2004/09/30

Further evidence the war is being lost

Back on May 23rd of this year,

US Defence Department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

"Digital cameras, camcorders and mobile phones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said.

With the Star Wars/ABM/Missle Defense project:

...the tests were set-pieces: Everyone involved knew where the mock warhead was coming from, where it was going, and when it would come into view; there were no realistic decoys, no instances of multiple warheads being fired at once (except in a few of the Patriot tests, which involved two warheads fired over a short range). Third, and most telling, the MDA [Missle Defense Agency] decided late last year to halt the test program; it even canceled two tests that had already been scheduled.
-snip-
"Beyond that, the tests weren't realistic, they didn't tell you anything about whether it could handle a real threat." The tests made no effort whatever to see if the interceptors could work as part of an integrated network in which early-warning satellites detect a missile launch, transmit the data to other radar systems that track the missile more precisely, and then aim and fire the interceptors to knock the missiles down.

And just today, NGOs were trading reports of the military situation in Iraq. Not any more.


The Bush administration, battling negative perceptions of the Iraq war, is sending Iraqi Americans to deliver what the Pentagon calls "good news"about Iraq to U.S. military bases and has curtailed distribution of reports showing increasing violence in that country.


The common thread to all of these stories is that the Bush Administration feels that by cutting down people's information on how various projects are going, by not letting people see how these items are progressing (or regressing), they maintain "investor confidence". Kind of the way Enron maintained confidence in it's financial position even though it was far worse than it appeared to be. The investor has confidence and the stock price remains high or the president's approval ratings remain high, but the crash is hard and steep and a lot of people get hurt when the house of cards collapses.

2004/09/28

Self-delusions

There's a letter printed in the Neighbors section of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sept 26 where the writer declares "I am voting for President Bush. I believe him to be a man of honesty and integrity."
Okay, let's consider this tidbit taken from Bush's May 1 2003 speech onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln which specified that the US, by conquering Iraq, had won a "victory in the war on terror (by having) removed an ally of Al Qaeda."
Even by that date, it had been obvious that there was simply no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. The main evidence for that was simply "the dog that didn't bark". We had statements early on that the Bush Administration was trying to find a connection between Osama bin Laden annd Saddam Hussein before the rubble of the September 11 attacks had settled and the fires had been put out.
During the Clinton era, US intelligence agencies had around $30 billion a year to spend and Bush then made it clear that if he had not already given the agencies anything they wanted, they had what was pretty much a blank check at that point. Well, by 20 months after "the day that changed everything", it was pretty obvious that if any such connection had been found, that news of that connection would have been the stuff ordinary dinner table and water cooler conversation.
So, did President Bush lie to the American people? Of course he did. The lie was flagrant and open and unashamed. Why would he lie about such an important item? Bush was a raging alchoholic well into his forties. Even though he stopped drinking, he never did a twelve-step program to really get over it. He stil maintained his drunken habits of thought, he was and is what one calls a "dry drunk". Lying is second nature to such people.
Lying is also second nature to some corporate bosses. When Enron got into financial trouble, the upper management grabbed their money and even the personnel managers (supposedly the lower-level employee's representative to upper management) told everybody working below them that things were just fine and the company's books were in great shape. As people might remember "Kenny Boy" was a close buddy of Bush back when Bush was Governor of Texas and "Kenny Boy's" campaign contributions made up a significant chunk of Bush's campaign war chest.
The question then becomes "why are people such willing dupes"? Why do people seem to believe such amazingly impossible things? Why are people so stubbornly convinced of what's clearly not true? It just seems that filling in the blanks with fantasy seems to be the operating principle here. That when supporters of President Bush don't have all the facts, they just make stuff up.

2004/09/24

Update: Kerry apparently agrees

George Bush retreated from Fallujah and other communities in Iraq which are now overrun with terrorists and threaten our troops," Kerry said in the brief interview Wednesday. "And even today, he blundered again saying there are only a handful of terrorists in Iraq. I think he's living in a make believe world.

I'm not too wild about the reference to "terrorists" as that tracks with Bush's language for the resistanc (Howard Dean conspicuously refused to use administration language to describe things), but it's a campaign and Kerry has to appeal to more than us anti-war types.

And this is an interesting statement from the President's press conference:


As enemies of tyranny and terror, the people of Iraq and the American troops and civilians supporting their dreams of freedom have been the target of acts of violence. The enemies of freedom are using suicide bombing, beheadings and other horrific acts to try to block progress.

We're sickened by the atrocities. But we'll never be intimidated. And freedom is winning.

Uh, okay. Lemme see, the "American troops and civilians supporting their dreams of freedom" are running that country with absolutely no mandate whatsoever. There has been no popular vote on any matter. Nobody in the Iraqi government is elected. There have been polls indicating Iraqis want the United States out of their country NOW, Exactly whose tyranny do the Iraqis oppose?

2004/09/22

President Bush speaks at the UN

Text of Bush's speech to the U.N.

During the past three years, I've addressed this General Assembly in a time of tragedy for my country, and in times of decision for all of us. Now we gather at a time of tremendous opportunity for the U.N. and for all peaceful nations. For decades, the circle of liberty and security and development has been expanding in our world. This progress has brought unity to Europe, self-government to Latin America and Asia, and new hope to Africa. Now we have the historic chance to widen the circle even further, to fight radicalism and terror with justice and dignity, to achieve a true peace, founded on human freedom.

So somehow the virtuous circle of liberty, security and development doesn't include radicalism and the verb terror? Peace is founded upon fredom, eh? These are exceedingly broad, vague goals. Radicalism could mean anything from American protesters of the 1960s to the Russian Communists of 1917. Presumably he's talking about Muslims from the Mideast as the US is engaged in a war there. He's proposing a war on “terror”? Again, he presumablt means terrorism as practiced by Muslims from the Mideast.

The United Nations and my country share the deepest commitments. Both the American Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaim the equal value and dignity of every human life. That dignity is honored by the rule of law,

Oh, you mean as in the detention of around a thousand Middle Easterners right after 9/11? The imprisonment of people picked up for random and minor immigrant and visa violations and stashed away without any access to lawyers or their families? That sort of rule of law?

limits on the power of the state,

Ah yes, the USA PATRIOT ACT, the bill that allows the government to do pretty much anything it pleases, whenever it pleases, under any circumstances it pleases. The Bush Administration has complained because citizens have lumped together many abusive acts under the catch-all umbrella term of that act, but Attorney General John Ashcroft waited until July 2004 to tell Americans precisely what the government had been doing, in any detail, under the provisions of that act. The report by the Justice Department makes it clear that he thinks any limits on the government's authority are a bad thing..

respect for women,

One of George W. Bush's first acts as president -- literally on his first full day in office -- was to delight conservative supporters by reinstating the Global Gag Rule. The rule prohibits U.S. foreign aid money from flowing to overseas family planning organizations that provide abortion services or even talk favorably about abortion to their patients or the public.”

protection of private property,

I don't think Bush's conservative supporters have any complaints about that.

<>
free speech,
Piece from Dahlia Lithwick:

The largely ignored "free-speech zone" at the Democratic convention in Boston last month was an affront to the spirit of the Constitution. The situation will be only slightly better when the Republicans gather this month in New York, where indiscriminate searches and the use of glorified veal cages for protesters have been limited by a federal judge. So far, the only protesters with access to the area next to Madison Square Garden are some anti-abortion Christians. High-fiving delegates evidently fosters little risk of violence.

It's easy to forget that as passionate and violent as opposition to the Iraq war may be, it pales in comparison with the often bloody dissent of the Vietnam era, when much of the city of Washington was nevertheless a free-speech zone.

It's tempting to say the difference this time lies in the perils of the post-9/11 world, but that argument assumes some meaningful link between domestic political protest and terrorism. There is no such link, except in the eyes of the Bush administration, which conflates the two both as a matter of law and of policy. “


More of Bush's speech:

equal justice, and religious tolerance. That dignity is dishonored by oppression, corruption, tyranny, bigotry, terrorism and all violence against the innocent. And both of our founding documents affirm that this bright line between justice and injustice - between right and wrong - is the same in every age, and every culture, and every nation.

Wise governments also stand for these principles for very practical and realistic reasons. We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression,

You mean like launching a war on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11?

while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace.

Um, like when? At what point has Bush attempted to peacefully resolve differences with any other country? Has he done anything whatsoever in the Israel/Palstine conflict or was he simply banking on the invasion and subjugation of Iraq to leave the Palestinians so demoralized that they'd sue for peace? Or perhaps:

Former Jerusalem mayor Meron Benveniste recently warned that the Sharon government would use a U.S. war in Iraq as an excuse to link Iraq and Palestine in the public mind. Then he would launch an all-out attack on the Palestinians, perhaps leading to mass expulsions.
Back to the speech:

We know that oppressive governments support terror, while free governments fight the terrorists in their midst. We know that free peoples embrace progress and life, instead of becoming the recruits for murderous ideologies.

This appears to suggest that Iraqis are determinedly fighting the anti-American resistance fighters in their midst. Of course, if they were doing any such thing, there would be informers coming forward all the time to snitch on the resistance. As the US military hasn't any idea as to who the resistance fighters are, it's clear that no such thing is happening.

Every nation that wants peace will share the benefits of a freer world. And every nation that seeks peace has an obligation to help build that world. Eventually, there is no safe isolation from terror networks, or failed states that shelter them, or outlaw regimes, or weapons of mass destruction. Eventually, there is no safety in looking way, seeking the quiet life by ignoring the struggles and oppression of others.

Here, the President launches off directly into a world of fantasy. He's just rambling at this point, carrying on about wonderful fantasies of faraway lands and flying carpets and magical towers and fairy princesses and other marvelous things. Wonderful things, things that could come true only in the wildest fantasies of people completely unhinged from any sort of reality.

His ideas sound really great, but the enemy is defined in a very vague, fuzzy manner. Our friends are defined in a Soviet-Realism way, with brave stoic peasants with medals on their chests reading “Worker Hero of the Soviet Union” and happy wives bringing lunch out to their hard-working husbands in the fields of amber waves of grain and dutiful children taking their schoolbooks with them as they go out to the riverbank to study hard and become good patriotic citizens.

The President is said to have looked bewildered as his fuzzy bromides were met with cold silence and he finally got a smattering of merely polite applause at the end. Gee, I wonder why?

2004/09/20

Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!

Wow! What an incredibly stupid guy! Just to give you an idea of how amazingly lunkheaded this guy is, here's an excerpt:

Mark Steyn on Bush:

In my corner of northern New England, as in Highgate and Holland Park, it is also stressful being a Bush apologist. Most of the guys I hang out with demand to know why he's being such a wimp, why's he kissing up to King Abdullah about a few stray bananas in some jailhouse, why's he being such a pantywaist about not letting our boys fire on mosques, why hasn't he levelled Fallujah. In other words, don't make the mistake of assuming that Bush's poll numbers on Iraq have fallen because people want him to be more multilateralist and accommodating. On my anecdotal evidence, they want him to be more robust and incendiary.

People I know of invented the term “knuckle-draggers” to describe people like this. Why would anyone object to firing on a mosque? Gee, I don't know. Maybe because they don't want to provoke the country into throwing American troops out by their keisters, ya think? Level Falluajh? Sure, let's commit an act of genocide in the country we were suppposedly liberating. Yeah, that'll convince the world that when America invades a country, that that country better jolly well not act up or anything. We'll go flying off the handle and murder a few hundred thousand of them. Granted, we condemned the Nazis and the Serbians under Slobadan Milosevic and several African nations for doing exactly the same thing, but hey, we're Americans. We're entitled to do that sort of thing anytime the mood strikes us.

Steyn's stupidity continues in The (British) Observer:

As for Iraq, the UN system designed to constrain Saddam was instead enriching him, through the Oil-for-Food programme, and enabling him to subsidise terrorism. Given that the Oil-for-Fraud programme was run directly out of Kofi Annan's office, the Secretary-General ought to have the decency to recognise that he had his chance with Iraq, he blew it, and a period of silence from him would now be welcome.

There is of course not the slightest evidence that Saddam Hussein ever, at any time, subsidized terrorism. Hussein was an awful ,evil, terrible guy, but US intelligence agencies have come up completely dry in finding any connection between his regime and terrorists. The fact that Hussein made more money than he should have off of the Oil-for-Food program is indisputable.

The idea, however, that Hussein used his illegal profits to buy weapons is complete nonsense. The Iraq Survey Group finished up 15 months surveying Iraq and that:

The draft Duelfer report, according to the New York Times, finds no evidence of a capability, but only of an intention to rebuild that capability once the UN embargo had been removed and Iraq was no longer the target of intense international scrutiny.

This is an interesting statement, however:

The Malayan "emergency", to take one example, lasted from 1948 to 1960, and at the end of it Britain midwifed what can reasonably claim to be one of the least worst Islamic states in the world.

The numbers are that 135,000 troops (35,000 British and 100,000 Malay) were up against 500,000 ethnic Chinese who had no real support in the countryside and of whom 80,000 were active fighters. Current support for the US occupation was last counted as being at 2%, so US troops at roughly the same size of the combined British/Malay force is facing a total population of around 25,000,000 with who-knows-how-many active fighters, a vastly larger force than the British had to face in Malaysia. Note that the struggle was finally petering out in 1958. That's ten full years for the armed struggle to persist.

Note especially:

In 1951 some British army units begun a "hearts and minds campaign" by giving medical and food aid to Malays and indigenous Sakai tribes.

Funny, the US doesn't seem to have a program like that running. Not because US troops haven't been trying, but because they seem to be busy just trying to stay alive. It also doesn't help that only about 5% of the money allocated for reconstruction has been spent with about 15% now being redirected towards war-fighting.

So, can the United States possibly hope to duplicate what the British did in Malaysia? Doesn't seem likely.

2004/09/18

The utter uselessness of the interrogations at Abu Ghraib

So exactly how good is our intel in Iraq?

At the height of the Cold War, the US intelligence community, then consisting of about 12 agencies, had a total budget of about US$10 billion per annum to contend with its communist adversaries; today, with 15 agencies, it has $30 billion plus, thanks to Osama bin Laden and the horde of jihadi terrorists confronting the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the world. Despite all this, the US does not have a clue as to who are its adversaries in Iraq.

Resistance fighters? Terrorists? Domestic? Foreign? Al-Qaeda? Pakistanis? Chechens? Arab volunteers from other countries? Ex-Ba'athists? The sacked soldiers of Saddam Hussein's army? Shi'ites? Sunnis? Plain criminals? US intelligence does not seem to have the least inkling of it. The more of the resistance and terrorists the US kills, the more the number of Iraqis and foreign Muslims take to arms against the US. The total number of resistance fighters and terrorists, domestic and foreign, operating in different parts of the country is estimated to have increased fourfold since the beginning of this year from about 5,000 to about 20,000, despite the estimated death of nearly 5,000, if not more, at the hands of US troops.

Is there a common command and control of this rainbow coalition of anti-US elements? If so, how does it function? Where and in whose hands is it located? Which are the organizations involved? Is there a supreme leader? There are visible and invisible enemies. Enemies like Muqtada al-Sadr, who are seen commanding and fighting for the benefit of TV cameras, and enemies like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who orchestrates terrorist incidents unseen and unnoticed. Audible and inaudible leaders. Leaders who brag and make claims. Others who operate silently.
-snip-
After 18 months of occupation, the US continues to grope in the dark. Its technical intelligence agencies find themselves totally helpless in the absence of the use of modern means of communications by the terrorists and resistance fighters. Its human intelligence (HUMINT) agencies are as clueless as ever, despite their claimed capture of dozens of alleged terrorists and resistance fighters. Their interrogation, despite the use of shocking techniques of mental and physical torture, has hardly produced any worthwhile intelligence. One does not need a mole in the US intelligence to know this. Had there been any worthwhile intelligence, one would have seen the results on the ground.

And why is that? Why can't our intelligence agencies make head or tail of the situation there? Why are they so clueless?

The Americans did not understand the Iraqi people before they invaded and occupied their country, deceiving themselves into believing that the Iraqis would come out and sing and dance in the streets as the Parisians did when Paris was liberated from the clutches of the Nazis. They do not understand the Iraqi people even after 18 months of occupation. They are unlikely to understand them even if the occupation extends to eternity. The ability to understand others is not part of the American psyche.

There are long-term reasons for this and the outlook for truly understanding the Iraqis is quite dim. I spoke with a workmate a few months back about whether Saddam Hussein was allied with Osama bin Laden. She cited her father, who was convinced that Hussein had funded the families of the 9/11 highjackers who had piloted the passenger jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. I hadn't heard anything about their families at all from any source and then realized he was referring to the families of the Palestinian suicide bombers, a different group entirely. There is indeed a record of Hussein promising to fund these families, a promise which by the way, the Palestinian families accuse Hussein of not keeping. My workmate looked at me like I had two heads. The idea that there were different kinds of Mideastern terrorist/enemy groups with different goals was an absolutely astonishing notion to her.

Okay, so there are serious long-term problems here. As one of my favorite lines from the movies goes, Field Marshal Erwin (The Desert Fox) Rommel is listening to Adolf Hitler ranting and raving about the glorous new weaons that will be coming off of German assembly lines in a few short years. Hitler is brought up short by an abrupt question from Rommel: "That's all very fine and well, but what do I tell my troops tomorrow morning?"

In that spirit, my answer is to create the OSA. Yes, in addition to the 15 agencies we already have, we need yet another agency. Basically, the CIA keeps too many secrets. Far too much of what it does is kept under wraps. This makes it difficult for people to share information and learn from each other and to provide checks against false or mistaken information. In order to provide a complete picture, the CIA presently has to gather information from open public sources as well as from clandestine agents, interrogations and electronic sources. A book I read once described buying an expert a lunch and picking his brains on a particular subject as an in-between source of information. Not precisely public, but not really confidential.

My suggestion is to separate the gathering of publicy availabe information (Hence OSA = Open Source Agency) from the gathering of secret information by assigning particular modes of information-gathering tasks to each agency with the questionable cases being solved by having the sources sign a one-page document saying roughly "I have no objection to being revealed as your source of information". When Congress gets a briefing, the OSA makes the first presentation, giving the Congresspeople publicly available, unclassified information. The OSA leaves the room, the CIA enters and then fills in the Congresspeople on all the secret information, which may or may not contradict anything in the OSA briefing and may just supplement it.

What America ends up with is the best of both worlds. Comprehensive, focused information gathered by the best folks, the best experts on particular subjects and secret information from the folks who are producing it today. Congreepeople will be fully aware that these sources may in fact contradict each other and might in reality reach different conclusions. Producing a briefing where the briefer promises to provide all the answers is a perfectly awful idea and leaves the Congresspeople shocked and disoriented when the information turns out to be wrong after all, which has happened countless times.

President wants us to heed "the compassionate side of his foreign policy"

Hoo-boy!! Is THAT a load of... ah never mind.

Hey, I wish the president the best of luck in pursuing a more compasionate foreign policy. I think a more compassionate foreign policy would be great thing. The timing is kind of interesting. We're running down the clock towards November 2nd. The national media doesn't pay attention to the attempted letter-bombings of several governors because they can't be neatly tied into the "Islamic Terrorists" story-line, y'know "Swarthy, dark-skinned Ay-rabs causing havoc in innocent white America, home of the brave and land of the free." Meanwhile, the Bush Administration has never convincingly denied that they intend to invade Iran and Syria next (Not sure which one gets it first, Iran might develop an atom bomb before the US can launch anything.) The PNAC is a group that featured many members of the current Administration, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Under Secretary, Arms Control and International Security John Bolton and Senior Director, National Security Council Elliott Abrams.

The following statement from the PNAC's website concerning their attititude towards Iran is very interesting:

Iran's leaders have begun to make gestures of cooperation with the United States - which is not at all surprising given the presence of American forces in the surrounding countries of Iraq and Afghanistan and the rapidly declining legitimacy of the regime with the Iranian people. Given the Bush administration's goals for stemming the WMD proliferation and reigning in terrorist groups, it may be tempting [for Iran] to pursue closer ties with the powerful clerics. However, as McFaul and Milani note, there is little reason to believe that a commitment made by the Iranian government on these issues would be anything but an expedient retreat or, indeed, that it would be honored at all. In the meantime, by engaging the regime, the administration would "send a demoralizing signal to Iran's democratic forces," who over the long-term could actually provide the U.S. with "more lasting gains."

Regardless of how much of the statement is true, it does NOT display a friendly, tolerant "live-and-let-live" attitude. Note that anything good or cooperative Iran may do is to be attributed entirely to US military force.
This statement suggests a strong desire to take a direct hand in rebuilding and redesigning Syria to meet specifications:

And, if "coercive democratization" more broadly means using aggressively all the tools of American statecraft to reform regimes, then, I'm sure the peoples of Poland, South Korea and South Africa are glad they too were not left to the vagaries of neoliberal policymakers. Are the impoverished and tyrannized populations of the Muslim world really going to take comfort in a policy perspective that, as Asmus and Pollack put it, says that "true success will come only from a long-term effort to help push Arabs to reform their societies from within." Do neo-liberals really think that this is a strategy likely to work with Syria, in Lebanon or with Persian Iran? Whatever the shortcomings of "coercive democratization," it has at least the virtue of realizing the dangers we face now and the corrupt and thuggish character of the regimes in place today.

Note the complete contempt shown for any solution that does not involve massive violence. The solution proposed by the critics Asmus and Pollack seems quite sensible. expecially given the complete failure of US policy to achieve any sort of democratization in Iraq, but it's dismissed offhand.

It's difficult to see what the point of mentioning Poland, South Korea and South Africa is. Poland was not liberated from Soviet tyranny by American troops invading East Germany. The Soviet Union collaped without much help from the US at all. South Korea was not liberated from its 100 or so days of occupation by North Korea because the US was concerned about fuzzy absract issues like tyranny. North Korea attacked a country that was occupied by American troops. Failure to defend it would have humiliated the US and made it look like a "paper tiger" The issue of "democatization" was neither here nor there. South Africa's blacks were not rescued from the apartheid policies of white South Africans by anything other than peaceful economic and diplomatic methods. Yet, the writer seems to believe that "coercive democratization" works just fine.
Given the membership of the PNAC in 1998, the PNAC's attitude towards Iran and Syria and the policies pursued by the Bush Administration along with Rumsfeld's apparent stranglehold over many aspects of US policy, the burden of proof that the US does not plan to invade Iran and Syria lies very much with the Bush Administration.

The idea that Bush's foreign policy HAS a compassionate side is a sick joke, good for a few mordant chuckles.

2004/09/16

Comment on CBS Bush TANG Documents

Tuesday, September 14, 2004 You probably aren't aware of this if you don't lurk at right-wing Web sites, but the questioning of those National Guard documents doesn't just make conservatives think they've caught Dan Rather and CBS with egg on their faces -- it makes them think they are on the verge of destroying the entire established media universe.

It doesn't matter to these people that Jayson Blair didn't destroy The New York Times, or that Stephen Glass didn't destroy The New Republic. Hell, it doesn't even matter to them that the Clinton mulatto-baby story didn't seem to put a dent in Matt Drudge, as they of all people should know. Like their god George Bush on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln declaring "Mission Accomplished," these people are premature self-congratulators, and they have a laughably overcaffeinated sense of their own importance.

It's worth examining just how much of the case here has been disproven.

Moreover, White House officials say, Bush should be judged on whether he attended enough drills to count toward retirement. They say he accumulated sufficient points under this grading system. Yet, even using their method, which some military experts say is incorrect, U.S. News 's analysis shows that Bush once again fell short. His military records reveal that he failed to attend enough active-duty training and weekend drills to gain the 50 points necessary to count his final year toward retirement.

The U.S. News analysis also showed that during the final two years of his obligation, Bush did not comply with Air Force regulations that impose a time limit on making up missed drills. What's more, he apparently never made up five months of drills he missed in 1972, contrary to assertions by the administration. White House officials did not respond to the analysis last week but emphasized that Bush had "served honorably."

Some experts say they remain mystified as to how Bush obtained an honorable discharge. Lawrence Korb, a former top Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, says the military records clearly show that Bush "had not fulfilled his obligation" and "should have been called to active duty."
-snip-
Bush's records show that he did his duty for much of the first four years of his commitment. But as the Vietnam War wound down, his performance slumped, and his attendance at required drills fell off markedly. He did no drills for one five-month period in 1972. He also missed his flight physical. By May 2, 1973, his superiors said they could not evaluate his performance because he "has not been observed."

A statement made by one of his former professors does not shed a favorable light on Bush, either.

Tsurumi said he remembers Bush because every teacher remembers their best and worst students, and Bush was in the latter group.

"Lazy. He didn't come to my class prepared," Tsurumi said. "He did very badly."

Tsurumi concedes that he disapproves of Bush's politics. He wrote a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper, the Scarsdale Inquirer, that derided the president's claims to "compassionate conservatism."

"Somehow I found him totally devoid of compassion, social responsibility, and good study discipline," Tsurumi said. "What I remember most about him was all the kind of flippant statements that he made inside of classroom as well as outside."

The idea that Bush served honorably and fulfilled his requirements doesn't stand up under examination. Even if the disputed CBS documents are recreations or forgeries or whatever, the fact that the Bush Administration has not offered a competing narrative to the "Bush the slacker" story argues that the documents are essentially correct. As a former sailor, I can certify that every meaningful action taken over the course of Bush's career in the Texas Air National Guard should have been documented. If Bush had several conversation with his superiors about where and how to serve out his last two years, where are the documents? If Bush had a good reason for not taking his physical in 1972, where are the documents that detail that reason or those reasons? If Bush served during those missing months in 1972, where are the people he served with? No one credibly remembers seeing him (There are people who have told some wild tales on this), where are the documents that would tell us where he was?

Sorry, but the right-wing bloggers have an enormous amount of explaining to do before they can claim any sort of victory.

2004/09/15

Iraq's borders: how much coming in?

Peter Brookes:

Iraq is also the operating base of an insurgency of up to 20,000 fighters, comprised of Saddam loyalists and other foreign Islamic fighters, including al-Qaeda terrorists. These groups are receiving support from Iran, Syria and others who don't want to see freedom and democracy flourish in Iraq.


Are Iran and Syria sneaking soldiers and supplies into Iraq? Well, let's consider the border with this map collected and put online by the University of Texas. The border of Iraq and Iran appears to offer some hope of getting supplies secretly through as there are some fair-sized heights. The map lists Gundah Zhur on the Iraqi side as being the highest elevation in the area at a little over 3600 meters. But by and large, the mountains appear to stop at or near the Iraq border, with the most mountainous areas being well inside Iran. The border with Syra appears to be more or less flat, with no significant heights at all. The Land Use map shows that there are indeed some forested areas up North, but that "Meadows and pastures" stand between them and the border. There are a few spots where the forests come right to the Iran border, but the North is largely Kurdish anyway and they're the most pro-American group in Iraq. The fact that all parts of Iraq lack the triple-canopy rain forest of Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia means that very little smuggling is likely to be taking place.
A Times of London article states that the Syria/Iraq border is the site of frequent trade, so there might be small arms and some people coming through, but the numbers are probably not large. Unlike in Vietnam, we are not likely to see whole brigades and regiments crossing into Iraq. This general impression appears to be confirmed by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article:

Bureaucrats and politicians in Washington try repeatedly to pretend otherwise, suggesting that al-Qaida-linked terrorists are pouring into Iraq from Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia to attack our troops. But U.S. generals in Iraq, the people actually doing the fighting, have said repeatedly that they have seen little evidence of international involvement. Furthermore, the captains, majors and colonels charged with guarding Iraq's borders report no influx of foreign terrorists into Iraq and are puzzled by claims to the contrary.


So it appears unlikely that there's much coming in. Unfortunately for the Bush Administration, the only other explanation for the guerrilla conflict is that the occupation policy has sparked a lot of the war. Failure to secure government offices and hospitals from looters left what remained of the Iraqi government unable to handle normal post-war tasks. Failure to secure museums and other cultural treasures was a propaganda windfall for guerrillas who were waiting to see how the occupation would unfold. The fact that President Bush asked for $18 billion for reconstruction, received it and then let it sit idle (To this day, only about 5 – 10% has been spent) has allowed garbage to pile up in the cities, people to sit around with nothing to do, tasks to go undone and power plants to remain performing considerably under-capacity, leaving looters and criminals free to roam about. US arrest procedures were humiliating from the start and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib have infuriated Iraqis even more, greatly adding to the ranks of the resistance. The Observer from Britain adds detail to the picture of how ordinary Iraqi citizens became insurgents. The attack on Fallujah in April was seen as a grave error by the Marine general in charge. US forces, reacting to the grim atrocity of resistance fighters killing and then citizens tearing apart four contractors, or mercernaries. We don’t know who ordered the attack on the city of Fallujah, but it seems certain to have come from the White House.



2004/09/10

Addendum to comment on Bush's TANG service

Folks are arguing that the documents presented by CBS News are forgeries based on the fact that they are produced using proportional spacing. The argument is that proportional spacing wasn't invented for typewriters yet. Had they done some research on the question, they would have found that IBM invented proportional spacing for typewriters back in 1941.
As I've mentioned, military writing is chock-full of verifiable details. It's full of numbers, dates, times, places, individuals, etc. Either a forger would have to do an exceptionally careful job of seeing to it that all of his references were correct, or far more likely, the documents are the complete and authentic originals.

2004/09/09

A look at Bush's Texas Air National Guard service

In Talking Points Memo, Joshua Marshall reprints a long exchange between White Housee spokesperson Dan Bartlett and a CBS News reporter concerning recently-discovered documments that shed a great deal of light on where President Bush was during 1972 when he was supposed to be serving in the Texas Air National Guard. The memos say (All transcriptions mine from PDF files of paper documents):

Memorandum, May 4, 1972
Contains the line: "1. You are ordered to report to commander, 111 F.I.S. Ellington AFB not later than (NLT) 14 May 1972 to conduct annual physical examination (flight)IAW AFM 35-13."

Memo to File, May 19, 1972
Contain the line: "Bush wasn't here during rating period and I don't have any feedback from 187th in Alabama."
It has suggestions from Bush's commander that there are people talking above the commander's head.

Memorandum For Record, Aug. 1, 1972
Contains the lines: "1. On this date I ordered that 1st Lt. Bush be suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to USAF/TexANG standards and failure to meet annual physical examination (flight)as ordered."
"3....Officer has made no attempt to meet his training certification or flight physical."

Dan waxes indignant over the fact that these memos are released when "President Bush is up in the polls" and "55 days before the election" and that people are making "recycled charges". He also suggests that the documents constitute "rumor and innuendo". CBS News has quite a bit of back and forth as to exactly why these documents constitute rumor and innuendo. Dan dances around the question but never answers it. He makes the suggestion that:

But these documents state exactly what we said, and that is President Bush didn't take the flight exam because he was going to a unit that didn't fly his plane. And in that very document you're showing it says that he was working out with the staff to find a unit that he could train with, but it was going to be in a non-flying capacity.

Er, sorry, but it says no such thing. There's no documented attempt by 1st Lt Bush to do anything to meet his requirements.
Dan goes on again:

No, the records have been clear for years that President Bush did not take a physical because he did not need to take a physical because, obviously, the choice was that he was going to be performing in a different capacity. That might be official language, but the bottom line is President Bush did not take that physical, so that does not suggest, nor is there any evidence that President Bush did. And the reason why is as I stated, that it was clear, as it says in your own documents, that President Bush talked to the commanders about the fact that he'd be transferring to a unit that no longer, or did not fly the plane that he was trained -- he was trained and a fighter pilot on F-102, which he flew for four years. And in this case, he was going to a unit in Alabama that didn't fly that plane.

Old boy Dan is spinning like a top here. There is zero documentation present or offered or referred to that suggests anything was worked out with 1st Lt Bush's superiors. Dan is referring to conversations that we have no record of and no reason to believe ever occured.
This statement from Dan especially jumped out at me:

For anybody to try to interpret or presume they know what somebody who is now dead was thinking in any of these memos, I think is very difficult to do.

Uh, there's a reason that military people write in very spare, clipped, unambiguous prose that's very heavy in specific details. It's precisely to reduce the leeway people have for interpretation. It's to prevent junior people from saying things like: "Oh, wow, is THAT what you meant sir?" "Oh, gee, if I'd known you meant THAT, I would never have..." etc., etc. Military prose is not meant to be flowery or poetic or imprecise. It's commonly written in such a way as to be absolutely unambiguous.

Pretty sad. For a man whose orders have led to over 1000 combat deaths in Iraq alone and a little short of 6500 wounded. American forces in Iraq sustained roughly 50 attacks per day in April, a figure that rose to 87 per day in August. And we've got a Commander in Chief who couldn't be bothered to fulfill his duties 30+ years ago.

2004/09/08

Does Bush believe in democracy?

From Bush's Convention speech:

America has done this kind of work before -- and there have always been doubters. In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to allied forces, a journalist wrote in the New York Times, "Germany is ... a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. [European] capitals are frightened. In every [military] headquarters, one meets alarmed officials doing their utmost to deal with the consequences of the occupation policy that they admit has failed." End quote. Maybe that same person's still around, writing editorials. Fortunately, we had a resolute president named Truman, who with the American people persevered, knowing that a new democracy at the center of Europe would lead to stability and peace. And because that generation of Americans held firm in the cause of liberty, we live in a better and safer world today.


What is the message here? We have a pessimistic statement by that "liberal" paper, the infamously peacenik-leaning New York Times (That also published the articles of Judith Miller getting all hysterical about Iraqi WMD and thereby helping get the Iraq War started.) that did not take into account the fact that America's heroic President was on the case (Harry Truman, in this instance.). The American people get a walk-on role as those who allowed the hero President to persevere. Uncannily, the hero President of the past had the very same goal that a certain President of the present day has. The message is clear: The people who are "
still around, writing editorials" are nagging busybodies who need to get with the program. The message boils down to: "Sit down, shut up and trust the President to guide us safely to a bright future." There is no indication that the public really contributed anything besides heroically standing beside the President, no notion that there may have been some back and forth.

The first problem is when the editorial was written. "
In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to allied forces", uncannily like the present day. What was the situation at that time? The Wikipedia says:

Originally, it was hoped that little would need to be done to rebuild Europe. It was hoped that Britain and France, with the help of their colonies, would quickly rebuild their economies. By 1947 there was still little progress, however. Drought in 1947 and a cold winter in 1947-48 aggravated an already poor situation.

In his speech George C Marshall say:s:

Meanwhile, people in the cities are short of food and fuel, and in some places approaching the starvation levels. So, the governments are forced to use their foreign money and credits to procure these necessities abroad. This process exhausts funds which are urgently needed for reconstruction. Thus, a very serious situation is rapidly developing which bodes no good for the world.


So the situation wasn't that great, eh? In fact, it sounds pretty disastrous. But what about the Marshall Plan? Wasn't that the brilliant plan that pulled Europe out of it's despondency? Well, yes. But George C Marshall first gave his speech on that in June 1947, not only considerably after the editorial that our current President cited, but after considerable public criticism had persuaded the government to try a different plan.

No, the proper role of the US public is NOT to sit down and shut up and follow their "Dear Leader" (As Kim Jong Il likes to be called), but to carry through on a thing we like to call democracy.
----------------
Final note: White House aide Andrew Card:-

This president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child. I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children. But there is no doubt about the president's commitment to make sure that he protects us no matter what the polls may say, no matter what focus groups might suggest, no matter what the UN [gives] permission to do.

Folks might remember that Bush called the protests of 15 February 2003, the most geographically extensive protests ever, a focus group.


2004/09/05

And just how is Iraq doing these days?

Lots of cold. clear-eyed views of Iraq today on the site Today in Iraq. The New York Times excerpt here sums up the occupation situation quite nicely:

In Iraq, the list of places from which American soldiers have either withdrawn or decided to visit only rarely is growing: Falluja, where a Taliban-like regime has imposed a rigid theocracy; Ramadi, where the Sunni insurgents appear to have the run of the city; and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf to the south, where the Americans agreed last month to keep their distance from the sacred shrines of Ali and Hussein. The calls are rising for the Americans to pull out of even more areas, notably Sadr City, the sprawling neighborhood in eastern Baghdad that is the main base for the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr. There, leaders of his Mahdi Army are demanding that American soldiers, except those sent in to do reconstruction work, get out. Negotiations with rebel leaders foundered last week on precisely the issue of the freedom of American soldiers to enter the area; the Iraqi government, possibly with American backing, refused to accept the militia's demand. Even so, the point seemed clear enough: where Iraqis once tolerated American soldiers as a source of stability in their neighborhoods, they increasingly see them as a cause of the violence. Take out the Americans, the Iraqis say, and you take out the problem. Leave us alone, and we will sort our own problems.
(emphasis added)

2004/09/04

More on how dedicated Republicans are to the Iraq War

The headline is:
Young Republicans support Iraq war, but not all are willing to join the fight


A typical comment from a young Republicanin the article:

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles,

Lee said she supports the war but would volunteer only if the United States faced a dire troop shortage or "if there's another Sept. 11."


Well, first of all, one can be a politician after having been fighting overseas. Prime example, of course, is John Kerry. Surviving is all very fine and well, but what kind of example does that set if one asks young people to go off to war when one did not do so when one had the chance? If military service improves one (And as a veteran of the peacetime Navy, I can assure our young Republican friend it does.) what does it say to the people you'll, later in life, be directing to go off to war?
As to troop shortages, our president puts out the message that the number of troops is fine. For those who have paid attention to the news, it's been obvious since American troops were unable to properly secure Baghdad and mass looting broke out, that our forces there have been severely understrength. If US forces there were sufficient, what explains the dogged efforts to get allies to chip in with their own soldiers?

It was a very small article over a year ago, but I also remember seeing a statement on the President's difficulties in persuading people to go over to Iraq to be bureaucrats, administrators, whatever one wishes to call them.
Desk positions are also a vital part of the effort. People to do administrative-type tasks, writing up regulations, making ground-level decisions, signing up people for basic municipal tasks such as garbage collection, street repairs, directing traffic, etc., are vital to the effort over there. Right now, the military is said to be performing many running-the-country tasks that the Coalition Provisional Authority should have been handling. People are needed to serve as mayors and the like. Where are all the Republican volunteers for that kind of job? If the US is to maintain Iraq as more-or-less a colony, where's the colonial administrative service?

Yeah, it would be great if Republican youth were motivated to sign up and fight for their country, but we can't even seem to get young Republicans to get over there to be deskwork people. Of course it would be dangerous to do so, but that tells us how important the struggle is. If it's really important and there's a lot riding on it, then young Republicans should be rushing to the enlistment office to help out. In an earlier post, I suggested the President's daughters should be in Officer Candidate School (They could sign up to be carrier pilots, that would allow them to fly missions over Iraq while spending each night in comfort aboard a ship.) but I have no desire to see them forced to do that. My feeling instead is: if this struggle is so very important that other young people should be sent off to the meat grinder that is Iraq today, why are the President's daughters and other young Republicans not cheerfully signing up thenselves?

2004/09/03

Analysis of President's Convention Speech

President Bush reported progress against terrorism and other bad things on Thursday night:


Four years ago, Afghanistan was the home base of Al Qaeda. Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fund-raising. Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iraq was a gathering threat, and Al Qaeda was largely unchallenged as it planned attacks.

Today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror; Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders; Saudi Arabia is making raids and arrests; Libya is dismantling its weapons programs; the army of a free Iraq is fighting for freedom; and more than three-quarters of Al Qaeda's key members and associates have been detained or killed. We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer.



Balanced against all this, I wouldn't go so far as to say that America is hated around the world, but that America has certainly lost it's moral stature. When the US speaks of human rights in other countries, it speaks as the country of Abu Ghraib. When the US speaks of democratizing other countries, it speaks as a country whose president completely ignored the popular opinion expressed on February 15th of last year and who never acknowledged that the people on that day were right. When the US speaks as the arbiter of other people's elections, it speaks as the land of the butterfly ballots and of disenfranchised voters and voting machines designed by a Republican supporter and that still can't guarantee fair results or a proper verification.



In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat. Members of both political parties, including my opponent and his running mate, saw the threat, and voted to authorize the use of force.


Not quite. Kerry and Edwards voted to give the president the authority to attack IF he showed that Hussein had not complied with the UN resolution.


We went to the United Nations Security Council, which passed a unanimous resolution demanding the dictator disarm, or face serious consequences. Leaders in the Middle East urged him to comply. After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein another chance, a final chance, to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world.


All the evidence we have found to date has shown that Hussein disarmed back in 1991, at the latest 1995. Conservatives have wondered aloud why Hussein did not make it clear that he had eliminated all of his Weapons of Mass Destruction. Considering that Iraq still maintained an army of 200,000 troops and how many wars there had been in the region in the last decade, I don't think publicly disarming would have been a very prudent thing to do.


He again refused, and I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office, a decision no president would ask for, but must be prepared to make.


What exactly did Hussein refuse to do? UN inspectors were let into Iraq and given free reign to poke and prod and examine and verify all they wanted.


Do I forget the lessons of Sept. 11 and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.


Again, as I have heard many times before, we have here the unsubstantiated allegation that Hussein was a madman. I have heard this more times than I can count. Whenever I argue this point in detail with conservatives, I get a lot of vague generalities. Whenever we get down to nitty-gritty details, they admit they have no evidence to back that up. Notice I'm no saying Hussein was a fine and moral fellow, I'm just saying I see no evidence that he was suicidal enough to do something stupid like attack the US. The President says he had to “defend our country”? From what? Hussein had no WMD and was not a madman. He had no serious ties or connections to the terrorrists of al Qaeda. What exactly was Bush defending us from?



As importantly, we are serving a vital and historic cause that will make our country safer. Free societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies, which no longer feed resentments and breed violence for export. Free governments in the Middle East will fight terrorists instead of harboring them, and that helps us keep the peace.

So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear: We will help new leaders to train their armies and move toward elections and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.

-snip-

As the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq seize the moment, their example will send a message of hope throughout a vital region. Palestinians will hear the message that democracy and reform are within their reach, and so is peace with our good friend Israel. Young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming. Young men will hear the message that national progress and dignity are found in liberty, not tyranny and terror. Reformers and political prisoners and exiles will hear the message that their dream of freedom cannot be denied forever. And as freedom advances, heart by heart and nation by nation, America will be more secure and the world more peaceful.

(emphasis added)



Notice everythinghere is in the future tense. As a NY Times columnist pointed out, the US has in effect declared victory in Iraq three times. All three times, these declarations have proven very premature and we still haven't the vaguest notion of when, if ever, American arms will prevail.





Our troops know the historic importance of our work. One Army specialist wrote home: "We are transforming a once sick society into a hopeful place. The various terrorist enemies we are facing in Iraq," he continued, "are really aiming at you back in the United States. This is a test of will for our country. We soldiers of yours are doing great and scoring victories in confronting the evil terrorists." That young man is right; our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America.



This would be inspiring if it were truly a letter from a soldier in Iraq. Unfortunately:

I'm at JFK waiting for my flight out, and there's lots of good stuff in my email. Such as this, from Oliver Willis over at Media Matters:

The soldier's letter that Bush referenced in his acceptance speech was from Joe Roche, adjunct fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

"The National Center is THE CENTER for conservative communications." - Tom Delay

Nice. And Bush made it sound as though it was a genuine letter from an average soldier. It was a PR missive.


So finally:

Since 2001, Americans have been given hills to climb, and found the strength to climb them. Now, because we have made the hard journey, we can see the valley below. Now, because we have faced challenges with resolve, we have historic goals within our reach, and greatness in our future. We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America - and nothing will hold us back.

Uh, no, I'm afraid not. The journey is nowhere near complete. There were more terrorist incidents worldwide in 2003 than in 2002. More US soldiers died in Iraq in 2004 than in 2003. We are nowhere in sight of the mountaintop, let alone of the "valley below".

2004/09/02

The "Flypaper" theory revisited

President Bush tells us:

I tell people all the time, "We will stay on the on the offense. We will bring
them to justice in foreign lands so we don't have to face them here at home,"
and that's because you cannot negotiate with these people.


I've already dealt with the idea that “You just can't negotiate with certain people” by pointing out that the certain people that one “can't negotiate with” are a small part of the whole problem and that it's a terrible error to ignore the rest of the picture.
The suggestion that we must deal with the bad guys over there or deal with them here is known as the “Flypaper” theory. It's actually a pretty old idea.

From a 5 Jul 03 Canadian article:

What the media, and U.S. Democrats affect not to grasp, is that the soldiers are
now replacing targets that otherwise would be provided by defenceless civilians,
both in Iraq and at large. The sore thumb of the U.S. occupation -- and it is a
sore thumb equally to Baathists and Islamists, compelling their response -- is
not a mistake. It is carefully hung flypaper.

This idea was extended in 6 Sep 03 article:

If the terrorists leave us alone in Iraq, fine, he said. But if they come and
get us, even better. Far more advantageous to fight terror using trained
soldiers in Iraq than trying to defend civilians in New York or London. "Think
of it as a flytrap," he ventured. Iraq would not simply be a test-case for
Muslim democracy; it would be the first stage in a real and aggressive war
against the terrorists and their sponsors in Riyadh and Damascus and Tehran.
Operation Flytrap had been born.

Crooked Timber contested what it called the “lump of terrorism” fallacy:

Similarly, the ‘flypaper’ theory implicitly assumes that there’s a fixed amount
of al Qaeda terrorism sloshing around in the international system, so that it’s
a good1 idea to divert it from the US to Iraq - more terrorists attacking
troops in Iraq would mean less terrorists attacking the homeland. But there
isn’t a fixed amount - instead, US actions in Iraq are almost certain to affect
the ‘supply’ of al Qaeda terrorists. Indeed, the WP article suggests that the US
occupation is leading to a substantial increase in the willingness of potential
fighters to take up arms, so that the invasion isn’t just drawing existing al
Qaeda combatants to Iraq; it’s creating new recruits
.

Which was confirmed by a later article on Iraq's borders:

Ten days ago, Col. David A. Teeples, who is part of General Swannack's command,
said only a small number of the foreigners were among the 500 to 600 people his
forces had captured in attacks on coalition forces.

After the Battle of Falluja, an Iraqi general made himself disliked by the Americans because:

American commanders say 200 foreign fighters are holed up in Falluja and have
demanded that the city hands them over. But Gen Saleh, an ex-Republican Guard
officer who has been promoted to run a 1,000-strong local security force, has
refused. "There are no foreign fighters in Falluja and the local tribal leaders
have told me the same," he said.

And no, there is no evidence that other sites in the world are now off-limits or any safer than they were before the Iraq War. Saudi Arabia was bombed on 9 Nov 03. Spain’s railroads were attacked on 11 Mar 04. Other attacks have taken place as well.

So the theory that, by sending soldiers to Iraq, America has made the rest of the world or even just the US safer, is apparently just so much wishful thinking.