few of the regimes that regularly utilize state-sponsored marches and rallies as propaganda tools), and bracket for a moment the fact that this march for "freedom," which will take place on public streets, apparently requires participants to register with the DoD. There's one aspect of this whole mess I'm surprised hasn't received more attention. Check out this paragraph from the Pentagon's press release:

"The walk was made possible with the help of several local in-kind supporters, including Stars and Stripes newspaper, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Subway, Washington Post, Lockheed Martin, WTOP, ABC/WJLA-TV Channel 7 and News Channel 8, and the Washington Convention & Tourism Corporation, according to the Freedom Walk Web site."

I count four different media outlets in that list. Funny, I thought it was the role of the press to challenge not collude with the government when it attempts to disseminate propaganda. And propaganda this is, let's be very clear. One supposes that the suits at the Washington Post Company who OK'ed the partnership with the DoD figured the sentiment of "supporting the troops" is so anodyne as to be wholly uncontroversial, akin to news anchors wearing flag pins on their lapels. If the rally were sponsored by some independent group of citizens, that'd be one thing (though still strange), but it is being organized by the United States military, the same entity currently administering and promoting an increasingly unpopular war, one that remains the single biggest news story in the nation and the subject of much public debate. This is a not a "support the troops" rally but rather, a "support the war" rally. Media outlets simply have no business granting their imprimatur to such a crudely political stunt.


Step Into The Shower My Boy

Not only do they not have a sense of humor, they have no talent. And they're proud of it. Here we have Karl Rove's special Christian blowjob purveyor, Tim Goeglein, making the assertion that liberals choose different professions than conservatives because a couple of Democratic friends of his said at a dinner party that they wanted their kids to be writers or editors. He finds this surprising because his Republican friends want their children to be doctors, lawyers or businessmen.

I was under the impression that lawyers were mostly Democratic scum, but whatever. And what's with all this elitist ejamacated bullshit? I thought the salt of the earth Republicans wanted their kids to be real men --- soldiers and athletes, and real women -- wives and mothers.

The point apparently is that liberals are the girlie-men artists, writers and musicians, while the Republicans are the manly men who run the world with their huge penises.

The article then goes on to interview conservative writer Mark Helprin who complains that the NY York review of books always mentions that he's a Republican, but never mentions that Norman Mailer is a Democrat. I guess it never occurs to him that the fact he is a Republican is the most distinguishing thing about him while Mailer is well --- a literary genius and American icon. (Who would happily kick his ass, even today, I have no doubt.)

The erudite Helprin then says:

"The arts community is generally dominated by liberals because if you are concerned mainly with painting or sculpture, you don't have time to study how the world works. And if you have no understanding of economics, strategy, history and politics, then naturally you would be a liberal."

On the other hand, if you are concerned mainly with drinking til you puke and branding the asses of your frat brothers, you are a conservative hero.

Seriously, he's right, though. Anyone who studies fine arts is by definition someone who knows nothing of economics, strategy, history and politics. Especially if they waste time reading that limp wristed, know-nothing William Shakespeare. None of the great poets, painters and sculptors ever depicted historical scenes or figures so you can surely skip that useless drivel. The classics, of course, have nothing to teach about any of this. It's a good thing that generals and leaders of all stripes have scrupulously avoided reading them over the years because the last thing we need is some mincing bookworm running things.

Economics, I agree, are not a big part of the liberal arts curriculum, but "Atlas Shrugged" certainly is, and sadly for humanity, I suspect that that is the first and last econ book that most conservatives ever cracked. Unfortunately, some of them get it confused with their other favorite novel, the Bible.

So, he's right. We know nothing of the world and that is why we are liberals. Unlike the Republicans who believe the Bible is literally true and that the scientific method is religion. We should definitely leave the running of the world to those folks.

Truly, I'm beginning to think this is a mass form of male panic. Everything has been reduced to prancing queers and the manly men who are bravely fighting them back. The social re-ordering wrought by the gay and women's movement over the past 40 years has obviously been too much for certain people whose brains are unable to deal with rapid change. They are short circuiting. Maybe we should think about putting Viagra in their kool-aid or something.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pro Choice Veterans For Truth

I am with Brad Plumer on this argument about NARAL. NARAL has a specific agenda and its only hope of keeping that agenda as strong as possible is to keep the Democratic party on the straight and narrow on abortion rights. From their perspective, it makes a lot of sense to endorse an occasional blue state pro-choice Republican --- certainly against an anti-choice Democrat.

Brad says:

Call me cynical, but I don't believe for a second that modern-day Democrats would think twice about selling out a constituency or interest group for the sake of electoral gain. Not a warm and fuzzy picture of the home team, but there you go. The moment NARAL gives the party reason to take pro-choice constituents for granted, they'll get shafted. Look at black voters, or unions, over the past decade. Look at how the religious right has been roundly abused by the Republican Party. (When's that gay-marriage amendment coming? Oh right, never. Chumps. Now keep voting for us.) Parties always pander towards groups that are in danger of defecting; they know they can screw over the loyal core somewhat, so long as there are no consequences. Unless NARAL shows that there are consequences, such as endorsing a pro-choice Republican in a blue state, they'll get taken for granted. Maybe that's due to sexism on the part of the Democratic leadership, but mostly it's just the way coalitions work.

Now some have argued that NARAL should line up behind the party simply because any Democratic majority in Congress would best protect abortion rights. Kos: "When Democrats regain power, choice, the environment, worker's rights -- the whole gamut -- will be protected." I'm sorry, but bullshit. Hark back to 1976, when both houses of Congress, controlled by Democrats, passed the Hyde Amendment restricting federal funding for abortions. Gerald Ford signed it into law, but it was Jimmy Carter who had heartily endorsed the bill, and was ready to make it a campaign issue. A major, major victory for pro-lifers all-around, perhaps one of their biggest to date.

I understand that we all need to stick together, but if I were NARAL I'd be getting very, very concerned about some Democrats' willingness to "soften" their stance on the issue of choice because it's allegedly hurting the party --- you know, moral values and all that. I might just think it's smart to show some muscle. There is no way I'd blindly trust anyone in this environment to fight this battle for me.

There is a great example of how this works over the long haul and it comes from the grandaddy of all single issue groups --- the NRA. They are certainly an indispensible and active part of the GOP coalition as they've always been, but they have plenty of Democrats on their side now too. And they did not get to where they are by being good little GOP soldiers. They fought every single battle on the gun issue alone and they insisted on every candidate they backed being on board. When they started their campaign it was not the default mainstream position in either party.

And they backed plenty of Democrats over Republicans if they had to. Sometimes they backed the losing candidates because they were in urban elections where the Republican couldn't win without endorsing gun control. And if there ever existed a red state Republican who was for gun control you can bet that the NRA would back a Democrat who was against it --- even if control of the Senate depends on one seat (which is not the case for Chafee.) In Illinois, for instance, Governor George Ryan was elected to office in 1998 over an NRA-backed Democrat. In the last election they didn't endorse either senate candidate in Oklahoma because both had a 100% rating with the NRA. The issue was off the table and so were they. More often they support NRA Republicans over NRA Democrats, but that's just smart politics considering who presently owns the government. They keep focused like a laser on what matters to them and they have done this during good times and bad for the GOP.

But does anyone believe that even though they are a single issue "special interest" that the NRA doesn't help the Republican party in the most substantial way possible? They've pretty much killed us in the rural areas and turned the red states blood red. They've won. Except in big cities, this issue is dead. Republicans have nothing but respect for them --- even if they backed a Democrat or two along the way. They know what they brought to the party.

Interest groups have always been around they can be very helpful to the political party that hews most closely to their agenda, as we've seen with the NRA. In fact, virtually everybody is a special interest of some kind --- even bloggers, who are now representing the "netroots" who have their own concerns and issues they want addressed. These interest groups have infrastructure and loyalty --- two things we still need. If there are certain people for whom choice is the defining political cause of their life, we want them. But no organization is going to be able to -- or want to -- sell their members a candidate who does not agree with their defining cause. They lose their credibility when they do that and then they lose their organization. We can't afford to lose any sympathitic institutions-- we barely have any as it is.

NARAL feels threatened and rightfully so. There are a lot of Democrats who seem to be awfully willing to consider jettisoning their cause. They are exercising their clout among pro-choice believers. And we need some people who are independent of the party apparatus to do certain things like this:

An advertisement that a leading abortion-rights organization began running on national television on Wednesday, opposing the Supreme Court nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. as one "whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans," quickly became the first flashpoint in the three-week-old confirmation process.

Several prominent abortion rights supporters as well as a neutral media watchdog group said the advertisement was misleading and unfair, and a conservative group quickly took to the airwaves with an opposing advertisement.


A conservative group, Progress for America, said it would spend $300,000 to run ads, beginning Thursday, on the same stations on which the Naral ad is appearing. "How low can these frustrated liberals sink?" its advertisement asks.

Oh boo fucking hoo. I'm trying to remember how many veterans groups denounced the swift boat ads. Funny, I can't think of any. Yet, the first thing out the timorous non-NARAL pro-choice community is how "intemperate" the ad is.

You want to see some aggressive progressives -- here they are. NARAL. Fighting for what they believe in. They are getting this issue on the front page of the NY Times and they aren't backing down. Good for them.

Logical Dumbness

Bob Somerby has made a rare mistake in logic and since it is so rare, I feel compelled to point it out. He says:

For the record, we still haven’t seen a single scribe note the obvious problem with the Palmeiro story—the fact that you’d never take a heavy-duty roid in a year when you knew you’d be tested. What’s the missing piece of the puzzle? Sports scribes seem determined not to ask. But then, the human ability to look past the obvious has driven a wide range of public discussions in the years since we started THE HOWLER. Despite iconic claims about “man, the rational animal,” dumbness is part of our human inheritance.

For some reason Bob does not ascribe the same observation here to Palmiero. It's true that dumbness is part of our human inheritance, which is why is just as possible that Raffy stupidly took steroids in a year he was going to be tested as it is that the press has not thought to wonder if Raffy could really be that stupid.

It has to be pointed out that drug tests are given all the time to people who know they are going to be tested --- and they test positive. I can't explain why they think they can get away with it, but they do.

Certainly Palmiero would have been dumb to take steroids right now, but he's a major league player under a huge amount of pressure to perform. Maybe he got some bad information and thought this particular drug wouldn't register. Maybe he was told by his team that they'd overlook it. It's also possible that he was set up or the test was wrong. But really, it's fairly common for people to fail scheduled drug tests, and for the most obvious reason of all --- because they took drugs.

I don't know if he did it or not. But I don't think that the logic that it would be a dumb thing to do is a very convincing reason to flay the press for not being more skeptical of the charges. People do dumb things all the time. Especially the press --- and sometimes even star athletes.

Go Cindy

Head over to Joe Trippi's place and listen to Cindy Sheehan's blog call. She's just great.

You'll get to hear the mellifluous voices of some of your favorite bloggers, too...
Crude But Effective

I'm sure that US advisers counseled trumped-up impeachment or a bought-and-paid-for recall, but the Iraqis had no use for our "democratic" methods for removing the mayor of Baghdad from power. They just deposed him. Very efficient. Tom DeLay took notes.

Playing For Time

Kevin wonders why the White House appears to be bobbling the Roberts nomination citing this article in the Washington Post this morning:

Thrown on the defensive by recent revelations about Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s legal work, White House aides are delaying the release of tens of thousands of documents from the Reagan administration to give themselves time to find any new surprises before they are turned into political ammunition by Democrats.


While the White House plays catch-up in studying Roberts's past, it is facing complaints from some of its conservative supporters about what they feel has been a stumbling campaign for the nominee.

Sean Rushton, director of the conservative Committee for Justice, said in the days after the nomination "there was a drop-off of message and focus."

I think this is mostly kabuki. There had always been concern that Roberts was being nominated too early --- a clearly political decision to take the heat off of the Plame investigation:

... a conservative icon in Washington is worried because the White House rejected his advice regarding the timing of its announcement of Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court. Free Congress Foundation founder and president Paul Weyrich says opposition groups will now have a month to rally their forces and voice their opinions on Roberts before hearings begin in late August.

"I pleaded with the White House not to make the appointment until the end of August because if it is made now, and Congress then goes out of session, you will have all the left-wing groups screaming about the appointee," Weyrich says. That vocal opposition has already begun.

According to Weyrich, the White House response to his request was lukewarm. "You know, it was just a 'thanks for your input' type of thing," he recalls. "I'm not sure they really comprehend what will happen to their nominee if the nominee's good."

Weyrich voices concern that the month-long interval before hearings begin will give those opposed to Roberts time to build their objections to a fever pitch. He says that happened once before to another Supreme Court nominee -- Robert Bork.

They knew there was going to be time to sully Roberts which is why they have "just decided now" to thoroughly review all these documents before they can release them.

I don't deny that there is probably some disarray at the White House. They have been off their game for a while. But I think they probably decided they could draw out the fact-finding enough through the month of August to make nominating him early worthwhile. It's risky for them. Who knows what could seep out? But they are now in precarious enough waters that they have to take some political risks.