Monday, September 05, 2005
We Always Worried This Would Happen
Spreading the poison of bigotry
BATON ROUGE, La. -- They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I'm staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.
"Because of the riots," the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.
"It's the blacks," whispered one white woman in the elevator. "We always worried this would happen."
I had the misfortune to be around some bigots this week-end as I watched the footage from New Orleans. I hadn't heard some of this stuff so frankly admitted since I was a kid (when I heard it a lot.) The twisted, subterranean, politically incorrect world of racism has reared its ugly head.
This is just the latest chapter in the oldest story in America. We should be aware of it and understand it. And we should also be glad that it isn't worse because in the past it certainly was.
Ever since 1791, there have been white Americans who get very nervous when they see a large number of angry black people in one place. That was the year that Haiti's slaves rebelled and killed almost every Frenchman on the island. The fear of slave revolt --- black revolt --- entered the consciousness of the American lizard brain and has never left. From Gabriel Prosser to Nat Turner to Malcolm X to Stokely Carmichael and the long hot summers of 66 and 67, notions of barbaric vengeance being wreaked upon unsuspecting white people has lurked in our racist subconscious. During slavery it was the immoral institution itself combined with horrible inhumane treatment. After the civil war it was the knowledge of seething anger at Jim Crow. During the 60's the anger became explicit and words like "by any means necessary" reached deep into the American psyche and fueled the backlash against the civil rights movement --- and set the conditions for the Republican dominance of politics today.
Race is America's deepest psychic wound that festers in different ways over and over again. It has lost much of its original blazing pain, but it is still there, buried and waiting to come to the surface.
The memories of Nat Turner are still fresh to many for whom the Lost Cause is their defining cultural benchmark:
Starting with a trusted few fellow slaves, the insurgency ultimately numbered more than 40 slaves and free blacks, mostly on horseback. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the whites they could find; men, women and children alike. In all 55 whites were killed in the revolt.
In total, 55 blacks suspected of having been involved in the uprising were killed. In the aftermath, hundreds of blacks, many of whom had nothing to do with the rebellion, were beaten, tortured and murdered by hysterical white mobs.
In the summer of 67, the cities of this country went up in flames. The rhetoric was the same as what we heard coming from the right this past week. Peggy Noonan suggested that looters be summarily shot. And, in that summer of fire, they were. In large numbers. Only, it turned out, they weren't necessarily looters or rioters --- they were just black. Ordinary people, housewives, kids were gunned down by renegade cops and national guard who were given orders to shoot to kill. Every african american killed by police that summer became a symbol of collective punishment. If you were black, you could be asked to pay with your life for the sins of other blacks. That's just the way it worked.
In Rick Perlstein's (as yet unpublished) new book, which I've had the privilege to read a bit of, this is the real crucible of the 1960's. Here is just a little bit of what happened in Newark that long hot summer after the cops took off the gloves and started doing what Peggy Noonan and Jonah Goldberg have been agitating for this past week in New Orleans:
"The press was interested in making the carnage make sense. A turkey shoot of grandparents and 10-year-olds did not make sense. The New York Daily News ran an "investigation" of the death of the Newark fire captain [killed by police] and called it "The Murder of Mike Moran." The Washington Post left his cause of death as more or less a blank. The alternative--that when law enforcement spent days spraying ... rounds of ammunition, more or less at random, even white people can get killed--seemed too horrifying for mainstream ideology to contemplate. Twelve-year-old Joey Bass, in dirty jeans and scuffed sneakers, his own blood trickling down the street, lay splayed across the cover of the July 28 Life. The feature inside constituted a sort of visual and verbal legal brief for why such accidents might have been excusable. The opening spread showed a man with a turban wrapped around his head loading a Mauser by a window with the caption, "The targets were Negro snipers, like the one above." In actual fact the photo had been staged by a blustering black nationalist by the name of Colonel Hassan, what the copy claimed was an upper-floor vantage onto the streets actually a first-floor room overlooking a trash-strewn back yard. "The whole time we were in Newark we never saw what you would call a violent black man," Life photographer Bud Lee later recalled. "The only people I saw who were violent were the police."
Here is a link to Bud Lee's famous photograph of Joey Bass.
Today the NY Times reports this about snipers:
In a city racked by violence for a week, there was yet another shootout on Sunday. Contractors for the Army Corps of Engineers came under fire as they crossed a bridge to work on a levee and police escorts shot back, killing three assailants and a fourth in a later gunfight. A fifth suspect was wounded and captured. There was no explanation for it, only the numbing facts.
Perlstein reports on this incident from Newark:
And around 4 pm a group of citizens were milling around outside front of the Scudder Homes housing project off Springfield when three police cars turned the corner. The crowd assumed the police must be firing blanks at them,until a .38 caliber bullet ripped through Virgil Harrison's right forearm.
Men took off their undershirts to wave them as white flags. The cops just kept on shooting. They said they were looking for a sniper on the upper floors of the building. But they sprayed their shots at ground level. That was how Rufus Council, 35, Oscar Hill, 50, and Virgil's father Isaac "UncleDaddy" Harrison, 72, and perhaps Robert Lee Martin, 22, and Cornelius Murray, 28, lost their lives. Oscar Hill was wearing his American Legion jacket. Robert Lee Martin's family reported that money was taken from his body. Murray's body was missing $126 and a ring.
There indeed were three snipers in Scudder Homes. But they began their shooting in response to these fusillades. They killed a police detective, Fred Toto, 33, a father of three, about on hour later, though in later testimony police claimed the order of the shootings was reversed.
I'm not saying that's what happened in New Orleans in the incident I reference above --- or any others. I don't know the facts. I am saying that's the kind of thing that tends to happen when rumor and paranoia get out of hand.
Here's the Council of Conservative Citizen's web site:
Updates! Eyewitness accounts report that at least six people have been murdered inside the superdome. One dozen or more have been raped. Most of the rape victims are very young. A seven year old girl, an eight year old boy, and numerous teenage girls. The US media is extremely reluctant to report any of this because of political correctness!
Yet this doctor who was ministering to the sick in the Superdome reports nothing like this:
Perhaps it's the stench that Dr. Kevin Stephens will remember the most.
It was a stench that was a gumbo of human waste, sweat, and despair.
For four days, Stephens, the Health Department director in New Orleans, administered to the sick in the Superdome, his primary patients being those in wheelchairs and nonambulatory. He watched conditions deteriorate from one of calmness on the eve of Hurricane Katrina crippling the city, to one of frustration by the time he was evacuated to the adjacent New Orleans Arena on Wednesday. He was taken to Baton Rouge on Thursday.
"I never felt threatened and I walked around the entire place," Stephens said. "I was talking to people, administering first aid. But people were ready to get out of there. The conditions were horrid and horrible. The stench was unbearable. If we had electricity, it would have been so much better."
Here's a report from last Friday:
“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome.
In Detroit during the riots there in 1967, Perlstein reports:
"I'm gonna shoot at anything that moves and that is black" an arriving National Guardsman declared.
(He also reports that the federal government and state blame game almost perfectly mirrors the current crisis. When things are hurtling out of control, politicians will dither until they figure out what the play is, I guess. Too bad about the dead bodies.)
The story to which I linked at the beginning of this post concludes with this:
By Thursday, local TV and radio stations in Baton Rouge—the only ones in the metro area still able to broadcast—were breezily passing along reports of cars being hijacked at gunpoint by New Orleans refugees, riots breaking out in the shelters set up in Baton Rouge to house the displaced, and guns and knives being seized..
Scarcely any of it was true—the police, for example, confiscated a single knife from a refugee in one Baton Rouge shelter. There were no riots in Baton Rouge. There were no armed hordes.
But all of it played directly into the darkest prejudices long held against the hundreds of thousands of impoverished blacks who live "down there," in New Orleans, that other world regarded by many white suburbanites—indeed, many people across the rest of the state—as a dangerous urban no-go area.
Now the floods were pushing tens of thousands of those inner-city residents deep into Baton Rouge and beyond. The TV pictures showed vast throngs of black people who had been trapped in downtown New Orleans disgorging out of rescue trucks and helicopters to be ushered onto buses headed west on Interstate Highway 10. The nervousness among many of the white evacuees in my hotel was palpable.
It's that last that we need to look for now. The evacuees are a diaspora all over the country. They are "infiltrating" a bunch of cities and towns in large numbers. Many whites fear blacks in large numbers, especially those from the big city, those who are desperate. Most especially, they fear those who are angry. (Why if they get it in their heads to be mad about how they were left behind to die like animals, who knows what will happen? Lock the doors!)
I don't honestly think there is any racist conspiracy at work. There doesn't need to be. All it takes is a reactivation of long held racist beliefs and attitudes --- attitudes that led the president to say that they had "secured" the convention center on Friday night --- which we all saw in that amazing FoxNews footage actually meant that the desperate survivors had been locked inside the sweltering hellhole. It was the attitude that had tourists staying at the Hyatt hotel being given special dispensation to go to the head of the lines at the Superdome. It was the attitude that made my racist companions disgusted by the "animals" at the convention center because they were living in filth fail to grasp that these people had been expecting to be rescued at any moment for more than four days.
It's that attitude that led these people to talk endlessly about rape with lurid imagery and breathless, barely contained excitement. This too is part of the American lizard brain.
I have no doubt that there was criminality on the streets of New Orleans. When the law disappears, that's what happens. But when you looks closely at our history you see that whenever large numbers of african americans are featured, this is the kind of thing that is said and thought and done. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't believe it or that criminals shouldn't be brought to justice. But our history suggests that when we hear reports of cops gunning down looters, snipers and rapists in the street, we should at least maintain a normal skepticism. Far too often in our history it has been shown later that things were not as they seemed at the time.
This, by the way, is not a neat black and white thing and never has been. Some black Americans have the same lizard brain reactions as do whites. In 1822:
Perhaps inspired by the way slaves coordinated their slave revolution in Santo Domingue (know today as the Haitian Revolution), [Denmark Vesey] planned what would have been the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. His insurrection, which was to take place on July 14, 1822, became known by about 9,000 slaves and free blacks throughout Charleston who were to participate. The plot was leaked by slaves loyal to their white owners who overheard talks of rebellion, and 131 people were charged with conspiracy by Charleston authorities.
Nobody will be surprised to learn, I assume, that recent scholarship indicates Desmond Vesey was framed.
digby 9/05/2005 04:30:00 PM
Everyone has undoubtedly seen that dramatic and heartbreaking footage of Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press yesterday. But I wonder if most people saw Haley Barbour directly afterward. He completely ignored Broussard's emotional plea and implied in a particularly unctuous tone that something was wrong with Louisiana because everything was going very well in Mississippi:
MR. BROUSSARD: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.
MR. RUSSERT: Just take a pause, Mr. President. While you gather yourself in your very emotional times, I understand, let me go to Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.
Governor Barbour, can you bring our audience up to date on what is happening in your state, how many deaths have you experienced and what do you see playing out over the next couple days?
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, (R-MS): Well, we were ground zero of the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States. And it's not just a calamity on our Gulf Coast, which is decimated, I mean, destroyed, all the infrastructure overwhelmed. We have damage 150 miles inland. We have 100 miles inland, 12 deaths from winds over 110 miles an hour.
Saturday night before this storm hit, the head of the National Hurricane Center called me and said, "Governor, this is going to be like Camille." I said, "Well, start telling people it's going to be like Camille," because Camille is the benchmark for how bad--it's the worst hurricane that ever hit America, it happened to hit Pass Christian, Mississippi. Well, Tim, Katrina was worse than Camille. It was worse than Camille in size. It was worse than Camille in damage. And so we've had a terrible, grievous blow struck us.
But my experience is very different from Louisiana, apparently. I don't know anything about Louisiana. Over here, we had the Coast Guard in Monday night. They took 1,700 people off the roofs of houses with guys hanging off of helicopters to get them. They sent us a million meals last night because we'd eaten everything through. Everything hasn't been perfect here, by any stretch of the imagination, Tim. But the federal government has been good partners to us. They've tried hard. Our people have tried hard. Firemen and policemen and emergency medical people, National Guard, highway patrolmen working virtually around the clock, sleeping in their cars when they could sleep. And we've made progress every day.
So, basically he said that Mississippi was getting the help it needed early on. I wonder if Mississippians agree with that?
Well, no, apparently not:
In a sign of the political pressure facing Bush, Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott, a former Senate majority leader, said he has been battling the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its Mississippi counterpart for help for his state and urged Bush to cut red tape.
After a one-on-one meeting with Bush in Poplarville, Lott said: "I am demanding help for the people of Mississippi to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina."
Haley Barbour is hitching his wagon to Bush and it makes sense. He's really never been anything but a political hack. But if things aren't going as well in Mississippi as he says it is --- and I doubt it is --- then he's playing with fire. I'd put my money on Lott. I have a suspicion that he understands the zeitgeist a little bit better that Barbour does.
...there are critics, particularly Jackson residents who are desperate for gasoline, and country folk still forced to scrounge for food and clean water in a world without electricity. And, there are those who say Barbour may have been too soft on early evacuation decisions.
The gulf coast was devastated. And people there are feeling overlooked in the shadow of the horrors of New Orleans. It's going to take a long time to re-build and things will not go completely smoothly. If people get impatient with this endless happy talk coming out of Barbour and the rest of the Republican leadership, there could be hell to pay. They'd better hope that Bush can deliver.
digby 9/05/2005 03:47:00 PM
Faith Based Disaster Relief
If I am confirmed, I will pay special attention to volunteers and non-governmental organizations responding to disasters. Fire fighters are frequently the first to respond to a disaster. Faith-based groups like the Salvation Army play critical roles in disaster relief, as does the American Red Cross. And the individual actions of neighbors helping neighbors by donating time, food, and clothing should never be underestimated. These are the people who make a vital difference, without any expectation of thanks or recognition.
Joseph Allbaugh, George W. Bush's campaign manager at his confirmation hearing to be head of FEMA, February 13, 2001.
The government's job is to give money and recognition to charity organizations, not to actually do anything except encourage people to start a telephone prayer tree or squeeze their eyes shut tight and wish with everything they have not to die. After all, everybody wants the government out of their lives.
This is clearly the philosophy of FEMA under George W. Bush, his campaign manager and his campaign manager's roommate "Brownie." In other words, put your head between your legs and kiss you ass good-bye suckers. We aren't in the business of federal disaster relief.
digby 9/05/2005 09:25:00 AM
Friday, September 02, 2005
Deadly PR Stunt
Arthur has posted a couple of awful, frustrating stories. There are so many.
This little detail, however, stands out:
...for the entire time Bush was in the state, the congressman said, a ban on helicopter flights further stalled the delivery of food and supplies.
Has anyone else heard that?
I suppose that as long as he wasn't getting a haircut that caused no inconvenience whatsoever, no one will cause a stink. But, let's face facts. This was a photo op for purely political purposes. There was nothing he couldn't have seen by simply turning on television over the last 5 days. People were dying out there.
digby 9/02/2005 08:33:00 PM
“It seems to me that the poor should have had the EASIEST time leaving. They don't need to pay for an extended leave from their home, they could have just packed a few belongings and walked away to start over somewhere else. What did they have to lose?
When the wealthy evacuate, they leave behind nice houses, expensive cars, possibly pets that they treat as members of the family, valuable jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. This makes it emotionally difficult for wealthy people to leave. But by definition, the poor do not have this burden: they either rent their homes, or they are in public housing; their cars are practically junk anyway; and they don't have any valuable possessions. This is what it means to be poor. These people could just pick up their few belongings, buy a one-way bus ticket to any city and be poor there. Supposing they even had jobs in NO, it's not like minimum wage jobs are hard to come by.”
More at the link if you can stand it.
I'm going to have one stiff drink. And then another. I don't recognize that as a fellow human much less a fellow American.
Update: For the record, that comment and all the others shown on Corrente are not made by Jane Galt herself. They are comments from her readers. I'm not sure what that says about her, but the post to which this is attached seems to have been written by a member of the human species.
digby 9/02/2005 08:00:00 PM
Not A National Disaster
Bill O'Reilly is trying with all his might to make this story about "thugs" and bad Democrats but both Fox news reporters on the ground are having none of it. Shepard Smith and Steve Harrigan are both insisting that the story is about people dying and starving on the streets of New Orleans. Smith is particularly upset that the mayor sent buses to the Hyatt today and took tourists over to the Superdome and let them off at the front of the line.
O'Reilly says "you sound so bitter" and said they need a strong leader like Rudy Giuliani. Smith replies that what they needed "on the first day was food and water and what they needed on the second day was food and water and what they needed on the third day was food and water."
O'Reilly is practically rolling his eyes with impatience at Smith's pussified outrage about the plight of a bunch of losers who were asking for it. He really, really wants to talk about scary black boogeymen and steppin-fetchit politicans. It doesn't work out. He looks relieved to move over to the Natalee Holloway story.
Luckily, they've got it straight over on The Corner:
NOT A NATIONAL DISGRACE [Rich Lowry]
A dissent from this column I wrote yesterday:
It is not. It is - or ought to be - a disgrace and an embarrassment to Louisiana and New Orleans. I see the way Florida prepares for and responds to hurricanes; I see the way Mississippi and Alabama are dealing with this one; I've seen the Carolinas and Virginia deal with hurricanes, too. I've been in Miami and Norfolk when hurricanes hit, though not as severe as this one, and seen folks come together to support each other in the crisis. I see the outpouring of support from surrounding states and from the federal government heading to Louisiana as fast as it can.
And then I see citizens of New Orleans shooting, raping, burning, and plundering while their government officials stand by helplessly...
Fox News reporters have played this story pretty straight (for them) and it's making the stars extremely uncomfortable. Somebody's going to have to have a talk with the supporting cast. They are going off script.
Update: Sean's up now and he's equally uncomfortable with Shep's story about the thousands still stuck on freeways and bridges with no food and water --- who have been ignored for days now. He's been covering one single bridge for days and nobody knows why they haven't been helped yet. He's almost shrill.
Now Geraldo comes on and he freaks out, begging the authorities to let people still stuck at the convention center walk out of town. Shep comes back and he says they have checkpoints set up turning people back to the city if they try. (wtf?) They are both on the verge of tears.
Sean says they need to get some perspective and Shep screams at him "this is the perspective!"
This was some amazing TV. Kudos to Shep Smith and Geraldo for not letting O'Reilly and Hannity spin their GOP "resolve" apologia bullshit. I'm fairly shocked.
Update: Crooks and Liars has the video.
digby 9/02/2005 05:42:00 PM
This is going to be a problem:
Vines also said U.S. troops in Iraq whose family members were injured or killed by Hurricane Katrina may be allowed to go home, but those who have no confirmed casualties among family members will have to stay in Iraq.
If their families are mere refugees, I guess it's tough shit.
They could come home if Jonah Goldberg and his friends took their place, though. Surely they'll be willing to make that sacrifice, right?
digby 9/02/2005 12:56:00 PM
Dithering or Scared?
For three days, Corps officials had lamented the difficulty of gaining access to the canal, but yesterday a local contractor, Boh Bros. Construction Co., apparently drove to the mouth of the canal and started placing a set of steel sheet pilings to isolate the canal from the lake. This job was finished yesterday afternoon.
What's the deal? Aren't engineers usually pretty good at figuring out how to get into inaccessible places?
I wonder if maybe they were actually all askeered of the roving thugs that seem to have been reported everywhere, but rarely seen? A number of reports in today's newspapers are much more skeptical of the criminal anarchy that was reported all day yesterday. It was more than a little bit odd that the news crews that had access all over the city weren't able to get any pictures of these roving gangs of beasts that were said to be stalking everyone.
It's not that I doubt that there was a lot of criminal activity. People both evil and desperate become barbaric when the social order breaks down. But the stories sound an awful lot like the tall tales we've heard for centuries in this country about barbaric slave revolts. It's like a tick that comes back whenever people see large numbers of poor, angry black people.
digby 9/02/2005 12:01:00 PM
Still making excuses. Still being an asshole. Nobody had the balls to ask him why he was fucking around in Coronado, California with country music stars while the levees were overflowing. It wouldn't be polite, I guess. Too bad he wasn't getting a blow job --- they would have been all over it.
Has everyone noticed that Bush seems to be saying that "Haley" handled his disaster better than Louisiana? (Mostly by being "ruthless" I would guess.)
I've been thinking these last two days that we may just see Haley Barbour being the anointed Bush successor after this. Peggy Nooner was gushing all over him yesterday. Bush doesn't have enough good things to say about him. And Larry King has been delivering spectacular sycophancy to him every night. Southern governor and a big money lobbyist/political hack both. Other than the fact that he's not physically fit, he's Bush's wet dream.
digby 9/02/2005 10:55:00 AM
Blame The Victim Talking Points
I heard this shocking exchange between Aaron Brown and Jamie MacIntyre lst night too, and was stunned. There is clearly a culture of pass-the-buck whining about military failure taking over the Pentagon if their first reaction is to complain about partisanship...
But I think there is more to it. Everyone has noted that Michael Brown (the estate planning lawyer/Bush crony who is in charge of the biggest logistical challenge in FEMA's history) was making the rounds implying that the victims asked for what they got when they didn't obey the mandatory evacuation. But he wasn't the only one who said this explicitly. I wrote yesterday that Michael Chertoff, his boss, said the same thing:
"The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster," he said on NBC's Today program. "Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."
This was an official talking point. On Thursday, September 1st, three days after the scope of the disaster was well known, George W. Bush sent his disaster officials out to the media with the instructions that they were to blame the victims --- the same day that we were seeing dead bodies and dehydrated children all over our television sets.
digby 9/02/2005 10:18:00 AM
Is it really appropriate for all these disaster officials to be on television pretending to be "briefing" the president (who is dressed in his campaign costume) so that he can appear to be engaged in the problem? Don't they have better things to do than raise Bush's poll numbers?
Now he's "going to go comfort some people." Who says he isn't doing his job?
Update: Well, waddaya know. The next pictures we see are of Bush "comforting" a pretty young black woman and her white husband(?) They were very good. Must have had an awesome audition to make it onto "Presidential Kabuki: In Excess."
digby 9/02/2005 08:30:00 AM
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Lacking any reliable source of information about how to proceed, residents from the flooded eastern parts of the city and stranded visitors wander westward in a state of desperation. People shout at cars, pleading for rides to anywhere, and ask each other where they're headed. Several thousand residents forced from their homes line Convention Center Avenue, where rumor has it evacuations were set to begin. National Guard personnel say they had no immediate plans to begin evacuations from that location.
While chatting with some of the National Guardsmen, another guardsman approaches and informs us that a woman is in the middle of a stroke around the corner. The guardsmen shrug. There is no emergency medical tent in the downtown area, and many people in need of medicine have no way of getting what they need, even inside the shelters. On our way into the French Quarter, a wild-eyed man flags down our car, begging us for insulin or information about where some can be found. We cannot help him.
In contrast, some residents of the French Quarter appear comfortable, well-fed and relaxed. About 150 New Orleans police officers have commandeered the Royal Omni Hotel, part of the international luxury chain of Omni hotels that is housed in an elegant 19th century building, complete with crystal chandeliers and a rooftop pool. "All of the officers that are here, I can tell you in a classical sense, are gladiators," says Capt. Kevin Anderson, commander of the Eighth District of the NOPD (French Quarter). "To be able to put your family's concerns aside to protect the citizens of New Orleans, it's just an awesome job," he says.
Across the street from the Royal Omni at the Eighth District police department, several police officers keep a wary eye on the street with shotguns at the ready, while some fellow officers grill sausage links over charcoal barbecues. They are under strict orders not to communicate with the media. Capt. Anderson does confirm, however, that locations where officers were housed came under gunfire on Tuesday night. No officers were injured. "It is a very dangerous situation that we're in," Anderson says.
Apart from rescue operations, the police department patrols for looters, who have ransacked stores in virtually every part of the city. Looters are visible on every street corner. Every kind of business, from rundown corner markets to the Gucci storefront on South Peters Street, has been looted.
We walk half a block down Royal Street from the Eighth District headquarters and come upon Brennan's Restaurant, one of New Orleans' most venerable dining institutions. The Brennans are a high-profile family of restaurateurs and run several of the highest-end eateries in town. Jimmy Brennan and a crew of his relatives are holing up in the restaurant along with the chef, Lazone Randolph. They are sleeping on air mattresses, drinking Cheval Blanc, and feasting on the restaurant's reserves of haute Creole food.
The atmosphere in the French Quarter, while relatively quiet, is decidedly tense, but Brennan isn't worried. "We're not too concerned. The police let us go over to the Royal Omni, to take a shower, freshen up, and we cooked them some prime rib. We take care of them, they take care of us," says Randolph. Two Brennan emissaries whisk past, bearing multilayer chocolate cakes, headed toward the precinct. "This has been working out real well for us," says Jimmy Brennan.
Contrary to many reports, the French Quarter remains undamaged by flooding. The streets are dry and damage to the 18th and 19th century buildings appears to be minimal. Heavily pierced French Quarter denizens are emerging slowly, almost groggily, and some are looking to evacuate. One woman, wearing a black lace slip and fanning herself with a souvenir fan from a production of "Les Miserables," makes her way toward the Superdome, carrying no luggage.
digby 9/01/2005 07:10:00 PM
I Wondered About This
From Kos diarist Militarytracy:
I have also spoken today on post here with Army pilots really pissed off that when the helicopter was shot at yesterday at the Superdome, they suspended operations. What I have been told is IT IS A MILITARY HELICOPTER AND YOU ARE PREFORMING A KIND OF MILITARY MISSION AND YOU ARE TAKING FIRE SO WHAT'S THE FUCKING PROBLEM? I heard this from pilots who have served in Iraq. They are really upset right now that it is okay to take fire to liberate Iraqis but it isn't okay to take fire attempting to rescue and save people in your own country!
I've been a little bit gobsmacked by this fraidy-cat reaction to the surly thugs in the streets I've been hearing about all day. The national guard and the coast guard are trained to operate in hostile environments where people are shooting at them. And big city police forces are no slouches either.
Yet they completely cancelled the rescue operation because some bozo shot at a helicopter. And the national guard now refuses to escort patients who are being transferred from hospitals that have no power, food and water.
Gosh I sure hope someone is guarding the oil ministry.
digby 9/01/2005 03:35:00 PM
They Are Invisible
Maybe this will show Michael Chertoff that evacuating wasn't a matter of people stubbornly refusing to obey a mandatory order. These people are rich and white:
BLITZER: The disaster, what's unfolding in New Orleans, elsewhere in the Gulf as well, the situation, especially, especially worrisome in downtown New Orleans. We have on the line now Phyllis Petrich. She's stranded in one of the hotels in New Orleans. Phyllis, where exactly are you?
PHYLISS PETRICH, STRANDED IN NEW ORLEANS: I'm at the Ritz Carlton on Canal Street in the French Quarter.
BLITZER: How long have you been there?
PETRICH: We arrived here actually for holiday on Thursday evening and we were evacuated to the Grand Ballroom by the middle of the night Sunday. We have been on rations since then. They have evacuated some of the hotel. There are about 300 people left. The Ritz is trying to get buses in here. FEMA will not let them in. They got a group out last night. And of the three buses that got out, FEMA commandeered one of them. We have no idea where they've taken those people. We're in dire straits here. There is no electricity. The sewage is backing up. As I said, the water supply is running low.
We do have a team here of infection diseases doctors that were here for a conference who have set up a small infirmary to care for the cases of dysentery and vomiting that have come up, as well as other people who have had some illnesses. But all of those medications are now being depleted, and I don't know that anyone is aware that we're here. I realize we're not top priority on anyone's list, but we are here and we are in dire straits, and we need someone to know that we're here, to come in and help to get us out of here.
BLITZER: Do you have enough food and water right now, Phyllis?
PETRICH: Well I don't believe we have very much food left at all. I know that we didn't have any lunch today. We had just a little biscuit or a cookie for breakfast and all we're each being given is a glass of water.
BLITZER: And it's impossible for you simply to leave the hotel and walk out. Not only are there floodwaters there, but it's dangerous, the violence, the looting, the snipers. It's a very dangerous situation.
PETRICH: It is a very dangerous situation. Fortunately, the Ritz has been wonderful. Apparently they have a lot of off-duty policemen that they have access to, that are guarding the hotel with shotguns. They themselves are afraid to go outside, because policemen are being shot at. And it is very, very difficult situation here. And I just don't know how we can impress upon people what is really going on here. I think people just don't have a concept, and it's being glossed over, it's being handled so poorly, it just amazes us to hear what's going on outside. That people just don't understand just the seriousness of the situation.
BLITZER: Where are you from, Phyllis?
PETRICH: I'm from Maryland right now. I actually live in Wisconsin, but I'm a long-term job assignment in Maryland.
BLITZER: If your family if your friends are watching, what would you like to say to them? PETRICH: That I am alive and well at this moment. I don't know what will happen in the future, but I am alive and safe for the time being, and I just want to get home to them.
BLITZER: Are you traveling by yourself or do you have children with you?
PETRICH: With my husband. We came here to celebrate our anniversary. And it's one we will not forgot for many years to come.
BLITZER: Well, Phyllis, good luck to you. We'll certainly pass on your concerns to authorities and try to make sure that people don't forgot that these hotels, including the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the French Quarter, are endangered right now.
PETRICH: I know, and it would be a different situation if we had made the choice of our own volition to stay here. We could not get out. Once the storm started to hit the airlines shut down immediately. And none of us could get flights out. We would have left if we could have, but we could not and that's why we're in the situation that we're in.
BLITZER: One final question, Phyllis, before I let you go. Are there any law enforcement authorities, National Guard, police, first responders, FEMA officials, anyone at the Ritz Carlton Hotel trying to help any of you.
PETRICH: Not that we have seen. No. Not at all.
BLITZER: They're invisible right now.
PETRICH: They are invisible. We have no idea where they are. We hear bits and pieces who can get information in that the National Guard is around, but where? We have not seen them. We have not seen FEMA officials. We have seen no one.
BLITZER: Well, if it makes you feel any better, we're told that they're on the way. We don't know how long it will take to get there. They're deploying thousands of troops. But it clearly will take some time for them to get to the scene where you are. Phyllis, we'll talk with you. And good luck to you, your husband and all your friends. I'm sure you've become friendly with a lot of these people at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
PETRICH: ... absolutely wonderful people. There is a group of British nationals that have gotten to BBC. And we're hoping that with us, trying to get to as much people as we can, they will understand just how dangerous and, you know, difficult the situation is for everyone here.
BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much, Phyllis. Good luck. We'll check back with you. Phyllis Petrich, like so many others, about 300 people, she said, stranded now at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, and no help in sight, at least not now, and they're running short of food and water.
Even the Ritz-Carlton is out of food and swimming in shit.
Let's hope these folks don't have to go out and try to rustle up some food and water. The president said there is zero tolerance for "looters." According to Is That Legal, fellows at the American Enterprise Institute agree with Peggy Noonan that looters should be shot:
I think shooting looters is a compassionate way to protect the safety and well-being of law-abiding citizens. Time after time it has been shown that the way to prevent deadly anarchic riots is to take firm decisive action to prevent matters from getting to a tipping point.
Yes, a little summary justice does go a long way toward "preventing matters from getting to the tipping point." Except, of course, it doesn't. What is needed is a large, visible police and national guard presence directing rescue activity and keeping order. Why that isn't happening is the real question.
I seem to remember something in the recent past --- a war torn city perhaps --- that also dissolved into chaos and anrachy when the authorities failed to provide security. Somebody important said "stuff happens" and "freedom is untidy." Where was that again? It's right on the tip of my tongue...
If at first you don't succeed, clap your hands and do exactly the same thing over and over again.
Update: Some of the "right" people are looting, too. Should they be shot, Peggy?
Five days after Susan Dewey arrived in New Orleans to celebrate her birthday, she was so desperate to get out that she banded with hundreds of other tourists to hire 10 buses for $25,000 to rescue them.
After waiting hours, they learned government officials had commandeered their buses to evacuate others.
The hurricane hit Monday. The flooding and looting began Tuesday. By Wednesday, Dewey was stealing to eat.
She said hotel staff encouraged guests to loot a nearby store for food, so that's what Dewey and her boyfriend did.
"I had Power Bars, I had nuts because there were a couple (hotel) rooms open, and we raided their mini bars," Dewey said.
That day, police went door-to-door to order local residents out of the hotel and to the New Orleans Convention Center, Dewey said.
The handful of managers left at the hotel told guests they had booked 10 buses for $25,000 to evacuate them and those from the Crowne Plaza Astor Downtown. Each passenger paid $45. The hotel staff began lining up elderly and ill people outside about 7:30 p.m.
"I couldn't count how many wheelchairs you saw," Dewey said.
The guests waited until 9:30 p.m. when a manager told them the buses were confiscated by the military.
Also planning to leave on one of the buses was Bill Hedrick, a Houston oilman, and his family, including his mother-in-law, who uses a walker.
"We kept hearing they were coming, they were coming," he said. When the crowd learned the buses would never arrive, "everyone was totally stunned," said Hedrick, who moved on to the convention center.
Dewey said she was ordered to head to the convention center
digby 9/01/2005 02:41:00 PM
I have to say that I'm with Wolcott on this one.
No, this is the time for politics, none better, because I can tell you just from being out of NY a few days that a lot of people in this country are shocked and sobered by New Orleans, but they're also worried and pissed off. They're making the connection between the money, manpower, and resources expended in Iraq and how raggedy-ass the rescue effort has been in the Gulf. If you don't say it now when people's nerves are raw and they're paying full attention, it'll be too late once the waters receded and the media-emoting "healing process" begins.
This event is emblematic of Republican governance. It encompasses every fuck-up they've perpetrated since they took over the entire national governament --- failure to plan, embracing only the best case scenario, lagging response, ignoring the experts, slashing funds and endless, endless happy talk that we can SEE WITH OUR OWN EYES is bullshit. (They are already saying that nobody is reporting all the "good news.")
The fact that most of these refugees (a word that I can hardly believe I'm typing) are black and poor residents who were unable to leave and were therefore, left to die, is emblematic also.
No, this is all about politics. It is about a GOP era of massive tax breaks for very rich Americans, billion dollar a week elective wars that we are losing while more and more people fall into poverty and the infrastructure of this country crumbles around our ears.
This failed experiment in free-market magical thinking can be summed up entirely by pictures of dead elderly Americans on the streets of New Orleans.
digby 9/01/2005 01:47:00 PM
How Could It Be Otherwise?
More damning evidence of leadership malpractice:
Here's a piece from March 7, 2002 from the Clarion-Ledger on the circumstances of Parker's firing. Here are the first several grafs ...
The assistant secretary of the Army, Mississippi's former U.S. Rep. Mike Parker, was forced out Wednesday after he criticized the Bush administration's proposed spending cuts on Army Corps of Engineers' water projects, members of Congress said.
"Apparently he was asked to resign," said U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water development subcommittee that oversees the corps' budget.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, also said Parker was dismissed.
Parker's nomination to head the corps drew heavy criticism last year from environmental groups pushing to downsize the agency, calling its flood control projects too costly and destructive.
Parker earned the ire of administration officials when he questioned Bush's planned budget cuts for the corps, including two controversial Mississippi projects.
"I think he was fired for being too honest and not loyal enough to the president," said lobbyist Colin Bell, who represents communities with corps-funded projects.
Bell said Parker resigned about noon after being given about 30 minutes to choose between resigning or being fired.
As Josh Marshall says, this is the Bush administration in a nutshell. It has happened over and over again with disasterous results from General Shinseki to Bunnatine Greenhouse just the other day. They listen to no one who knows what they are doing.
This is banana republic shit. They funnel money to their supporters and reward their contributors and run inexplicable wars that make no sense --- at the expense of the citizens of this country. It was inevitable that this incompetent, myopic administration would fail when faced with a major disaster during this second term. They are incapable of doing anything else.
Via Media Matters, here is another perfect example of Republican thinking on this issue:
After the Storm
Hurricane Katrina: The good, the bad, the let's-shoot-them-now.
By Peggy Noonan
As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human being--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.
We had a bad time in the 1960s, and in the New York blackout in the '70s, and in the Los Angeles riots in the '90s. But the whole story of our last national crisis, 9/11, was courage--among the passersby, among the firemen, among those who walked down there stairs slowly to help a less able colleague, among those who fought their way past the flames in the Pentagon to get people out. And it gave us quite a sense of who we are as a people. It gave us a lot of renewed pride.
If New Orleans damages that sense, it's going to be painful to face. It's going to be damaging to the national spirit. More damaging even than a hurricane, even than the worst in decades
Yes, nothing must be allowed to blemish the steely-eyed rocket man's moment of pulsating, wet-making glory.
Here are a couple of people you won't have to waste a bullet on, you fucking privileged asshole:
A military truck with a lone soldier onboard drives by Dorothy Divic, 89, as onlookers trying to revive Divic yell in vain for him to stop, on a street outside the New Orleans Convention Center September 1, 2005. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A man holding a baby uncovers the body of a dead man, suspected to have been sitting there for two days, outside the New Orleans Convention Center September 1, 2005.
Sigh. Give money if you can --- click on the ad at left. The liberal blogosphere is setting the goal of raising a million dollars for the relief effort.
Moveon is sponsoring www.hurricanehousing.org to help displaced people find temporary shelter. If you can help out with that, click on over and see what you can do.
digby 9/01/2005 11:42:00 AM
Qu'ils Mangent De La Brioche
I don't know if all of you have seen the footage today from the convention center in New Orleans, but it is shocking. There are dead bodies lying all over the place. People are waiting for help and the only people who've come in there are news crews and Harry Connick Jr. (And fuck you Michele Malkin.) It's a living hell.
The MSNNC reporter just said that he counted 82 buses lined up outside the city waiting to go in to evacuate people from the convention center but they won't go because they've been told it isn't safe.
On 9/11 we had cops and firefighters running into collapsing buildings to rescue people. Today, days after the crisis hit, I'm watching people with little babies desperate for food and water and nobody is coming in to help them.
What in the hell is going on?
Perhaps this comment by Homeland Security chief Chertoff explains the Bush administration's slow motion response:
"The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster," he said on NBC's Today program. "Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."
For Christ's sake the tourists couldn't get out either. All the rental cars were booked and the airport was closed. Lucky for them, most of them were staying in high rise hotels and they rode out the storm. And now they have someplace to go --- home. The locals who didn't have cars aren't quite so lucky, are they?
I think Chertoff's comment says everything we need to know about how this government viewed this catastrophe. "We told 'em to get out; if they refused (or couldn't) they brought this on themselves." That's the Republican philosophy in a nutshell. "You're on your own, losers."
I think Americans expect more of their government than that. That comment should be hung around the necks of these poor planning, corruption spreading, deficit spending, budget slashing, warwmongering, tax cutting assholes like a dead Louisiana pelican.
Those of you who would like to donate can click the ad on the left. At this point,however, it might be more useful to actually drive to New Orleans with some food and water.
Update: SKBubba says call your congressman. He's got the links.
digby 9/01/2005 10:11:00 AM
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Calling In The Leadership
Oh, this is rich. DC MediaGirl (via the Daoureport) says that Michele Malkin is having a fit because Hollywood and LiveAid hasn't stepped into the breach in New Orleans. Apparently, Hollywood should hold fundraisers while disasters are still unfolding. They shouldn't even have a day or two to plan them --- entertainers should immediately rush to the closest TV studio and just start singing and dancing as fast as they can. I presume that Malkin feels this should be done in lieu of actual disaster relief by Big Govmint, which is the root of all evil after all.
DC media Girl also points out Dear Leader was attending birthday parties and strumming the guitar while untold numbers were dying along the gulf coast. But then, it isn't actually his job to deal with disasters. He was waiting for Tom Hanks and Goldie Hawn to take the lead on that.
This is a really unfair rap on the entertainment community. They are a lot of things, but ungenerous in disasters, they aren't. They always step up in times like this and I have absolutely no doubt they are planning to do it right now.
When's the last time the wealthy media punditocrisy held a fundraiser for victims of anything, by the way?
digby 8/31/2005 12:14:00 PM
BagNews Notes has the most interesting take on the compelling images of New Orleans: he looks at pictures of the refugees at the Superdome and observes:
Beginning with the weekend evacuation, one unstated subtext running through much of the reporting involved the disparate prospects between rich and poor. In many accounts, for example, the more well-to-do were securing refuge by way of upper-floor hotel rooms, or escape via rental cars and long-haul taxi rides.
On the other hand, those of modest mean mostly headed for the football stadium.
In looking through the painful photos coming out of this ravaged city, I was particularly struck by the scenes shot at the New Orleans Superdome -- which seemed to have transformed, almost overnight, into the world's largest disaster shelter.
Besides people trying to adapt to the building as living quarters, what I found ironic was the fact that this was the only way the lower income evacuees -- not to mention the needy or indigent -- would ever get close to these field level seats.
The pictures coming out of New Orleans are all horrible. But the income disparities among the citizens are brought into stark relief by this tragedy. Everyone is affected of course, but those who had little to begin with are truly left with less than nothing now. A whole lot of people who were hanging by a thread already just dropped into total despair. That dimension of the tragedy really makes my heart ache.
digby 8/31/2005 11:33:00 AM
Bush gives new reason for Iraq war
Says US must prevent oil fields from falling into hands of terrorists
By Jennifer Loven, Associated Press | August 31, 2005
CORONADO, Calif. -- President Bush answered growing antiwar protests yesterday with a fresh reason for US troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.
The president, standing against a backdrop of the USS Ronald Reagan, the newest aircraft carrier in the Navy's fleet, said terrorists would be denied their goal of making Iraq a base from which to recruit followers, train them, and finance attacks.
''We will defeat the terrorists," Bush said. ''We will build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary."
At the naval base, Bush declared, ''We will not rest until victory is America's and our freedom is secure" from Al Qaeda and its forces in Iraq led by Abu Musab alZarqawi.
''If Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks," Bush said. ''They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition."
That's a pretty good spin on the "no blood for oil" theme, you have to admit. It brings together the boogeyman and high gas prices in one neat package.
I guess we are now fighting Osama bin Laden for control of Iraq. Considering how badly we are doing there, I don't think this is the best way to frame it. They seem to be winning.
digby 8/31/2005 08:04:00 AM
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The Big Easy's Got The Blues
Commenter antifa wrote in another thread on Sunday night:
I called Mama Marisol, got her on her cell phone. She had her crystal ball in the front seat, and she was 'leavin-leavin, cher.'
Heading up Basin Street past St. Louis 1, she saw all the skeletons sitting on top of their tombs, rolling their bones and readin' em, shakin' their heads at her.
This won't end well.
Mama marisol was right, cher. This is terrible.
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And all these people have no place to stay
Now look here mama what am I to do
I ain't got nobody to tell my troubles to
I works on the levee mama both night and day
I ain't got nobody, keep the water away
Oh cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to lose
I works on the levee, mama both night and day
I works so hard, to keep the water away
I had a woman, she wouldn't do for me
I'm goin' back to my used to be
I's a mean old levee, cause me to weep and moan
Gonna leave my baby, and my happy home
*by Kansas Joe McCoy and famously covered by Led Zeppelin.
digby 8/30/2005 01:19:00 PM
I haven't weighed in on the recent Bell Curve wars (although Atrios reprised some of my former comments this week-end) because it just gets so tiring. But as I read some of the recent discussion of Intelligent Design, it struck me that we are seeing a clash of the psuedo-sciences coming on the right that could be very fun to watch.
You see, the racist Bell Curve people are ardent adherants of evolution; one of their primary wingnut funded institutions is called The Charles Darwin Research Institute. When you go to the site, you will see that it opens with a stirring defense of the theory of evolution and natural selection. As you read down you see its true agenda:
Based on his readings and his personal experiences of exploring Southwest Africa, Galton concluded that the average mental ability of Africans was low, whether they were observed in Africa or in the Americas. In Descent, Darwin acknowledged Galton's work and also accepted the importance of the brain-size differences reported between Africans and Europeans by Paul Broca and other nineteenth- century scientists.
Modern studies confirm Darwin and Galton. The races do differ in average brain size and intelligence. The racial gradient in average intelligence and brain size increases from Africans to Europeans to East Asians.
This institute is run by J. Philippe Rushton, who is best known for his hypothesis that men with bigger penises and women with big breasts and buttocks have smaller brains and are therefore biologically inferior. He is famous for saying in an interview: "It's a trade-off: More brain or more penis. You can't have everything."
In 2003, he became head of the nazi-founded Pioneer Fund which also supports such racist and sexist luminaries as Richard Lynn of the recent "women are dumber than men" study. Both of these alleged scientists' work are positively referenced in The Bell Curve.
Unsurprisingly, Bell Curve authors Murray and Hernstein (and contributor Lynn) all pretty much agree with Rushton that large black dicks are a very serious threat to western civilization. Because of their large dicks and big tits, you see, blacks are more promiscuous and therefore have a different "reproductive strategy" that undermines our culture by overpopulating it with more big dicks and more big tits rather than the small dicks of white men like Murray, Hernstein, Rushton and Lynn.
They fail to explain why such a reproductive strategy would actually be inferior in their Disney version of Darwin's big adventure, but they do set forth a very novel explanation as to why having a very small dick is a good thing. (I wonder if any woman (or man) has ever bought that line.)
Anyway, none of these dummies for Darwin, many of whom have followers in the white supremecist creationist crowd (as well as the long standing approbation of such cultural icons of dick as Andrew Sullivan) can sign on to the new fundamentalist chic of the moment --- ID. Without evolution, a tiny tiparillo is just a tiny tiparillo.
So what happens when the Bell Curve meets up with the Discovery Institute? Will the racist Darwinians have the nerve to ask why the "Intelligent Designer" came up with the really, really fucked up idea that the big brained white guys like them got the tiny penises and the small brained, big dicked blacks got all the big-titted, hot assed women? Will the Discovery Institute fellows feel compelled to drop their pants to prove that the IDer in chief knew what he was doing?
I sense a monumental crack-up among the racist wingnuts. It's either god or monkeys --- with their inferior manhoods hanging (ever so slightly) in the balance.
digby 8/30/2005 09:27:00 AM
Monday, August 29, 2005
It looks as though the Republicans are trying out a new play. If it works in this out of town try-out, will it be long until we see it on the national stage? From Josh Marshall:
Gov. Ernie Fletcher(R) of Kentucky and a slew of people from his adminsitration have been embroiled for some time now in a big government personnel scandal. And he just called a press conference and basically pardoned everybody.
I think this is what Republicans call decisive leadership.
digby 8/29/2005 06:23:00 PM
Angry Mad Props
Everybody's talking about the Iraqi woman, Safia Taleb al-Suhail (who Bush used as a prop last year at the SOTU) saying that the new constitution is a setback for women's rights:
"When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women," she said. "But look what has happened -- we have lost all the gains we made over the last 30 years. It's a big disappointment."
But she's not the only one. Kevin at Catch spotted another prominent Iraqi woman who has been used as a convenient prop by the Bush adminsitration. She is now disillusioned with what the US as well. Here's Bush on March 3rd, 2004:
PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to thank my friend, Dr. Raja Khuzai, who's with us today. This is the third time we have met. The first time we met, she walked into the Oval Office -- let's see, was it the first time? It was the first time. The door opened up. She said, "My liberator," and burst out in tears -- (laughter) -- and so did I. (Applause.)
Dr. Khuzai also was there to have Thanksgiving dinner with our troops. And it turned out to be me, as well. Of course, I didn't tell her I was coming. (Laughter.) But I appreciate that, and now she's here again. I want to thank you, Doctor, for your hard work on the writing of the basic law for your people. You have stood fast, you have stood strong. Like me, you've got liberty etched in your heart, and you're not going to yield. And you are doing a great job and we're proud to have you back. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)
Here's what Dr. Kuzai told the NY Times on August 24:
"This is the future of the new Iraqi government - it will be in the hands of the clerics," said Dr. Raja Kuzai, a secular Shiite member of the Assembly. "I wanted Iraqi women to be free, to be able to talk freely and to able to move around."
"I am not going to stay here," said Dr. Kuzai, an obstetrician and women's leader who met President Bush in the White House in November 2003.
We are so very noble.
digby 8/29/2005 05:57:00 PM
Judy In Da Skies
Arianna has a great pithy take on the NY Times ever more pathetic editorial attempts to persuade their readers that something terrible has happened to Judith Miller who is now in her 55th *gasp* day of confinement. (Even as her husband is telling all their friends that Judy is having the time of her life in jail.)
The crux of the editorial is a ludicrous attempt to show that a worldwide outpouring of support for Miller has created a veritable Judy Tsunami heading toward Pat Fitzgerald and the Alexandria Detention Center, ready to sweep her to freedom.
The proof? Well, according to the Times “a Paris-based journalists’ organization” sent around “an impressive petition” last week in support of Miller that was signed by “prominent European writers, journalists and thinkers including Gunter Grass, Barnard-Henri Levy, the French philosopher, and Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish filmmaker”.
Forgive me if I have my doubts about how well-versed in the intricacies of the Plame case -- and Judy Miller’s role in it -- Messrs. Grass, Levy, and Almodóvar are. Which do you think is more likely, that someone put a petition in front them and said “The Bush administration is throwing reporters in jail, please sign!” or that, after contemplating the latest revelations about Scooter Libby’s early-July breakfast schedule, John Bolton’s Plamegate memory lapses, and the eight pages of redacted material in Judge Tatel's ruling, the trio was convinced that Miller doing time for refusing to come clean and move the investigation forward is, in the words of the petition, “a miscarriage of justice”?
But the John Hancocks of Grass, Levy, and Almodovar are not the only evidence of the Judy Tsunami cited... oh, no -- far from it! To buttress its argument, the Times once again drags out the backing of Bob Dole (gee, Bob Dole, maybe I should rethink this!) and the “poignant case” of “reporters in Pakistan -- Pakistan, mind you” who “took time out from their own battles to send messages of support”. That really is poignant. And utterly pointless. It sheds absolutely no light on the key issue here: whether Judy Miller acted as a professional journalist or as an advocate who perverted the nature of journalism.
It’s interesting to chart the shift in the Times’ rhetoric from its first “defending Judy” editorial to this latest, clammy iteration. At least that maiden voyage, back on July 7th, included the “frank” admission that “this is far from an ideal case” -- indeed, that its details are “complicated” and “muddy”. But even as those details -- and Miller’s role in Plamegate -- have grown more complicated and more muddy in the ensuing weeks, the Times’ position has become more simplistic: Judy is a martyr. Bob Dole and Gunter Grass and some guys in Pakistan (mind you) agree. Case closed.
The fact that they have to bring up Bob Dole again at all is just embarrassing. You could still see the words " first amendment yadda, yadda, yadda" erasures on the thing. His op-ed was a babrely disguised hit piece on Pat Fitzgerald, based on nothing.
But Arianna leaves out my favorite part of the editorial today:
As Jack Nelson, a veteran journalist for The Los Angeles Times, wrote recently: "Without leaks, without anonymity for some sources, a free press loses its ability to act as a check and a balance against the power of government." He cited Watergate, Iran-contra and President Bill Clinton's lies about Monica Lewinsky. If Judith Miller loses this fight, we all lose. This is not about Judith Miller or The Times or the outing of one C.I.A. agent. The jailing of this reporter is about the ability of a free press in America to do its job.
Can anyone tell me what is wrong with that paragraph and why it is self-refuting?
digby 8/29/2005 05:23:00 PM
Peter Daou has written a very interesting piece today about how the left and right philosophically differ on Iraq. He points out the overlooked fact that the left views the war from a moral standpoint --- indeed, the left views our relationship with the world from a moral standpoint --- while the right sees both those things from a material standpoint. It seems obvious now that he's brought it up, but I've never actually thought about it quite that way before:
The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent. They see the left's protestations as appeasement of a ruthless enemy. For the left (broadly speaking), America’s moral strength is of paramount importance; without it, all the brute force in the world won’t keep us safe, defeat our enemies, and preserve our role as the world’s moral leader.....
War hawks squeal about America-haters and traitors, heaping scorn on the so-called “blame America first" crowd, but they fail to comprehend that the left reserves the deepest disdain for those who squander our moral authority. The scars of a terrorist attack heal and we are sadder but stronger for having lived through it. When our moral leadership is compromised by people draped in the American flag, America is weakened. The loss of our moral compass leaves us rudderless, open to attacks on our character and our basic decency. And nothing makes our enemies prouder. They can't kill us all, but if they permanently stain our dignity, they've done irreparable harm to America.
I think this is an good way for liberals to think about our government and how the world works. And it can even be done in simple, common sense terms that may just resonate with those who wonder what it is we stand for. And aside from the fact that an amoral superpower is a country not worth living in and one that shames all of us who live within it, moral authority leads to material good as well. A great country behaving in an immoral way makes that country weaker, not stronger. Allies mistrust it and are reluctant to join forces. Enemies are emboldened, not cowed, because they see the country behaving in an almost desperate fashion and perceive that it is much weaker than it is. And when leaders of the most powerful country in the world leave the impression that they care nothing for the world's opinion, the world begins to see that country as a potential enemy instead of a friend.
People are naturally suspicious of power and because of that it behooves us to ensure that others can trust us and rely upon us behave morally and ethically. Breaking treaties, throwing off old friends and partners, ignoring our own constitution and the rule of of law creates an impression that the United States is unreliable, immoral and aggressive. It makes us less safe. Only shallow people think that our country can fight off the whole world. Only delusional people would want us to try. Our moral authority is not an impediment that we can or should toss off when it is inconvenient. It is an absolutely nevessary component of our national security.
We are in the middle of a great culture war in this country in which liberals are continually accused of being immoral and indecent by people who profess to hold strong religious beliefs. These morals, however, are almost exclusively confined to personal sexual matters and seem only to apply to the conduct of individuals in their private lives. They seem to have nothing to say about our government conducting itself without regard to morality whenever it is convenient. (Indeed, we have just witnessed one of the most prominent religious moralists in the country calling for our government to assassinate the leader of an oil rich country because it would save money.)
After the last election I read many pieces in which religious people advised that Democrats had to begin speaking in religious terms and appeal to voters on a moral basis. It was immediately assumed that this should be done in exactly the same way that the Republicans do, using their definition of morality. But I would suggest that we should make our own case for moral values --- as a government and a nation. It is there that we will find common ground among truly religious people and non-religious people of all stripes. And it is there that politics and morality are appropriately and necessarily linked in a free and democratic society.
If I had been polled after the last election I might very well have said that moral values were a primary reason for my vote. I found the conduct of this war deeply immoral. And I also believe that this immorality makes us less safe. If Democratic politicians want to run on restoring moral values in government they can count me in. I'm a proud member of that moral values crowd and I'll happily hold hands with any religious person who wants to join me.
digby 8/29/2005 02:54:00 PM
Tim Russert For Best Actor
Following up on Michael Wolff's Vanity Fair piece, Media Matters points out that Time magazine withheld information from the public and wrote articles that can only be described as cover ups in the Plame affair.
After speaking to Rove, Cooper sent an email to Michael Duffy, Time's Washington bureau chief, relating what Rove had told him about Wilson's wife and saying that Rove had spoken on "double super secret background." The next day, Cooper spoke to Libby, who confirmed Plame's identity. Two days later, Robert D. Novak's infamous column revealing Plame's identity appeared.
Duffy, Cooper, and Time not only failed to inform their readers in July 2003 that they were part of the story, but they continued to report on the leak without offering that information for more than a year. In addition to two stories in October 2003, Time wrote about the leak again on January 12, 2004.
I've been shocked by this since the beginning. But it's not just Time that's done this. An equally egregious example is none other than the Monsignor --- Tim Russert. He too was subpoenaed and has since acknowledged that he spoke with Lewis Libby during the period in question. NBC released this very lawyerlike statement after he spoke with the special prosecutor that raises as many questions as it answers:
Mr. Russert told the Special Prosecutor that, at the time of that conversation, he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Mr. Libby. Mr. Russert said that he first learned Ms. Plame's name and her role at the CIA when he read a column written by Robert Novak later that month.
If Bill Clinton had issued that statement, Father Tim would have been all over it for weeks. When parsed it can only lead to one conclusion. NBC's lawyers carefully left the door open for it to be revealed that Russert knew that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and that he told Libby that. All this statement says is that he didn't know her name or that she was undercover.
But strangely Tim Russert has never been asked by anyone to explain that statement even as he discussed this case many times on Meet The Press. During the same period that Duffy was writing articles in which he failed to reveal Time's role in the story or the fact that he knew that the white house was lying outright, Russert was hosting hour long shows on the topic and never revealing that he was one of the journalists called --- even as he grilled Novak and leaned on other reporters to reveal their sources!
These are some of Russert's questions to Wilson, Novak and "the roundtable" from the October 5th, 2003 transcript of Meet The Press right after it was revealed that the Justice department was going to investigate the leak:
Russert: Was there a suggestion that this was cronyism, that it was your wife who had arranged the mission?
Gosh, I don't know Tim. You talked to Lewis Libby. Was there? Or were you the one who told Scooter that Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA?
Russert: What did journalists tell you that the White House officials were saying to them?
Wilson: Four days after Bob Novak’s article came out, which outed my wife, I was—I started receiving calls from journalists and news agencies saying, first, that “The White House is saying things about you and your wife that are so off the wall we can’t even put them up,” followed by, over the weekend—so that would have been five or six days after the Novak article —a respected journalist called me up and said, “White House sources are telling us that this story is not about the 16 words”—even though the administration had acknowledged they should not have been in the State of the Union address—”this story is about Wilson and his wife.” And finally, on Monday, a week after the Novak article, I received a call from a journalist who told me, “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says that your wife is fair game.”
Russert: This was all after the Novak column appeared?
You tell us Tim. We know you spoke to Scooter before the Novak column came out, but did anybody call you afterwards? Do you know of any other reporters who were called?
Russert: Why would this official happen to have known that Ambassador Wilson’s wife was a CIA agent?
Novak: Well, I think senior officials know everything, don’t they?
Russert: Do you find that curious?
Novak: No. I don’t think so.
One of Novak's sources was Lewis Libby whom you also spoke with in the same period. Did you tell Libby that Wilson's wife was an employee but not that she was an agent? Your carefully worded statement certainly raises suspicions that you did. Is it possible that you told Libby that Wilson's wife was CIA and he pretended that he didn't know? Or are you saying that he really didn't know she was an agent?
Russert: When you say that it was not a partisan gunslinger, does that rule out Karl Rove?
Did it rule out Libby, the official you spoke with at the same time as Novak?
Russert: Let me turn to The Washington Post. And, well, one last thing before I—do you regret printing her name... Did you have any sense when you were being told this and you were typing it in your computer, “My God, the person that told me this may be committing a crime”?
Did you have any sense when you grilled Novak that you were leaving out a whole bunch of information about your own role in this story? Did you think "my God, I and everyone else in this room are play-acting and in doing so are betraying our profession and holding the public in total contempt?"
Russert: Let me turn to The Washington Post. Dana Priest, last Sunday you wrote a story on the front page which said this: “A senior administration official said that before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife. ...‘Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,’ the senior official said of the alleged leak.” What do you make of that? What was going on?
Tim, you are a Washington journalist who we know spoke with Scooter Libby before Novak's column ran. What did you think was going on?
Russert: In your story, you say a senior administration official said that two White House officials which sent off an awful lot of people in this town scurrying, saying, a senior administration official, as opposed to White House official, this must be the CIA at war with the White House.
You are one of the scurriers. How many other reporters know a lot more than they are telling? Can you give us names? Are they protected under the reporter's privilege too?
Russert: Bob Novak, many people have come up to me on the street and said, “Why doesn’t Bob Novak simply identify who his sources are? He knows who told him. Just say—pick up the phone, call the Justice Department, go on television and say, ‘This is who committed this crime’?”
Why don't you just come clean and tell your audience that you and the people sitting around your roundtable are all putting on performances worthy of Meryl Streep and calling it news?
Russert: David Broder, explain to our viewers what you have observed, and why journalists have this code where they simply will not divulge their sources.
Broder: The principle is pretty simple. It is the government’s responsibility to keep the government’s secrets secret. It is not the press’ responsibility. Our inclination, once we have information, is to try to verify it, to amplify as much as we can, the background and the context. But our basic obligation, then, is to share information with the public.
Except, of course, in situations like this where the story involves the press corps itself --- two of the principle players are right here! --- and where its access to important Republican officials is at stake. Then you feel free to stage a revival of Waiting For Godot on the set of Meet the Press and pretend that you are asking questions that others pretend to answer.
Russert: Bill Kristol, who used to work for Vice President Quayle, now runs The Weekly Standard magazine, has written a long essay where he said the president has taken too passive a stance in this situation, that he should call in his top senior aides and demand to know exactly what happened, and then take action, fire them...David, observing the administration, what should the president be doing now, and how much disarray are we watching?
Broder: Well, I was at the Democratic National Committee meeting yesterday where Al Sharpton said the president is moonwalking this question, and I think he’s got it about right. It is hard to believe that if the president, when he was dealing with a finite universe of possible leakers, did not really put the heat on, that he couldn’t get an answer to his question...
Russert: What do you think, Bob Novak?
Novak: I don’t know. I’m in an impossible position on this and I...
Russert: That’s why you’re here.
What do you think Tim? You're in the same impossible position Novak is. You know who the leakers are --- one of them, at least, spoke to you around the same time he spoke to Novak? Why are you so cocky? Don't you find it the least bit uncomfortable suggesting that the president should fire the people who you are protecting --- while failing to inform your audience of what you know?
Give yourself a treat and read the whole transcript to get the full flavor of the utter phoniness of that show. And I think you'll particularly enjoy the end when Bob Novak get's all self-righteous about Democrats smearing Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
That show was in October of 2003. By that time everyone knew the score. Russert pretended to put on his inquisitor's robes and pretended to interview Novak. Novak pretended that he didn't know that Russert knew much more than he was saying and played the role of the injured journalist throwing himself on the first amendment pyre. Priest knew the real story of the internecine war between the CIA and the administration over the WMD and Broder knew that the president wasn't going to try to "find out" who the leakers were because he knew that the leakers were close associates of the president --- who very likely already knew.
We, the idiot Americans, watched their little pageant having no idea that the whole thing was a farce put on purely for the benefit of the poor deluded public.
Tim Russert still has never said what he knows although there is no obvious reason why he shouldn't. If reporters' highest principle is to protect their sources rather than aid a grand jury investigating a crime, then they must also agree that they cannot then use the excuse that their lawyers or the prosecutor has requested they not speak of what they know. You can't have it both ways.
At the very least reporters should not be allowed to go on television or write stories in which they are participants and not reveal that. Nor should they be allowed to stage little pageants in which everyone involved is pretending that they don't know what they know. That's not journalism. (Or is it?)
Russert recently came back to this story on Meet the Press and in a most bizarre fashion "admitted" that he was involved in the story. Here's how he did it:
Let me turn to the CIA leaked case investigation. There have been numerous newspaper reports that the investigation is now focusing on perhaps perjury as opposed to the leak because the leak is difficult to prove under the law. What we know so far is that in terms of journalists, Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, Russert of NBC, Matt Cooper of Time magazine have all testified, either in deposition or before the grand jury. We assume Robert Novak has testified because Judy Miller of The Times who didn't testify is in jail. And there's been numerous newspaper reports that there's a difference between the testimony of some of the reporters and Scooter Libby of Vice President Cheney's office and Karl Rove of President Bush's office. Bill Safire, what do we make of all this?
Can you believe it? "There have been numerous newspaper reports that there's a difference in the testimony of some of the reporters and Scooter Libby." And who do you suppose is one of those reporters? Tim Russert!
None of the crack reporters on the roundtable even come close to asking about it or commenting on it. They just pretended that it was perfectly normal for Russert to talk about himself in the third person and reference stories in which he's the primary player and pretend otherwise.
But here is the real kicker:
MR. RUSSERT: There has to be an original source, somebody.
MR. GREGORY: Yes.
MS. TOTENBERG: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: Even if it came from a reporter...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: ...the reporter got it from someplace.
MS. TOTENBERG: Right. And...
MR. RUSSERT: But I was asked what I said. I did not know
Russert seems to have forgotten himself for a minute there. Once he realized what he'd gotten himself into, he quickly answered with a nonsensical "I was asked what I said. I did not know."
The question of the "who was the original source for the reporter" is a question that someobody should have asked him a long time ago. (It doesn't just apply to Judith Miller.) NBC's heavily lawyered press release is very suspicious and leads one to conclude that Russert may have told Libby that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. He should have been pinned down on that. And if it's true, the natural follow-up is "who told Russert?"
The rest of the panel knew better than to pursue that line of questioning with the King of the Kewl Kids. They just adjusted their Kabuki masks and went back to the dance.
digby 8/29/2005 09:05:00 AM
Sunday, August 28, 2005
The Battle Of New Orleans
This hurricane looks to be a living nightmare. I went through a bad one in the same area in 1965 --- Hurricane Betsy --- and these things are scary. My father was working on a NASA test site in Mississippi and had word that the storm was going to be bad so he moved us up north before it hit --- ahead of everyone else. We were lucky. The town we lived in was pretty devastated.
I was just a kid, and the creepiest thing I remember about it was that when we returned to our house there were snakes all over the place. And we had a rather large boat in our front yard --- that had been in the bay several blocks away.
Man, I hate to see New Orleans get hit. It's one of the greatest cities in the world with some of the greatest people in the world. Let's hope this thing isn't as bad as they say it's going to be.
digby 8/28/2005 04:05:00 PM
In The Trenches
This is the funniest thing I've seen in eons. Apparently, the testosterone is flowing so strongly down there in Crawford that the Move America Forward "Cindy Doesn't Speak For Us" team got all excited and kicked the Pro-Bush Protest Warriors' asses by mistake.
TBOGG has the whole story, along with the appropriate Monty Python reference.
And I dunno whether "Cindy-Hanoi Jane" is going to catch on. But I can see they have a bit of a problem. They can't really call her Bagdad Cindy, can they? "Insurgent Cindy?" Nah, just doens't have a ring to it. I guess Cindy-Hanoi Jane is the best they can do. Tells you something.
Update: Kevin at Catch has some pictures. Apparently the Protest Warriors' signs were just a little bit too subtle for the folks. They said "except for ending slavery, fascism, naszism and communism war has never solved anything" which is hilarious in its own right. (Fascism and Nazism both! And communism too. Well sort of. I guess.)
Kevin has a link to the freeper thread that tries to explain all of this. It's very confusing for them.
digby 8/28/2005 10:27:00 AM
Friday, August 26, 2005
Expecting Different Results
I'm sure I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but as Dear Leader says "you gotta catapault the propaganda." Therefore, I hope you'll bear with me reiterating an earlier point as I discuss Wes Clark's WaPo op-ed.
I am, as many of you know, a fan of Clark's. I thought he would have made a good president, although I can see now that he isn't a real member of the club and would have had a terrible time navigating Washington as a politician at this point in history. (It's not that he doesn't know Washington, it's that he wasn't properly anointed. The Clinton's may have backed him, but let's not forget that the Clintons are considered tres nouveau establishment and are hardly to be trusted in such matters.) In any case, I'm always interested in what he has to say on Iraq because from the early days of the debacle, he was pounding on the fact that the military's mission was to secure the country for political ends --- which were never entirely clear.
Today he writes a very intriguing critique of Bush's mistakes and offers some solutions. Both Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have some interesting criticisms of his plan, saying it is not all that realistic and he doesn't adequately explain how he would accomplish certain things.
To that I say, "right on Wes." This op-ed is not actually a policy document --- it is a political document. As I've been pointing out for a while, all Democratic navel gazing on this political. Wes Clark cannot actually implement any policy and neither could any elected Democrats. So, unless you believe that George W. Bush read Wes's column this morning over his bowl of Cap'n Crunch and thought "great ideas! get me Condi and Rummy on the horn!" this whole thing is an academic exercise.
I believe that there is a less than zero possibility that George W. Bush is going to implement any sane plan to withdraw from Iraq, much less one set forth by a Democratic presidential aspirant. And I say this with the greatest assurance that I'm right for the simple reason that George W. Bush has failed on every level, at every moment, from the very beginning to do anything right on Iraq. Why in God's name would we think that he will suddenly become sane and do something different today?
And even if they change course, there is no evidence that the Bush administration could then implement a plan with any more competence than they have anything else. The heartbreaking truth of the matter is that as long as Iraq is in the hands of the Bush administration and the Republicans, it is fucked. Period. That means that all Democratic policy prescriptions are essentially political positioning for the elections. I wish it weren't so, but it is.
Therefore, Clark's piece should be seen for what it is --- laying a benchmark for Bush's failure. By the time any Democrats have a chance to implement any real plans for Iraq, Wes's plan will be moot. The doors that he sees as still being slightly open are closing very rapidly. The state of play in 2006 and 2008 is going to be very different. But it's useful for Wes Clark, retired General, to be on the record with an alternative in 2005 that clearly lays blame on the Bush administration and sets forth in exactly what ways they've failed -- militarily, politically and diplomatically. He ends his op-ed with this:
If the administration won't adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that it bring our troops home.
He knows very well that the admnistration can't adopt a winning strategy. They have burned their bridges with the international community, they don't believe in diplomacy, they are willing to shitcan the fundamental democratic principles of an Iraqi constitution to get a temporary bump in the public opinion polls. If they truly wanted to change course they would not have installed a madman at the UN whose first order of business is to start tearing up international treaties. They are continuing to fight their war for US hegemony on the world stage, Republican hegemony in American politics and Executive hegemony within the government. The "war on terrorism" and Iraq are merely staging areas.
I happen to think that Bush has already "lost" the war in Iraq and that we should stage a tactical retreat fairly quickly. But Clark will likely be running for office and he wants to stake out a position that the Republicans are incompetent to wage war and I understand that. Democrats have to persuade the public that they are better at protecting the country than the Republicans and it's a daunting task. Clark's voice is essential to that task.
If we had the ability to get Bush to pull out tomorrow, I'd say Clark was wrong to agitate for a "winning strategy." Since we don't, I think he's making a smart political move. When the next election comes around, the Democrats can say "If Bush had done what Wes Clark said we should do back in '05, maybe he could have salvaged the huge mistake we made by going into Iraq. But he lost the war instead and now we have no choice but to pull the troops out. We are a strong country and we will do fine. But we desperately need new leadership. The Republicans have failed."
The fact that people continue to think that Bush might do the right thing leads me to this article in The Observer (via Rick Perlstein) that analyzes the angst of the liberal hawks as they watch Iraq spiral quickly into a quagmire:
“Someone wrote that you knew who the surgeon would be, so you knew what the operation would look like. And there’s some truth to that. I was not as aware as I should have been of just how mendacious and incompetent the surgeon was going to be,” said Mr. Packer by telephone from his office at The New Yorker on a recent afternoon. “At the time, in March 2003, you had to make a choice: Are you going to say yes or no to this thing? Of course, it didn’t matter—it was going to happen no matter what you said—but in an existential sense, you wanted to be counted."
“The people on the right cannot possibly be feeling the kind of dissonance that liberal supporters are feeling. It’s not a simple matter to live with, I have to tell you,” said Mr. Wieseltier, whose name appeared on a letter to Mr. Bush urging the removal of Saddam Hussein in late 2001, and who said that the U.S. shouldn’t cut and run. “I think that it is impossible, even for someone who supported the war, or especially for someone who did, not to feel very bitter about the way it has been conducted and the way it has been explained.”
This is where I am continually left speechless. In March 2003 we already knew that the Republicans were mendacious enough to stage a phony impeachment and steal an election. And we also knew that the brand name in an empty suit they call a president was a fool and that the people who were backing the war had been wrong about every single big ticket foreign policy issue since the mid 70's. We knew that the Democratic Senators who voted for the war resolution were re-fighting Gulf War I where many Democrats were ignominiously shown to be losers when they voted against a war that we went on to gloriously win. They were scared of being on the wrong side again. (And they blew it --- again.)
Long before March 2003, I knew this. I'm nobody. And here you have these people who call themselves liberal intellectuals who were evidently taken in by a man who spoke in comic book dialog, a Laurie Mylroie friendly foreign policy team that was nuttier than fruitcakes and a mission being sold as a cakewalk that was to any lowly layman's eye the most daunting nation building task since WWII. Their delusional, unilateral preventive war doctrine alone should have been enough to jolt any self-respecting liberal into keeping his distance.
For some writers who were accustomed to speaking only to tiny audiences clustered on the coasts, the invasion of Iraq and its implications presented an opportunity to actually influence something. It was a career-making moment for theorists who had cut their teeth in Bosnia and who were ready to test out their newly formed vision of American force as a tool to promote democracy and human rights and prevent genocide. It made media stars of academics like Mr. Feldman, who prior to the war was merely an “assistant professor who had been teaching for one year,” according to him, and the human-rights expert Michael Ignatieff of Harvard, who wrote various Iraq analyses for The New York Times Magazine. Writers such as Mr. Wieseltier, Mr. Berman and Mr. Hitchens were profiled admiringly in the months before the war, held up as avant-garde prophets.
The reality was something else altogether. The Iraq invasion has proven to be a true reporters’ war—far too dangerous for anyone not embedded with the Marines or carefully tucked away inside The New York Times’ Baghdad bunker to navigate. And not only has the Bush administration carried out the war and the occupation based on reasons which turned out to be greatly misrepresented, prompting a flurry of “I told you so’s” in certain circles, but it has flouted many of the key recommendations put forth by the liberal hawks, which had made their war support possible in the first place.
On what planet did liberals think that the modern Republican party gave a flying fuck about what they thought about anything? It certainly wasn't planet earth circa 2003. Bush had just recaptured the Senate and was striding around the country, codpiece bursting, proclaiming to the entire world that he didn't care what they thought. Did liberal intellectuals actually believe some fantasy that Bush could blow off Europe and ultimately the entire security council but listen to them? My God.
Why are people so unwilling to admit what they are seeing before their eyes, even today? The Republican party is corrupt, incompetent and drunk with power. And no matter what their intentions, they are incapable of setting things right. We have seen this over and over again.
Yet still I see a flurry of earnest discussion about how we should deal with Iraq and what plans should be implemented --- as if they have real world implications. They do not. As I wrote earlier, I think there is political value in doing this as it pertains to positioning for the next election. But I have no illusions, and never have, that anyone in the Bush administration gives a damn what we think or will follow any policy advice from liberals, hawks or otherwise. They do not operate that way.
I don't believe in purges or demands for disavowels; they have a faint whiff of Stalinism that rubs me the wrong way. Nobody has to apologise to me for what they believed about the war. But, considering that their credibility is more than a little bit tattered, it would probably be a good idea if the liberal intellectuals who backed the war finally recognized that everything they say and do is being used for political fodder and adjust their thinking and writing accordingly. They are not going to affect Bush administration policy. There is still a chance they could affect politics, however, if they will just stop pretending that the Republicans are operating on a logical basis in which they can find some common ground.
I think this is where we separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls. If, after all you've seen these last five years you still believe that the Bush administration can be given the benefit of the doubt, that they will do the right thing, change course, follow sage advice, reevaluate their strategy, bow to the facts on the ground --- then you have the same disease the Bush administration has. As Ben Franklin said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
digby 8/26/2005 11:33:00 AM