The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Comments on latest Iraq War views from the top

As to the US political/military strategy in Iraq, leftists, liberals and progressives have long since concluded that the Iraqi resistance fights American troops using Fourth Generation or Asymmetric warfare. This should not have been a surprise as 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 similarly long struggle, an extended insurgency was quite predictable and indeed, predicted by the Future of Iraq Project. A Report (PDF) from the Pentagon's Defense Science Board agrees that the insurgency is home-grown and that it proceeds from very real grievances and disagreements with US policy.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration appears to believe that the Iraqi resistance is a foreign entity or a group with a classic triangular chain of command that's tightly organized along traditional lines. This theory has come under considerable skepticism a great many times over the past two years, but somehow continues to fascinate our Secretary of Defense and presumably, most of our military chain of command.

Note: I've posted these two paragraphs on my photo-essay on the March 19th demonstration in New York. Check out especially the third picture here for a look at just why liberals are so skeptical about the even-handedness of the press.


Terri Schiavo case "America is watching"

Peggy Noonan is correct. Writing in Opinion Journal, she declares "America is watching" the Terri Schiavo case. But Peggy is wrong in thinking that Republican politicians are doing the right thing. We're instead watching Republican politicians make complete fools of themselves. Terri Schivao used to have a complete, healthy, functioning brain in her cranial cavity. Today, it's very largely spinal fluid that's up there. Mrs. Schiavo is not quite a vegetable, she is instead in a vegetative state. She's never going to get better. She will never advance beyond a living, but helpless and unaware state.
Once again, as it has so many times over the past five years, the media has disgraced itself by failing to point out the well-known facts of the case as seen by the reputable doctors and scientists who have examined her. No, I don't count Doctor/Senator Frist as being among that company.
Mrs. Schiavo's husband is the single person closest to Terri and has every right to speak on her behalf and make her life and death decision for her. Her parents have no such right as long as he is alive and capable.
UPDATE (05Mar23): Polls are running very, very strongly against the Republican Party on this issue. The utter hypocrisy of defending the precious sanctity of marraige against those "awful" gays who wanted to "degrade" marriage by getting married to each other is now considered irrelevant to defending the right of a parent to overrule a spouse in making life-or-death decisions.


Messing up a six-word phrase

Michelle Malkin quotes anti-war protesters as saying: "Oppose the war, support the troops". As a person who has taken part in over a dozen anti-war marches, I can testify that the correct phrase is “Support the troops, bring them home”!

Obviously, if a person can't even get a six-word phrase right, nothing else she says can be trusted.


ANOTHER "middle finger" appointment

DailyKos tells us that Paul Wolfowitz, the Assistant Secretary of Defense and second member of perhaps the three most incompetent men ever to serve in the Pentagon (Donald Rumsfeld is number one, Douglas Feith is number three.) . Again, as with the appointment of Alberto Gonzales to the post of Attorney General, this appointment is a big middle finger, not to the domestic opposition this time, but to the whole world.


Democrats scolded on Iraq

First of all, the writer Sebastian Mallaby comments on the Democrat's refusal to offer a detailed Social Security plan of their own. Atrios has a whole list of links to people who have commented on this. Basically, it's a stupid idea because after nearly five years of pushing for the privatization of Social Security, the Bush Administration is not offering a detailed plan either. For the Democrats to offer a plan in the absence of any plan by Bush simply makes their plan the target for attack ads. It's Bush's pet project, let him offer the plan. Mallaby says:

Last year Democrats impaled themselves on the Iraq war. They were so anxious to denounce the invasion that they failed to acknowledge the most basic point of all: that, having waded into Iraq, the United States could not leave prematurely. By attacking the Bush policy relentlessly, Democrats sounded negative. By refusing to say clearly that they would finish the Iraq job, they sounded irresponsible.

Now, when a person sets a price for a house or a car, a process known as negotiating takes place. The Bush Administration has shown absolutely zero interest in negotiating anything whatsoever about the Iraq War. One does not negotiate with bad, evil people (Well, in theory one does not negotiate with, for instance, Iranian hostage-takers, but somehow the Reagan Administration did so.) And the Bush Administration has demonstrated time and again that it considers opponents of the Iraq War to be bad, evil people.

Must the US "stay the course"? Is maintaining a US presence in Iraq at all costs something that the US must do? Here's a letter from a 60-year-old Iraqi citizen who was educated in the US:

We Iraqis are afraid to go out for fear of being kidnapped by criminal gangs roaming the country with an ineffective police force. We are also afraid of going out for fear that we might be killed by a bomb directed at your troops, or killed, or shot at by trigger-happy and nervous American troops.

The innocent Iraqi population is not using armored personal carriers, nor do they use armored cars to help them protect themselves. More innocent Iraqi civilians are killed by your troops shooting at them than those killed by the criminal gangs. You probably know, Mr. President, that your trigger-happy and nervous troops enjoy freedom from prosecution for these unlawful killings. From what I have witnessed those killers do not even stop to say "sorry" for their actions.

Allow me respectfully to remind you, Mr. President, that now more than 60% of the Iraqi work force in your "liberated" Iraq is unemployed as compared to 30% before your liberation. It looks like your action has doubled the number of Iraqis "liberated" from earning a decent pay or a decent work.

The U.S. Congress issued a report on Iraq at the end of June 2004. In that report they say that, in May 2003 (just after the invasion), 7 out of the 18 governorates had more than 16 hours of electricity per day. It also says that this number was reduced to one governorate in May 2004, one year after the invasion. Now, we are very lucky if we get 6 hours of electricity per day in Baghdad, a city of 5 million people.

Health services have continued to deteriorate during the past 22 months of occupation. Hospitals still lack even the simplest things. Drugs are not available. Fewer patients seek medical treatments or examination because of the security situation and the closed streets. Doctors are not safe at hospitals. They have been physically attacked by relatives of patients blaming, or venting their frustration on the poor helpless doctors.

Due to lack of security and poor police force, criminal gangs have kidnapped for ransom a few hundred doctors. Some were threatened. As a result, hundreds of highly qualified doctors have fled the country and it has resulted in a further deterioration of health services. These highly qualified doctors did not run away from the tyranny of the dictator, Mr. President, but because of the chaos and lawlessness in your "liberated Iraq."

Records show, Mr. President, that the Iraqi government smuggled up to a hundred thousand barrels a day of refined diesel fuel through Turkey, with your government's knowledge. These figures indicate that the Iraqi refineries had an excess refining capacity allowing the country to export refined oil products.

During the "liberation" of Iraq, refineries were not targeted as they had been In 1991, so one assumes that the damage was minimal. I wonder why refineries are not fixed yet after 22 months of "liberation." I still cannot understand why Iraq continues to import refined oil products from Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia -- and to my amazement from Israel. We Iraqis need to know why our money is being spent, unwisely, to import gasoline now, when we were an exporting nation. I might understand that Halliburton and KBR needed to import gasoline for a few months, but not after 22 months of "liberation."

In 1991, our refineries were severely damaged by the bombing. We the Iraqi people were able, despite the sanctions and without help from the Halliburtons, to fix the refineries in only a few months. We kept them working and going for 13 years and we were exporting products. Similarly the Iraqi people were able to restore the electricity in a few months. The Iraqi people reconstructed every building damaged by the war of 1991 in less than a year. Seeing the lack of any reconstruction efforts after 22 months of "liberation" makes me sad.

Mr. President, in 1991 America promised that Iraq will be returned to the "pre-industrial" age and they nearly did that by bombing and destroying everything. The Iraqi people surprised the world by reconstructing what was bombed. On top of that, new projects were implemented despite the sanctions. As an Iraqi this makes me extremely proud of our achievement in 1991. We the Iraqis set the standards of reconstruction. After 22 months of "liberation" and the lack of honest and visible reconstruction work I feel that America miserably failed to meet that standard.

For 13 years, Iraqis were living on food rations given by the government. We were told that our government was robbing us and providing us with only 2200 Kcal per day. The "liberated" government of Iraq after the liberation is still providing us with about 2200 Kcal per day of food rations.

The government of Iraq used to spend about $150 million a month to import and distribute the food rations. According to your CPA Inspector General, $8.8 billion dollars were unaccounted for in one year. Mr. President, these $8.8 billion are enough to feed all the people of Iraq for nearly 60 months. This fiscal irresponsibility and the lack of transparency in spending our money make me wonder about the aim of the "liberation" of Iraq. I'm sorry to say that the Iraqi people are being robbed blind. We are also being "liberated" from our wealth.

So what I'm not at all clear on is: exactly what constructive good are Americans doing in Iraq? What exactly are Americns accomplishing? We "must" stay in? Why?


Why Joe Lieberman is a traitor

Amazingly, this is a fact that requires explanation. There are still people out there who just don't get it. The Republicans put up S. 256, the Bankruptcy Reform Bill to make bankruptcy harder while of course making life easier for credit card companies. Thus, the citizen gets hit with reduced financial options, while the people profiting off of financial hardship get to make more money than ever. As the LA Times says:

The bankruptcy bill that passed a key vote in the Senate on Tuesday is driven by the premise that the nation is under siege by an army of deadbeats running up credit card bills, declaring personal bankruptcy and sticking honest Americans with the tab. That's the credit card and banking industries' story, and they're sticking to it. We can all guess who will profit from the bill.

Senator Joe Lieberman is identified as one of the Senators who made the bankruptcy bill possible. Apparently, he had second thoughts:

Lieberman Statement on Vote Against Bankruptcy Reform Bill

WASHINGTON - Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) today made the following statement on the passage of S. 256 the Bankruptcy Reform Bill by a vote of 74 to 25.

“I have always supported bankruptcy reform legislation in the Senate when it has reflected a bipartisan effort to enact a balanced bill for both debtors and creditors and I have opposed it when confronted with a bill that seemed one-sided. This is not a balanced bill. I voted against this bill because it failed to close troubling loopholes that protect wealthy debtors, and yet it deals harshly with average Americans facing unforeseen medical expenses or a sudden military deployment. The Senate simply rejected out of hand many worthwhile amendments that would have protected these and other working Americans who find themselves in dire financial straits through no fault of their own. As a result, I believe this is a seriously flawed bill and I am disappointed at its passage.”

The Bull Moose responds with a piece describing Lieberman's on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand, voting-versus-editorializing stance as:

This should be a lesson for all those lefties who have been in a full-throated fury against Joe. He is a Democrat in the proud tradition of Truman, JFK and Scoop. Unfortunately, some in the party are in a purge mode to ensure that the donkey will be in the wilderness as long as old Moses and the chosen ones.

As for the Moose, he prefers tough, independent and smart donkeys. Undoubtedly, apologies will be on the way to Joe from those misguided lefties.

Major problem here. There was an appropriate time and place to force the Republicans to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative to the bankruptcy bill. Senators (and Representatives) have frequently sent bills back to be re-thought, re-negotiated and re-justified. That time was during the time when the bankruptcy bill was being voted on. Now that the bill is law, it's a completely useless waste of time and space to say “Gee, I wasn't completely happy with that bill.”

Example of what I mean involve what some consider netiquette (Internet etiquette). When one posts a full article without qualifying it in any way, that's considered an endorsement in full. An acquaintance of mine sent out an email in 1998 calling Bill Clinton's behavior with Monica Lewinsky “disgusting” and that railed on about how awful Clinton was and how he should be impeached. My acquaintance was very distressed because liberals she had sent the email to “...acted as though I had written it! I was just passing it on!”. As we in the Navy say about various crimes and misdemeanors, she “knowingly and deliberately” passed it on. She passed the message on in the full knowledge of what it said and should have been aware of how people would take it. Another example is that I recently had a buddy pass on an email about how Giuliana Sgrena got shot at near an American roadblock in Baghdad. I hit the “reply all” button and said that I thought the headline blaming the Americans for deliberately opening fire went beyond the evidence provided in the piece (I've since concluded there is strong evidence to believe the accusation is true, but that doesn't excuse the headline as they still went beyond the evidence that was available at the time.) My buddy told me later that he had doubts about the article. Well, again, according to netiquette, the time and place to have said so was in the message that contained the original article. My buddy passed on the article wholesale and without comment, meaning he endorsed it in full.

By the same token, there was a time and a place for Lieberman to have objected to the bankruptcy bill. That was when the bill was being voted on in the Senate. For Lieberman to come out later saying he wasn't entirely happy with the bill was a classic case of “too little, too late”. Lieberman is a traitor to the Democratic Party and should be campaigned against in 2006.


Absolutely amazing incompetence

Amazing! Just absolutely amazing. Again, as we've often had, we have the question of “What does it mean to 'Support the Troops' “? Obviously to me and other progressions and I would hope to all true red-blooded Americans, it would mean to push for competent leadership and plenty of advice and criticism for leaders who are incompetent. Here's an article that calls that into question.

The war in Iraq was hardly a month old in April 2003 when an Army general in charge of equipping soldiers with protective gear threw the brakes on buying bulletproof vests.

The general, Richard A. Cody, who led a Pentagon group called the Army Strategic Planning Board, had been told by supply chiefs that the combat troops already had all the armor they needed, according to Army officials and records from the board's meetings. Some 50,000 other American soldiers, who were not on the front lines of battle, could do without.

In the following weeks, as Iraqi snipers and suicide bombers stepped up deadly attacks, often directed at those very soldiers behind the front lines, General Cody realized the Army's mistake and did an about-face. On May 15, 2003, he ordered the budget office to buy all the bulletproof vests it could, according to an Army report. He would give one to every soldier, "regardless of duty position."

The article then categorizes misstep after inexplicable delay after sheer idiocy.

In the case of body armor, the Pentagon gave a contract for thousands of the ceramic plate inserts that make the vests bulletproof to a former Army researcher who had never mass-produced anything. He struggled for a year, then gave up entirely. At the same time, in shipping plates from other companies, the Army's equipment manager effectively reduced the armor's priority to the status of socks, a confidential report by the Army's inspector general shows. Some 10,000 plates were lost along the way, and the rest arrived late.

This just an absolutely staggering story. An unqualified person was just handed a contract that was critical to the lives and safety of our troops. The fellow not only had no experience, “He struggled for a year, then gave up entirely. “ The contract was limited to just this one fellow? Nobody in the Pentagon ever got back to this fellow to see to it that he could do the job? Nobody monitored his progress? Nobody gave a rat's patootie to see how the contract was going? DailyKos is right. “For this alone, Rumsfeld should resign. It is inexcusable. “


David Horowitz explained

Horowitz is a bit of a puzzle. He used to be a left-winger and is now a right-winger. What makes his case unusual is his apparent sincerity.

Back when I was in the Navy, I noted that people have the tendency to be very consistent. If a sailor took a careless, lackadaisical attitude towards swabbing the deck (mopping the floor) or filing records or keeping a sharp eye on watch, it was very likely that the sailor also wouldn't be very good at more urgent tasks like keeping a sailors pay accounts updated, making sure that the machinery that kept helicopters aloft were in good working order or seeing to it that items being craned up from the pier made it safely into our cargo holds. If a person could not be trusted to do one type of task, it was usually futile to hope they'd be good at another.

Conversely, if the sailor took a conscientious attitude towards non-vital tasks, treating them as though they were important, it was extremely likely they'd be trustworthy at tasks that truly were important. This fundamental attitude towards one's work was not something that fluctuated over time. Someone who took a good attitude last year usually had a good attitude this year and can reasonably be expected to maintain their good attitude next year. Of course their attitude can change, but if a change takes place, it's usually obvious why. A crisis has taken place in the sailor's life or a person in their life has had an effect on them.

Susan Faludi, author of Backlash and prominent feminist, wrote a piece on “faux feminists” who:

...define themselves as "dissenters" within the feminist ranks, but they never joined feminism in the first place; they have met each other mingling at conservative academic gatherings (like the "anti-P.C." National Association of Scholars) and conservative Washington networking circuits, not the feminist trenches of pro-choice demonstrations and clerical unionizing meetings.

Their slogan is "I am a feminist, but ... "--as in "I am a feminist, but ... I don't believe women face discrimination anymore; I don't see any reason for women to organize politically; I don't think the pay gap, sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence, or just about any other issue feminism has raised are real problems; I don't see why we even need to bother with gender analysis anymore; and, on the whole, I find feminists to be little more than victim-mongering conspiracy nuts." These are "feminists" who weigh in to the debate only to speak out against feminism's "excesses."

Faludi makes the case that women who play the game of pretending to have once been feminists do so for manipulative reasons, that there truly aren't many people who have undergone that sort of sea change in their ideology. The importance of this observation is to demonstrate that a person's political leanings are an essential part of their personality. Do people ever make an about-face in their elder years? Yes, but it doesn't happen often.

There are two public figures who have shifted from the left wing to the right wing, The comedian and former Saturday Night Live cast member Dennis Miller and the former writer for The Nation Christopher Hitchens.

In both cases, their motivations are pretty transparent. Miller moved on from SNL to be a movie actor whose characters usually got killed off and a comedian who couldn't get a good gig. People from the right wing made an offer and he very pragmatically took them up on it. Hitchens appears to have adopted a real fondness for alcohol and it seems to have affected his judgment along with his general physical health.

As neither explanation appears to apply to Horowitz, the former 60s activist who once edited the magazine Ramparts, I was most intrigued by the explanation offered in a blog commentary section by Michael Berube. I've reproduced our discussion on because he had technical problems with his blog that erased the reference I was going to use.

  • Pooey! I was in the middle of a blog post where I pass on the revelation that Horowitz is still conflicted because he continued to support the Weathermen long after more respectable leftists gave up on them. If anyone has the source for that quote, I’d like to get that. Relatedly, Horowitz’ indiscriminately sweeping up everything (Katie Couric as a leftist!?!?!) fits in with the idea of his feeling guilty over supporting a group of thugs as the Weathermen had become.

Personally, I went over to discoverthenetwork and found an entry where he lumps in the entire Iraqi resistance with Saddamist thugs. I wrote him an email questioning his sanity. He hasn’t responded. Dunno why not.

Posted by Rich on 03/04 at 09:15 PM

  • Actually, I don’t believe Horowitz ever lined up with the Weathermen. His late-in-the-day infatuation with the Panthers was, in fact, all the stranger precisely because he’d been reasonably skeptical (up to that point) of the cults of violence and of personality that defined and destroyed the furthest fringes of the New Left.

Posted by Michael on 03/04 at 11:14 PM

  • So you don’t think that David has difficulty drawing distinctions between different kinds of political actors in general? It appeared to me that lumping in all sorts of leftists with Islamic “bad guys” was of a piece with failing to distinguish between “New Left” people back in the old days.

Posted by Rich on 03/05 at 10:13 AM

  • Yeah, actually I do think he has trouble making those distinctions. He just never signed up with the Weather Underground, that’s all. I believe he was in England when the Weathermen split off from the SDS (which amounted to, what, 200 people out of a membership of 100,000), and according to someone who was around at the time, he never really understood the phenomenon by which the other 99,800 stayed on the left while not sliding off into sheer barking New Far Left lunacy.

Anyway, my initial point about Horowitz and leftist distinctions was simply that he demands we make them in his case (he was never a Stalinist, never a member of the Weathermen or the SLA, etc.) while stitching together Ramsey Clark and Katie Couric.

Posted by Michael on 03/05 at 10:56 AM

And as an added bonus, someone else added:

  • Rich:

Not quite. The right actually believes that 60’s leftist groups and radical Islamist movements are literally one and the same. From Thomas Y M Barnett’s best-selling “The Pentagon's New Map:”

What really happened in the 1990s is that many of these [sixties extreme left ] terrorist groups, cut off from Soviet material and ideological support, fundamentally reinvented themselves as religiously motivated terror movements.

Apparently, Horowitz doesn’t go this far, but he’s trying to make this association in people’s minds without being held responsible for saying it. (Needless to say, Barnett’s assertion is insane. I checked with a genuine expert on the extreme left in the 60’s and he agreed. )

By the way, the context has not been distorted for the Barnett quote. A longer excerpt can be found here. Hard to believe this book is being taken seriously, but it is.

Posted by tristero on 03/05 at 10:55 AM

So unlike the Faux Feminists examined by Susan Faludi and the pragmatic side-switchers exemplified by Dennis Miller and the physically and morally declining Christopher Hitchens, Horowitz was awfully confused to begin with. He ceased to draw careful distinctions between different kinds of lefties back in the old days and judging by the statement I've copied below, doesn't really draw distinctions between foreign opponents either:

What has now changed is not the intention of the leaders of the anti-American peace movement. What has changed is that the enemy is so nakedly the aggressor against us (and not some hapless Third World people like the South Vietnamese). What has changed is not that the enemy is more evil, but that he is more transparently evil. But that is all. The totalitarian agendas of Saddam Hussein and Yassir Arafat are no different from those of Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung --- or Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega for that matter.

I couldn't resist copying items from the following as well, just to demonstrate how far Horowitz has declined in understanding:

During our lifetimes the so-called "progressive" Left opposed:

    4.The Vietnam War (to save South Vietnam and Cambodia from Communist conquest) (1964)
    7. The War to liberate Central America from Communist dictators and guerillas (1983)
    11. The Bush Administration's plan to finish the War to liberate Iraq (2002)

Horowitz lists several not-so-bad wars along with justified wars, but these particular items really jumped out at me