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:: Saturday, June 14, 2003 ::

Further thoughts on the media...

Continuing in the vein of this post....

It's becoming rapidly apparent that the public doesn't want to know it's been lied to. A good chunk of the public thinks we found weapons already, and another big chunk doesn't care. And the media is far more skittish than normal.

But the longer this "Bush lied" story drags out, the more difficult it will be to predict the results. Will people be angry at Bush for lying? At the press for pointing it out? At the press for failing to point it out?

Or will they simply not care, and Rove go on to "note names" of who was naughty, and who was nice to Bush?

Given the right atmosphere, this could bring Bush down. Or it could turn the ire of the public on the press. Or cost them access. Or just be a big flop.

So no one big is running with it. They're playing it safe. Letting it percolate. Seeing which way public opinion runs....

Not that I think various editors are thinking that way. Ironically enough, the various manufactured scandals of the Clinton years might be helping Bush now.

Blumenthal's reviews made it pretty clear that the press:

A) Realizes it's culpability and how big a sucker they were in the whole affair.
B) Has no intention of admitting this.
C) Has no intention of being used like saps again.

It's possible that, even thought they won't admit it, they're afraid of getting burned again and coming off looking like gullible fools again. Oh, they'll go scandal hunting on the small fry....but they're burned on the President. They fell in love with Bush on the campaign because they wanted, needed, to believe that Bush would restore honor and dignity. So they wouldn't be stuck in the position they're in right now, stuck trying to figure out if this is a real scandal, or one manufactured.

They're not ready to face up to their mistakes during the Clinton years. And they desperately wanted a President who wouldn't put them in the position of pursuing a scandal that didn't happen. Bush promised he wouldn't be that way, they believed him....and everything in them is crying out that he can't be that way now, because they're not ready to face it. Whitewater, all the Clinton 'scandals', are too fresh and the comparison between them and a real scandal, a real Watergate or Iran-Contra....just makes them feel like even bigger fools.

But that's not going to save Bush, if he doesn't hurry. They can't, even for the sake of their pride, even for the laudable goal of not repeating mistakes, ignore something like this forever. They can't keep downplaying it....because the media lives on scandal, and much as they don't want to be made fools of again, they won't be able to resist the chance that this might be for real.

And if the CIA and State keep leaking, there will be too many papers wanting to have their own place in history...make their mark with their own Pentagon Papers, their own Deepthroat....want to bring down a President.

It's all about ego here

:: Morat 8:56 PM :: ::

Austin Lounge Lizards

If you're at all fond of bluegrass, especially bluegrass with a satirical bent, check out the Austin Lounge Lizards. I haven't seen them in a few years, but a post at Off The Kuff reminded me (they tend to play the Mucky Duck in Houston). They're a great band, and I often find their songs inspiring...in a very liberal sort of way. The first thing I heard them play, way back in about 1995, was Gingrich the Newt.

Admittedly, liberal satirical bluegrass is something of a tiny niche, but the Lizards are darn good. They'll be at the Mucky Duck in Houston the June 28th. They'll be playing Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington State in August.

If you're anywhere nearby, go see them.
:: Morat 5:33 PM :: ::

Ah, what sweet, sweet polls you make....

I went ahead and lifted this post entirely from The Left Coaster (thanks for the link, btw). It was too sweet to pass up.
How crazy do you think it makes Rove and Bush to know that after the most relentless sales job in history, a stage managed and contrived national disaster, an invisible opposition, and a totally captive media, the best these bastards can do is to be only three points better than a man they despise?

I am laughing myself to sleep tonight with this.
Me too. Me too.
:: Morat 5:09 PM :: ::

A thought on 'Bush Lies'

I've been wondering why the media was so reticent to flat-out accuse the Bush administration of lying. It's not like they've been shy about it in the past. It's possible they've merely learned their lesson on accusations before the facts are in, or that they're treating this in the "He said/she said" manner that has become the bane of actual reporting, but I can't help but wonder if it's something else.

Fear. This is potentially an explosive issue. When Presidents get caught in big lies (and sometimes even small ones), things change. Dramatically. Once "Bush is Lying" is out there, there's absolutely no taking it back. It's a very serious charge for any political lie, but one that we made war on?

Push this, and the erupting scandal could be dramatically worse than Watergate, dramatically worse than Iran-Contra. It'll put the press in an awkward position, forced to explain how they let known lies slip by unreported. But if Bush doesn't squelch this soon, if he doesn't lay it to rest, it'll be too big to ignore.

And with an entire CIA full of potential Deepthroats, angry at being scapegoated for political decisions....well, there may very well be no squelching this story. No matter what tricks Rove has up his sleeve.
:: Morat 4:04 PM :: ::

Uranium Lies...

Bush seems bent on proving that common political wisdom isn't true. In a lot of ways, he's managed to do things that common wisdom did say was impossible, so it's unsurprising he'd continue to buck the trend. The prevailing idea in scandals is that you come clean as soon as it's clear you're caught. The earlier you come clean, the sooner it dies, and the quicker it's forgotten. It's the repeated accusations/counter-accusation that keeps the scandal alive. And the longer it's alive, the more it damages your reputation. Admitting error tends to preempt your accusers, and lets you at least play decent defense.

So it's curious why Bush continues to deny any wrongdoing in regards to the Nigerian claim.
The White House on Friday stood by President Bush (news - web sites)'s assertion that Iraq (news - web sites) has sought uranium in Africa in recent years, saying that his allegation in January was supported by more evidence than a series of letters now known to have been forged.
...
Officials did not specify the sources of any such additional intelligence. Intelligence officials have previously described other evidence of recent Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium in Africa as fragmentary.
Quite a turnaround. I don't think Bush is going to be able to salvage this one, but I can understand the political strategy here. Bush has managed so much because, far more than Clinton, he was able to remain above the fray. His entire image is based on his supposed integrity and credibility. Remember, this is a man who campaigned on "restoring honor and dignity to the White House.". Admitting he knowingly used forged documents to support his agenda would shatter that image. And once shattered, his biggest selling point would be gone. And difficult, if not impossible, to resurrect.

Another interesting tidbit was this:
In retrospect, officials said, it would have been better to have left the uranium claim out of the president's speech, even though the speech was fact-checked by the CIA and other agencies. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) said Sunday the report was not central to the president's case that Iraq had prohibited weapons and programs.
As Josh Marshall has been pointing out, it most certainly was crucial to the President's case. Saddam's biological and chemical weapons didn't have one tenth the importance and "fear factor" that the specter of a nuclear armed Iraq did.

Iraq's supposed nuclear program was so important to the President's case that he lied about it from day one. Not just forged Nigerian documents and claims about uranium buys, but repeated false claims about aluminum tube purchases, references to IAEA reports that didn't exist -- or didn't say what he claimed -- and even photographs he claimed -- falsely -- represented construction on new nuclear weapons facilities.

The case for an Iraqi nuclear program was always the weakest, but it was so critical in convincing the public that Bush felt it necessary to use multiple lies in order to sell it.
:: Morat 3:57 PM :: ::

Define Irony..

According to Eschaton, the AEI is worried about the influence of "non-governmental organizations" on government. Groups like Amnesty International, Greenpeace, etc.

The AEI held a debate on it this week...sponsored by NGOWatch, a project of the Federalist Society.

Ironic, eh?
:: Morat 11:54 AM :: ::

Welcome to the Occupation

Daily Kos has a pair of good posts up on Iraq. The first is an overview of the issues facing our occupying forces.
So what does McKiernan face this summer?

1) The policy of dispersing US units is setting them up for ambush. Which is why the needs of security and needs for military action are smacking into each other. We need to secure Iraq, but if we do, we diminish the local combat power and provide ample targets. No wave of paramilitary police or foreign support is coming any time soon.

2)The resitance has the tacit support of Iraqi society. They may not be killing Americans themselves, but they are, at best, tolerant of these groups, at worse, banking on their success before tossing in with them. Because the US lacks Arabic language skills and a sense they are guests in Iraq, they alienate potential helpers. Every Iraqi is suspect and the Iraqis are fast coming to see us in the same way.

3) Unhappy reservists and a shaky 3ID. They have been out there for long time and expected to go home. Instead, they get a summer in the sun, with the hatred of every Iraqi they see following them. No relaxation, no cute Iraqi girlfriends, nothing but heat and hatred. How long can they go before they take their plight out on some Iraqi village or get so tired and sloppy, the guerrillas take out an entire patrol which just tried to cut themselves a break.

4) No large scale relief from coalition forces. Most of the countries asked have refused point blank, starting with the Canadians.
Daily Kos has some smart people posting for them, and while they're prone to taking the pessimistic view, these are ideas that most certainly should be occurring to the White House. If they are, however, it's obvious no one has bothered to formulate policy based on them. Planning for the worst is always a good idea, but it appears that our Fearless Leader's never bothered planning at all....

The second post covers the increasing fatigue and difficulties facing the common soldier.
Two months after surging into Baghdad, the First Brigade's soldiers and officers have found themselves enmeshed in yet another war -- less intense, perhaps, but still exhausting, still perilous and, at times, still psychologically taxing.

Some are haunted by the deaths they caused -- and suffered -- and have sought counseling. All are tired and hot and increasingly bitter. Morale has plummeted as sharply as the temperature has risen.

Last Saturday night, Sergeant Betancourt's company sent a Humvee and an armored personnel carrier on a mission to fix the satellite phone their company had bought in Baghdad. As they were returning, someone threw a grenade from an overpass. It exploded only a few feet away, rattling but not seriously injuring two soldiers.

"If it had been a split second earlier, it'd have been bad," Staff Sgt. Ray B. Robinson, a squad leader in Sergeant Betancourt's company, said."They're killing us.
Taken together, they paint a particularly disturbing picture. A lack of planning at the top, and increasing fatigue and rapidly dropping morale among those stuck dealing with the fallout.

Sooner or later, it's going to explode. Soldiers tired of being shot at are going to react well out of proportion, or Iraqis tired of not having water or electricity are going to attack the only Americans they can find.....
:: Morat 11:51 AM :: ::

:: Friday, June 13, 2003 ::

Iraqis Irate as U.S. Forces Roam Hostile Countryside

I am good. Seriously, I wish I could claim predicting this took intense education, experience and mental brilliance. What it took was common sense and 20 seconds of thought.
A U.S. drive to root out supporters of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) from his heartland north of Baghdad is fueling mounting hostility toward the American forces occupying Iraq (news - web sites), angry local people said Friday.

Thousands of U.S. troops launched their biggest operation this week since major combat was declared over, raiding hide-outs of suspected Saddam loyalists around the small agriculture market town of Balad.
...
But locals said the harsh U.S. crackdown would only alienate Iraqis and stir up discontent.
I give Bremer two more months, tops, before he's replaced. This sort of idiotic reaction is typical of the entire Iraq operation.

I can only surmise that, like with most subjects, our fearless leader got a C in history too. Something about those who don't study history....
:: Morat 2:32 PM :: ::

An excellent summary

On Atrios' comments board, steve_gilliard (real one or not, I don't know) summed it up:
The consequence for this lie is simple: 200 dead Americans, 66 killed after we seized Baghdad.

You can spin or bullshit this any way you want, but American troops are in the shit, every day and their bosses think Saddam's behind it. Which is wishful thinking at best.

Kagan and his daddy can bullshit with their theories and Marshall can asskiss his way into the Beltway kool kids klub, but at the end of the day, real people, Iraqi and American are dying.

Any argument on WMD boils down to that simple issue. How many Americans are we going to get killed to make Iraq safe.
Bits about Marshall aside, that's a really powerful point. The consequences of this lie are measured in dead bodies. The dead bodies of those troops I was told I needed to support over and over again.

I did support them. I didn't want them dying for someone else's agenda.
:: Morat 1:59 PM :: ::

WMD's

A friend of mine referred to them as "Weapons of Mass Distraction". I couldn't agree more.
:: Morat 1:48 PM :: ::

Granting Freedom to Iraq

Except, of course, for those pesky First Amendment ones.
Mr Bremer’s office yesterday issued a notice banning all gatherings, pronouncements or publications that incited disorder or violence aimed at occupation forces or at the return of the Baath Party.

The decree said it was not intended to "exclude or inhibit legitimate debate and criticism, or to stifle political expression".
The irony is simply stunning.
:: Morat 1:43 PM :: ::

Hunting Snipes in 120 Degree heat...

Tom Spencer pointed out this Washington Post story about Task Force 20, which spent the entirety of the war searching Iraq (behind enemy lines) for banned weapons. They're biggest discovery? Landmines that might, long ago, have been filled with botulinim toxin. As for the rest:
Until very recently, the principal focus of the U.S. Central Command, which directs the search for illegal weapons, was a methodical survey of the 87 top-priority facilities identified in the "integrated master site list" maintained at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

More than 900 specialists and tens of millions of dollars of detection and laboratory equipment were devoted to the survey, and its leaders said publicly that they expected to find large caches of chemical and perhaps other weapons at the sites. That effort, a high-ranking national security official said Wednesday, was "a waste of time."

The Defense Department's new public emphasis is on "people, not buildings," as one officer put it. Some officials said previously that Iraqis would have to lead the United States to the concealed weapons. But it is now clear, from an examination of Task Force 20's work, that the Defense Department and intelligence agencies have already put that strategy to the test for 100 days.

"People who say there are no weapons are going to be quite embarrassed within weeks or months, when the material comes out," the high-ranking official said. He said that "there are things we are finding that are in train," under preparation for public disclosure, but he declined to elaborate.

But many of those most knowledgeable about Task Force 20's work, some of whom observed it at close quarters, said there is no sign of decisive evidence in the information gathered to date. They said most of Task Force 20's successes -- seizing files, wanted scientists and potentially "hot samples" of lethal substances -- came early in the war.
I don't know about you, but when those trailers were revealed I was certainly embarrassed. But not for myself.
:: Morat 12:56 PM :: ::

Goldberg on "Living History"

TAPPED pointed this gem by Goldberg out (and hey, cool! They pointed out the same bid story I just blogged on!).
I think this is all a very well-orchestrated campaign to create the impression of a much greater groundswell than actually exists. Hillary's motive for this is obvious. She needs to appear extremely popular. Simon and Schuster had to do it this way because -- other than the three or four leaked (dishonest) paragraphs about her finding out about Monica from Bill -- there is actually zero interesting, controversial or salacious material in the book. If you can't sell the book because of the content, you've got to sell the event. I think it's a con and I would love to see one of the breathless reporters covering Hillary actually do some truth-squad work on this.
That's right. You heard it right here. Sales figures for Living History are giant lies. It's all lies. No one is buying it. No one at all. Hillary simply cannot be popular, nor can anyone want to read her book. Logic demands it!

Like Goldberg, we here at Skeptical Notion firmly believe that anything positive about any Clinton is a lie. We're not sure how The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy managed to get Living History to the number 2 spot on Amazon, but we're certain it involved something truly nefarious.
:: Morat 12:34 PM :: ::

Restoring Honor and Dignity

One sleazy, sole bid and probably quite illegal contract at a time...
The Washington firm awarded a government contract worth up to $157 million to rebuild Iraq's educational system may have helped shape the proposal it was then asked to bid on, according to a critical internal government review.

The inspector general's office at the U.S. Agency for International Development said Creative Associates International Inc. participated in a roundtable discussion with agency officials about Iraq's education system last November, four months before USAID invited it and four other companies to bid on the work. Creative Associates was the only firm to bid, and it listed three of the four competitors as possible subcontractors

:: Morat 12:25 PM :: ::

Why Diplomacy exists

Someone should beat this into Rumsfeld's head. The US military is not inexhaustible, it is not omnipotent, and it is not the solution to every problem. So we've got non-combat ready troops living in a 24/7 combat situation (Iraq) and now this:
Defense officials and civilian analysts say the numbers demonstrate that the unusually intense use of part-time soldiers over the past year and a half is beginning to seriously affect the Guard and Reserve. Units have been called up for numerous missions that include guarding bases around the world, fixing war-torn towns in Afghanistan and flying refueling jets over Iraq. Nearly two months after the fall of Baghdad, there are still 215,000 Guard and Reserve troops on active duty around the world, many in Iraq.

"I think it is reasonable to conclude that people are looking at the last 19 to 20 months of mobilization ... and they are voting with their feet", said Tom White, a former secretary of the Army. "I think we're seeing the leading edge of a problem."

Recruiters aren't helped by the apparent transformation of part-time soldiering into full-time jobs. A decade ago, men and women who joined the Guard and Reserve knew in most cases they would train one weekend a month and perform two weeks of summer drills. The vast majority was unlikely to be called for extended active duty.

A recruiting drought could have serious implications for homeland security and the war on terrorism, since Guard and Reserve troops are shouldering much of the burden of guarding U.S. airports and performing other domestic security missions.

The demands on National Guard and Reserve troops, most of whom have full-time civilian jobs, have been unrelenting. Some units, including military police and nation-building soldiers known as civil affairs specialists, have been called up almost constantly since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Last year, the Pentagon extended about 15,000 Reservists for a second consecutive year of active duty, the first time that had happened since the Vietnam War.
It's not going to get better. It's going to get far, far, far worse. We're stuck in Iraq for a year or more. Many more, if we do it right. We need more troops there than we have, we're not getting any real help from allies.

And we've been overusing Guard and Reserve units ever since 2001. It's not just dragging recruitment that's going to be the problem. I'm not sure how easy it is to quit the Guard or the Reserves while called up (for all I know, it's pretty impossible) but I'm betting on large numbers of resignations.

They'll be plenty of units "Not Ready for Duty, Sir!" by the time the 2004 elections roll around.
:: Morat 12:06 PM :: ::

Vote Bush...Or Else

This has to be the lamest, most disgusting argument I've ever seen. It even trumps "He looks French" for sheer stupidity and jingoistic overtones. According to the NRO, terrorists will be attacking soon so to interfere with Bush's reelection.

Of course they will. The fact that virtually nothing has been done by Bush to prevent such attacks is immaterial. Osama hates Republicans. Heck, he probably voted for Nader....

Matt doesn't didn't even quote the last paragraph, which ranks as the worst in my mind.
If such an attack succeeds, the Democrats have been positioning themselves to benefit from it. All the talk of inadequate funding for homeland security -- as if pouring money on Rainbow Tom Ridge will solve anything -- is a predicate to their strategy. Bush will be blamed for protecting us inadequately. If the damage is sufficiently severe, and the economy tanks, they may even try to impeach him. If you think they can't do that, think again.
Impeach him with what? Our vast Democratic House majority? More importantly, I love how he implicitly admits that Bush's own Homeland head is useless, as if that somehow absolves Bush of blame.

"Of course it's not Bush's fault. It's Tom, the guy Bush appointed and can fire at will." Personaresponsibilityty my left foot.

On the bright side, if they're playing defense already, and this is the best they've got, Democrats have more hope in 2004 than I thought...


:: Morat 10:58 AM :: ::

Tom DeLay

The Left Coaster has a good post up in response to Krugman's latest column. It's all about Tom DeLay and the sorts of problems he's liable to cause George Bush. The Left Coaster goes into more detail about why Tom DeLay is politically capable of ignoring the President and theoretically head of his own party, and is a good follow-up to Krugman's shorter piece.

I used to live in Tom DeLay's district. I've heard the man speak, and I've followed his career fairly closely. And I don't think either of them really capture the true Tom DeLay. He is, as Krugman says, both far more radical and far more powerful than Newt ever was. His power isn't his position in the House, or built on the safety of his district, but upon the sheer amount of money the man raises.

He is cruel, egotistical, arrogant, and dangerously extreme. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, I suggest you do so. Especially if it's a small meeting. I got the chance to hear him rail against Baylor and Texas A&M as being "dangerously liberal" schools because they taught evolution. Having attended A&M, I can promise you that the Campus Democrats were not the most popular group and "liberal" wasn't the word that came to mind. And while we're all used to the more fundamentalist right-wing politicians trying to prevent public schools from teaching evolution, it's an entirely new level of radicalism to bash state supported colleges for teaching it.

There's far more to Tom DeLay than meets the eye, and little of it good.
:: Morat 10:42 AM :: ::

Judicial Shenanigans

Given the quiet war being waged in the Senate, it's too bad more Americans aren't paying attention. Bill Pryor, whose remarks on gays, Roe versus Wade, and in fact virtually every question submitted to him so far indicate how truly awful a judge he'd make, is a fitting example of this war. More than anything, the appointment of this man shows how willing Bush is to push ideology over competence or adherence to the law. For a party that decries activist judges, they're pushing judges whose activist goals dwarf anything done in the last two decades by the "liberal" Supreme Court. The Washington Post explains the background behind a well-known Pryor "Joke". More than rescheduling vacations to avoid "Gay Day" at Disney, Pryor's comments here show how much of a danger he is.
I'M PROBABLY the only one who wanted it 5-4," Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr. said the day after the Supreme Court resolved the 2000 election controversy with a split decision. "I wanted Governor Bush to have a full appreciation of the judiciary and judicial selection so we can have no more appointments like Justice Souter."

Packed into this brief comment are several attitudes that should be anathema to any federal judge: contempt for judges with whom they disagree, a vision of the judiciary as essentially political in nature, and a desire to see matters of national controversy resolved in such a way as to highlight the political differences among jurists.
...
Mr. Pryor's expression of contempt for Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, a Republican appointee whose moderation has caused conservatives to feel bitterly betrayed, was not an isolated incident. Echoing what has become a conservative slogan in the judicial nomination wars, Mr. Pryor ended one speech with what he termed "my prayer for the next administration: Please, God, no more Souters." Former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods, a fellow Republican, told National Public Radio that he had "great question of whether Mr. Pryor has the ability to be nonpartisan. I would say he was probably the most doctrinaire and the most partisan of any attorney general I dealt with in eight years."
...
Both comments specifically indicated that people like Justice Souter should not be nominated to the bench, and what's more, one of them indicated that riven court decisions are desirable to the extent they emphasize the political stakes in appointing judges. The court's apparently political split in the election dispute was no plus; it cast the resolution of the election in disrepute for many Americans. Nobody who revels in the political advantages to be gleaned from such failures of judicial consensus-building belongs on the bench.
These are the people George Bush wants deciding your cases, interpreting your laws, and heavily shaping the world you live in.

Scared yet? You should be.

:: Morat 10:11 AM :: ::

White House in Denial

Kristof had a good column today about the forged Nigerian document (the one referenced so glowingly in the President's State of the Union).
Condoleezza Rice was asked on "Meet the Press" on Sunday about a column of mine from May 6 regarding President Bush's reliance on forged documents to claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. That was not just a case of hyping intelligence, but of asserting something that had already been flatly discredited by an envoy investigating at the behest of the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Ms. Rice acknowledged that the president's information turned out to be "not credible," but insisted that the White House hadn't realized this until after Mr. Bush had cited it in his State of the Union address.
...
Officials now claim that the C.I.A. inexplicably did not report back to the White House with this envoy's findings and reasoning, or with an assessment of its own that the information was false. I hear something different. My understanding is that while Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may not have told Mr. Bush that the Niger documents were forged, lower C.I.A. officials did tell both the vice president's office and National Security Council staff members. Moreover, I hear from another source that the C.I.A.'s operations side and its counterterrorism center undertook their own investigations of the documents, poking around in Italy and Africa, and also concluded that they were false — a judgment that filtered to the top of the C.I.A.

Meanwhile, the State Department's intelligence arm, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, independently came to the exact same conclusion about those documents, according to Greg Thielmann, a former official there. Mr. Thielmann said he was "quite confident" that the conclusion had been passed up to the top of the State Department.
It appears that "Blame the CIA" is the new game in town. It also appears, unsurprisingly, that the CIA doesn't want to play.

The more pressure that is brought to bear on the Administration about the bogus claims, outright forgeries and generally fallacious claims about Iraq's weapons programs, the more they're going to blame the CIA.

And the more the CIA is going to leak like a sieve, releasing memos, off-the-record comments and everything else they have to point out that the White House was informed of the facts, but chose not to listen.

I don't expect that anyone taped White House officials leaning on analysts and demanding the 'right sort' of information. We're not the Brits, after all. But the more the White House has to explain, the more they'll shift the blame to the one group that has the ability to prove 'What Bush Knew'.

Not a winning game for the White House, but certainly a winning game for the public. After all, we'll get to find out, through defensive leaks, what exactly went on. And barring the unexpected, it appears the best result for Bush will be to merely look like a fool who trustedideologiess. And the worst, well, I don't expect the "I-word" to filter out of the current House, but I don't think the American public is going to take kindly to being lied to. Especially as the situation in Iraq deteriorates.
:: Morat 9:57 AM :: ::

Rumsfeld's Open Mouth

Steve Gilliard over at Daily Kos had some interesting things to say about Rumsfeld's latest verbal stupidity, when he threatened (while in Belgium) to boycott Belgium if it doesn't change it's laws to suit the US (or rather, Donald Rumsfeld). Steve said:
So, is this the same man expecting Allied troops to swelter in the Iraqi desert?

He's making policy which is not his business to make. He's not secretary of state, he cannot make Belgium's laws. Does he not understand that this is the kind of thing which can cause a government to fall? If he disagrees, in the past, his comments would be made privately, and the Secretary of State would make the political, public objection. What does he want to do? Move NATO headquarters to Warsaw?

He is completely blind to the consequences of this kind of threat. Change your laws or we harm your economy is no way to make friends and support allies. Belgians live in a democracy. If this is a law that is passed by parliament, then we have to live with it.
I find the first part particularly important. It's a simple fact that we lack the manpower to occupy Iraq. We're short on manpower as it is, and that's with keeping the exhausted (and no longer combat-ready) 3ID in the field. We've been desperately asking for allied help (this while Britain is quickly removing thousands of soldiers from Iraq).

We need the rest of the world. As it is, no one wants to help us. Can you blame them? Iraq's a mess that's getting worse by the day. But if we don't get large numbers of allied troops in there, we're going to be faced with committing the last of our reserves (which means those National Guard guys who've been on duty a year or more get to go play in the sand) to pacify Iraq, or pulling out and leaving chaos and anarchy in our wake.

So how do we go about convincing the rest of the world to help us? The guys that we threatened, marginalized, insulted, and ignored? The very countries whose populations are adamantly against aiding us, and whose leaders realize that any troop commitments will be long-term occupation of a hostile country? Apparently, we insult them. Donald even managed to repeat the "Old Europe" slut a few days ago.

In any other Administration, Rumsfeld would have been reined in or canned long ago. The fact that Bush has done neither speaks volumes. Either he personally approves of the antagonizing of needed allies, or he simply isn't aware of the damage Rumsfeld is doing. Or, I suppose, Rumsfeld has some telling Harken documents.....
:: Morat 9:24 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, June 12, 2003 ::

Frothing at the Mouth: Corked Bats and Cooked Physics

A fun physics post here. If you like baseball or physics, indulge yourself. Thanks to OffTheKuff for the link.
:: Morat 2:10 PM :: ::

Today on Bremer Says

And the man thinks this is good news.
While he said there was an increasing number of organized attacks on U.S. troops in regions north of Baghdad, they were on a small scale of five to 10 people, without an apparent central command and control.
Yes, Paul. It's a good think when your attackers are divided into cells. Because we all know how inefficient and easy to stop that is...

Oh wait, it's not. It's the most efficient and hard to suppress form of resistance. I'm confused. Why is that good again, Paul?
:: Morat 2:03 PM :: ::

Exaggerating The Threats

A must read article in Newsweek.
This should not surprise us. For decades some conservatives, including many who now wield great influence, have had a tendency to vastly exaggerate the threat posed by tyrannical regimes.
It all started with the now famous “Team B” exercise. During the early 1970s, hard-line conservatives pilloried the CIA for being soft on the Soviets. As a result, CIA Director George Bush agreed to allow a team of outside experts to look at the intelligence and come to their own conclusions. Team B—which included Paul Wolfowitz—produced a scathing report, claiming that the Soviet threat had been badly underestimated.
...
In the 1990s, some of these same conservatives decided that China was the new enemy. The only problem was that China was still a Third World country and could hardly be seen as a grave threat to the United States. What followed was wild speculation about the size of the Chinese military and accusations that it had engaged in massive theft of American nuclear secrets.
...
Iraq is part of a pattern. In each of these cases, arguments about the threat posed by a country rest in large part on the character of the regime. The Team B report explains that the CIA’s analysis was flawed because it was based on too much “hard data”—meaning facts—and neglected to divine Soviet intentions. The Chinese regime is assumed to be a mortal danger because it is Leninist. Saddam was assumed to be working on a vast weapons program because he was an evil man.
Let’s never forget that these regimes are nasty, and that does matter greatly. But threat assessment must be based not simply on the intentions of an adversary, but on his capabilities as well. This is an important lesson as we move forward to deal with repressive regimes like those in North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. They are evil and may need to be confronted. But let us do so with a clear and accurate picture of the threat they pose, not some figment of our fevered imaginations.
(bolding mine) I'm guessing that Wolfowitz doesn't learn from past mistakes. How about you? Thanks to TAPPED for the link.
:: Morat 1:57 PM :: ::

Republicans Limit Probe of Iraq Intelligence

In the words of Eric Alterman: The coverup commences.

Cheer up, however. There's still Blair. And the more heat on Blair, the more heat over here as well. Still, given the eagerness with which the GOP pursued even the faintest whiff of Clinton wrongdoing, their reluctance to investigate matters of life and death is a bit...hypocritcal.

:: Morat 12:30 PM :: ::

Iraq, the UN, and compliance..

Poking around the web, I see various apologetics for the little white lies told about Weapons of Mass Destruction. And in the process of reading the various explanations, something occurred to me.

One of the selling points of this war, one of the reasons for speed and ultimately circumventing the UN, was that the UN had dithered over the issue for twelve years. That, for the past decade and more, Iraq has led the UN around by the nose, and that if the UN would not stand up and enforce it's will, the US would do it for them.

That was the logic. These are dangerous weapons, and if you (the UN) won't do something about it after a decade of messing around, we'll do it for you.

And now it's 2003, and the US has occupied Iraq. And even US officials are starting to suggest that Iraq destroyed it's weapons, and certainly captured Iraqi scientists and defectors have been saying that for some time.

Which brings us back to the "useless" UN. Apparently, they were quite effective in enforcing their dictates. The entire reason for all those resolutions, dating back to 1991, was to rid Iraq of chemical and biological weapons, and shut down any nuclear programs. In that respect, the UN was 100% successful.

Admittedly, Iraq seems to have failed to find all (or perform) all the required paperwork. In that respect, the UN failed. So if you're going to claim American action was necessary, and the need was immediate, because the UN had spent 12 years not getting the job done, consider this: The only job left undone was the paperwork.

That's right. We started a war, trashed alliances, and alienated most of the world because of paperwork. Now that's a reason to go to war.

Update: Let me be clear on something. Verifying Iraq's destruction of it's WMDs was quite important. However, since UN inspectors had destroyed the bulk of Iraq's weaponry prior to 1998, and UN sanctions had prevented new development (there was no evidence saying otherwise, no matter how hard Bush tried to claim it), Iraq was demonstrably less of a threat than ever before. Add in the fact that Iraq was cooperating far more heavily than at any point in the inspection regime, and that the best intelligence failed to turn up anything, and you have a real interesting political pickle.
:: Morat 12:22 PM :: ::

An idea for Dean..

The Tough Democrat had a great post up on Dean, and a really interesting suggestion.
Why not hang a lantern on his DLC roots problem -- why not give a speech to the NRA? Or better yet, announce that he's supporting the creation of an alternative group to the NRA, supporting gun rights but a bit less, shall we say, pro-Columbine. He's the most pro-gun candidate in the field, and there's no danger of the left turning en masse to Kucinich, Sharpton, or Mosely-Braun. It would lead to a string of stories about how he's more complicated than you think and help him both in hunting-friendly New England and the moderate South. And it would show that he is not only outspoken, he's daring. Audacious. In command.
Not a bad idea. Didn't Michael Moore mention that he had intended, before getting sidetracked, to run for President of the NRA and return it to it's roots? As a hunting and shooting club?

Perhaps Dean should look into that. I'm pretty heavily in favor of gun-control, but I don't have any problem whatsoever with hunting and sport shooting. I don't think many liberals do, despite the image. Best of all, it'd probably be worth doing for it's own sake. I know a number of people (conservatives, even) who used to be members of the NRA, but have gotten disgusted over where it's gone over the last decade.
:: Morat 10:21 AM :: ::

US Copter Shot Down

I thought hostilities were over? How come people are still shooting, and American troops are still dying?

Seriously, the question is, why does the American public continue to by the things George Bush says? He's not that great a salesman, and certainly not that great a liar. Are we just desperate to believe the lie?
:: Morat 9:54 AM :: ::

A new dawn in American/Iraqi relations

US Forces Detain 400 Iraqis in Large-Scale Roundup
American forces completed their largest combat operation in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad today, with more than 3,000 soldiers backed by fighter jets, armored vehicles and patrol boats surrounding a 30-square mile peninsula north of Baghdad that is said to harbor gunmen attacking American soldiers.
Two brief gun battles erupted when American forces entered this farming town early Monday, American commanders said. Four Iraqis died, four Americans were wounded and 375 Iraqi men were detained. Iraqi civilians said American soldiers handcuffed women and children, beat one man to death and allowed another to die of a heart attack, charges American officials called "absolutely false."

The sheer scope of the operation — with pilotless drones, F-15 fighters and AC-130 gunships circling overhead as thousands descended on the area — suggested the serious a new American drive to quell a nascent resistance movement in the Sunni Muslim-dominated areas north and west of Baghdad. The area, known as the "Sunni triangle" was a bedrock of support for Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim himself.
Somewhere, somehow, some idiot thought this was going to fix things. Somewhere, somehow, in the chain of command, some idiot thought this was a good way to do things.

Here's a hint to that idiot: It doesn't matter whether we actually beat a man to death. It doesn't matter whether a man actually died of a heart attack. It doesn't matter whether we actually handcuffed women and children. What matters, my moronic friend, is that the Iraqi's are saying we did.

As anyone living through the last few elections can tell you, truth is immaterial. It's perception that counts. The Iraqis, regardless of the truthperceiveve that we arrested 400 innocent people, killed some, let a few others die, manhandled women and children, all to get supposed Saddam sympathizers that we can't identify, just claim exist.

Notice the disconnect there? We're telling them it's all about liberating them and giving them freedom, but in the meantime we're arresting hundreds of people, most -- if not all -- of whom are innocent.

What's worse is that not only are we making ourselves look worse to a country already angry about our continued presence, but our jackboot tactics have absolutely no chance of actually working. Here's one more hint, gratis, from me to you: I know you want, like Chalabi, to believe that all the unrest and distrust and looting and violence is the result of Saddasympathizersrs. I'm sure some of it is. However, if you truly believe that all of it is, or even the vast majority, then you've drunk the Bush Kool-Aid. We're not wanted there. We're not liked. Not just among Sunnis, but among pretty much all Iraqis. And acting like jackbooted thugs isn't going to change things.

Welcome to the Occuptation. If you're in charge, please check your brain at the door. We wouldn't want any chance of getting this right, now would we?
:: Morat 9:47 AM :: ::

Late Night Thoughts...

Now that's a rant. Go read.
:: Morat 9:33 AM :: ::

Sex, Lies, and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Okay, I lied about the sex. Josh Marshall's latest offering is well worth reading, although I have a problem with one of his statements.
The president's defenders want to frame the argument like this: the president said their was WMD; his critics said there was WMD. If he's wrong, everybody was wrong. If there was a 'plot' to deceive the American people, as Kagan would have it, even the president's critics were in on the plot. So what kind of plot would that be?

This is just a head-fake with an advanced degree and it's deeply dishonest.

The public didn't get sold on this war because Saddam had nerve gas, or botulinum or even anthrax. True or not, a lot of people believed that.(I believed it -- and I still have a very hard time believing Saddam doesn't have chemical munitions stored somewhere.) The public got sold on the war because the administration argued consistently and vociferously that Saddam was on the brink of amassing far more fearsome weapons -- particularly nuclear weapons ("We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud") and that he had growing operational ties to terrorists to whom he might give these weapons or even some of his less threatening chemical agents.
I think that Josh is overlooking the real issue here. In reality, no one was sure how much Saddam had, which was the whole point of inspections. According to the previous inspectors, that'd gotten the vast bulk of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, and the general feel was that he'd managed to keep some back, and perhaps some of that was still viable, but that he hadn't made any progress in rebuilding his arsenal in the last decade.

The idea behind inspections was that we wanted to get whatever he'd managed to keep, and make sure he wasn't going to start rebuilding them the minute we lifted sanctions.

The only people claiming he had tons of anthrax and liters of VX and even a nuclear program was the US. That's the issue at stake.

We, and to a lesser extent, the UK, Israel and maybe Russia, are the only people who really had a good eye into Iraq. Everyone else in the UN, from the inspectors down to the lowliest delegate, had to rely on what a few countries told them. The only data the UN had was four or five years out of date and certainly incomplete.

We had the intelligence assets to know as much, and probably more, than the rest of the UN combined. That gave us a certain credibility. So when George Bush starts talking about liters of VX, the rest of the world is going to listen. They're going to believe, at the very least, that Saddam's got something, because the President of the US has got the CIA and the NSA and God knows what else to tell him about it.

Britain and Israel agreed with us, but that doesn't mean a whole lot. For one, both of them rely heavily on our intel data (although Israel certainly has it's own pipes into Iraq. I don't remember them adding much, though). Secondly, Blair and Sharon had as big a desire to sell this war as Bush did.

It wasn't just the American public that was relying on the US' intelligence stream. It was the entire world.

And with the entire world listening, George Bush and his pals got up there and pushed data that was false, pushed data that wasn't credible, and pushed explanations that had far more to do with wishful thinking and desired results than objective analysis.

Yes, Bush lied completely about the nature of the threat. He lied and exaggerated and overstated and did everything he could to make it look Saddam was already planning how to nuke us or disperse VX in our cities. But he also lied about there being a threat at all. With the data he had available, with the data now coming public, the best US intel could say is that Saddam might have some chemical weapons left, and probably nothing too nasty at that. There certainly was nothing reliable that he was building a nuke program (That was lie start to finish) or that he was rebuilding his chemical or biological programs.

Which made the claim that Saddam was more dangerous today than at any point in the last decade a lie as well.

But claiming that because the rest of the world believed Saddam had weapons means it wasn't a conspiracy is disingenuous at best. They believed he had weapons because we kept saying it. Over and over and over.


:: Morat 9:29 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 ::

Cognitive Dissonance

In an earlier post, I wondered why anyone (aside from abortion, perhaps) would willingly vote Republican. I look at their supposed strengths (fiscal discipline and foreign policy) and shudder. It's been an unmitigated disaster on those two fronts. A trainwreck of colossal proportions, and I know that half the Democratic field right now could (and would) do far better.

Since the GOP controls everything, it's not like there's anyone else to blame. The economy continues to creep along in the toilet, we've alienated most of the world, and we're now stuck with half our deployable forces engaging in armed occupation and guerilla warfare in Iraq. I'm not seeing any profound "up" sides here.

So I began to wonder how the GOP faithful handled it. I figured I'd start small, narrow it down to just the economy and the budget, and go hassle my father. My dad hasn't voted Democratic in 20 years (aside from the odd candidate. He's not a straight-ticket voter, but he's heavily conservative), and as 50ish retired white Protestant, he seemed pretty typical.

I started this conversation in November of 2002, right after the Republicans won control of the Senate. I told my father that, in no uncertain terms, we'd have a ballooning deficit by 2004. He didn't believe me. The Republicans, he assured me, would do no such thing. After being pressed, he allowed that if they did, he'd certainly vote them out.

So I decided to revisit the issue. I figured with his ailing 401(k), a deficit that dwarfed even my most pessimistic prediction, and the bad economy, that now would be an excellent time to see what he thought.

I was shocked. My father had become fatalistic. An economic Calvinist. The bad economy? It was not the GOP's fault. It would have happened to anyone. Nothing could have stopped, prevented, eased, or alleviated it. Digging further, I managed to piece together his thought process. My father, an otherwise intelligent and perceptive man, basically believed that if the GOP hadn't fixed it, it couldn't be fixed.

He simply would not entertain the notion that maybe the GOP hadn't really tried, or that the GOP had, for one reason or another, tried things that everyone knew wouldn't work. Or even, basically, that maybe they'd gotten it wrong.

He believes, deep down, that the GOP is the party of fiscal discipline. The guys to trust on the economy. And if they economy sucks, and they're in charge, then no one short of God could have fixed it.

That's the sort of entrenched ideas Democrats have to attack. What Bush has done over the last two years, what the GOP has willingly aided, should destroy any belief that the current crop of Republicans have any skill with fiscal policy. Rather than face the fact that a cherished, long-held idea is wrong, people will make excuses, evade facing the question...do anything but acknowledge that a long-held belief is false.

That's what we have to fight in 2004. Despite the obvious evidence that Bush hasn't been good for either the economy or our foreign affairs, it's not going to stick easily. A scandal might bring him down, because everyone knows scandals happen. But everyone also knows the GOP is good for business and the economy.

If anyone has any solutions, feel free to suggest them. In the meantime, I have to go explain (again) to my Dad that the banks aren't going to fail, and while precious metals aren't bad as part of a diversified portfolio, that he doesn't need to stockpile gold.
:: Morat 2:18 PM :: ::

Senate OKs Plan to Revive Nuclear Power

I got this via Atrios, and I'm hoping Roup comes around to explain it to me.
Industry representatives have argued that the government safety net is needed at least for the first group of reactors now that the electric power industry is in transition from highly regulated to competitive markets.
As Atrios pointed out (well, actually Tresy), didn't we just deregulate power? Sink or swim in the free market? So why, exactly, are we now asked to subsidize building plants that can't hack the free market on their own?

Deregulation was a GOP push, and this bill to subsidize power plants was GOP as well. (Pretty much party-line, in fact). I'm not exactly a fan of pure capitalism (I think some regulation is needed in pretty much any industry. More in some than others), but I'm also not too fond of overregulation.

But I'm not sure how someone could explain privatizing the energy market, then subsidizing one specific industry. Isn't the GOP generally against using government funds to shape the business world?
:: Morat 1:47 PM :: ::

GOP Resists Call for Iraq Intel Probe

Not really surprising.(Link via The Left Coaster)
Senate Republicans are resisting Democrats' calls for a full-blown investigation of whether intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs was inaccurate or manipulated to make the case for war.

Leading Republicans say there is no evidence of wrongdoing and no need yet for an inquiry that goes much beyond routine oversight. Democrats want a more thorough investigation in light of doubts raised about some of the intelligence and the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction.
...
Those seeking an investigation say the issue goes beyond the failure to find weapons. Some of the administration's evidence of Iraqi weapons programs has proven false. Documents indicating Iraq imported uranium from Niger were forgeries. Aluminum tubes described as intended for nuclear weapons were likely meant for conventional artillery rockets.
...
"The war was premised on the notion that there was a clear and present danger to American interests and we need to understand whether all of those claims were appropriate," she said.
Here's what gets me. I knew this was bogus before the war started. It's not like we were getting well-crafted, iron-clad lies here. We had Powell go up before the UN, and have his entire presentation rebutted before he'd made it back home. What little wasn't factually wrong, was stretched or manipulated...once again, in obvious ways.

I can only surmise that the Democratic leadership, which certainly knew Bush was pushing distorted and cherrypicked intelligence (along with outright frauds), decided to wait until after the WMD had failed to turn up before making a big stink. It's pretty obvious that people like John McCain, and the media in general, all made the same decision.

The real question is why. Where they genuinely fooled? Did they believe that Bush had good intelligence that could not be made public? Was it based on the political risks? Was it a political, ideological, or moral decision?

I can understand making the decision to trust the President (I don't, but many would have a hard time believing any President would lie about matters of life and death), and assume he was pushing shaky public evidence because he couldn't reveal the truly damning stuff. That's about the only reason I can accept for not vigorously denouncing the lies.

Everything else is politics or hypocrisy.
:: Morat 10:00 AM :: ::

Voting Republican

Matthew Yglesias' post here got me thinking. What, exactly, is a good reason for voting Republican?

Foreign policy? Well, given the choice between Clinton's foreign policy and George's, I know which one I consider far superior. Taxation and fiscal policy? I wasn't overtaxed under Clinton, and we had a balanced budget. I'm not sure if Clinton would respond appropriately to recessions, but he certainly couldn't screw up worse. Social policy? I prefer having civil liberties, not restricting them. The environment? No difficulties choosing there. Business policy? While I don't tend to agree with the average view from either party, the Democrats are considerably closer to what I consider "ideal regulation" than the GOP, which seems to find any regulation a burden. Abortion? As I'm pro-choice...but I can see why that's a single-issue to many people. For once, it's a fairly black-and-white issue.

Issue after issue, I either find that I'm in line with moderate or liberal Democratic stances, or that I'm closer to the Democrats than the GOP. I'd be quite happy ditching the GOP, and splitting the Democrats down the middle. That'd give me real choices, and I might end up on the more conservative side once in awhile. (Offhand, that's my prediction for the future. The GOP will split and ally itself with moderate Dems and the axis between the parties will shift drastically leftward. But not anytime soon.)

Back on topic, why should I vote Republican, at least federally? Can anyone give me a single, solid, honest reason? Other than abortion, why should anyone? What do they really have to offer these days?
:: Morat 9:44 AM :: ::

Shafting the Middle Class

In news that shocked at least six or seven people, Tom DeLay announced that the House would not be increasing the Child Tax Credit. Or rather, if it did, it would do so in a way that meant the Senate wouldn't.

All in all, the rich will get their taxes cut, and the poor won't. And, according to some members of the GOP< it's because the deficit is getting so out of hand. Wasn't that nice of them to admit that they were, in fact, balancing the budget on the backs of the poor? (Link via Angry Bear).
:: Morat 9:21 AM :: ::

Hate Crimes

Orcinus has a great post up about hate crimes. Go read it.
Hate-crimes laws are indeed relatively new laws. But they represent something that I think is a long thread running through our history, something many of us almost instinctively understand -- that is, the ethical imperative to stand up against the bullies and the thugs and the nightriders, because their whole purpose is to terrorize, oppress and disenfranchise the people they deem different or "not American."

I witnessed this decency -- the only possible antidote to the obscenity preceded it -- playing out firsthand a couple of years ago, and I'll be writing about it this summer in Death on the Fourth of July (scheduled for publication in 2004). Please stay tuned.

:: Morat 9:14 AM :: ::

The Occupation

G.I.'s in Iraqi City Are Stalked by Faceless Enemies at Night
Since the American command quadrupled its military presence here last week, not a day has gone by without troops weathering an ambush, a rocket-propelled grenade attack, an assault with automatic weapons or a mine blast.

American forces are still not clear exactly who their opponent is. Enemy fighters they have killed have not carried identification, and local residents have provided only limited intelligence about who is behind the attacks.

But one thing is already clear. American forces seem to be battling a small but determined foe who has a primitive but effective command-and-control system that uses red, blue and white flares to signal the advance of American troops. The risk does not come from random potshots. The American forces are facing organized resistance that comes alive at night.
Guess what, America? This is the best it's going to get.

Every day it's going to get worse. We didn't liberate Iraq. We occupied it. And any goodwill we garnered by removing a nasty dictator is draining away rapidly.
:: Morat 9:05 AM :: ::

Bush shatters US record

Our deficit this year is going to be above 400 billion. 400 billion. I remember when that was a lot of money. I remember, in fact, when Pappa Bush's 290 billion was a lot of money. Go read the article. It's amusing. I especially like Duffy's comments about how Bush's tax cuts have increased take-home pay. Not mine, that's for sure.

I expect, come election time, that quite a few Republicans will be facing campaign ads featuring their own statements on deficits, past and present. Quite a few old deficit hawks are going to be haunted by their new-found love of fiscal insanity.
:: Morat 8:57 AM :: ::

Now there's an idea...

Spending government money to create jobs in Iraq shows Bush isn't serious about rebuilding the Iraqi economy. Else he'd cut taxes on the upper brackets, right?

Seriously, I understand why Bush isn't trying to stimulate Iraq by cutting taxes on rich Iraqis. After all, rich Americans are far wealthier than any Iraqi (Saddam having fled and all), so obviously the latest rounds of tax cuts on the American upper brackets will stimulate the Iraqi economy.

In fact, I think Bush should probably cut dividend taxes further, and maybe drop the top bracket another 5%. Iraq could really use the stimulus...
:: Morat 8:51 AM :: ::

More Doublespeak on Iraq

In the comments for Thoughts On Iraq, Nick from the Dark Machine pointed out a great little bit from Peter Freundlich about the arguments for invading Iraq.
All right, let me see if I understand the logic of this correctly. We are going to ignore the United Nations in order to make clear to Saddam Hussein that the United Nations cannot be ignored. We're going to wage war to preserve the UN's ability to avert war. The paramount principle is that the UN's word must be taken seriously, and if we have to subvert its word to guarantee that it is, then by gum, we will. Peace is too important not to take up arms to defend. Am I getting this right?

Further, if the only way to bring democracy to Iraq is to vitiate the democracy of the Security Council, then we are honor-bound to do that too, because democracy, as we define it, is too important to be stopped by a little thing like democracy as they define it.

Also, in dealing with a man who brooks no dissension at home, we cannot afford dissension among ourselves. We must speak with one voice against Saddam Hussein's failure to allow opposing voices to be heard. We are sending our gathered might to the Persian Gulf to make the point that might does not make right, as Saddam Hussein seems to think it does. And we are twisting the arms of the opposition until it agrees to let us oust a regime that twists the arms of the opposition. We cannot leave in power a dictator who ignores his own people. And if our people, and people elsewhere in the world, fail to understand that, then we have no choice but to ignore them.


Says it far better than I did....
:: Morat 8:29 AM :: ::

Time to retract?

Jim Hightower has a fun list of headlines.
President Strongly Opposes "Nation-Building" ˜ "One of the problems we have in the military is we're in a lot of places around the world"

Rumsfeld Assures: No Plans To Invade Iraq

Finding Osama bin Laden "Dead Or Alive" Is Highest Bush Priority

Ashcroft USA Patriot Act To Protect American Freedoms

IAEA Report: Iraq Six Months From Developing Nuclear Weapons

Powell: Iraq Possesses Thousands Of Tons Of WMD's

Hamid Karzai Confident White House Won't Forget Afghanistan

Rumsfeld: U.S. Has "Bulletproof Evidence" Of Iraq-Al Qaeda Connection

:: Morat 8:21 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 ::

Thoughts on Iraq

I think irony is the theme of this war. I mean, think about it. We invaded:
  • to destroy weapons no one can find
  • because Saddam refused to destroy weapons Rumsfeld says he destroyed
  • to liberate the Iraqi people by refusing them self-rule
  • to remove a military dictator by ruling through military might
  • to install a democracy by creating anarchy
  • to help the suffering Iraqi people by denying them water, electricity and health services
I'm not sure we did them any real favors here. Sure, under Saddam, he stole all the wealth and if they protested, they might be shot. Under us, there is no wealth because the looters have destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure, and we might shoot them while chasing guerrillas. If the dysentery doesn't get them first.

What a disaster. Two years ago, I wouldn't have thought it possible to make the average Iraqi's life too much worse. Boy was I wrong.


:: Morat 3:03 PM :: ::

What did Bush Do Right?

Tom Spencer, in the midst of blogging about the looting of Iraqi oil fields, asks
This raises a rather important question: is there anything that this administration did RIGHT with regard to the post-war situation in Iraq?
Well, let me think. Offhand,
  • He hasn't publicly announced forced conversions to Christianity
  • He hasn't instituted illegal trials for captured Iraqis.
  • He hasn't planted chemical or biological weapons
That's all I can think of. And, as you note, they're not things he did right. They're large errors he didn't make. Or hasn't.

Even if Bush and Co don't make a single mistake from now on, we're still screwed. Welcome to the occupation.
:: Morat 1:34 PM :: ::

Paul Krugman: Who's Accountable?

Shrill and accurate as usual. It'd be nice if someone besides and economist would stand up a bit, eh?
The Bush and Blair administrations are trying to silence critics — many of them current or former intelligence analysts — who say that they exaggerated the threat from Iraq. Last week a Blair official accused Britain's intelligence agencies of plotting against the government. (Tony Blair's government has since apologized for January's "dodgy dossier.") In this country, Colin Powell has declared that questions about the justification for war are "outrageous."
...
Last fall former U.S. intelligence officials began warning that official pronouncements were being based on "cooked intelligence." British intelligence officials were so concerned that, The Independent reports, they kept detailed records of the process. "A smoking gun may well exist over W.M.D., but it may not be to the government's liking," a source said.
...
It's now two months since Baghdad fell — and according to The A.P., military units searching for W.M.D.'s have run out of places to look.
...
I'll tell you what's outrageous. It's not the fact that people are criticizing the administration; it's the fact that nobody is being held accountable for misleading the nation into war.
Don't look at me. I called him a liar when he ran for President. After all, I live in Texas. I nearly choked when I heard him take credit for Texas' Patient's Bill of Rights. Normally, when you oppose something every step of the way, and only allow it to become law (without your signature) because the votes to override your veto exist, well....I'm not sure "credit" is the best word.
:: Morat 1:07 PM :: ::

Welcome to the Occupation

Things continue to go swimmingly in Iraq. Ignoring Bush's declaration of the 'end of hostilities', assaults on American troops continue.
Attacks on American troops are growing in frequency and sophistication across central Iraq, a crescent of discontent and hostility where many Iraqis remain opposed to the U.S. occupation of their country.

Almost every day, well-organized groups of assailants using assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars are ambushing U.S. Army convoys, patrols, checkpoints, garrisons and public offices used by troops to interact with the civilian population.

In response, U.S. forces are trying to crush resistance through house-to-house searches, arms seizures and deadly force, in some cases with fatal consequences for innocent bystanders.
A guerrilla war you say? Pish-posh! We'll be greeted with cheers and flower-petals! Women will toss aside their veils, and weeping scientists will lead us to Saddam's own Manhattan project.

Or so the dream went. The reality is quite different. But not unexpected. After all, I told you so. Quite a few people told you so. Everyone told you so. It's not my fault you listened to a few sincere crackpots, or to a bunch of duplicitous politicians who would have said anything to get you to sign off on their invasion.

Anything but the truth, that is. You wouldn't have supported that. So they filled your head with dreams of nasty weapons and imminent threat, and told you that it would be a cakewalk, and that we'd leave Iraq a flowering democracy. And that we'd leave quickly too. We wouldn't have to station our boys over there too long. A couple of months, a quick Constitutional Convention, and *bam*, instant Democracy. Add idealism and stir.

Of course, the truth is much worse. We weren't welcomed with open arms. No one wants us there, except perhaps the Kurds. And since they're cheerfully trying to pick a fight with Turkey, perhaps we should reconsider how good a friend we should be.

The Shia don't want us there. They're certainly not happy about piddling things like a lack of water and electricity, and have gotten all bent out of shape because we, strangely, don't want to let them govern themselves. They're starting to wonder if they misunderstood the word "Democracy". On the other hand, they seem to have free expression down. They keep demonstrating in the thousands against us. If we keep ignoring them, it's only a matter of time until they pick up rocks, and then rifles. Some undoubtedly already have.

We're not wanted there. The Kurd's don't want us (we cramp their style, trying to appease Turkey and protect the Sunni). The Sunni don't want us there. The Shia don't want us there. That tends to cause problems all by itself.

It gets worse. There's no civil authority anymore. So our soldiers are having to not only deal with an emerging guerilla movement (and the Iraqis are growing more angry by the day), but with looters and thieves as well. As we've suddenly learned, that figure of 150,000 plus troops (a man got canned for admitting that before the war) is looking optimistic. We're screaming for help from our 'allies' (real allies would be nice. Too bad we insulted them all) and forcing soldiers to stay on, despite their lack of readiness.

I support the troops. After all, I was against them spending two months in the Middle East preparing for a war, a month fighting one, then six months to a year or more dealing with constant guerilla assault. All without any downtime. I'm certainly against the year or more many National Guard divisions have been deployed. I imagine recruitment is going to be down this year.

And, even better, we're stuck. Pulling out, at this point, is worse than staying. And that says a lot. So, thanks to George W. Bush's driving need to invade Iraq, we're now stuck in Iraq. A country that has been bombed back to the stone age, so to speak. A country torn by looters, by bombs, and on the brink of civil war. A country that has no way of generating income (all those oil fields have been looted). A country that will require a hundred and fifty thousand American soldiers at best to police and occupy for the next few years. Soldiers who have no real prospects for relief, as we're in this virtually alone. Even Britain is abandoning Iraq.

Thanks to Bush, we're stuck 150,000 Americans in harm's way. We've got no active military to speak of anymore. They're nailed to the floor in Iraq. We've got a National Guard that has been stretched to the breaking point. And for what, exactly?

Oil? Some pipe dream of creating democracy by dropping bombs? Certainly not out of any real need.

We've liberated Iraq from a tyrant. Good show. However, because we were so inept at it, someone else is going to have to deal with the other hundred tyrants. We don't have the resources.

Welcome to the occupation.


:: Morat 12:59 PM :: ::

Some Changes in the Blog

As all my 60 or so daily visitors have no doubt noticed, this blog has been undergoing frequent changes since it's inception. I thought I'd go ahead and point them out, in case you hadn't.

  • We've got a nice, huge, gaudy donate button for the DNC. Feel free to give to the worthy cause of electing someone who isn't George Bush. So far, I've had one donation, and I'd like to thank Mr. Yuda for it. Daily Kos is doing quite well, with something like 9600 at 9:00 AM this morning, of which 2500 is recurring. So it looks like ePatriots will be taking off.

  • I have added a "Current Reading" button, showing my current choice of literature. Below it, you'll see a link to past books I've read since starting this blog. Out of a wish not to drown you in tedium, I'm only listing new books and not counting any old ones I might pick up. As I occasionally get through more than a book a day, you might find books on the "Recent Readings" page that never hit the main page.

  • Similarly, I've added a page for Recommended books. The link for that is at the bottom of whatever four or five I'm recommending on the main page. Feel free to email me and recommend anything not on the list. I can't promise I'll get to it anytime soon, but if you want to buy it for me, I'll certainly drop anything I'm doing when it arrives. *grin* Failing that, it'll be whenever I can snag it from a friend or the library to review.

  • I switched comment systems. The old system was the cause of quite a few problems, ranging from being unable to access the page to slow loading times to script errors. This one is much better.

Feel free to send any comments regarding the blog to me. I appreciate feedback.

:: Morat 12:17 PM :: ::

More on 'Mobile Labs'

It appears the British press aren't buying Tony's and George's claim that those mobile trailers are weapons labs. In fact, the Observer pointed out that they might, in fact, be the very mobile artillery balloon system the British sold to them in 1987.

If true, that'd be a particularly embarrassing blow for both Blair and Bush. Not only would it kick the only piece of evidence -- however weak -- found to date, but being unable to recognize British equipment would show a disturbing lack of investigation, lending credence to the claim that the initial reports were shoddy and politicized.
:: Morat 9:34 AM :: ::

Those Darn French!

Don't they know their own jobs? They're supposed to be running around twirling their evil little mustaches and consorting with evil dictators. Apparently, they don't take their role as "Evil Selfish Jerks" seriously. Naughty French! Naughty. How can we blame you for George Bush's utter failure to make the Iraq war seem necessary if you go around rescuing hundreds of Americans all the time?

Get with the program, guys. It's hard to demonize and scapegoat you if you keep acting out of character. Your refusal to act evil is just further proof of your perfidy. Trust the French to screw up being the villain, eh? (Link via Atrios).
:: Morat 8:56 AM :: ::

Killer D's Update

Josh Marshall has a Killer D update. Apparently, yet another explanation for events has turned out to be false. This one, however, has a few more national implications than the others.
In a brief statement, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- an arm of Homeland Security -- said the air interdiction center was motivated by safety concerns. "From all indications, this request . . . [from Texas was related to] a missing, lost or possibly crashed aircraft," the statement said. But at least three officials involved in the May 12 search said safety issues were not raised by the air interdiction center, which has no safety-related responsibilities.

"There was never any inference that the plane might be down, or something like that," said Marvin Miller, an airport official in Plainview, Tex. -- near Laney's home -- who said he was contacted by an "air interdiction" official on the evening of May 12. "There was never any safety concern, or indication that it was missing or overdue," Miller said. "The guy said at the end, 'This is just somebody looking for politicians they can't find.' "
The involvement of Homeland Security was the catalyst for national attention, even when the -- quite believable -- explanation that they'd been duped came to light.

Finding out that Homeland Security officials might have been more aware of the truth is going to put Ridge under a lot of pressure to release the results of his internal investigation, might kick this whole mess back into the limelight.
:: Morat 8:23 AM :: ::

:: Monday, June 09, 2003 ::

It depends on what "Is" means...

In today's Washington Post (via The Left Coaster): Bush Insists Iraq Had Illicit Weapons Program
"Iraq had a weapons program," Bush told reporters after a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House. "Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out they did have a weapons program."
Weapons program. Weapons program.

We'll have to tell Billmon to turn up the volume. Obviously Administration officials said "program" really quietly. Like a verbal footnote. Or better yet, an endnote. The kind no one ever checks.
:: Morat 3:08 PM :: ::

New Comment System

I switched to a new system. The old one was buggy, and caused page errors and such. Too much hassle. This one seems a lot more solid.
:: Morat 2:33 PM :: ::

DNC: ePatriots

It looks like the brainchild of Daily Kos might become reality, in a system called ePatriots. He proposed, quite some time back, that a system that allowed bloggers to pool their reader's resources, and work as a way to encourage grassroots donation.
So, what if the "grassroots", at least those of us represented by sites like dKos, MyDD, Atrios, Talk Left, DU, and others, were able to pool the resources of their respective readers? Yesterday I pledged $25/month, or $300 a year. If 334 of my readers did the same (my daily readership is in the 6,000 range [it's now in the 17,000 range -- k] Atrios is probably double that), that would be $100,000 in the DNC coffers -- real money. In the GOP, that would make this site a "Pioneer", with special access to GOP decision makers. I would expect the same from the DNC.

This would be a blog effort to make the concerns of our respective readers known to the party leadership. Each blog could handle it its own way, but I would take volunteers to represent the dKos donor group -- in special events, drafting memos, etc. Our individual $300 donations may mean little in the big picture (and garner little attention from the DNC), but things would change once we got into the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands.


Kos is testing the system now (there is a link on his website). I already signed up and added a button. Or, click here to donate.

This election should be quite interesting. We've already seen Americans quickly shopping overseas for decent coverage during the last war, we've seen Howard Dean pull together a pretty impressive grass roots movement with the 'net, and now the DNC is getting involved to solicit donations. Maybe the internet really will change the way things work.

UPDATE: Kos is up above 2000 in about two hours. I think that's going to show the system can and will work. (No telling how much is reoccuring or not). He seems to think it's in beta, so to speak, but as you can tell, I managed to sign up and install the buttons (along with my unique ID) rather easily. And some one nicely tested it for me with a donation. Thanks. :)
:: Morat 12:13 PM :: ::

Senate Approves Child Tax Credit in Lower Bracket

Different Strings noted the actual Republican response to passing a Child Tax Credit bill.
Although almost every Senate Republican voted for the bill, some clearly were unhappy at having to do so under what they considered public pressure from liberal groups and Democrats. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi voted for the bill, but as he did so he stuck his tongue out, put his finger in his mouth and made a gagging sound, indicating his apparent distaste for the bill.
It's nice to know that Trent Lott gags at the thought of lowering taxes on the poorest families.
:: Morat 10:31 AM :: ::

Cell phone users can keep their numbers.

That's the taste of sweet, sweet consumer victory. According to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, your can keep your mobile number for life. No more being locked into a bad plan because of the hassle of changing phone numbers. Not even today's FCC can get it all wrong. (Via Counterspin)
:: Morat 9:57 AM :: ::

Stupid Blogger

Does anyone know, exactly, what the "Line: 2 Char: 1 Error: Syntax error" I keep getting is all about? The first two lines of my blog are
!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"
HTML
(I left off the "<" and ">" only)

Not sure, exactly, why about every other post, I get that message and then my comments stop working entirely. It's linked, for sure. I get that error, and comments don't show up (I get a host of other errors related to them). I don't get that error, I have comments.

Anyone have any idea what's going on?
:: Morat 9:45 AM :: ::

Bush's Great Hope

Bush's last, great hope, appears to be faltering. In the hunt for justification, there's something of a ranking. Top of the list, of course, would be to find what we actually claimed. Metric tons of chemical and biological weapons, and hordes of scientists eager to talk about Saddam's nuclear dreams. Near the bottom, we have a few actual chemical or biological weapons, facilities to make them, or scientists willing to talk about Saddam's program.

Somewhere, on a list that's only used in cases of emergency, you have another ranking. At the bottom of that list is "A pair of trailers that could, if you squint, look vaguely like something sinister." Which is, of course, what we found. The Bush Administration is being forced to claim that two trailers were enough of a threat to the United States to justify a preemptive invasion, the shattering of old alliances, and the full-time commitment of half our army to the rebuilding of Iraq.

And, after a year of non-stop media blitzing about the need for invasion, I can only agree. It's obvious that even if these trailers didn't produce chemical weapons, that they were being used to produce an illegal, hydrogen-powered, delivery system.

Possibly in conjuction with a balsa wood and lawn mower engine drone program.
:: Morat 9:31 AM :: ::

British 'Smoking Gun'

You can't say the Brit's don't know how to play hardball. Apparently, British intelligence agencies have informed Parliament that, in fact, they kept extensive and detailed records of dealings with Downing Street. More or less, they've just put the British Government on notice that British Intelligence will not, thank you, be taking the fall for this "No Weapons of Mass Destruction Thing".

I'd imagine Blair woke up in a cold sweat on that one. Given the...striking similarities...between Blair's situation and Bush's (intel organs refusing to take the blame for political cherrypicking) even the US media might wake up.
:: Morat 9:17 AM :: ::

Iraq Stabilization Impinges on Army Rotation, Rebuilding

It appears the US military understands the value of allies and coalitions, even if it's civilian leaders do not. (Via Daily Kos)
The struggling campaign to stabilize postwar Iraq has frustrated U.S. Army plans to reduce troops there and begin replenishing a military force stretched exceedingly thin by war and peacekeeping commitments, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday.

While the stress on the Army can probably be sustained for a few more months, the official said, any delay beyond that could seriously disrupt troop rotation schedules for Afghanistan and South Korea and erode the Army's ability to maintain an adequate reserve for other contingencies.

Asked if he had ever seen the Army so stretched, the official said: "Not in my 31 years" of military service.
...
"This is a problem," the senior Pentagon official said, then quickly amended the comment, adding: "It is only a problem depending upon how quickly or how long it takes to get the coalition to come in to relieve this pressure."
What coalition? We didn't have one in the first place, and with the revelations that our only legal justification for a pre-emptive war was based on manipulated intelligence and lies, I don't think we're going to have much luck putting one together now.

No one wants to help us. First and foremost, it's a nasty mess and is only going to get worst. Secondly, they didn't think we should have been there in the first place. And third, we insulted, threatened and denigrated most of them less than six months ago.

Apparently, Senior Pentagon Officials think other countries are run by saintly men with a God-given charge to aid the USA.

Not that, honestly, I think our SPO here actually believes we're going to get anything more than tokens from our "coalition". We need 40,000 or so just to replace the British who are leaving, and we'ld need another 100,000 to relieve enough of our troops to make a real difference.

We're in trouble, and I fully agree with Daily Kos. Not only has Bush screwed up on the foreign policy front, his mistakes are going to have long term repercussions on our military as well.

Bush has come a long way from a candidate complaining that too much of our military wasn't combat-ready. Specifically, he's gone from vowing to fix non-existent military readiness issues to ordering units that aren't combat ready, due to his own orders, back into combat...
:: Morat 9:08 AM :: ::

Missing Weapons Of Mass Destruction

John Dean has a good discussion about the political danger George W. Bush is facing. (He did, however, seem to write this article before the Guardian's retraction about the 'sea of oil' comment.
To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

It's important to recall that when Richard Nixon resigned, he was about to be impeached by the House of Representatives for misusing the CIA and FBI. After Watergate, all presidents are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of presidential power.


I'd like to agree with that. However, the damage a President takes isn't based on the crimes he commits, but the outrage he generates. So far, the American public has reacted with a yawn and the American media is covering it quite gently.

However, I have hope that might change. As Dean notes, at least one Democratic candidate (Graham) is not only on the record as claiming that Bush cherrypicked intelligence, but made the claim well before his candidacy and when he was in a position to know. Since he's running for President, you can bet he'll try his utmost to keep the spotlight on Bush.

Further, several other investigations have been started. It's pretty obvious that neither the military nor the various intelligence organs have any interest in taking one for the team. If anything, they seem to be interested in twisting the knife. I don't think the CIA is terribly happy with being used for political ends, then expected to take the blame.
:: Morat 8:56 AM :: ::

Busy Weekend

I'm back. I had jury duty Friday (and that's worth a post all on it's own) and had an anniversary celebration with my wife this weekend. So I haven't been around. Of course, when I do get back, I find blogger is, well, bloggered.

I don't suppose anyone knows why, occasionally, I'll get weird script errors and my comments will refuse to come up?
:: Morat 8:09 AM :: ::

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