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Monday, July 31, 2006

Down On The Hezbos

by digby

Didja know that Rush calls Hezbollah "Hezbos"? He does. And he's teaching his dittohead followers all kinds of good stuff about what's going on in the Middle east and what we should do about it:

We've got the Hezbos, who have in interesting fashion, and I think the same thing is being attempted in Iraq, and it poses the same kind of trouble, or the same kind of challenge. The Hezbos have pretty much made -- and we've heard the puff piece stories. Oh, they're wonderful humanitarians, the Hezbos, why, the social services they provide the general population, why, they're doing such wonderful things, they care about people, they passed out health care and whatever the hell it is. Well, what they're doing is making the general population of these countries dependent on them, and as such, that is how they secure -- it's either through blackmail or genuine support, but it's how they get the support of the general population centers. You also have the Israeli factor in that. These are Arabs absolutely, so there are a number of factors in it.

But the one thing that has really changed in warfare, from World War II forward -- and I know that tactics change, but strategy doesn't. The Art of War by Sun Tzu is still something that's regarded as timely, even though it's thousands of years old. The one thing that you just don't do these days is kill civilians. It used to be the name of the game in war. And it was done on purpose. Now, it was done to end wars, and it was done to achieve decisive victory, and it was done to save the lives of your own troops in the field. All of those things were factors.

So we had this episode at Qana. You know who really killed those people are the Hezbos. Hezbollah killed those people. Hezbollah put those people in that building and brought the rocket launchers in close by, knowing full well that the launcher would be targeted. That building didn't fall for eight hours after it was hit. What do you bet that the Hezbos finished the job that the Israeli bomb did not actually complete? What do you bet they killed their own people for the PR aspect? These people cannot compete militarily with any industrialized nation, so they have to fight the PR and the spin war. And it is amazing to me to see how easily the duped US and world media is.


Every bit of it is staged and the still photographers know it. Yet they send these pictures out without saying all of this is being staged for us. They send these pictures out as though they are in a timeline of an exact sequence, which they are not, which you will see when you read it. So the point is, Israel is probably not even killing all these civilians. I asked the other day, when you have the Hezbos who don't wear uniforms, how do you know what civilian deaths are versus Hezbo deaths, how do you know who's who there? You don't.

Man. Denial is a river in Egypt, but apparently it runs right through Rush's addled brain. Are people buying this?

He continues:

Until civilians -- frankly, I'm not sure how many of them are actually just innocent little civilians running around versus active Hezbo types, particularly the men, but until those civilians start paying a price for propping up these kinds of regimes, it's not going to end, folks. What do you mean, civilians start paying a price? I just ask you to consult history for the answer to that. It's not their fault, Rush, it's not their fault! No. Not saying that it is.

But as long as you're going to allow these people to hide behind baby carriages and women and children and mosques and so-called apartment buildings, and if you're going to launch military strikes at military targets, which Hezbollah is not doing -- 120 rockets into Israel yesterday. Nobody has a care in the world, nobody has one word of condemnation for that. We don't know what targets were hit, we don't know how many people died. The Israelis are not parading their victims around on TV for propaganda purposes. As long as we are going to pussyfoot and patty-cake around, we're not going to get anywhere, we're not going to make any real progress.

We may delay the inevitable, we may get ceasefire after ceasefire after ceasefire, but we're not going to deal with the root cause of the problem. And as such, your kids and grandkids are going to be saddled with that at some point when they assume responsibility for the fate and future of the country.

So, the pictures of the dead are all phony, staged propaganda but the civilians need to be killed anyway in order to get to the root causes of the problem --- which I understand to be too many living arabs. If we don't kill them now, our kids and grandkids will have to kill their kids and grandkids later.

This blatant genocidal bloodlust has become de rigeur on the right now. It's on talk radio, TV and in the columns of respectable newspapers. They don't even pretend to be civilized anymore. Maybe it's just the SOS, but I've got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don't ever remember this kind of stuff being openly bandied about like it's normal. And those who did, like Curtis LeMay, didn't have audiences of 25 million listeners to spew their bilge to.

But hey,what do we expect? Once you explode the taboo against torture, can genocide be far behind?

Scorecard Politics

by digby

Here is an excellent article in Salon by Colin McEnroe about Lieberman, well worth sitting through to ad to read in full. I'd like to highlight just one little piece of it:

Covering Lieberman is a good way to understand how misleading a voting record can be. (Are you listening, Courant editorial board?) Most members of Congress vote with their parties the preponderance of the time. There are other questions to ask. Did he vote differently on a much-more-important earlier amendment or cloture motion? Did he wait until it was clear his vote wouldn't hurt the other side? Are his public pronouncements strangely different from his votes?

This is a prime reason why the special interest groups are so ineffectual. They've gotten so lazily dependent upon their "scorcards" they can't even feel it when they are being slowly stabbed in the back. They simply aren't asking the right questions.

This article lays out all the gripes that Connecticut, a liberal state, has against old Joe and it's quite an indictment. But what it comes down to is that he's always tried to have it both ways. He rhetorically reinforces all the destructive GOP memes, hedges his bets on important votes and even though (like most politicians) he generally votes with the party he's effetively working for the other side a good part of the time. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that being a member of the minority party in the Senate for most of his career means that he's had a lot of free votes that don't mean diddly.

Rhetoric, on the other hand, is one of the few powers a minority party has as it tries to persuade the country to come over to their side and put the opposition on the spot. Helping the majority make its case is one of the most destructive things Joe does. Democratic partisans have been complaining about it for years and so apparently have his constituents.

I would even go so far as to say that it is exactly this kind of jarring incongruity that has made the voters feel uncomfortable voting for Democrats generally and it's the biggest failing of the DLC experiment which Lieberman embodies. Indeed, it's what people say over and over again: they don't know what the party stands for. Why would they? You have leaders like Lieberman constantly trying to have it both ways. It's confusing and it makes people uncomfortable --- and it finally made some of the voters of Connecticut uncomfortable enough that they decided to look for someone who reliably and consistently reflected their views.

Here's Lamont on tonight's Colbert Report, from Crooks and Liars.

I couldn't get the video at first and so only listened. I was struck, as I was during the debate, that there is something in Lamont's delivery/cadence/accent that is reminiscent of JFK.

Neoconservatism's First Family

by digby

One of the things I think people misunderstand about the neocons is that they think it is all about Israel. This is not the case. Not only are all neocons not Jewish, their ambitions are purely American in nature and encompass far more than the middle-east.

A case in point is the family of Norman Podhoretz, one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism. I'm reminded of what a tremendous scope they have this morning by Jonathan Schwarz writing over at This Modern World:

...I don’t think many people remember ... that in 2004 John Podhoretz’s mother, conservative luminary Midge Decter, frankly explained the real reason we attacked Iraq:

“We’re not in the Middle East to bring sweetness and light to the world. We’re there to get something we and our friends in Europe depend on. Namely, oil.”

So there you have it, straight from the world’s most appealing family: we invaded Iraq for the oil, but we may have made a mistake by not killing millions when we got there.

BONUS: Decter’s daughter is married to Elliot Abrams, making him John Podhoretz’s brother-in-law. Abrams, now on the National Security Council, pleaded guilty to misleading Congress over Iran-Contra. He also tried to cover-up the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador, in which 900 men, women and children were slaughtered.

Schwartz goes on to describe a typical Podhoretz family gathering:

“Has the caterer gotten here yet?”

“No. Let’s drop napalm on his town and then move house to house, shooting any survivors.”

“Sounds good! What about the band? Are they going to play standards, or more contemporary stuff?”

“I don’t know. Let’s pay a proxy army to rape and murder all the women and then go on a bloody rampage, killing thousands more.”

Yes, we laugh, but don't kid yourself. It's not wholly surprising that number one son, J-Pod, came up with this over the week-end:

What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn’t kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn’t the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?

That is neoconservatism in practice.

In theory, it goes waaaay beyond the middle east. Here's my favorite piece from the PNAC's influential paper "Rebuilding America's Defenses" signed by half the administration including Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld:

To ensure America's control of space in the near term, the minimum requirements are to develop a robust capability to transport systems to space, carry on operations once there, and service and recover space systems as needed. As outlined by Space Command, carrying out this program would include a mix of re- useable and expendable launch vehicles and vehicles that can operate within space, including “space tugs to deploy, reconstitute, replenish, refurbish, augment, and sustain" space systems. But, over the longer term, maintaining control of space will inevitably require the application of force both in space and from space,including but not limited to anti-
missile defenses and defensive systems capable of protecting U.S. and allied satellites; space control cannot be sustained in any other fashion, with conventional land, sea, or airforce, or by electronic warfare. This eventuality is already recognized by official U.S. national space policy, which states that the “Department of Defense shall maintain a capability to execute the mission areas of space support, force enhancement, space control and force application.

... the argument to replace U.S. Space Command with U.S. Space Forces – a separate service under the Defense Department – is compelling. While it is conceivable that, as military space capabilities develop, a transitory “Space Corps” under the Department of the Air Force might make sense, it ought to be regarded as an intermediary step, analogous to the World War II-era Army Air Corps, not to the Marine Corps, which remains a part of the Navy Department. If space control is an essential element for maintaining American military preeminence in the decades to come, then it will be imperative to reorganize the Department of Defense to ensure that its institutional structure reflects new military realities.

Never let it be said they limited their vision of "benevolent American hegemony" to the middle east --- or even planet earth. They always think big, very big.

Just as an aside, I think Midge Decter's lovelorn paean to Don Rumsfeld may stand as the most unintentionally funny of all the over-the-top Bush years hagiography:

“He works standing up at a tall writing table, as if energy, or perhaps determination, might begin to leak away from too much sitting down”

This one never fails to make me laugh out loud:

Decter: What Rumsfeld's having become an American sex symbol seems to say about American culture today is that the assault on men leveled by the women's movement, having poisoned the normally delicate relations between men and women and thereby left a generation of younger women with a load of anxiety they are only now beginning to throw off, is happily almost over. It's hard to overestimate the significance of the term "stud" being applied to a man who has reached the age of 70 and will not too long from now be celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary.

It's hard to overestimate it all right.

The Podhoretz's are America's first family of neoconservatism, dysfuntional masculinity and world domination. It's quite an achievement.


by digby

In an interesting post by Ben Adler over at TAPPED today, I noticed this remark:

...those of us who are under-whelmed by Lamont and are more worried about potentially losing the seat to a right-winger...

I've heard this quite a bit. The Lamont challenge is seen as a possible threat to lose the seat. But I don't see why that is. The state regularly elects Chris Dodd who is a liberal. It's a state so blue that the moderate Republicans in the House are in trouble this time and the Republican party has had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to even find pedophiles and gambling addicts for the Senate seat. The only scenario by which anyone actually sees a Republican taking the seat is if Lieberman runs as an independent and he and Lamont split the Democratic and Independent vote.

Perhaps that will come to pass, although I sincerely doubt it. But let's say it does. Why would this be considered Lamont's fault? He's not the one who would be launching a third party candidacy when he failed in the primary.

It's Joe Lieberman who would be playing the Ralph Nader role in this scenario, not Lamont. Everybody needs to keep that straight in their heads after August 8th if Lamont wins. The spoiler is the guy who runs the third party race, not the guy who gets the party nomination.

The Best And The Brightest

by digby

Here is a fascinating look at one of our government's most important foreign policy innovators. Considering her extremely important position and intimate influence on the president one can't help but wonder how the administration's mid-east policy came to be so simplistic and infused with magical thinking:

As part of her job, this Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate in journalism and English from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and former Texas television reporter, still writes news scripts -- to the world.

In the past year, she has created the "rapid response unit" to monitor global media, produce a daily summary of driving news and put out the government's cohesive response. Every cabinet secretary, ambassador, military commander gets these pages. "This was my effort to try, literally, to get the federal government on the same page."

Her next major assignment is to lead an interagency process in writing a strategic communications plan -- this time for the entire U.S. government.

"I will frequently say, 'I've been doing so many meetings, I can't get any work done.' I have to have time to think and have time to write. I'm very verbal, I like to talk, I like people, but I'm also a writer." What she goes home to write, these days, is this master plan.


Despite her resistance to meetings, her top management tip is for a manager to spend time with his/her own people -- and not to pigeonhole them in their job descriptions. She likes a "very collaborative approach so we have very interesting staff meetings, lots of ideas and laughs.

"I'm an idea factory. My staff laughs at me. If I've had a really good exercise night, I'll come in the next morning and have several ideas."


She says that it is "vitally important for our children to foster better relationships between America and people of different countries and cultures. I mean children in Canada, children in the United States, my own son, children around the world."

She has three job goals:

First: "Foster a sense of hope and opportunity. These are rooted in our values, beginning with our belief in the dignity of every person -- in every person's right to live in freedom, in equality, in a just society."

Second: "Work to marginalize the violent extremists and to confront their ideology of tyranny and hate. I really believe that's vitally important for our children to have a peaceful future."

Third: "Foster a sense of common interests and values between Americans and Canadians and people across the world. We have to be able to communicate a common humanity. You can't, I wouldn't think, blow up a bomb next to someone you see is a human being who has a lot in common with you."


What will history say about this president?

"I believe they'll say that he championed freedom and democracy and changed a volatile and dangerous region into one that was more, much more, hopeful and optimistic."

And, on the economic front, after the 2000 stock market bubble burst after 9/11, she says, "they'll say that his tax cuts helped avoid significant economic disruption."

As for herself, she continues to craft and deliver the Bush administration's public message.

Her nighttime reading is telling. A re-reading of Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response. Alaa Al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building, about a building in Cairo and all its inhabitants. And, at her bedside, evangelist Billy Graham's new book, The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World.

It's this kind of thing that explains how Dick Cheney came to be so powerful.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

How Do You Like Your Democratic Iraq Now, Mr Lieberman?

by digby

So I hear that the national political press corps is about to descend on Connecticut like a swarm of locusts to cover the Lieberman Lamont primary in its final week. They are going to be following Joe around in a bus apparently.

This is good news, actually. Maybe they can finally get him to answer a few questions about Iraq, which he has suddenly clammed up about. It seems like only yesterday that Joe was saying stuff like this every day:

"We have reached an important milestone and achieved a new momentum in reaching a goal all Americans should embrace - building a secure, peaceful, democratic Iraq that is no longer a threat to the United States or the international community,"

Now, not so much.

If I were a real journalist and I had a chance to chat with Joe, I'd ask him if he still thinks that's true in light of his fellow Senators' condemnation of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's remarks about Israel. It seems nobody has yet been able to get him to explain this.

He did attend and applaud Maliki's speech, but failed to appear afterwards when reporters were asking questions. He's been so busy bragging about his earmarks and having his campaign place flyers in black neighborhoods accusing Lamont of being a racist (Lee Atwater would be proud) that perhaps he hasn't had time to weigh in on the most pressing foreign policy issues of the day.

Still, Joe is a man of principle and mid-east policy is his signature issue, so I'm sure he'll be more than happy to take questions. Joe has been like a proud papa about this new Iraqi government. I'm curious what he thinks of it now, aren't you?

Who's Putting The Party First?

by digby

Jonathan Alter's irrational fear of hippies leads him to write this:

...the Senate needs collegial moderates who work across party lines. It's the only way to stop the really bad stuff. And the revival of the romance of the antiwar left is a potential disaster for the Democrats. That's what gave the world Richard Nixon in 1968, when ideologically pure liberals who had backed Eugene McCarthy in the primaries refused to rally around Hubert Humphrey because Humphrey was "complicit" in the Vietnam War machine.

Apparently, challenging someone in Senate primary is comparable to people sitting out an election as a protest. I'm not sure why that is. If there is a move afoot to sit out the election, I haven't seen any sign of it. But hey, it's always 1968 in the DC establishment's mind so let's get groovy and smoke a doobie.

And I'd love to know what "really bad stuff" has been stopped by Joe Lieberman lately. The last I heard he was signing on to illegal domestic spying and indefinite prison sentences at Gitmo. He didn't think Abu Ghraib was such a big deal and certainly didn't lead the fight against torture. I haven't heard a word from him about signing statements or what to do about the black hole money pit that is Iraq. If that's the result of compromise, what in the hell were the Republicans originally trying to do --- institute capital punishment for eating falafels?

Clinton managed to forge a pragmatic center for Democrats, which is why he didn't hesitate to campaign last week for Lieberman. Clinton's strong support may well pull the man who once called his behavior "disgraceful" over the finish line. It's also a warm-up for selling his pro-war wife to skeptical liberals.

A lot of thanks Clinton got for his pragmatic centrism, too. He came within a hairsbreadth of being driven from office (with the help of his friend Joe)and when the Republicans took over they took the pragmatic surplus he created, handed it out to their rich friends and then proceeded to govern from as far right as they could possibly get with no thought to "collegial" moderation.

Grover Norquist said it and he meant it: they Republicans consider bi-partisanship date rape --- and it ain't the Democrats who are slipping the roofies in the kool-aid.

At some point in the last five years it should have occurred to Joe, who had no wingnut constituents to whom he needed to pander, that he was being used like a blow-up doll at a frat party.

The bloggers who have noisily intervened deny they're interested in ideological purity. They point to their support in Senate races for pro-life candidates. But on Iraq, the liberal blogs brook no dissent.

The Iraq war is not a tiny little policy difference. It has endangered our economic health and our national security. It's a matter of life and death. Is there anything these Washington insiders believe is worth fighting for? If "brooking no dissent" means that I think the Democratic party should stand with the large majority of Americans who want us out of Iraq, then I guess I'm guilty. On the war, there really should be NO controversy within the party, and there really isn't except among DC insiders whose irrational fear of hippies has them paralyzed on the greatest issues of our time.

Not that it matters in Connecticut. If Lamont wins, only the laziest analysts can attribute it to the Netroots. Daily Kos is not exactly Topic A in the diners and union halls of the Nutmeg State.

But if the blogs aren't a force on the ground, they are becoming a powerful factor in directing the passions (and pocketbooks) of far-flung Democratic activists. They're helping fuel a collective version of what shrinks call "projection," where the anger of Democrats at Bush is projected on a handy target, in this case Lieberman. But in doing so, they have neglected what FDR called "the putting of first things first." Job one for Democrats is identifying which Republican House incumbents are vulnerable in their own states and directing all available energy against them. Savaging fellow Democrats (except those who cannot win) should come after taking control, not before.

Bloggers are doing just what Alter says they should be doing, championing candidates across the country, liberal centrist and conservative, to beat Republicans. Clearly, he isn't following the netroots very closely. There is one primary going on in Connecticut featuring one Democratic incumbent whose challenger is being championed by bloggers. The intention was that this challenge would be over on August 8th at which point everyone would gather around the winner and on to victory in November.

Except there's now a little wrinkle. Joe Lieberman is apparently determined to run as an independent and put the safe Democratic seat at risk. I don't know why the bloggers or Lamont are being admonished for failing to put the party first, when all they did was stage a primary challenge, a very basic act of democracy.

Perhaps Alter should have a chat with Joe and his people about "putting first things first" eh?

The challenge facing voters this year is not to hold Democrats accountable for their heresies but Republicans accountable for where they have taken the country. They are the ones in power, not Joe Lieberman.

There's only one Democrat being held accountable for his "heresies" and that's Joe Lieberman. And that's because this election is a referendum on George W. Bush and Republican rule. Unlike many Republican politicians, Lieberman refused to distance himself from Bush and the Republicans when presented with a challenger. And like other Republicans who refuse to admit the error of their ways, he stands to lose this election because of it. When a "throw the bums out" election comes along, it's only smart to try not to be lumped in with them.

This isn't about a 60's style liberal "anti-war movement," which was a massive youth movement built around the draft coupled with huge social and cultural upheaval. This is just people trying to elect representatives to national office who represent their views. Despite all this blather about "congenial bipartisanship" the Republican Party went so far right they went off the cliff --- people are doing the predictable (and responsible) thing and pushing back. Many of them care passionately about their country and are frightened of the direction in which it's going. They are trying to do something about it. Is that really so scary?

This is just plain old politics, nothing unusual about it except we organize and talk over the internets. America hasn't heard much from liberals in a while but we've been out here the whole time --- and our policies have remained popular in spite of all the vilification we've endured because of the pathological fear of hippies that permeates the Democratic establishment.

Roll up a fattie, put on some Buffallo Springield and kick back, boys. It really isn't the end of the world if Democrats feel some passion about their politics. Human beings need some of that to be motivated. And so do political parties.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

The New York Times

July 30, 2006
A Senate Race in Connecticut

Earlier this year, Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat seemed so secure that — legend has it — some people at the Republican nominating convention in Connecticut started making bleating noises when the party picked a presumed sacrificial lamb to run against the three-term senator, who has been a fixture in Connecticut politics for more than 35 years.

But Mr. Lieberman is now in a tough Democratic primary against a little-known challenger, Ned Lamont. The race has taken on a national character. Mr. Lieberman’s friends see it as an attempt by hysterical antiwar bloggers to oust a giant of the Senate for the crime of bipartisanship. Lamont backers — most of whom seem more passionate about being Lieberman opponents — say that as one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, Mr. Lieberman has betrayed his party by cozying up to President Bush.

This primary would never have happened absent Iraq. It’s true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nation’s moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification, the Senate would never be able to call a quorum. He has voted with his party in opposing the destructive Bush tax cuts, and despite some unappealing rhetoric in the Terri Schiavo case, he has strongly supported a woman’s right to choose. He has been one of the Senate’s most creative thinkers about the environment and energy conservation.

But this race is not about résumés. The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one.

As Mr. Lieberman sees it, this is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party — his moderate fair-mindedness against a partisan radicalism that alienates most Americans. “What kind of Democratic Party are we going to have?” he asked in an interview with New York magazine. “You’ve got to agree 100 percent, or you’re not a good Democrat?”

That’s far from the issue. Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.

Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress.

At this moment, with a Republican president intent on drastically expanding his powers with the support of the Republican House and Senate, it is critical that the minority party serve as a responsible, but vigorous, watchdog. That does not require shrillness or absolutism. But this is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman’s ability to command Republicans’ attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president’s defender.

On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons. There is no use having a senator famous for getting along with Republicans if he never challenges them on issues of profound importance.

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.

Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

I couldn't agree more.

Pathological Fear Of Hippies

by digby

Do you ever notice those older ladies who still wear their hair in the style they first adopted when they were 22 years old? Or eyeglasses? For some reason they never noticed that 40 years have passed since they first wore that style and they've never thought to take a look in the mirror and assess whether it still suits them.

That's what the Washington political establishment is like when it comes to the Democratic party. They are still wearing their 60's era cat-eye bifocals and helmet-head beehives long after they ceased to be fashionable.

The people backing Lamont are nothing if not sincere. But their breed of Democrats -- many of them wealthy, educated, extremely liberal -- often pick candidates who are rejected by the broader public. Many of the older Lamont supporters went straight from Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern in the 1960s and '70s to Howard Dean in 2004. They helped Joe Duffey challenge Sen. Tom Dodd in Connecticut for the 1970 Democratic nomination on the Vietnam War issue, only to lose to Republican Lowell Weicker in November. Lamont's campaign manager, Tom Swan, is also director of Connecticut Citizen Action Group, a populist organization founded in the 1970s by Toby Moffett, a Ralph Nader protege and anti-Vietnam activist who was one of the "Watergate babies" elected to the House in 1974. Moffett's political career also was ended by a loss to Weicker, who stayed in the Senate until Lieberman finally beat him in 1988.

Gosh, don't tell anybody, but Joe Lieberman ran Bobby Kennedy's Connecticut campaign in 1968. In fact, if you look at most professional Democratic politicians over the age of 50, you can probably find a connection to that unreconstructed hippy hero George McGovern within one degree of separation. I guess that explains everything.

I don't know what the hell he's talking about when he says that those who voted for McCarthy and McGovern went directly to Dean. If these "political activists" were old enough to vote in 1968 you can bet they also voted for Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore and Kerry. I voted for all those guys. It's simpleminded bullshit to say that the biggest threat to the party is liberal elites. We've been voting for every preachy southern conservative and every bland technocratic centrist they've thrown at us since 1976. (It sure would have been really great if even one of them -- except Carter, who barely pulled it off --- could have won a fucking electoral majority! )

This is a deep and festering illness within political circles for which the only cure is to plug your ears and stop listening to the geezers. As far as David Broder and his ilk are concerned, nothing consequential has happened in the Democratic party in 38 years. That's the whole ball of wax --- "liberal insurgents," "silent majority" "Anti-Vietnam activist" all of it. Their irrational fear of hippies has rendered them incompetent to understand current politics for what they really are. And it has handed the Republicans the most powerful weapon in ther arsenal.

The thing that scared the straights (like Broder, I'm sure, considering his panic over the Clintons) back in the day was massive numbers of young long haired males and liberated braless women and blacks with huge afros that theatened all their fundamental beliefs about how society was supposed to operate. This was a jarring social and cultural change from the super conformist 50's and it freaked people out.

The political issues were just a small part of why people voted for Nixon both times and why the political establishment moved to the right (as the culture itself grew ever more liberal.) Broder and his pals' facile rendering of that history has pretty much crippled liberalism for almost 40 years and it's long past time that we ignored those who persist in perpetuating it.

RMA 1.0

by digby

Billmon, in another of his excellent essays on the Israel Lebanon crisis (aptly entitled "the Debacle") points out what I think may just be the most important fact to emerge about our Really Big Adventure in the mid-east these last few years:

It's a dismal situation for the Israelis -- worse, in many, many ways, that what I would have called the worst-case scenario before the war started. This is what happens when your state-of-the-art blitzkrieg machine is exposed as a relic of a past century.

In 1870, when the Emperor Louis Napoleon declared war on Prussia, he was confident his armies could beat those of Kaiser Wilhelm I just as throughly as his famous uncle had whipped the Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806. After all, everyone "knew" the French were the masters of modern military science. In Europe's capitals the betting was on how long it would take the French to get to Berlin.

But the Prussians had undergone something of a revolution in military affairs since Jena. They'd reformed their Army, created the world's first general staff and mastered the use of railways to mobilize reserves and move troops quickly to the front.

The result was Zola's Debacle -- an utter defeat for the French, in which their entire army, and their Emperor, were cut off, surrounded and captured at the battle of Sedan. The political and military balance of power in Europe was transformed forever.


What is clear is that the failure of Israel's blitzkrieg (and at the moment, it looks like a catastrophic failure, at least politically) will have enormous repercussions in the Middle East, just as the downfall of Louis Napoleon had in late 19th century Europe. By betting the ranch on a quick, decisive victory, the Anglo-Israeli alliance has committed both a crime and a mistake. The architects may escape punishment for the former, but I think the latter is going to come back to haunt them, and probably very soon.

I think the same can be said for the Giant --- America. The Iraq invasion, too, has exposed the great military superpower as being incapable of handling the next generation of warfare. Everyone had an inkling of this after Vietnam, but I suppose that many assumed the US had managed to regroup and learn from its mistakes. We Americans were certainly led to believe the military had done so --- we've been bombarded with propaganda for years about how the new generation of officers had a completely different understanding of assymetrical warfare and the military's relationship to the political institututions it served.

So much for that.

Peas In A Pod

by digby

So we come to this: increasingly violent exhortations from the right to clap louder --- leading inexorably from public musings about torture to actual torture and now, possibly, from public musings about genocide to ... actual genocide? I certainly hope not, but I have no reason to be optimistic.

Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch writes:

J-Pod concludes his piece by asking: "(c)an it be that the moral greatness of our civilization - its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all - is endangering the future of our civilization as well?"

Sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it, J-Pod's closing, heart-felt query? But I fear it's nothing more than hyperbole born of deep paranoia, one married to serious incompetence, given that the tactics J-Pod would have us consider would, not only lead us towards a savage race to the moral gutter, and thus immense catastrophe in terms of the decent society America has been able to, almost miraculously, preserve these past two odd centuries plus—but also not even achieve the intended result—as fighting an insurgency movement in such fashion, as any serious West Pointer would tell you, is absolutely, drop-dead, out of the gates, doomed to failure. Utter, total, mega-failure.


The cornerstone of our polity and civilization, that what distinguishes us from our fanatical, nihilistic foes, is our respect of law, including the laws of war enshrined in the post-WWII, post-Holocaust era. To throw these by the way-side, in favor of the law of the jungle, is to defeat ourselves. We will have done the bidding of the Osama bin Laden's of our own volition, hoisted ourselves on our own petard, condemned ourselves to reversing the great human gains obtained via the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and modernity. This is too terrible to contemplate, and we cannot allow it to come to pass as a polity. I remain confident it won’t, though in my darker moments I wonder what awaits us if greater 9/11s visit our shores.

I'm going to make an obvservation that is inflammatory and politically incorrect so beware. I think it has to be said, though:

In many ways Osama bin Laden and and the J-Pod's are not all that different. They both hold with a simplistic, hyper-masculine belief that life is determined entirely by perceptions of strength and dominance. They are, of course, not the first. ("The whole world of nature is a mighty struggle between strength and weakness --- an eternal victory of the strong over the weak.") Nor are they alone.

As you continue to read things like this and wonder what are the consequences of the US losing both its moral authority and its powerful mytique, think about this:

The Soviet defeat produced in bin Laden not just a feeling of pride and self-confidence, but megalomania. He speaks about his dream of creating a unified Islamic empire, encompassing 50 countries, stretching from North Africa and the Balkans, encompassing the whole Middle East (including Israel, naturally) and former Soviet Central Asia, all the way to Indonesia and the Philippines on the Pacific. It turned out that bin Laden regarded the Soviet Union not as the primary enemy, but merely as the weakest link in the chain. He turned his attention to waging war against his erstwhile ally, the United States.

Please tell me in what substantial way these goals (if not entirely the means) differed from the post cold war PNAC plan for American global hegemony?

Glorious Wankers

by digby

This really pisses me off. Atrios's wanker of the day, the ole perfesser, apparently finds it amusing to dishonestly claim that Josh Marshall once advocated killing many civilians in Iraq in order to pacify the country. This is nonsense, as Unfogged points out here.

Here's the thing about Marshall's argument, which a lot of us made in the run-up to the Iraq war: the glorious paladins of the 101st Keyboarders were dying to play Patton (in their minds, of course) and decided early on that the occupation of Iraq would be exactly as it had been in Germany and Japan after WWII. They were packing up nylons and Hershey bars for months in anticipation of our boys needing some blackmarket currency so Mr Roberts and Phil Silvers could keep the motor pool running --- "Maresy-doats and dozy-doats" went to the tops of the wingnut geek charts and stayed there for two years.

People tried to point out that the occupation of Japan and Germany were relatively peaceful affairs because the nations were defeated enemies whose entire infrastructure and systems of government had been destroyed in bloody conflict. Those conditions tend to create a pacific people who willingly accept a new order so that they can resume normal life after many years of horrifying warfare. The terrific generosity of the west, particularly the US, after WWII was a unique historical moment in which the victors treated the vanquished with respect and committed to rebuilding those societies as soon as possible. It wasn't, of course, because we were good and they were evil --- it was because we had learned the lessons of WWI the hard way --- and becuase we were building a bulwark against the Soviets.

Any historical parallels between our unprovoked, pre-emptive invasion and occupation of Iraq and post war occupations of Europe and japan existed only in the fevered wet dreams of the keyboard commandos and their neocon comic book heroes --- like Condi Rice who characterized WWII as the US "liberating the Germans from Hitler."

Marshall's column was another of the many, many warnings that were given back in the beginning of the war that these cakewalk-in-the-sky notions of what is actually required to make a foreign occupation be as successful as the aftermath of WWII were ridiculous. Contrary to Reynolds' profoundly dishonest characterization, Marshall wasn't advocating massive violence against the Iraqis, he was saying that because we were rightly unwilling to unleash hell on a civilan population for anything less than existential reasons, the occupation would not work. And he was right, just like all of us who pointed out that this grotesque comparison between WWII and the illegal invasion of Iraq was not only immoral and counterproductive, but doomed to fail on its face because of the sophomoric delusions of those who were dreaming of glory and tribute from the safety of their Barcaloungers.

Meanwhile, these same great global strategists are now truly advocating ultraviolence in the mid-east and calling it "birth pangs." I don't think "wanker" is adequate to describe such people.


Encroachment and the Force of Empire (and Oil)

by poputonian

The mix is a little different today.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, the essential stakes were the abundant natural resources of North America, and the ostensible possessors of it were the Native Americans. The encroachers were the New Americans and their system of competitive trade, which paid premiums to anyone in a dominant position. To become dominant in America required settlement and expansion; to accomplish expansion required land. In 1758, an Ohio Valley Indian said this to an English missionary (source):

"We have great reason to believe you intend to drive us away, and settle the country; or else, why do you come to fight in the land that God has given us?"
"Why don’t you and the French fight in the old country, and on the sea? Why do you come to fight on our land? This makes everybody believe you want to take the land from us by force, and settle it."

It was true then, that gaining control of the land would require coercion, something best done systematically through the vehicle of trade and in the name of freedom. Writing in the mid-1990s, historian R. Douglas Hurt (source above) tells of the futility in making any resistance to the force of empire:

"White settlers and traders aggressively pushed into that region and prevented accommodation between the British and the Ohio Indians. These "Frontier People" sought not accommodation with the Ohio Indians but rather their removal. Compromise did not enter their thoughts, and magnanimity never governed their actions. Respecting personal freedom more than law and advocating their right to take unused land rather than to await negotiated settlements with trans-Appalachian Indians, these frontier people moved relentlessly into the Ohio Valley. By 1774, approximately fifty thousand whites lived on the trans-Appalachian frontier, and the British army could not control them. By that time, the British no longer remained the principal enemy of the Ohio Indians. Instead it was the relentless westward-moving Americans.

The paragraph below describes the manner in which the said force of empire deals with any attempt to resist it. This comes from another historian, also writing before 9/11, who tells how the British brain trust, along with the New Americans, discerned that they were opposed in North America by an organized conspiracy:

"How else, Amherst and his colleagues wondered, could so many diverse Indian groups have acted in concert against them? The British, trapped within their understanding of the Indians as childlike, violent creatures, could not explain what had happened to them in the west unless they could stipulate a French conspiracy behind it all. They never understood that the evidently synchronized attacks were loosely coordinated local revolts, all responding to the common stimuli of conquest, white encroachment, and Amherst's Indian policies, all animated by a religious revival with pan-Indian overtones, and all motivated by the desire to restore to North America a sympathetic European power to act as a counterpoise to the British and their numerous, aggressive colonists."

Hurt also noted that the Indian resistance " ... popularly known as the "conspiracy of Pontiac" ... should be more appropriately known as a "Defensive War" or as a war for independence by western Indians."

Everyone knows the rest of this particular story.

Today, the mix is different. It's oil instead of land, and a different opposing culture instead of Indians. But the alchemy is identical. It's the American system of unrestrained trade and a society dependent on a natural resource (oil) for its continued dominance; trade dominance, cultural dominance, material dominance, and religious dominance. Whatever brutal force is required to suppress anyone with an impulse to resist has become the de facto foreign policy. It's a foreign policy that fosters encroachment and builds empire. It's also a foreign policy that leverages the ambiguous qualities of liberty and freedom to ostensibly justify its violent suppression of any resistance. The President of the United States said so yesterday:

And so we have, we've taken a foreign policy that says: On the one hand, we will protect ourselves from further attack in the short run by being aggressive in chasing down the killers and bringing them to justice.

And make no mistake: They're still out there, and they would like to harm our respective peoples because of what we stand for.

In the long term, to defeat this ideology - and they're bound by an ideology - you defeat it with a more hopeful ideology called freedom.

And, look, I fully understand some people don't believe it's possible for freedom and democracy to overcome this ideology of hatred. I understand that. I just happen to believe it is possible.

And I believe it will happen.

And so what you're seeing is, you know, a clash of governing styles.

For example, you know, the notion of democracy beginning to emerge scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them.

And so they respond. They've always been violent.

Here's a rewrite of the bolded phrasing that historian Anderson used above:

The British Bush, trapped within their in his understanding of the Indians Arabs as childlike, violent creatures, could not explain what had happened to them in the west America on 9/11 unless they he could stipulate a French an ideological conspiracy behind it all.

Encroachment and empire? Not understood here at home. Oil. Huh?

This is Bush's foreign policy of submit or die. It's happened before with great success.

Well, great success for those in the dominant position.

The Man Is Clear In His Mind, But His Soul Is Mad

by tristero

Apparently, when John Podhoretz read Heart of Darkness he came to the conclusion that Kurtz had the right attitude:
What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?
In other words, as Kurtz memorably wrote, "Exterminate all the brutes." And then Podhoretz asks:
If you can't imagine George W. Bush issuing such an order, is there any American leader you could imagine doing so?
Why yes, John, I can. Commander Jeff Schoep, the leader of the National Socialist Movement would be more than happy to issue such an order. He writes:
It is of tantamount [sic] importance, that each and every one of us as White Patriots be of steel will and determination! I will refer to a quote by a great American NS martyr, Capt. Joseph Tommassi "We must prepare to seize the day". Our Aryan peoples have triumphed throughout history!

A few examples: in Germany we had Adolf Hitler who fought Communism and Jewry (one and the same), in Romania the great Vlad Dracul (who drove the Turks out of his land), in Serbia the great Prince Lazar who repelled the mongrel invaders out of Kosovo, etc.

We are of the Race that drove Genghis Khan and the Huns from Europe, the Race that claimed America, and nearly rid it of the pestilence of the American Indians, the Race that drove the mongrel Mexicans out during the Mexican-American war, and many other glorious accomplishments throughout history!

We have a lot to live up to, as today's White Racial Patriots! ...

Thinking back to what I wrote about being timid, when duty calls. I am not trying to dwell on the issue, I just do not understand the rational [sic]. The will to protect and defend one's own, should be a natural instinct! ...

Whether Movement veteran, or fresh new enlistments, we all must put the collective Racial, and National whole, above self.

An assault on one of us, must be viewed as an assault on all, regardless of Rank, position, group affiliation, etc.
They also have some very groovy desktops John can download for his computer.

Of course, we'd have to persuade Commander Jeff to exterminate young Arabs. He is, after all, a proud anti-Semite but I think that once it's explained to him that Arabs are also not Aryan - and, in fact, Semites - he'll get with the program.

Hat tip to Anonymous in comments, who finds Podhoretz, I'm not kidding here, "insightful."

[UPDATE: Seymour Paine in comments notes that "anti-Semite" was coined specifically to refer to Jews, not *all* folks who speak a Semitic language. He also says that Nazis and Arabs have, historically, been quite friendly. Irregardless and notwithstanding,* once we explain to Commander Jeff why he shouldn't discriminate among kinds of Semites, John Podhoretz will have precisely the kind of American leader he so desperately craves.

*Yes, of course I know they're not words.]

Friday, July 28, 2006

Open Letter To Liberal Hawks

by tristero

Dear Liberal Hawks and other fence sitters from 2002/2003 (you know who you are),

Don't even think about a "thoughtful, measured response" to this bullshit.
President Bush proudly declared that American foreign policy no longer seeks to “manage calm,” and derided policies that let anger and resentment lie “beneath the surface.” Bush said that the violence in the Middle East was evidence of a more effective foreign policy that addresses “root causes.”
This is sheer, abject lunacy of the sort that imagined the invasion of Iraq would lead to city squares in Iraq named after George W. Bush and the invasion would pay for itself out of oil revenues. The only appropriate reaction is to very loudly proclaim this is the reasoning of madmen. No rational human being thinks like this.

Your credibility has been ruined already by falling for the preposterous lies and rationalizations prior to the Iraq invasion. If you take this seriously, your immortal soul is majorly on the line. While I'm enjoying an eternity of Mozart, Bach, and Howling Wolf, you will be suffering the unbearable agony of exposure to Kenny G, 24/7. Forever. You don't want to risk that, trust me.

Repeat: there are no serious issues to be "engaged" in Bush's latest drooling remarks. The people who came up with an American foreign policy based on addressing "root causes" and no longer managing calm need straitjackets. Neither they, nor you, nor the rest of the world will benefit by opportunities to discuss these sick delusions. Under no circumstances should you try to do so.

I hope I've made myself clear.



[UPDATE: Here's Ilana Mercer of The American Spectator telling us about the sheer hypocrisy of the search for "root causes:"
The paradox at the heart of the root-causes fraud is that causal theoretical explanations are invoked only after bad deeds have been committed. Good deeds have no need of mitigating circumstances...
Sounds about right.]

Swinging Them By The Tail

by digby

Bush's press conference with Blair today was even more frightening in its arrogant incoherence than usual:

QUESTION: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, with support apparently growing among the Arab population, both Shiite and Sunni, for Hezbollah, by bounds, is there a risk that every day that goes by without a cease-fire will tip this conflict into a wider war?

And, Mr. President, when Secretary Rice goes back to the region, would she have any new instructions, such as meeting with Syrians?

BUSH: Her instructions are to work with Israel and Lebanon to get a -- to come up with an acceptable U.N. Security Council resolution that we can table next week.

And, secondly, it's really important for people to understand that the terrorists are trying to stop the advance of freedom. And, therefore, it's essential that we do what's right -- not necessarily what appears to be immediately popular.

There's a lot of suffering in Lebanon because Hezbollah attacked Israel. There's a lot of suffering in the Palestinian territory because militant Hamas is trying to stop the advance of democracy. There is suffering in Iraq because terrorists are trying to spread sectarian violence and stop the spread of democracy.

And now is the time for the free world to work to create the conditions so that people everywhere can have hope. And those are the stakes. That's what we face right now. We've got a plan to deal with this immediate crisis.

It's one of the reasons the prime minister came, to talk about that plan. But the stakes are larger than just Lebanon.

Isn't it interesting that when Prime Minister Olmert starts to reach out to President Abbas to develop a Palestinian state, militant Hamas creates the conditions so that, you know, there's a crisis, and then Hezbollah follows up?

Isn't it interesting, as a democracy takes hold in Iraq, that Al Qaeda steps up its efforts to murder and bomb in order to stop the democracy?

And so one of the things that the people in the Middle East must understand is that we're working to create the conditions of hope and opportunity for all of them. And we'll continue to do that. This is the challenge of the 21st century

I remember as a child a strange little neighbor girl who was found in her backyard swinging her cat by the tail against the sidewalk screaming "you're gonna love me!"

I'm pretty sure it didn't work.

Update: Oh. My. Dear. God.

Q: Mr. President, both of you, I'd like to ask you about the big picture that you're discussing.

Mr. President, three years ago, you argued that an invasion of Iraq would create a new stage of Arab-Israeli peace. And yet today there is an Iraqi prime minister who has been sharply critical of Israel.

Arab governments, despite your arguments, who first criticized Hezbollah, have now changed their tune. Now they're sharply critical of Israel.

And despite from both of you warnings to Syria and Iran to back off support from Hezbollah, effectively, Mr. President, your words are being ignored.

So what has happened to America's clout in this region that you've committed yourself to transform?

Bush: David, it's an interesting period because, instead of having foreign policies based upon trying to create a sense of stability, we have a foreign policy that addresses the root causes of violence and instability.

For a while, American foreign policy was just, Let's hope everything is calm - kind of, managed calm. But beneath the surface brewed a lot of resentment and anger that was manifested on September the 11th.

And so we have, we've taken a foreign policy that says: On the one hand, we will protect ourselves from further attack in the short run by being aggressive in chasing down the killers and bringing them to justice.

And make no mistake: They're still out there, and they would like to harm our respective peoples because of what we stand for.

In the long term, to defeat this ideology - and they're bound by an ideology - you defeat it with a more hopeful ideology called freedom.

And, look, I fully understand some people don't believe it's possible for freedom and democracy to overcome this ideology of hatred. I understand that. I just happen to believe it is possible.

And I believe it will happen.

And so what you're seeing is, you know, a clash of governing styles.

For example, you know, the notion of democracy beginning to emerge scares the ideologues, the totalitarians, those who want to impose their vision. It just frightens them.

And so they respond. They've always been violent.

You know, I hear this amazing kind of editorial thought that says, all of a sudden, Hezbollah's become violent because we're promoting democracy. They have been violent for a long period of time. Or Hamas?

One reason why the Palestinians still suffer is because there are militants who refuse to accept a Palestinian state based upon democratic principles.

And so what the world is seeing is a desire by this country and our allies to defeat the ideology of hate with an ideology that has worked and that brings hope.

And one of the challenges, of course, is to convince people that Muslims would like to be free, you know, that there's other people other than people in Britain and America that would like to be free in the world.

There's this kind of almost – you know, kind of a weird kind of elitism that says well maybe - maybe certain people in certain parts of the world shouldn't be free; maybe it's best just to let them sit in these tyrannical societies.

And our foreign policy rejects that concept. We don't accept it. And so we're working.

Eating Their Lunch

by digby

I've long speculated that one of the biggest miscalculations of the war in Iraq was exploding the American mystique of military and intelligence superiority. It's like that old saying "It is better to remain quiet and thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." It's better to hold your fire and be thought weak than attack for no good reason and remove all doubt.

But at least America had decades of post war success to draw upon and diplomatic and economic clout to employ even as it degraded its reputation in all those areas. Israel, on the other hand, is entirely dependent upon its military superiority and this ill-fated overreation in Lebanon is exploding that image:

Here's Christopher Dickey in Newsweek:

The bottom line: Hizbullah is winning. That’s the hideous truth about the direction this war is taking, not in spite of the way the Israelis have waged their counterattack, but precisely because of it. As my source Mr. Frankly put it, “Hizbullah is eating their lunch.”

We’re talking about a militia—a small guerrilla army of a few thousand fighters, in fact—that plays all the dirty games that guerrillas always play. It blends in with the local population. It draws fire against innocents. But it’s also fighting like hell against an Israeli military machine that is supposed to be world class. And despite the onslaught of the much-vaunted Tsahal, Hizbullah continues to pepper Israel itself with hundreds of rockets a day.

The United States, following Israel’s lead, does not want an immediate ceasefire precisely because that would hand Hizbullah a classic guerrilla-style victory: it started this fight against a much greater military force—and it’s still standing. In the context of a region where vast Arab armies have been defeated in days, for a militia to hold out one week, two weeks and more, is seen as heroic. Hizbullah is the aggressor, the underdog and the noble survivor, all at once. “It’s that deadly combination of the expectation game, which Hizbullah have won, and the victim game, which they’ve also won,” as my straight-talking friend put it.


When I heard Condi talking in pitiless academic pieties today about “strong and robust” mandates and “dedicated and urgent action,” I actually felt sorry for her, for our government, and for Israel. As in Iraq three years ago, the administration has been blinded to the political realities by shock-and-awe military firepower. Clinging to its faith in precision-guided munitions and cluster bombs, it has decided to let Lebanon bleed, as if that’s the way to build the future for peace and democracy.

I'm not sure I really get why the US and Israel haven't yet come to terms with the fact that this fourth generation war cannot be won with classic military action. I suspect it is the neocon influence which, throughout many decades, never gave a passing thought to terrorism or assymetrical warfare. They have been stuck in a cold war mindset (a mindset that was wrong about the cold war too) and have consistently seen the world through the prism of rogue totalitarian states. This is why, in spite of the fact that everything is going to hell in a handbasket in a hundred different ways, they persist in focusing on Iran (formerly Iraq) and ignoring all the moving parts that make their aggressive plans to "confront" these regimes simpleminded and doomed to failure.

For Israel and the US it couldn't be worse. They have systematically chipped away at any moral authority they had while demonstrating that their military, diplomatic and economic power are paper tigers. What an excellent strategy for all concerned. Oh, and too bad about all the dead bodies that have been produced to create that sad outcome.


Maybe They'll Just Go Away

Las Vegas Makes It Illegal to Feed Homeless in Parks

“But if you want to help somebody, people can go to McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken and give them a meal.”
The city, Mr. Reese added, had just spent $1.7 million in landscaping
Las Vegas, whose homeless population has doubled in the past decade to about 12,000 people ... adopted ... ordinances ... to discourage homeless people from ... ruining efforts to beautify ... "

Landscape blemishes.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Not So Favorite Son

by digby

In case you missed this little tid-bit earlier, Tom Tomorrow deftly took down Andrew Sullivan's lame attempt to proclaim that Joe Lieberman is actually quite popular in Connecticut. Among other things, he pointed out this little factoid I hadn't seen before:

One last thing: you hear a lot from lazy media types about how very popular Joe is here in Connecticut. Well, here’s a small reality check: in the 2004 Super Tuesday presidential primary in Connecticut, John Kerry got 58% of the vote. John Edwards came in second with a respectable 24%.

Joe Lieberman, meanwhile, came in third with five percent of the vote, here in the state in which he is so very popular.

Was there anyone who did that badly in his home state? It's true that he wasn't running any longer, but Dean actually won his primary that day and he'd already suspended his campaign. Kucinich got 9% in Ohio. Usually a favorite son will at least get a respectable loyalty vote from members of his local machine.

Joementum's problems became manifest in that campaign and it's why he's in trouble now. His Republican talking points, particularly on the war, were the last straw for a lot of grassroots Democrats --- many of them, apparently, in his own state.

How embarrassing for him.

Bending The GWOT

by digby

In a preview at Arthur's of an upcoming post about Alan Dershowitz's suggestion that we civilized westerners develop a new way of defining collective punishment so as to be able to kill civilians with impunity, I noted this quote from an Israeli official:

Mr Ramon - a close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - said "everyone understands that a victory for Hezbollah is a victory for world terror".

"World terror" huh? How convenient for all of us then that the Israelis are fightin' 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em over here. No wonder we rushed in those delayed missiles. We can't let "world terror" win fergawdsake!

It's in such nonsensical talk that we see the logic of the GWOT brought home in all its magnificent horror. People are fighting "world terror" everywhere --- except where they aren't.

Michael Hirsh has written an article in Newsweek about this topic and examines why this conflation of the threat of al Qaeda with a Global War on Terror first created the insurgency in Iraq and now threatens to set the entire mid-east on fire:

What's sad is that the "war on terror" began as a fairly straightforward affair. Al Qaeda hit us. Then we went after Al Qaeda. The enemy was clear, and the evidence against Al Qaeda was solid: there was a decade's worth of fatwas, of declarations of war, monitored conversations and bin Laden's own monstrous bragging, on videotape, about how the World Trade Center collapse had far exceeded his expectations. We had a lot of support around the world in pursuit of our mission to hunt these men down, kill them or capture them and do with them as we pleased.

But inexorably, month by month, the Bush administration broadened the war on terror to include ever more peoples and countries, especially Saddam's Iraq, relying on thinner and thinner evidence to do so. And what began as a hunt for a relatively contained group of self-declared murderers like bin Laden became a feckless dragnet of tens of thousands of hapless Arab victims like the sons of the hostel owner in Samarra, the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or terror, just as Saddam had little to do with Al Qaeda, just as the Iraqi insurgency had little to do with Al Qaeda (at least at the start), just as Hizbullah has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. And as the war broadened beyond reason, and the world questioned the legitimacy of the enterprise, our friends dropped away. Worse, we have found ourselves making enemies in the Islamic world faster than we could round them up or kill them.

Yes, the war against Al Qaeda called for a stretching and changing of the rules. We had to be ruthless with the maniacs who struck us on 9/11. But for that very reason, it required that we be very precise in identifying the enemy. Just the opposite occurred. "You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," President Bush declared on Sept. 25, 2002, as he made the case for the Iraq invasion. This was the kind of thing Bush often repeated as he sought to wheel the nation 90 degrees, in the middle of the fight against Al Qaeda, toward Iraq. The truth was quite the contrary: not only could you distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam, it was imperative that you do so, that you wage this fight with precision analysis as much as precision weaponry. We could not afford to let our soldiers see all military-age men as potential enemies.

Today, more from the muddled strategic thinking of the Bush administration than the actual threat from Al Qaeda, the "war on terror" has become an Orwellian nightmare: an ill-defined war without prospect of end. We are now nearly five years into a war against a group that was said to contain no more then 500 to 1,000 terrorists at the start (in case anyone's counting, 1,776 days have now passed since 9/11; that is more than a full year longer than the time between Pearl Harbor and the surrender of Japan, which was 1,347 days). The war just grows and grows. And now Lebanon, too, is part of it.

This is the Bush Doctrine at work. He said it explicitly:

We've sent a message that is understood throughout the world: if you harbor a terrorist, if you support a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists.

It didn't take much to extrapolate from that that anyone who lived near a "terrorist" or worked along side a "terrorist" or who even looked like a "terrorist" was just as guilty as a terrorist. Alan Dershowitz has recently expanded on that notion by saying that those who do not fight against the terrorists in their midst, or flee their homes if terrorists are among them, must also share the blame for these terrorists' actions.

The only thing that was left out of all this was a definition of terrorism.**

Hirsh points out in his article how this played out during the first years of the occupation of Iraq, a country we were ostensibly liberating from --- you guessed it --- terror:

Reading "Fiasco," Thomas Ricks's devastating new book about the Iraq war, brought back memories for me. Memories of going on night raids in Samarra in January 2004, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, with the Fourth Infantry Division units that Ricks describes. During these raids, confused young Americans would burst into Iraqi homes, overturn beds, dump out drawers, and summarily arrest all military-age men—actions that made them unwitting recruits for the insurgency.

For American soldiers battling the resistance throughout Iraq, the unspoken rule was that all Iraqis were guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings were arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis had no recourse whatever to justice. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have one furious, traumatized population. And a country out of control.

In Lebanon today:

"Over here, everybody is the army," one soldier said. "Everybody is Hezbollah. There's no kids, women, nothing."

Another soldier put it plainly: "We're going to shoot anything we see."

And so another front in the GWOT is opened.

Hirsh continues:

In strategic terms, the U.S. endorsement of Israel's retaliation against Hizbullah had some merit at the start, within limits: a Lebanon with an armed Hizbullah in its midst was never going to graduate to real democracy. The Israeli action is also, in a way, a proxy war against Iran and its nuclear program. Reducing Iran's influence in the region by degrading the power of its principal means of terror (and therefore of retaliation) is in America's interest, as well. This is the unspoken logic both of the fierce Israeli assault and Bush's fierce defense of it: "In the back of everyone's head is Iran looming as a threat over the region," says one Israeli official."In the back of everyone's head is Iran looming as a threat over the region," says one Israeli official.

But with each errant bomb that kills more Lebanese children, the U.S. position becomes less defensible. By walking in lockstep with the Israelis, we Americans make it impossible for Muslims not to see us as an enemy. And every Muslim official knows, even if Bush does not, that Hizbullah is not identical with Iran but is a client of it, in a relationship not unlike that of the United States and Israel. By making Israel's war our own we ensure that the Lebanese group and the Tehran mullahs will be even closer allies in the future. We place the Muslims whom we desperately need as allies, like Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in an impossible position. Maliki, a Shiite, can no longer stand with Bush, as he showed during his tense visit to Washington this week.

I suspect one reason Newt Gingrich and his fellow nutballs are working overtime to get this WWIII business playing in people's heads is because to Americans the GWOT remains vague and ill-defined. They have yet to sign on to this existential struggle against well --- everybody, or at least a bunch of people they don't even know, forever. Are the French terrorists? They must be because we are supposed to hate them. How about the Mexicans who are invading our borders? Newt keeps bringing up Venezuela as part of our epic struggle against terrorism. And North Korea is a charter member of the Axis 'o Evil, so we know they are terrorists.

Who are we fighting again?

I suspect that many Americans are now so confused they simply think "they're all a bunch of terrorists" and wish a pox on all their houses. And with the logic of the GWOT they are all a bunch of terrorists. But then with the logic of the GWOT, we are the biggest terrorists of all.

*** I should add that the idea of creating a legal definiton of "terrorism" was advanced from early days after 9/11 by Wes Clark and others who noted that this elastic definition was a recipe for trouble. It even became an agenda item at the UN Millenium Summit --- which was tabled immediately upon John Bolton's appointment. In keeping with the overall philosophy of the Bush administration, they obviously recognized that the less they are required to conform to recognized legal norms the more they can wage war against "World Terror."

Billmon Again

by tristero

Jeez, that guy can write. Magnificent.

One comment. Billmon writes about the disgusting "exterminate all the brutes" mindset, and behavior, of the Israeli army:
This all might be considered normal military behavior for, oh say, a Bosnian Serb militia captain, circa 1991, but when the political and military leaders of an allegedly civilized state start talking this way, something big is going on, and going wrong.
Yes, indeed, something big is going on. It's the opening skirmishes of a Middle East - wide war, brought to you by the losers who gave the world Iraq 2006.

And brother, is it ever going wrong.

Can an enormous, dreadful, and pointless war be averted? Yes, but it will require an American opposition to Bush willing to speak truth loudly, not a party so terrified of upsetting Americans' beautiful minds it doesn't have the courage to put the Iraq war and Bush's mad behavior front and center.
What Matters To The Media, And What Doesn't

by tristero

For those who think that things are much better in the mainstream media since the disgraceful selling of the New Product in fall 2002 through March '03, Media Matters today will set y'all straight. Two reports about television stood out.

Here's who the tv folks DON'T think are important for you to hear from.

And here's who they do.

Kinda makes you sick to your stomach, doesn't it? Now I know there's a fine line between entertainment and news, but first of all it ain't *that* fine. Second of all, none of this is entertaining.

Meanwhile, am I the only one who's noticed the all the shameless puff pieces disguised as reporting on John Bolton, despite the fact that he is universally loathed and has accomplished next to nothing except the impossible, namely to make the US even more of a laughingstock internationally than it already was?
Keeping it Straight

by digby

For those of you who are having trouble keeping track of all the allegiances among the various countries, groups, militias and terrorists in the mid-east, Slate put together a handy dandy interactive Middle East Buddy List

Chi Sandwich

by digby

Ezra expertly slices and dices TimesSelect:

Wandering through the nation's op-ed pages is like ambling through a dojo. Each writer has his own particular style, technique, finishing move. There's Tom Friedman, who rushes in with the Implausible Conversational Anecdote, links it to an Off-Topic Invocation Of World Travels, and finishes you with a Confusing Metaphor From Above. Or there's Maureen Dowd, who deploys Unfounded Personal Speculation mixed with Confusing Allegories till she's set up her killing blow: Insinuation of Character Defect. It's impressive stuff.

The deadliest op-ed columnist, however, is unquestionably David Brooks. He's the drunken boxer of the opinion page, luring you into a false sense of security with Banal Observations that comfort through Faux Bipartisanship until you're ready for the Illogical Conservative Conclusion. Today's column is an archetypal example of the master at work: a series of cogent critiques of Hillary Clinton's college aid proposals that effortlessly glide through research demonstrating their uselessness, a couple lavish compliments to Clinton and her team, and finally a conclusion that explains the only way to increase college attendance is to encourage two-parent homes, fundamentally reform schools, and increase church-sponsored mentoring programs. Funny thing -- this is exactly the rightwing's agenda! And yet it comes wrapped in such warm bipartisanship and elevated chin stroking that you'd never notice Newt Gingrich silently mouthing along in the background.

And then there's Krugman who wanders in from the alley and while the other columnists are practicing their qigong he just plants a facer on the opposition.

Destroy The Village In Order To Save It: Part Deux

by digby

"Our mission and our goal is to have a lasting peace -- not a temporary peace, but something that lasts," said Bush. "We want a sustainable ceasefire. We don't want something that's, you know, short term in duration."

This is the middle east he's talking about. Apparently somebody has told him that getting a lasting peace there is just a matter of resolve. If only people hadn't accepted all these temporary ceasefires in the past, everything would have been straightened out by now. (He's not saying they wouldn't have gotten their hair mussed...)

I know he's just an idiot who doesn't even have the barest grasp of simple logic. But when children are being killed and maimed, you'd think they could at least have the foresight to come up with a talking point that doesn't make "collateral damage" sound like a moral concept by comparison. This idea that in order to achieve longterm peace you can't have a temporary ceasefire is gibberish, yes, --- but it is immoral too. Apparently, he really doesn't grasp the fact that during a "short-term" ceasefire actual human beings are not being killed --- real people with jobs and homes and lives and everything.

I think that one of the sad consequences of Democrats being so hapless these last few years is that these silly Republicans have gotten it into their heads that the whole world works like the American political system. If you humiliate your enemy enough, they will become like "neutered barnyard animals" who will happily go along with their second class status. But that only works when the other side is comfortable and fat and enjoying the perks of the status quo as much as the victors. In the real world this is a very provocative and dangerous way to try to manage human events. It tends to create hatreds that can't be mitigated by a nice slice of political pork down the road.

I've always been quite fond of this statement by Bush back in 2001, which I think perfectly reflects his temperament:

The American people must understand when I said that we need to be patient, that I meant it. And we're going to be there for a while. I don't know the exact moment when we leave, David, but it's not until the mission is complete. The world must know that this administration will not blink in the face of danger and will not tire when it comes to completing the missions that we said we would do. The world will learn that when the United States is harmed, we will follow through. The world will see that when we put a coalition together that says "Join us," I mean it. And when I ask others to participate, I mean it.

That's been working out really well for us, don't you think?

That was at the zenith of Bush's post bullhorn power and I don't think he's progressed one moment past that point. When you combine it with the neocon obsession with war as the answer for every problem, you get an administration that sees sustained violence as the only way to achieve lasting peace and that the problem in the middle east is that there just hasn't been enough of it over the years.

It's as if "1984" were true, except that Big Brother is a hulking, braindead thug.


by digby

Via Laura Rozen I found this startling foreign policy index from the Democratic Policy Committee. Rozen and Democracy Arsenal highlighted a few of the items pertaining to Iraq:

Number of Iraqis who had access to potable water before invasion: 13 million

Number of Iraqis who have access to potable water, according to the April 2006 SIGIR report: 8 million

Number of Iraqi physicians registered prior to the invasion: 34,000

Number of Iraqi physicians who have been murdered or fled the country since the invasion: 14,000

Infant mortality rate in Iraq: (Middle East average is 37, sub-Saharan Africa average is 105): 102

Average number of daily attacks by insurgents in June 2004: 45
Average number of daily attacks by insurgents in June 2006: 90

Rank of Iraq on the “failed states” index: 4

Rank of Afghanistan on the “failed states” index: 10

Rank of Iraq among all nations as a training ground for terrorists:1

The last we heard from Joe Lieberman, (who isn't talking about foreign policy on the campaign trail, apparently) was that there was tremendous progress being made in Iraq, especially on the political front. Here's the index on the political situation:

Amount requested by the President in his Fiscal Year 2007 budget for democracy promotion in Iraq: 0

Percent of Iraqis who say they are optimistic about their future: 30 percent

According to a recent World Public Opinion poll, percent of Iraqis who approve of a timeline for U.S. withdrawal: 70 percent

Degree of corruption in Iraq on the Transparency International 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index (on a scale of 0-10, with 0 representing “highly corrupt” and 10 representing “highly clean”): 2.2

Number of corruption cases that have been filed since the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity was established in 2004: 1,400

Approximate number of Iraqi families internally displaced as of February 2006 (prior to February 22 bombing of Shiite shrine in Samarra): 3,000

Approximate number of Iraqi families internally displaced as of June 2006, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration: 21,731 or 130,386 people

Number of Iraqi civilians killed in May, according to data from the Iraqi Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue: 2,669

Number of Iraqi civilians killed in June, according to data from the Iraqi Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue: 3,149

Civilian death toll in Iraq in June 2006: 100 per day

Rank of Iraq in Minority Rights Group International’s list of peoples most under threat from persecution, discrimination, and mass killing: 1

The number of passports issued in the past ten months, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees:2 million

Percent of Iraq’s professional class that has left the country since late 2003:40 percent

You have to wonder what it would have looked like if it were going badly.

Update: The Poorman has a post up about one of those displaced Iraqis --- a catblogger named Raghda, whose family finally gave up and left the country.