2004/12/27

CIA hiding evidence on interrogations

The CIA allegedly oversaw interrogations of top-level detainees, and some investigators think the agency's tactics are at the heart of the question of whether the Bush administration has authorized torture.

The CIA is refusing to disclose any information about abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Juan Cole points out that a Gallup poll taken in August 2003 and then again in April 2004 and involving 3000 face-to-face interviews, showed a disastrously steep decline in Iraqi support for the American occupation.

On Balance, do you think of the Americans mostly as Occupiers or Liberators?

August 2003 Liberators 43%
April 2004 Liberators 19%

It's difficult to overstate the importance of this finding. The Bush Administration is counting on Iraqis to fill in the gaps caused by the shortage of American troops (Not enough sent in the first place and steep drops in recruitment) fighting in Iraq. As the number of Iraqi supporters of the occupation shrinks, so too does the pool of people available to recruit from. As it is, a blogger describes a guerrilla attack and mentions the resistance: "Oh yeah, they don't use masks. Only the people fighting for the Americans do." An Iraqi translator designated to be the native face at a US military checkpoint also hides himself. US programs to get all it's Humvees armored do not apply to Iraqis, who use old jeeps and AK-47s. There are no plans on the boards to re-equip Iraqis who work with the occupation.

UPDATE: The percentage of Iraqis who consider US soldiers as "occupiers": 92%

It's probably a waste of time to write either the CIA or the President, but it might be a good idea to write or call your Senators or Representative and to demand that the CIA turn over everything it has on detainee abuse yesterday!!!

2004/12/26

Let us not forget...

I've commented a lot recently on how our military has messed up to the extreme detriment of American military people. I've never forgotten about the other side in this, but just to make it ultra-crystal clear:

In all of this, please remember that although for the American public, the deaths of their countrymen and countrywomen obviously hit close to home, it is the Iraqi public that is really suffering. The twin attacks in Karbala and Najaf two days killed more than 70. and literally hundreds of Iraqis die every week month in violence. The security situation is dire and it’s likely to get worse as the elections approach. There will be many more grieving families in America and Iraq before this is all over.

2004/12/24

Baghdad-Green Zone road now impassable

The road between Baghdad Airport and the Green Zone, a 22
kilometer stretch, is probably as far as the American occupation
is concerned, the most important single road in all of Iraq. An
article on Z Magazine's website points out that the road is now
impassable by troops and they have to use helicopters to get from
one place to another. The Nation had previously reported that it
was costing up to $6000 to hire the people, weapons and vehicles
necessary to make it from one to the other safely.

This of course, is a much more expensive way to move supplies and
personnel, so expect the latest Iraq War money to get burned
through in a short period.

2004/12/23

Thomas Friedman's latest

Interesting column by Thomas Friedman of the NY Times. Wildly misinformed of course and unbelievably arrogant in its presumptions, but interesting.



There has been so much violence in Iraq that it's become hard to distinguish one senseless act from another. But there was a picture that ran on the front page of this newspaper on Monday that really got to me. It showed several Iraqi gunmen, in broad daylight and without masks, murdering two Iraqi election workers. The murder scene was a busy street in the heart of Baghdad. The two election workers had been dragged from their car into the middle of the street. They looked young, the sort of young people you'd see doing election canvassing in America or Ukraine or El Salvador.

One was kneeling with his arms behind his back, waiting to be shot in the head. Another was lying on his side. The gunman had either just pumped a bullet into him or was about to. I first saw the picture on the Internet, and I did something I've never done before - I blew it up so it covered my whole screen. I wanted to look at it more closely. You don't often get to see the face of pure evil.



That's not what I saw. I saw a picture and read descriptions of a busy city street where nobody stopped to help the election workers. Where the young men with AK-47s didn't have the slightest concern that someone might see them and drop a dime on them to the Iraqi police or to the American Army. This was a killing that was supported by the population. This was a killing where the Iraqis around it thought to themselves “Ah, some collaborators with the occupation are receiving their proper punishments.” It probably made a lot of people's days to see that.



There is much to dislike about this war in Iraq, but there is no denying the stakes. And that picture really framed them: this is a war between some people in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world who - for the first time ever in their region - are trying to organize an election to choose their own leaders and write their own constitution versus all the forces arrayed against them.



This is a very pretty picture of hard-working and earnest folks who just want the best for their country. Unfortunately, it's also complete fantasy. The upcoming elections are not free by any stretch of the imagination. These are elections that will take place under foreign occupation. “people in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world” have nothing to do with these elections. The Americans, the guys who invaded Iraq under the pretense of looking for WMD that they knew full well didn't exist, are the ones who are trying to organize the election. Iraqi citizens are not fooled. Back in late August 2003, we read the following statement from the AP:

Iraqis will be free to form their own government as long as it is not an Iranian-style theocracy, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday.


In other words, sure, Iraqis can have freedom, as long as, of course, it's a type and variety of freedom that the US approves of. They have to clear it through their supervisors in Washington DC first. The condition may sound reasonable to Americans as the idea of a theocracy conjures up horrible images of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson running things, but Ayatollahs have run Iran for the past 20+ years in neighboring Iran and while the Taliban of Afghanistan has a great many detractors worldwide, they are still a significant political force in their country. The Administration is very anxious for Americans to believe that Iran is bubbling over with the desire to toss off the yoke of theocracy and to adopt capitalism/democracy, but they appear to be really stretching and making unwarranted assumptions to make that point. There doesn't appear to be much evidence that there's any revolutionary ferment in Iran.

Sorry, but no one on the face of the Earth defines that as “freedom”.

Note the identity of Friedman's sole source for how the Iraqis feel about anything and what the insurgents stand for:



As the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum so rightly pointed out to me, "These so-called insurgents in Iraq are the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age."



Sounds like a knowledgable, objective source, eh? How seriously can we take the academic credentials of someone (Notice he's not called a professor, merely an expert.) from John Hopkins? From the BBC:

Just across the street is another academic institution, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, which was headed by the leading Pentagon hawk, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Which means the expert Friedman cited works directly for the number two man at the Defense Department. Juan Cole, a noted professor of history (Note: an actual academic) at the University of Michigan and who writes frequently enough on Mideast affairs to have his own blog, never uses such overheated terminology. Cole quotes some polling data that gives us much better insight into how Iraqis see the US:



On Balance, do you think of the Americans mostly as Occupiers or liberators?

Occupiers: 71 %
Liberators 19%

(43% reported that in April 2003, they had thought of the Americans as liberators).

How have the US Forces Conducted themselves?

58% said "fairly badly" or "very badly."

Asked if the US was serious about establishing democracy in Iraq:

50% said "no."
12% said "don't know."

Asked if attacks on US troops could be justified,

52% said "sometimes," "somewhat," or "completely."


The United States had an unfavorability rating of

54%

(and there wasn't a significant difference between the Shiites and the Sunni Arabs).

Only 31% favored a separation of mosque and state! (But 66% of Kurds did).

Only 30% of the Arab population favored a multiparty parliamentary democracy!


So, when Friedman claims that:



Do not be fooled into thinking that the Iraqi gunmen in this picture are really defending their country and have no alternative. The Sunni-Baathist minority that ruled Iraq for so many years has been invited, indeed begged, to join in this election and to share in the design and wealth of post-Saddam Iraq.



If the gunmen think they are defending their country, isn't it supremely arrogant to say that they're not? Remember, they are the natives, the Coalition of the Willing contains very little besides invading foreigners. Where does some foreigner 6000 miles away who has dropped in on an every-now-and-then basis get the right to define who the true patriots are? If the “Sunni-Baathist minority” is suspicious of American motives and does not desire to take part in American-arranged elections, why does some American editorial writer get to declare that they aren't truly concerned about Iraq's future? As far as wealth is concerned, when Iraqis see oil trucks and pipelines carrying oil to the gulf to be shipped overseas, they view it as Americans stealing the natural resources that belong to them.



However this war started, however badly it has been managed, however much you wish we were not there, do not kid yourself that this is not what it is about: people who want to hold a free and fair election to determine their own future, opposed by a virulent nihilistic minority that wants to prevent that. That is all that the insurgents stand for.



Again, it takes a staggeringly immense amount of chutzpah to say what the insurgents stand for. The “nihilistic” label is not backed up by any sort of evidence. It's simply slapped on as an insult. It matters a great deal “However this was started”, why wouldn't it? Say, for instance, Canada invaded and occupied Detroit and then insisted on holding elections after a brutal occupation in which somewhere up to 100,000 Americans had perished and after a former president had been put on trial. Of course the origins of the war would matter!

It might be entirely true that if the Iraqi resistance takes over, that there will not be free and fair elections. That's pure conjecture. It's an insult to say that there is a people anywhere on Earth that is opposed to determining its' own future. Democracy is certainly a treasured thing, but many, many nations throughout history have longed for a “man on horseback” who is willing to “get tough” to restore order. The columnist goes on to make further baseless conjectures without evidence.



We may actually lose in Iraq...We may lose because of the defiantly wrong way that Donald Rumsfeld has managed this war and the cynical manner in which Dick Cheney, George Bush and - with some honorable exceptions - the whole Republican right have tolerated it.

Yup.



We may lose because our Arab allies won't lift a finger to support an election in Iraq



Why on Earth would they? What could they possibly gain from having the world's only superpower having a hammerlock on the world's oil supplies? How would that benefit anyone other than the people who run the US?

There's just so much wishful thinking here it's ridiculous. Friedman considers the US as a party that's genuinely there to do good and to be fair to all parties. That may be true for the lower-ranking people, but it's ridiculous to apply such starry-eyed willful optimism to the Bush Administration.

2004/12/22

Yet another false dawn in Iraq

First, the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled. Americans were given the impression that the Iraq War was largely over and that a bit of clean-up would be done and the troops would soon be on their way home. Guerrilla actions began on a modest scale at first, but by July, it was apparent that a full-scale resumption of violent conflict was brewing.

In July, Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay were surrounded and were killed along with a man and a boy. There was no evidence at the site that the two Hussein brothers were connected to the country-wide resistance. The two brothers appeared to be on the run and no one came to their rescue when they were surrounded. Nevertheless, it was thought that this marked a decisive defeat for the resistance.

In December, Hussein himself was captured. It was obvious he was not in charge of any of the resistance groups as he hadn't even been able to get a shave during his time on the run. No one was in the vicinity of his spider hole and there was no mention of having to fight through anybody to get to him. Nevertheless, it was widely thought that this marked the end of the war and that all that remained was to roll up the remaining resistance fighters.

The next year, the United States formally turned over limited sovereignty to hand-picked Iraqis who were, coincidentally enough, former members of the American-assembled Governing Council. By that time, the atrocities of Abu Ghraib had become public and the First Battle of Fallujah (Otherwise referred to as Fallujah I.) had occurred. It was not at all clear that Iraqis would settle for being governed by expatriates that they themselves played no role in choosing, but things seemed to get quieter for a while.

After the American presidential election, Bush commanded that the Second Battle of Fallujah (Or Fallujah II.) begin. There was every reason to suspect that the resistance was prepared to lose, but that they had made provisions to make the American victory as costly as possible. After a grueling and non-stop battle of many days, the offhand killing of a helpless Iraqi prisoer defined for the world just what the struggle there was all about. No strong foreign presence was found, no significant leaders were caught or killed and no happy, welcoming citizens were on hand to greet the Americans who had allegedly come to liberate them.

Many actions started in other cities just as the fighting in Fallujah was winding down. Fallujah never quite got to the point where it was safe enough to let people back into the city and after the United States announced plans to take detailed biometric scans of each male of military age before letting them back in, violence has resumed.

With several more attacks taking place across the country (Reaching an average of 100 a day) and an American military base attacked with heavy casualties, it's now clear that again, as was the case before, the Iraq War has not reached a turning point, that a decisive victory has not been won, that the end is nowhere in sight.

Will the elections, scheduled for 30 January next year, be the factor that makes the difference? Not even the Bush Administration is of one mind on that.




2004/12/18

Why Rumsfeld's remarks were offensive

People are still discussing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's remarks on 8 December 2004. Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked why he and his fellow National Guardsmen had to "...dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" After the other 2300 National Guardsmen cheered, Rumsfeld hesitating and asked the soldier to repeat the question. His reply then was “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

This would have been a satisfactory answer had the US been forced to go to war before it was ready to do so. In March 2002, Bush came to three Senators & Condoleezza Rice and said "F--- Saddam. We're taking him out.", thereby indicating that a decision on the Iraq War had long since been made. The New York Times pointed out that serious, in-depth planning for the invasion and occupation of Iraq began in April 2002. The project was reportedly of uneven quality, but successfully predicted many of the problems that would later befall the occupation.

And it's not like it took so long for things inside Iraq to start going sour. Has the situation in Iraq improved in the meantime? Apparently not. A Philadelphia soldier is accused of arranging for a relative to shoot him so that he wouldn't have to return to Iraq. Retired Col. David Hackworth had recieved numerous emails about poorly and under-equpped units by August 2003, only three months after Bush's infamous aircraft carrier landing.

It's been a long, long time since the Department of Defense needed to reexamine their strategy.

[This article, written by yours truly, is reproduced in it's entirety from http://phillyimc.org/ because I felt it was directly relevant to PRAWN, an organization that "went dark" or slumbered for about the past year or so.]

Personal note: Back when I was in the Navy, a Second-Class Petty Officer was in charge of two other sailors and occasionally, as all people do, made mistakes. Making mistakes is not a big thing all by itself. But the two other sailors were absolutely furious (In Navy language, they were expressing "hate and discontent") at her because she kept blaming them for her mistakes. As she outranked me, I decided to approach her indirectly, passing it on to a friend of hers, who passed it on to her, that this was seriously uncool and the problem was fixed. Naturally, there were lots and lots of times when I was "counseled" (Which can mean anything from a gentle reminder to a screaming, jumping-up-and-down, banging-one's-fist-on-the-table fit.) about dodging responsibility myself.


The point is, responsibiliy goes two ways. Subordinates are responsible to superiors, but superiors are also responsible to subordinates. A junior person has to do what they're told, but a senior person has to see to it that they don't demand anything of the junior person that they wouldn't do themselves. It is a flagrant violation of military protocol and manners for a senior person to deny that he's responsible for something and to try and pass the buck to someone else.


For the guy in charge of seeing to it that American troops have all that they need and to then not do that is called dereliction of duty


Now, if Rumsfeld wanted to claim that he just didn't understand how determined the Iraq resistance would be, that'd be fine. But what he would need to do next would be to tell us how he's going to fix it. As he's ruled out a draft (Remember his comment from early 2003: "Rumsfeld recalled that the draftees of years past had been thrown into battle with little training 'adding no value, no advantage really, to the United States Armed Services over any sustained period of time.' ") it's difficult to see how anything positive is going to happen.

Why do conservatives hate US troops?

Kathleen Parker, a columnist for TownHall.com, a website owned by the Heritage Foundation, made the following comment on the Chris Matthews Show while discussing the scandal over Rumsfeld's answer to soldiers who complained of being undersupplied:

They make the, well they, they bellyache if you ask them. If they haven't had a bath in two days and they're sleeping with a bunch of smelly guys and they're tired and they're hungry they're going to bellyache. Give them a little R&R and they come back and they have maybe a different story.

This sounds less like a fellow combat veteran and more like a member of the Screaming Chickenhawks of the 101st Keyboarders. Ms Parker is of course, an office worker sitting in a comfortable environment thousands of miles away from the fighting.
Next time anyone complains that you're not supporting the troops, you might remind them about people like this.

2004/12/17

Wartime sacrifice and the upcoming Inaugural Ball

First, a letter-writer to the Philadelphia Inquirer makes the highly sensible suggestion that President Bush honor our soldiers in Iraq and remind Americans that wartime is a time of shared sacrifice. Then, the Inquirer runs an editorial endorsing said cancellation. Today, another letter-writer charges that anyone who wants to cancel the inaugural ball is simply trying to make President Bush look bad.
My own take on this is:
When's the last time anyone saw a picture of Presdident Bush at the funeral of a serviceperson, any serviceperson, whether Army, Marine, Navy or Air Force? Today's Iraq Coalition Casualty Count puts the number of US troops perished at a little over 1300, and the whole coalition as suffering a bit over 1450, so it's not like he hasn't had the opportunity to attend any.
When's the last time anyone saw a picture of Laura Bush attending any wounded soldiers? I think I remember running across a verbal description or two, but why isn't a picture of the president's wife tending to wounded soldiers a standard, routine front-page news photo?
When's the last time the American people were shown Bush's two college-graduate daughters in military uniform? No one says they have to join as enlisted personnel. Being college graduates, they're entitled to join as officers.
I'm sorry, but I don't see that the President has shown any sign that he takes the Iraq War seriously or that he's allowed it to inconvenience him in any way, shape or form.
I heartly endorse the idea of cancelling the Inaugural Ball.

2004/12/11

Further thoughts on the New Republic essay

“I'm very confused.” says Jonah Goldberg, who then demonstrates his confusion by using incredibly simplistic arguments in which he clearly misunderstands the point of the author's original piece.

An example is in how he misrepresents Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11:

"Moore doubts that Osama was behind 9/11..."


Sigh!!
No Jonah, no one on the Left doubts that bin Laden was the main author of 9/11. No one doubts that bin Laden was the guy who arranged the attacks of that day, who saw to it that 19 people were trained in American flight schools to fly planes into buildings and who rejoiced when 3000 Americans died as a result. What Moore and the Left also feel is that the negligence, irresponsibility and dereliction of duty by the Bush Administration is also responsible for 9/11. 9/11 was not a one-man show, it required that responsible US officials not do their jobs.


Is, as Goldberg maintains Moore is claiming, Bush a bigger threat to Americans than bin Laden is? Well, it depends on what exactly one means by that. Is Bush a threat to the life and limbs of Americans? Obviously not. Is Bush a far bigger threat to American liberties and the Constitution than bin Laden could ever hope to be? Of course he is. Bush is in a position to threaten the Constitution, bin Laden is not. Bin Laden's actions may provoke Bush to suspend the Constitution, but Bush has to be to be the one to do that.


Is the Left “confused” about the threat of “Islamo-fascism” and Islamic “totalitarianism”? The terms used demonstrate where the confusion lies. To equate Islamic fundamentalists and their desire to hurt Americans with the threats posed by Fascist Italy, let alone Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union is pathetic. The entire Islamic world, all one billion-plus of them, poses a fraction of the military threat that Nazi Germany did. When one considers that the Islamic world is split up into many nations, believes in several variants of the original message by Mohammed and that the US is really only concerned with violent, stateless Muslims, the argument is absolutely laughable.


Are violent Islamic fundamentalists a problem? Of course they are. Was the government of Afghanistan properly toppled for justifiable reasons? There were a few leftists* who thought that the invasion of Afghanistan was wrong, but their numbers were always small and their arguments never made much headway beyond far-left circles. The claim that MoveOn opposed the invasion is unsubstantiated and people agree with my memory that I don't recall any such opposition.

* I questioned at the time why the US could not accept the Afghan offer to turn over bin Laden in return for proof that bin Laden was behind 9/11. This was more of a quibble than a real argument and I wasn't inspired to attend any demonstrations against Bush's policies until he suggested that America should invade Iraq.

A major problem with the War On Terror (WOT) is that once Afghanistan fell, that was the last state sponsor of terrorism standing that had any desire to harbor or aid anyone who wished to attack the American mainland. Iran and Syria have been accused of supporting terrorists, but it's not clear that these terrorists pose any current threat to the US or that either nation wants to initiate an action that could be traced back to them. Largely, when we discuss the WOT, we're talking about Fourth Generation or Asymmetric warfare.


Goldberg writes:

"all the how-dare-yous and the Iraq's-a-distraction stuff"

His suggestion appears to be that the Iraq War is somehow, in some way, connected to the struggle against al Qaeda. This betrays enormous confusion and suggests that the man has either been hiding in a hole the last three years or that he's in thrall to Bush Administration propaganda. Under President Clinton, it was revealed that American intelligence agencies were collectively spending about $30 billion a year. Obviously, that figure has gone up since 9/11.


Recently, I challenged someone who wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer to substantiate his claim that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. The letter-writer suggested I was an idiot for not recognizing such an obvious “fact” and proceeded to ramble on about the unsubstantiated charge that Hussein attempted to have the elder George Bush assassinated (Clinton obviously needed to rack up public opinion points at the time and the news media reacted with enthusiasm.), that Hussein paid off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers (Palestinians complain Hussen never came through on that) and that well..Hussein was an evil and rotten and terrible and immoral kind of guy.


If there was a connection between Hussein and 9/11, our vaunted and well-funded intelligence agencies have not been able to find any trace of any such connection in the last three-plus years.


The Iraq War was and remains a distraction from the WOT. The Iraq War is a nationalist struggle to drive American occupation forces out of that country. There have been fighters and jihadists from other countries fighting in Iiraq from the day Baghdad fell and probably before. The brother of a soldier who died in Iraq has claimed that Iranian weapons have been found among the Iraqi resistance. But foreigners have never numbered more than two to five percent of the forces killed in action and/or taken prisoner and the story of the missing weapons of al Qaqaa means that an outside weapons supply isn't really necessary.


So, do us liberals, leftists, etc., have a deep problem with the way the WOT is currently being fought? Yes we do! As terrorism, three-plus years after 9/11, has still not been really defined, America is slated to fight what is an endless struggle. There is simply no end-point that the Bush Administration has defined for us, no way to tell when victory has been achieved. If Americans are being asked to put aside Constitutional protections and put up with the abominations of the Patriot Act and tolerate atrocities like those of Abu Ghraib, then we'll be doing so on a permanent basis. If Americans are to preserve anything resembling democracy, if we are ever going to have freedom and liberty, we must carve out space within the WOT to do so. The Bush Administration has done absolutely nothing whatsoever to reconcile the WOT with democracy in America. A revived and aggressive Democratic Party is one of our very few hopes for ever doing this.

2004/12/08

The argument with pro-war Democrats

The New Republic's Peter Beinart writes an article (Original requires a subscription, but the blog Orcinus has a good summary) wherein he states that

The challenge for Democrats today is not to find a different kind of presidential candidate. It is to transform the party at its grassroots so that a different kind of presidential candidate can emerge. That means abandoning the unity-at-all-costs ethos that governed American liberalism in 2004. And it requires a sustained battle to wrest the Democratic Party from the heirs of Henry Wallace. In the party today, two such heirs loom largest: Michael Moore and MoveOn.

I agree with Orcinus and other bloggers that this notion, previously endorsed by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is completely insane. First of all, you've got to work with what you've got. It's the very height of stupidity to say that the party must abandon a major component of it's constituency for any reason. If the constituency is that unbearable, for heaven's sake, change parties!!
To anyone who considers Beinart's insane ramblings to be any more than the mutterings of drunks in the alleyway, go join the Republicans! Don't waste any more time with the Democrats! Leave the party to us and we'll do our thing without you!
To say that MoveOn and the Howard Dean people are problems that stand in the way of getting a Democrat elected president in 2008 is to say that the party must cut off its' own balls and emasculate itself. The Democrats are being asked to toss over the side everything that made them formidable competitors to the Republican Party in the first place.

Orcinus talks about the very shaky and questionable case for the Iraq War and points out that the Democratic Party bigwigs (John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Tom Daschle, Richard Gephardt, et al) miserably failed Americans who questioned Bush's case for war. Personally, I went to a number of demonstrations sponsored by ANSWER (And a few sponsored by the more moderate and middle-class group United for Peace & Justice) and later signed up with MoveOn to push for Kerry for president. I absolutely refuse to offer any apologies for doing so as hey, we had to make do with what we had.

Beinart also talks about the War On Terror and how liberals have to get with the program and jump on board the bandwagon. That's an awful idea. I have pointed out in many forums that the Bush Administration has done an absolutely awful job of conducting this war, not least by getting the war against al Qaeda confused with the Iraq War. In order to effectively fight a campaign against those who use the tactic called "terrorism", Americans must take a cold, clear-eyed, comprehensive and sober view of just what terrorism is and how to beat those who use it. I can't see that there's anybody at the top of either the Democratic or Republican parties who have the foggiest notions.
Orcinus:
Kevin Drum put the hypocrisy inherent in this position on display the other day responding to Atrios:
And evading the issue by constantly implying that no one who supported the Iraq war is morally qualified to criticize those who opposed it doesn't really help matters.
First of all, no one is "morally qualified to criticize those who opposed" the war PERIOD. For the Bush Administration and their supporters to suggest that those who opposed the invasion of Iraq are somehow skeptical of the ability of Iraqis to handle democracy was always a stupid objection. The idea that Iraqis would be better off living under Saddam Hussein's brutal tyranny than under American control is 1. Accepted by a great many Iraqis today and 2. With over 100,000 Iraqis dead from American actions it's actually quite hard to argue with that. No one has made the case, no one needs to make the case that Hussein's regime was anything to celebrate in order to say that Iraqis were better off in January 2003 than they were in January 2004 or will be in January 2005.

What conservative, pro-war Democrats have to deal with is the fact that the anti-war people were right. The invasion of Iraq was illegal, immoral and unnecessary. The United States has accomplished nothing useful and has not pre-emptively protected itself from anything.

2004/12/07

Defense Science Board weighs in on WOT

Report (PDF) from the Pentagon's Defense Science Board
Article from DailyKos, also featured in Malaysia, The BBC, Australia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Naturally, nothing except a few alternative media sources in the US.

  • Muslims do not "hate our freedom," but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

  • Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that "freedom is the future of the Middle East" is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World -- but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.

  • Furthermore, in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering. U.S. actions appear in contrast to be motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim selfdetermination.

  • Followed by much more. Basically, the US has majorly hosed up and as with employment figures, is way behind where the US was on January 2001.
    The Kos article talks about how everything is the State Department's fault. Does that mean Colin Powell is to blame? I doubt it. It doesn't seem likely to me that the State Department was given the resources it needed to do the job. I also suspect Bush has managed things there by remote control and with an extremely heavy and clumsy hand.

    2004/12/04

    Rumsfeld's tenure as SecDef

    Donald Rumsfeld to remain in Bush's second term as Secretary of Defense. So how's he done? Well, these are the kinds of things you can only say when you're aware that you have a friendly interviewer (italics mine):

    BILL O'REILLY: What do you think is the biggest mistake the USA has made in Iraq?

    DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose you could, one looking at it today with 20/20 hindsight, would say it's not anticipating, first of all, not finding WMD's, uh, un, until, apparently it was wrong, or else they're buried or else we'll find out something later. But at the moment it looks like they weren't there. Um, and I suppose the second thing would be uh, more current, would be the fact of, was it possible to better estimate the insurgency? Uh,

    BILL O'REILLY: Did somebody say to you, look, once we depose Saddam, these guys are going to go and fight a guerrilla campaign, did any general or human being that advises you tell you that?

    DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, I ...

    BILL O'REILLY: Because [inaudible] was saying that, [inaudible] he was saying that.

    DONALD RUMSFELD: 'Course you, we've heard everything. We heard they were going to burn the bridges, light up the oil wells,

    BILL O'REILLY: Right.

    DONALD RUMSFELD: There would be a humanitarian crisis, there would be a nasty refugee problem, uh, that they were going to use weapons of mass destruction, so our people strapped on chemical suits every day, we, you can find intelligence that says almost anything. If you're asking, was there any kind of understanding or agreement that there would likely be a long insurgency afterwards, I don't believe that anyone would say if you dropped a thumbline through all that intelligence ...

    BILL O'REILLY: Yeah.

    DONALD RUMSFELD: That anyone would say that.


    Actually, The State Department did a yearlong study from April 2002 until the fall of Baghdad that anticipated precisely such an insurgency. Considering that Iraq had gone through just such an insurgency in the years following World War I and that Algeria had driven out the French in the 1950s after a long struggle, a long insurgency was quite predictable and indeed, predicted by the Future of Iraq Project. Granted, reading over 2000 pages split up into 13 volumes was quite a task. Sigh! If only the State Department had published it's findings in comic-book form to avoid this kind of problem! We of course have absolutely zero evidence that President Bush ever read any of it. If he's ever referred knowledgeably to any part of it, I'm not aware of it.

    Rumsfeld tries a number of diversionary tacks here. First, he tried to divert the viewers attention to Afghanistan:

    BILL O'REILLY: Okay. Um, so you wouldn't say that it was a mistake that the United States made, not um, putting more soldiers there to fight the insurgency in the beginning?

    DONALD RUMSFELD: No, I, I think not. I mean, there's been a lot of people who thought there should be more troops in Afghanistan,

    BILL O'REILLY: Right.

    Then, he tries to blame the “battlefield commanders” who of course, are not legally permitted to give interviews defending themselves.


    DONALD RUMSFELD: Not a question in Iraq. But in, in, in Iraq, uh, we had the number of troops that the battlefield commanders asked for.

    BILL O'REILLY: [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Then what could we have done differently?

    DONALD RUMSFELD: And, and, and one has to believe that they know something about the subject ...

    BILL O'REILLY: [OVERLAPPING VOICES] Yeah but,

    DONALD RUMSFELD: More than maybe some armchair people speculating from the side.

    BILL O'REILLY: True. But Marine General Zinnie for example, said, you need more people in there. Um, Senator McCain said, you need more people in there. So there were voices. But,

    DONALD RUMSFELD: But who are you going to go with?


    Readers will remember that the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki estimated that the US would need "several hundred thousand troops.", an estimate that prompted Rumsfeld's deputy Paul Wolfowitz to call Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark." Former Army secretary Thomas White came down on Shinseki's side. “Rumsfeld was furious with White when the Army secretary agreed with Shinseki.” No, Rumsfeld did not just go along with what the “battlefield commanders” were asking for. He took the very strong view that the US didn't need very many troops.

    This is an absolutely classic non-answer answer:


    BILL O'REILLY: What, could we have done anything differently to fight this insurgency before it got out of hand?

    DONALD RUMSFELD: We have been doing things differently ever since we got in there. In other words, what you have is a plan. And then you have a whole, a flexibility to, to deal with a whole set of excursions that might occur. You're dealing not with a static situation, you're dealing with an enemy with a brain. They get up every morning, go to school on what we're doing, and change what they're doing to advantage themselves. We get up every morning, see what they're doing, and change what we're doing to advantage ourselves against what they're doing.


    Uh, okay. We're paying attention and adjusting as we go. That's very nice, but it was obvious to me, a citizen in a suburb of Philadelphia as early as July 2003 that US forces were seriously understrength and the Secretary of Defense still hasn't adjusted yet, so I seriously doubt that there's any day-by-day adjustments going on either.


    BILL O'REILLY: How do we beat them?

    DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, well, it's a test of wills. I mean, they haven't won a single battle the entire time since the end of, of major combat operations.


    I would dispute this assertion. Back on April 29th, blogger Steve Gilliard discusses the First Battle of Fallujah. That and this quoted passage again suggests that this battle was far from an American victory:

    US Marines withdraw from Fallujah. “Led by a former Saddam Hussein general, Iraqi troops replaced U.S. Marines on Friday and raised the Iraqi flag at the entrance to Fallujah under a plan to end the monthlong siege of the city. A suicide car bomb on the outskirts that killed two Americans and wounded six failed to disrupt the pullout of Marines from bitterly contested parts of the city.”


    And is a guerrilla war really just a “test of wills”?


    Opinion: “Take the confident manner in which President Bush keeps asserting that ‘he says what he means and means what he says,’ as if consistency is the highest virtue and the inability to re-consider one's actions is a strength. He has the benighted notion that saying a thing makes it so. We have only to watch the faces of Iraqi women and children when their homes are invaded and torn apart by soldiers in search of terrorists. That is enough to make us know that life is not now better for families despite our president's insistent protestations that the people of Iraq are better off because we have liberated them.”


    Sounds to me like there's a lot more to it than that. In fact, watching the movie The Battle of Algiers, I'd say that winning a guerrilla war was very considerably more complicated than just a battle of wills. It may be all very fine and well to proclaim that you're showing toughness and resolve when you never face the casualties coming back home via Dover Air Force Base, but I don't think that even really counts as courage, let alone toughness.

    So how does Rumsfeld stack up as Secretary of Defense? We need to fire this guy yesterday!!

    2004/11/29

    A film review - the TV movie The Reagans

    The Reagans – the TV movie

    Actress and activist Barbra Streisand, whose husband James Brolin plays President Reagan in the movie, responded to a report by Drudge that she had a hand in its purported anti-Reagan slant.

    On her official website she insists she has had nothing to do with it and spent only four hours on the set.

    "What is going on . . . is that the Republicans, who deify President Reagan, cannot stand that some of the more unpleasant truths about his character and presidency might be depicted in the movie, along with his positive actions," Streisand says. "This is what the Right Wing does when they are faced with a truth that is not 100% positive for their side — they spread vicious lies and attacks and scream and yell until they get their way."

    Hmm, so Streisand responded to a report in the famously inaccurate and unreliable Drudge Report by stating that she "had a hand" in making "The Reagans" a supposedly anti-Reagan movie, but of course we don't get an exact quote and naturally she and her website say no such thing. Most interesting. The Drudge Report is an Internet site, meaning any comments are likely to have been typed, so I wonder if someone calling "herself" Barbara Streisand made this mysterious and oh-so-convenient statement.

    Scenes where Ronald Reagan declares himself to be the Anti-Christ (After the killing of 262 Marines in Lebanon) and declares that he is not concerned about AIDS because “they that live in sin shall die in sin.” either do not sound credible to my ears or have been admitted to have been fabrications. Neither scene appears in the DVD of the movie

    Scenes where Nancy Reagan is seen as a control freak and where she consults an astrologer for all sorts of decisions were things I heard about at the time and which seem accurate to me. Ronald Reagan getting the idea for Star Wars from a 1940 movie “Murder in the Air” does repeat a story I heard at the time, but appears only partly right. The idea of shooting down a missile with a missile goes back to the Eisenhower Administration, was seriously debated in the 1967 issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and was finally dropped by the Nixon Administration and the ABM Treaty was signed in 1972. I remember a college textbook in 1978 covering the ABM idea as a system that was feasible, but being held back because it wasn't considered worth the cost of building it. I read a pamphlet in 1982 advocating a return to the ABM idea and Reagan announced the return of the notion in 1983. So “Murder in the Air” may have inspired Reagan personally, but the missile defense idea is one which promises decades of research contracts worth hundreds of billions of dollars to lucky arms manufacturers, which explains why it's still going despite the disappearance of the Soviet missile threat.

    The Washington Times declares that

    For years, liberal academics have tried to explain how the Soviet Union collapsed without giving credit to the U.S. president who challenged communism head on and won.

    They also complain that:

    ...the movie does not give [Reagan] due credit for reversing the ascendancy of the Soviet Union...

    I disagree with this assessment as the movie shows Reagan dealing with an apparently evil Gorbachev (Who was really the guy who made the Soviet Union collapse) and then has a scene where Reagan is informed that Gorbachev “blinked” and decided to allow the development of “Star Wars” and sign an arms-control treaty. As this is really the only time the movie goes into the end of the Cold War, I'm not sure why it doesn't count as giving “due” credit. The movie could have lied and said that Reagan's arms buildup had something to do with the collapse, but it doesn't give us any particulars.
    The Washington Times also complains that Reagan is not given credit for the "good" economic times during and after his administration. The economists at CEPR disagree that Reagan brought in good times for America. They point out that the twenty-year period 1980-1999 lagged significantly behind the earlier twenty-year period of 1960-1979. Reagan ushered in a period of much higher inequality and much lower growth whose negative effects can be felt to this day.

    Of course, as the Television Academy nominated the TV movie for seven awards and noted archly that:

    Critics charged, before having seen the project, that it cast the former president as being overly influenced by the first lady, that Reagan turned his back on the AIDS crisis, and that the couple had little time for their children. (italics mine)

    All of which had been alleged by other news accounts during Reagan's two terms in office. These allegations were not made up out of thin air. It is a well-documented fact that Reagan did not mention AIDS even once, even though many thousands of people died from it during his time in office. The family headed by Ronnie and Nancy was a certifiable mess. A bigger bunch of screw-ups and whiners and losers is hard to remember. I remember the comment on Nancy's discussion of her daughter Patti Davis in My Turn. The comment was in the nature of: "Good Lord! How can a mother talk about her daughter in such a manner?" Granted, Patti was apparently quite a handful and their troubles with each other started way back when, but there's still a concept of blood loyalty. A parent should never badmouth her child in such a manner.

    What really bothers me about the movie is that the wars in Central America, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, took up a huge amount of the Reagan Administration's time and attention, yet are mentioned only glancingly as the other part of the Iran-Contra scandal.
    The scandal is described as Oliver North having gotten Robert McFarlane to take a cake over to Iran during a Muslim holiday that calls for fasting during the day. First off, McFarlane was North's supervisor, not the other way around. It is never the fault of a junior person when a senior person takes their advice. Second, the scandal, as far as Congress was concerned, was neither the Reagan Administration's Iranian policy, nor their Nicaraguan policy, but the connection between the two, the mixing of cash and personnel between the two covert operations. Congress was also unhappy about the Administration getting and spending money without Congress' approval, a direct violation of the doctrine that Congress exercises the "power of the purse". Those who know British history know that taking the power of the purse away from the King was the major element in the rise of Parliament.
    The October Surprise investigation was canceled not when the evidence revealed that it was all a big fuss over nothing, but when Bill Clinton came into office and presumably wanted to make peace with the people who had just lost the election. The October Surprise was the allegation that Ronald Reagan, the elder George Bush, Bill Casey (Later to be made head of the CIA) and many others communicated with members of the Iranian government to hold back the hostages until Reagan was able to win the 1980 election and take the oath of office. The movie describes Reagan's feelings as "The Iranians have humiliated both Carter and me." An odd assertion as I was in Washington DC then and I don't remember anyone making any comments to that effect.
    The timing of Reagan's oncoming senility is also a most interesting coincidence. He starts losing it right before people in Reagan's cabinet begin plotting the second contact with the Iranians, the hostage exchanges of the late 1980s. This very conveniently exonerates him from any involvement with the scandal. The movie quite accurately shows that Reagan's speechmaking ability was the last to go. He was able to make good, clear, humorous speeches right up until the end.
    In Robert Scheer's book, With Enough Shovels, Scheer details the many horrifying statements Reagan made about nuclear war being winnable and survivable. Yes, Reagan came out after that and made unequivocal statements about how nuclear war was something to be avoided, but I suspect that his own loose statements were the major motivation behind the Nuclear Freeze Movement.

    Garrison Keillor (Lake Woebegone, A Prairie Home Companion) has made a career out of talking about the simple, earnest rural folk who may not be as smart as the fancy city-slickers, but whose hearts are pure and intentions good. Bob Newhart's second series (1982-1990) also focused on the simple but good-hearted New Hampshire folks who generally had more common sense than fancy city folks did. If the writers of The Reagans had been intentionally trying to make Reagan resemble Keillor's and Newhart's simple, earnest, rural-type person, they clearly didn't really "get it" as they had Reagan make that mean comment about people suffering from AIDS deserving their fate.
    But as 1. Their Reagan is presented as not terribly bright 2. Is nevertheless sincere, honest and good-hearted 3. Surrounded by cyncial city-slicker types (The Republicans, who have to work to get him away from the Democrats and who succeed because they have a better philosophy of government) 4. Makes Forrest Gump-style simple pronouncements that usually turn out to be wiser than even he suspects and 5. Who usually turns out to be right.
    As I've pointed out, making Reagan fit this archetype requires that Americans forget an immense amount about Reagan's governance. It's also necessary to maintain the illusion that his policies usually turnd out right. They didn't, but the Cold War did end around the time his presidency did. As the Washington Times suggests, I have to go into a good bit of detail to convince someone that the Cold War would have ended about then anyway. It's not all that hard to convince folks that only Reagan's policies could have accomplished that, especially as memories fade in our a-historical society.

    It's these omissions and the Keillor-Newhart-Gump themes that make me strongly suspect that Barbara Streisand is telling the truth, that she had no influence whatsoever on the movie and that her husband James Brolin was given the script on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.


    2004/11/28

    Bizarre statement from our president

    I gotta say, my reaction to this was “Whuuh?” At the opening of the Clinton Library:

    Bush appeared distracted, and glanced repeatedly at his watch. When he stopped to gaze at the river, where secret service agents were stationed in boats, the guide said: "Usually, you might see some bass fishermen out there." Bush replied: "A submarine could take this place out."

    What the #$@%?!?!?! What is with this guy? This is not a military man's mature, considered assessment. This is the assessment of a teenager with a smattering of military knowledge. It strikes me more as the paranoid delusions of raging drunkard than the careful, measured estimates of a responsible adult. How in the heck is a submarine supposed to get all the way up the Mississippi, a journey of about 700 to 800 miles along one of the most heavily-traveled rivers in the world? If one looks at a Mississippi Riverboat, one might notice something interesting about the hull, it's flat!! Why would that be? Perhaps because there are a great many sections where the river is shallow, where a boat with a deep draught can't go. The Wikipedia makes it clear that the river has undergone extensive renovations streching back to the early 1800s and that there is a mandate to keep a nine-foot-deep channel open for commercial traffic. Yes, that means that for a grown man to expect a submarine to travel up the Mississippi to take out a library would indeed, be completely insane.

    2004/11/25

    DNC Chairmanship & Democratic Party

    Senator John Kerry surprised Democrats today by aggressively lobbying for Governor Tom Vilsack to be the head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The post for which elections will be held in February, seems a shoo-in for former Governor Howard Dean. Kerry's opposition appears to be about the only thing that could keep Dean from the DNC leadership.

    The reason why this is important is that the DNC for the next four years can be one of two things. It can be a general platform for reviving the Democratic Party and bringing them back to their grassroots, fundamental purposes or it can just be a re-election vehicle for one man, however good a candidate that man might be. Note that if it does the first, it can very well be an effective vehicle for electing Kerry to the presidency anyway, but if it's the second, it will only serve a very limited purpose and will be using the same-old, same-old Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Joe Leiberman-type strategies of trying to out-Republican the Republicans.

    As progressives have noted over the last 20-30 years, these DLC-type tactics have had a very unimpressive record of success. Sure, Clinton won two terms, but as conservatives never tire of (correctly) pointing out, Clinton was a minority president who never would have won without Ross Perot taking votes away from Bush I and then Bob Dole. Furthermore, Clinton had no “coattails”. Congressional candidates could not win by saying they were followers of Clinton. Democrats lost Congress quite some time ago and don't appear to be able to get it back.


    What Howard Dean offers the DNC is to get progressives back into the driver's seat of the Democratic Party. Kerry seems to prefer more of the same tired, old, failed DLC-type tactics that even lost seats during the 2002 mid-term elections. For an opposition party to lose seats during mid-term elections is so rare that all of those times can be counted on one hand.

    Dean was clever enough to recognize the importance of language. The Republicans liked to call it “Tax Relief”, implying that taxes were at unbearably-high levels. Dean called it simply “Tax Cuts”, implying that something legitimately defensible was being reduced. Sounds simple once it's been pointed out, but many Democrats continued to attempt the losing strategy of using Republican language to oppose Republican policies.

    It was apparent during the attack of the Swift Boat Veterans in August that the Democratic Party urgently, desperately, critically needs to find some way to counter what some call the Republican Noise Machine. With Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, the Washington Times, all of talk radio with the exception of Air America and a few other stations, the media arm of the Republican Party can get their stories, unchallenged or with very little challenge, into the national conversation.

    Dean has promised to pump up the Democrats' communications strategy and showed his commitment to the new media capabilities by making good use of the Internet in his own campaign. One of the largest progressive Internet sites, www.DailyKos.com has been strongly pushing for Dean to get the DNC Chairmanship.


    Here are the snailmail addresses of the two Philadelphia electors to the DNC that progressive, pro-Dean people can write to:


    Carol Ann Campbell
    
    236 N. 59th St.
    Philadelphia, PA 19139

    Hon. Ronald R. Donatucci
    2336 S. 21st St.
    Philadelphia, PA 19145

    The Howard Dean website has a petition to sign at

    http://drafthoward.com/click/petition/sign/qwkdc


    The DNC has a comments section to their site:

    http://www.democrats.org/feedback/


    The New Democratic Network blog has numerous ideas on how to push Democrats to a better electoral position:

    http://www.ndnblog.org/


    Many years ago, I heard a marvelous story about Franklin Roosevelt. He was meeting with a group of progressives who had good ideas, but their ideas weren't all that popular. He listened to their pitch and said “Great idea! Now go on out there and make me do it!” We can make it a better future by making the Democratic Party adopt better positions!

    Happy Thanksgiving all!

    2004/11/22

    Rush Limbaugh and stupid statements

    I was reading quotations from nutty right-wingers on one of my favorite comic-relief-type blogs World O' Crap when the blogger included a transcript of a Rush Limbaugh show. I read along for awhile as Rush referred to the "incident involving a Marine and the shooting in Fallujah", as he then tried to draw a moral distinction between the Iraqi resistance and what Americans would do if say, Canada invaded the US and occupied Detroit (Hint: Americans would do everything that the resistance in Iraq is doing and probably then some.), as he then trashes lefties who idolize Yasser Arafat (I'm no fan of his myself, as a matter of fact, neither are any of the bloggers or other leftists that I read. Maybe I just read the wrong sources.), as he talked about the Blue States wanting to secede from the Red States (Funny, I remember seeing comments suggesting just the opposite, I thought Blue Staters were looking at immigration brocures for New Zealand while the Red Staters appear to want to re-do the Civil War.).

    Limbaugh suggested that Blue Staters are anti-military because "Eighty percent of the armed forces come from the red states" which might be entirely true, I haven't looked it up, but I am aware that Stars & Stripes surveyed our troops back in August 2003 and found that 34% of the soldiers rated their morale as "Low" or "Very Low". Yeah, sure, okay, 80% of the Army may be from rural areas, but that doesn't mean they're happy about serving over there, nor does it mean that anti-war people are in some way impugning the soldiers who are doing the fighting. Limbaugh then goes on to accuse lefties of thinking that "The terrorist is just some little lonely guy defending his country." First off, in our hypothetical example of Canada occupying Detroit, international law recognizes various righs and privileges that may be claimed by an occupying power, but a native resistance movement is permitted to do everything that the Iraqi resistance is doing today. Just because Amercans don't appreciate the fact that, consequently, it's American soldiers who end up getting killed doesn't mean it's okay to apply the overly broad and insulting term of terrorists to Iraqis. For an Iraqi resistance fighter to see himself as "defending his country" is precisely what he's doing. We Americans may not like his cause, but our opinion is neither here nor there.

    The comment that provoked me to write this and what I couldn't help but comment on was this:

    Violation of Geneva Conventions? These people aren't subject to the Geneva Convention. This is war, for crying out loud. What do they think this is, romper room in the sandbox?

    Wow. How do I even begin deconstructing such an incredibly stupid statement? President Bush could very easily have gone to the world community and have proposed that "September 11 changed everything" and that serious changes needed to be made to the Geneva Convention. He did not. Bush could have asked an internationally-legitimate authority to rule on whether Iraqi POWs were subject to the Geneva Convention. He did not. My own interpretation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 3, paragraph 1, is that the captured Iraqi killed in a place or worship by an American soldier was indeed covered by the Covention. As a matter of fact, the US has apparently violated several articles of the Fourth Convention, Section III. The US is in no position whatsoever to interpret the Geneva Convention in order to rule on the legality of its' own actions.

    The main problem is not the American Left here at home. The main problem is in the Middle East. Footage of the execution has been played over and over, to the shock and horror of the people there. The difficulty there is that the US may be the big kid on the block now, but it is not in the nature of human affairs for that condition to last. Portugal was the big kid once, as was Spain, as was France, as was Germany. China used to be without peer, Islam used to tower over the West and the Vikings of Norway used to roam and pillage wherever they pleased.

    For the US to act as though international law was too much of a bother to deal with, in my humble opinion, is an absolutely guaranteed disaster. Years or tens of years or even hundreds of years from now, the US will sorely regret having treated internatioal law with such contempt as the Bush Administratin has treated it. Even if America doesn't need the Convention now, it assuredly will in the future even if we have no idea of when that future will arrive.

    The Geneva Conventions were composed and were agreed to by the United States by 1949, four years after the close of World War II, a conflict that, according to the Wikipedia:

    ...was the most extensive and costly armed conflict in the history of the world, involving the great majority of the world's nations, being fought simultaneously in several major theatres, and costing tens of millions of lives.

    So the idea that the writers of the Geneva Convention were naive or unfamiliar with war is completely ridiculous. The Convention was not composed by a bunch of radical peaceniks (Not that there would be anything wrong with it if it were.) but by warriors who took a mature and farsighted view of the situation that our nation was in and would continue to be in far into the future.

    If anyone needs to go back to the sandbox, it's Limbaugh and the folks who listen to him.

    UPDATE: I spoke with Mike Hoffman of the Iraq Veterans Against the War last night about Limbaugh's theory of the Red/Blue divide among attitudes towards the war among soldiers in Iraq. He considered the theory completely ridiculous and pointed out that a very a large chunk of the IVAW membership comes from Texas. So rest assured, if you hear anything about Red-Stater soldiers in Iraq being any more gung-ho about the war than Blue-Staters, it's complete nonsense.

    UPDATE II: A truly disgusting picture that Limbaugh posted to illustrate a rant of his. A sad look into a badly diseased mind and a criticism that says a great deal more about the critic than it does about his subject.

    2004/11/16

    A right-wing insult

    Doug Giles, a writer for the right-wing website Townhall.com, writes a long, hysterical rant against everyone who thinks they know better about anything than Dear Leader (That's a leftist insult for Bush, comparing him to Kim Jong Il.) Somehow, Doug confuses being a leftist with being anti-military and anti-military-type virtues such as cleanliness, love of country, etc. He criticizes Fahrenheit 9-11, but having actually seen that film myself, I'll be darned if I can remember any scenes such as the ones he describes. Seems to me he didn't see the film at all and is just guessing or relying on third-hand reports as to what was in it. The part of his column that really got to me was this though:

    And lastly, for all the metrosexuals in Hollyweird and all you anti-American imbeciles blogging away on your computers, sitting in your tattered underwear drinking Mountain Dew and eating Domino’s Pizza

    What? I say WHAT? Moi? Drink Mountain Dew? Me? Eat Domino's Pizza? Sitting in tattered underwear? Huh?
    Obviously, this guy has lefty bloggers confused with right-wing bloggers. Lefty bloggers, as we all know, drink green tea or dark mountain shade-grown coffee or Perrier. Mountain Dew? Horrors! I retch at the very thought!
    Lefty bloggers eat brown rice and stir-fried broccoli and stop off at the grocery store salad bar for their evening meals. Poison our systems with greasy Domino's Pizza? Ugh!! First off, Dominos has contributed to anti-abortionist groups, making them utterly non-PC. Second, having once been a pizza delivery guy (As well as having served two years of my Navy time in Italy), I've tried a number of take-out pizzas and Dominos isn't horrible, but it's not at the top of my list in terms of taste.
    The rest of Doug's column reprints Zell Miller's idiotic poem about the soldier heroically "giving" us freedom. Doug, the soldier doesn't "give" us anything! The soldier defends freedom! He makes it possible to keep what we already have and to continue doing what we were already doing. The soldier has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with poetry or political agitation.

    2004/11/14

    Voting Parts I & II

    Voting Part I

    So far, the consensus on the blogs appears to be that we lefties, liberals, progressives and Democrats can't prove that the vote of Nov 2nd was rigged or gamed. Our concerns, however, are quite legitimate and deserve to be taken seriously.

    1. The voting machines use software that is closed-source (We can't see the code) and to my knowledge, only Republicans and Republican-leaning voting machine company employees have been able to examine the code. Having taken a COBOL programming course back in the late 80s, I can testify that it was entirely possible to code a computer so that it appeared to post a vote for John Kerry while it was actually posting a vote for George Bush. Back in the old days with an Underwood typewriter, if you pressed the “A” key, you'd get an “A” on the paper, guaranteed. That's because the connection between the key and the item that strikes the paper was entirely mechanical. With a computer, the connection involves software. Everybody has entered passwords into computers, whether it's into an ATM for cash or into an email account for access. The information is interpreted differently on the screen and by program that needs the password. The screen shows a series of asterisks, the program receives the appropriate combination of letters and numbers. If that was easy to program in the late 80s, and it was, it wouldn't be any difficulty nowadays.

    2. The Secretaries of State for both Ohio and Florida are both staunchly loyal Republicans. Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell tried to demand that all new voting registrations be printed on 80-lb stock paper and that all of the new registrations (Overwhelmingly Democratic) were unsuitable and had to be done over. This move was ultimately ruled unnecessary. Florida's Secretary of State Glenda Hood, resisted releasing Florida's 47,000 name felon list, i.e. The list of people legally barred from voting. When a judge finally got to examine the list, the irregularities were so great and so heavily weighted against Democrats, the list was simply scrapped. In neither case has either Secretary of State proven to be worthy of trust.

    3. In both cases a paper trail, a system that produced a sheet of paper marked with the voter's choices, would solve most, if not all, counting and re-counting problems. Neither state has instituted policies demanding that voting machines have paper trails.

    4. Personally, I very strongly oppose giving private, for-profit companies any say in something as crucial to democracy as to how we vote. If we're going to have them involved at all, it should be with extensive oversight, elaborate cross-checks and intrusive safeguards. The code for the voting machine computers should be open-source and thoroughly tested and examined by all interested parties, Republicans, Democrats, Greens, LaRouchites, Naderites, Communists, everybody. There should also be a paper trail, every vote should result in a sheet that can be counted and re-counted, so that there's no question as to how each citizen voted.


    Voting Part II


    Writer and world traveler Tariq Ali was a strong opponent of Bush in the 2004 election but gave a reasonably good summation of why some leftists preferred that Bush win instead of Kerry. A Naderite disagrees with how Nader supporters are characterized, but does not disprove Democrat's assertions as to why they opposed Nader's run, i.e. Nader took votes away from Kerry, thereby helping to ensure Bush's win. Bush won by a large enough margin and Nader's share of the vote was so small that Nader can't be blamed for Bush's victory. Nevertheless, Nader caused the Democratic Party to waste time, money, attention and resources that could have been put to better use opposing Bush.

    I've been reading Z Magazine since it was first published in 1989. Edward Herman has been one of my favorite writers on that and he gave a talk on Nov 14th at the Brandywine potluck supper. He also went through the reasons why some leftists preferred Bush over Kerry. But his final argument was, for me, the clincher.

    United States citizens are also citizens of the world. The world was deeply interested in the outcome of this last election and very strongly preferred Kerry over Bush. As proper citizens of the world, Americans should have put their private, parochial interests aside and voted in favor of the world's clearly expressed preference.

    2004/11/13

    Some Democrats look wistfully to old, tired solutions

    Now we have a group calling itself Third Way that seeks to re-create the glorious days of....well, Democrats ever since Democrats undercut and finked out on George McGovern back in 1972. Democrats grudgingly supported Jimmy Carter's presidency and yes, Clinton's was more-or-less a success, but as Republicans never tire of (correctly) pointing out, Clinton was a minority president who would have lost to either the Bush I-Perot combination or the Dole-Perot combination. Clinton's running the country sans a strong mandate meant that we progressives couldn't mount the defense of "We have to leave this Monica Lewinsky/Whitewater/Paula Jones nonsense aside and get back to the important issue." There were simply no compelling issues that Clinton had been pushing that we could seized upon.
    The Third Way is a group pushing a tired, worn-out, exhausted set of ideas that proved themselves utterly incapable of succeeding in the midterm election of 2002. Electorally, Democrats didn't do much better in 2004, but at least in the last election, there was a real spirit and determination that the Democratic had never managed to summon forth in all the years since McGovern.

    The following is a part of the letter I wrote to my incoming Congressperson Allyson Schwartz:

    General recommendation on overall strategy for the next several years: I noticed with dismay that Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council is calling for Democrats to go backwards and to use his old 1990's Clintonian strategy of Triangulation. This was a perfectly adequate strategy for its time, but it miserably failed in the Congressional mid-term election of 2002 and is highly unlikely to be successful ever again.



    The major problem with it is the rise of what we call the Republican Noise Machine, composed of. Fox News, the Washington Times, conservative bloggers, radio commentators, etc. Since the years when this machine forced the impeachment of President Clinton, it's only gotten louder and stronger. In order for a Democratic president to get anything done during all the noise, he'll need a Democratic machine of equal strength and intensity. Obviously, being lefties and liberals and progressives and Democrats, we're a lot more comfortable with telling the truth and being fair. Simply using a lot of invective or making unsubstantiated charges has no appeal for us. To use the military term, someone suggested that liberal bloggers, Air America, etc., could act as skirmishers. When we see a wild accusation arise on the Drudge Report or hear something on Rush Limbaugh, we can jump on it immediately and force the mainstream news media people to deal with both the initial report and the Democratic challenge to it in the same news cycle.

    We can get the skirmishers to be taken seriously as Democratic spokespeople by having Democratic Party officials say things like “Well, as the blogger Atrios said...” or “As the Air America radio announcer Jeaneane Garofalo pointed out...”



    In order for the skirmishers to be successful, the one thing we liberal citizens need is consistency from the Democratic leadership. We need to know that the position on, say, sanctions on Cuba is not going to change with every passing shift in the breeze. We need to know that the party position on gun control is consistent with what the party said a year ago. The Al From Triangulation strategy requires far too many twists and turns and reversals and backflips for anybody to follow with any success. We skirmishers have to have the feeling that every strategy has some real thought behind it and we have to have some idea as to what that thought is.



    Terry McAuliffe of the Democratic National Committee has done a perfectly adequate job as a financial guy, but the campaign of 2004 shows us that money will take care of itself if the overall strategy is sound. I heard that Howard Dean is being recommended as the replacement for McAuliffe. I think that's a great idea! Let's replace the financial guy with the message guy!


    Diversions from Fallujah

    The Second Battle of Fallujah appears to be going well. The American generals are predicting victory within days. Violence elsewhere however, appears to be flaring up. The city of Mosul is now either occupied by the Iraqi Resistance or is so chaotic that forces have to drawn from elsewhere in order to put down the uprising there.

    2004/11/10

    Bush gives opponents the middle finger

    In his acceptance speech, Bush said:


    BUSH: With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans.

    And

    BUSH: Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans.

    So today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent.

    To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust.

    That was on November 3rd. On November 10th, Bush anounced that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales would be the new Attorney General. I supposee we can be impresssed that Bush waited a whole seven days to give his political opponents the middle finger and to add “And yo' mama too!!”

    Alberto Gonzales is the fellow who wrote the memos that justified torture and were later awaiting citaton had Gonzales been called upon to justify the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Having read chunks of these memos in detai and having taken a few courses in college that dealt with law, I can testify that Gonzales has absolutely no respect for the law or justice or humanity whatsoever.
    The author(s) of these memos is a monster, pure and simple.

    Update: Gonzales' record with Bush goes back much further and is even worse than I thought. I realize that there are squishy, sort-of, kind-of liberal-ish people who won't look past the fact that Gonzales is of Latin American heritage before pronouncing him fit for the post of Attorney General. These are the same idiots who can't look past Condoleezza Rice's being an African-American to see that she's completely incompetent to be our National Security Advisor or who can't see past Colin Powell's heritage to see that he's shamefully covered up war crimes back in the Vietnam War and betrayed his reputation and own announed principles in order to support the Iraq War.
    As Martin Luther King has said, we need to judge people by the content of their character. The character of these three minority-heritage people is grossly inadequate for their positions and their holding of their respective offices does a dishonor to America.

    Update II: The anti-abortionists are all atwitter about how Gonzales is insufficiently hateful towards women. Imagine! Thinking that a woman has any business having a say in what her own reproductive organs are up to. Oh, the scandal!
    Bwah-hah-hah-hah!!! Ahh, conservative infighting. Gotta love it!

    2004/11/04

    Election Post-Mortem

    First off, we can dispense with the right-wing talking point that I saw on Fox News while channel-flipping this morning, no John Kerry was not "€œtoo liberal"€ and no, he did not fail to be "€œcentrist enough"€ (Read "€œright-wing enough"€).

    The Kerry campaign survived the Republican dirty tricks and was good enough that a wartime, incumbent candidate had to settle for a mere 51% of the vote. Bush has no discernable mandate other than "€œLet'€™s not allow gays to marry"€ as that was about the only publicly-declared difference between the campaigns that worked to get the Christian Right to the polls. The rest of the Bush supporters seem to have been voting out of fear and the old "don't change horses in the middle of the stream" idea.

    Was Kerry our "€œgreat leader"€? Did he run a "€œcandidate-centric"€ campaign? Did he run his campaign so that it was all about him and his personality? Personally, I don'€™t feel that he did. I felt this last campaign was very unusual in that Kerry was not the leader so much as he was the standard-bearer. He was the guy that "€œWe The (liberal, leftist, progressive) People"€ handed off our standard to, the guy we entrusted with our flag to carry with him onto the field. Kerry was not our knight in shining armor, but our chosen champion, the fellow who represented us. I remember hearing lots and lots of complaints about him, but I heard very few ideas about how he could be doing a better job.

    By far the most useful and profitable line of inquiry is "€œHow could the campaign have done a better job of presenting our case"€? I attended the big Kerry rally in Center City a few days prior to the election. It sounded okay to me and I cheered along with everybody else. Reading over various critiques, I can see now that Kerry's criticisms of Bush were scattershot and not very focused. As the German generals used to say: "€œBut what is the schwerpunkt of the campaign?"€ That is, what exactly was our central point? What was our main critique? What was the one, burning question we could bring to our friends and co-workers and neighbors who claimed that Bush was the better candidate? Personally, my critique of the Bush Administration could be reduced to a sentence "€œNot only are these guys evil, not merely are they out to do awful things, they'™re incompetent on top of that!"€ Hmm, yeah, I can see how that particular sentence might not be a great talking point to bring to Mr & Mrs Joe Average.

    One thing we can pester our politicians about is that we need to replace Terry McAuliffe, the money guy, with Howard Dean, a message guy. Once Bush had provided Democrats with a powerful set of messages (about what not to do), the money flowed in. Message is everything, money will take care of itself.