2006/07/28

Simplicity

Y'know, it's really kind of frightening to read someone whose view of the world is so dogmatically simplistic, so utterly black & white, so completely devoid of any shades of grey. Back during college, I was rummaging through the library to find material on the French Revolution. I found a book by an elderly aristocratic lady who blamed the revolution on various bad people. It was the fault of this scheming person and that bad person and that awful person. She had no thouught that perhaps the French peasants had real and serious grievances against the French government, no thought that perhaps the French people had reason to be dissatisfied with the way they were governed.

Bush demonstrates no thought that perhaps the Arab people of the Mideast might have grievances against the Israeli occupation of land that belonged to the Arabs a few decades ago. He has no thought that perhaps the American occupation of Iraq, the complete failure of the US to raise living standards even up to where they were in February 2003, the chaos that never fully stopped since the "Mission Accomplished" speech of May 2003 and has gotten considerably worse since then, the US Army that is apparently roaming about, abusing Iraqis at will everywhere they go, it never occurs to our President that perhaps Iraqis have some very real and serious grievances against the US.

As to the very real complications that Bush seems determined to ignnore:

Juan Cole points out that there are four distinct wars going on in just Iraq simultaneously:

1) The Sunni Arab guerrilla war to expel US troops from the Sunni heartland

2) The militant Shiite guerrilla war to expel the British from the south

3) The Sunni-Shiite civil war

4) The Kurdish war against Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk province, and the Arab and Turkmen guerrilla struggle against the encroaching Peshmerga (the Kurdish militia).

It's very difficult to square this description with Bush's assertion that: "Isn't it interesting, as a democracy takes hold in Iraq, that Al Qaida steps up its efforts to murder and bomb in order to stop the democracy?"

Well, it would be interesting, if al Qaeda had any serious presence in Iraq. I would point out that the death of that e-e-e-villl mastermind Zarqawi doesn't seem to have caused even so much as a blip in the violence in Iraq.

Also, an excellent overview of how the White House's simplistic view of their opponents has served to undermine it's credibility.

2006/07/27

Pardon me, but I'm a bit confused here...

First, we have this poll that not only says things are going badly, but that only 27% of the population thinks we're even headed in the right direction. Whyever could that be? Well gee, part of the reason might be that the highly respected American Bar Association concludes that "President Bush's use of so-called 'signing statements,' which, the report concluded, 'weaken[s] our cherished system of checks and balances and separation of powers.' " Or maybe it's that even a prominent neoconservative now concludes that the Iraq War, Bush's signature foreign policy initiative, one that defines his presidency more than any other, is hopelessly lost.

So what is the response of Hillary Clinton, the current frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination? What exactly is she planning to do about these horrible policies that so obviously, desperately need to be changed?

Both Clintons think that it is more important to focus on beating Republicans than it is to have intraparty litmus tests over Iraq, choice, and Supreme Court judges.

This might, concievably, possibly be a defensible choice. Of course, we'd have to have something dramatic to attract the attention of the voters, something that would make them sit up and take notice that there's a new game in town and that the Republicans are gonna lose.
So what've we got?

On government spending, do the Clintons and the DLC challenge the waste and growth in the Pentagon budget? Nope. Instead, they offer this:

-Create an independent, non-partisan commission to scrutinize and propose the elimination of wasteful, outdated business subsidies.
-We should increase transparency over government by making information on contracts and grants available to the public so they have a better sense of whether their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Good grief!!! More studies?!?!? Still more studies?!?! We have no idea as to what to cut right now?!?! I mean, I have zero objection to doing these things, but these are preliminaries, these are precursors to taking any real action. Remember too, that the much-ballyhooed National Task Force on Health Care Reform (PDF) in the beginning of Bill Clinton's first term was also preceded by a great deal of study and finally landed into the public sphere with a dull thud, never to move anywhere. 'Fraid I have zero confidence that these fine words are going to lead anywhere.

On retirement security, do the Clintons and the DLC start from a point of insisting that Social Security be protected from privatization and strengthened in its current form? Incredibly, nope. Instead, we hear about new mandates upon employers for required IRAs

Now consider that President Bush spent pretty much all of 2005 trying to dismantle Social Security, consider that he got nowhere, consider that Senator Joe Lieberman's failure to strongly support Social Security is one of the many charges against him that challenger Ned Lamont is beating him fiercely about the head and shoulders with and I'm just absolutely flabbergasted as to why Clinton is taking such an incredibly weak position here.

LeftCoaster continues:


This is a preview of the Clinton/DLC domestic policy agenda for 2008: relatively small, bite-sized initiatives that will not displease Corporate America too much.

There is nothing here about public financing of congressional campaigns.

There is nothing here about election reform.

There is nothing here about actually closing personal or corporate tax shelters or abuses, or real tax reform.

There is nothing here at all on preserving the environment.

There is nothing here on expanding health coverage to uninsured adults.

Immigration reform is never mentioned. Neither is infrastructure investment on a day when the nation's power grid is collapsing.


Hillary Clinton has nothing to offer Democrats. She has nothing to offer liberals who are considering becoming Democrats. Personally, I'm not sending her campaign a penny. Why bother? What's the point? What is it that she plans to change? Are we just going to get more of the same-ol', same-ol'?

2006/07/19

Wishful thinking

ThinkProgress looks at Bill Kristol's predictions before the Iraq War:

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam’s regime. … History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.

Well, he was right about one thing, History did inded render a verdict. The editor of the Weekly Standard was wrong about the WMD, was wrong to assume anything about the aspirations of the Iraqi people, and the "truth" about Saddam Hussein's regime was pretty much what everybody thought it was before the war started, i.e., that he was an evil dictator who nevertheless posed no real danger to anybody outside the borders of Iraq.

KRISTOL:...the Iranian people dislike their regime. I think they would be – the right use of targeted military force — but especially if political pressure before we use military force – could cause them to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power. There are even moderates – they are not wonderful people — but people in the government itself who are probably nervous about Ahmadinejad’s recklessness.

This is why standing up to Iran right now is so important. They’re overreached. They and Hezbollah have recklessly overreached. They got cocky. This is the moment to set them back. I think a setback to Hezbollah could trigger changes in Iran. People can say, wait a second, what is Ahmadinejad doing to us. We’re alone. The Arab world is even against us. The Muslim world is against us. Let’s reconsider this reckless path that we’re on.

Sigh! So how many times must we hear this endless talk about how "The people will rise up" and "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators."

Bruce Sharp of Mekong.net brings up an extremely good point (In late March 2003):

It seems obvious that the Bush administration underestimated the willingness of the Iraqis to fight for Hussein. After all, why would they fight for a despicable tyrant? Maybe the only reason they need is that he is their tyrant. They fought for him against the Iranians. One would expect that, given the terrible state of the country, the Iraqis would hate Hussein deeply. But how much of Iraq's misery do they blame on Hussein? During the Iran-Iraq war, he could blame the country's woes on the Iranians. After the fiasco of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, he got a new scapegoat: the U.S.

One would think that this would have been considered by the Bush administration. Maybe the Iraqis hate Hussein, but they hate the U.S., too. A few commentators have written about the fear of the U.S. of being drawn into urban warfare, and they've invoked Stalingrad as an example of the horrors of such close combat. Stalingrad provides an excellent historical example here, and not just because it demonstrates the horrible toll of house-to-house fighting. In defending Stalingrad, the Russians were defending the regime of Josef Stalin. They fought against overwhelming odds, successfully... and they did it to preserve a totalitarian dictatorship that was every bit as brutal as the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Before dragging the U.S. into a supposed war for democracy in Iraq, wouldn't it have been wise to show that we're actually capable of implementing democracy in a country that lacks a democratic tradition? In Afghanistan, for example? Does anyone in the Bush administration remember Afghanistan? The Taliban are gone, and that is truly cause for celebration... but the country isn't really a functioning democracy yet, is it? Bush might claim that he has sown the seeds for democracy. I don't think I'd put it quite that way. It's a little more like spitting the seeds of an apple that you've just eaten onto the bare dirt, and then claiming that you've planted the field.

As in 2003, neoconservativs appear to be engaged in wishful thinking. They forgot in 2003 that the US had long supported the brutal sanctions against Iraq that had cost Iraqis up to 500,000 children:

Critics of the sanctions say that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, disproportionately children, died as a result of them, [2] although certain skeptics claim the numbers to be less.[3] [4][5] UNICEF has put the number of child deaths to 500,000.[6] The reasons include lack of medical supplies, malnutrition, and especially disease owing to lack of clean water.

In other words, the idea that the US was seen as a "white hat" that was interested purely in helping the poor Iraqi citizens in achieving "democracy" was never a very credible claim. Iraqis were pleased to have their dictator overthrown and if the US had promptly withdrawn, might have grown friendly towards the American people. But Iraqis were not looking forward to a long-term American occupation and it's very highly doubtful the Iranians will be any more welcoming.

2006/07/18

Mideast situation 17Jul06

Back in 1916, Irish revolutionaries hit upon a very good method for getting the civilian population radicalized against their occupiers. A small group rose up and seized a few key locations in Dublin. They were quickly defeated, court-martialled and executed. A few months after World War I ended, many Irish people remembering the Easter Rising, the military lessons learned and led by some veterans of that event, rebelled against their British occupiers.

Although some republican leaders, notably Éamon de Valera, favoured classic conventional warfare in order to legitimise the new republic in the eyes of the world, the more practically experienced Michael Collins and the broader IRA leadership opposed these tactics that had led to the military débacle of 1916. The violence used was at first deeply unpopular with the broader Irish population, but most were won around when faced with the terror of the British government's campaign of widespread brutality, destruction of property, random arrests and unprovoked shootings. Events began slowly, but by 1920 widespread violence was the rule.

British overreaction was the spark that really radicalized the Irish and made their separation in 1921 more or less inevitable. If that was the idea behind the kidnapping of two Israel soldiers and missile attacks by Hezbollah and if provoking a massive overreaction by Israel was the objective, then Hezbollah has succeeded brilliantly. As LeftCoaster puts it:

As I said yesterday, Israel did overreact, but it is easy for me to say that from thousands of miles away when their soldiers were fired upon by Hezbollah in Israeli territory and were taken hostage by Hezbollah.

LeftCoaster also relays a message from retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner that:

An individual with former connections to the CIA told me the current situation is all is about the Iranian nuclear program. I was skeptical of that explanation until I heard Zal Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Iraq, on CNN late in the day. He said, "It is about the Iranian nuclear program."
In other words, Iran did not wait for the US preemptive strike. It conducted its own.
Of course, observers like Billmon are having none of it:

This is fascinating as well as terrifying. It suggests that Bush and his faithful water carrier both really believe their own bullshit -- not just in terms of viewing Hezbollah and Hamas as the mindless tools of Syria and Iran, but also in their rosy-lensed assessments of how things are going in the Middle East these days.

Problem of course, is that the Bush Administration has so little credibility that no one believes them. It's clear that conservatives and Neocons in general began talking of Iran being to blame long before they had any evidence to that effect.

LeftCoaster also claims the Bush Administration did not see this problem coming. They were caught flat-footed. Sure enough, there have been surprises.

Whatever else we can accuse President Bush of (And that category includes lots and lots of things) we can't accuse him of inconsistency. In December 2005, Bush said:

"Freedom in Iraq will send a message to the reformers from Damascus to Tehran."

And at the G8 Conference on the 17th:

Bush referred to the "root causes" of instability seven times in his brief remarks with Blair on Sunday morning. His point: "One of the interesting things about this recent flare-up is that it helps clarify a root cause of instability in the Middle East -- and that's Hezbollah and Hezbollah's relationship with Syria, and Hezbollah's relationship to Iran, and Syria's relationship to Iran. Therefore, in order to solve this problem it's really important for the world to address the root cause."

The problem was Iran and Syria then and it's Iran and Syria now. Dan Bartlett demonstrates that he understands:

"Dan Bartlett, the White House counselor, said failures to address the deeper issues in the Middle East had ultimately led to the creation of Al Qaeda. . . .

"Mr. Bartlett's comments appeared to be part of a White House effort to link all Middle East militant groups together, and to suggest that strangling all of them -- from Hezbollah to Al Qaeda -- was critical to establishing a long-term peace."

Linda McQuaig of the Toronto Star smells a plot to attack Iran and Glenn Greenwald notes that right-wingers and Neocons seem to be absolutely delighted over the turn of events.

2006/07/16

Ann Coulter on 9-11

COULTER: Yeah. When I'm wrong, I admit I'm wrong. I think it's cruel to be foisting a 9-11 Commission on the nation, making terrorist attacks more likely by turning it into a Clinton whitewash committee. I think it's cruel to be endorsing John Kerry for president in the middle of a war on terrorism, the guy who voted for funding the troops before voting against it. I think it's cruel to be going around claiming the president of the United States is responsible for these women's husbands' deaths. I think that's cruel because it's going to put a lot of other women at risk for becoming widows. And there are a lot of 9-11 widows out there, Norah, and I'm hearing from a lot of them who think I wasn't harsh enough.

Under the very best-possible-case scenario (911Truth has a different view), the Bush Administration on and before 9-11 was guilty of negligence, incompetence and dereliction of duty. Bush was in office for over eight months before 9-11 and took a month-long vacation shortly before it occurred. Could we make the claim that Ronald Reagan tried to fix the awful situation that Jimmy Carter left the US military in? (I'm not sure we could make an accurate charge that Carter left the US military in bad shape, but that's another issue.) Yes, we could. Reagan took immediate action to pump up the US military budget and to make it clear that he was going to pursue a more aggressive policy. Had the Soviets charged through the Fulda Gap in September 1981, they would have met a military that was on the mend, that was enthused and that was energetically rebuilding.

Did Clinton leave the US military in awful shape? Actually, he's widely credited with rebuilding it. In late 1998, Clinton was able to threaten Iraq with a fully intact and functioning military and as Barney Frank pointed out in November 2001:

Number one, our military has performed superbly. There has been all this huffing and puffing in the Republican Party about how Clinton weakened our military. Well, that's ridiculous. George Bush just pulverized the Taliban with the military that he inherited from Bill Clinton.

Granted, Col. David Hackworth didn't feel that the military that Bush inherited was all that great:

* In the [1991] war with Iraq, it took the Pentagon five months to field a tank-heavy army that, once deployed, refought World War II -- mass bombing, units on line and virtually every movement controlled by the top. In the end, Saddam Hussein and his army escaped.

But gee, that sounds to me like exactly what the Army did in 2003! If Bush and Rumsfeld felt that the military was outmoded or inadequate, then what exactly did they do to fix it? (Matter of fact, how come the Army was still considered understrength in early 2004?) The point is, nobody has been able to point out what, if anything, Bush and Rumsfeld did to fix an allegedly broken military in the eight-plus months before 9-11.

As to "foisting a 9-11 Commission on the nation," how exactly is the US supposed to fix anything if nobody knows what went wrong in the first place? If no one has been able to answer the question of why the Air Force didn't adequately respond, then how can responses be assured in the future? 911Truth claims that the Air Force was busy running war games on that date. Did those war games interfere with responding to 9-11? Can future war games be better planned?

We simply can't fix these problems without a thorough investigation into what went wrong.

2006/07/15

Whaaa?!!?

True confession: I was a history major back in college and still read the occasional history book for the fun of it (I'm reading Lapdogs right now. Strongly recommend it!) and the turkey James Wolcott quotes is a history professor! I'm embarrassed for the whole profession! The argument this guy makes is SOOO incredibly stupid, I can't even bear to repeat it. Read at your own peril!

2006/07/11

The Geneva Conventions

On the same day, my local paper printed a column by Charles Krauthammer and a letter, both of which suggested that the Supreme Court had gone too far in its Hamdan v Rumsfeld decision. Krauthammer starts by claiming that the WOT (War on Terror) is sort of like America's own Civil War and World War II because all three started on the first year of the decade (1861, 1941 & 2001) and all three had legal challenges after about five years (Habeas Corpus, Japanese-American internments, Hamdan v Rumsfeld).

Then Krauthammer has to explain why this war has dragged on past the customary five-year mark: "But, of course, the war on terror is different. The enemy is shadowy, scattered and therefore more likely to survive and keep the war going for years." In other words, the WOT is not really a war in the traditional sense that we normally have when we have organized units of troops clashing on battlefields. It's also not traditonal in the sense that we can't identify an endpoint to it. We're not going to end it by signing surrender documents on the deck of a battleship, nor are we going to have the leader of the bad guys make a radio announcement. The US might produce a corpse, but as we've seen with Zarqawi, that doesn't mean much.

Nevertheless, Krauthammer thinks it's just awful that President Bush has failed to account for the traditional five-year mark by not having any legal defenses ready for when the Supreme Court inevitably roused itself and issued its customary end-of-war, back-to-normal dictates. He thinks the Court should have held off for however long Bush thought necessary and, well, Americans should simply do without a functioning Constitution until that happy day arrives.

My real problem with his column is that he proposes that Geneva Convetnions protections:

...were never intended to apply to unlawful combatants, terrorists of the al-Qaeda kind. The court tortures the reading of Common Article 3 to confer upon Hamdan - and by extension the man for whom he rode shotgun, bin Laden - the kind of elaborate legal protections that one expects from "civilized peoples."

and as our letter-writer states:

...the court had the temerity to extend Geneva Conventions protection to al-Qaeda even though the conventions do not apply to nonnational, nonuniformed terrorist organizations.

Problem: Once the US President starts making unilateral decisions as who does and who does not merit the protections of the Geneva Conventions, where does it stop? Another country could make the claim that the US began the war against Iraq without UN Security Council approval and that the war was clearly not in self-defense

"...Regarding Iraq, the last Security Council resolution essentially said, 'Look, send the weapons inspectors out to Iraq, have them come back and tell us what they've found -- then we'll figure out what we're going to do. The U.S. was impatient, and decided to invade Iraq -- which was all pre-arranged of course. So, the United States went to war, in violation of the charter."

Sooooo, if the US really wants to play the game of who is and who isn't a "lawful combatant," it might not be a very good idea. US soldiers could very easily find themselves on the wrong side of a war-crimes prosecution. The Geneva Conventions will not suffer very much, if at all, by adding al Qaeda to the list of those entitled to its protections. The Geneva Conventions will suffer horrible, perhaps fatal damage, by having countries pick and choose, in an arbitrary and unilateral fashion, which of their enemies do or do not get the protections it specifies.

Just as Bush & Co are perfectly willing to see untold numbers of young Americans and far greater numbers of Iraqis consigned to death or dismemberment in order to fight the Iraq War, so too am I willing to see all the members of the Bush Administration serve life sentences for the war crimes committed over the past five years. Wouldn't bother me a bit.

2006/07/09

Iraqi withdrawal options

Someone told me today that she didn't like a particular peace plan for Iraq because it advocated what she felt was an overly hasty withdrawal. I thought about it and realized PRAWN doesn't have a peace plan. We've never discussed any withdrawal timetables. I don't think we will or should discuss any such measure. As I wrote here, the Bush Adminisration has completey messed up the diplomatic track for dealing with North Korea and there simply are no good military options. So when it comes to the question of "So, how would you deal with North Korea, Mr Smartypants?", my only real answer is that the very first thing that has to happen is that the Bush Administration and all of the related NeoCons must be out of office.

There is simply no possible way for any practical problem-solving to take place while Bush is the President. As we have seen with the Hamdan case decision by the Supreme Court, the Bush Administration doesn't appear to be inclined to take the advice of anybody, even when that advice is worded as a direct and lawful order.

Robert Kuttner points out in the Boston Globe that there are simply no good options for Iraq. As the advocates of peace were correct in late 2002-early 2003 in saying that Iraq did not pose a serious threat to the US or even to the immediate region, I would recommend that we be given the Iraq portfolio and, left to our own devices, I'm confident that we could come up with a reasonably effective solution. The major roadblock to any solution, though, is the Bush Administration. As long as they're in office, there's really very little we can possibly hope to accomplish. As Talking Points Memo points out: "If you need help getting your car out of a ditch, would you turn to the guy who just drove it in there or to the stranger who stops to help?"

The best strategy I think the peace movement can pursue just now is, in my humble opinion, to convince people that Bush & Co need to turn over the reins to people who can do the job.

2006/07/07

Norah O'Donnell vs Cindy Sheehan

Y'know, there are times when someone who is angry can come across as really attractive, when that slow burn can come across as a really compelling aura around that person. When the comicbook artist Gil Kane gave an extensive interview for the Comics Journal, I realized that he was making a lot of criticisms that I had already heard from many other people, but..but this was Gil Kane, the famous, very highly competent draughtsman who penciled great adventure after great adventure. This was someone who knew what he was talking about! Accordingly, his views on comicbook art and writing at the time made a deep impression on me.

Norah O'Donnell's interview of Cindy Sheehan, on the other hand, left me favorably impressed with Ms Sheehan, but quite cold towards Ms O'Donnell. Yeah, partially it's because O'Donnell is a hard-line, right-wing conservative, but largely it was because O'Donnell was more interested in simply trashing Sheehan than she was in drawing out any useful or interesting informationt. O'Donnell demonstrated about a year ago that her demeanor was not at all what one would expect from an ostensibly objective journalist. She claimed that Coleen Rowley, who was running for Congress, was aligning herself with "anti-war extremists." Rowley immediately corrected O'Donnell, pointing out that her anti-war supporters were by no means extremist. O'Donnell's answer? " 'But, Coleen,' O'Donnell snapped back, 'they do oppose the war in Iraq, do they not?' " So apparently, according to O'Donnell, all one needs to be an "extremist," is to "oppose the war in Iraq."

Here is her first question on Hardball to Cindy Sheehan:

O'DONNELL: Let me begin by asking you, you know, Americans may hate the war, but they don't necessarily hate the president. How do you expect to get change by going around the world and trashing the president of the United States?

This is very clearly not the statement of someone who is in any way, shape or form an objective reporter. This is the statement of a staunch, hardline partisan-advocate. Nothing wrong with that per se, but she never mentioned her political affiliation and her position is theoretically one that calls for objectivity.

Sheehan goes on to explain that her calling President Bush "the biggest terrorist in the world" does not mean she hates him or is trashing him. She does mean that he fits his own definition of a terrorist.

SHEEHAN: Well, you know, he says a terrorist is somebody who kills innocent men, women, and children, and there has been over 100,000 innocent men, women, and children killed in Iraq on his orders.

After Sheehan points out (Correctly - the June 22-26 ABC News poll on Iraq policy shows 37% approval to 62% disapproval.) that "two-thirds of America disapprove[s] of George Bush and his policies in Iraq", O'Donnell replies with:

O'DONNELL: And nor, quite frankly, do you see members of Congress -- and you claim to not be in the fringes, to not be an extremist, and yet what members of Congress support you in your policy?

It's hardly fair to acknowledge that two-thirds of the American people support Sheehan's position, but to then go leaping to the conclusion that Sheehan is "in the fringes" because politicians are too cowardly to openly agree with the American people. If not many politicians are with Sheehan, that speaks very poorly of them. It says nothing about the rightness and justice of Sheehan's cause. If two-thirds of the American people are with Sheeehan, then how is Sheehan "in the fringes" or "an extremist"? By what criteria does she fit either definition?

After Sheehan lists the Congresspeople on both sides of the aisle who support her position, she is asked about Senators and comes up with John Kerry (D-MA):

O'DONNELL: John Kerry supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Did he tell you that?

This is one of those "When did you stop beating your wife?" questions. Sheehan has at no point said that she "supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq." O'Donnell is pulling this question out of thin air. Sheehan then made it clear that she, Kerry and the " 'Out of Iraq' Congress[ional caucus] that has 70 members" are all in favor of a prompt withdrawal, but they all agree with O'Donnell that "There is no one in the United States Congress, Democrat, Republican, or Independent who would" support an immediate, precipitous withdrawal. But O'Donnell suggested that Sheehan wants just that.

O'Donnell calls Hugo Chavez (President of Venezuela) a "dictator." Sheehan replied that he has been elected eight times Sheehan didn't mention these other facts, but Chavez was thrown out of office in a coup and restored by the people of Venezuela and his current approval rating of 82.7% is only ten points lower than Bush's rating after 9-11 of 92%.

He has helped the poor people of America. He has sent aid to New Orleans. He has sold heating oil to disadvantaged people in America, in the United States of America at low cost, and he -- the people of his country love him.

O'Donnell had no answer for Sheehan's recitation of Chavez's good qualities and immediately switched the subject. Interestingly, O'Donnell points out that Saddam Hussein was also "democratically elected." Hussein was indeed supposedly elected, but victory margins close to 100% are normally due to tricks played by dictators. As Bush's last victory in 2004 was very considerably closer and far more questionable than Chavez's was, it might not be a good idea to push THAT idea too far, that elections can be manipulated.

Overall, O'Donnell took a scorched-earth approach, a highly combative attempt to make Sheehan look bad, to not give Sheehan the slightest credit (She immediately changed the subject every time Sheehan made a good point) and to try to get Sheehan flustered. She clearly approached the interview as a battle. Granted, Jon Stewart can be a tough interviewer, see his interviews of Bill Kristol and Rick Santorum (To name the most aggressive liberal interviewer on TV, and yes, it's pretty sad that a guy who recites fake news is more of an aggressive interviewer than most of the newspeople out there.), but Stewart's guests are generally given a fair chance to respond and Stewart tends to stick closely to the actual facts involved. Stewart doesn't go around simply making up wild accusations out of nothing. Stewart is more interested in generating light than heat, more interested in getting his guests to reveal things that are important and interesting than he is in simply attacking his guests and putting them down.

I strongly object to O'Donnell's mischaraterizations of Sheehan's positions, but I'd probably have to agree that my objection to her style is rooted in a personal preference for informative interviews as opposed to slash'n'burn attacks. I don't mind some aggressiveness, as I said earlier, some righteous anger can make the interviewer more attractive. The interviewer doesn't have to agree with the person being interviewed, but I think there's a bit of a difference between tough and demanding and between being just plain abusively nasty towards one's guest.

2006/07/05

Rape in Iraq

Juan Cole's precis/commentary on the article from Al-Zaman is well worth quoting in full:

Al-Zaman/ AFP say that a firestorm of protest is building in Iraq over the alleged rape and killing of a 15 year old Iraqi girl in Mahmudiyah, and the murder of her family, by a US GI. MP Safiyah Suhail, a woman representative from the National Iraqi List in parliament, demanded that P[rime] M[inister] Nuri al-Maliki and Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani present themselves to parliament for questioning in the matter. She demanded that the Iraqi government be involved in the investigation. She said that this was a matter that touched on the honor of the Iraqi nation and the female MPs had a special role to play in demanding an accounting.

Suhail is former ambassador to Egypt of the new Iraqi government and stood against the imposition of Islamic law on Iraqi women. That a secular person is so stirred up about this suggests to you what the Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists are thinking. For most Iraqis, honor is bound up in the chastity of their women, at least in public, and a foreigner raping an Iraqi girl is a profound humiliation for the entire country. This matter is not going to go away quietly and if the Bush administration thinks it is just a matter of disciplining unruly troops, it has another think coming. Entire colonial empires have been shaken by such incidents in the past.(emphases added)

And from Iraq's Prime Minister:

KUWAIT CITY - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday he wants an independent Iraqi investigation, or at least a joint investigation with coalition forces, into the alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by U.S. troops.
-------------

"We are going to demand an independent Iraqi investigation or at least a joint investigation between us and the multi-national forces," al-Maliki said.

He said crimes against Iraqis were not acceptable and that coalition troops' immunity from Iraqi prosecution should be reviewed.

"We believe that the immunity given to members of coalition forces encouraged them to commit such crimes in cold blood — the thing that makes it necessary to review it," he said.

Also, Chris Floyd tells us how it all looked from the American soldier's side.

AJ in DC has still more. He thinks Cole has it right. The story "is creating shockwaves throughout the country, not just among the masses, but within elite political circles as well."

2006/07/04

Good news, an interesting item and two negative items

1. Hillary Clinton came out and said what the high-ranking Democratic Party members (Especially those from the DSCC) needed to say from Day One of the Joe Lieberman-Ned Lamont primary (Joe has served three terms as Connecticut's senator, Ned is challenging him for that seat) "...that it's important to respect the will of Connecticut voters and that she will commit to support the Democratic candidate -- whoever that is -- in November." Three cheers for someone who usually displays a tin ear for important issues like this!

2. Conservative bloggers very grudgingly concede, with all sorts of caveats and qualifications (David Horowitz is especially amusing, Billmon comments on Horowitz's ramblings. See note at bottom.) that well, gee, er, they might, possibly, conceivably have been a bit, er, WRONG about the NY Times endangering the security of VP Cheney and SecDef Rumsfeld by photographing the entrances to their vacation homes in Maryland. Many right-wing bloggers have not admitted to any sort of error. Greenwald points us to an especially amusing televised rant by the blogger who writes Atlas Shrugged. Whoooo! This woman actually contests the idea that Bush's is the most secretive Administration since Nixon's!

3. 07-03-2006, 12h27
BAGHDAD (AFP)
-- Iraqi Shiite leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the head of parliament's largest bloc, has told AFP that he favours extending an amnesty to insurgents who may have killed US troops. (Emphasis added)

"Yes, they should be covered regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations," Hakim said in an interview when asked if he would support extending a reconciliation and amnesty plan unveiled by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to those who may have attacked US-led troops in Iraq. Hakim's position would contradict that of his government ally Maliki, also a Shiite, who said on Wednesday that there would be no amnesty to those who killed US troops, foreigners or journalists.

Iraqs largest single political grouping wants American troops to depart their country. The "Battle for Hearts and Minds" is long since over and the US has decisively lost. It's time to go. It's long since been time to go. And in what I guess is good news:

At the same time Hakim said he would categorically oppose any dialogue with "Saddamists and takfeeris", catchall terms used by hardline Shiites to refer to loyalists of ousted leader Saddam Hussein and extremist Sunni Arab militants who regard Iraq's majority Shiites as apostates. Hakim, who also heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) party, visited Tehran last month where he met with the top leadership of the Islamic republic.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on US and other foreign troops to leave Iraq following his meeting with Hakim.

They have no use for any thought of returning to their Saddamist past. Cool! The Iranian leader agrees with them. Hmm.


4. In grimmer news, Orcinus points out that the use of "eliminationist" language among conservatives is getting louder and louder and is being voiced more and more insistently.

5. And yes, we have more bad news to report from Iraq about US soldiers raping and killing a 15-year-old girl and "Before leaving, the attackers fatally shot the four family members -- two of Abeer's brothers had been away at school -- and attempted to set Abeer's body on fire." Very interestingly, Iraqi Justice Minister demands UN oversight of rape-murder prosecution (Emphasis added). Gee, Iraqis not trusting American investigators? I wonder why that is?

Note: Bwah-hah-hah!! "David Horowitz, an important American writer and thinker since the 1960s, has been called “the Left’s most brilliant and articulate nemesis.” Oh mannnn! If ol' Davey is the most brilliant...ha, ha,ha!!!