2007/09/27

Limbaugh insults anti-war soldiers

So the question on Rush Limbaugh and his "phony soldiers" crack is "Will we see anywhere near the fuss and bother over Limbaugh's remark that we just witnessed over the MoveOn 'Petraeus/Betray US' ad?"

Yeah, me neither. I don't trust the Democrats to raise anywhere near the stink that the Republicans recently raised over MoveOn.

Here's the quote, but keep in mind that Limbaugh has frequently complained that people don't read the whole context of his remarks, so if one wishes to write him to complain:

[Here's the essential context for the actual quote]
CALLER 1: Good. Why is it that you always just accuse the Democrats of being against the war and suggest that there are absolutely no Republicans that could possibly be against the war?
LIMBAUGH: Well, who are these Republicans? I can think of Chuck Hagel, and I can think of Gordon Smith, two Republican senators, but they don't want to lose the war like the Democrats do. I can't think of -- who are the Republicans in the anti-war movement?
CALLER 1: I'm just -- I'm not talking about the senators. I'm talking about the general public -- like you accuse the public of all the Democrats of being, you know, wanting to lose, but --
LIMBAUGH: Oh, come on! Here we go again. I uttered a truth, and you can't handle it, so you gotta call here and change the subject. How come I'm not also hitting Republicans? I don't know a single Republican or conservative, Mike, who wants to pull out of Iraq in defeat. The Democrats have made the last four years about that specifically.
CALLER 1: Well, I am a Republican, and I've listened to you for a long time, and you're right on a lot of things, but I do believe that we should pull out of Iraq. I don't think it's winnable. And I'm not a Democrat, but I just -- sometimes you've got to cut the losses.
-----------------
[And The Quote]
LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.
CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.
LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country. [emphasis from Media Matters]
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BTW, Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA) is both a combat veteran AND against the Iraq War, so is the entire membership of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. On their site, the IVAW claims that "Over 2000 soldiers have signed the Appeal For Redress." Out of 168,000 soldiers currently serving in Iraq, that's obviously a small minority, but it's far from legitimate to say that all "real" soldiers, by definition, support the Iraq War. They don't.
CNN says: "Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war." Again, a minority, but it's simply inaccurate to say that being a Republican means one automatically supports the Iraq War.
Limbaugh's assertion that any soldier who opposes the Iraq War is a "phony soldier" is simply false just as it's false to say that all Republicans, by definition, support the Iraq War.

For Limbaugh, a lifelong civilian (The phrase during World War II was "never heard a shot fired in anger."), to accuse soldiers who don't agree with his views on the Iraq War is a flat-out insult and deserves our hearty, full-throated condemnation.

Update:

A Media Matters piece on Limbaugh's (false) assertion that he was actually referring to one specific fake soldier (Could the White House bailing out over Rush's comments be motivating this climbdown?) contains what journalists refer to as a "nut paragraph," a paragraph that summarizes what the whole controversy is all about.

'LIMBAUGH: -- the weapons of mass destruction. We gotta get beyond that. We're, we're there. What -- who cares if, if -- we all know they were there and, and"

I'm not really sure how Limbaugh wants to "get beyond" the WMD issue. The point of that is that the war was initiated on lies, upon untruthful statements and misrepresented facts and overlooked/ignored aspects. Opponents of going to war in the six months before it started were not honestly debated. We were instead shouted down. There was no honest discussion of whether of not Iraq really and truly posed a threat to the US or indeed, to its' immediate neighborhood. Instead, American citizens received a lot of hysterical, overheated, screaming propaganda. Allegedly earnest "liberals" in the press want US citizens to base their decisions on the personal qualities of the men making the accusations against purported national foes, not upon the evidence that they present in these accusations.

Susan Estrich, one of the Fox News liberals, wrote: "The Democrats, especially the Democrats running for president, have a problem, and his name is Petraeus." She asked: "But attacking the General who oozes courage, fortitude and decency?" (emphasis added) demonstrates that many alleged liberals still don't want to honestly debate the actual issues involved.

Yeah "We're, we're there" but I don't see that Americans should "get beyond" the fact that the US is in Iraq for reasons that have never been honestly and forthrightly discussed.

"Mahmoud [Ahmadinejad, Iranian president] even admitted it in one of his speeches here about -- talkin' about Saddam using the poison mustard gas or whatever it is on his own people"

True, Saddam Hussein used poison mustard gas on his own people in 1987. That demonstrated that Saddam Hussein was a monster and not to be trusted, but not that Iraq posed any immediate threat to anyone in 2003.

"-- but that, that's moot, right? What, what's more important is all this is taking place now in the midst of the surge working."

There's actually no such evidence. The "surge" has utterly and miserably failed to achieve any of its objectives. 70% of Iraqis believed in September that it had failed. Only 50% of Shiite Muslims in Iraq saw attacks on US troops as justified, but 93% of Sunni Muslims in Iraq thought so. One might keep in mind the fact that, in the event of a US withdrawal from Iraq, Shiites are 60% of Iraq's population and that their co-religionists in Iran would have gained a greatly expanded influence. Shiites might not actively hate the US presence in their country, but it's highly unlikely they'd fight to keep US troops there. Any "Hearts & Minds" campaign has long since been lost and an academic study shows that the US's highly mechanized military has little or no chance of prevailing in any sort of guerrilla struggle in any event (Due to what the author refers to as "information starvation").


"And all of these anti-war Democrats are getting even more hell-bent on pulling out of there, which means that success on the part of you and, and your colleagues over there is, is a great threat to them. It's just, it's frustrating and maddening, and it is why they must be kept in the minority." 

Limbaugh's problem is that Democrats are merely reacting to the situation in Iraq. He'd like to believe that Democrats are actively creating the situation, but that's simply not the case. The essential difference between the way that Limbaugh sees the struggle in Iraq and the way progressives see it is that he blames insufficiently dedicated Americans for not having enough faith, for the occurrence of war's failures. Progressives believe the war was a really terrible and immoral idea to begin with and that if a long, drawn-out guerrilla struggle was not a certainty to start with, then it had certainly become apparent to us that the guerrilla war had begun in earnest by the time the President went on a month-long vacation in August of 2003.

2007/09/25

IEDs and "real reporters" vs pundits

Mark Bowden brings up some very good points about good and bad journalism, but I bristled a bit when he spoke of "real journalists" and then began the next sentence with "We." Judith Miller of the New York Times was considered a "real journalist" and the Times later admitted (In a short piece back in May 2004 buried in the back pages) that her stories "...relied too heavily on now-suspect sources with insufficient corroboration." Yes, the Knight-Ridder reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay were much better and much more accurate, but they were often featured on page A17 while Ms Miller got front-page, above-the-fold treatment with a picture to boot.

In February of this year, the Washington Post featured a story suggesting that IEDs in Iraq were imported from Iran. The story was filled with anonymous sources and blamed Iran's Quds Force. American officials charged outright that a certain brand of improvised explosive devices were arriving from Iran.

Problem: The LA Times reported that Iraqi machine shops were found turning out components for precisely these IEDs. Not only that, the devices simply aren't difficult to manufacture and Iraq has the capability to manufacture them. No credible evidence has been produced saying the IEDs originate in Iran, let alone that a particular group in Iran is to blame.

Bigger problem: We now have a legislative proposal, the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment, that calls upon the US to "...
combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran." What are some of those activities? Well, the National Review identifies "...agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards [who] fund and arm the Shiite extremists whose IEDs pierce the armor of U.S. soldiers..." and that "Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically.”

A truly qualified set of "real journalists" would be calling attention to how shaky the case against Iran really is as opposed to the same old set of mindless stenographers we have now. Silence, allowing the current accusations to stand, is just as deadly as lies and could lead to yet another unnecessary war.

2007/09/15

Katie Couric & the "big boys"

Y'know, I don't think there's a single progressive blogger who would hold it against a Hollywood figure or a network newsperson who decided, based on the poll numbers, to change their positions on matters like war and peace. That would be fine with us because it would show a respect for the people and the whole concept of democracy.

Katie Couric and CBS News are doing very poorly in the ratings right now. Couric's latest happy, happy, joy, joy experience of riding around in a Humvee with General Petraeus sent the network's ratings sinking even lower than before. Unlike in the push for war in late 2002 - early 2003, there is a bit of a noticeable pushback to the Petraeus-Crocker Report (Really the Bush Administration Report as, even if those two had written their own speeches, the public believes by a slight majority that they simply aren't allowed to voice their true feelings) with bloggers eliciting answers (Not good answers, mind you, but answers) as to why the General's figures didn't add up.

Which makes it very disappointing to see the CBS report "Bush Stays The Course On Iraq." The story talks about Bush's proposal to lower the US force in Iraq from 168,000 to 138,000, but nowhere mentions that these 30,000 troops are going to come back home in any event as troop rotations demand it. The "surge" always had to be a temporary tactic as the Army and Marines are stretched to the breaking point, with troops spending far too much time on the battlefield and not nearly enough time back home recuperating. This is not a obscure point. From the very beginning in November 2006, the "surge" was described as a temporary, short-term measure. Only later did it become a long-term increase (The latest word is that there will be an increase in troops over and above pre-surge levels).

Now, we can all understand why Fred Hiatt supports the war through thick & thin. He supported the war from the beginning and to see it lost would be a crushing blow to his ego. The weight of a million Iraqi deaths would be on his head as well as those of almost 4000 US soldiers and Marines and nearly 30,000 wounded, may of them crippled for life. All of that will have gone for nothing if the war is lost. Hiatt supports the war no matter what.

Why does Katie Couric support it? After all, she moved over from Today long after the Iraq War started. She apparently has nothing to lose by saying it was a lousy idea to begin with. It's hard to say why she supports it. Perhaps she's been a hard-line, right-wing conservative all along, even when she was on Today. Perhaps she's trying to fit in with the "in crowd" or the "big boys." "Hey, if I smoke cigarettes too, the big boys might like me! They'd see that I was cool, too!"

2007/09/12

The Petraeus-Crocker Presentation

Starting off on 9 September, 54% of the American public said the presentation on the "Surge" in Iraq by General David Petraeus and Ambassador-to-Iraq Ryan Crocker would not change their minds. A majority of them said so because they didn't believe that the General would be allowed to honestly present his real views on the matter, which are presumably more pessimistic than what the Bush Administration would like to have him say.

As blogger Glenn Greenwald points out, if the "Petraeus Report" is not a PR success, it won't be because the Bush Administration and General Petraeus didn't given it "the old college try." Greenwald compares the later presentation Petraeus gives for Fox News to an interview given to Pravda by a Soviet general, a production by "North Korean state television" and "...a direct examination at a trial, where a friendly lawyer gently leads his own witness to present claims in the most persuasive manner possible, with the lawyer interrupting only to clarify the witness' statements and to provide helpful suggestions as to how the witness can make his case even more effectively."

Media Matters notes that conservative commentators outnumbered progressive commentators eight to one on Fox News' coverage of the Congressional testimony, and the progressive appeared directly opposite a conservative. If one adds in the six Fox News people, that's 14 to one. Coverage of Petraeus' testimony wasn't much better the next day. NBC and the Wall St Journal both simply reported the statistics that Petraeus & Crocker cited without presenting any challenging or skeptical views on them. "These media outlets did not note that Petraeus' statistics regarding civilian casualties and sectarian violence differ from the findings in two recent congressionally mandated reports."

One of the very serious problems with Petraeus' figures is that he never presented any comprehensive definition of "sectarian" versus "ethno-religious" violence. As late as the 12th, Petraeus and Crocker were still presenting explanations as to which was which. Petraeus has claimed that "two US intelligence agencies" have reviewed and confirmed his figures, but both the CIA and DIA have denied being the agencies. Also, one of the problems with that is that no one in the Bush Administration appears to be entirely clear as to exactly who it is that US forces are fighting in Iraq.

Firedoglake did live-blogging for the Petraeus-Crocker presentation. Of course, on the 10th, traditional media outlets were complaining that the "sea of statistics" being presented was just a hopelessly confusing mess and just couldn't be understood. Obviously, they just weren't using the right sources.

2007/09/07

Just how meaningful is AQI?

It seems the group al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) really isn't all that large:

"The first instructive set of data comes from the U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In March, the organization analyzed the online postings of eleven prominent Sunni insurgent groups, including AQI, tallying how many attacks each group claimed. AQI took credit for 10 percent of attacks on Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias (forty-three out of 439 attacks), and less than 4 percent of attacks on U.S. troops (seventeen out of 357). Although these Internet postings should not be taken as proof positive of the culprits, it's instructive to remember that PR-conscious al- Qaeda operatives are far more likely to overstate than understate their role.
"When turning to the question of manpower, military officials told the New York Times in August that of the roughly 24,500 prisoners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq (nearly all of whom are Sunni), just 1,800—about 7 percent—claim allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, the composition of inmates does not support the assumption that large numbers of foreign terrorists, long believed to be the leaders and most hard-core elements of AQI, are operating inside Iraq. In August, American forces held in custody 280 foreign nationals—slightly more than 1 percent of total inmates."

So why does the US portray them as this hugely monumental group that's causing all sorts of trouble in Iraq, making it appear that "If we can just take them out, everything will improve!" Andrew Tilghman goes through many very good reasons why and, when he gets to how AQI might be benefiting from other players in Iraq talking them up, he reminds me of the story of Rose O'Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy in the US Civil War. Greenhow made extravagant claims for how much information she was able to transmit to the Confederacy, but no one questioned her claims until a decade or so back. I remember reading that Greenhow exaggerated her role simply because it pleased her to represent herself as a dramatically capable spy. The fellow who broke the case, Allen Pinkerton, also had a motivation to exaggerate her role as he had just taken over the newly-formed Secret Service right before catching her. He cheerfully collaborated in building her legend as, having been the one who caught her, that made him and his new organization look all the more competent and effective.
In much the same way, Tilghman reveals that there are many players in Iraq who benefit from the appearance of a powerful and effective AQI. It's quite clear that AQI will remain in Iraq as long as the Americans remain. The author is of the firm belief that AQI will leave Iraq shortly after the Americans do as 1) Iraqis will have no reason to want to keep them around and 2) They simply aren't powerful enough to remain at large and independently operating once their reason for being there disappears.

The article is well worth reading for the many insights into the insurgency and how US forces are dealing with it.

2007/09/06

General Petraeus' numbers

The bloggers emptywheel and DemfromCT from The Next Hurrah get the scoop on the numbers that General Petraeus will use to describe the "surge" and how it's going. It's kind of a distinction that their favorite reporter from the WaPo was buried on page A16 of today's paper, kind of like being on Nixon's Enemies List.
Basically, the numbers the General will use mean far less than will meet the eye. The numbers will appear to be far more impressive than they actually are.

2007/09/02

Karl Rove and the Commander in Chief

In The Rove Presidency by Josua Green of the Atlantic (Sorry, but to get the full story, you'll have to pick up a paper copy of the magazine), Green paints a picture of Karl Rove as a political adviser who had the run of the place. A major problem with the Younger Bush presidency was clearly Rove's desire to remake the Social Security program. For some reason, Rove didn't grasp the fact that it was turning even loyal Republicans off and there was no one senior to Rove other than Bush, Bush gave vastly too much authority to his political adviser (The problem with doing that goes back to the old phrase "To a man with a hammer. every problem looks like a nail") so no one overruled Rove and the Younger Bush presidency commenced a tailspin shortly after they had successfully kicked Senator John Kerry's butt in the 2004 election.
I especially noted Bush's problem with over-delegating the work of the presidency in the spring and summer of 2003. "Major combat operations" had been successfully concluded but it was clear that there was a substantial guerrilla force at large in Iraq. The testimony of Dr. Phebe Marr to the Senate in April 2004 (PDF) made it quite clear that there were two areas that Iraqis were concerned about and that failure to address these problems contributed to the strength of the insurgency "I would make clear we have no long term designs on [1. establishing long-term] Military bases [or 2.] Control over oil."
By the time Bush took his month-long summer vacation in Crawford, TX, it had become clear to bloggers like myself that Bush needed to sit down at the map table and hunker down with advisers and to really plan out how to deal with the growing insurgency. Obviously, he never did. This demonstrated a crucial disadvantage of what Joshua Green identifies as the "Reagan style" that Bush adopted, the idea that Bush would be the big-idea man and that his subordinates would fill in the details as they went.
As a Commander-in-Chief, the Younger Bush left and leaves a great deal to be desired.