Back when the world was young and Jimmy Carter was president I was chief of public affairs for the Federal Aviation Administration. Once I gave a talk to a classroom full of air traffic control trainees at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, for reasons that escape my memory. What I do remember, though, is that each desk was equipped with a small button.
What gives? Well, I was told, if a student doesn’t understand something you just said, he hits his private button and that little light on your podium there tells you to go over it again. Couldn’t the student just raise his hand, though? Well, no, he might be afraid of looking stupid or maybe he’s shy. Whatever. The point is that every single trainee has got to understand every single thing we’re trying to teach him. Up in that tower they only give out two grades. Zero or 100.
The so-called “president” might want to think of that before he dumps any more shit on our unpaid air traffic controllers.
Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then. Here’s the Donald, from Agence France Presse:
During a separate interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump said that he thought things would be better for the Middle East if Assad were stronger.If we were a moral country (not that such a phenomenon has ever existed in the history of our species), we would base our foreign policy on a very different metric: the corpse count. How many corpses would Saddam Hussein have created had we left him in power? How many corpses did Cheney, Bush & Co. create instead? What, in possession of this instructive hind sight, should Obama have done in Afghanistan?
He added that he believed the situation in the region would also be much improved if Moamer Kadhafi were still in power in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Well, you get the idea.
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Only four or five Syrian individuals trained by the United States military to confront the Islamic State remain in the fight, the head of the United States Central Command told a Senate panel on Wednesday, a bleak acknowledgment that the Defense Department’s $500 million program to raise an army of Syrian fighters has gone nowhere…Oh, I know it looks bad, but what if those $125 million or $100 million Syrian individuals turn out to be four or five super troopers? Captain Marvel, for instance. Or Batman. Or Plastic Man. Don’t laugh. It could happen. But actually it won’t.
I know because I spent two years as a private in the finest body of fighting men in the history of the world and the rest of the planetary system as well. President Obama didn’t, or he wouldn't keep falling for the murderous nonsense sold to him by the War Department, as it was once more accurately called. He looks at all those stars glittering on the shoulders of some manly fellow, all those bright ribbons stretching from axilla to sternum, and thinks, Wow, that guy must really have his feces assembled. When I look at the same man I see a second lieutenant, and one who brown-nosed his way to the top. Genuinely smart second lieutenants seldom make it past colonel — that’s the difference between a General Petraeus, say, and a Colonel Wilkerson.
Here’s George W. Bush, our first frat boy president, speaking to the board of directors of American foreign policy:
Several attendees sensed a tacit critique of Mr. Obama and his failure to follow through on his threats to use force when Mr. Bush said “you gotta mean it” when talking tough, and that America’s allies and enemies needed to know where an American leader stood. He said also discussed his own approach in Iraq, saying he changed course when it was warranted.Bush, like our first half-white president, fails utterly to grasp what should be the cardinal principle of all public policy, foreign and domestic: If you’re on the wrong train, all the stops are wrong.
“You call in the military and say, ‘Here’s my goal. What’s your plan to help me achieve that goal?'” he said, according to attendees. He said that when asked what had to be done with terrorists bent on America’s destruction, the answer was “well, you kill em,” several attendees recalled.
Syrbal, at Herlander-Walking, is herself a veteran. So is her husband. They have a son who just left for Afghanistan on his second tour in the Bush-Obama wars. Not that Bush and Obama are the only ones responsible for those evil, idiot wars. Read her post to the end.
I know keeping very, very busy is the best idea right now. Distraction was my only friend the last year he was in the war zone; but this time it is far more difficult to keep my mind away from sharp cliff edges. At least, this time, it seems most Americans, even in this perversely red county of a blue state, have decided the wars are not a jolly good time.
Last time, seeing the service star on my car, or if it came up in conversation I still had idiots say the equivalent of “Right on!” which made me tilt my head and eye them like a hungry raptor before verbally pecking them to death. This time, if I apologize for temporary mental lapses with the explanation of my son being deployed, faces fall and people say “Oh, I’m so sorry,” or “Oh, no!”
Why, oh, why was that not the response in 2001 and 2003? It was the same lie then? And over 8000 men and women from a host of nations including our own have paid for that lie with their deaths. And that is not even beginning the count of Iraqis and Afghanis.
During the long, sad evening of the election night when Reagan won reelection in a landslide, a colleague in Gore campaign headquarters defined the word democracy for me. “Democracy,” he said, “is that system of government in which you give the people what they want. And you give it to ’em good.”
One thing about living in a country with amnesia is that the old becomes new over and over again, as we repeat our forgotten idiocies. Here is a post I put up on Bad Attitudes on September 12, 2002, still fresh as a daisy:
Looking up something else in the files I just came across a four-year-old article from the New York Times, written as the Taliban were about to take over Afghanistan.
It’s easy to forget, and most of us conveniently have, that the Taliban was Made in the USA. What if, for just that once, we had managed to mind our own business?
From the Times of August 13, 1998, speaking of the likelihood that the mullahs would soon seize power:
“If so, the outcome is full of tragic irony for a nation that seemed set on a completely opposite course in 1973, when King Zahir Shah, the last representative of the Durrani Dynasty that had ruled the country for 250 years, was ousted in a coup mounted by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud.
“As President, Mohammed Daoud proclaimed himself a modernizer but lasted barely five years before he was killed in April 1978 in a coup staged by the Soviet-backed Communist Party, which proclaimed a still more radical modernization program.
“The Communists’ program aimed at uprooting the pervasive influence of Muslim clerics, whose support of the Durranis had consigned Afghanistan to a social and economic backwardness.
“Within hours of seizing the Arg Palace in Kabul, the Afghan capital, the Communists vowed to emancipate Afghan women, achieve universal literacy, and move the country beyond its bullock-cart economy.
“But the bid to force compliance with the Communist program, especially in the arch-conservative world of the Afghan village, triggered a civil war that drew in Soviet forces in December 1979.
“This in turn prompted President Jimmy Carter and later Ronald Reagan to commit the United States to backing the Afghan Mujahedeen, the self-styled Muslim holy warriors who drove out the Russians in February 1989.”
To put the matter clearly, the Russians were the nearest thing there was to good guys in the Afghanistan of the late seventies. The nearest thing to bad guys, then and now, were the ignorant village clerics…
As so often happened during the Cold War, we jumped eagerly into bed with the worst guys in sight. Even worse than the Russian alternative? Well, figure it out. Our exciting fling with the primitive, lawless Mujahedeen created the conditions for the Taliban takeover that the Russians had feared. And the takeover created the kind of country an Osama Bin Laden could get comfortable in.
Well, okay, but still.. We couldn’t very well have left this tiny land in the terrible claws of godless Russia, could we? Of course we could. We did it all the time, before and during the Cold War. And in this case, so what? Three and a half years later the Soviet Union collapsed anyway, giving everybody a get-out-of-jail card.
But wasn’t that collapse precisely because we had armed and financed those brave Afghan freedom fighters? Pretty doubtful. The Soviet Union had been a basket case for decades. It might have stayed on its feet for a year or two longer if Cold War cowboys like Zbigniew Brzezinski and William J. Casey hadn’t been gnawing at its crutches in Afghanistan, that’s true. But the aging invalid was about to topple in any case..
Suppose those few years had been spent under the Russians rather than the warlords and the Taliban? A number of things would have happened, all of them good. Afghanistan wouldn’t have been devastated in a pointless civil war, hundreds of thousands of Russians and Afghans would still be alive, and the country would be independent today just like the other ’Stans in the neighborhood. No better off, but no worse either.
And yesterday — September 11th of 2002 — could have been just another lovely day in early autumn.
Fom the Associated Press:
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agree the American military should remain involved in Afghanistan after the planned 2014 end of combat operations to help train and advise Afghan forces…
Let’s start by all agreeing that terrorism is a bad thing, okay? But let’s also agree to the indisputable: that it will not and cannot destroy the United States. Here is a very partial list of states that have been visited by terrorism in recent memory: England, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, India, Pakistan, Bolivia, Nicaragua. On and on. All of them remain in existence. None has assumed the fetal position, whimpering in fear and laying down unaimed fire in every direction. This is to say that only in the United States have the terrorists won.
More on this point from Daniel Larison at Eunomia.
The latest round of interventionist foreign policy over the last ten to thirteen years has focused heavily, though not exclusively, on countering the threat from jihadist terrorism, and everyone would acknowledge that many of the major policy decisions of the last ten years were made politically viable by the 9/11 attacks. Arguments for all of the policies connected to the “war on terror” lean heavily on the idea that terrorism, and specifically jihadist terrorism, represents a major or even an “existential” threat. Any reasonable assessment of the threat shows this to be absurd, and along with those overblown claims goes a large part of the rationale for pretty much every “war on terror” policy.
It seems to me that non-interventionists and realists make blowback arguments to focus on the consequences of current policy, and to point out the flaw in a national security and warfare state that actively makes America less secure by creating enemies where none should exist and provoking attacks that need not happen. It is also a rhetorical move to appeal to public concerns about security without endorsing standard authoritarian and jingoist responses to threats.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but what non-interventionists and realists should be trying to do is to channel the public’s appropriate moral outrage over terrorist atrocities towards reforming the policies that create these unintended, avoidable consequences. To that end, there doesn’t need to be any exaggeration of the nature of the threat or the power of jihadism, but there should be a steady stream of arguments that the threat can be significantly reduced or possibly eliminated by reforming U.S. policies so that they actually minimize the risks to the nation rather than generate new dangers. The threat from terrorism isn’t all that great, but it could be greatly reduced. All that it will cost us is our undesirable pursuit of hegemony.
My late stepfather Ralph Ingersoll (founder of the New York daily PM) used to say, “If you’re up against people who literally ‘would rather die than—”, sooner or later they’re going to win.”
I thought of him just now, in reading Nicholas D. Kristof’’s report from Bahrain:
Another woman, Hayat, said that she had been shot with rubber bullets twice this week. After hospitalization (which others confirmed), she painfully returned to the streets to continue to demand more democracy. “I will sacrifice my life if necessary so my children can have a better life,” she said.
I thought of it in Poland, in Tiananmen Square, in Northern Ireland, in the Gaza Strip and of course in Tahrir Square. But I also thought of it in Vietnam, and now in Afghanistan. Every suicide bomber, everywhere, makes me think of it.
For the love of God, how stupid are we?
KABUL (Reuters) — The military handover from NATO-led forces to Afghans should start in the first half of 2011 but poor security in some areas could see it run past a 2014 target, a NATO official said on Wednesday before an important summit…
Sedwill said the transition could run “to 2015 and beyond” in some areas that could still face security problems. “We expect to have strategic overwatch in large parts of the country by that time (2014),” he told reporters in Kabul, with civil administration to follow the security transition.
NATO troops would then assume support and training duties as Afghans took on the burden of combat roles. “The end of 2014 does not mean that the mission is over, but the mission changes. It’s the inflection point, if you like,” Sedwill said.
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.
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.”
Here’s the latest desperation measure, stinking as usual of flop-sweat, from President Pigmy. Hey, it worked for Reagan, didn’t it? No, wait a minute…
BAGHDAD — Trying to stem the infiltration of militia fighters, American forces have begun to build a massive concrete wall that will partition Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital.
The construction, which began Tuesday night, is intended to turn the southern quarter of Sadr City near the international Green Zone into a protected enclave, secured by Iraqi and American forces, where the Iraqi government can undertake reconstruction efforts…
Just finished listening to Bush regurgitating his customary gobbets of misinformation about his -- and unfortunately our -- open-ended military occupation of Iraq against the expressed wish of most Iraqis and most Americans. Same-old, same-old, except for two things.
First off, by now even the talking heads of TV have figured out that it might be part of their professional responsibility to point out, immediately following another presidential eructation, the lies of which it is composed. At least on CNN, they did just that.
Second, at one point Bush said that failure to fund his miscarriage of a war would “lead to massive humanitarian casualties.” Tough times ahead for all you humanitarians, but then of course you already knew that.
At last a major Democratic candidate is calling Bush’s Folly what it is: not a war, but an occupation. I hope that the other Dems will take the hint, although it’s a slender hope indeed.
We just love wars here in America and if one is going on you’ll find the brave little soldiers of the Democratic establishment bringing up the middle of the parade every time.
To point out that no war is in fact occurring would spoil everybody’s fun. It might even make people think you were actually in favor of peace, and peace is for girly-men. The pros think peace is the third rail of American politics, no matter what virtually every opinion poll shows.
This explains why no mainstream Democrat has ever addressed any of our mass peace rallies since Bush invaded Iraq. Or mass end-the-occupation rallies, to choose words as precisely as John Edwards has begun to do.
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — John Edwards says that if elected president he would withdraw the American troops who are training the Iraqi army and police as part of a broader plan to remove virtually all American forces within 10 months.
Mr. Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who is waging a populist campaign for the Democratic nomination, said that extending the American training effort in Iraq into the next presidency would require the deployment of tens of thousands of troops to provide logistical support and protect the advisers.
“To me, that is a continuation of the occupation of Iraq,” he said in a 40-minute interview on Sunday aboard his campaign bus as it rumbled through western Iowa.
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.
Way back when (in April, actually) I posted this:
Bush’s Iraq “war,” in the sense that most of us understand the word, ended in a few weeks. Our “enemy” didn’t fight, it is true, but our victory was beyond question.
The next step in many wars — as in this one — is an occupation. Virtually all of our casualties in Iraq have thus been the result not of a war, but of an occupation. Our enemies are not soldiers fighting on behalf of a state, but what we called, in Hitler’s Europe, maquisards or resistance fighters or guerrillas or partisans.
Failure to call the occupation of Iraq by its proper name has been a powerful part of why Bush has been able to continue occupying that unhappy nation. If we can be deceived into believing that it is still a “war,” then we can be made to feel that pulling out would somehow “lose” it.
But occupations are not lost. They are simply ended, and by the victor at a time and place of his choice. It is beyond me why the Democrats do not grasp this simple point, and hammer on it every day. Reframe, idiots. Read Lakoff.
When Bush sets out to leave our public schools behind, he calls it Leaving No Child Behind. When the Democrats want to leave Bush’s Folly behind, they call it H.R. 1234 or some damned thing and stand by like fearful little children when Daddy Bush and Uncle McConnell call it defunding the troops.
How about the Stand Up Iraq Act? The Full Freedom Act? The Iraq Independence Act? The Democracy Restoration Act? The Iraq Sovereignty Act? The Iraq Liberation Bill? Iraq Stands Tall? Setting Iraq Free? The Iraq Self-defense Act? The One Last Chance Act?
But first of all the Democratic leadership, and I use the term loosely, must stop calling an occupation a war. For more on this, see the interview with Thom Hartmann from which the following comes:
If Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi were to stand up and say, “OK, everybody, we’re all going to use the same language. From now on, we’re all going to refer to what’s going on in Iraq as an occupation. We’re never going to use the word ‘war’ again.” It would be the smartest thing they could do, and probably 70 percent of their party would call a press conference and trash them for trying to put words in their mouths…
I actually wrote an op-ed about war and occupation a couple years ago, suggesting this, and for a brief period, for two or three months afterward, one of the liberal think tanks came up with the same idea and suggested this. Between the two of us out there beating that drum, there were a number of Democrats in the media who I noticed started to use the word “occupation” instead of the word “war.”
But the media was so in love with the word “war” because war is a powerful thing. It’s legalized mass murder. It is the most horrific thing that as a society we can sanction. So, the media just kept referring to it as a war no matter what …
Ultimately, the Democrats gave up and went back to using the word “war.” In fact, many of them found that using the word “war” over the short term was useful because it scares people. I think it’s bad policy and bad politics. But some Democrats are Republican lite, and some Democrats are worried about survival, and some Democrats are not thinking about this all that deeply.
Hey, did you hear the big news? Iraq doesn’t want Bush and Cheney to go to war with Iran! No matter what our two boss warhogs keep saying, the prime minister of Iraq claims that Iran isn’t helping the insurgents kill American troops after all. Know what? Iran is actually helping the Iraqi government keep weapons away from the terrorists! Says who? The American military, that’s who!
What do you mean you didn’t know that? It’s been all over the news ever since the New York Times broke the story yesterday on page 20. Where have you been hiding yourself?
BAGHDAD, Nov. 17 — The Iraqi government on Saturday credited Iran with helping to rein in Shiite militias and stemming the flow of weapons into Iraq, helping to improve the security situation noticeably …
Speaking about Iran, he said that that government had helped to persuade the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to ask his Mahdi militia to halt attacks. Mr. Sadr ordered his militia to stop using weapons in early September, and officials say that the militia’s relative restraint has helped improve stability. They say it also seems to have helped decrease the frequency of attacks with explosively formed penetrators, a powerful type of bomb that can pierce heavy armor.
Mr. Dabbagh’s comments echoed those of the American military here, who in recent days have gone out of their way to publicly acknowledge Iran’s role in helping to slow the flow of weapons into the country ….
Mr. Dabbagh said that the turning point came when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki visited Iran in August and met with the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the Shiite shrine city of Mashad. Mr. Maliki told the Iranian leader that “Iran had to choose whether to support the government or any other party, and Iraq will decide according to which they choose,” Mr. Dabbagh said. The Iranians promised to help and have done so, he said.
Here is the president, rubbing our noses in reality at East Grand Rapids High School earlier today. It must be lonely, being the last person alive who still believes that the problem in Iraq is al Qaeda. Well, not the very last person. Step up here out of the shadows, Dick, so the folks can see you.
We must also expect the terrorists and insurgents to continue mounting terrible attacks. Here is a photo of the destruction caused by a car bomb at a bus stop in Baghdad on Wednesday. The victims of this attack were innocent men and women, who were simply coming home from work.
Yet this was hardly a random act of murder. It has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack. The terrorists bombed the buses at rush hour, with the specific intent to kill as many people as possible. This has been long a pattern of al Qaeda in Iraq; this is what they do…
Al Qaeda believes that its best chance to achieve its objectives — which is to drive the United States out of Iraq and prevent the emergence of a free society in the Middle East, is to defeat the security operation by conducting spectacular attacks that provoke Iraqis into taking violence into their own hands — and lead Americans to conclude that the sectarian killing will never be contained.
This strategy is merciless, but it is not without logic. It’s important for all Iraqis — Sunnis and Shia alike — to understand that al Qaeda is the greatest threat to peace in their country. And the question is whether we and the Iraqis will give in, and to respond the way al Qaeda wants. Because of the lessons of September the 11th, the answer is the United States government will not give in to what al Qaeda wants — and the Iraqis must not give in to al Qaeda if they want to have a peaceful society.
During the whole speech, Bush mentioned al Qaeda 32 times. He mentioned Osama zero times. It is as if the president’s idol, Winston Churchill, were to have given a wartime speech in which he mentioned the National Socialist German Workers’ Party 32 times and Hitler not at all.
Remember those bad old days when American troops were bailing out to Denmark, Canada, Sweden, wherever, to escape a vicious, misbegotten and unnecessary war allegedly about bringing democracy to a backward world but actually about holding onto political power back home?
Peter, who keeps an eye on Europe for us, sends this story from Der Spiegel. Excerpt:
In the hospital [Sgt. Bob Evers] picked up a biography of Gen. Ludwig Beck. The former chief of staff of the German Armed Forces publicly resigned five years after the Nazi takeover; he was put to death after an attempt on Hitler’s life. Evers read Beck’s words — “A soldier’s duty ends where his knowledge, conscience, and responsibility forbid him to follow a command” — and thought: Yes it does.
This is from Sy Hersh’s disheartening account in the current New Yorker of Georgie’s Excellent Adventure in the Middle East:
In the past year, the Saudis, the Israelis, and the Bush Administration have developed a series of informal understandings about their new strategic direction. At least four main elements were involved, the U.S. government consultant told me …Let’s go to the blackboard and try to diagram this latest play:
The third component was that the Bush Administration would work directly with Sunni nations to counteract Shiite ascendance in the region.
Sunnis from Saudi Arabia attack the United States on 9/11. After a fake hand-off toward Afghanistan, Bush attacks Iraq, toppling the secular head of a government dominated by Sunnis. Bush fires all the Sunni officials. Shi’ites take over.
The Sunnis in Saudi Arabia become alarmed, because Shi’ites already run the kingdom’s more powerful neighbor, Iran. That adds up a lot of Shi’ites ruining the neighborhood, and they’ve got oil too.
So the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia go to Bush and ask him to clamp down on the Iraqi Shi’ites that Bush hand-picked to replace the Iraqi Sunnis who didn’t attack the United States on 9/11.
Is Bush’s strategy coming clear to you now? Of course not. Most likely that’s because you’re not insane.
Or you’re not a snake. A particularly stupid snake will sometimes commit autophagy, which is the act of biting its own tail and eating forward until the reptile digests itself to death.
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 has 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 they didn’t think so. But that, of course, was then.
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.”
Fascinating but not surprising Zogby poll on Bush’s efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East, or whatever the hell he thinks he’s doing over there. Scraps from the table:
The face-to-face survey of a total of 3,850 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates found that close to 80 percent of Arabs consider Israel and the United States the two biggest external threats to their security. Only six percent cited Iran …
“The public of the Arab world is not looking at the important issues through the Sunni-Shi’a divide,” he said. “They see them rather through the lens of Israeli-Palestinian issues and anger with U.S. policy (in the region). Most Sunni Arabs take the side of the Shi’as on the important issues…”
After aggregating the poll results in each country and weighting them by national population, the survey found that nearly four out of 10 Arabs named President George W. Bush as the foreign leader they most disliked, far ahead of two Israeli leaders, Ariel Sharon (11 percent) and his successor, Ehud Olmert (seven percent).
What’s more fun than a deft literary gutting among colleagues? Here’s Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, emptying out Time columnist Joe Klein from xiphoid to pubic arch. Sample:
Then there’s this whole business of liberals who are accused of “rooting” for failure in Iraq…You don’t have the right to get us into this mess and then turn around and call us traitors. Your credibility is long gone on this issue; shut up about us…
Our opposition to the war was based on our absolute conviction that it would end in disaster — which it incidentally has. But according to Klein, if we see a guy step off the top of the Empire State Building, we’re supposed to root for him to nail the dismount.
By now only Charlie Brown could believe that this time Bush isn’t going to pull the football away. Tom Engelhardt knows better:
Recently, Julian Borger of the Guardian summed up what’s known this way: “[The Iraq Study Group] is also looking at various types of troop deployment. Most probably it will suggest pulling US forces out of the urban patrolling that causes most of the casualties and regrouping in bases in Iraq or in neighbouring countries.”
Readers of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American will remember this strategy. Instead of Baghdad’s Emerald City and giant fortified bases in the provinces with PXes, movie theaters and bowling alleys, the French had Hanoi and little wooden watchtowers in the countryside. But the result was the same then as it will be now. After many more years and many more billions of dollars and many, many more thousands of lives destroyed, the victim nations will be right back where they were before we savaged them with our tough love.
…in this unsurprising but still disturbing piece by retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern on his old boss, Robert Gates. We can expect the Senate Democrats, newly erect with their spinal implants, to shoot this dangerous sycophant down, can’t we? Can’t we? Well, can’t we? Please, please, say we can.
On November 30 of last year, George W. Bush outlined for Annapolis midshipmen his “Strategy for Victory in Iraq:”
So today, we’re releasing a document called the “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” This is an unclassified version of the strategy we’ve been pursuing in Iraq, and it is posted on the White House website — whitehouse.gov. I urge all Americans to read it …
As Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead in the fight against the terrorists, they’re also taking control of more and more Iraqi territory. At this moment, over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital — including some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. Last year, the area around Baghdad’s Haifa Street was so thick with terrorists that it earned the nickname “Purple Heart Boulevard.” Then Iraqi forces took responsibility for this dangerous neighborhood — and attacks are now down.
Our coalition has handed over roughly 90 square miles of Baghdad province to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi battalions have taken over responsibility for areas in South-Central Iraq, sectors of Southeast Iraq, sectors of Western Iraq, and sectors of North-Central Iraq.
As you can see, the Great Decider had the bad guys basically on the run. By now things should be pretty much wrapped up, right? Well, not exactly.
“Strap those motherf-----s to the hood like a deer,” said Staff Sgt. James Robinson, 25, of Hughes, Ark. The soldiers heaved the two bodies onto the hood of a Humvee and tied them down with a cord. The dead insurgents’ legs and arms flapped in the air as the Humvee rumbled along.
Iraqi families stood in front of the surrounding houses. They watched the corpses ride by and glared at the American soldiers. …
Violence, police corruption and the blurry lines of guerrilla warfare are clouding any hopes of victory.
“It’s apocalyptic out there. Life has definitely gotten worse for” Iraqis, said Maj. Curtis Strange, 36, of Mobile, Ala., who works with Iraqi troops in Samarra. “You see Samarra and you almost want to build a new city and move all these people there.”
Ever since the invasion, the United States has had one option that is not as bad as all the rest: declare victory and leave. That window is still open; we could still declare victory and leave. But the window is sliding shut fast, and we probably have just a few months left to do an Indiana Jones.
A pair of reports by outside experts in the last two days warn that the Army has been stretched thin by repeated combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and could soon reach the breaking point. …
Rumsfeld rejected both reports, saying that “It’s clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected.”
Rumsfeld said he hadn’t read either report.
Of course, absence of evidence of an adequate troop presence does not imply the presence of absence of adequate troops.
Likewise, the presence of absence of reading does not imply any level of absence of knowledge, because the presence of knowns that are known regardless of the presence or absence of reading is well-known, and the most well-known of these knowns with regard to troop levels is that no level of reading can supply knowledge of the correct troop level, especially knowledge of the level of presence or absence of troops with a high-school level of knowledge of reading; rather, what is known at a high level, and known on a non-reading basis, is that the high troop levels are not known to be low troop levels.
…there is no doubt that Mr. bin Laden’s strategy has been paying off. According to a poll released last month by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and Zogby International, when Muslims in several countries were asked what aspect of Al Qaeda they “sympathize” with most, 39 percent said it was because the group confronted the United States. Nearly 20 percent more sympathized because it “stands up for Muslim causes,” which is really just a polite way of saying the same thing.
Two other phenomena also show the movement to be strengthening. The first is the emerging breed of self-starter terrorists with few or no ties to Osama bin Laden, like the Madrid and London bombers, and others who have been arrested before they were able to carry out attacks in Pakistan, Australia and elsewhere. The second is the emergence of an indigenous jihad in Iraq. Much is said about the foreign fighters in Iraq, but the truly dramatic development is the radicalization of Iraqis who will continue the insurgency or travel abroad to kill, like those who bombed three Western hotels in Jordan in November.
Despite so much evidence that the jihadists are winning sympathy, America has provided no counter-story to their narrative. Rather, the president has repeatedly objected to the notion that the Iraq war is having a radicalizing effect by arguing that America was attacked before we ever stepped foot in Iraq.
Exactly right. I’ll have more on what the counter-story should be in the coming weeks.
Weakening America while strengthening Osama bin Laden — all in a day’s work for W (a/k/a the “Weakener-in-Chief”).
(Will post a non-pay link to the above when I find it.)
There’s still time to exercise the “declare victory and leave” option, but it’s running out:
Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren’t gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq’s fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.
The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn’t hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.
They wouldn’t hesitate; nor should we. If we do, the “declare victory” component will become inoperative, and the option will dwindle to just plain “leave.”
Partial results from Iraq election suggest factions will have to compromise, where “compromise” means “have a civil war.”
Our choice is becoming clearer by the day: declare victory and leave now (the way we should have left Vietnam in 1969 or even 1963), or slink out later with our last boys dangling off the helicopters. (Go here for more posts on this topic.)
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.)
According to Bush’s speech, America has not won this war until the average Iraqi lives a life that rivals the life of schoolteacher in an American suburb in terms of security, prosperity, liberty, and opportunity. He wants to defer victory until this happens.
My message to supporters of the Iraq war is that that is incorrect; we should not defer victory. America’s job in Iraq is not to build a complete, out-of-the-box new country for the Iraqis that is as easy to live in as Fairfax County, Virginia; America’s job in Iraq is to give the Iraqi people a head start and a fair chance to start the gritty, hard work of building their own country.
We’ve done this. At great cost of blood and treasure to America, Saddam has been removed and Iraq has now had three elections. America has completed its mission, and has won the war. Now, it is time for America to leave. Bush is right to this extent: the question today is no longer whether one is for or against the war. Instead, the question today is, are you for continuing the war? If America has done enough, has achieved enough, and has sacrificed enough — that is, if America has won enough — the time has come to leave.
In terms of risks to America’s security if we pull out and the Iraqis allow their country to fall into chaos, Bush has it all wrong; there is no significant risk to America from a restive Iraq. That is, there is no risk if America plans for the threat and has a victory plan in place (unlike the no-plan that the incompetents Bush and Cheney had in place for after the invasion of Iraq). What we need to do to win the peace is to adopt a containment strategy. We know containment works; we used it to defeat Soviet Communism, by any measure a far more dangerous opponent than Islamic radicals will ever be.
Remember what happens to a dream deferred. The time is ripe to declare victory, and leave.
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.
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.)
The Democrats are looking for a unified message on Iraq. It is understandable that many of them are running from Howard Dean’s comment that the war is “unwinnable.” After all, what vote-getter wants to defend saying that America is a loser?
This political problem is not all that complicated. Here’s the solution that marries the common sense and reality of what Dean said with the political need to call America a winner: we need to set a timetable to get out soon, not because we can’t win, but because we already did win. We ousted Saddam, oversaw a couple of elections and a constitution, donated billions of dollars and thousands of lives to the Iraqi people; now, our work there is done. It ended in victory: we gave the Iraqi people freedom and a chance a setting up a decent country.
What more do we owe Iraq? Nothing. Despite the president’s awful and nearly criminal mismanagement of the war, and despite the fact that the president lied to get us into the war, our troops won. Why does stubborn old Bush want to stay and re-fight a conflict that our troops already won?
Bottom line: don’t just leave. Declare victory and leave.