Before we trembling, ever-fearful Americans lash out around the world once again with our low-risk (low to us, that is) bombings, we might usefully pause to gain a little perspective. Let us put aside for the moment the hysterical excursions into the trendy geopolitical speculations of highly paid but low-information dabblers such as the Times’s David Brooks.
Let’s also pass over their unhelpful invocation of “hegemony” for every entity that would presume to challenge our own hegemony. Let’s agree likewise that the current fatuous name-calling — “autocrat” is today’s favorite epithet, “dictator” apparently having been deemed old-fashioned — is the substitute for analysis that it is. Instead, let’s calm down and meditate on the triggers of today’s alarums.
Item: The turmoil in Ukraine was started by popular — and initially nonviolent — protests against corruption in the country’s governance. That a neighboring autocrat took opportunistic advantage of that uprising and of inherent nationalistic divisions is an adventitious byproduct of that trigger.
Item: The fighting in Syria was somewhat similarly initiated by popular opposition to that country’s dictatorial governance. The opposition was nonviolent at first. Not surprisingly, given the religious divisions common throughout the Middle East and North Africa — the opposition has evolved into a more complex composition.
Item: The current chaotic situation in Libya was triggered by a popular uprising, largely nonviolent in its earliest days, against the country’s dictator and the corruption surrounding him. Other unrest in the region around the same time, first in Egypt and then especially in Tunisia, was likewise initially popular in origin.
Item: Today’s advances that the Sunni-based al-Queda-like ISIS is making into much of Iraq (and, we are told, they had been making from across the Syrian border for a year or more) were essentially triggered de novo by ... oh, dear, not by popular uprising, but by a series of unintended consequences of our own fraudulent “Just do it” invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq in 2003.
Not the least of those consequences is the quite predictable but also virulent anti-Sunni bias of our default puppet there, the Shiite and once-and-future Iranian fellow-traveler, Maliki. While ISIS may be leveraging the toxic effects of Maliki’s bias to their own advantage among Sunni Iraqis, the resulting popular discontent among the Sunni peoples in Iraq is what has enabled that. (Seven or eight years ago, the practical-minded, non-geopolitician Joe Biden said he thought Iraq would end up one way or another split into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd -- and did he ever get shit dumped on him for that.)
Our own nation was more or less founded in an outburst of popular discontent. Shouldn’t we maybe, kinda, sorta be reassured that popular discontent — We the People — is now showing itself elsewhere in the world? (That there happen to be violent reactions to those shows of popular discontent should not surprise us, or even the amateur geopoliticians such as Brooks or fearless warriors of the podium such as Senator Graham and the always-wrong William Kristol.)
But wait! Is popular discontent starting to show itself again here in the United States as well? Please hold off on the bombs, guys, so we can take stock of our own house first.
President Obama himself seems to be the one about to cross the red line — that same red line we’ve crossed so many, many times before:
The United States will “shortly” begin arming Syrian rebels, looking to boost moderate factions over al-Qaida-affiliated extremists whose rise would be a national security “nightmare,” the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CBS News on Tuesday.
“I do think we’ll be arming the opposition shortly,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said in an interview. “We’re doing a lot more there on the ground than really is known, but we do have to change the equation.”
I just have 20 short words for the president: Indonesia, Haiti, Chile, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Angola, Zaire, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Just to name a few victims of our never-ending mission to force “democracy“ on the natives.
The invariant rule, Mr. President, goes as follows: When you take the wrong train, every station you reach is the wrong one.
…not that we ever knew, or knowing, cared.
“In Iraq, the US record speaks for itself: it backed Saddam’s party, the Ba’ath, to capture power in 1963, murdering thousands of socialists, communists and democrats; it backed the Ba’ath party in 1968 when Saddam was installed as vice-president; it helped him and the Shah of Iran in 1975 to crush the Kurdish nationalist movement; it increased its support for Saddam in 1979…helping him launch his war of aggression against Iran in 1980; it backed him throughout the horrific eight years of war (1980 to 1988), in which a million Iranians and Iraqis were slaughtered, in the full knowledge that he was using chemical weapons and gassing Kurds and Marsh Arabs; it encouraged him in 1990 to invade Kuwait…; it backed him in 1991 when Bush [senior] suddenly stopped the war, exactly 24 hours after the start of the great March uprising that engulfed the south and Iraqi Kurdistan…”
Tomas Young, paralyzed in Iraq by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (among millions of others; you know who you are), is in hospice care committing slow suicide. Chris Hedges writes about his decision in Truthdig:
Young joined the Army immediately after 9/11 to go to Afghanistan and hunt down the people behind the attacks. He did not oppose the Afghanistan war. “In fact, if I had been injured in Afghanistan, there would be no ‘Body of War’ movie to begin with,” he said. But he never understood the call to invade Iraq. “When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor we didn’t invade China just because they looked the same,” he said.
He became increasingly depressed about his impending deployment to Iraq when he was in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He asked the battalion doctor for antidepressants. The doctor said he had to meet first with the unit’s chaplain, who told him, “I think you will be happier when you get over to Iraq and start killing Iraqis.”
Andrew Bacevich is one of the clearest and deepest voices against the war machine the United States has become. A retired Army colonel with a Ph.D. from Princeton whose son was killed in the Iraq war which he opposed, he’s now a professor of international relations at Boston University.
This combination of experience and education positions him perfectly to observe and reflect on the tenth anniversary of the second Bush war against Iraq. Training and inclination give a historical tint to his perspective, and I highly recommend the WaPo article.
Next year marks the centennial of the conflict once known as the Great War. Germany lost that war. Whether France and Britain can be said to have won in any meaningful sense is another matter. Besides planting the seeds for an even more horrific bloodletting just two decades later, the fighting of 1914-1918 served chiefly to provide expansion-minded British politicians with a pretext for carving up the Ottoman Empire. It proved a fateful move.
What London wanted from this new Middle East that it nonchalantly cut and pasted was profit and submission; what it got was resentment and resistance, yielding a host of intractable problems that in due time it bequeathed to Washington. In effect, victory in 1918 expanded Britain’s imperial domain only to accelerate its demise, with the United States naively assuming the mantle of imperial responsibility (euphemistically termed “leadership”). Thank you, Perfidious Albion.
Many another storied triumph has contained its own poison pill. More recent examples include the Six Day War, which saddled Israel with a large, restive minority that it can neither pacify nor assimilate; the ouster of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, giving rise to the Taliban; and Operation Desert Storm, after which the garrisoning of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia helped light the long fuse that would eventually detonate on Sept. 11, 2001.
Think you’ve won? Wait until all the returns are in.
McCain recently tried to use his beloved Surge in Iraq to convict Hagel of incompetence as a potential SecDef, though of course the real issue was that Hagel didn’t endorse McCain in 2008. Bacevich compares the surge to Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans. It was indeed a great victory on the battlefield, but as the returns filtered in Gibbon’s words were recalled.
Such is the empire of Fortune (if we may still disguise our ignorance under that popular name), that it is almost equally difficult to foresee the events of war or to explain their various consequences. A bloody and complete victory has sometimes yielded no more than possession of the field; and the loss of ten thousand men has sometimes been sufficient to destroy, in a single day, the work of ages.
Jackson’s signature victory, of couse, took place two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the War of 1812. And McCain’s surge made no difference in the outcome of the war, though of course it killed more Americans. It also caused Americans to kill more Iraqis, and to me it appears that the most underplayed aspect of the story in accounts I’ve been reading is the animosity provoked throughout the Middle East by the three Bush wars, two on Iraq and one on Afghanistan. Bacevich speculates that the entire second war on Iraq will be seen by historians as not very important, like the War of 1812, except that the War of 1812 left us with a national anthem. Even the importance of the American empire is fading in comparison to the rising literacy and production and general capabilities of the rest of the world.
In what has become one of the most momentous stories of the 21st century, the inhabitants of the Islamic world are asserting the prerogative of determining their own destinies. Intent on doing things their way, they are increasingly intolerant of foreign interference. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington sought to revalidate an altogether different prerogative, one pioneered by Britain: an entitlement to meddle.
Britain never learned its lesson; and hubris attracts Nemesis, in this case history, the great teacher. What about the US, will we learn from Britain’s example? Not yet. As Bacevich puts it, “Sure, American troops captured Baghdad and overthrew Saddam Hussein. So what?”
Back in 1947, the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine kicked off Washington’s effort to put its imprint on the Greater Middle East, while affirming that Britain’s exit from the region had begun. U.S. power was going to steer events in directions favorable to U.S. interests. That effort now seems likely to have run its course. The United States finds itself today pretty much where the British were back in the 1920s and 1930s. We’ve bitten off more than we can chew. The only problem is that there’s no readily available sucker to whom we can hand off the mess we’ve managed to create.
Still, we have made some progress: compare McCain’s fate with Jackson’s.
The late Al Weisel, blogging as Jon Swift, used to run a best blog posts of the year feature, selected by the bloggers themselves. Below is mine for 2007, as I am reminded by Vagabond Scholar. I had completely forgotten the post but it seems to me to hold up, and so I reprint it in an excess of immodesty. And as a demonstration of Plus ça change… And to prove I am smarter than Muammar Qaddafi, who would be alive today if he had listened to me:
In the current Newsweek Evan Thomas has an unusually vapid review of a book by Andrew Roberts which may or may not be equally vapid, depending on how accurately Thomas has described it. The review is in a section called “Ideas,” and here is Thomas’s: People who speak English are really, really special, and the rest of you owe us a really, really lot.
This idea is hardly worth engaging, and so let’s pass on to one which is worth engaging — although only because it has invaded the national brain like some ghastly tumor threatening the very values that Thomas supposes us to possess:
The English-speaking peoples have been seriously threatened by force four times: twice by German aggression, once by Soviet totalitarianism, and most recently by Islamic fanaticism. The forces of freedom and democracy reeled after the first blows—at Dunkirk and Pearl Harbor in World War II and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. “The English-speaking peoples rarely win the first battle,” writes Roberts, “but they equally rarely lose the subsequent war.”
All right, everybody. Let’s relax for a minute here.
The English-speaking peoples are not seriously threatened by force from Islamic fanaticism. The only major war subsequent to 9/11 was one we sought in Iraq, and it lasted only a few weeks. Everything after that was a badly botched occupation.
The 9/11 attacks and World War II are no more parallel than longitude and latitude are parallel, no matter how badly George W. Bush wants to be Winston Churchill. (I might mention here that I myself would very much like to be Dame Judi Dench, although the odds are against it.)
The only human force that can seriously threaten the existence of the United States, let alone the English-speaking peoples, would be a full-scale military attack from a combination of opponents. A coalition of Russia, Japan and China might pull it off.
But in the real world this will not happen, because the United States, Russia and China all have atomic weapons and Japan could have them by next Tuesday.
This is why North Korea and Iran are in such a scramble to get nuclear weapons: not to attack us, but to make sure we don’t attack them. The strategy works very well, as may be seen in the case of North Korea. Next thing we know, Bush will visit Pyongyang, nation-building.
Returning to the real world, the war on terror is not a war. Osama attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with stolen airliners and kamikaze pilots because, lacking an air force, he was incapable of war. One engages in terrorism not because one is powerful, but precisely because one is weak.
Terrorism is almost always about real estate, as in Ireland, Chechnya, Spain, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, and elsewhere around the globe. If the United States had remained neutral in the land dispute between the Israel and its Arab neighbors, there would have been no 9/11.
And if we were now to become neutral in that dispute, there would be no more 9/11s. That is the only way to end Islamic terrorism in this country. Every informed American with a double-digit I.Q. knows that; the only meaningful question left is whether our continued blind support of Israel is somehow worth whatever it costs in future terror attacks.
We have been misled to believe that we are mired in an apocalyptic clash between the forces of Islamic darkness and the forces of English-speaking light. But it only seems that way because Bush responded to an act of terror with an act of war against an evil but in this case innocent bystander.
Nor are the Iraqis reacting to Bush’s occupation with some fiendish and unfair new form of combat called “asymmetrical warfare” in which they cunningly “adapt to the enemy” in new and hitherto unimaginable ways. No, the Iraqis are reacting to occupation by a more powerful enemy in the same way that resistance fighters reacted to Hitler’s storm troopers. They are improvising against an occupying army the best they can.
Nor should we be surprised if the neighbors lend a hand. They do so for the same reasons that the Soviets supported Tito and British agents aided guerrillas all over Europe. The neighbors don’t want to be the next ones occupied.
Fortunately even if Bush turns Iran into his very own Cambodia, we will eventually be forced to withdraw from the Middle East just as Nixon did from Southeast Asia.
In both misbegotten struggles, our opponents were clear in what they wanted — our absence — and we were unclear about what we wanted. Our presence? Did we really want to stay? For how long? Forever? Why?
Was such a dubious prize worth the life of even one George Walker Bush or Richard Bruce Cheney? Like millions of other Americans neither of them thought so. But that, of course, was then.
From the Associated Press:
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A Marine accused of killing 24 unarmed Iraqi women and children pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty on Monday, reaching a deal that will mean a maximum of three months confinement and end the largest and longest-running criminal case against U.S. troops to emerge from the Iraq War…
[Staff Sergeant Frank] Wuterich faces a maximum of three months confinement, two-thirds forfeiture of pay and a rank demotion to private when he’s sentenced, likely on Tuesday. The plea agreement calls for manslaughter charges to be dropped…
Wuterich’s former squad members testified that they did not take any gunfire during the 45-minute raid on the homes nor find any weapons, but several squad members testified that they do not believe they did anything wrong, fearing insurgents were inside hiding.
The prosecution was further hurt by the testimony of Wuterich’s former platoon commander who said the squad was justified in its actions because house was declared “hostile,” and from what he understood of the rules of combat at the time that meant any use of force could be used and Marines did not need to positively identify their targets…
Six squad members have had charges dropped or dismissed, including some in exchange for testifying at the trial. One was acquitted.
George Bush pledged yesterday that any marines found to have been responsible for the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year would be punished, and that an investigation into the killings would be made available to the public…
“If, in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this. I’ve talked to General Pete Pace [chairman of the joint chiefs of staff] about the subject. He’s a proud marine. And nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the marine corps,” he said…
The army is also examining the possibility of a cover-up by senior officers, who approved compensation to families of the victims, but failed to investigate allegations of execution-style killings until presented with hard evidence by journalists.
The first official report on the incident claimed that the civilian casualties had been killed by the roadside bomb, but the New York Times reported yesterday that a preliminary investigation by an army colonel as early as March uncovered serious discrepancies in the marines’ account.
John Murtha, a veteran marine and Democratic congressman, told CNN: “Something like this happens, they knew about it. The Iraqis knew about it. The Americans pay them, and then it goes up the chain of command and somebody stifles it.”
I can’t let this one slide. Here’s Thomas Friedman — sort of, kind of — calling Baby Bush the father of the Arab Spring. Even putting Shock and Awe into the same paragraph with Tahrir Square is an obscenity.
So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them? Thanks to the Sunni Awakening movement in Iraq, and the surge, America and its allies defeated them and laid the groundwork for the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.
We knew it happened. We knew it always happens, on all sides in all wars. The problem is not the warriors, but the wars. Nor are the wars the problem. The politicians who start the wars are the problem. But neither are the politicians the problem. We put them in power. We are the problem.
Read all of the extraordinary New York Times story from which the following is excerpted:
General Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar Province, said he did not feel compelled to go back and examine the events because they were part of a continuing pattern of civilian deaths.
“It happened all the time, not necessarily in MNF-West all the time, but throughout the whole country,” General Johnson testified, using a military abbreviation for allied forces in western Iraq.
“So, you know, maybe — I guess maybe if I was sitting here at Quantico and heard that 15 civilians were killed I would have been surprised and shocked and gone — done more to look into it,” he testified, referring to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. “But at that point in time, I felt that was — had been, for whatever reason, part of that engagement and felt that it was just a cost of doing business on that particular engagement.”
Chris Jones, at Esquire’s Politics Blog, has the first sensible take I’ve seen on the handling of small bits of war casualties at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary. If you go into the killing business on an industrial scale there’s going to be loss and spillage along the way. All the faux rage now being directed at the men on the clean-up crews should be aimed instead at Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and all the other suits up in the executive suite. And at all the voters who put them in office. This would include, I suspect, most of the loudest protesters in this whole sorry business. Their outrage comes ten years too late.
A sample from Jones’s essay:
There are no flawless factories. And despite the impossible work of many good people, despite the care that might have been taken however many steps along the way, despite the heavy symbolism and solemn salutes, Dover remains a factory. That might be a hard thing for people to accept, especially for the families of the men and women who have passed through there, but maybe it's time we stopped measuring our words about these things. War leaves people dead, and it kills them in terrible ways, so that their bodies are hanging from trees or burned virtually to dust, and it's a minor miracle that more mistakes have not been made in bringing them home. This story is just another reminder of how terrible this whole awful business is.
Anyone around who still imagines that ours is a peace-loving country should read The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War (pdf), from which this excerpt comes. The author, Franklin Spinney, is not a peacenik or a pacifist. He spent most of his long career as high-ranking Pentagon analyst.
One source of the pressure for more defense spending is that our two relatively small wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both much smaller than the Korean or Vietnam war, have stretched our military to the breaking point. These wars are small in terms of scale and tempo of operations. Bear in mind that the Korean and Vietnam wars took place against a backdrop of cold war commitments. Today, the United States is spending more than it did in 1969, when we had 550,000 troops in Vietnam.
But the cold war meant that we also maintained hundreds of thousands of troops in Western Europe and East Asia, a huge rotation base at home to support these forward deployments, a large Navy fleet of 679 ships (compared with 287 today) to control the seas, and thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert in airborne bombers, missile silos, and submarines. Nevertheless, according to a report issued by the Congressional Research Service, the cumulative costs of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have made the response to September 11 the second-most-expensive war, adjusted for inflation, in U.S. history, exceeded only by World War II…
In 1981, the Reagan administration was so intent on throwing money at the Defense Department that it rushed through an amendment to President Jimmy Carter’s budget. Without any systematic review — and not having the time to type up a new budget — Reagan’s political appointees directed the department merely to hand-write changes adding billions of dollars to hundreds of line items. Much of this largesse was immediately converted into cost growth in existing programs…
From the New York Times review of Donald Rumsfeld’s apologia pro sua vita. It is titled Known and Unknown, and its 800 pages can be yours for the low, low price of $36 — less than a nickel a page! (All sales final.)
“Too many troops could hurt our ability to win Iraqi confidence,” [Rumsfeld] writes, “and it could translate into more casualties, because more troops would mean more targets for our enemies.”
The Cato Institute is a libertarian “think tank” in Washington. Yesterday it hosted a panel led by Grover Norquist, who thinks. His principal thought so far, the one for which he will be remembered once he is finally gathered into the loving arms of Ayn Rand, is this: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Another Norquist thought, posssibly related: “When I became 21, I decided that nobody learned anything about politics after the age of 21.”
From the Cato Institute website:
In a Thursday panel at Cato on conservatism and war, U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.) revealed that the vast majority of GOP members of Congress now think it was wrong for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003.
The discussion was moderated by Grover Norquist, who asked the congressmen how many of their colleagues now think the war was a mistake.
Rohrabacher: “I will say that the decision to go in, in retrospect, almost all of us think that was a horrible mistake … Now that we know that it cost a trillion dollars, and all of these years, and all of these lives, and all of this blood … all I can say is everyone I know thinks it was a mistake to go in now.”
McClintock: “I think everyone [in Congress] would agree that Iraq was a mistake.”
Following this revelation virtually every Republican in Congress and most of the Democrats disemboweled themselves on the steps of the Capitol. Just kidding. The American language has no word for “shame.”
Testifying on Thursday, when many Americans would be otherwise occupied, the former British ambassador to the US, who served during the runup to the war in Iraq, dropped some official bombshells. None of it’s news, of course; every honest observer knew this at the time. But to have the ambassador testify to it openly is new.
The military timetable for an invasion of Iraq in 2003 did not give time for UN weapons inspectors in the country to do their job, the former British ambassador to Washington told the Iraq inquiry in London today.
Sir Christopher Meyer said the “unforgiving nature” of the build-up after American forces had been told to prepare for war meant that “we found ourselves scrabbling for the smoking gun”.
He added: “It was another way of saying ‘it’s not that Saddam has to prove that he’s innocent, we’ve now bloody well got to try and prove he’s guilty.’ And we — the Americans, the British — have never really recovered from that because of course there was no smoking gun.”
Sir Christopher does give Blair the credit of not being a complete poodle. In fact, he thinks Blair believed Bush’s BS, and was willing to add his own.
Asked about Tony Blair’s meeting with Bush at Crawford, Texas, in April 2002, where, some observers believe, the decision to go to war was made, Meyer said: “To this day I’m not entirely clear what degree of convergence was signed in blood at the Texas range.”
But a speech by Blair the following day was, he believed, the first time the prime minister had publicly said “regime change”. “What he was trying to do was to draw the lessons of 9/11 and apply them to the situation in Iraq, which led — I think not inadvertently but deliberately — to a conflation of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.”
For the rest of the story:
In all, 98 detainees have died while in U.S. hands, with 34 identified as homicides, at least eight of which were tortured to death…
“Abed Hamed Mowhoush [was] a former Iraqi general beaten over days by U.S. Army, CIA and other non-military forces, stuffed into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord, and suffocated to death,” Human Rights First writes. “In the recently concluded trial of a low-level military officer charged in Mowhoush’s death, [Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer] received a written reprimand, a fine, and 60 days with his movements limited to his work, home, and church.”
Brady Bonk asks, as should we all:
If “just following orders” is now in force, should the courts-martial of Lynndie England, Ivan Frederick, Charles Graner, Javal Davis, Megan Ambuhl, Sabrina Harman, Jeremy Sivits not be reconsidered?
In the 1970s and 1980s the tiny country of Uruguay was a military dictatorship ruled by sadists and murderers. Dissenters were tortured for years in military jails. Those who survived were next sent to a nightmare of a prison called Libertad, or Liberty.
The name was not a joke. Liberty Prison was a lab experiment in which words might mean their opposite, clocks kept different and constantly changing time, calendars were inaccurate, lights were manipulated so that days would shorten or lengthen unaccountably, meals would arrive at odd intervals or not at all, and behavior that was punished on Tuesday would be rewarded on Wednesday. If indeed it had been a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
This house of mirrors had been designed by behavioral psychologists, and was carried out under their direction. And the meaninglessness had meaning. From Lawrence Wechsler’s 1998 book, A Miracle, a Universe:
Major A. Maciel, who was a director of Libertad, observed at one point, regarding the prisoners under his charge, “We didn’t get rid of them when we had the chance, and one day we’ll have to let them go, so we’ll have to take advantage of the time we have left to drive them mad.”
No matter what creatures like Cheney and Rumsfeld and Yoo and Addington may say or even believe, the goal of torture is only incidentally to elicit information. What, then were the masters of Uruguay really after with their physical and psychological tortures? Lawrence Wechsler, again, writing in the New Yorker 20 years ago:
Eduardo Galeano, the noted Uruguayan writer, provided me with a characteristically terse, aphoristic reply: “In Uruguay, people were in prison so prices could be free.”
Several other people I spoke with in Montevideo concurred, explaining that one of the main reasons for the military’s repression was to enable the generals to hand the country’s economy over to their “Chicago boys” — neoliberal economic technocrats, many of them trained at the University of Chicago under the monetarist influence of Milton Friedman, who prescribe an unfettered marketplace, with a minimum of government interference, as the cure for most of the world’s economic ills.
These economists generally oppose protective tariffs, social entitlements, minimum-wage standards, government safety-and-health regulations — the kind of things on behalf of which unions, for example, might be expected to struggle.
So what were our own torturers and psychologists in Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib really after? Are there parallels? Divergences? What economic philosophy has been forced on Iraq, with what results? What is the point of “mosaic intelligence” as opposed to “actionable intelligence” of the Jack Bauer variety?
Contrast and compare.
From the Washington Post:
When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called Petraeus in early 2007 to offer him command of coalition forces in Iraq, he also posed another question: What did Petraeus think ofAdm. William J. “Fox” Fallon as head of Central Command, overseeing U.S. military operations throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan?
It was an exchange Petraeus would remember ruefully. Over the months that followed, Fallon and Petraeus clashed over resources, strategy and how quickly to reduce the number of troops in Iraq.
Although new to the Middle East and inexperienced in ground warfare, Fallon was one of the most senior officers in the U.S. military and one of the few Vietnam War veterans still on active duty. Petraeus, by contrast, was one of the first members of the military's post-Vietnam generation, becoming a platoon leader in May 1975, days after the last Marine helicopter left Saigon.
As Centcom commander, Fallon was technically Petraeus’s new boss. In practice, however, Petraeus bypassed the chain of command and answered directly to Bush, enjoying what was probably the most direct relationship between a frontline general and his commander in chief since the Civil War…
From Paul Fussell’s wonderful book, Wartime:
In the Second World War the American military learned something very “modern” — modern because dramatically “psychological,” utilitarian, unchivalric, and un-heroic: it learned that men will inevitably go mad in battle and that no appeal to patriotism, manliness, or loyalty to the group will ultimately matter. Thus in later wars things were arranged differently. In Vietnam, it was understood that a man fulfilled his combat obligation and purchased his reprieve if he served a fixed term, 365 days, and not days in combat either but days in the theater of war. The infantry was now treated somewhat like the Air Corps in the Second War: performance of a stated number of missions guaranteed escape.
Bush and his neo-con cowards — chickenhawk draft-dodgers almost to a man — never bothered to learn this little lesson as they lied us into another Vietnam. And so they sent better men than themselves back and back and back into the battle. And so, perfectly predictably, those men and their families are now paying the price in joblessness, divorce, addiction, suicide and madness.
President Obama knows no more of war than Cheney or Bush. Let’s hope, though, that he goes for military advice not to the Perles and the Boltons and the Wolfowitzes, but rather to the Jim Webbs and the John Kerrys and the Chuck Hagels.
For high-level political gossip, don’t miss the oral history of Bush’s administration in the current Vanity Fair. More tomorrow, but here’s a first taste from Kenneth Adelman, describing how he came to be a former member of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board:
So he says, It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board. You’re very negative. I said, I am negative, Don. You’re absolutely right. I’m not negative about our friendship. But I think your decisions have been abysmal when it really counted.
Start out with, you know, when you stood up there and said things — “Stuff happens.” I said, That’s your entry in Bartlett’s. The only thing people will remember about you is “Stuff happens.” I mean, how could you say that? “This is what free people do.” This is not what free people do. This is what barbarians do. And I said, Do you realize what the looting did to us? It legitimized the idea that liberation comes with chaos rather than with freedom and a better life. And it demystified the potency of American forces. Plus, destroying, what, 30 percent of the infrastructure.
I said, You have 140,000 troops there, and they didn’t do jack shit. I said, There was no order to stop the looting. And he says, There was an order. I said, Well, did you give the order? He says, I didn’t give the order, but someone around here gave the order. I said, Who gave the order?
So he takes out his yellow pad of paper and he writes down — he says, I’m going to tell you. I’ll get back to you and tell you. And I said, I’d like to know who gave the order, and write down the second question on your yellow pad there. Tell me why 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq disobeyed the order. Write that down, too.
And so that was not a successful conversation.
From the Associated Press in Baghdad:
BAGHDAD – The Iraqi journalist jailed since throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush got a visit from his brother Friday and a birthday party from his guards as he turned 30.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who has gained cult status for his bizarre protest, is in good shape but has been denied access to his lawyer, relatives said after his brother Maitham visited him for two hours in his detention cell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone…
Maitham al-Zeidi was not available to comment on the visit, but another brother, Dhargham, told The Associated Press that he was told the wounds had healed.
“Muntadhar was in a good shape ... and his morale was high. Yesterday was his birthday and some patriotic officers there organized a party for him and brought birthday cake,” Dhargham al-Zeidi said.
Martha Raddatz of ABC interviews George W. Bush:
GWB: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take...
MR: But not until after the U.S. invaded.
GWB: Yeah, that's right. So what?
So what? I’ll tell you what, you— Ah, forget it.
If there is any truth to this commentary by Ray McGovern that was posted on the Real News Network, Obama may have made a serious mistake in allowing Gates to continue on in his currrent capacity. Or perhaps Obama already knows about this problem and has plans to deal with it later. I also want to be skeptical about what McGovern says about Rumsfeld and have deep suspicions about it. But does anyone think what is said here about Rumsfeld is true? He was a tyrant, but perhaps less so than I formerly believed. Can anyone shed light on these questions for me because I’m hopelessly ill informed about these folks and want to hear more opinions on this subject.
This song, timeless and yet timely, written in 1933 by Harry Warren and Al Dubin and updated recently with a photo montage by a creative person on YouTube who styles herself as Solitaire11 seems almost as timely now as it was when it was produced in 1933. Hopefully some folks will find it comforting. Because we’ve been here before.
Apparently the rumors that SecDef Gates is angling for a spot in an Obama administration are not without foundation.
“The use of force plays a role, yet military efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to promote local participation in government and economic programs to spur development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies,” the [DoD] report says.
“For these reasons, arguably the most important military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves,” it says.
This from Bob Gates?
The final report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, issued on August 4, 1993, said that Gates “was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and [as the CIA’s Deputy Director of Intelligence] was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment…”
The issue was whether the Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have remembered…
In 1984, as deputy director of CIA, Gates advocated that the U.S. initiate a bombing campaign against Nicaragua and that the U.S. do everything in its power short of direct military invasion of the country to remove the Sandinista government…
Gates has been a member of the board of trustees of Fidelity Investments, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc., Parker Drilling Company, Science Applications International Corporation, and VoteHere, a technology company which sought to provide cryptography and computer software security for the electronic election industry.
Recruited by the CIA in college, and hoping to provide cryptography for elections. Somehow that makes me uneasy. Fortunately he’s a past president of the National Eagle Scout Association.
Why do they hate us? Because we bomb the crap out of ’em. According to a US Institute for Peace report,
…the amount of munitions dropped or fired by U.S. and other NATO aircraft in Afghanistan has climbed from an average of 5,000 pounds per month in 2005 to some 80,000 pounds the following year to an average of 168,000 pounds in December 2007 …
So the reason we need more troops in Afghanistan, no shit, is to kill fewer people. More troops means less bombing. They say.
From a New York Times story on Bush’s manipulation of images showing that his war, well, kills people.
Journalists say it is now harder, or harder than in the earlier years, to accompany troops in Iraq on combat missions. Even memorial services for killed soldiers, once routinely open, are increasingly off limits. Detainees were widely photographed in the early years of the war, but the Department of Defense, citing prisoners’ rights, has recently stopped that practice as well.
Since I unflaggingly rag on the Democrats, it’s incumbent on me to praise when I see them do something praiseworthy. And they’ve managed to keep Hans von Spakovsky off the Federal Election Commission, so here’s a heartfelt Bravo! going out to the Democrats for that achievement. Since I read this in an AP article, I dare not link to it, though it was on the New York Times website; but I’m sure you can google up someone else’s article on the same topic.
It’s a small enough victory in some ways — I mean, considering
But it’s real, and it’s likely to have some positive effects on the honesty of the election. One might even dare to hope that the backbone shown in standing up against the Spakovsky nomination is a harbinger of things to come. In any case, it’s certainly a win to remove this smiling dirtbag from any office, organization, or assembly he’s in, or indeed near.
The lesson appears to be that the Democrats can make a stand on principle, and succeed in forcing the White House to act (at a minimum) according to the law. In the end, the administration withdrew Spakovsky’s nomination as a means of returning the Commission to working order: there are normally six commissioners, there’ve only been two since the beginning of this year, and decisions require a minimum of four votes.
Now we might hope for the laws to be faithfully executed. McCain has been combining attacks on Obama for opting out of public election financing with open violations of the very same laws himself, and getting away with it because the FEC only has two members.
But is this really the lesson? McCain’s campaign is expecting a pile of public-financing bucks. Problem is, he can’t simply grab the money and run; there’s got to be a vote by the FEC. Which, you recall, requires four votes, which haven’t been available. So McCain may have to eliminate the campaign-finance law violations, but he’ll get $85 million to cover his transition costs.
Maybe I’m too cynical, but I see in this saga not a harbinger of hope, and certainly not one of audacity, but one of compromise extended to the horizon. The Democrats won the day not by standing up for what was right and organizing support and holding fast to their beliefs, but by in effect holding hostage the public campaign-finance funds the McCain camp anticipates.
Not that I complain about extortion as political method; it happens all the time. In fact some form of extortion is pretty much basic tender in politics. What I’m trying to do here is puzzle out the behavior patterns of the party and see if anything can be done to influence it in positive directions.
What seems to have happened in the Spakovsky case is that the Democrats used their control of the money to force compliance. I’m fine with that strategy. I just want them to use that strategy when it counts. Which they haven’t in the past, and didn’t in this case. Democrats won this battle because the other side decided they wanted $85 million in public funds more than they wanted Spakovsky on the FEC. They changed plans, and the Democrats claimed victory.
Here’s exactly what I’m afraid the Obama dream might become. The Democratic party has always fought internal battles with at least as much ferocity as it employed against the opposition. But since the Reagan administration brought what Obama has called new ideas into the White House, the Democratic party has synonomous with — well, I’ll spare you the invective and limit myself to “spinelessness”.
Which is bad enough when we’re talking about domestic issues like where the wealth goes and who gets education and health care and who goes to prison. California used to have an educational system that was the envy of most of the world, nearly free as far as your work and your smarts would take you. The point was clearly to educate as much of the population as possible.
Then came the Republican Revolution, much of it starting here, and our point is once again clear: we’re scared of everybody. We’re educating fewer and imprisoning more, and passing the savings on to the very rich. What savings, you say? There are no savings from educating fewer and imprisoning more? True. Thus we must create savings, which we do by changing the tax structure so that wealth flows up the ladder, increasing inequality and thus providing more work for the prisons. Synergy, I think they call it.
As Americans we have the God-given freedom to crucify ourselves on whatever cross of gold strikes our fancy. But when the Democrats’ spinelessness extends to complicity in criminal wars, that’s a different thing. Going by the peer-reviewed and apparently methodologically sound Lancet studies, about a million Iraqis have been killed one way or another by the American invasion, plus about five million “displaced”, driven from their homes, nearly half of whom have left the country.
If Mexico invaded the US, it would have to kill 11 million Americans and displace 55 million more to match these percentages. Such actions might be expected to leave a certain amount of disgruntlement behind. Thus blowback. Thus 9/11. Thus fewer civil liberties and greater concentration of wealth. Producing more disgruntlement, and so on. As I said a year ago, it’s a great business.
I suspect the best hope for maintaining the current structure of power and privilege (if that’s your goal) is to allow the insertion of a soul into the juggernaut of capitalism. Otherwise, our trajectory seems headed for something between another Depression and another Paris Commune.
My fear is that the Democrats are too heavily invested in the business of American Business to realize what’s going on: the business has morphed into a war machine, and is attempting to set itself up as a modern Colossus. This business model is bound to fail. The country must disinvest. The question that remains is whether the Democrats continue to resist the obvious necessity.
HONOLULU — The Marine Corps said Wednesday it was expelling one Marine and disciplining another for their roles in a video showing a Marine throwing a puppy off a cliff while on patrol in Iraq.
Lance Cpl. David Motari, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, is “being processed for separation” from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps said in a news release. He also received unspecified “non-judicial punishment.”
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A military judge dismissed charges Tuesday against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.
Col. Steven Folsom dismissed charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani after finding that a four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the November 2005 shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha…
Of eight Marines originally charged in the case, only one is still facing prosecution in the biggest U.S. criminal prosecution involving Iraqi deaths to come out of the war.
Go here for a fuller explanation of the real significance behind Bush’s recent shake-ups in the top ranks of the Pentagon. A sample:
Petraeus was also a supporter of Cheney’s proposal for striking Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps targets in Iran, going so far as to hint in an interview with Fox News last September that he had passed on to the White House his desire to do something about alleged Iranian assistance to Shi’ites that would require US forces beyond his control.
At that point, Fallon was in a position to deter any effort to go around DoD and military opposition to such a strike because he controlled all military access to the region as a whole. But Fallon’s forced resignation in March and the subsequent promotion of Petraeus to become Centcom chief later this year gives Cheney a possible option to ignore the position of his opponents in Washington once more in the final months of the administration.
For still more on why Bush and Cheney find Petraeus such a useful tool for locking the next president into their idiot war, see this.
From the Washington Post:
An Army board headed by Gen. David H. Petraeus has selected several combat-tested counterinsurgency experts for promotion to the rank of brigadier general, sifting through more than 1,000 colonels to identify a handful of innovative leaders who will shape the future Army, according to current and former senior Army officers…
“Counterinsurgency” is one of those slippery military terms, like collateral damage and friendly fire, that conceal more than they reveal. At first glance, you’d think anybody in his right mind would want to counter a bunch of pesky insurgents.
Not me, though. When I was 14 my dream was to be an insurgent myself, moving like a ghost by night as I launched murderous attacks from ambush on the godless Commies who had overrun my beloved homeland.
But Petraeus and his “handful of innovative leaders who will shape the future army” have seen the future and decided that it calls for bigger and better counterinsurgencies, and they are just the bright lads to do it.
When our generals speak of combating insurgents who wage asymmetrical warfare, they reveal the real mission. We will never attack if we judge there is any chance of real resistance, in the ordinary military sense. We will never, that is, go to war with Russia or China or even North Korea. We will instead go after the littlest, weakest kids: Libya, Panama, Grenada, Cuba, Iraq.
And if we are stupid enough to stay around after we have “won,” as we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, then we must find ourselves, as all occupying powers do, faced with an “insurgency” which we must “counter.” (The insurgents, by definition, live in the occupied country. If they come from the outside, like us, they are more properly called “invaders.”)
So Petraeus and all his new little one-stars do not expect to be in the business of defense or even of warfare, asymmetrical or otherwise. They expect to be in the business of colonial occupation, which can neither be won nor lost. It can only be continued or, at the entire discretion of the occupying power, ended.
Undaunted though, we will struggle onward with our Middle East mission until we “win” this occupation. And we will keep on “winning” as we did in Vietnam, press briefing after press briefing, until at last we lose. Whatever that means. When a man holds his breath for two minutes and then starts breathing again, has he "lost?"
Nevertheless our brief return to reality will not be followed by remorse and repentance and determination never to pull such a damn fool stunt again. Instead we will spend twenty years or so blaming the disaster on everybody but ourselves and then off we will charge once more like a dog after a car.
What’s that fool dog going to do with that car when he catches it, you say? Well may you ask. The plan is to make it hold free elections.
It’s Memorial Day, so remember this:
Today, at the end of his deployment in Diyala province, Col. Lehr, the commander of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, said he still believed in that strong-armed, high-explosive approach.
It “sends a significant message,” he said in a conference call this morning. “It’s just like if we started shooting artillery rounds into your neighborhood... It would quickly get your attention.”
The brigade fired over 11,500 artillery rounds during their nearly 14-month deployment. Col. Lehr credits the strikes with helping to bring down violence in their area, Diyala province, by nearly 70 percent.
Do you suppose that Colonel Lehr’s 70 percent reduction in violence includes the violence unleashed on random Iraqis by 11,500 artillery rounds? Do you suppose that pigs fly?
If you suppose either thing, you are probably capable of believing that only or even mostly “insurgents” were killed by those bombardments. Long distance killing is by its nature random. Even if bombs and artillery shells were really “smart,” they are not aimed by people smart enough to know which targeted structures contain “insurgents” and which contain innocent bystanders.
Nor does it matter, as Colonel Lehr seems to understand all too well. The point of raining explosives on cities and towns is to create terror among civilians by killing them. And of course it works. It worked on 9/11 when Bin Laden did it to us, and it works when the colonel does it in Diyala province. As both men employ terror, both are terrorists. However harsh this sounds, proper understanding can only proceed from proper naming.
Proper arithmetic helps, too. Here’s some:
Iraqis and Americans both being human beings, one dead American does not = 100 dead Iraqis. The correct equation is: One dead human being = one dead human being.
Keeping this equivalency in mind, let’s examine an equation that Bush used to justify his invasion of a country that only threatened us in the nightmares of neocon fools.
Bush’s argument: leaving Saddam in power would allow a brutal dictator to kill X Iraqis over the next five years. Sanity’s argument: Overthrowing him would result in the deaths of Y Iraqis over the same period.
Is Y larger than X? By how many magnitudes?
If you have trouble solving this equation, ask an Iraqi.
On September 22, 2003, six months after Bush invaded Iraq, neocon propagandist, chickenhawk, and enthusiastic warhog Richard Perle gave an audience at the American Enterprise Institute a look into his crystal ball:
The problems in Iraq are ahead of us, but we’re doing better than people think. And a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush. There is no doubt that, with the exception of a very small number of people close to a vicious regime, the people of Iraq have been liberated and they understand that they’ve been liberated. And it is getting easier every day for Iraqis to express that sense of liberation.
I ran across this while paging through an old copy of Flashbacks: Twenty-five Years of Doonesbury, published in the aftermath of Desert Storm.
During the Vietnam war a bootleg tape called “What the Captain Meant to Say” circulated among the press corps. It purported to be the recording of a press interview in which an Air Force pilot repeated puts his foot in it and a Public Affairs Officer repeatedly breaks in to clear up the mess. A sample from memory:
Pilot: We were trying to hit the Dim Sum Bridge, but we must have missed the son of a bitch by a good half mile at least.
P.R.O: What the captain meant to say was that his squadron cratered the approaches to the Dim Sum Bridge.
Along the same lines, here’s what our Pigmy President said five years ago tomorrow on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln:
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” Bush said at the time … The “Mission Accomplished” banner was prominently displayed above him — a move the White House came to regret as the display was mocked and became a source of controversy …
“The banner should have been much more specific and said Mission Accomplished for These Sailors Who are on This Ship on Their Mission,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said Wednesday.
The excerpts below come from a disturbing story in today’s Washington Post. What possible reason could Iran have to be “hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons?” Possibly because the warhogs in the White House, having demonstrated that our existing military is either too small or too mismanaged to pacify a hostile nation of 28 million, are now hell-bent on invading a hostile nation of 65 million?
As for Mullen, what is he, nuts? Navy and Air Force reservists are no doubt capable of killing large numbers of Iranian civilians from a safe distance, but not all 65 million of them. Who’s going to keep the survivors subdued once the shock and awe are over? Read the papers, Mullen. Suicides, epidemic stress disorders, revolving door troop rotations, recruiting felons. On and on. Get real, Mullen. Tell our pigmy president the truth for once, and then retire with honor.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.
“It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. Speaking of Iran’s intentions, Mullen said: “They prefer to see a weak Iraq neighbor. . . . They have expressed long-term goals to be the regional power…”
In a speech Monday, [Defense Secrtary] Gates said Iran “is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.” He said war would be “disastrous” but added that “the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat.”
In my opinion the single greatest issue arising from the immoral and inept and illegal Bush/Cheney misadministration is the blowback likely to be generated by the disasters we’ve wreaked around the world. We’ve made enemies of literally millions of people in Iraq alone; five million refugees, internal and external, plus a million dead, and who knows how many lives and bodies left shattered, most of them not initially predisposed to despising us. An economy and social structure in ruins; existing political instabilities exaggerated throughout the region; American and Israeli strength increasingly intertwined, and thus suspicion and guilt increasingly collective in nature.
How will Americans process that knowledge?
My guess is they’ll start with denial, but that river ain’t flowin’. We try to follow our beloved President down the cherry-blossom path, but like him we keep finding ourselves bewildered and deserted. Dana Milbank lists the countries whose governments have changed hands in one sense or another as polities around the world reject the Cheney approach. Spain, Italy, Poland, Japan, Britain, and Australia have all substituted Bush doubters for the Bush promoters who helped, or at least didn’t complain about, the war.
Bush’s pariah status has turned his Coalition of the Willing into a retirement community and given the president an unusual role in the domestic affairs of other countries. In Australia, one of Rudd’s predecessors as Labor leader, Mark Latham, got the top job after describing Bush as “the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory.” He further described members of Howard’s government as a “conga line of suckholes” to Bush.
Howard, in turn, expressed a view that al-Qaeda terrorists would be praying for a 2008 victory by Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular.
Bush enjoyed this mutual affection. “I can tell you, relations are great right now,” he said last year in Sydney, which was all but shut down by security measures needed to keep him safe.
Relations are perhaps not quite so great now, but Bush put on a brave face as he welcomed Rudd to the White House Friday. He called the 50-year-old premier a “fine lad” and even praised Rudd’s decision to pull out of Iraq. “I always like to be in the presence of somebody who does what he says he’s going to do,” Bush reasoned.
Rudd, touched by Bush’s manner, said he was designating the president as “an honorary Queenslander,” after the prime minister’s home state.
Will international hostility toward us decrease, as we flush the Bush presidency down the memory hole at top speed while people around the world continue to suffer from our latest war of aggression? Probably it will; there seem to be signs in international polls that the current political campaign has helped our image abroad, if only in showing a lot more engagement by Americans than the world has recently seen from us, and in reminding us all that the nightmare will soon end.
Now the question is, what do we do about it? By “it”, I mean the whole shebang. The Bush wars and the disasters they’ve created, not confined to Afghanistan and Iraq. The loss of honor involved in the revelations of systematic and institutionalized torture. The direct assaults on privacy and civil liberties. And perhaps most disgusting and frightening of all, the attempts to rob us of our most basic American right, to cast a vote that counts toward the decisions we as a nation must make.
If at this transitional moment we succumb to the ease of the remote and switch to another channel, we’ll miss a tremendous opportunity. We could recoup a large amount of the global goodwill that flooded our way after 9/11 if we were to repudiate the conduct and aims of the previous presidency. This to my knowledge the US has never done, but we need to make explicit public record that Bush, Cheney, et.al., violated both the letter and the spirit of our national institutions, and many cases our laws as well.
By default, those institutions will remain in their current configurations, ready for use by the next occupant of the Oval Office. Doubtless, the three most likely occupants will all employ the office with greater reverence for tradition and international coöperation than the current one. But will the next President agree to make warrantless wiretaps illegal? Or will we just agree to define “warrant” and “wiretap” so that whatever we’re currently doing is now okay?
The real question is whether the November election will bring the US to a realistic operating posture with respect to the rest of the world. We no longer dominate. We never should have tried. We can still lead by example, if we admit our mistakes and try to fix them. Or we can hunker down and wait for the incoming, hoping to be raptured.
From the Wikipedia:
The Banality of Evil is a phrase coined in 1963 by Hannah Arendt in her work Eichmann in Jerusalem. It describes the thesis that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.
From an article in the Washington Post about John Yoo’s long concealed memorandum:
“If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network,” Yoo wrote. “In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.”
Interrogators who harmed a prisoner would be protected by a “national and international version of the right to self-defense,” Yoo wrote. He also articulated a definition of illegal conduct in interrogations — that it must “shock the conscience” — that the Bush administration advocated for years.
“Whether conduct is conscience-shocking turns in part on whether it is without any justification,” Yoo wrote, explaining, for example, that it would have to be inspired by malice or sadism before it could be prosecuted.
So it goes.
Don Heiny sends this:
Well, I say that the Democratic Party changed. The Democratic Party today was not the party it was in 2000. It’s not the Bill Clinton-Al Gore party, which was strong internationalists, strong on defense, pro-trade, pro-reform in our domestic government. It’s been effectively taken over by a small group on the left of the party that is protectionist, isolationist and basically will — and very, very hyperpartisan. So it pains me. I’m a Democrat who came to the party in the era of President John F. Kennedy. It’s a strange turn of the road when I find among the candidates running this year that the one, in my opinion, closest to the Kennedy legacy, the John F. Kennedy legacy, is John S. McCain.
The speaker is the despicable Joe Lieberman, on ABC this morning. Here is some earlier moralizing from Holy Joe, Likud’s man in Connecticut and soon to be, if his wettest dreams come true, McCain’s man on the GOP ticket this fall:
WASHINGTON — Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman reluctantly acknowledged Thursday that he does not believe waterboarding is torture, but believes the interrogation technique should be available only under the most extreme circumstances…
The difference, he said, is that waterboarding is mostly psychological and there is no permanent physical damage. "It is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological," Lieberman said.
Connecticut resident Jerry Doolittle reluctantly acknowledges that he would rather have just about anybody as his senator but Torture Boy Lieberman. In fact I once put my vote where my mouth is.
It was in 2000, when a Republican no-hoper named Philip Giordano was running against Lieberman for the senate seat that Holy Joe was clinging to for dear life while simultaneously dragging down the national Democratic ticket as the vice presidential candidate.
I only knew two things about Giordano. One was that he was mayor of Waterbury, which is significant in Connecticut politics. It signifies that you haven’t been indicted yet, but hold your horses. You’ll get there soon enough.
The second thing I knew was that Giordano wasn’t Joe Lieberman, which left me with no option but to cast the first vote of my life for a Republican.
Meanwhile the FBI had already been quietly investigating Giordano for corruption, a process which is triggered more or less automatically when a new Waterbury mayor takes office.
During “Operation LandPhil,” as the Bureau called it, the wiretappers snapped to attention one day when they overheard Giordano making arrangements with a local prostitute to bring two girls, aged nine and ten, to his office for oral sex. Now the former Marine is doing 37 years in federal prison.
And still I don’t regret my vote. I’d rather be represented in the Senate by a pedophile than by a whiny, smarmy, sanctimonious warmonger with the blood of innumerable nine- and ten-year-old girls on his hands.
BAGHDAD — Iranian officials helped broker a cease-fire agreement Sunday between Iraq’s government and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, according to Iraqi lawmakers.
The deal could help defuse a wave of violence that had threatened recent security progress in Iraq. It also may signal the growing regional influence of Iran, a country the Bush administration accuses of providing support to terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere.
Al-Sadr ordered his forces off the streets of Iraq on Sunday. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hailed al-Sadr’s action as “a step in the right direction.” It was unclear whether the deal would completely end six days of clashes between U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and Shiite militias, including al-Sadr’s…
Mark Danner is an exceptionally useful citizen who teaches journalism at Bard College and the University of California at Berkeley. What follows are excerpts from a long piece that I hope you’ll be tempted to read in full. Professor Danner has given an explanation as intelligent and convincing as any I’ve seen of why we were dragged into Bush’s Folly in the first place. As to a plan of escape, he has none. No “peace with honor” is by now possible, any more than it was in Kennedy’s, Johnson’s and Nixon’s Folly.
Again, a remarkable statement, as many commentators were quick to point out; for declaring war on “terrorism” — a technique of war, not an identifiable group or target — was simply unprecedented, and, indeed, bewildering in its implications. As one counterinsurgency specialist remarked to me, “Declaring war on terrorism is like declaring war on air power.…”
That broader story comes down to a matter of two strategies and two generals: General Osama bin Laden and General George W. Bush. General bin Laden, from the start, has been waging a campaign of indirection and provocation: that is, bin Laden’s ultimate targets are the so-called apostate regimes of the Muslim world — foremost among them, the Mubarak regime in Egypt and the House of Saud on the Arabian peninsula — which he hopes to overthrow and supplant with a New Caliphate.
For bin Laden, these are the “near enemies,” which rely for their existence on the vital support of the “far enemy,” the United States. By attacking this far enemy, beginning in the mid-1990s, bin Laden hoped both to lead vast numbers of new Muslim recruits to join Al Qaeda and to weaken U.S. support for the Mubarak and Saud regimes. He hoped to succeed, through indirection, in “cutting the strings of the puppets,” eventually leading to the collapse of those regimes…
The latter perception — that terrorism as it struck the United States arose from political factors and that it could only be confronted and defeated with a political response — strikes me as incontestable. The problem the administration faced, or rather didn’t want to face, was that the calcified order that lay at the root of the problem was the very order that, for nearly six decades, had been shaped, shepherded, and sustained by the United States.
We see an explicit acknowledgment of this in the “Bletchley II” report drafted after 9/11 at Defense Department urging by a number of intellectuals close to the administration: “The general analysis,” one of its authors told the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, “was that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where most of the hijackers came from, were the key, but the problems there are intractable. Iran is more important ... But Iran was similarly difficult to envision dealing with. But Saddam Hussein was different, weaker, more vulnerable ...”
The United States has made possible the rise to power in Iraq of a Shiite government which is allied with its major geopolitical antagonist in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the United States has been fighting with great persistence and distinctly mixed results a Sunni insurgency which is allied with the Saudis, the Jordanians, and its other longtime friends among the traditional Sunni autocracies of the Gulf…
At this moment, the Iraq War is at a stalemate. Confronted with a growing threat from those “enemies allied with its friends in the region,” the Sunni insurgents, the Bush administration has adopted a practical and typically American strategy: it has bought them. The Americans have purchased the insurgency, hiring its foot soldiers at the rate of $300 per month. The Sunni fighters, once called insurgents, we now refer to as “tribesmen” or “concerned citizens.”
General David Petraeus blames Iran for yesterday’s mortaring of our occupation headquarters in the Green Zone. Maybe, but maybe also we should keep in mind the legal principle of cui bono.
Suppose you are the public face of a “surge” which you claim has greatly reduced violence by al-Qaeda in the country your troops occupy. And suppose your own headquarters has just come under heavy bombardment.
Then suppose you run right out and tell the press that al-Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack. No, indeed. Instead, by one of those happy coincidences to which we have become so accustomed since 9/11, it was outside agitators. What’s more they were from Iran which — what are the odds? — your own commander-in-chief happens to be desperate to invade. What a fortunate confluence of God’s own truth and your own self-interest that would be!
And there was more to come, of a surprising nature:
In response to the news that 4,000 US military personnel have now been killed in Iraq, [Petraeus] said it showed how much the mission had cost but added that Americans were realistic about it.
He also said a great deal of progress had been made because of the “flipping” of communities — the decision by Sunni tribes to turn against al-Qaeda militants. The extent of this had surprised even the US military, he said.
Before we let it surprise us, however, we might want to read the full article in Rolling Stone from which this excerpt comes. The author speaks Arabic, which turns out to be handy once you leave the Green Zone. Apparently everybody out there talks funny except the ones who report to General Petraeus.
Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government…
In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. “Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems,” as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it “balancing competing armed interest groups…”
“Before the war, it was just one party,” Arkan tells me. “Now we have 100,000 parties. I have Sunni officer friends, but nobody lets them get back into service. First they take money, then they ask if you are Sunni or Shiite. If you are Shiite, good.” He dreams of returning to the days when the Iraqi army served the entire country. “In Saddam’s time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite,” he says.
The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites. Under Saddam, both the ruling Baath Party and the Iraqi army were majority Shiite.
What follows is my transcription of New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman explaining his flat world on The Charlie Rose Show. I don’t think I’ve heard this much concentrated stupidity since listening to Ambassador G. McMurtrie Godley III at country team meetings in wartime Laos.
The transcription below contains the money shot, as they call it in the frankly pornographic rather than the political side of show biz. But if you have time to watch the whole interview you’ll see that Friedman’s performance was well-rehearsed and at least partially memorized. Thus the last three appalling paragraphs were not misspoken, but intentional.
Particularly unattractive, like Bush’s fake Texas accent, are Friedman’s tone-deaf attempts to sound like an ex-Marine Corps pogue tough-talking at the Legion Hall late at night. (Suck on this, Friedman, okay?)
And what we learned on 9/11, in a gut way, was that [the terrorist] bubble was a fundamental threat to our open society because there is no wall high enough, no INS agent smart enough, no metal detector efficient enough, to protect an open society from people motivated by that bubble and what we needed to do was to go over to that part of the world, I’m afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over here basically and take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble.
And there was only one way to do it because part of that bubble said, “We’ve got you. This bubble is actually going to level the balance of power between we and you because we don’t care about it. We’re ready to sacrifice and all you care about is your stock options and your Hummers.”
And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this, okay?”
That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia; it was part of the bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Baghdad because we could.
It appears the struggle to create a war with Iran is in its last throes.
Meanwhile, the uneasy partnership between Karl Rove and Dick Cheney continues. While Rovian operations take out political opponents like Don Siegelman in Alabama and Eliot Spitzer in New York, the Cheneyists struggle against the so-called adult leadership of war criminals like Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice, and the increasingly lonely rational Republicans in Congress. Wikipedia reports that
The final report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, issued on August 4, 1993, said that Gates “was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment…”
When such a person is your adult leadership, the outlook is sub-optimal indeed.
And sure enough, the makeshift patriots on the Dark Side have managed to gain one of their objectives: Admiral William “Fox” Fallon is resigning as Commander in Chief of Central Command, which includes Iran and Iraq. (Check out this map; I knew CentCom covered a lot of ground but I didn’t realize it was this much, basically Kenya to Kazakhstan.) Fallon is said to have called General (soon, presumably, Saint) David Petraeus, who reports to him, an ass-kissing little chickenshit. Evidence available to the public since the revelation of this remark suggests the characterization was not entirely without merit; but it was certainly unwelcome in the White House, and even more unwelcome in the Undisclosed Location. No doubt similar reactions followed the reports of Adm. Fallon responding to a question about a US war against Iran with “…not on my watch.’
Apparently Fallon’s approach was insufficiently aggressive.
The Persian Gulf right now is booming economically, and Fallon wants to harness that power to connect the failed states that pockmark the landscape to the outside world. In this choice, he sees no alternative.
“What I learned in the Pacific is that after a while the tableau of failed, failing, or dysfunctional states becomes a real burden on the functional countries and a problem for their neighborhood, because they breed unrest and insecurities and attract troublemakers very well. They’re like sewers, and they begin to fester. It’s bad for business. And when it’s bad for business, people tend to start restricting their investments, and they restrict their thinking, and it allows more barriers, so we’re back to building walls again instead of breaking them down. If you have to build walls, it means you’re moving backward.”
Fallon has no illusion about solving the Middle East or Central Asia during his tenure, but he’s also acutely conscious that with globalization’s rapid advance into these regions he may well be the last Centcom commander of his kind. Already Fallon sees the inevitability and utility of having a Chinese military partnership at Centcom, and he’d like to manage that inevitably from the start rather than have to repair damage down the line.
“I’d like to continue to do things that will be useful to the world and its inhabitants,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of good things, and I’ve seen a lot of stupid things.”
He omitted to specify the deciders in the cases of the stupid things he’d seen, or even which side they were on.
Discussing one of the incidents in which Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats showboated around and taunted American warships in the Strait of Hormuz,
Fallon’s eyes narrow and his voice becomes that whisper: “This is not how a country that wants to be a big boy in the neighborhood behaves. How are we supposed to take these guys seriously as players in the region? You’d like to deal with them as big-league players, but when they do this, it’s very tough.”
As before, there is the text and the subtext. Admiral William Fallon shakes his head slowly, and his eyes say, These guys have no idea how much worse it could get for them. I am the reasonable one.
And time will tell whether being reasonable will cost Admiral William Fallon his command.
Well, it has. I’m not one to glorify any part of military life or militarism, so I don’t mean to put Fox on a pedestal. I agree with Gibbon:
…as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.
Nowadays, as Thorstein Veblen pointed out, we’re more likely to vanquish our enemies with lawyers than soldiers. If you’re a threat to win a governorship we want, we’ll find a way to put you in jail on trivial or even trumped-up charges. If you’re a rising star, we’ll investigate your private life, and tell lies about your name, history, family, and religion. If you get elected President on a platform you copied from us, we’ll impeach you for adultery.
And if you try to stop our war machine, we’ll run over you.
More disgusting news from Halliburton, Vice President Richard Cheney’s favorite war profiteer:
…The inspector general's report said some troops noticed problems with the water. Between October 2004 and May 2005, troops at Camp Ar Ramadi said bathwater was discolored and had an unusual odor. The report said KBR failed to treat the nonpotable water and monitor water quality during the same period.
At Camp Q-West, KBR inappropriately delivered chlorinated wastewater for showers and latrines without informing military preventive medicine officials, the report said. "KBR did not monitor or record the quality of water at point-of-use containers before April 2006, even though the ... contract required the company to do so," the report added.
Medical records for troops at Camp Q-West indicated 38 cases of illnesses commonly attributed to problem water. These include skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections and diarrhea. Doctors diagnosed 24 of the cases in January and February 2006, the same period when medical officials warned of a rise in bacterial infections at the base…
If you liked the Southeast Asia War Games (as we players sometimes called them), you’ll love Bush’s war of choice in the Middle East. Excerpted from the Times of London:
The cost of direct US military operations — not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans — already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.
And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion.
In retrospect, I’m absolutely convinced that we lost the war wrong. We should have fought that war in an advisory mode and remained in that mode. When the South Vietnamese failed to come up and meet the mark at the advisory level, then we never should have committed US forces. We should have failed at the advisory effort and withdrawn. — Gen. Volney F. Warner, 1983
I’ve reached the epilogue of H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty, and it’s been quite a journey. The book covers the period from the inauguration of John Kennedy in 1961 to the point in July 1965 when Lyndon Johnson’s non-decision decisions fatally committed the United States to a land war in Asia, which nearly all of his advisors believed the US could not win. To get an idea of the granularity level McMaster is working at, check the first four (of fifteen) entries in the Table of Contents:
At several critical points the narrative goes day by day, occasionally even hour by hour. The endnotes require eighty-two pages. It appears McMaster has gained access to nearly every relevant document, many of them unpublished memoirs or government memos that describe in detail what the participants were thinking about.
Anyone familiar with the history of the period will not be surprised by the duplicity and heartlessness of the main manager of the war, Robert Strange McNamara. If you saw The Fog of War, you know what I mean. McNamara is the kind of liar who lies to himself first and foremost, with the result that he can be convincing because he believes the lies he tells.
Certainly the war in Vietnam is the fault of LBJ above all; he handed McNamara the reins so he could concentrate on passing his Great Society legislation. That wasn’t a surprise to me, but I was taken aback by McMaster’s conclusion that Johnson’s personal insecurity was a large part of the problem. Unlike the current occupant, the President was actually the decider; but, like Bush, he was uncomfortable with dissent, so he continually reduced the size of the group with whom he was candid. When an advisor began to express doubts about the war, he was ignored, even if he happened to be the Vice President.
As a result the Joint Chiefs of Staff were cut out of the process of generating a strategy for fighting the war. When Johnson took office on November 22, 1963, American military folks were fighting in Vietnam, but neither the Vietnamese nor the American governments admitted that. Both claimed that US personnel performed in advisory roles only, which was true in the sense that American forces were not acting alone. Ground forces were always composed of Vietnamese soldiers accompanied by a few Americans, though the opposite ratios generally held when it came to the air war.
The Secretary of Defense, so called, held the top military brass in low esteem, in part because of his lack of knowledge of the military, in part because of his experience with the Bay of Pigs invasion, and in part because he believed he was smarter than they were and his systems analysis methods would solve every problem. This led McNamara to believe that he could control the American side of the war very precisely from Washington; so when he ordered bombing raids and the combination of bad weather and restrictions on military methods produced disappointing results, he blamed the military, despite their opposition to his methods. They might have been opposed to his goals as well, had they been given a clear picture of those goals; but you can’t provide a clear picture if you don’t have one yourself. At one point the National Security Advisor, McGeorge Bundy,
…told [Under Secretary of State George] Ball that there was no need for the United States to “follow a particular course down the road to a particular result.”
Right, we were only there killing people, and losing American lives, to see what would come of it. And to keep the profits rolling in for companies like Bell Helicopter. LBJ’s war cabinet believed, and said, that the US would be better off to fight and lose in Vietnam than to withdraw from the fight altogether.
Of course there’s plenty of blame to go around. An insecure President and a megalomaniac Defense Secretary were the main culprits, but the Joint Chiefs get some grief from McMaster too, which is probably why he’s still a Lieutenant Colonel.
The body charged with providing the president with military advice and responsible for strategic planning permitted the president to commit the United States to war without consideration of the likely costs and consequences. Comprehensive estimates of the number of troops necessary to win existed, but to conceal interservice divisions and to increase the likelihood that the president would approve the actions that they recommended, the Joint Chiefs suppressed them.
One study estimated that seven hundred thousand troops would be needed to win in Vietnam. The Army Chief of Staff thought five hundred thousand troops and five years would be required. But no one said anything, because McNamara and his allies in the administration had chosen a strategy they called graduated pressure, which severely limited the military’s ability to fight the war. The CIA was consistently reporting the difficulties faced by American strategists, but the American ambassador, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, removed the offending paragraphs before forwarding his reports to Washington. This inability to present the President with unvarnished analyses eventually led the director of the CIA to resign in frustration. But the Joint Chiefs simply buckled.
There are some striking similarities to the current war in Iraq. The ideological certainty of both administrations, though of different types, produced similar situations of willful blindness. This caused both administrations to ignore intelligence estimates that didn’t fit with what they wanted to hear. In both cases, many of the Americans making war strategy were innocent of military experience themselves. They believed passionately in the inherent superiority of American firepower, and equally strongly but less overtly in the superiority of Americans and the American way of life. These beliefs allowed both groups to retain their intentional ignorance of the objectives of those on the other side. McNamara et.al. persisted in thinking that Hanoi was playing a prestige game, and that rational calculations of cost would drive Ho Chi Minh to give up his ambitions to unify Vietnam.
William Bundy’s, [Michael] Forrestal’s, and [John] McNaughton’s education and experience in the law reinforced the analysts’ assumptions. In English common law, lawyers and judges must view human behavior through the lens of the “average reasonable man.” That theory underlay predictions of how Hanoi would respond to limited air strikes.
The problem was that all the evidence showed that Hanoi was not directed by average reasonable men. Ho told a French visitor that if they killed ten of his men for every man the Vietnamese killed, Ho would win the war. In the end, the Vietnamese were not going anywhere; the only way to beat them was to wipe them out. Graduated pressure was a strategy that clearly would not dissuade such opposition.
One is left with the impression that a good deal of the bungling of the invasion of Iraq is a replay of the disaster the US created in Vietnam. The main difference is that in the case of Iraq the Cheney administration knew exactly what it was going for. The PR was equally dishonest, but the goal was clear to the strategists: steal all the oil, even if we have to be there a hundred years to do so. American lives no longer mean more to the White House than foreign lives; dollars, and power, count.
John Edwards, sadly, is out. With him went what seemed like the only chance to end our occupation of Iraq before 2012, when a presumably Democratic president will presumably be reelected.
If Edwards had been able to end the occupation next year — Bush’s warhogs are right about this — the results would have been the shameful abandonment of our allies there, a bloody civil war killing thousands or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and a destabilized Middle East descending into God knows what new horrors.
If Clinton or Obama is elected, exactly the same things will happen, only four years later. By that time we will have lost another trillion dollars or so and thousands more American lives. In addition the Iraqis would have lost — Oh, well, who cares?
Obama or Clinton will happily pay such a price for reelection, just as Nixon did before them. The awful irony is that this time it might not even work. Bush has left his successor a far worse mess to clean up than Kennedy/Johnson did. We could wind up with a Republican president in 2012, or even a Scientologist. On the evidence so far this century, we’re dumb enough to elect anything.
The only bright spot in today’s announcement is my suspicion that Edwards has cut a deal with Obama and will wind up as vice president. This would halfway realize the advice I generously offered on December 16: “As between Edwards and Obama my considered opinion is that they should swap wives and then flip for the nomination.”
[The Secretary of Defense] would dominate the policy-making process because of three mutually reinforcing factors: the [Joint] Chiefs’ ineffectiveness as an advisory group, [the president’s] profound insecurity, and the president’s related unwillingness to entertain divergent views on the subject… Above all [the president] needed reassurance. He wanted advisors who would tell him what he wanted to hear, who would find solutions even if there were none to be found. Bearers of bad news or those who expressed views that ran counter to his priorities would hold little sway. [The SecDef] could sense the president’s desires and determined to do all that he could to fulfill them.
Who, it’s apparently being asked among military thinkers, will be the H.R. McMaster of Iraq? Whoever it is, will he or she be capable of writing, and allowed to write, as honest a portrayal of governmental failings, both civilian and military, as that in Dereliction of Duty?
And will that person be passed over for promotion in the same fashion?
When there is a bull in a china shop, the intelligent first step is not to leave him there until he mends what he broke. The bull is too big and too clumsy and too dumb for that. The intelligent first thing is to get that bull the hell out of the china shop.
Noam Chomsky makes this point conclusively in an interview with CT Review (no link), the journal of the Connecticut State University System:
Interviewer: While we’re in the game, we can’t quit the game.
Chomsky: That’s another presupposition. The Russians were in the game in Afghanistan in 1986. Did we say, “Well they broke it, so they have to stay there to fix it?” No, we didn’t say that. When the Germans were in France in 1944, we didn’t say, they broke it, so they have to fix it and stay there until they do. We didn’t ever say that.
There’s a deeper presupposition. We own the world, so therefore anything we do is justified . Therefore, unlike the Russians in Afghanistan or the Germans in occupied France, we broke it so we’ve got to fix it. We’re totally different from everyone else because we own the world.
That presupposition is never mentioned. People would be horrified if you brought it out, but the discussions just don’t make any sense unless you assume this. Bush announces the surge in exact opposition to the will of the American population, and of course the Iraqis. Both populations want to reduce the troops or for us to get out. Bush’s response is to send more troops.
Predictably, as they announce the surge, they announce that Iran is interfering in Iraq. This shifts the discussion to, “Is Iran interfering in Iraq?” Suppose that Germany in 1943 had said the allies are interfering in occupied France. People wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Germans invaded and occupied France. How can anybody be said to be interfering with that?
Well, while the Russians were in Afghanistan, America was proud to support terrorists, incidentally Islamic terrorists, to oppose them. But we didn’t think of ourselves as interfering in Russian-occupied Afghanistan. By the same logic, how can Iran possibly be interfering in American-occupied Iraq?
But the debate rages. Are the serial numbers on the improvised explosive devices traceable to Iran’s revolutionary guards? We have a profound debate about this, all instilling the assumption that we own the world, because if we didn’t own the world then you couldn’t even have such a debate. It wouldn’t make sense.
When American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, private security and military contractors will have guarded the convoys bringing the turkey and gravy.
If not for the private security contractor (PSC) business, there would have been no Thanksgiving at all. For it was a PSC whom the Pilgrims hired in 1620 to join them on the Mayflower and provide security for what would become their new colonial settlement in Plymouth, Mass.
Oh, well that excuses the murders of all those Iraqis then. They’re not Christians anyway, and they wouldn’t be interesting in giving thanks. According to Rat Pobertson:
Ladies and gentlemen, we have to recognize that Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law. In the Quran, it says it very clearly. There are two spheres. One is the Dar al-Harb, which is the realm of war. The other is Dar al-Islam, which is that part that’s under submission to Islam. There is no middle ground. You’re either at war or you’re under submission. Now, that’s the way they think.
Which is completely different from Robertson’s view, that God punished the United States with 9/11 because we allow pornography and gays, that we should submit to his view of God rather than Muhammed’s, and that we’d better start a new Crusade posthaste. Can we say shadow projection? (Can we say President Rudy? I didn’t think so.)
Whether due to good relations with the friendly local Indians or the deterrent effect of the well-organized militia and relatively well-armed fort, Plymouth never came under direct enemy attack. But other English colonial towns would. Standish and his men volunteered to come to their aid when threatened or attacked, and in at least one case they left the invaders bloodied and dismembered. Some accounts say Standish led revenge raids and, in one case, used a medieval form of intimidation — mounting an enemy Indian’s head on a pike — to protect the colonists from further attack.
Such operations earned Standish criticism for being too harsh. But the colonists held him in high regard. They repeatedly elected him military captain of Plymouth…
It’s good to remind ourselves that the founders of our country were just as bloodthirsty as we are.
Are you pro-“War on Terror” or anti-?
That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? All the Republicans except Paul are pro-, in fact they’re for all wars, as long as we’re attacking enemies we know are too weak to resist us on the battlefield (thus 4GW). Clinton and Obama have both made it clear that they think the GWOT is a real thing, and that we face a threat from an Islamic Mussolini. To me that makes them excellent examples of the old Chomsky saw that you can’t reach a position of power in our government unless you believe that the US is unique in history in acting purely from altruistic motives. If there’s any conflict that we’re involved in — and there is, always, because it’s the only thing we excel at — we’re the aggrieved party. We may have been the invaders, and we may have invaded for no reason, indeed for less than no reason; but our inherent goodness and altruism prove that if we torture it’s because torture was required, and those who were tortured understand that.
Personally I agree with John Edwards that the GWOT is nothing more than a bumper sticker, a slogan used to concentrate wealth and eliminate civil liberties. Only the foolish and the power-hungry take it seriously. And the oil companies.
Which doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as terrorism. What is a B-2 if not a terror weapon? Bombing Iraqi cities has only one purpose, to terrorize. A case can be made that bombing German cities during World War II was an attempt to destroy the industrial base, thus shortening the war. I don’t personally buy it, but there’s a real argument to be made there. But flattening Fallujah, a war crime by any definition, had nothing to do with removing the insurgency’s industrial base; it was simply an attempt to terrify the population. That’s terrorism, and if we wanted it to stop we could stop doing it.
So am I saying that the US is the leading terrorist country in the world? Yes. Followed by Israel, much of whose terrorism the US funds.
The Bush administration’s double standards are as glaring as meteor impacts. When, in the summer of 2006, Israel used the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah to unleash a pre-programmed devastating war on Lebanon, destroying great swathes of the country, the Bush administration immediately gave the Israelis the green light. When 12 Turkish soldiers are killed and eight captured by PKK guerrillas based in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration urges Ankara to take it easy.
The “war on terror” is definitely not an equal-opportunity business.
It is a business, though. The current problem for the terrorism industry is the incompetence, indeed the idiocy, of its MBA CEO and his board. Their inability to understand the complexities of the world drives them to shrink the problem to the point where their little minds can wrap around it, the issue being that such grotesque simplification removes their ability to predict the outcome of their actions.
A reasonable view of the world allows its holder to predict results with a non-zero chance of being right. Unfortunately, a view of the world that is one hundred percent wrong can sometimes produce the same results. For instance, if someone doesn’t hate you, but you believe he does, you’ll act hatefully toward him, thus generating in him a strong distaste for you, which you will then interpret as confirmation of what you always thought, thus increasing your confidance in your misapprehension, and eventually changing it to a truism.
An oversimplified view of the world, on the other hand, regularly produces unexpected results.
US plans for Iraqi Kurdistan, stretching back to that 1990 Israeli-devised Turkish plan, are in jeopardy. And once again all because of the enemy within.
Washington played the ethnic card in Afghanistan, pitting Tajiks against Pashtuns; the result, apart from a never-ending war in Afghanistan, was that Pashtuns on both sides of the border united and are now destabilizing even further the US ally, Pakistan.
Washington played the Kurd card to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and as a beachhead for its control of the country after the invasion. Not only Iraq turned into a quagmire, Washington helped to plunge Kurdistan into the line of (Turkish) fire.
Please support and pass this law:
The Sacrifice Recognition Act of 2007
Effective immediately, the president and vice-president, after seeking and securing the agreement of the bereaved family, each separately shall attend the funeral of at least one of the next 200 members of any branch of the armed services who are killed while serving, or as a direct result of serving, in a combat zone as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 112(c)(2), or in any other area defined in 37 U.S.C. § 310(a)(2)(B) & (C). Thereafter, the president and vice-president in like manner shall continue to attend at least one funeral for each subsequent increment of 200 such fatalities.
Is the Speaker of the House really serious about genocide, or is she simply involved in a standard Washington power play?
Suppose we assume that a million and a half Armenians died between 1915 and 1923 in a systematic and deliberate campaign; personally I know of no reason to doubt that, but I’m not a historian of the Ottoman Empire.
Now suppose the House of Representatives, 92 years later, decides to label that systematic and deliberate campaign “genocide”.
What, exactly, is the difference between a systematic and deliberate campaign by Ottomans that killed a million and a half Armenians, and a systematic and deliberate campaign by Americans that killed a million-plus Iraqis?
Is it that last half-million deaths? Or the religion of the killers? Can the wingnuts come up with some defense based on intent, or will they, as usual, escape the dilemma by denying the facts?
And what’s the difference between wingnuts denying facts, and House Speakers choosing to spend time on century-old genocides to distract attention from an equal number of deaths the Speaker’s party funded? I mean, they’re different, but do they differ in levels of culpability?
[ Update: I don’t really understand what evidence TeddySanFran considers in thinking that Pelosi is trying to stop the war in Iraq with a semantic resolution about Armenians. The argument seems a bit far-fetched. I wish it were true, but I see no reason to think so. ]
[ Update 2: It has been pointed to me that a semantic non-wingnut argument holds up against my original statement. If we define genocide as the attacker trying to exterminate a group of people, then intent, and ratio of killed to spared, are critical. By those measures, American involvement in Iraq has not been genocidal.
My original point, poorly stated, was this: what is the moral difference between killing a million and a half people in an attempt to eliminate Armenians, and killing a million-plus people in an attempt to run off with the resources they live on top of? Is it less moral if one intends to kill a million people than if one does so unintentionally? In other words, what is the moral difference between the Ottoman actions the House condemns and the war in Iraq it funds? ]
You know Brian Eno? Musician, or as he says non-musician, inventor of ambient music, and producer of groups like Talking Heads, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, and U2, he’s sufficiently iconic to be a character in Salman Rushdie’s wonderful homage to pop music (and love, and life, and the universe), The Ground Beneath Her Feet.
It’s not just his production skills, either.
Our leaders would undoubtedly be happy if we “moved on” from Iraq. They don’t want to talk about it any more: it was a dreadful blunder, and reflects little credit on any of them. Presumably this is why the question has hardly been debated in parliament. Although the majority of the public were always against the war, this was not reflected by their elected representatives. The government behaved in a way that was transparently undemocratic but the Conservatives won’t call them on it, for without their almost unanimous support the whole project couldn’t have happened.
But to conveniently forget Iraq now is to forfeit the only possible benefit the war might have: the chance to rethink the dysfunctional political system that got us into this hole. If we don’t, we risk digging a series of ever deeper holes.
The Iraq adventure was justified as the planting of a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Not only did it utterly fail at that, it also undermined our democracy. Appealing to our paranoia more than our vision, George Bush and Tony Blair obtained restrictions on freedoms that had taken centuries to evolve. They said these were necessary to ensure our security — a device used by authoritarian leaders since time immemorial.
If we don’t stand up about Iraq then we tacitly sanction the next steps in this deadly experiment of democratic evangelism. Those will likely include an attack on Iran, a permanent force of occupation in Iraq (probably always the intention), the complete militarisation of the Middle East, and a revived nuclear future.
Apparently the Brown government, which only a couple weeks ago appeared ready to cruise through an early election, is being tested in a variety of ways. One of its chosen responses was to ban a demonstration, scheduled for the day Parliament opens, under an apparently rarely used 1839 law.
Eno is part of the Stop the War coalition that was planning the demonstration, so you can imagine he’s less than pleased.
It would take courage for Gordon Brown to say: “This war was a catastrophe.” It would take even greater courage to admit that the seeds of the catastrophe were in its conception: it wasn’t a good idea badly done (the neocons’ last refuge — “Blame it all on Rumsfeld”), but a bad idea badly done. And it would take perhaps superhuman courage to say: “And now we should withdraw and pay reparations to this poor country.”
I don’t see it happening. But the demonstration will, legal or not: on Monday Tony Benn will lead us as we exercise our right to remind our representatives that, even if Iraq has slipped off their agenda, it’s still on ours. Please join us.
Well, at least the unit has been reduced to half a Friedman:
“I think the next three to four months are critical,” Odierno told reporters. “I think that if we can continue to do what we are doing, we’ll get to such a level where we think we can do it with less troops.”
Continue doing what we were doing: lying, murdering, and stealing?
Yes, as long as we don’t make make any peace treaties.
…the Iraqi High Tribunal upheld death sentences of former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces.
Al-Tai negotiated the cease-fire than ended the 1991 Gulf War, when a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Is Senator Warner’s proposal to “redeploy” 5,000 troops by the end of 2007 meaningful? Or is it an early salvo in a cleverly designed rear-guard action by a desperate retreating army? The latter.
The Republicans are desperate for a strategy, any strategy, that might offer them a ray of hope for 2008. At this point it seems that only a miracle would give them the House, but they might hope to take the Senate, or at least keep it in its current state of impotence. But you know the litany of troubles they’ve seen. Not just the fact that two-thirds of the Senators up for re-election in 2008 are Republicans. And not just the incompetence, the lies, or even the corruption. Sure, it hurts that so many Republicans are going to jail, but they’ll have replacements soon enough.
The big problem right now is, they look like losers. They lied to get their war, then they lost it.
Now they’re scrambling for rheotorical cover for the firefight of the next election. If they bring the troops home, obviously the best solution in political as well as national-security terms, they’ll have started and lost the war single-handedly, and even some of their core supporters will join in the pounding they get at the polls.
On the other hand, three-quarters of the population has already realized that withdrawal, now or soon, is the only choice, and that Staying the Course is simply killing people for political (and for Cheney-friendly corporations, financial) gain.
They need a Third Way.
Thus the Slow Withdrawal, changing course in a measurable but insignificant way. Party leaders are said to have let the White House know quite clearly that Republican support in Congress for staying the course would be gone by September absent a miracle in Iraq. They supposedly recommended a drawdown executed very slowly, giving the impression of doing something while ensuring there’s a war to hand to the next President.
Perhaps they figure they can recruit 5,000 mercenaries by the time Christmas rolls around, effectively doubling the cost while eliminating any shred of accountability. Halliburton et. al. would love that, eh?
Everyone’s talking about the soldiers’ piece at the New York Times, “The War as We Saw It”. And rightfully so.
The result of a 15-month deployment, signed by six Army sergeants and a specialist, it’s one of those reminders that the military is generally not the problem. It often happens that a President bent on war finds a general to lead his military. Lincoln went through a lot of them, but most people thought he was looking for a competent aggressor. Bush and Cheney need someone to execute an impossible plan based on a bunch of hooey. Thankfully, many high-ranking officers have made it clear by word or deed that they feel there are some missions that should be not be undertaken. Now some sergeants are joining in.
One of the most impressive things about the article is the clarity of their vision of the situation.
Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.
Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.
Straightforward and on the mark, as far as I can tell. Presumably these guys are not expecting to be career Army; or perhaps they haven’t heard about Gen. Taguba. But thank God for ’em.
Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.
This article is undoubtedly part of what seems to be wide-spread displeasure in the military about the policy of arming all sides. Which we’re clearly doing, whether by disbanding the Iraqi army, losing 190,000 weapons, training Iraqis of dubious loyalty for police and military work, or directly handing guns to Sunnis hoping they’ll use them on “Al Qaeda in Iraq”. They might very well do so; but then what happens? Suppose we work with Sunnis to clear out the AQI folks, will the Shia-dominated government then be allowed to take control and the Sunnis required to give back the guns? Would they do that?
In any case, it’s good to know we have sergeants and specialists of such character and insight in the Army. It’s regrettable that their leadership, particularly their civilian leadership, has once again given them an impossible mission. Therein lies the truest similarity of the occupation of Iraq to the war in Vietnam. That, and the Presidential lies that led to each.
It’s regrettable, but understandable. Not acceptable or forgivable, from my point of view, but understandable as part of a pattern of behavior of the United States over time.
We don’t consciously seek to create violent crises; but our actions tend to create inequalities of financial and military power around the globe, which foster discontent. In particular, we’re by far the biggest seller of weapons, and we spend more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined. In theory, if the defense budget does anything other than transfer wealth from the general fund to the richest members of society, we should be able to take on the rest of the world at once; but in the real world we’ve lost to an insurgency.
For the Halliburtons and the Bechtels, the economy is in great shape. For the dead and wounded, and for those of us lucky enough to be on the sidelines, the inequalities look a lot like the Roaring ’20s, without the inventive and playful spirit. Of course, our war isn’t over yet. But I doubt we’ll have a decade between the end of our war and our economic reckoning.
We need wars and upheavals and rebellions to keep our economy going. And to assure our place as the most important country. If the question is, Who’s got the biggest stick, we’ll win. If it’s, Who’s got the best schools or medical care or industrial capability, we’ll be embarrassed.
Where’s the outrage? Pointed in the wrong direction, to allow us to acquit ourselves of participatory guilt.
Everywhere you look there’s outrage at the accusations against Michael Vick for running a dog-fighting ring. With good reason; the fighting alone is a disgusting thing, not to mention the gruesome executions. But I don’t really understand why people are surprised, or why it’s such a big deal.
Compared, say, to Chris Benoit’s murder of his wife and child, quite clearly a product of the same chemically-induced rage that Vick and his fellow scumbags sought a release for.
Or to the accusations that Pat Tillman was killed intentionally by comrades, shot three times in the forehead with an M-16 from ten yards away.
Or to the deaths of about a million Iraqis, and the torture of who knows how many others.
In my book, people are more important than dogs. I expect I’ll be accused of speciesism, but there it is. Hell, I may as well go all the way and declare that I believe war is more important than wrestling (especially fake wrestling), and, God help my future book sales, even football.
But it’s easier to direct one’s inner rage against a target like Vick. Especially given the sensitive nature of the steroid issue right now, and the approach by Bondsy Barr to hallows everyone knows he didn’t earn and doesn’t deserve, the official records of which should in my opinion be erased, not asterisked (at least his chemically-induced rage hasn’t killed anyone, as far as I know). Benoit, after all, has the benefit of being dead.
Just as with the war in Vietnam, and for the same reasons, Americans have a lot of inner rage right now. A lot of it comes from inner conflict, very especially among those who found some reason to support the war. It’s not just the right-wing warmongers who feel this; liberal interventionists like George Packer are still struggling to resolve the contradictions in their positions without having to admit they were wrong morally, wrong legally, and wrong realpolitik-wise.
Given all those inner conflicts, plus the constant drumbeat of distraction from the media, it’s not surprising that people look for scapegoats, and focus on things that don’t really matter to the exclusion of things that do.
Holy Crowley, has it really come to this?
Today Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker were grilled by Senators via video hookup. McClatchy’s article leads with the question posed by Sen. Lugar: are you planning for a change of mission or a redeployment? A clever question in a sense, because it emphasizes the issue of competence. Any military commander in Petraeus’s position had better have a plan for withdrawing, even if he’s been ordered not to admit it.
The Cheney administration has tricked, blamed, and otherwise exploited the military command structure beyond anything I’ve seen or read about in American history. As a result, the military, still harboring bitter memories of Vietnam, has lost significant prestige in the eyes of Americans. The command structure has again been presented with the choice between following orders and doing what’s right, and some officers have chosen poorly.
But the well-known preference of Americans for winning over for losing pales in comparison to the anger provoked by cheating and incompetence. Or at least we hope it will. We’ll know soon enough, if this is the best spin the administration point men can mount:
Asked for examples of progress, [Amb. Crocker] said that Iraq’s Shiite Muslim prime minister, Kurdish president and two vice presidents — one a Shiite and one a Sunni Muslim Arab — now met every Sunday morning. “I’m encouraged they can at least come together and thrash out their differences face to face,” Crocker said.
Which is something, I guess, but at this rate of progress there’ll be few Iraqis left by the time an entire legislature can even be convened, let alone decide on who gets how much of the oil wealth and, more importantly, how quickly rights to the oil can be signed over to American companies.
In response to Sen. Lugar’s question, the ambassador said No, we’re not planning.
The Indiana senator, who’s called for planning ahead for a withdrawal so that it won’t be done poorly, said there’d been reports that the Bush administration had pressed officials to abandon any such planning.
Crocker said he knew of no efforts to create a Plan B.
“I’m fully engaged, as is General (David) Petraeus, in trying to implement the president’s strategy that he announced in January,” he said, referring to an increase of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops, mainly to try to quell sectarian fighting in Baghdad. “The whole focus is implementation of Plan A.”
Which reminded me of a very old line so typical of loyal Bushies.
Some neocons began agitating inside the Bush administration to support some kind of insurrection, led by Chalabi, that would overthrow Saddam. In the summer of 2001, the neocons circulated a plan to support an INC-backed invasion. A senior Pentagon analyst questioned whether Iraqis would rise up to back it. “You’re thinking like the Clinton people,” a Feith aide shot back. “They planned for failure. We plan for success.”
Faith-based planning works just as well as faith-based birth control and faith-based farming.
So it begins.
It’ll be harder to extract our military from Iraq than we’ve admitted to ourselves (and that’s saying something), because with all the mercenaries and their support systems we’ve really got over a quarter-million people on the ground. Of course about a quarter of them are Iraqis, but a lot of those will want to leave.
They’ll have to catch something other than Expat Airlines, though. So will the Indians and Pakistanis who’ve been employed in large numbers by the various contractors, as described for example in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City.
Pro Group, with offices in Amman and the United Kingdom, is launching Expat Airways in conjunction with the Jordanian Air Force. The Baghdad flights will use Jordan’s Marka Airport.
Ashraf Mraish, managing director for Pro Group, based in Amman, said Jordan’s tight visa restrictions drove the decision to exclude non-Westerners. Refugees have overwhelmed Jordan, which has imposed strict entry requirements for Iraqis.
“It would cost us much more to accommodate non-Westerners,” Mraish said this week. “We hope this flight is a solution to make (contractors’) lives easier.”
You can see why the Jordanian Air Force would consider it a national security issue to get Americans and other Westerners out of Baghdad, can’t you? Well, I can’t. It looks to me like a US operation under Jordanian cover. Probably Blackwater and Halliburton types starting to draw down.
According to the article, US taxpayers are funding payroll for 180,000 contract workers in Iraq. And of course we also have about 150,000 uniformed military folks there. It’s gonna take a while to get that many people out. But with those in the White House seeing clear signs of desertion in Republican ranks, the panic they deny is obviously setting in.
So it looks like they’re starting to decamp. But they don’t want anyone to know that, a perfect symbol of which is that Expat Airlines planes will have no logo.
There’s a lot of buzz about the editorial in the New York Times today calling for what loyal Bushies would term precipitate withdrawal.
Indeed, there are some striking statements from this organ of pre-war lies.
At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.
While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.
The editorial lists some of the harms the US has suffered as a result of what it calls “this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war”, and accuses the President and Vice President of using demagoguery and fear as weapons against American public opinion. It ends with a call to action.
This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.
Executive summary: we thought it would be a cakewalk securing Iraq’s oil, but it wasn’t. So our advice is to cut bait; just don’t let it hurt Israel.
But the Times is ready to give up on the occupation, not the oil.
The bottom line: the Pentagon needs enough force to stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq, but not enough to resume large-scale combat.
This seems to me patently silly, totally PR, and the colors aren’t even particularly happenin’.
How can one tell whether a given number of ground troops and a fleet of bombers, fighters, and support craft constitute a force whose size is sufficient for effective raiding but not for large-scale combat? Is there a UN agency that does such surveys, or is it an NGO? Sounds like rhetorical cover is being sought.
Plus, there’s an argument to be made that the force we now have in Iraq is not a large-scale combat force; we didn’t expect to see large-scale combat except for a brief period during the invasion. If that argument held up, the Times would presumably be happy simply to remove US troops to bases in Kuwait and the budding Kurdistan. Bringing them home, and getting the hell out of Iraq, does not seem to be the primary goal.
Most importantly, why does our military need to “stage … raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq” if we’re no longer bogged down there militarily? Are we claiming that we have vital interests in Iraq?
Which is really the point. Whether true believer (Bush, Wolfowitz) or shameless profiteer (Cheney, Perle) or lying propagandist (most of the MSM, including the Times), it’s clear that for establishment types in the US, the war in Iraq is subtitled “Oil! And Israel”. The question is not whether the interests are vital, but how best to secure them.
To me, on the other hand, it seems that there are two points to securing the oil in Iraq. One is imperial: to have, as Chomsky says, our hand on the spigot that dispenses an ever more precious resource. The other is corporate: the profits being made in the oil business are nothing short of criminal, and should be treated as such.
We could use the billions we’d collect in fines to fund research into alternative energy and transportation.
Our relationship with Israel has a strong imperial tint as well; as Kissinger said, Israel is our lieutenant in the Middle East. And, given our actions in that area over the past few decades, damn near our only friend. Sure, our military might reinforces some monarchies that wouldn’t last a year without our support; but that’s a different sort of friendship.
Clearly we need a new plan for our forces in Iraq. But we can only make an intelligent one if we state our premises and assumptions. The problem is that my premises and those of the New York Times editorial board don’t match.
Seems to me there are three kinds of problems in Iraq.
The last two overlap, of course, but it doesn’t matter, because we can’t solve either of them. All we’ve tried to do is buy the Iraqi government some time to get its act together and begin running the country.
Problem is, we know this isn’t going to happen. The Iraqi government did not win an election like those we (used to?) have in the US. Let’s not forget that candidates were often afraid to place their names on the ballot lest they be abducted, tortured, and killed. Campaigning was so dangerous that there was little of it, leaving people to vote for parties rather than individuals or clear positions on issues. As a result, the final tallies closely followed confessional lines.
Not to mention that the Saddam years provided a suboptimal training ground for up-and-coming Iraqi leaders.
In any case the Iraqi government has little real power to wield. It doesn’t control, in the classic sense, any territory at all in its own country. The US has the Green Zone, but even that receives mortar fire (which I don’t think is supposed to happen in an area you control).
The government cannot dispense those oil billions we were told to expect because of sabotage, part of the resistance to the occupation as well as the Sunni-Shia conflict.
It can’t even provide water and electricity — we’ve made sure of that by bombing the crap out of the infrastructure. And by creating a situation that killed or displaced many of the professionals needed to start anew.
Thus it seems that Cheney has succeeded in his plan: the establishment believes that to leave now would be to abandon our friends and give up on all that oil.
In the end, don’t you admire a man who persists in his plan in the teeth of resistance?
“He takes a range of medications that he and his doctors decline to detail. The extent of his atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, which, if it extends beyond the heart to the brain, can cause hard-to-recognize changes in cognition) is unknown. Bypass surgery itself has long been associated with subtle changes in neurological function.
”At age 65, Cheney is easily 30 or more pounds overweight, seems to have slacked off on what was once a more rigorous diet, and appears to suffer from recurrent bouts of gout. At a roundtable lunch with reporters a couple of years ago, two who were present say, he cut his buffalo steak in bite-size pieces the moment it arrived, then proceeded to salt each side of each piece.“
If four heart attacks (that we know of) aren’t gonna teach him to avoid salt, it’s unlikely that he’s capable of learning anything.
Is it Cheney’s hope to tie us down in Iraq for many years to come, giving no-bid contracts to Halliburton, consuming lives in a perpetual war, and allowing enterprising young men to have other priorities than serving in it?
News reports have for some time shown the Iraqi resistance growing in size and in public acceptance. It’s increasingly clear that the US presence is aggravating the resistance problem to the point that it’s dominating the stage.
Without the US military, Iraq may well descend into a nightmare of bloodshed. Power struggles often go that way, especially among populations whose previous regimes have left them ill-prepared for self-government. But we can’t stop that.
Some of those who supported the war are now cloaking their imperial aims in humanitarian rhetoric. Others use similar rhetoric to cloak their interest in what they think is best for Israel.
We won’t make effective plans until we state our goals honestly. And we can’t do that because we don’t agree on whether the US should be an empire with a lieutenant in the Middle East.
Colin Powell is a war criminal just like the others.
The former American secretary of state Colin Powell has revealed that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today’s conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.
“I tried to avoid this war,” Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”
Powell has become increasingly outspoken about the level of violence in Iraq, which he believes is in a state of civil war. “The civil war will ultimately be resolved by a test of arms,” he said. “It’s not going to be pretty to watch, but I don’t know any way to avoid it. It is happening now.”
As Colbert says, it’s never too late to speak out after it’s too late.
The way I understand it, participation in the execution of war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity is the issue in a court of law. What you tried to explain, even what you believed to be true, is of little consequence legally.
But at least he’s saying the right thing now. As far as I know, he never got around to doing that with the whole My Lai thing.
Democrats are hoping to put off the moment of reckoning just as much as the White House is. In fact, the two sides are eyeing neighboring dates. The President dreams of January 20, 2009, while Democrats anticipate November 4, 2008.
Until then, Bush and Cheney will be channeling Bart Simpson: we didn’t do it. We didn’t fail. We kept the flame alive. We’ll hand it over to the next administration, and if they have the courage and the honor to do the right thing, the war will be carried to a successful conclusion at some glorious future time. Inshallah. I mean, God willing. (Heh heh, we’re out of here!) This ploy will fool the same clear-thinking folks that make up the 28-30% support Bush currently enjoys. These people are either those so artfully described by Thomas Frank, who still believe we would have won in Vietnam if not for the hippies:
Like everything else, however, the political valence of Vietnam-related martyrdom has been switched. What you hear more commonly today is that the soldiers were victimized by betrayal, first by liberals in government and then by the antiwar movement, as symbolized by the clueless Fonda. The mistake wasn’t taking the wrong side in the wrong war; it was letting those intellectuals — now transformed from cold corporate titans into a treasonable liberal elite — keep us from prevailing, from unleashing sufficient lethality on the Vietnamese countryside.
Or they’re the new generation of the same breed, electronic Rambos often derided in Left Blogostan as the 101st Fighting Keyboarders. Jeez, at least some of the previous generation had the integrity, or perhaps more importantly the cojones, to act on their beliefs.
These days, we get tragedy following tragedy, good people sacrificing life and limb in a stupid cause. Whatever you think of Pat Tillman’s decision to join up, he must have thought he was doing the right thing. (Personally, I wonder how he could have combined an understanding of Chomsky with enlisting, as has been reported, but perhaps I’ve got events out of order.) Andrew Bacevich’s son is another such tragic story. There are thousands of very similar ones in the US, and tens of thousands of stories of people whose lives will never be the same due to their injuries and experiences.
But these are overwhelmed by the millions of such stories in Iraq, stories of death, bodily harm, fiscal ruin, evacuation, homelessness, despair. At this point nearly every Iraqi must consider the US to be a sworn enemy. How would we feel in Riverbend’s place?
What a horrible thing this country has done. The only idea I’ve encountered so far that might help is to follow, as we should have done many years ago, George McGovern’s plan. McGovern and William Roe Polk sketch out a plan to compensate Iraqis for all the damage we’ve done. It’s kinda the least we could do, under the circumstances.
Though it would outrage the 101st FKs, it would be both the morally correct and the world-politically savvy thing to do. We should pay for the reconstruction of the Iraqi water, power, medical, and educational systems. And you know what? Altogether it would cost about as much as one year’s occupation, at the current rate. Thing is, we’d have to pay for it, not contract it out to Halliburton. McGovern’s strategy involves Iraqis doing the work, deciding what they want and building it. Our role is limited to paying for it, plus a reasonable amount of financial oversight. (Obviously there will be graft, but we’re not really in a position to complain about that right now. At least the money would end up in Iraq.)
Can we at least hope to realize how clearly Cheney proves that we create our own realities, even at the global level? Give the reins to a maniacal dark lord from a comic book, and you’ll soon have a situation as bad as a bunch of superheroes would make it. At that point, even if a superhero comes along and saves everyone, what kind of basis is that for society? That way lies tyranny, the strong-man theory of government. Damn, where’d we put Saddam?
One measure of what Americans have learned will be how we react to Bush and his cronies after they leave office. If the welcome Andy Card received at UMass was indicative, they’ll have to travel quietly and appear only in controlled settings.
Come to think of it, given Bush’s age, he might well survive until a post-imperial period, when the US military can no longer shelter a war criminal under its worldwide umbrella. Will Pinochet bequeath us some precedents? Or, wonder of wonders, will we join the ICC? (I maintain that we should ask every candidate, at every opportunity, “As President, will you lead the US into joining the International Criminal Court?”) But, like Cheney, Bush is unlikely to care. He never left the US before he was President, why should he leave afterward?
At this point, my money’s against the Republicans trying to deify this particular two-term President. Looks like Bush will manage to set a new standard, lower than Nixon, who — lying, cheating, murdering scumbag that he was — at least inherited his war, and from someone he didn’t much like, though the two were equally distant from the destruction they caused. If I believed in evil, I would consider such people instantiations of it. But I don’t, so I don’t.
I think what would really help our image on the world stage is if we’d try these bastards for their crimes. There seems to be good reason to investigate BushCo for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. If we just brought Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, and Powell (and I’d argue for including Hadley) into court to defend themselves, we’d recoup some standing in the world. Of course Addington, Libby, Yoo, Rove, and some others should be in the dock as well, once we get rolling. I don’t even care whether we start prosecuting from the top or from the bottom, as long as we get ‘er done.
In any case, the world has changed since the last warmonger was President. I was never a Clinton fan, didn’t vote for him either time; but I have to admit his warmongering was piss-ant compared to either of the Bushes. (And we’re not even talking about the level of Truman or Johnson.) True, Clinton’s war was harder core than Reagan’s glorious salvation of the hard-pressed population of Grenada. Stephen Zunes recalls those heady days:
An island nation no bigger than Martha’s Vineyard, with a population that could barely fill the Rose Bowl, was defeated with relatively few American casualties. President Ronald Reagan’s decision to occupy the country and replace the government with one more to his liking proved to be quite popular in the United States, with polls indicating that 63% of the public supported the invasion.
There we go again. And how many days after the barracks bombing in Beirut was that…? (Correct answer: two.)
Lies and incompetence are not, unfortunately, unique to this particular war-criminal President. Nor is the employment of public relations in the service of military prowess.
After the invasion of Grenada, there was what the New York Times called recently a grand Reaganesque gesture; namely, Reagan stood up and said, we are “standing tall.” six thousand U.S. Special Forces won, I think, eight thousand medals for overcoming the resistance of a couple of dozen Cuban construction workers, meanwhile killing dozens of other American soldiers in the process. The press had to play a role, too. They had to suppress, and did suppress, the fact that Cuba had made offers instantly to negotiate the whole issue. The claim was the U.S. was protecting American students in a medical school. Cuba, said, fine, take over the medical school. All of that had to be suppressed by the press. It was kind of leaked quietly after it was all over and it was too late. But, yes, that was the grand event.
Proud to be an American, where at least, uh… How’s that go?
One thing you gotta say about Clinton, though, is that he wasn’t doing it so his friends in the oil and construction businesses could make out like bandits. No, sirree. No, his friends were lawyers and Wall Street types, and they weren’t heavy in defense industries. What they wanted was cover for their latest multinational scam.
They called this scam “free trade”, a term only slightly more accurate than “Moral Majority”. Clinton didn’t just buy into it; this was the only issue in his eight years for which he pulled out all the stops. Every bit of leverage he could apply to Congress was in play. With most of the Republicans, and fewer than 40% of the Democrats, voting with him, he got what Wall Street wanted. And the giant sucking sound became audible. Health care reform? Gays in the military? Civil liberties? Those could wait. We need 100,000 new cops on our dangerous streets.
Current-day Democrats, with a few honorable exceptions, are playing the same political game Bush is. He has a losing hand, and is trying not to acknowledge that, so he can find a sucker to take over the hand and go back to his beloved branch-cutting. The Democrats, on the other hand, figure they have a winning hand; all they have to do is not screw up and they’ll win in 2008. So why solve the big problems now? They didn’t create them. Yes, people might live who’ll otherwise die. But whose fault is that?
Surely, beloveds, it’s ours. Folks are dying in their roles as pawns in our politicians’ games. We must stop this madness.
Now that Bush has vetoed Congress’s first attempt to end the war, what’s the next move?
Some Democrats will complain about the President’s actions, talk about his distance from reality, and ridicule his idiotic stubbornness. Then they’ll vote for a bill that gives him more or less exactly what he wants: all the money and none of the strings. They’ll justify this cowardly action, aimed solely at improving their own career paths, with two contradictory excuses.
The exoteric statement will imply that the Democrats support the troops as much as the White House, and will pledge to work through other channels to change the President’s mind. In other words, it will be largely an admission of surrender in the battle to stop the war, plus a pledge not to surrender next time. Or at least to find some future time at which surrender will not happen. Cheese, anyone?
The esoteric view, understood in (most of) the restaurants frequented by Senators, Members of Congress, and Presidential hopefuls, will in essence be a calculation that the danger of confronting the President on the war is too great; so the best thing to do is to wait him out. Withdrawing funding, which is clearly the only tactic that will make the administration pay attention, might cause some occupancy changes on the Hill, whereas a President committed to a vastly unpopular war will be an albatross for any Republican running in 2008 who can’t point to a lot of anti-Bush votes between now and then. In particular, the Republicans will need to nominate a serious gymnast for President, someone who can connect with party faithful, about half of whom still believe in the war, and yet will have some chance of attracting votes from the two-thirds of the population that thinks the war was a bad idea to begin with.
My guess is the Enabler Caucus will boast at least Clinton, Biden, and Obama from the current crop of Presidential hopefuls. Of course, events could certainly intervene to change facts and opinions. I’d love to move Barack out of this group; but his own statements clearly place him in this group for now.
The Dissenter Caucus certainly includes Kucinich, Gravel, and Edwards, and probably Dodd, at least in most circumstances.
As for me, despite the moral and legal transgression of invading a country that didn’t threaten us, I’d be willing to consider leaving troops there for a short period if it would help Iraqis get things together, but that ain’t gonna happen. War supporters posit a bloodbath if we leave, but that’s obviously already taking place; the fault for which lies with the United States, and in particular with the planners and executors of the war, who are guilty of war crimes and crimes against peace, and possibly crimes against humanity as well, according to the definitions we established for the trials at Nuremberg after the Second World War. But that was, I admit, pre-9/11.
So it seems to me that it’s our duty as citizens to tell Congress that we want the war ended, as this Edwards commercial, now running in a few states, advocates.
We should also let Democratic Presidential hopefuls know that vague generalities followed by capitulation on the actual vote will be punished in the primaries.
Of course this is easy for people like Edwards, not currently in office, to say. If you’re in Congress, you might be inclined to believe that your continuance in office is ipso facto good for the country, because what you want is good stuff, and you’ve learned something about how to work the system. Thus, political calculations to keep yourself in office also work to the benefit of the country. What’s good for you is what’s good for America.
But at some point morality must trump ambition. A commmitted citizen would, in my opinion, finally reach a point where calculations of personal gain would be swept aside by the national need. And what this nation needs is to be out of Iraq.
It wouldn’t be fair to pick on just the New York Times today, it’s time to give a worse actor it’s due. Most of us here actually do like most of the editorial writing done at the Times. The same cannot be said for the Washington Post. Fortunately I don’t have to make the argument against the Post, as Representative David Obey of Wisconsin has already done it for me today on the floor of the House of Representatives. I might have spiced the language up with a few choice four letter words, but he’s telling the truth. Give ’em Hell, Obey.
Everything that descends must converge. The rhetoric of rationalization, for instance. George, meet Khalid:
I don’t like to kill children and the kids. Never Islam are, give me green light to kill peoples. Killing, as in the Christianity, Jews, and Islam, are prohibited. But there are exception of rule when you are killing people in Iraq. You said we have to do it. We don’t like Saddam. But this the way to deal with Saddam. Same thing you are saying. Same language you use, I use.
Today’s Sweet Spot award goes to Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and thus, hopefully, a person of some relevance to the debate over the US presence in Iraq.
Supporters of the surge argue that the resolution opposing it “emboldens the enemy,” Levin said, “but that is an extraordinarily naïve view of the enemy.”
“What emboldens the sectarian fighters is the inability of Iraqi leaders to make the political compromises so essential to finally reining in the Sunni insurgents and the Shia militias,” he said. “The enemy cares little what Congress says. It is emboldened by what the Iraqi leaders don’t do. The enemy isn’t emboldened by congressional debate. It is emboldened by open-ended occupation of a Muslim country by Western troops.
“The enemy is emboldened by years of blunders and bravado, false assumptions and wishful thinking, and ignorance of the history of the land being occupied. The enemy is emboldened by an administration which says it is changing course, which acknowledges that a political settlement by Iraqi leaders is essential to ending the violence, but then plunges us more deeply militarily into a sectarian witch’s brew.”
Sending in more U.S. troops, Levin said, “sends the false message that we can save the Iraqis from themselves.”
The Bush crowd tricked us us into our present bloody, useless and hopeless mess by applying to the congenital American paranoia an inflammatory salve compounded of worst case scenarios. Maybe it’s time to counter with a different sort of worst case scenario.
Here’s a terrifying specimen, from a comment left by one Rene Sonsmann on The Smirking Chimp. It is a response to the blusterfuck of a speech Bush delivered Wednesday, announcing his plans to escalate tension in the Middle East by anchoring aircraft carriers off the coast of Iran.
It will happen something like this. At sunrise, a dozen sleek, Russian-made, Moskit anti-ship missiles (codenamed Sunburn) will skim low over the surface of the Persian Gulf near the Straits of Hormuz towards a US Navy Battle Group. Flying at 1500 mph, their 70-mile flight will only take three minutes, giving the crews and automated defence systems of the US aircraft carrier and its surrounding flotilla little time to react, even though they will have been on high alert ever since Israeli/US bombers destroyed the Iranian nuclear facilities at Bushehr, Isfahan and Natanz the previous day.
The ageing US aircraft carrier and its equally obsolete support vessels (no point sacrificing the good stuff) will have been deliberately positioned, like some sacrificial lamb, to provoke just such a response from an Iranian government incensed by the unprovoked attack on and destruction of its nuclear facilities. The missiles strike with devastating effect and in scenes reminiscent of the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, several capital ships are hit and sink with thousands of US naval casualties …
Although it’s only 10 pm EST, President Bush is awakened from a deep and peaceful sleep and informed of the attack. He makes an emergency television broadcast to the nation. In anticipation of the attack his speech has already been written, only the actual number of ships lost and “brave American servicemen and women” killed needs to added. He blathers on for a few hand-wringing minutes about the evil nature of the Iranian regime and how it is defying the reasonable demands of the international community before announcing his decision — to authorise first use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iranian underground facilities as well as ‘precision’ air strikes against any and every military target. As President Bush completes his broadcast with “and God bless America,” the first bombs are already falling.
The Iranians choose not to sit idly by while their facilities are bombed, their surface infrastructure and military are destroyed, large areas of their cities are contaminated by radioactive fallout and tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of Iranian men, women and children are killed (I wouldn’t either, would you?). They refuse, for some inexplicable reason, to accept defeat, to realise that all resistance is futile, to turn on the mullahs and hardliners that caused all this. The Bush Administration and Joint Chiefs of Staff are perplexed — wasn’t a new democracy supposed to arise out of the radioactive ashes of Isfahan?
Inexplicably, to President Bush and his advisors, the Iranians, the Arabs, the Muslims (both Sunni and Shia) become united by their hatred of and opposition to The Great Satan, America, and its ‘snivelling running dogs’ (now there’s a phrase we don’t hear enough of these days!), Britain and Australia. Everyone else had the good sense not to touch this frolic with a bargepole
Iraq, being predominantly Shiite, falls under the effective control of Iran and the insurgency there increases a hundredfold as the Shias, who have been relatively dormant there to date, also discover the joys of IEDs, suicide bombing and sniping, like their Sunni cousins. (Pity the poor GIs stuck there!)
Around the world, Islamic anti-US, anti-Western sentiment would go off the scale and whilst they wouldn’t be able to do much, it would be sure to swell the ranks of would-be terrorists and Islamic martyrs, and that would have adverse consequences for all our civil liberties as governments then seek to ‘protect’ us from the implacable enemies they’ve created.
The Iranians, now effectively controlling the oil production of Iraq as well as Iran, will turn the oil taps off, at least to those countries that assisted in or supported an attack on them. They also control the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and could make it difficult, if not impossible, for Kuwait, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia to ship their oil in tankers. The overland oil pipelines are easy to attack and/or sabotage. So there’s every likelihood of a massive oil production squeeze, oil prices would soar and just about every economy in the world would go into recession.
Petrol, if you could afford it, would be rationed. Businesses would have to raise prices to reflect the higher energy costs of production and distribution, consumption would fall in response to the higher prices and unemployment would rise as consumption fell. Western governments with social welfare programmes would go into budget deficits, as tax revenue reduced and benefit payments increased, causing interest rates to rise, adversely affecting economies even further. Residential property prices would fall as higher unemployment, energy and interest costs forced people to bail out. The share market would slump as the economy and corporate profitability declined and small investors were forced to liquidate share investments to provide cash for living expenses.
And that doesn’t even consider the actions of Russia and China, who until recently were U.S. enemies No1 & 2 and have strong economic relations with Iran. So, is this doomsday scenario far-fetched and unrealistic? I don’t think so.
[Cross-posted; we were being DoS’d…]
It appears the Pentagon is finally getting serious about planning for the war in Iraq.
Or perhaps it’s finally letting the plans happen. Either way, I’m afraid it might be too late to do much that’s helpful to the Iraqis. Of course, that was never the goal, but it was the only possible justification.
War supporters who consider themselves liberals — for instance, New Yorker editor David Remnick and writer George Packer, author of Assassin’s Gate — seem to have allowed themselves the colonialist illusion, believing that American military force can pull a democracy out of a hat. Admittedly, the strategy involved shouldering the White Man’s burden in honorable and exemplary fashion, to the extent possible given the inherent contradictions in the position.
These folks share a certain innocence with the neo-cons, which in both cases can be engaging but is more often exasperating. A wish to make the world better can be evidence of a good heart properly oriented. But unless you’re pretty damn sure that description applies to you, you’d be wise to remember that it can also be evidence of an insecure ego needing validation from the world, an issue that often has negative results when played out on a community scale.
It has always seemed to me that invading Iraq was not only flat-out wrong militarily, politically, and legally, it was obviously so from the beginning. To the extent that there was any realistic chance of making something positive out of the invasion, it depended on having a viable approach to the growing insurgency; and the best chance of beating the insurgency was at its inception. The problem was the reluctance of the administration to admit that this was in fact an “insurgency”.
This is of course idiocy of the highest level, the kind of thing that arises from a combination of hubris and Big-Brother attitude that wouldn’t be out of place on a French dauphin a couple centuries back. Who ever said we deserve the leaders we get? Well, I probably did, but I didn’t mean it.
The policy upon which the conduct of the war was based produced predictable, and predicted, results. To ignore the dearly-bought store of American military experience is incompetence of an order that approaches criminality. Which makes me happy to note that the first suit against Rumsfeld, Tenet, and Gonzalez was filed in Germany alleging war crimes and requesting an investigation by the German Federal Prosecutor’s office.
This request, long in forming, was finally submitted when Bush convinced Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act. The retroactive absolution of the administration and those who followed their orders, at the core of the act, was considered proof that the US does not intend to prosecute the apparent war crimes, in particular those committed in Abu Ghraib. German courts have a principal of universal jurisdiction, allowing prosecution in Germany of war crimes, regardless of where they were committed. In addition, some people implicated in the abuse at Abu Ghraib returned to bases in Germany, so they could testify.
This is the very web in which General Pinochet became ensnared during his visit to Britain after being indicted in a Spanish court. He was eventually relegated to the senility defense, which means he can’t go out much; and even that defense isn’t certain to stand up. Are you listening, Rummy? Perhaps it’s time to jump on that senility bandwagon before it gets too crowded. Or, as I suggested three years ago, “if Rumsfeld’s ever indicted for war crimes, he can plead insanity”. A case can be made…
The existence of such suits and the danger they pose is well known to the cabal that decided on torture as a tool in the war on terror: they had their lawyer write some memos claiming the law didn’t apply, then they made him the Attorney General. Who’s to investigate?
It better be Congress. Because we’re not party to the relevant international law; we don’t recognize the International Criminal Court for exactly this reason, it limits our behavior. Chomsky points out that every American President since World War II has committed what the Nuremburg trials called war crimes. Of course, no one’s going to prosecute a former President; but I bet you won’t see Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Rice traveling outside the US very often once they no longer have diplomatic immunity and bodyguards. Perhaps Powell can get away with it. In any case, they’re all bound to be concerned by the difficulties Kissinger supposedly has in traveling outside the US.
In fact it seems that avoiding prosecution was pretty much the only area in which the administration considered planning to be worthwhile. Which, again, is a consistent theme throughout each career. Accountability? These guys have other priorities.
I expect the greatest irritant for the liberal hawks is the realization that the American military knew a lot about handling insurgencies. Permission to use the accumulated wisdom of American military experience was limited, but in a few cases great results were achieved. Liberal hawks are thus hot for H.R. McMaster. According to his Wikipedia entry, he made his military bones during the first Gulf War: leading Eagle Troop of the Third Armored Cavalry, he “overran and destroyed” a much larger force of Republican Guards without a casualty to his unit. Even better than the resulting Silver Star was Tom Clancy’s account of the battle in his non-fiction book Armored Cav.
McMaster has also done some serious and impressive thinking about military strategy. He’s taught military history at West Point; his Ph.D. thesis on the mistakes of Vietnam led to the book Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, which criticizes the military leaders of the time for not challenging strategies of McNamara and Johnson that they considered deeply flawed. It claims that pressure from the White House and concern for career potential kept officers silent at critical times. The book is said to be influential with several of the retired generals who decried Rumsfeld and the conduct of the war. Apparently they don’t want to be subjects of the next edition, so they spoke up when it might contribute to a solution.
Some of the most impressive stories about McMaster come from George Packer’s Assassin’s Gate and the New Yorker articles derived from it. If all, or even 90%, of the American units occupying Iraq had from the beginning used the same approach as McMaster’s, the occupation would have been much more peaceful and in the end much more successful. His unit had counterinsurgency training, following the conclusions of the British military from an insurgency in Malaya in the nineteen-forties and -fifties: that counterinsurgency is one-fifth military and four-fifths political.
When they arrived in Tal Afar in the spring of 2005, McMaster’s unit’s first job was to wrest control of the city from the insurgents, an amalgam of hard-core jihadis and local Sunnis. By October, a combination of fierce fighting and patient negotiation with local leaders had significantly reduced the violence and established a base level of trust between the residents and the occupying force.
So the unit rotated out after nine months, a new unit arrived, and the process restarted, less successfully.
The evident success of McMaster’s unit proves, to the richly-deserved and everlasting shame of the Bush adminstration and the partially-deserved embarrassment of the liberal hawks, that the hearts and minds of much of the Iraqi population could have been won with appropriate tactics. McMaster’s unit was taught that you might have to have tea with someone three or four times before they would trust you enough to pass you helpful information; so they learned to do that, no problem. The US military knew what to do, but they weren’t allowed to do it, for reasons that pretty much add up to homefront PR, not to say propaganda.
The Bobby Fischer-like avoidance of the possibility of failure is one of the most troubling aspects of the Bush administration and its appointees and cronies. (Fischer supposedly responded to a question with “Don’t even talk to me about losing, I can’t stand to think of it”; a senior Feith aide replied to an analyst’s worst-case question with “You’re thinking like the Clinton people. They planned for failure. We plan for success.” In other words, they generally wing it.) Experiments such as McMaster’s involving strategies other than the official one often worked; but scaling these solutions to the size of Iraq, or even provinces thereof, called for a massively different approach to the conflict than was evident in the Pentagon and the White House.
For instance, it would likely require a lot of troops who would need to be trained in the proper techniques. To put it directly, this would be a force quite unlike Rumsfeld’s small, quick, technologically sophisticated strike force. The job is really closer to nation-building, a prospect with which the administration has long had an uncomfortable relationship.
It was never really likely that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush would be able to see around their visions and realize something of the true situation. Acknowledgement of reality hasn’t been a strong suit in any of their careers as far as I can remember.
What I take from all this is the impression that the US had a chance to come out with a much better situation than we’re now stuck with. (I don’t personally think that would have justified the war, but it seems worthwhile to examine missed opportunities.) Some people in the military, and some in the State Department such as Thomas Warrick, had plans, ignored by Rumsfeld, that incorporated a variety of perspectives and goals, and certainly would have been an improvement over what we actually did. McMaster is one of those.
I used this to justify a bit of optimism when I saw today’s Washington Post report that McMaster is one of three “high-profile colonels” leading a Pentagon attempt to discover some acceptable among the ruins. The other two, Peter Mansoor of the Army and Marine Thomas Greenwood, reinforce the conclusion that the Pentagon is belatedly putting the best and brightest available on the most important problems. Perhaps the imminent departure of the widely despised Rumsfeld has allowed a crack through which a bit of reason can sneak in the door.
In any case, they’ve apparently narrowed the choices down to three, which they disarmingly call Go Big, Go Long, and Go Home. Go Home is obvious, and obviously not going to happen under the Bush administration; plus it would lead to immediate civil war. Go Big would add enough troops to provide security and stability; the problem is, that would require about three times as many troops as we have there now, so that’s not going to happen. Which leaves Go Long: insert a few more troops now, say 20,000, attempt to stabilize critical areas, and withdraw as possible to the “enduring” bases.
You think they need a simplistic slogan like “Go Long” to distribute down the chain of command? How about “effects-based operations”, which, Packer says, as “a term of art in counterinsurgency, rolled off the tongue of every young officer I met in Tal Afar”? At least it implies that the result is important, but if that’s the rallying cry now, what were we doing before?
Then there’s the question of how to deal with the implied admission by the colonels that we’re flat out of attractive options.
As Chalmers Johnson said a long time ago, there was never a plan to leave because there was no intention of leaving.
This situation didn’t arise by chance. The strategy of removing all attractive options is a Republican favorite, whether it’s the neo-cons creating a no-exit war or the anti-taxers shrinking government to the size where they can drown it in a bathtub. They’re aware that a legitimate majority in favor of their self-interested proposals is not to be had, so they try to eliminate alternatives.
Just finished Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City. It’s a fine book. He has the writer’s eye for telling detail. Given his cultural heritage, and the fact that his skin is darker than most Americans (he grew up the Bay Area), he could get out into the real Iraq — he lived outside the Green Zone for most, possibly all, of the nearly two years he spent in Baghdad — more than his colleagues, and far more than anyone in the Coalition Provisional Authority. This book benefits tremendously from his ability to supply perspective.
Unlike almost anywhere else in Baghdad, you could dine at the cafeteria in the Republican Palace for six months and never eat hummus, flatbread, or a lamb kebab. The fare was always American, often with a Southern flavor. A buffet featured grits, cornbread, and a bottomless barrel of pork: sausage for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, pork chops for dinner. There were bacon cheeseburgers, grilled-cheese-and-bacon sandwiches, and bacon omelets. Hundreds of Iraqi secretaries and translators who worked for the occupation authority had to eat in the dining hall. Most of them were Muslims, and many were offended by the presence of pork. But the American contractors running the kitchen kept serving it. The cafeteria was all about meeting American needs for high-calorie, high-fat comfort food.
He supplies too many details for the book to be characterized briefly. If you’ve read his Washington Post articles, you know all about the experienced and respected people who were dumped so the White House could replace them with twenty-somethings who were selected because they sent résumés to the Heritage Foundation. If that doesn’t qualify you to reconstruct a society that’s ten times as old as the one you know, I don’t know what does.
For example, Chandrasekaran tells the tale of Thomas Wirges, an army reservist who had worked for American Express as a stockbroker. He was seconded to the CPA to help get the Baghdad Stock Exchange going again. Not surprisingly, he encountered some problems, among them insufficient regulation and the destruction of the building the exchange had used. He came up with a relatively simple two-phase plan: reopen the exchange with the somewhat primitive system the Iraqis were used to, then gradually introduce modern stock-exchange methods and laws. He presented the plan to his boss, who
…promised to have a securities expert sent over. I’m going to get a high-level person coming in from the New York Stock Exchange or the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wirges thought. I’m going to get someone who knows what to do.
Instead, he got a restless twenty-four-year-old.
Jay Hallen didn’t much like his job at a real-estate firm. His passion was the Middle East, and although he had never been there, he was intrigued enough to take Arabic classes and read histories of the region in his spare time.
He had mixed feelings about the war to topple Saddam, but he viewed the American occupation as a ripe opportunity. In the summer of 2003, he sent an e-mail to Reuben Jeffrey, whom he had met when applying for a White House job a year earlier. Hallen had a simple query for Jeffrey: Might there be any job openings in Baghdad?
“Be careful what you wish for,” Jeffrey wrote in response. Then he forwarded Hallen’s résumé to O’Beirne’s office. [Yes, Kate O’Beirne’s husband. — ced]
Three weeks later, Hallen got a call from the Pentagon. The CPA wanted him in Baghdad. Pronto. Could he be ready in three to four weeks?
Hallen had no relevant experience, and he got no training. He did get two immunizations, and a flak jacket that lacked the proper ceramic plates for stopping AK-47 bullets. Then he flew to Kuwait, where they gave him a gas mask and a lecture on the four most common types of explosive devices in Iraq, plus a full set of army fatigues in case the Green Zone was overrun (Americans were supposed to don the fatigues so the military would know whose side they were on).
The day he arrived [in Iraq], he met with his new boss, Thomas Foley. Hallen was shocked to learn that Foley wanted him to take charge of reopening the stock exchange.
“Are you sure?” Hallen said to Foley. “I don’t have a finance background.”
You can see where this is leading, and sure enough it led there.
One more quote. You’ve probably read about the huge percentage of American troops who believe the invasion of Iraq was a response to 9/11, and wondered how they possibly be so confused.
A mural of the World Trade Center adorned one of the entrances [to the dining hall, set up in the Republican Palace]. The Twin Towers were framed within the outstretched wings of a bald eagle. Each branch of the U.S. military — the army, air force, marines, and navy — had its seal on a different corner of the mural. In the middle were the logos of the New York City Police and Fire departments, and atop the towers were the words Thank God for the coalition forces & freedom fighters at home and abroad.
[UPDATE: I should also have included a link to Chandrasekaran’s website, with more on the book, reviews, his tour schedule, and so on.]
The New York Times says, “Stay the course!” They grease it up with plenty of weasel-words, calling it “one last push, … steps that might lessen the chance of all-out chaos after the troops withdraw,” and claiming that clear and hold “is probably the only thing that could work,” but sagely note that it is unlikely to work in actual, real life, because “commanders in Baghdad have been given only a fraction of the troops — American and Iraqi — they need.”
Then, in a final morale-builder for the boys they are sending over the sandbags, they add: “While the strategy described above seems the best bet to us, the odds are still very much against it working.”
Finally, we get the answer to young John Kerry’s chilling question, how do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake? Here’s how: “Seems the best bet, son; the odds are still very much against it, but good luck all the same.”
Pap of the limpest order. Yet, there remains a strong, true, and quite certain way out with victory, although it cannot be implemented until January 20, 2009, because it requires American leadership of nerve, vision, toughness, and patience.
When I first laid eyes on it, I thought the Gray Lady was going to get it right. The piece is entitled, “Trying To Contain The Iraq Disaster,” which as you will see sounds quite a lot like the right approach, and the first paragraph indeed poses the essential question: “whether the United States can extricate itself without leaving behind an unending civil war that will spread more chaos and suffering throughout the Middle East, while spawning terrorism across the globe. ”
The NYT, bless her heart, wants the answer to be, “maybe.” Actually, that answer is wrong; there is no “maybe” about Iraq. The first step to right thinking on this is to acknowledge that the NYT's query is a two-part question – first, can civil war be avoided, and second, is it possible to insure that the Iraq disaster does not further destabilize the Middle East and increase terrorism?
The answer to both questions is firm and clear, not querulous and unsure, as the NYT would have it. When these question are asked and answered in a firm, strong way, we can find a lot of clarity, and a well-marked path, where the NYT finds a fog of uncertainty and nothing but a dim trail forward. Here goes: First, no, there is no way to avoid a vicious civil war in Iraq. That will happen, because of the sudden and precipitous way we pulled the lid off of the Iraqi regime, with nothing in place to replace it. We need to roll with this punch, not resist it. It is awful but true that there is more horror ahead for the Iraqis.
But next, is there a way to avoid having the Bush failure in Iraq spread chaos across the Middle East, and prevent spawning terrorism across the globe?
Just as it was absolutely possible for the United States and its allies to contain the communist threat after World War II.
We’ve discussed the strategy here before. It is not sexy. It does not allow broken-son presidents to prance across the decks of aircraft carriers in flight suits to one-up their fathers.
It takes decades, not years. It requires toughness and patience, not puff and bluster. It requires a union of purpose between the major political parties, not using national security as a wedge issue. It requires real sacrifice and contribution from all sectors of society, not tax cuts for the rich. It most likely requires a military draft, an up-front one, not a back-door conscription. It requires real diplomacy, not pouting and door-kicking.
Of course, we’re talking about regional containment. Coupled with a Marshall Plan-like outreach to the affected border areas.
We know it works. The threat of communism and the Soviet Union, armed to the teeth, paranoid, and spanning more than half the land mass of the globe was in every way — geographically, economically, militarily — far more massive that the threat from radical Islamic terrorist. Compared to the communist threat after World War II, the terrorists are few in number, concentrated geographically, disorganized, and not nearly as well armed.
Can we contain the crescent stretching from Syria in the east to Iran in the west, if need be? Of course we can (though as a practical matter, I doubt we’d have to do much more than create a perimeter zone around Iraq itself). This entire crescent is no bigger than Kazakstan, let alone the combination of Eastern Europe, Russia, and China.
There is no need to discount the enormity of the task and its difficulty, in military, diplomatic, and any other terms you like. This is a huge undertaking. But my point still stands: the physical containment operation is not just less than the Cold War, it is much less.
The same is true of the soft-power dimensions of containing Iraq: the Marshall Plan encircled the communists with populations marked by superiority and better lives in every imaginable sphere: economic, cultural, artistic, health, comfort, and fun.
We put the plan in place; we mobilize the world with us, taking care to include as many Arab and Islamic elements as possible. Then, we wall them behind strict borders to protect ourselves. While we allow no threats to escape, we ourselve provide a constant flow of humanitarian aid and cultural information into Iraq, since we control the borders and the airwaves. We integrate ourselves as closely as possible into the lives of the nearest nations, so the contained people can see, just over the walls, that there is a better way to live.
Then, we wait. And wait. And, wait.
And, win. There is no “maybe” about it, no “best bet.” This is something about which we can look our young servicemen in the eye, and say, “We don’t know if you personally are coming back, but this is gonna work.” We’re on to victory. Or, more precisely, our kids are.
From the Washington Post:
Naim al-Shatri, a bookseller on Baghdad’s Mutanabi Street since 1963, said the violence plaguing the city “means the death of education, the death of the history of the street, the death of the culture of Baghdad.”
Two Fridays ago, Shatri took action. He and other members of his writers union gathered in front of his shop. They sipped breakfast tea. Then, at around 9:30 a.m., they poured kerosene over a pile of books and set them aflame.
“I cried when I was burning the books,” Shatri said.
“It’s a message to the government,” said Nakshabandi, who also took part. “It’s an S.O.S. Help us. An important part of Baghdad is dying. And it is on its last breath.”
Here’s why the US actions in Iraq are so divorced from reality.
“I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally — that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget,” said one person who attended the meeting. “The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success.”
Another person who attended the session said he interpreted Mr. Bush’s comments less as an expression of frustration than as uncertainty over the prospects of the new Iraqi government. “He said he really didn’t quite have a sense yet of how effective the government was,” said this person, who, like several who discussed the session, agreed to speak only anonymously because it was a private lunch.
More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.
The White House would not comment on the details of the discussion but a senior official warned against drawing conclusions on what the president thinks based on questions he asked…
Or, indeed, whether.
Apparently the purchase of Knight-Ridder by McClatchy has not kept the K-R knights from reporting, so far at least. Our friends at Cursor recently linked to a Tom Lasseter article that’s a good example.
“The American policy has failed both in terms of politics and security, but the big problem is that they will not confess or admit that,” said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament. “They are telling the American public that the situation in Iraq will be improved, they want to encourage positive public opinion (in the U.S.), but the Iraqi citizens are seeing something different. They know the real situation.”
Okay, that’s a Kurdish viewpoint, but what about the Shia, who stood to benefit most from the US invasion?
Shiite Muslim parliament member Jalaladin al Saghir had a similar view.
“All the American policies have failed because the American analysis of the situation is wrong; it is not related to reality,” Saghir said. “The slaughtered Iraqi man on the street conveys the best explanation” for what’s happening in Iraq.
Well, they would say that. Limited viewpoint and all. Too close to the action for an objective evaluation. But the US military knows what’s really going on. Boots on the ground, and all that.
“As an intelligence officer … I have had the chance to move around Baghdad on mounted and dismounted patrols and see the city and violence from the ground,” wrote one American military officer in Iraq. “I think that the greatest problem that we deal (besides the insurgents and militia) with is that our leadership has no real comprehension of the ground truth. I wish that I could offer a solution, but I can’t. When I have briefed General Officers, I have given them my perspective and assessment of the situation. Many have been surprised at what I have to say, but I suspect that in the end nothing will or has changed.”
Nothing will change, because what happens to Iraqis is not relevant to American policy. Our government keeps playing Pollyanna while Iraqis keep dying.
While various military operations have at times improved security in parts of the country, the bloodshed has mounted with each U.S.-declared step of progress, according to figures that the Brookings Institution research center compiled from news and government reports.
When L. Paul Bremer, then the top U.S. representative in Iraq, appointed an Iraqi Governing Council in July 2003, insurgent attacks averaged 16 daily. When Saddam Hussein was captured that December, the average was 19. When Bremer signed the hand-over of sovereignty in June 2004, it was 45 attacks daily. When Iraq held its elections for a transitional government in January 2005, it was 61. When Iraqis voted last December for a permanent government, it was 75. When U.S. forces killed terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi in June, it was up to 90.
Attacks have increased in lethality as well as number: There was one multiple-fatality bombing in July 2003. Last month, there were at least 51.
And while the number of U.S. troops killed by hostile fire has declined this year, the number of Iraqis killed has soared.
In January, the month after Iraq’s widely heralded national elections for a permanent government, at least 710 civilians were killed, according to a report by the United Nations that cited Iraqi Ministry of Health figures. (The report made it clear that the actual number for January was much higher.) Five months later, 3,149 Iraqis were killed in June.
Newark lawyer Paul Bergrin tries out an intriguing strategy in his defense of four U.S. paratroopers charged with murdering Iraqi prisoners. If I understand the counselor correctly, he is arguing that his clients lack the honesty and decency required to gun down three helpless and blindfolded men in cold blood.
Specialist Hunsaker and Private Clagett are accused of spraying the three men with automatic weapons fire as they ran away, barefooted and toward no obvious cover. Sergeant Girouard is accused of devising a plan to kill the men that involved cutting their cuffs off, punching Private Clagett and cutting Specialist Hunsaker to give the appearance of their having been attacked by the men, and then allowing the two soldiers to kill the men from several yards away as they ran, pulling off their blindfolds.
A fourth soldier, Specialist Juston R. Graber, was accused of “mercy killing” one of the three Iraqi men as he lay dying, with a head shot that pierced the man’s blindfold. Specialist Graber admitted killing the man in a sworn statement given to Army investigators …
“Sergeant Girouard does not have the type of character or integrity to orchestrate this,” Mr. Bergrin added. “Hunsaker is an excellent soldier, nothing but accolades. Private Clagett is a kid; he’s a 22-year-old, immature boy. He does not have the character and integrity to carry out this kind of immoral actions.”
This has gone far beyond Middle East turmoil. This is getting just too damn close to World War. Where are the adults? I realise there are none in Bushco, but what about everyone else? Ok, Tony Blair doesn't count, but the other world leaders?
As a host of top European diplomats descended on the region, Syria fueled fears the fighting could spread, issuing a stark warning that it would intervene if Israel invaded Lebanon.
The fighting in Iraq is ugly and, if the following is true, things just got uglier. It probably is true.
On the morning of May 9, a group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division arrived in a remote desert area of western Iraq for a dangerous mission: destroying an insurgent training camp.
What happened then is the subject of intense dispute.
Military prosecutors last month accused four soldiers in the unit of releasing three Iraqi men they captured that day only to kill them. The soldiers have been charged with premeditated murder, a capital offense.
Lawyers for the soldiers deny they released the detainees. They say the soldiers fired only after the Iraqis tried to break free and attack them.
But the lawyers are also making a more startling claim: that the soldiers were given explicit orders before the raid to “kill all military–age males” they encountered.
The lawyers say that two senior officers — a colonel and a captain — have acknowledged they gave that order, as have other men in the same company.
I say it’s probably true because I read a blog site run by a soldier in Baghdad. He’s never mentioned something like this, but from the tone of many posts I get two impressions. One, commanders probably are giving such orders. And two, the troops don’t need to be told this. Its something they would decide to do on their own.
Now if you go to the link, you’ll see they were on an island and it reasonably could be assumed everyone on the island was an insurgent. Its also possible there would be women and children. Hence they would be ordered to “kill all military–age males”. But maybe I’m being too generous. We’ll have to see what comes out of this. First reports are often quite different from what is known after an investigation.
Iraq’s Pinocchio regime, you remember Pinocchio who wanted his strings removed, anyway it is still publicly committed to Bushco’s force–fed constitution. But that is only publicly. One top government official told Reuters things are quite different behind the scenes and Iraq may become essentially, if not in fact, three separate countries.
What a spectacular failure for the neocons this would be. That it would come to this isn’t surprising at all. It’s essentially what the Kurds have wanted for years. It may also be the only way the warring factions have to peacefully coexist.
On the eve of a high–profile meeting intended to demonstrate reconciliation among sectarian and ethnic factions ahead of a White House visit by the prime minister, senior leaders admitted to despair about the chances of averting all-out civil war.
“Iraq as a political project is finished,” a top government official told Reuters — anonymously because the coalition of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al–Maliki remains committed in public to a U.S.–sponsored constitution preserving Iraq’s unity.
“The parties have moved to Plan B,” the official said, saying Sunni, ethnic Kurdish and majority Shi’ite blocs were looking at ways to divide power and resources and to solve the conundrum of Baghdad’s mixed population of seven million.
“There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into east and west,” said the official, who has long been a proponent of the present government’s objectives. “We are extremely worried.”
I would hate to see Baghdad divided. That hardly worked out for Berlin, but it’s their country and their city and their call.
One of the greatest pleasures of reading Karen Kwiatkowski is that she hasn’t lost her anger over the difference between the magnificent promise of the United States of America and reality as we’re living it today.
Warner, and McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden all stand in sharp contrast to another aging politician, Representative John Murtha, who has single-handedly made what happened in Haditha a major domestic news story. Murtha has been willing to act morally in the face of grave political danger. God bless him, and the Walter Jones, and the Ron Pauls and others in Congress who have bucked the administration and tried to do the right thing to remedy this illegal invasion, ongoing U.S. quagmire, and unnatural disaster for 25 million Iraqis.
I second her blessing on Murtha. He seems to be the real deal. My feeling is that as long as we have citizens who take seriously their responsibilities to the community, as Murtha and Kwiatkowski so clearly do, we’ve got a shot.
The Lieutenant Colonel, ret., does not appear to be happy with the brass.
No flag officer seems interested in going to the mat for any of the young men in the US military who stand accused of war crimes &mdash and who very likely will be found guilty on most counts. This is a perfect replay of the lack of any responsibility — not even the most infinitesimal drop of responsibility — exhibited by senior military and civilian leaders after the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.
Instead, modern American military leaders, like trained dogs, sit silently alert. They are not alert to the physical, psychological and moral damage to Americans in uniform brought on by enforcing a wrongheaded police state in a shattered Iraq. Instead, they are alert only to any sign that their political masters may be displeased. Barring that, our great military leaders are as silent as the tombs in which nearly 2,500 Americans already rest.
While the truth of what I have written here is verifiable by every American soldier and Marine in Iraq, and every general officer they serve, not a single flag officer on active duty will risk his reputation as a good boy who sits and stays.
We will figuratively hang those Marines who participated in the slaughter at Haditha. We will also crucify those who did not participate, but failed to stop it, and those who helped to cover it up. We will not pity those young Americans we trained to kill when they failed to show mercy in a place they don’t understand, on a mission as frivolous as it is insincere. We will hold them responsible.
We ought to set our sights a bit higher, and begin in a serious way to politically destroy those people in Washington who placed our young men and women in Iraq, on such a frivolous and insincere mission. Those worthy of a criminal punishment include much of the Senate, many in the House, and of course, our great decider, his untrustworthy Vice President, and their Pentagon senior staff.
Say what you want about the MSM, when they finally decide to do their job, they can do a hell of a job. Take a look at this stunning and terrible series by Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman of the Hartford Courant. Excerpt:
All three were given antidepressants to help them make it through their tours of duty in Iraq — and all came home in coffins.
Warren, 44, and Guy, 26, committed suicide last year, according to the military; Hobart, 22, collapsed in June 2004, of a still-undetermined cause.
The three are among a growing number of mentally troubled service members who are being kept in combat and treated with potent psychotropic medications — a little-examined practice driven in part by a need to maintain troop strength …
…Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair:
Officially, the design of the compound is supposed to be a secret, but you cannot hide the giant construction cranes and the concrete contours of the 21 buildings that are taking shape. Looming over the skyline, the embassy has the distinction of being the only big US building project in Iraq that is on time and within budget.
In a week when Washington revealed a startling list of missed deadlines and overspending on building projects, Congress was told that the bill for the embassy was $592 million (£312 million).
The heavily guarded 42-hectare (104-acre) site — which will have a 15ft thick perimeter wall — has hundreds of workers swarming on scaffolding. Local residents are bitter that the Kuwaiti contractor has employed only foreign staff and is busing them in from a temporary camp nearby.
The current Doonesbury story line is one of the most gripping works of art in any media in years. Start about here and go forward.
Today a local newspaper columnist asked her readers to support Operation Shoebox and send food and toiletries to our troops in Iraq. I’ve sent off Christmas cards and hot breakfast kits and no doubt other stuff along these lines before, but right now I’m in no mood.
No, my ill temper isn’t on account of those big checks I so recently wrote to “United States Treasury.” (The payee used to be “Internal Revenue Service,” and that bit of PR dissembling makes the pain of paying taxes just a little worse.)
What I’m really mad about on the flip:
I’m disgusted because the administration still hasn’t fixed the payroll problems the troops have had since their first weeks at war. Now 900 battle-wounded troops are being dunned for money they may or may not owe due to payroll errors.
So first the powers that be create an economy in which college is just about necessary for mere survival but unaffordable for working-class kids, even those willing to take on mortgage-size debt. Then the powers that be lie, telling us feeble Iraq is about to launch nuclear missiles at Oshkosh, or maybe nerve gas missiles at Houston or smallpox bombs on Salt Lake City, and we have to destroy them fast before they destroy us. Now those neighbors and relatives and classmates are coming home with a leg missing or with brain damage, only to find that the powers that be are hounding them for money they’re supposed to owe but maybe don’t, even turning them over to collection agencies. Haven’t these vets been screwed over eleven ways too many already?
My opinion at the moment is that the million and a half the powers that be are wringing out of these disabled and dead troops will buy a lot of body lotion and candy bars for the troops in the field.
And why isn’t the VFW marching en masse to the Pentagon to protest?
If George W. Bush thinks his poll numbers have been tanking, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports on an interview to be shown on 60 Minutes this Sunday. It will include statements from Tyler Drumheller, the head of CIA covert ops in Europe during the run-up to the Iraq war, that the CIA knew there were no “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq six months before the US invaded, and informed the White House.
“The (White House) group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested,” he was quoted as saying in interview excerpts released by CBS on Friday.
“We said: ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said: ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change’,” added Drumheller, whose CIA operation was assigned the task of debriefing the Iraqi official.
But here’s the key paragraph.
CBS said the CIA’s intelligence source was former Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and that former CIA Director George Tenet delivered the information personally to US President George W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top White House officials in September 2002. They rebuffed the CIA three days later.
Why rebuffed? Well, according to CBS,
They didn’t want any additional data from Sabri because, says Drumheller: “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy.”
So what kind of talking points will Rove fax out tomorrow morning? Seems to me it’ll be difficult to spin this one. They’ll have to trot Scotty out one more time to deny the facts. As a result, what’s left of the White House’s credibility will disappear. Or maybe they’ll blame the lies on Scott after he’s gone.
The Republicans can run away from Bush and his plummeting numbers, but they won’t be able to run away from the war that was started on lies, because they voted for it. Unless, that is, they’re willing to renounce their President.
Russ Feingold is already seeing the effects on his campaign contributions from his attempt to censure Bush. His gutless colleagues are now about to reap the benefits of his integrity. And the Bush administration’s lack thereof.
Still no government in Iraq. Don’t these people have Supreme Court justices with the wisdom and learning to appoint a government regardless of election results? (Mind you, without setting a precedent for other cases.)
Anyone in the mood for an especially graphic and horrifying story of terrified American kids winning the hearts and minds of locals in Iraq, click here.
Twenty-four hundred American boys and girls dead, tens of thousands more wounded, all in the name of spreading democracy and freedom. Elections in Iraq almost four months ago, but still no government named. So what do we do?
U.S. officials sent a message this week to Iraq’s senior religious cleric asking that he help end the impasse over forming a new Iraqi government and strongly implying that the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, should withdraw his candidacy for re-election, according to American officials.
We’re forced to ask an America-hating cleric (Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani) to make the bad, bad Iraqis name a government. But, it’s not a theocracy our kids died for, and it’s not a civil war that’s going on, and it all was realio, trulio, worth it-oh.
From the New York Times this morning: Note that it is also somewhat ambiguous and, I guess, unintentionally ironic.
"U.S. troops are trying to train Iraqi forces to battle the Sunni-led insurgency without resorting to abductions, torture and murder."
Bob Herbert of NYT (behind the scum-sucking pay wall) finally gives some MSM play to an academic study, noted on this blog when it came out months ago, regarding the real cost of the Iraq war — now measurable in the trillions. Herbert says:
Now comes a study by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, and a colleague, Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, that estimates the “true costs” of the war at more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion.…
In an interview, Mr. Stiglitz said that about $560 billion, which is a little more than half of the study’s conservative estimate of the cost of the war, would have been enough to “fix” Social Security for the next 75 years. If one were thinking in terms of promoting democracy in the Middle East, he said, the money being spent on the war would have been enough to finance a “mega-mega-mega-Marshall Plan,” which would have been “so much more” effective than the invasion of Iraq.
When a baby takes a sudden, severe hurt, such as getting her hand snapped in a mousetrap, there is a several second delay before she starts to cry. This brief period of time is required for her to get over the surprise, absorb what happened to her, realize, “Hey, I’m screwed,” start to feel the hurt, and then take a breath to ramp up the wail.
In the case of the American public, taking the example of the invasion of Iraq, we find that that absorption period is somewhat longer, approximately three years:
A new poll of likely voters finds that President Bush and his party no longer have the advantage on issues of foreign policy and national security, which they used to dominate.
Of course, the child then becomes inconsolable; we’ll see what happens to America.
KR leads the way again:
A review of military data shows that daily bombing runs and jet-missile launches have increased by more than 50 percent in the past five months, compared with the same period last year.…
The numbers also show that U.S. forces dropped bombs on more cities during the last five months than they did during the same period a year ago. Airstrikes hit at least 11 cities between Oct. 1, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2005, but were mostly concentrated in and around the western city of Fallujah. A year later, U.S. warplanes struck at least 22 cities during the same months.
If you had any doubt that our adventure in Iraq is spinning badly out of control.
To paraphrase the Robert Duvall character in Apocalypse Now who stands on the beach and revels in the smell of the napalm after leading a dawn helipcopter gunship assault on a seaside village, “I love the smell of progress in Iraq in the morning. … Smelled like … victory.”
William Odom, retired Lieutenant General, US Army, and former head of the NSA, continues to speak suprisingly strongly against the war in Iraq.
Phase Two in Iraq reveals that the same kind of strategic denial error [committed in Vietnam] prevails today. Since 2003, public discourse has focused on how the war is being fought. Reconstruction is inadequate. Not enough troops are available. We should not have dismantled the Iraqi military. Elections will save the day. The insurgency is in its “last throes.” And so on. Some of these criticisms are valid, but they fail to address the fundamental issue, the validity of U.S. strategic purpose.
As al Qaeda marched into a country where it had not dared to tread before, the White House refused to admit that its war allowed them in. As Iran’s influence with Iraqi Shiite clerics and militias quietly expands, the administration refuses to confess its own culpability. As Shiite politicians appear headed to dominate the U.S.-created “democracy” in Iraq, no one is asking “Who lost Iraq to Iran?”
Instead, after each election and referendum in Iraq, hope surges in the media. The New York Times’s reporting on the elections in February of last year was eerily reminiscent of its reporting from Saigon on the 1968 elections.
It feels weird to find myself agreeing so consistently with a former head of the NSA, but there it is: the fundamental issue is the validity of US strategic purpose. Damn straight.
Makes an interesting contrast with Michael Hayden, also a Lieutenant General and also a former head of the NSA, currently Deputy Director of National Intelligence, working for Director Negroponte, and thus in the position of issuing position papers and statements explaining and justifying administration strategies and tactics.
Another interesting contrast is made by a commentor, who identifies himself as having been a Navy officer on a destroyer in Vietnam. He’s unhappy with General Odom’s article:
We have a critical national security interest to see it through, not an easy task certainly, but the cut and run crowd is completely off base. Leave Iraq to fall to the terrorists and 9/11 will be a monthly occurrence all over the world until there’s nothing left. The general smoked too much of that Thai stick in VN and it has addled his brain. Time for the rocking chair, general. Thanks for serving your country once upon a time, but you do it a vast disservice now.
Those who posted later comments were kind enough to assume that this guy was himself a bit addled; but they certainly disdained his argument.
I linked last week to Wonkette, and didn’t think I’d do it again, but she posted a letter she received from one of our troops out in the field in a blog post entitled “Our boys need gossip” and I couldn’t resist, so here’s the letter.
Unfortunately anonomizers [sic] don’t work out here (never have). Anyway, I had a few minutes today and thought I’d look and see what else was banned on the Marine web here. I think the results speak for themselves:
- Wonkette — “Forbidden, this page (http://www.wonkette.com/) is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/opinion.”
- Bill O’Reilly (www.billoreilly.com) — OK
- Air America (www.airamericaradio.com) — “Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
- Rush Limbaugh (www.rushlimbaugh.com) — OK
- ABC News “The Note” — OK
- Website of the Al Franken Show (www.alfrankenshow.com) — ”Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
- G. Gordon Liddy Show (www.liddyshow.us) — OK
- Don & Mike Show (www.donandmikewebsite.com) — “Forbidden, this page (http://www.donandmikewebsite.com/) is categorized as: Profanity, Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies.”
Those Zogby statistics were a little weird (in depth discussion courtesy of Simbaud) — most Americans now understand that Saddaam Hussein had nothing to do with the 911 attack, however our soldiers haven’t quite grasped that fact yet. Wait till they get home and digest it all, there will eventually be one angry crowd of soldiers. Sometimes reality takes a while to set in, but eventually it will.
According to Wonkette, the US Marine Corps has decided our soldiers are fighting for Communist China or Stalinist Russia or something — because they are heavily censoring what our soldiers can or can’t read — including limiting access to any news organizations or blogs who would *gasp* dare criticize the Administration. E-mail access has also been blocked (wouldn’t want our soldiers learning anything contrary to what our government wants them to know, now would we?) You know, in the not so distant past, this nation valued the First Amendment and freedom of speech and liberty. It all seems so quaint now, doesn’t it? (And who the hell decided that soldiers are gonna stay cheery on the battlefield without access to internet porn? Sheesh.)
Oh yeah, one other thing, the photo is something from The Onion, but it makes the point.
Zogby has new poll results out. How long will the Generals continue to lie? Even our troops don’t support the mission in Iraq anymore.
I know that statistics can often be used to support even the most outrageous positions, but Karl is going to have a hard time with these numbers.
How and when did this nation become so militaristic, so nihilistic, so xenophobic, so myopic? All right, enough with big words. Let me say it straight. When did the nation go nuts? We were in and out of Europe and Japan in less time than it took George Bush to get this country into the biggest mess it’s been in since Vietnam. I remember Jerry Doolittle making the point that after World War II, our national leaders were so fearful that the great depression would recur that they began the cold war, and thus, as aptly described by Eisenhower, funded the “military industrial complex” with a fervor that can only be described as fanatical. So here we are. Some news reports are predicting that we can’t leave Iraq. That a civil war is inevitable if we leave. It is my contention that a civil war is inevitable in Iraq and we nor anyone else can solve it. Let the Iraqis deal with it. Heck, many people are still fighting the Civil War down South. If we can’t truly solve our own problems, we most certainly can’t solve the one that’s occurring in Iraq. This article precipitated my diatribe. Our nation has leaders who are so crazy that they make the leaders of the Confederate States of America look like brilliant strategists. One day the great prosperity that this nation enjoys will be gone with the wind.
The introduction of the “long war’ philosophy is supposed to supersede the “war against terror” which came into being after the September 11 attacks and, according to General Peter Pace, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, it comes at a critical time when the US faces “a ruthless enemy intent on destroying our way of life and an uncertain future”. While there are many takers for that point of view, opponents see it as an extension of the neo-conservatives’ Project for the New American Century which underpinned the invasion of Iraq .
“The hard truth is that the long war may not only be long, bloody and costly, it may be counter-productive, increasing the danger to the American homeland, not reducing it,” claims Robert Parry, author of Secrecy And Privilege, an account of Bush’s foreign policy in Iraq. “Just as the long cold war gave rise to the military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against, the long war against Islamic extremism will put the United States on a course toward a more militarised society, a form of government more like an empire than a republic.”
Back in the pre-Tina Brown days, the New Yorker was stuffed with general knowledge sorts of articles, geology and true crime essays that wouldn’t fade in relevance for a couple of years, if then. And so I kept my New Yorkers in the kitchen, where they were always available while I waited for water to boil or washed dishes in the sink.
Yes, the kitchen is where I learned more about the Middle East than W’s neocon coterie seems to have figured out with all the nation’s spy resources at their beck and call. When I recommended Milton Viorst’s travel pieces to a friend, she said, “Ah, yes. Judith’s husband,” but I don’t know much more about poetry than what I was forcefed. Poetry’s short on plot lines.
(For Cheney in an apron with Shia, see below the fold.)
Anyway, Milton Viorst would travel to a faraway country, sometimes armed with introductions to some powers that be and sometimes not, and then write in the New Yorker about what he saw. He visited Iraq quite a bit, and I learned that, just like Christianity, Islam has “denominations” that historically haven’t played well together. Like Yugoslavia’s Orthodox and Catholic Christians, Sunni and Shia got along because a powerful secular state forced them to, and also forced them, in not nice ways, to play nice with the million Christians and dwindling number of Jews within the borders.
Iraq was a very secular country. Ba’athists had aimed to revivify a backward region by dragging its people kicking and screaming through modernity, I’m assuming under the influence of the Young Turks after World War I, who broke lots of eggs to make their omelette. In this regime, individuals had no “rights” to vote or criticize government’s stupid actions or carry guns unless authorized by the bosses, but they also had no right to enforce their conservative concepts of propriety on women who wanted to go to medical school or to execute women who embarrassed their menfolk by getting themselves raped.
I saw, I guess because Viorst saw, that all hell would break loose if the Ba’athist lid ever came off the melting pot of Iraq, or at least that the hissing steam would scald everyone nearby and the boiling gravy would spurt all over the stovetop like blood from an artery.
If only Lynn had made Dick wash dishes in the sink, maybe all this death and destruction wouldn’t have happened.
Mrs. Batard received the following in her inbox today. Pity the poor Nigerians — they don’t have a chance any more.
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 7:58 PM
Subject: The plan
In April 2003, Staff Sergeant Kenneth Buff of the United States Army found US$160 million hidden by fleeing members of the Baath Party led by former dictator Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Later, a search of the area revealed more hidden loot, totaling US$650 million in all! For a detailed account of the money found by the US Soldiers, please click on the following website:
Last week, during a routine archaeological excavation of the area east of Tigris River, I discovered 12 boxes of the similar kind found by the US Army! I carefully broke open one box and discovered that it was full of US 100 Notes, total US$4 million!? A careful examination revealed that the notes were of the old currency, the pre-1996 Notes, which has a smaller face of the US President. I did a little research and discovered that the Notes are still legal Tender; please go to:
In all, I have US$48 million packed in 12 boxes hidden in my safe house. The security situation in Iraq is very bad. Therefore the solution is to move this money abroad. I cannot do it alone; I need foreign help! Can you help me? I have never traveled abroad, and I do not have any foreign contacts? I will therefore appreciate your help to move this money abroad for investment. In consideration of your help, you will keep US$18 million of this money as your share, and keep US$30 million in a safe bank account for me, until I arrive your Country to invest the money. If you are interested, please reply urgently so that we can conclude the plan to move this money. It will be 100% risk free! You will not be required to travel to Iraq. Rather, I will use my local network to ship the 12 boxes to any destination address of your choice. Then it will be your job to put the US$48 million safely in the bank!
May Allah bless you!
Mr. Abdul Rashidi
When politicians who supported the war in Iraq talk about family values, remember this. Propaganda value to the “enemy”: Extraordinaire!
The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of “leveraging” their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.
In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family’s door telling him “to come get his wife.”
Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S. anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects’ houses, have at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in.
Iraq’s deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, dismissed such claims, saying hostage-holding was a tactic used under the ousted Saddam Hussein dictatorship, and “we are not Saddam.” A U.S. command spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said only Iraqis who pose an “imperative threat” are held in long-term U.S.-run detention facilities.
But documents describing two 2004 episodes tell a different story as far as short-term detentions by local U.S. units. The documents are among hundreds the Pentagon has released periodically under U.S. court order to meet an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention practices.
In one memo, a civilian Pentagon intelligence officer described what happened when he took part in a raid on an Iraqi suspect's house in Tarmiya, northwest of Baghdad, on May 9, 2004. The raid involved Task Force (TF) 6-26, a secretive military unit formed to handle high-profile targets.
“During the pre-operation brief it was recommended by TF personnel that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target’s surrender,” wrote the 14-year veteran officer.
He said he objected, but when they raided the house the team leader, a senior sergeant, seized her anyway.
“The 28-year-old woman had three young children at the house, one being as young as six months and still nursing,” the intelligence officer wrote. She was held for two days and was released after he complained, he said.
Like most names in the released documents, the officer’s signature is blacked out on this for-the-record memorandum about his complaint.
I wrote earlier about what passes for a riot squad in a small town, including the police chief and the mayor, responding to a tip regarding underage drinking: a 19-year-old Marine and his wife at his parents’ house on the eve of the kid’s return to the front in Iraq.
Now the parents have sued the police chief and the mayor for violation of their civil rights and ongoing emotional distress. Good for them! Among other things, they cite:
Wade and Kraska “entered and invaded (the Dorsons’) home and private premises unlawfully and without permission or lawful excuse” and with no “reasonable, legal, lawful or adequate grounds” to do so.
It’s bad enough that the Bush administration is doing this sort of thing at home and abroad. Our boro and township governments must do better: respect our civil rights and support our troops.
Once again, the stalwart extended family known as Westboro Baptist Church is out to defame what’s left of the good name of Jesus. This time, they’ve drawn the ire of the Patriot Guard, formed to provide Harley-Davidson escorts to the funeral corteges of troops who died while fending off “God’s punishment of a gay-enabling nation.”
I’m not a veteran. Do you suppose the Patriot Guard accepts associate members?
One more thing I meant to say about Jack Murtha: by speaking out now, and predicting that “the vast majority” of American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2006, he’s innoculating the body public against the trick that the Rove machine was undoubtedly preparing.
We all know that the 2006 elections are going to force the withdrawal of large numbers of troops from Iraq. Given the President’s low poll numbers, the scandals in Congress related mostly to Republican members, and the growing dissatisfaction with the war, the administration has two choices, as Murtha says: redeploy that vast majority of American troops, or watch the Congress turn Democratic. In fact, my guess is that one house of Congress will probably turn no matter what, based on the Abramoff scandal. But if Bush refuses to listen to the Republican leaders in Congress before the election, he’ll be dealing with Democratic leaders after it. At that point, investigations will begin, and impeachment will be in the air. Since everyone in the administration (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Rice, Rove, Hadley, Cambone, et.al.) is aware that they have committed war crimes — reading Gonzales’s torture memo makes it clear that they know they’ll be needing legal defenses — they have a huge personal incentive not to help elect Democrats. (And, of course, following the Pinochet precedent, they won’t be able to travel abroad. Ever.)
Murtha, by predicting that Congress will act, has done two things. First, he’s taken off the board the obvious trick of declaring victory after whatever the next turning point happens to be, and pulling out. Now that everyone’s heard Murtha’s prediction, the administration is not likely to get as much credit for withdrawing as it might have received had all the Democrats remained as silent as, say, Biden and Clinton, who are widely considered the leading candidates for the next Presidential nomination. (Murtha skewered them on 60 Minutes, and more power to him.)
Second, he’s made it more likely that the withdrawal, when it comes, will be nearly total. I was expecting Bush to withdraw something like 40,000 or 50,000 troops in his own version of the October Surprise, the treasonous trick his father pulled. Murtha’s prediction makes such a withdrawal look like what it would have been, a political gambit. Murtha wants to withdraw all American troops from Iraq, leaving perhaps 20,000 in Kuwait. I’m against such a plan because I don’t think we should be asserting military control over other countries. But the politicians who get elected are aware that most of their constituents care more about the price of gasoline than about the freedom of other countries, especially those that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map. In other words, most members of Congress are implicitly elected to represent imperialism. Of course, we don’t say that in polite society.
Here’s Chomsky on withdrawal from Iraq:
…the first thing that should be done in Iraq is for us to be serious about what’s going on. There is almost no serious discussion, I’m sorry to say, across the spectrum, of the question of withdrawal. The reason for that is that we are under a rigid doctrine in the West, a religious fanaticism, that says we must believe that the United States would have invaded Iraq even if its main product was lettuce and pickles, and the oil resources of the world were in Central Africa. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is condemned as a conspiracy theorist, a Marxist, a madman, or something. Well, you know, if you have three gray cells functioning, you know that that’s perfect nonsense. The U.S. invaded Iraq because it has enormous oil resources, mostly untapped, and it’s right in the heart of the world’s energy system. Which means that if the U.S. manages to control Iraq, it extends enormously its strategic power, what Zbigniew Brzezinski calls its critical leverage over Europe and Asia. Yeah, that’s a major reason for controlling the oil resources — it gives you strategic power. Even if you’re on renewable energy you want to do that. So that’s the reason for invading Iraq, the fundamental reason.
Now let’s talk about withdrawal. Take any day’s newspapers or journals and so on. They start by saying the United States aims to bring about a sovereign democratic independent Iraq. I mean, is that even a remote possibility? Just consider what the policies would be likely to be of an independent sovereign Iraq. If it’s more or less democratic, it’ll have a Shiite majority. They will naturally want to improve their linkages with Iran, Shiite Iran. Most of the clerics come from Iran. The Badr Brigade, which basically runs the South, is trained in Iran. They have close and sensible economic relationships which are going to increase. So you get an Iraqi/Iran loose alliance. Furthermore, right across the border in Saudi Arabia, there’s a Shiite population which has been bitterly oppressed by the U.S.-backed fundamentalist tyranny. And any moves toward independence in Iraq are surely going to stimulate them, it’s already happening. That happens to be where most of Saudi Arabian oil is. Okay, so you can just imagine the ultimate nightmare in Washington: a loose Shiite alliance controlling most of the world’s oil, independent of Washington and probably turning toward the East, where China and others are eager to make relationships with them, and are already doing it. Is that even conceivable? The U.S. would go to nuclear war before allowing that, as things now stand.
Now, any discussion of withdrawal from Iraq has to at least enter the real world, meaning, at least consider these issues. Just take a look at the commentary in the United States, across the spectrum. How much discussion do you see of these issues? Well, you know, approximately zero, which means that the discussion is just on Mars. And there’s a reason for it. We’re not allowed to concede that our leaders have rational imperial interests. We have to assume that they’re good-hearted and bumbling. But they’re not. They’re perfectly sensible. They can understand what anybody else can understand. So the first step in talk about withdrawal is: consider the actual situation, not some dream situation, where Bush is pursuing a vision of democracy or something. If we can enter the real world we can begin to talk about it. And yes, I think there should be withdrawal, but we have to talk about it in the real world and know what the White House is thinking. They’re not willing to live in a dream world.
Surprise has been expressed that I would choose to call Jack Murtha a hero. I was about to respond in comments, but the response was too involved so I moved it up to a post.
I understand the surprise. Murtha left college in 1952 to join the Marines and go to Korea. In 1966 he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. When my time came to make similar decisions, around 1971, I became a conscientious objector. Part of the paperwork to become a CO is an essay specifying why you believe that all war (not simply the current one) is wrong.
People can certainly have different ideas about the military-industrial complex. I think that executives from companies like Northrop-Grumman are part of it, whether or not they served in the military.
But I wouldn’t necessarily call soldiers part of the military-industrial complex. Murtha, for example, came from pretty low-level circumstances, and apparently remains a strong supporter of labor, despite his conservative positions on abortion and gun control. In other words, he’s a conservative Democrat who seems to try to support people like himself. The fact that he spent 38 years as a Marine doesn’t get him an MIC membership in my book. True, he was an early supporter of the war against Iraq:
Murtha voted for the October 10, 2002 resolution that authorized the use of force against Iraq. However, he later began expressing doubts about the war. On March 17, 2004, when Republicans offered a “War in Iraq Anniversary Resolution” that “affirms that the United States and the world have been made safer with the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq,” Murtha called for a recorded vote and then voted against it.
I call him a hero because I think lives are lived in a context. A hero, in this sense, is someone who transcends his or her own personal view of the world, and constructs a view that includes a wider circle. I think this is why people call soldiers heros when they go off to kill large numbers of people they’ve never met: because a soldier who responds to the country’s call concludes that the country is a greater cause than the self, and wants to adopt and advance the greater cause.
This is not to say that we from the outside always agree with the greater cause. But the hero’s journey, to use the Campbellian vocabulary, involves transcendence more than pure rightness. After all, what is pure right? (If you can define it, please do so, and we’ll promote your definition here on Bad Attitudes. But it has to be convincing to other people, not just you.)
In my opinion, John Kerry is at least as much a member of the MIC as Jack Murtha. Early in life, Kerry was heroic; first he volunteered for Vietnam when he could have avoided the danger, then he testified before Congress and spoke truth to power, which helped to nudge the war machine off its tracks. But in his Presidential campaign, he showed no spark of that early heroism. He was afraid to say the truth: that the war was wrong, that he was lied to, that he voted incorrectly. He was afraid because he thought it would hurt his chances of realizing a personal ambition. That is the opposite of heroism.
Murtha, on the other hand, knew that a firestorm of criticism would erupt from the Rovian machine when he came out for “redeploying” US forces out of Iraq. But he thought it was the right thing to do, so he did it, regardless of the cost to himself.
In the context of his life, he has continually volunteered to take on difficult and dangerous jobs knowing that he may pay a great price for his willingness to serve. But he has volunteered for what he thought was right. I don’t always agree with his views on what’s right, but I admire his selflessness. I think the country would benefit from having more people like him.
One of the most interesting viewpoints I’ve garnered from reading history is the idea that there are always, or at least almost always, both creative and destructive trends in evidence. Often one or the other predominates, but that’s partly a point-of-view issue. Is the destruction of the Roman empire a good thing or a bad thing? What about the American empire?
So while we acknowledge and bewail the manifold sins and wickedness of a Congress bent on eliminating our civil liberties at the behest of corporations, we also notice that there remain instances of true heroism. Even in Congress.
Murtha rejects the president’s argument that the war on terror is being fought in Iraq. “The insurgents are Iraqis — 93 percent of the insurgents are Iraqis. A very small percentage are foreign fighters…. Once we’re out of there, [Iraqis] will eliminate [foreign fighters],” says Murtha.
“[President Bush] is trying to fight this war with rhetoric. Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is,” he says. “We’re inciting terrorism there…. We’re destabilizing the area by being over there because we’re the targets,” Murtha says.
When [60 Minutes correspondent Mike] Wallace challenges him by saying, “General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, says your comments are damaging recruiting and hurting the troops,” Murtha responds by saying it’s the military’s own fault. “[Troops] are rotated [into Iraq] four and five times. They have no clear mission,” says Murtha. “One of the problems they have with recruitment is [that] they continually say how well things are going and the troops on the ground know better.”
Telling the truth is an American value.
So now the primary objective of law enforcement is to root out the culture of corruption in the form of possible underage drinking by a 19-year-old Marine and father who is having a family dinner before returning to duty to Iraq.
I bet everybody in the posse has a meaningless ribbon decal on his pickup truck: SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.
Note: This newspaper website I linked to asks for a zip code, age, and gender. Please, don’t everybody claim to be 2-year-old Hawaiians! The article is long and increasingly bizarre as it goes along.
One of the most interesting features of the mess we’re in right now is the tension between the corporate-owned media, who promote war in general (not just in Iraq) for the windfall profits accruing to the corporate ownership, and the widening resistance among regular folks like us, who are horrified by the destruction of life, the waste of national treausure, and the loss of civil liberties without even the fig-leaf of increased security.
You’re certainly not reading much about the large increase in bombing in Iraq in the MSM; but fringe sources continue to attempt to tell the truth, or at least as much of it as they can ferret out. Seymour Hersh, who in my book is the most important reporter in the world right now, published an article in The New Yorker called “Up in the Air” in which he described the administration’s strategy:
A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.
Which, of course, there won’t be, because there’s no good way to implement such controls. Currently, the soldiers in an area can call in air strikes when they feel such strikes would advance the cause. But no one in the US military is comfortable handing out radios to Iraqi soldiers for that purpose; too many examples already exist of personal scores being settled, and everyone knows that the level of infiltration of Iraqi security services by the insurgency is dangerously high.
“We’re not planning to diminish the war,” Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me. Clawson’s views often mirror the thinking of the men and women around Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “We just want to change the mix of the forces doing the fighting — Iraqi infantry with American support and greater use of airpower. The rule now is to commit Iraqi forces into combat only in places where they are sure to win. The pace of commitment, and withdrawal, depends on their success in the battlefield.”
He continued, “We want to draw down our forces, but the President is prepared to tough this one out. There is a very deep feeling on his part that the issue of Iraq was settled by the American people at the polling places in 2004.” The war against the insurgency “may end up being a nasty and murderous civil war in Iraq, but we and our allies would still win,” he said. “As long as the Kurds and the Shiites stay on our side, we’re set to go. There’s no sense that the world is caving in. We’re in the middle of a seven-year slog in Iraq, and eighty per cent of the Iraqis are receptive to our message.”
This, of course, is high-order fantasy. The polls taken in Iraq indicate precisely the opposite: that the vast majority of Iraqis see the American military as occupiers who have failed even to bring security, let alone electricity and water, to the land they occupy, as a result of which nearly all Iraqis want the American presence to end. Basing our strategy on the Kurds and the Shiites staying on our side means telling the Sunnis to stuff it, which is bound to increase suupport among them for the insurgency. And I don’t even want to talk about the idea that cheating to win an election produces a mandate. (Perhaps they didn’t tell Shrub about the cheating.)
Michael Schwartz, a sociology professor and faculty director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University, has published an article in Asia Times Online that takes the strategy described by Hersh’s sources to its logical conclusion.
The Washington Post, along with other major US media outlets, has confirmed that a new military strategy is being put in place and implemented. Quoting military sources, the Post reported that the number of US air strikes increased from an average of 25 per month during the summer, to 62 in September, 122 in October and 120 in November. The Sunday Times of London reports that, in the near future, these are expected to increase to at least 150 per month and that the numbers will continue to climb past that threshold.
Consider then this gruesome arithmetic: if the US fulfills its expectation of surpassing 150 air attacks per month, and if the average air strike produces the (gruesomely) modest total of 10 fatalities, air power alone could kill well over 20,000 Iraqi civilians in 2006. Add the ongoing (but reduced) mortality due to other military causes on all sides, and the 1,000 civilian deaths per week rate recorded by the Hopkins study could be dwarfed in the coming year.
Such a strategy, it seems to me, is unlikely to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis, or convince the Muslim world in general that the US wishes it well. And what will be the result of that? More terrorism. Which, of course, will provide a greater excuse for war.
Is it crazy to consider the possibility that the US government is intentionally provoking terrorism so that it can continue to exert military force, and provide its supporters with huge profits as a result? This all fits Emmanuel Todd’s predictions in After the Empire, almost too perfectly.
A new study of the war’s cost by an academic budget expert and a Nobel-winning economist came out last week:
A paper presented to the annual Allied Social Sciences Association meeting in Boston, in a session jointly sponsored by the American Economic Association and the Economists for Peace and Security, suggests that the costs of the Iraq war are much higher than previously reckoned, with conservative to moderate estimates ranging from slightly less than a trillion dollars to more than $2 trillion.
Full report here.
In the continuing debate over the merits of a parliamentary system of government such as the one in Great Britain versus the presidential one used here in the US, is this a score for the UK? Or does it come from having handed over real power to another, leaving Britain with the ability to debate and judge on a more realistic level, while the US struggles with irrelevant questions about how to maintain a fading empire?
General Sir Michael Rose, who was adjutant general of the British army and commander of the UN protection force in Bosnia, makes this case:
Now it is clear that parliament was misled by Mr Blair, either wittingly or unwittingly, parliament should also call on him for a full explanation as to why he went to war. It is not a sufficient excuse for Mr Blair to say that he acted in good faith and that his decisions were based on the intelligence he had been given. For it is the clear responsibility of people in his position to test intelligence. No intelligence can ever be taken at face value. Indeed it is negligent so to do.
Parliament should therefore ascertain how far the prime minister did evaluate intelligence regarding WMD and how he assessed the reliability of the many sources that provided that intelligence. It should ask him what corroborating evidence there was for his specific statement about WMD — and why more use was not made of the UN inspectors on the ground in Iraq to test the validity of that statement. It should inquire just how much he discounted the mass of intelligence that came in from the Iraqi National Congress — a body that had a vested interest in removing Saddam from power. The list of possible questions is huge and would no doubt be usefully expanded during any hearings.
Sometimes the best offense is a good delusion.
You know Rep. John Murtha, the guy whose 37 years in the Marine Corps and connections to the military brass made his voice credible when he recently called for “redeploying” US troops away from Iraq.
You probably heard about his recent comment that he wouldn’t join the military today.
In a statement released Thursday, Murtha said: “The military had no problem recruiting directly after 9/11 because everyone understood that we had been attacked. But now the military’s ability to attract recruits is being hampered by the prospect of prolonged, extended and repeated deployments, inadequate equipment, shortened home stays, the lack of any connection between Iraq and the brutal attacks of 9/11, and — most importantly — the administration’s constantly changing, undefined, open-ended military mission in Iraq.”
As a result, he’s being dissed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace.
“That’s damaging to recruiting,” Pace said. “It’s damaging to morale of the troops who are deployed, and it’s damaging to the morale of their families who believe in what they are doing to serve this country.”
So Pace calls Murtha to talk about the issue. “Peter Pace told me this last night: They know militarily they can’t win this,” Murtha said later.
Telling the truth damages recruiting, because we depend for recruits on belief in a fabric of lies. Interestingly, this dependence goes all the way to the top: even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs believes, or at least says he believes, obvious bullshit:
During the Pentagon news conference Thursday, Pace also predicted that the Saddam Hussein loyalists and other Iraqis who comprise the great bulk of the insurgency will increasingly give up, now that Iraq has approved its own constitution and held elections.
Pace said he believes the violence, which flared anew Thursday on one of the bloodiest days in Iraq in months, will abate as more Iraqis become convinced that the December elections will produce a representative government that will improve their lives.
We agree we can’t win militarily, which implies that the insurgency is winning militarily, since all an insurgency has to do to win is not lose. But we figure that nevertheless the insurgency will give up. The Sunnis, among whom the insurgency is strongest, will decide that, despite their minority status in the population and the legislature, their lives are going to improve under the rule of the Shia and the Kurds, and throw in the towel.
This is as crazy as anything I remember Westmoreland saying.
More high competence and non-manipulation of WMD intelligence from the Bush Administration:
the CIA recruited an Iraqi-American anesthesiologist in 2002 to obtain information from her brother, who was a figure in Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.
Dr. Sawsan Alhaddad of Cleveland made the dangerous trip to Iraq on the CIA’s behalf. The book said her brother was stunned by her questions about the nuclear program because — he said — it had been dead for a decade. …
The book said Dr. Alhaddad flew home in mid-September 2002 and had a series of meetings with CIA analysts. She relayed her brother’s information that there was no nuclear program.
A CIA operative later told Dr. Alhaddad’s husband that the agency believed her brother was lying. In all, the book says, some 30 family members of Iraqis made trips to their native country to contact Iraqi weapons scientists, and all of them reported that the programs had been abandoned.
I’ve never been a supporter of the war in Iraq — quite the contrary — but I have a serious and non-ironic question for those who are: exactly how many more successful elections do we have to host in Iraq for it to be enough? At some point, aren’t we just running up the score?
(See my post yesterday (just below) on the speech for more thoughts along this line.)
It’s hard to believe that though fully 50 percent of the electorate has over the past two years swung from from some level of support for the war in Iraq then, to some level of concern or opposition now, some Democrats refuse to believe the tide is against ending the war. They don’t want to appear “weak,” they are concerned about getting boxed out of competing for nervous voters who equate support of the party in power with support of our troops abroad, and who equate withdrawal from Iraq with defeat.
Yet, the reality is that the American public’s doubts about the wisdom of continuing to fight in Iraq and doubts about the competence of the war’s prosecution are now overwhelming and permanent. The trick for the Democrats is to wind these two threads – doubts about the war on the one hand, and on the other hand a faith in the military and a refusal to acknowledge defeat – together. Americans would love to get out of Iraq, if they can do so with honor and victory.
Atrios astutely points to this commentary by Dana Milbank:
As my sage colleague Al Kamen points out, Bush is taking the Potter Stewart approach. I don’t know the definition of victory, but I know it when I see it. While the president has put himself in position of being the sole arbiter of victory, he has managed to make all his opponents appear to be advocating the opposite, which is defeat.
The political and rhetorical problem for Democrats, is actually quite simple: don’t allow Bush to claim he has some nebulous victory plan, reminiscent of Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam war, and trust Bush to let us know when he has achieved what he considers to be “victory.” Bush has left his definition of victory broad and gauzy in order to give himself maximum maneuvering room. But this rhetorical vacuum also provides tremendous maneuvering room to the Democrats, should they choose to seize and occupy it.
Bush doesn’t want to define “victory;” and this means the Democrats have an opportunity to do so themselves. And, while they’re at it, they also need to define “defeat.” In simple terms, “victory” means leaving Iraq, and “defeat” means staying there. There is no final victory until we withdraw significantly.
There’s no such thing as a sure thing in politics, but the strong polling trend towards concern over and opposition to the war over the past two years is an indication that the Democrats have a likely winner on their hands, if they develop a rhetoric that portrays every added day in Iraq as a defeat, a failure of will and a show of weakness, while at the same time portraying every move toward withdrawal as a show of strength and victory.
Successful elections in Iraq? Declare victory, and leave. Anything else is an admission of defeat.
By now you’ve probably heard how Howard Zinn demolished Lynne Cheney’s latest propaganda ploy, delivered, typically, to elementary-school kids. But it’s worth a re-hearing.
“Two hundred and seventeen years ago, we held our first vote under our Constitution,” the Second Lady said. “We started then on the path the Iraqis are walking now.”
It’s sort of ridiculous the juxtaposition of an election that took place in the United States after we had gotten rid of an occupying power, England, an election which represented our independence, with an election that is taking place now, which is in the midst of an occupation. … We were holding an election after ousting the occupying power.
But you might not have heard what he thinks is going well:
What’s going well is the growing rejection of the war by Americans, the growing willingness of the Americans to speak up against the war, the growing protest against high school recruiting by young people and people all over the country. What’s going well is what has always gone well — the willingness of the American people to resist the war and growing consciousness of what is wrong. The graph is moving in the direction of greater public understanding and also going in the direction of the crumbling of the legitimacy of this Administration.
If only the Democrats would get it together…
If I were Nancy Pelosi I would certainly say to my fellow Democrats, “If we want to win the next election we better get with the American people, they’re way ahead of us. The American people are forthrightly against the war and we’re forthrightly about [nothing].” The American people are much more bold and forthright. If I were any Democratic leader, if I were Howard Dean — who unfortunately has been the kind of silent head of the Democratic National Committee — I would say to my fellow Democrats, wake up. If you don’t give the American people what the American people want, then you are going to go down in history as a party that loses and loses and loses.
Strong turnout in the Iraqi election? Terrific news.
Another perfect opportunity for America to unite the parties, declare victory, and leave.
The Iranian-backed militia the Badr Organization has taken over many of the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s intelligence activities and infiltrated its elite commando units, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. That’s enabled the Shiite Muslim militia to use Interior Ministry vehicles and equipment — much of it bought with American money — to carry out revenge attacks against the minority Sunni Muslims, who persecuted the Shiites under Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, current and former Ministry of Interior employees told Knight Ridder. …
A document obtained by Knight Ridder appears to reveal the existence of an Interior Ministry death squad. A memo written by an Iraqi general in the ministry operations room and addressed to the minister's office says on its subject line: “Names of detainees.” It lists 14 men who were taken from Iskan, a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad, during the early morning hours of Aug. 18. It also marks the time of their detention: 5:15 a.m.
The bodies of the same 14 men were found in the town of Badrah near the Iranian border in early October. … most of the men had been killed by single gunshots to their heads.
The U.S. response should be: Unite the parties, declare victory, and leave. (For an earlier post on this, see here.)
No one eviscerates the war-mongering neo-con like Karen Kwaitkowski:
[Robert] Kagan [in the Washington Post] is playing with toy soldiers on a green felt battlefield. The rest of the country, inconveniently for the increasingly nervous Jacobins in Washington, has suddenly grown up. We see dead people, and we are tired of idiotic foreign policy allegories of sheriffs and outlaws, cowboys and Indians, Venus and Mars.
The vast majority of Americans already know we had no reason to invade and occupy Iraq, beyond neoconservative fantasies and false loyalties, establishmentarian greed, a cowardly Congress and a remarkably stupid and irresponsible President.
Let me make one comment about the Weakener-in-Chief’s apparent new belief that the use of the term “victory” in all statements about Iraq will move public opinion back in favor of the war: How smart of a long-term political idea is it, really, to promise a war victory that you most likely will not be able to deliver? In the end, it’s just going to further embitter and alienate the saps who stick with you for an extra year or two.
The way to make customers happy is to under-promise and over-deliver, not the other way around.
U.S. Senator Barack Obama has planted his feet deeply inside the Iraq war-prolongation camp of the Democratic Party, the great swamp that, if not drained, will swallow up any hope of victory over the GOP in next year’s congressional elections. In a masterpiece of double-speak before the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, November 22, the Black Illinois lawmaker managed to out-mush-mouth Sen. John Kerry — a prodigious feat, indeed. …
In essence, all Obama wants from the Bush regime is that it fess up to having launched the war based on false information, and to henceforth come clean with the Senate on how it plans to proceed in the future. Those Democrats who want to dwell on the past — the actual genesis and rationale for the war, and the real reasons for its continuation — should be quiet.
The Bush administration has been warning of the dangers of a new caliphate — an Islamic superstate based on Islamic laws with religious and political authority over much of the Muslim world — to bolster waning support for its policy in Iraq.
The message is similar to the domino theory that U.S. officials used 40 years ago to muster support for the Vietnam War by arguing that abandoning South Vietnam would allow the communists to conquer neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Much as the original domino theory overlooked the tensions between the Soviet Union and China, the power of nationalism and the appeal of prosperity, Rumsfeld’s remarks neglected the deep animosity between Sunni Muslim extremists such as bin Laden and Iraq’s Shiite majority. It also discounts the differences among predominately Muslim countries from Morocco to Indonesia.
A Sunni-dominated caliphate is unlikely in Iraq, where Shiites make up 60 percent of the population, said Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University, and a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom. While fundamentalists on both sides say they like the idea of clerical government, Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting one another.
“It’s like saying the Christians will be united under one banner,” said Ahmed. “It sounds nice, but whose banner will it be?”
There are two falsehoods here: first, the Bush administration prediction of an Islamic superstate is disingenuous at best. Iraq will not emerge from the current era with its artificial colonial borders intact, because the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds all want, and ultimately will get, their own countries. Second, to think that at least two of the new nations will not be theocratic because the religions will be incompatible is wrong; of course the countries will be theocracies, it’s just that the theocracies will be dedicated to different religions, and will be more or less hostile to each other.
If the United States (or anyone else) wanted a unified, westward-oriented, modernizing regime over the entire territory that is known as Iraq, we never should have removed Saddam. Only a brutal pig like him (as, before him, Marshal Tito in the former Yugoslavia) could hold the disparate Iraqi peoples together under one flag. Now, just as in Yugoslavia, with the brutal dicator gone, there is nothing to prevent the ancient tribal animosities and splits from surfacing, and they are.
Rumsfeld doesn’t want to call the insurgents “insurgents” any more; something about that middle part, suggesting “surge” and irrepressibility. The solution, of course, is to follow the media’s absolutely excellent policy when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol: they began to refer to him as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.” Now is the time to do the same with the insurgents: “The Individuals Formerly Known As Insurgents.”
Brzezinski has done a lot of damage to the U.S. and U.S. power over the years. But he’s right now:
He says it is time for Washington to “bite the bullet” and withdraw U.S. troops “rapidly,” no later than the end of 2006. A more prolonged disengagement would jeopardize remaining U.S. troops.
“We have to face the fact that the war is not going well and is costing us too much, not only in blood and money but also in the U.S. position in the world, discrediting our legitimacy, credibility and morality even,” said Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser.
Among several steps during and after a transition, Brzezinski favors keeping some U.S. forces in Kuwait.
The amazing thing, and the one thing that may in the end keep the Democrats from seizing at least one house in Congress in 2006, is that this position is controversial among the milquetoast Democratic foreign policy elite from which the mealy-mouthed politicians such as John Kerry take their lead. The party is in trouble when Brzezinski is a lone voice of clarity.
That’s the main reason he was killed:
Eventually he began to understand that withdrawal was the viable option. From the spring of 1963 on, he began to articulate the elements of a three-part exit strategy, one that his assassination would prevent him from pursuing. The three components of Kennedy’s exit strategy — well-suited for Iraq after the passage of a new constitution and the coming election — can be summarized as follows:
Make clear that we’re going to get out. At a press conference on Nov. 14, 1963, the president did just that, stating, “That is our object, to bring Americans home.”
Request an invitation to leave. Arrange for the host government to request the phased withdrawal of all American military personnel — surely not a difficult step in Iraq, especially after the clan statement last month calling for foreign forces to leave. In a May 1963 press conference, Kennedy declared that if the South Vietnamese government suggested it, “we would have some troops on their way home” the next day.
Bring the troops home gradually. Initiate a phased American withdrawal over an unannounced period, beginning immediately, while intensifying the training of local security personnel, bearing in mind that with our increased troop mobility and airlift capacity, American forces are available without being stationed in hazardous areas. In September 1963, Kennedy said of the South Vietnamese: “In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it.” A month later, he said, “It would be our hope to lessen the number of Americans” in Vietnam by the end of the year.
The recent Atlantic article by James Fallows, “Why Iraq Has No Army”, has, as Cursor says, been liberated.
Fallows is at the very top level of American journalism, a perch he shares, in my opinion, with Seymour Hersh and William Greider. The best.
He begins this article with an examination of the current situation:
In short, if American troops disappeared tomorrow, Iraq would have essentially no independent security force. Half its policemen would be considered worthless, and the other half would depend on external help for organization, direction, support. Two thirds of the army would be in the same dependent position, and even the better-prepared one third would suffer significant limitations without foreign help.
The moment when Iraqis can lift much of the burden from American troops is not yet in sight. Understanding whether this situation might improve requires understanding what the problems have been so far.
People Fallows thinks are credible believe that the US has significantly improved its training methods. In particular, the appointment of “golden boy” Lt. Gen. David Petraeus as commander of the training effort in Iraq was a signal that the US is becoming serious about training. But
…as the training and numbers are getting somewhat better, the problems created by the insurgency are getting worse and getting worse faster than the Iraqi forces are improving. Measured against what it would take to leave Iraqis fully in charge of their own security, the United States and the Iraqi government are losing ground. Absent a dramatic change in the insurgency, in American efforts, in resolving political differences in Iraq America’s options will grow worse, not better, as time goes on.
Fallows talked to several military and civilian personnel with experience in the current Iraqi situation, most of whom wished to retain anonymity. One Marine lieutenant colonel said our current course leaves two options: “We can lose in Iraq and destroy our army, or we can just lose.” Worse: if we leave the country in a way that allows it to disintegrate, a likely outcome is a Sunni-stan that is a more welcoming haven for Al Qaeda and the like than Afghanistan ever was. “In Vietnam we just lost,” the Marine said. “This would be losing with consequences.”
In this article (as usual) Fallows gathers a huge variety of information into a relatively small space, then uses that information to draw some conclusions. Those of us who believed from the first that the war in Iraq was stupid and wrong have good reasons to feel that the right thing to do now is to bring the troops home immediately.
Fallows paints a picture of a situation with two general types of outcome. Immediate withdrawal, in his view, is likely to produce a civil war in Iraq, followed by dissolution of the country. From a purely selfish point of view, Americans, he believes, should avoid this outcome if possible, because the result is likely to be at least one state that is even more antagonistic to us than Saddam’s Iraq, plus one state that is likely to be dominated by Iran, and therefore will not be friendly to the US. In other words, immediate withdrawal will probably produce a situation that is much more dangerous to the US than the status quo ante.
The other outcome is what Fallows calls an orderly exit. To produce this outcome would require significant re-thinking in the civilian leadership, a possibility which we on the left strongly doubt with the current administration. Here’s what he thinks it would take:
…if the United States is serious about getting out of Iraq, it will need to re-consider its defense spending and operations rather than leaving them to a combination of inertia, Rumsfeld-led plans for “transformation,” and emergency stopgaps. It will need to spend money for interpreters. It will need to create large new training facilities for American troops, as happened within a few months of Pearl Harbor, and enroll talented people as trainees. It will need to make majors and colonels sit through language classes. It will need to broaden the Special Forces ethic to much more of the military, and make clear that longer tours will be the norm in Iraq. It will need to commit air, logistics, medical, and intelligence services to Iraq and understand that this is a commitment for years, not a temporary measure. It will need to decide that there are weapons systems it does not require and commitments it cannot afford if it is to support the ones that are crucial. And it will need to make these decisions — in a matter of months, not years — before it is too late.
Given the level of flexible thinking currently on evidence in the Pentagon and the White House, one would be justified in considering us screwed.
Update: A friend writes to point out that Lt. Gen. Petraeus is no longer commanding the training of Iraqi security forces. This is true; but the point Fallows is making is that sending him there in the first place was a symbolic statement that the US was beginning to take such training seriously. It may be that ending his tour in Iraq is a statement that the US has given up on the training strategy.
Do you have friends who believe that, although we shouldn’t have “gone into” Iraq to begin with, we shouldn’t pull out now because the shit will hit the fan if we do? If so, point them at this article, entitled “Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War”.
The writer is Martin van Creveld, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, described by the Guardian as “one of the world’s foremost military historians. Several of his books have influenced modern military theory and he is the only non-American author on the US Army’s list of required reading for officers.”
Van Creveld thinks that “The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon — and at what cost.” Although he agrees that the parallel to Vietnam is not pleasant, “no other alternative appears in sight.”
One particularly unpleasant difference is that in Vietnam there was a North Vietnamese government with whom a cease-fire could be arranged, and a regular army that could be expected to take over and enforce order after the American military left. This is clearly not true in Iraq.
And whereas in the early 1970s equipment was still relatively plentiful, today’s armed forces are the products of a technology-driven revolution in military affairs. Whether that revolution has contributed to anything besides America’s national debt is open to debate. What is beyond question, though, is that the new weapons are so few and so expensive that even the world’s largest and richest power can afford only to field a relative handful of them.
Therefore, simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.
His predictions for the future are not comforting:
A withdrawal probably will require several months and incur a sizable number of casualties. As the pullout proceeds, Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge — if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not.
Having been thoroughly devastated by two wars with the United States and a decade of economic sanctions, decades will pass before Iraq can endanger its neighbors again. Yet a complete American withdrawal is not an option; the region, with its vast oil reserves, is simply too important for that. A continued military presence, made up of air, sea and a moderate number of ground forces, will be needed.
His evaluation of American leadership is straightforward:
For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president’s men.
When the president and vice-president have to launch a PR offensive to deny that they lied to get us into the war, the debate is over. And we won. A year too late, but better late than never.
Any doubts left? Then please note that the PR offensive is greeted by the formerly quiescent MSM with headlines such as this: “In challenging war’s critics, administration tinkers with truth,” and copy such as this:
The administration’s overarching premise is beyond dispute — administration officials, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and even leaders of foreign governments believed intelligence assessments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That intelligence turned out to be wrong. But Bush, Cheney, and other senior officials have added several other arguments in recent days that distort the factual record. Below, Knight Ridder addresses the administration's main assertion …
Our former close allies the Italians say that we used white phosporus, a nasty incendiary substance reminiscent of napalm, against civilians in Iraq.
Worried about the legality of using incendiaries against civilians? Don’t be, party-poopers! Sure, it’s banned by a 1980 United Nations Convention. But — and this is the beauty part — we didn’t sign the Convention, so we’re in the clear. Kudos to all the presidents since 1980; your good work finally paid off.
(The Pentagon admits using white phosporus, but denies that civilians were hurt; I hope to hell the denial is true, not only because using such devices near civilians (humans, for that matter) is immoral and wrong, but also because such a savage practice would further weaken our nation, and embolden and strengthen our enemies.)
Here is an image; but it is just too graphic to post.
UPDATE: Peter in comments sends this link to video. Go to the Kaiser video. And then tell me if you have ever seen such sad, controlled passion, delivered in such a matter-of-fact, mild, professional way. Impressive and deeply moving.
Someone forgot to wipe his shoes when he came in from the stable:
Information attributed to Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff in New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s interview notes is incorrect, offering prosecutors a potential lead to tracking the bad information to its original source.
Miller disclosed this weekend that her notes of a conversation she had with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on July 8, 2003 stated Cheney’s top aide told her that the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson worked for the CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) unit.
Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, never worked for WINPAC, an analysis unit in the overt side of the CIA, and instead worked in a position in the CIA’s secret side, known as the directorate of operations, according to three people familiar with her work for the spy agency …
The revelation came as President Bush weighed in Monday by declining to say what he would do if one of his aides were indicted in the investigation, and the Pentagon looked into Miller's claim that she was granted a security clearance in 2003 while reporting with a military unit during the Iraq war.
On which note, Josh Marshall reports that, according to NBC News, no one at the Pentagon, the DIA or the CIA “knows anything about Judy Miller ever having a security clearance.” Possible explanations: Judy decided to brag on the stand, under oath, about a security clearance she didn’t actually possess; Judy’s NYT account of her testimony was a wagonload of utter crap from start to finish; or Judy had some sort of clearance, but it was rather more hush-hush than she was willing to admit for public consumption.
Digby wonders whether anyone has thought to interview the legendarily obnoxious “embed wrangler” Jim Wilkinson:
He was also a central player in the Iraq war propaganda operation serving as a member of the Office of Global Communication and the White House Iraq Group. If there was anyone who would have been charged with getting a special “off the books” special security clearance it would have been him. He had his own special pipeline to the White House and the DOD.
Elsewhere, the Financial Times confirms that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has most likely widened his inquiry to include “the administration’s handling of pre-Iraq war intelligence”:
According to the Democratic National Committee, a majority of the nine members of the White House Iraq Group have been questioned by Mr Fitzgerald. The team, which included senior national security officials, was created in August 2002 to “educate the public” about the risk posed by weapons of mass destruction on Iraq.UPDATE: At least one person has thought to interview Jim Wilkinson — special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
Mr Fitzgerald, who has been applauded for conducting a leak-free inquiry, has said little publicly about his 22-month probe, other than that it is about the “potential retaliation against a whistleblower,” Joseph Wilson.
First, we needed to stay in Iraq to find the WMD; then we needed to stay to capture Saddam; then we needed to stay until they could stand up a government; then, we needed to stay until the constitution was passed … but now that the constitution is in the bag due to questionable tactics, we need to stay until … well, we’ll get back to you on that.
To paraphrase the late Dino Crocetti of Steubenville, OH, “What are all these people doing in our throne room?”
We are Simbaud; our usual venue is King of Zembla, an exclusive, highly-regarded boutique blog of such extraordinary cachet that only six or eight people read it, and then only if they are sober enough to remember the secret handshake; and we are longtime slavish admirers of Bad Attitudes, so much so that the distinguished proprietors, Messrs. Doolittle and Dupree, finally offered to give us the run of the place if we would promise to stop pinching their best stuff and passing it off as our own. We are, needless to say, most grateful for the use of the hall, and deeply honored to be blogging in the company of such illustrious two-fisted hard-drinking hellraisers as Messrs. Batard, Blues, Doolittle frere, Street, Trouble, and Uff (although we must confess that the food is not quite what we were hoping for). We should perhaps also mention that when we use the word “we,” it is the royal “we” to whom we refer; that is to say, we speak for ourselves alone and not for our comrades, who we imagine would not wish to be pied, sued, or permanently detained as a result of our uncontrollable effusions.
But enough about us. For most of the weekend we have been looking for an obscure, underreported story to share with you, and we think we have finally found one. Did you know that Judith Miller wrote an article about her testimony before the grand jury in the Plame investigation?
The piece is generally risible and bursting with hooey, but we found one brief passage quite tantalizing:
In my grand jury testimony, Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to the subject of how Mr. Libby handled classified information with me. He asked, for example, whether I had discussed my security status with Mr. Libby. During the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment “embedded” with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons.We have been following the Fitzgerald investigation at some length (our first post at KofZ, lo these many months ago, listed the journalists who would be called before the grand jury in the Plame investigation), and although we cannot hope to match the expertise, the attention to detail, or the startling ingenuity of our esteemed colleagues Emptywheel, Swopa, Reddhedd and Jane Hamsher, the above passage caused our tiny puckered raisin of a heart to swell with glee.
Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I had discussed classified information with Mr. Libby. I said I believed so, but could not be sure. He asked how Mr. Libby treated classified information. I said, Very carefully. [Not a felicitous paragraph. Read it aloud, twice; do any inconsistencies emerge? — S.]
Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to examine a series of documents. Though I could not identify them with certainty, I said that some seemed familiar, and that they might be excerpts from the National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq’s weapons. Mr. Fitzgerald asked whether Mr. Libby had shown any of the documents to me. I said no, I didn’t think so. I thought I remembered him at one point reading from a piece of paper he pulled from his pocket.
I told Mr. Fitzgerald that Mr. Libby might have thought I still had security clearance, given my special embedded status in Iraq. At the same time, I told the grand jury I thought that at our July 8 meeting I might have expressed frustration to Mr. Libby that I was not permitted to discuss with editors some of the more sensitive information about Iraq.
Mr. Fitzgerald asked me if I knew whether I was cleared to discuss classified information at the time of my meetings with Mr. Libby. I said I did not know.
Why? Because we assume that Patrick Fitzgerald is every bit the crafty bastid we imagine him to be, and because we further assume that he follows the prosecutor’s first rule: never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. We have seen speculation that Scooter Libby will be exonerated because Ms. Miller was secretly authorized to receive the information he slipped her. We don’t buy it.
We assume, based on her previous history of extreme usefulness, that Ms. Miller may not have been entirely candid about the nature, origin, and extent of her “security clearance.” (Note the careful wording of the first paragraph excerpted above.) When Little Miss Run Amok says that “the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment,” we suspect that she is most likely referring to her assignment as Ahmed Chalabi’s personal shit-funnel.
Given Fitzgerald’s expanded interest in the White House Iraq Group (Condi Rice today admitted, for the first time, that she had “cooperated with prosecutor Fitzgerald”), and given Ms. Miller’s reluctance to testify until Fitzgerald agreed to limit the scope of his inquiry, we believe that the special prosecutor’s persistent questions about Ms. Miller’s security clearance, and Mr. Libby’s understanding of it, had nothing much to do with nailing Libby and everything to do with illuminating the process by which a prominent reporter might be utilized to spread convenient untruths.
We suspect, in other words, that Mr. Fitzgerald has set his sights on the massive propaganda enterprise that sold the American public on the need to invade Iraq, and that the Plame case, before it is over, might result in the exposure of not one but two long-term covert assets.
We could, of course, be entirely wrong. Place your bets now, before the first indictments come down.
UPDATE: The things people say!
I spent most of this Sunday trying to digest the various stories and speculations about Judith Miller, the Times, and the White House Iraq Group. Then I spent some time writing a rather pedestrian version of the inimitable Simbaud’s “Cover Your Assets”, which I will now spare you. Read his; it’s much spicier.
I think I have one interesting tidbit, coupled with a few of my own speculations, to add.
On the issue of a Times reporter having a security clearance: Bill Lynch, a retired CBS News correspondent who calls himself “a former White House and national security correspondent [who has] had plenty of access to classified information”, says:
This is as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists and the New York Times (if it knew) should never have allowed her to become so compromised. It is all the more puzzling that a reporter who as a matter of principle would sacrifice 85 days of her freedom to protect a source would so willingly agree to be officially muzzled and thereby deny potentially valuable information to the readers whose right to be informed she claims to value so highly.
I find this bit from Judy’s article particularly interesting:
Mr. Fitzgerald asked me if I knew whether I was cleared to discuss classified information at the time of my meetings with Mr. Libby. I said I did not know.
Uh-huh, right. And if I did know, I would not be inclined to discuss it. This all tends to support Simbaud’s conclusions.
The always interesting and thoughtful emptywheel has weighed in on the matter as well. I was happy to see her speculate
…that 1) either Judy is lying when she says Fitzgerald has told her she’s only a witness in this case, 2) Fitz just set her up, she’s made a plea bargain and the “witness” comment is her cover, or 3) Fitz just handed her some more rope to hang herself in the press…
because I was wondering whether I was crazy to be thinking along these lines. I can’t see how she could avoid prosecution if she really testified as she claims she did. Her article is full of obvious lies, as just about everyone is pointing out.
Here’s what appears to me to be the most likely explanation for the facts I’ve managed to grasp: Saint Judy was an active, if perhaps unofficial, participant in the White House Iraq Group as it prepared, and in some cases forged, the basic story that was marketed to the American public about the upcoming war.
All the evidence of which I’m aware points to the war having been decided on before the election. Whether BushCo intentionally ignored the August 6 PDB (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”), hoping for an excuse to start the war, or was simply criminally negligent in not acting on it, is unclear, but not critical. Certainly 9/11 provided cover for the pre-fab pre-emption.
As information from Joseph Wilson in the US and David Kelly in the UK began to come out, it started to look like the WHIG lies were unraveling. This put the WHIG into Rove’s well-established slime-and-defend posture, which had always worked in situations where the opposition was a politician and the audience a group of voters, whose impressions could be formed by false advertising. But Wilson and Kelly were experts in their respective fields, in possession of important facts, and disinformation would not confuse them. (This, of course, leads one to speculate about the true cause of Kelly’s death, as does the email exchange with Judy on the day of his supposed suicide.) In addition, the Rovians are not used to fighting someone like Wilson, who has the courage of his convictions as well as a certain flair for PR.
This scenario fits with what we know about Saint Judy’s interaction with Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, which was assigned to examine potential Iraqi weapons sites after Bush declared the war formally over, but switched jobs in mid-stream:
More than a half-dozen military officers said that Miller acted as a middleman between the Army unit with which she was embedded and Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, on one occasion accompanying Army officers to Chalabi’s headquarters, where they took custody of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law. She also sat in on the initial debriefing of the son-in-law, these sources say.
Since interrogating Iraqis was not the mission of the unit, these officials said, it became a “Judith Miller team,” in the words of one officer close to the situation.
“This was totally out of their lane, getting involved with human intelligence,” said one military officer who, like several others interviewed, declined to be named because he is not an authorized spokesman. But, the officer said of Miller, “this woman came in with a plan. She was leading them… She ended up almost hijacking the mission.”
Said a senior staff officer of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, of which MET Alpha is a part: “It’s impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better.” …
Several military officers say Miller led MET Alpha members to Chalabi’s compound in a former sporting club, where they wound up taking custody of Sultan, who was on the Pentagon’s “deck of cards” of the 55 most wanted Iraqis. The April trip to Chalabi’s headquarters took place “at Judy’s direction,” one officer said.
Chalabi said in a brief interview that he had not arranged the handoff with Miller in advance and that her presence that day was “a total coincidence… She happened to be there.”
It’s interesting to note that the Washington Post article from which that quote and the next are taken was published on June 25, 2003, two days after Saint Judy’s first conversation with Scooter Libby about Wilson.
“We think she did really good work there,” [Times Assistant Managing Editor Andrew] Rosenthal said. “We think she broke some important stories.”
Miller declined to be interviewed for this article, saying it was unfair of The Washington Post to have published an internal e-mail of hers last month. She said only that “my past and future articles speak for themselves.”
Indeed they do. Volumes.
If you’ve been anywhere else today, you know about the buzz over Saint Judy’s lack of an honest summing up. For example:
Ms. Miller said she was proud of her journalism career, including her work on Al Qaeda, biological warfare and Islamic militancy. But she acknowledged serious flaws in her articles on Iraqi weapons.
“W.M.D. — I got it totally wrong,” she said. “The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them — we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong. I did the best job that I could.”
And if you believe this… She didn’t get it wrong. She intentionally lied as part of a Cheney- and Libby-hatched plan to plant false information that would convince Americans to sacrifice their children for Halliburton. She knew what she was doing at the time. She knew she was lying. She wanted the war.
You’ve also no doubt encountered the relatively honorable attempt by Times reporters Don Van Natta Jr., Adam Liptak, and Clifford J. Levy to explain what really happened from the newsroom’s point of view.
What the article makes clear is that there was a great deal of discomfort among Saint Judy’s so-called colleagues. They felt the sting of public criticism over what can only be called the paper’s dishonest coverage of the Administration’s lies leading up to the war. She lied; their reputations suffered.
“I told her there was unease, discomfort, unhappiness over some of the coverage,” said Roger Cohen, who was the foreign editor at the time. “There was concern that she’d been convinced in an unwarranted way, a way that was not holding up, of the possible existence of W.M.D.”
Although criticism of Ms. Miller’s Iraq coverage mounted, Mr. Keller waited until May 26, 2004, to publish an editors’ note that criticized some of the paper’s coverage of the run-up to the war.
The note said the paper’s articles on unconventional weapons were credulous. It did not name any reporters and said the failures were institutional. Five of the six articles called into question were written or co-written by Ms. Miller.
As usual on this topic, Jay Rosen has some excellent observations, as does The Next Hurrah, this time in the person of Kagro X. ReddHedd at firedoglake also has some fascinating insights. Where’s emptywheel? On vacation, apparently…
Let me count the ways …
See this article by Tom Lasseter, entitled, “Sectarian Resentment Extends To Iraq’s Army”:
Ghilan is a major in the Iraqi army and a Shiite Muslim, the sect that makes up some 60 percent of Iraq’s population. Now, more than ever, the grieving father says he wants to hunt down and kill not only Sunni guerrilla fighters but also Sunnis who give those fighters shelter and support. By that, he means killing most Sunnis in Iraq. …
Instead of rising above the ethnic tension that’s tearing their nation apart, the mostly Shiite troops are preparing for, if not already fighting, a civil war against the minority Sunni population. …
Increasingly, however, they look and operate less like an Iraqi national army unit and more like a Shiite militia.
“There’s only so much our country can accomplish by killing people.” Quite right. Killing people does have its place in world affairs from time to time, but it is not the cure-all that Dick Cheney believes it to be, nor should it be used as a personal catharsis or undertaken lightly as W does. Not only is the gratuitous use of force morally wrong, it also is politically wrong in that it weakens and humiliates you, me and our nation.