Dear Mr Broder,
I decided to read a column of yours without the blogs having commented on it first, to see whether their criticisms were on the mark. Having read "Growing A Third Party," I've concluded that they're correct. The complaint has been made frequently that you've absolutely fetishized bipartisanship over just about any other political value. I'm afraid that's very much the case here. You cite the problems of campaign finance reform and "bundlers", but it's not at all clear how having a third party will address these problems.
You cite the problem of "bickering" without addressing WHY "bickering" exists. The US happens to be fighting a war without any clear idea as to why it's doing so or what it hopes to accomplish. About 40% of Iraqis felt in March 2003 that the US wanted to invade in order to steal their oil. That's pretty much a universal belief there today. We've got the Vice-President questioning Speaker Pelosi's "judgment" while having exercised execrable judgment himself. Remember "last throes" and Mohammed Atta in Prague? In short, the "bickering" that the two parties are engaging in is not some petty children's dispute over a favorite toy, these arguments are deeply serious matters that require deeply serious people to wrestle with them and to find answers to them.
"If [the Unity08] organizers had a compelling person already lined up, their task would be much easier, but they do not." Neither does Unity08 appear to have any idea as to how their campaign platform will differ in any dramatic respect from that of the two parties already in existence. Nowhere do you present any serious argument as to how their platform will accomplish anything beyond simply putting another group of people into office. Bipartisanship is seen here as an end in itself. Compromises are seen as something to be pursued for their own sake.
Finally, the statement you approvingly quote that says: "...the usual game is to target the base of your party, rile it up with wedge issues and ignore the middle" is an entirely accurate description for the Republican Party, but is of absolutely zero relevance to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is talking about the Constitution and the will of the people and about basic civility and decency in dealing with prisoners and in how surveillance should be conducted in a lawful manner. These are NOT "wedge issues," these are issues that go to the very heart of what it means to live in America. "The middle" is a completely meaningless, neutered force in US politics today. The Republican Party has rendered it completely irrelevant. The Republican centrists have accomplished nothing of value over the past six years and have marched in lockstep with their peers whenever they've been asked to. The Democratic centrists have been driven to the margin because they couldn't win elections. They kept choosing candidates who couldn't arouse more than a mild indifference in most voters. If the Bush Administration weren't as awful as it was, Democrats would be nowhere on the political map.
I predict Unity08 will continue to be a very small, extremely marginal party that will accomplish nothing of significance.
Update: WhiskeyFire does a snarky post on Broder's piece.
Other than that questionable accomplishment, both of the pro-Reagan people limit themselves to talking about the effect he had on national morale. There don't seem to be any other real accomplishments to his name.
Interestingly, G.W. Bush doesn't make anybody's list. Not surprising, as Bush's biggest accomplishment to date has been the treaty wit North Korea, a treaty he could have obtained long ago, but was too busy playing "Emperor of the World" to actually get a round to doing.
As Greenwald says, the column is a "plainly un-American assault on our most basic constitutional liberties." Gaffney essentially responds by trying to draw distinctions without differences. Gaffney basically wants to call Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) a traitor for daring to investigate the use of bad intelligence to stampede the US into the Iraq War. He tries several times to "clarify" his position by stating that "No, no, I merely wish to point out that such investigations have consequences and that people should watch what they say." In other words, Senator Levin is a traitor who should be hanged for helping the enemy.
Just to give folks an idea as to where Gaffney is "coming from." here's a sample of Gaffney's language from an earlier column "With us, or else":
"Every one of us can contribute to this effort by making an example of a company contemplating doing a lot more business with Islamofascist Iran..."
"To be sure, that $10 billion [That the Shell company wants to invest in Iranian oil wells] will translate into profits for Shell and its partner. It will, though, also afford the Islamofascists in Iran revenue streams that will enable them to support more terrorists, to kill more Americans and Iraqis, to destabilize the region and to prepare genocidal attacks on this country as well as our ally, Israel.
"Making such a huge, further investment in Iran would, in short, be a very unfriendly act. And Shell must understand it will be regarded, and treated, as such." [emphases mine]
Gaffney states in his current column (Which, as of 7:30pm Sunday the 18th, is not accessible):
"The Journal has properly warned that Senator Ahab's [Greenwald's note: the Wall St. Journal's name for Sen.
Keep in mind that what Feith and his subordinates produced was complete and utter crap that served exclusively to stampede the US into the Iraq War. ALL of Feith's conclusions were disproven by the Iraq Survey Group. Gaffney tries to claim that Saddam Hussein had facilities to produce chemical and biological weapons and was planning to get them to the US in the form of aerosol cans. Colmes then quotes Bush's 2004 State of the Union address as saying that Hussein had "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." The ISG concluded that Hussein had no ability to hurt the US in any significant way.
"If there's one thing that really should be a hanging offense, it is behavior that results in our being even less equipped to deal with such threats..." [emphasis Greenwald's]
As Greenwald makes clear, the really shocking aspect of this statement is that it's so routine these days.
Gaffney demonstrates during the radio interview that he's very, very upset by having his credibility questioned in this manner and had to be told to stop swearing by Colmes. The simple fact of the matter is that it's no longer 2002 and some news programs are no longer willing to dispense vicious, blatant propaganda without questioning it.
In other words, Iraqis are making them right in Baghdad. The piece also points out that Hezbollah liked to use EFPs and if Iraqis can manufacture them there...
I agree with Wayne and add some more thoughts here.
The weapons thing is ironic:
They are also coming from Australia, oh and America. We are the
biggest arms trader in the history of the world.
Our media hardly every reports the truth, if you want the truth you
must look for sources outside the U.S.A.
Whenever a reporter on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, refers to "government sources
say" it's time to get on the internet and read what the rest of the
world is saying,
Black ops is very busy these days in Iraq, Iran and Syria.
The guys who ran black ops and death squads in Central America in the
eighties are now in Iraq.
We have a cornered animal in the white house who is probably capable
of attacking Iran so he can repeat the glory days of post 9/11 90%
And who is there to control G.W.Bush.
Maybe the Democrats and some Republicans, if we can convince them
that we're mad as hell and won't take it anymore.
We as Americans, have to make a choice, a bi-partisan choice. The
politicians are mostly concerned with looking good and getting
elected, rather than doing what is needed.
We have to be able to communicate to them that we want to...
END THIS WAR or face the consequences in 08.
A call to the Defense Intelligence Agency brought a referral to the main Pentagon press office. That office referred a caller to the Washington office of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, which responded with an e-mailed copy of Sunday's briefing slides -- containing no mention of the "highest levels" allegation and a request for questions in writing. Written questions brought no response. An official from the Pentagon Joint Staff said last night that Pace had seen the briefing slides but had "no personal knowledge of any senior involvement by senior Iranian officials."
And they wonder why we lefties are so skeptical!
Further, public opinion is now heavily anti-war. Nevertheless, it's still important to keep the discussion going, and the facts on both sides out.
E.g, Heidi Lang's Op-Ed in today's Inquirer (Feb 12), shows a much more accurate perspective on what the everyday Iranian public is like-- it's worth reading and passing on.
On the contentious nuke issue, here's a wire service report on the other side, with negotiator Ali Larijani:
Iran ready to resume nuclear talks
"Today we announce to you that the political will of Iran is aimed at the negotiated settlement of the case and we don't want to aggravate the situation in our region," Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said.
"We know that this issue can be settled in a constructive dialogue and we welcome that."
Last year, Moscow proposed that Iran move its enrichment work to Russian territory.
Larijani said Iran did not reject the Kremlin's plan. "We would have to have necessary guarantees in place that the fuel would be supplied," he said.
"We would not be against such proposals."
In a wide-ranging speech, Larijani blamed the U.S. occupation of Iraq for fomenting terrorism in the region, and said Tehran's influence was having a stabilizing effect on the situation in that country.
"Terrorists are justifying their presence in Iraq because of the occupation, but the Americans are forced to increase the size of their forces because of terrorists. How do we break this vicious cycle?"
Larijani said the violence in Iraq was limited mainly to regions where the main U.S. garrisons were based.
"The secure parts of Iraq have two characteristics -- they border Iran and in those provinces U.S. troops are not present," he said.
Those who want to get a full briefing on preventing a new, disastrous war, may attend the March 28 Beyond Nuclear Weapons conference, where how to stop new US weapons, as well as many non-proliferation issues including Iran and North Korea, will be discussed.
Go to www.Nuclearawareness-usa.org, to learn more, or email us below at PNA, to sign up for this free conference.
Edward A. Aguilar
Project for Nuclear Awareness
Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities
Global Security Institute
Lawyers Alliance for World Security
Nuclear Policy Research Institute
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Jonathan Schwarz throws further cold water on the theory, "revealing" (snark alert) that "According to Jill Abramson, the paper's Managing Editor, Gordon was purchased for $27.95 at a Radio Shack on West 43rd Street." Y'see, "Gordon" is just a voice-activated tape recorder that regurgitates Bush Administration talking points on cue. It's all really very amusing, you see. Well, of course, people die from these cute little "jokes" but hey...well...err...hmph.
Right-wing blogs have been claiming for several years that there was a sort of a "Ho Chi Minh Trail" running from Iran to the Iraq insurgency. Major problem with that thesis is not simply the lack of evidence for any such trail, but the complete lack of a need for one. As the (British) Independent puts it: "...most Iraqi men possess weapons. Many millions of them received military training under Saddam Hussein." The Iraqi Army received training in advanced armaments directly from US and US-allied sources. The ammo dumps, storing vast quantities of ammunition that can be fashioned into IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices) were left unsecured in the rush to take Baghdad in March-April 2003. The technology used to fashion IED's is not terribly advanced, in fact, it was used back during World War I and immediately afterwards. Shaped charges (The devices that are designed to "...explode and spit out molten balls of copper that cut through armor") were developed during that war and roadside bombs, which can be detonated from afar, were developed during the Irish war of independence in 1919-21. The assertion made by the US that serial numbers on retrieved bomb fragments prove that the bombs came from Iran calls for an unbelievable level of incompetence from Iranians that would be on a par with an agent sneaking into an enemy country on a secret mission and carrying his ID card with him. Why on earth would a country identify the materials that it was sending over to another country if it wanted to keep its involvement secret?
It is not possible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran is not sending arms into Iraq. What is very unclear is why Iraqi insurgents would require any such help in order to fight American troops or, given the hostility left over from the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 (Iraqi Shiites are friendly to Iran. The insurgents are mostly Sunnis, who hate Iran), why they'd welcome any such help.
"More recently, Netanyahu himself, who may yet return to power in Israel, went as far as to frame the issue in terms of the Holocaust. 'Iran is Germany, and it's 1938,' he said during a CNN interview in November. 'Except that this Nazi regime that is in Iran … wants to dominate the world, annihilate the Jews, but also annihilate America.' "
Now remember, Germany in 1938 was a major industrial power, roughly equal to the US in it's level of technology. In fact, German was the standard scientific language for the world (French was the usual diplomatic language. English didn't become the universal language until after World War II). The US, Germany, Italy, France, Britain, the Soviet Union and Japan made up the seven "Great Powers" of the world. Far from being a "Great Power," Iran is at best a "Regional Power." Also, Iran is surrounded by American-occupied Afghanistan to the East, long-time American friend Saudi Arabia to the South and American-occupied Iraq to the West. Obviously, Russia to the North can take care of itself.
"She isn't alone. One neocon after another has made the same plea: Iraq was the beginning, not the end. Writing in The Weekly Standard last spring, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, made the neocon case for bombing Iran's nuclear sites. Brushing away criticism that a pre-emptive attack would cause anti-Americanism within Iran, Gerecht asserted that it 'would actually accelerate internal debate' in a way that would be 'painful for the ruling clergy.' As for imperiling the U.S. mission in Iraq, Gerecht argued that Iran 'can't really hurt us there.' Ultimately, he concluded, 'we may have to fight a war—perhaps sooner rather than later—to stop such evil men from obtaining the worst weapons we know.' "
Problem with giving the Iraq War a "regional context" of course, is that the US can barely provide enough people to keep the Iraq War going all by itself. Sure, if the US could call up millions of people and send them in uniform to the Gulf in the hundreds of thousands, the neocon plans might have a chance. But the Republican Party as a whole has shown absolutely zero enthusiasm for even suggesting a draft and voluntary additions to the Army and Marine Corps have obviously declined as enthusiasm for the war has declined. No other nation has shown any desire to join in. Why should they? The US has not offered to share Iraq's oil, so there's no percentage in it for anybody else.
As for bombing not causing any trouble (PDF p.14) for the US,
"It sounds simple. Air planners always tell a good story. By the same token, they almost always fall short of their promises, even in strictly military terms. That was true in World War II. It was true in Korea. It was true in Vietnam. It has just proved true with the Israeli attacks on Hezbollah. No serious expert on Iran believes the argument about enabling a regime change. On the contrary, whereas the presumed goal is to weaken or disable the leadership and then replace it with others who would improve relations between Iran and the United States, it is far more likely that such strikes would strengthen the clerical leadership and turn the United States into Iran’s permanent enemy."
As to the idea that US forces would have nothing to fear from Iran, the same study points out that "Moqtada al-Sadr has said publicly that if the United States were to attack Iran, he would target U.S. forces in Iraq." There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Iraqis would defend the US occupiers in the event they came under attack from Iranian and Iranian-inspired attackers. Iran has had several years to infiltrate and to prepare their forces to hit Americans inside Iraq and Iraqi insurgents have spent years learning how to most effectively attack US troops. The US could very easily lose the entire army in Iraq. Remember also that the Straits of Hormuz (Only 20 miles wide at some points) would come under attack with the objective of cutting off ship traffic. Not only would making that journey perilous bump oil up to $100-$125 a barrel, that's where the main supply line for the US forces in Iraq is. Putting a crimp in that line would cause serious problems. Sure, airplanes could still get through, but a modern army needs thousands of tons of supplies to function effectively. Back in the days of the Hundred Years War (1337 to 1453), an army could live off the land, requisitioning food from the civilian population and manufacturing arrows from local materials. Those days are long gone.
Let's take a look at one of the people backing Bush's "surge" proposal:
"Kagan's study, on the contrary, suggested that with a massive surge of new troops America could finally succeed. It cites the military's new counter-insurgency manual, which suggests that a nation can be secured with a force of one soldier for every 40 to 50 inhabitants. That calculus would call for stationing more than 150,000 troops in Baghdad alone (there are currently 17,000 there), far more than is politically feasible today. But Kagan skirts this issue by asserting that 'it is neither necessary nor wise to try to clear and hold the entire city all at once.' Focusing instead on certain areas of Baghdad, he concludes that the deployment of 20,000 additional troops would be enough to pacify significant sections of the city."
Who's Frederick Kagan? Well, he IS a scholar, but his studies have no clear relevance to either the Middle East or to guerrilla warfare, nor has he ever served in uniform. His specialty has been in Eastern Europe. He has indeed written a few peer-reviewed articles, but none of them have anything to do with the relevant subjects here, they concern the Soviet Union, Napoleon and Star Wars/SDI/Missile Defense. Bush is favoring the study of some guy who really doesn't have a clue as to what he's talking about.
How does Broder feel about bloggers?
"Mike Gravel, a strident critic...[made a proposal] that not even a deranged blogger could love"
How does he feel about liberals and the military?
"...retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of 'Duty, Honor, Country,' forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military."
My comments to Broder:
As you probably know by now, the blogger Oliver Willis (Your comment that "Mike Gravel, a strident critic...[made a proposal] that not even a deranged blogger could love" makes your feelings towards bloggers quite clear.) is calling you a liar over your comment that "...retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of 'Duty, Honor, Country,' forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military."
This is far less true for Democrats than it is for the chickenhawk administration of G.W. Bush and Co. Bush and followers like to TALK about their love for the troops, but they very rarely follow it up with any real action. People battling in have been pointing out that they lack the equipment necessary to do the job and numerous critics, bloggers among them, have pointed out that the number of troops in is about a third of what it needs to be if the US expects to accomplish anything there.
How does the President "love" the troops? Why, by accusing anyone who doesn't like HIS war plans of not loving the troops! The confusion here, and I believe it's one that has been deliberately and consciously fostered by Bush & Co., is to conflate "the troops" with "the mission." Just as Saddam Hussein was constantly conflated with Osama bin Laden, just as the Bush Administration constantly invoked 9-11 when discussing the situation, just as our troops are told during training, that the US is in to avenge 9-11, we're now being told that we can't criticize the mission in because that means we're criticizing the troops.
As a member of chapters of Veterans for Peace, I can asure you that not only are veterans actively involved with the anti-war movement, but we have received absolutely zero disrespect from those who have protested the war.
The really sad aspect of Cohen's talking on the issue is his amazing lack of familiarity with the case. One would think that a pundit, someone who's paid to have opinions on the issues, would be completely familiar with the details. Considering that the case dates from mid-2003 and that it's an important case (The Bush Administration couldn't credibly claim to be misled by Ahmed Chalabi because Chalabi had nothing to do with the case.) one would think Cohen wouldn't make an absolute howler of a mistake like this:
Wilson made no such claim. Wilson had made it quite clear at the time that it was "agency officials" from the CIA who requested he make the trip. He was specifically asked about whether Cheney or Cheney's office had anything to do with the trip and Wilson simply couldn't say. He had his suspicions of course, but no first-hand knowledge.
Obviously, Cohen needs to spend less time scarfing down cocktail weenies at the fashionable parties and more time doing research. He needs less time to goof off and needs to put in more hours to do his job!