Monday, July 31, 2006

OHMIGOD! I Agree with Tom Friedman!

Well, parts of him, anyway!

His column, On the Eve of Madness in the New York Times, contains this gem of a rant:
America should be galvanizing the forces of order — Europe, Russia, China and India — into a coalition against these trends. But we can’t. Why? In part, it’s because our president and secretary of state, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That’s been shattered by their performance in Iraq.

The world hates George Bush more than any U.S. president in my lifetime. He is radioactive — and so caught up in his own ideological bubble that he is incapable of imagining or forging alternative strategies.
And then today on Meet The Press, Friedman explains to Tim Russert:
It was strong. It’s meant to be strong. Look at the situation we’re now in. You can’t go anywhere in the world right now—and I travel a lot—without getting that feeling from people thrown in your face. Why is that? You know, I’ve been asking myself that a lot. Some of it’s excessive, this dislike, this distaste, this hatred of George Bush. But what’s it about? Whenever you see something that excessive, you know?

And the way I explain it is this way: Foreigners love to make fun of Americans. Our naivete, our crazy thought that every problem has a solution, that silly American notion, that silly American optimism. But you know what, Tim? Deep down, the world really envies that American optimism and naivete. And the world needs that American optimism and naivete.

And so when we go from a country that, historically, has always exported hope to a country that always exports fear, what we do, and what this administration has done, is actually stolen something from people. Whether it’s an African or a European or an Arab or Israeli, it’s that idea of an optimistic America out there. People really need that idea, and the sort of dark nature of the Cheneys and the Bushes and the Rices, this, this sort of relentless pessimism about the world, this exporting of fear, not hope, has really left people feeling that the idea of America has been stolen from them. And I would argue that that is the animating force behind so much of the animus directed at George Bush.
Time George went away. Impeachment. Forced resignation. Whatever!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ich Bin Ein Connecticuter

Asking only what I can do for my country?

The New York Times endorses Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman; the Washington Post endorses Lieberman over Lamont.
I endorse the New York Times.

I believe in the principle of the big tent for the Democratic Party. We have seen what the opposite principle has done to the GOP and to our partisan governance. Bipartisanship must not become a crime; it is necessary to good government.

But Momentum Joe has gone partisan on Iraq.

Iraq, the central political question of our times. Not the only issue, (progressive income tax, universal health care access, recognition of the environmental sciences, energy independence, Congressional ethics, etc.) but it is the biggest issue. As the Times says,
The race has taken on a national character. . . . This primary would never have happened absent Iraq.
There are many -- too many -- Democrats who have supported and still support Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI). Lieberman goes a step beyond and casts asperions of disloyality on his fellow Democrats who oppose the war.

We are at a critical point in our nation's history. The UULUIUOI has been an abomination as far as its affect on our polity. I am convinced that the American people are finally catching up with that realization. They want and expect a reckoning with Bush. Many traditional Republican voters, who can't face up to their own complicity in this titanic wreck, want the Democrats to spank their own GOP leaders. Other war party loyalists point to Lieberman to validate their 'staying the course'.

In order for anti-war Democrats to make their point about Bush's war, they have to start with Joe. He's the first beachhead which has to be taken in the restoration of our democracy and non-predatory foreign policy.

I am convinced that the American people are looking expectantly forward to a Democratic tsunami this November. The tidal wave should start this August. Do not disappoint us, Connecticut.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

What Bush Thinks He Needs the Most


The news from Iraq is not good.

The Malicki government's writ extends only to the limits of the Green Zone, from which there are even rumors of an impending coup d'etat, presumably from contesting Shiite groups.

In the Red Zones, the news is bleaker. The number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police grew from an estimated 168,670 in June 2005 to some 264,600 this June. Yet Baghdad's morgue is receiving nearly twice as many dead Iraqis each day as it did last year.

Iraq's government said today that at least 162,000 people have fled their homes over the past five months in an effort to escape the sectarian violence that has swept the country.

U.S. KIA's have reached 2,574. Four U.S. marines were killed in combat actions in Iraq's volatile Anbar province in the last 24 hours. American military fatalities are down only slightly in July compared with the highs of the last three months.

Quiet rumors of an upwards spike in troop our deployments to 135,000 (again!) alternate daily with official denials of the same.

The lack of a dramatic down trend in American deployments in Iraq spells doom and gloom to Republican candidates. Many are eschewing identification with the White House. Some in the red states are even running as Democrats. Approval ratings of Republican leadership in Congress keeps company with the White House's ratings, in the cellar.

What Karl Rove wants are distractions.

How about the American Idols? How about extreme weather news? How about news of crimes of extreme cruelty?

Speaking of crime scenes, how about another war of extreme cruelty? Yes, that's it: a two-front war for Israel. Death and destruction on TV! (And not in Iraq!) Takes Iraq right off the front pages.

Bushies didn't start it of course, but the Neocons are definitely interested in seeing it run its course. Another proxy war against international terrorism. As Phyllis Bennis (Common Dreams) put it,
. . . this new war was set in motion by the example presented in Washington’s Iraq-centered efforts at militarized regional transformation in the guise of “democratization".
Works well domestically, too, because it covers Americans 30%-70% approval for our Iraqi occupation with a fresh and positive preoccupation with Israel's "right of self-defense". Bennis, again:
There is no question that overall, the escalation of the regional crisis to include all-out war in Lebanon and Gaza will make some work of the peace movement more difficult. It will be harder to call for bringing home all the troops from Iraq now, while the media propaganda focuses on “Israel under attack.” This is certainly true in terms of influencing congress or other policymakers, where the focus on Israel is escalating the existing Democratic Party leaders’ embrace of the Iraq war. And at a moment when key Republicans appear to be distancing themselves from the Bush administration’s war strategy, if not from the war itself, the new crisis is giving Republicans an opportunity to welcome the Bush administration’s position, while competing with Democrats over who can be stronger supporters of Israel. The unanimous Senate vote and the near-unanimous House votes supporting Israel’s war unequivocally and enthusiastically give some indication of that.
So now it's the U.S., the U.K. and the I.D.F. against terrorism of global reach. Bush, with Rove at his side, benefits from multiple proxy wars against terror eclipsing his un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yet Another Inconvenient Truth

Question Asked and Answered

European leaders attending a Mideast conference Wednesday in Rome discussed plans to push for a cease-fire in Lebanon. Lucking out on C-Span I saw this exchange in the group press conference which followed it. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora accepted a challenging question from an Israeli journalist:

Prime Minister Siniora, I'm an Israeli journalist from (inaudible) And I hope I'm not embarrassing you by my direct question.

If you were in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's shoes, would you react differently to the abduction to two Israelis soldiers inside the territory of Israel? And are you calling for the disarm of Hezbollah in order to reach a lasting cease-fire?
Well, that's a good question.

I believe that everybody has realized that there has been crossing across the Blue Line. But the reaction of Israel really shows that as Israel has already a well-prepared plan for reaction. And the retaliation is definitely by the judgment of all concerned is disproportionate with what has happened.

Moreover, I believe if I were, let's say, in the position of Mr. Olmert, I would really move directly toward solving the real problems.

Let me tell you, throughout the past years, did any of the actions that Israel committed over the years bring additional security and safety to Israel? Not at all. It did not bring at all any safety or security.

What brings security and safety is the ability of Israel to really build good relations with its neighbors. And how this can be done is really going through the peace process, to see how we can build peace between Israel and the Arab countries on the basis of what really was offered by the Arab countries in the Arab summit in the year 2002.

This is what can really put an end to the hostilities and the war in the Middle East.

Otherwise, things will continue; it will move from one hostility to the other, from one crisis to the other.

The Arabs, they have made their point and they are serious. And I think it's high time for Israel to realize that this is the real way how to really make peace in that region. It is actually historic deeds -- would require historic men. And I think these deeds are really waiting for historic men to do it.

I think the Arabs, they have done it, they have said what they want. They said they want peace. It is high time for Israel to really solve all these issues, starting with Lebanon; to give Lebanon back the occupied territories of Shebaa; and to really solve the problem of Gaza and the West Bank -- to go back to peace it really means.

This is how you can -- how the Israeli leaders can protect the Israelis, how they can really raise their children in prosperity and in peace in that region.
I invite readers to click on the photo, examine Condoleezza Rice's body language and offer captions.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Israel's Massive Retaliation

On mistakes made by Hamas and Hezbollah:

(Not to lump them together, because these were the same mistakes, made independently.)

The seizures of IDF troops were clever acts, proficiently conducted. (I don't like either Hamas or Hezbollah - just giving credit where credit is due.) These acts - in and of themselves - did not constitute terrorism because they were conducted against standing military forces. That may be one reason for the virulence of the Israeli government. It was a dramatic slap in their national face. Humiliate the IDF and you humiliate Israel. If one micro-tactical military defeat is allowed to stand then it calls into question Israel's invulnerability both in the minds of Arabs and Israelis.

Everyone knows this is not about the fate of one or two soldiers. This is about the symbolism, esteem, prestige (or whatever you want to call it) of the IDF. No laughing matter, of course.

Lebanon is not being destroyed as part of a carefully conceived strategic calculation.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The George Bush Plan for Palestine

Winner Take All

When George Bush 'ascended' into office, he offered Aerial Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas a dramatically new solution for Palestine.Now that his solution is finally being implemented, he doesn't want anyone to derail it. Anything that takes Iraq off the front pages is something Bush wants to prolong.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Don't Forget About Iraq!

Outside the Green Zone Lies Bush's West Bank and Gaza Strip.

If it hadn't have been for George Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI), the Global War on Terror (GWOT) would have amounted to a little more than the 21st century's version of the 19th century's conflict with the Barbary Pirates. But thanks to Bush's UULUIUOI and his benign neglect of the world's two-state project for Palestine, the GWOT has the capability of morphing into a regional war in southwest Asia.

But don't forget about Iraq! George Bush wants you to. That's why we aren't getting an early demand for a ceasefire in Lebanon: all the more to distract from the "West Bank" and "Gaza Strip" he has purchased for the American people at the Price of $300 billion and thousands of U.S. military casualties.

Things in Iraq are swirling into the toilet as the MSM concentrates on the "brink" [!] of war in Lebanon. The U.N. reports that 3,000 Iraqi Civilians Were Killed in June, a documenting dramatic darkening of the tunnel we're all trying to see through.

The Ramblings of a Lexington Parrothead has drawn my attention to a piece in Newsweek by Col. Mike Turner (24-year Air Force veteran and former fighter pilot and air rescue helicopter pilot. He is a military analyst and commentator who spent seven years serving in U.S. Central Command and the Pentagon as a Middle East/Africa planner). Turner says it's Time to Get Out. He says staying the course is not based on facts but mythology. And he says the three myths are:

  • U.S. forces will be withdrawn when military commanders determine the Iraqis are capable of maintaining their own security.
  • There are now 260,000 trained Iraqi troops.
  • Our only options are "stay the course" or "cut and run."

  • Click through the links and read about this soldier's arguments. Turner's conclusions:

    There can be no doubt that a likely outcome of an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq might be a complete collapse of that country into chaos. Yet remaining in Iraq and trusting the future conduct of the war to an administration that badly bungled this operation from the beginning and has no coherent plan for remaining is irresponsible. I believe there is a way to mount an effective war in Iraq that greatly reduces the risk to U.S. forces and U.S. national security while retaining a reasonable possibility for a measure of success. However, I do not think that the present administration is capable of either acknowledging its failures or rethinking its strategy to the extent necessary to achieve such a limited victory. For that reason, I'm left with a simple solution—let's save as many U.S. lives as possible and get out now.
    Let the chuch say, "Amen".

    Tuesday, July 18, 2006

    Hands-On Diplomacy?

    Our leader maintains his hands-off diplomacy as Lebanon burns.
    Instead, our playful C.I.C. is busying himself with fun and games, spreading joy at the G8 Summit conference. Making us proud.

    Monday, July 17, 2006

    Road Map to Peace?

    Where have the cartographers been since 2001?Bush is not directly responsible the attacks by Israel and Hezbollah. However, his hands-off tilt toward Israelis and his misplaced focus on Iraq has done little to create a workable diplomatic solution to the Israel- Palestine problem. The result has been to promote a policy preference in Israel in which violence is the first resort and not the last.

    The two-state solution of Israel and Palestine was at best a promise and at worse a hope when Bush entered the White House. It is now dead as a door nail. Future historians will mark his term as the point in which his Neocons promoted a permanent detour of the 'road map' into the direction of a one-state solution, with Palestinians relegated to two fenced-in 'reservations' so confining that they are rendered incapable of founding either a state or an economy.

    Putting it in the best light possible, my interpretation of our alliance with Israel was thyat it was predicated on a purpose to exert some element of restraint on Israel's using its conventional and nuclear capability for massive retaliation against its foes. But Bush's post 9-11 obsession with Iraq seemed to vacate this traditional U.S. responsibility. Future historians will resolve whether this neglect was benign or willful. What is apparent to all, the result has become a historic catastrophe.

    Bush, the self-anointed apostle of democracy for the Middle East, has become the fifth horse of the apocalypse. The ruins of Iraq and Lebanon will be his legacy.

    Saturday, July 15, 2006

    Political Correctness: A Case Study

    Look what the email brought in!

    I hope I never lose my penchant to accept challenges. So the stuff below arrived via email in bad shape, requiring rigorous re-formatting on my part. So here goes my effort to make it legible:
    Hooray for Michigan State (The Spartans) and Professor Wichman!

    Well, what do we have here. Looks like a small case of some people being Able to dish it out, but not take it. Let's start at the top. The story begins at Michigan State University with a mechanical engineering professor named Indrek Wichman.

    Wichman sent an e-mail to the Muslim Student's Association. The e-mail Was in response to the students' protest of the Danish cartoons that portrayed The Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. The group had complained the cartoons Were "hate speech."

    Enter Professor Wichman. In his e-mail, he said the following:
    Dear Moslem Association:

    As a professor of Mechanical Engineering here at MSU I intend to protest your protest.

    I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey!), burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called "whores" in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France.

    This is what offends me, a soft-spoken person and academic, and many, many, many of my colleagues. I counsel you dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile "protests." If you do not like the values of the West-see the 1st Amendment-you are free to leave.

    I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option. Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.

    Cordially, I. S. Wichman

    Professor of Mechanical Engineering
    As you can imagine, the Muslim group at the university didn't like this Too well. They're demanding that Wichman be reprimanded and mandatory Diversity training for faculty and a seminar on hate and discrimination for freshman.

    Now the Michigan chapter of CAIR has jumped into the fray. CAIR, the Council On American-Islamic Relations, apparently doesn't believe that the good Professor had the right to express his opinion.

    For its part, the university is standing its ground. They say the e-mail Was private, and they don't intend to publicly condemn his remarks. That will probably change. Wichman says he never intended the e-mail to be made public, and wouldn't have used the same strong language if he'd known it was going to get out.

    How's the left going to handle this one? If you're in favor of the freedom Of speech, as in the case of Ward Churchill, will the same protections be demanded for Indrek Wichman? I doubt it.
    Well there it is: Are there any comments for my correspondent whose anonymity I am protecting?

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Zidane Is a Verb (like "Profane")

    To Zidane is to implement the Powell Doctrine of using disproportionate, overwhelming force when confronting the enemy.

    Colin Powell posited that a military that delivers only a proportional response allows the adversary to dictate how a war should be fought and what losses the enemy should suffer. A disproportionate response is the way to win a war and the way to deter future aggression.

    Zinedine Zidane, of course, is the French soccer player who was the author of the now infamous head-butting of defender Marco Materazzi who allegedly called him the "son of a terrorist whore".

    Zidaning is happening before our eyes on the world political stage. After months of taking relatively little action in response to terror, murder, bombardment and other provocations, Israel finally managed to prove itself to be the victim of military attacks and aggression on two fronts.

    Weeks ago, the military wing of the Hamas dug a tunnel under an Israeli checkpoint (inventive !) on the border with Gaza, killed two Israelis soldiers and captured another, Gilad Shalit. This was an act of war, not terrorism; Shalit is a P.O.W., not a hostage.

    Similarly, Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped the two Israelis during a cross-border raid Wednesday, then returned to Lebanon. This, too was an act of war, even if asymmetrical. The two captives are P.O.W.'s, not hostages.

    In both cases, Israel has resorted to a Zidanian degree of retaliation, out of proportionality to the original attack. I don't quarrel with either action. Israel has a right to defend itself, and to retaliate when attacked. However, an alternative was possible: at least in the earlier Gaza case, Israel could have traded P.O.W.'s!

    I have always maintained the Israelis and Palestinians deserved each other and their combined destiny of behaving like two scorpions confined in the same bottle. Both have been led by statesmenship - if that's the word - with deeply flawed vision.

    My concern has always been with American statesmanship. Wherever and whenever my country could have contributed its even-handed good offices in the Palestinian sphere, it has failed to do so. Indeed, quite the contrary: the United States has managed to become totally identified with Israeli encroachment and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian lands in the West Bank to the point that a two state solution is not (now) possible.

    So, Israel has the right to defend itself against actions it has largely brought upon itself by its own actions. My government (of America) has properly pointed this out.

    But I do not see where it's justified to go to such lengths as has Frederick Jones, spokesman for the White House National Security Council:
    The United States condemns in the strongest terms this unprovoked act of terrorism, which was timed to exacerbate already-high tensions in the region and sow further violence.
    This was not unprovoked and not terrorism.
    We also hold Syria and Iran, which directly support Hizbollah, responsible for this attack and the ensuing violence.
    Israel is completely innocent?
    We condemn in the strongest terms Hizbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel and the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers.
    There is no kidnapping in war; only taking of prisoners.
    We call for immediate and unconditional release of the two soldiers.
    How about calling for a negotiated trading of P.O.W.'s?

    Israel will Zidane Gaza and Lebanon, if it must. But we don't have to go along on the ride. It's past time for us (U.S.) to get off this bus.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    GWB is AWOL on OBL

    The disbanding of the Alec Unit is not even the most recent confirmation.

    It was actually dissolved late last year and only now announced.

    Michael Scheuer, The man who led America's hunt for Osama bin Laden, has said the CIA was wrong to disband the only unit devoted entirely to the terrorist leader's pursuit - just at a time when al-Qaida is reasserting its influence over global jihad.

    CIA officials disclosed this week that the Alec Unit - named after Mr Scheuer's now teenage son - had been disbanded, and its agents reassigned. The agency described the shakeup as a necessary adaptation to the changing nature of the US war on terror. Scheuer:
    What it robs you of is a critical mass of officers who have been working on this together for a decade. We had a breed of specialists rare in an intelligence community that prides itself on being generalists. It provided a base from which to build a cadre of people specialising in attacking Sunni extremist operations, who sacrificed promotions and other emoluments in their employment in the clandestine service, where specialists were looked on as nerds.

    From the very beginning, Alec was an anomaly in that it was not subordinated to any area division, and it was given the authority to communicate with overseas stations - with or without the permission of area divisions. That caused a great deal of heartburn among very senior leaders at the agency.
    Mr Scheuer said he disagreed with the argument it was making that Bin Laden was isolated, the organisation was broken and that he was now just a symbol.
    How do you explain the fact that he is able to dominate international media whenever he wants to?

    Bin Laden has always said the main activity of al-Qaida is the instigation ... of Muslims to jihad.

    All of the people who have been picked up have said they were inspired by Bin Laden, that they trained in their own countries and used information picked up on the internet.

    So the fire that Bin Laden was trying to set is what we are beginning to see around the world and, unfortunately, nowhere more than in the west.

    I don't think anyone could have expected to see the success of such an organisation.

    One of the things that really slowed down the western response to Sunni extremists, but al-Qaida specifically, is that when intelligence agents looked at a group made up of Yemenis, Egyptians, Saudis, Algerians and converts, the natural response was to say, 'That is not going to last 10 minutes. They can't get along together.' It took a long time for people to realise we were seeing an animal of a very unique nature. We haven't even begun to understand where our enemy is coming from.
    Scheuer basically feels the dismantling of the unit reflected a myopia in an intelligence community uncomfortable with the independence of the CIA agents who championed Bin Laden's pursuit.In a letter to John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, Senator John Kerry agrees, calling for the reinstitution of the Alec Unit:
    This unit should be reconstituted immediately and given all resources necessary to finish the job of holding bin Laden accountable and preventing him from organizing or inspiring future attacks against the United States and our allies.

    There is no question that since 9/11, al Qaeda has morphed into a global terrorist movement that transcends any one individual. The decision to divert resources from the crucial fight against bin Laden and al Qaeda to wage war on Iraq has made the task of eradicating this increasingly diffuse threat more difficult.

    I fully support efforts to adapt our response to the evolving nature of the threat, but this is not a compelling rationale for curtailing efforts to bring this mass murderer to justice. In fact, we cannot lose sight of the fact that eliminating bin Laden would still strike a key blow against al Qaeda and represent a significant step forward in the war on terror. Given what is at stake, our intelligence community should be given sufficient resources to both pursue bin Laden and prosecute the broader war on terror.

    Moreover, disbanding the bin Laden unit sends the message to the terrorists that they can kill thousands of Americans without being held to account. Given that Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was quoted this week as saying that “nobody has any idea” where bin Laden is, it is especially important that we send a clear message now that we have not given up the hunt. Reconstituting the bin Laden unit now would make it clear that we will never rest until he has been brought to justice.

    Past failures to eliminate bin Laden at Tora Bora and in the nearly five years since 9/11 are no excuse for failing to do everything possible to find him now. The CIA’s bin Laden unit can play an important part of our effort to win the war on terror...
    As I have had opportunity to say many times since Kerry was nominated by the Democrats in 2004, the Senator is correct more than twice a day. This is one of those instances.

    Sunday, July 9, 2006

    Jonathan Chait on Joe Lieberman (OTOH)

    Jonathan Chait is typical of your broadest-minded liberal.

    Typically his writing is anchored around the on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand (OTOH/OTOH) axis.

    Jonathan Chait agrees with me (sort of). In my posting of 16-June Who Has Hurt America More? OBL or GWB?, I presented a strong case based upon cost-benefit analysis, that George Bush has caused America more damage than Osama bin Laden. Jonathan Chait in the Los Angeles Times, today, admits to the following:
    Even though all but the loopiest Democrat would concede that Bin Laden is more evil than Bush, that doesn't mean he's a greater threat. Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the mountains, has no weapons of mass destruction and apparently very limited numbers of followers capable of striking at the U.S.

    Bush, on the other hand, has wreaked enormous damage on the political and social fabric of the country. He has massively mismanaged a major war, with catastrophic consequences; he has strained the fabric of American democracy with his claims of nearly unchecked power and morally corrupt Gilded Age policies. It's quite reasonable to conclude that Bush will harm the nation more — if not more than Bin Laden would like to, than more than he actually can.
    Chait also argues, that Joe Lieberman's backers are pretending that George Bush is just one other war-time President who does not deserve getting post shots because historically during wartime, 'partisanship stops at the water's edge'. They, says Chait,
    piously insist that . . . he's waging a war in America's name — as if Bush were obeying this principle, and as if Bush were just another Republican president rather than a threat of historic magnitude.

    The thesis is correct, by any standards. But Chait has to introduce an antithesis: Lieberman deserves support in the Democratic party even if he has, from the beginning, carried that Iraqi water for the worse president in American history.

    Personally, I know nothing about the amount of pork Lieberman has sent his state constituency's way. I don't live in Connecticut. But how Chait can take sides in this pissing contest and say that Ned Lamont has less party loyality than Lieberman is beyond me.

    It's Lieberman who says he's going run as a third party spoiler-candidate if he loses the primary, not Lamont.

    Chait, as always, is unfair, but balanced.

    Wednesday, July 5, 2006

    Another Inconvenient Truth

    Iraq is not a war, but an occupation.

    George Lakoff in his Rockridge Institute writes of
    Occupation: The Inconvenient Truth About Iraq:
    It is time to tell an inconvenient truth about Iraq: it is an occupation, not a war. . . .

    The war was over when Bush said "Mission Accomplished."

    Then the occupation began. Our troops were trained to fight a war, not to occupy a country where they don't know the language and culture; where they lack enough troops, where they face an anti-occupation insurgency by the Iraqis themselves; where most of the population wants them out; where they are being shot at and killed by the very Iraqis they are training; and where the U.S. has given up on reconstruction and can't do much positive good there.

    The Occupation Frame fits a politically inconvenient truth. Most people don’t want to think of our army as an occupation force, but it is. An occupying army can’t win anything. The occupation only helps Al Qaeda, which Iraqis don’t want in their country since Al Qaeda attracts foreigners who have been killing Iraqis.
    As far as Iraq is concerned,
    Our nation has been held trapped in a fallacious War Frame that serves the interests of the Bush administration and the Republican Party. The term “cut and run,” used to vilify Democrats. . .

    The Cut-and-Run Frame put forth as a reason why we cannot withdraw from Iraq fits a gallant war. It does not fit a failed occupation. When you have become the villain and target to the people you are trying to help, it’s time to do the right thing — admit the truth that this is an occupation and think and act accordingly. All occupations end with withdrawal. The issue is not bravery versus cowardice in a good cause. The Cut-and-Run Frame does not apply.

    In an occupation, there are pragmatic issues: Are we welcome? Are we doing the Iraqis more harm than good? How badly are we being hurt? The question is not whether to withdraw, but when and how? What to say? You might prefer “End the occupation now” or “End the occupation by the end of the year” or “End the occupation within a year, “ but certainly Congress and most Americans should be able to agree on “End the occupation soon.”
    So, as far as Iraq is concerned, isn't Lakoff on to something when he questions
    In an occupation . . . should the president still have war powers? How, if at all, is the Supreme Court decision on military tribunals at Guantanamo affected if we are in an occupation, not a war? What high-handed actions by the President, if any, are ruled out if we are no longer at war?
    That pertains to Iraq. As pertains to Afghanistan, when Lakoff mentions "a fallacious War Frame", it brought to mind the Phony War:
    The Phony War (the Phony War, in Britain), or in Winston Churchill's words the Twilight War, was a phase in early World War II marked by few military operations in Continental Europe, in the months following the German invasion of Poland. Although the great powers of Europe had declared war on one another, neither side had yet committed to launching a significant attack, thus there was relatively little fighting on the ground. The term has cognates in many other languages, notably the German Sitzkrieg ("sitting war," a pun on Blitzkrieg), the French drôle de guerre ("funny war" or "strange war") and the Polish dziwna wojna ("strange war"). In Britain the period was even referred to as the "Bore War" (a pun on "Boer War").
    By starving the quest for Osama bin Laden's skull to feed the quest for Saddam's head, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld have basically been waging a phony war in Afghanistan. The sacrifices our troops have made in this forgotten war with pull punches have served to legitimize Bush's pretense to being a latter day Rooseveltian war president.

    Lakoff's thesis is correct: the Republican house of cards depends on Bush holding in his hand but three jokers: 9-11 (been played); Iraq (been trumped); and Afghanistan (still face down on the bottom of the deck).

    With respect to this last card, it's totally unsurprising that it was announced Monday that Bush has closed Alec Station, a unit focused on the capture of Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.

    Until that OBL card is turned, Bush can still be War-Time President. The joke on the American people is that the OBL card is not in the deck GWB is playing with.

    Tuesday, July 4, 2006

    Independence Day

    On the 230th Anniversary of Our Declaration of Independence from King George!The tasks and challenges are the same! Only King and flag have changed...

    Let's toss the George and keep the flag!

    Monday, July 3, 2006

    Stuff Happens Whenever You Loose the Dogs of War

    Atrocity in Mahmoudiya

    On the face of it, this case of (alleged) premeditated rape and murder by Steven D. Green appears to be qualitatively different from other documented cases of abuse of Iraqi civilians and prisoners.

    It's always been a few proverbial bad and rotten apples. Ever since we received that first Taguba report which cited lack of training and supervision, civilian leaders in the Pentagon have been deflecting responsibility from landing at their doors. There have been a few other explanations such as overzealous interpretations of (deliberately?) ambiguous torture rules & regs. Overzealousness in the pursuit intelligence demanded by superiors is another excuse.

    In the case of massacres of civilians in Haditha, Ishaqi, and other places, the most plausible explanation has been temporary insanity. Our troops are being killed randomly by passive improvised explosive devices, placed by the unseen hands of unknown enemies. In any sustained circumstance such as this, one could expect that normative standards of conduct and training could break down, even if episodically. Reacting to one's closest buddies being dismembered before one's eyes could enrage any one of us - eventually - to strike out blindly in retaliation against the first human targets we could find.

    But Green's crime was premeditated and invites our national rage:
    According to an 11-page federal affidavit, Green and three other soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 101st's Airborne Division had talked about raping the young woman, who they spotted while working at the checkpoint and who lived nearby. The document said Green and other soldiers drank alcohol, then changed out of their uniforms to avoid detection before going to the woman's house. Green covered his face with a brown T-shirt.
    We will find out more about Green as his case moves forward. Among the few things we know at this point is he was given an honorable discharge "before this incident came to light. Green was discharged due to a personality disorder." That is why he is being tried in civilian courts.

    So, is Green the authentic example of the rotten apples the Pentagon has been searching for to absolve itself of torture of prisoners and retributive violence against civilians? At first glance, he definitely appears to epitomize the poster boy in the bottom dregs of the barrel.

    OTOH, is it not time - past time - to inquire into the conditions in the barrel? Consider how the waging of this un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI) has contributed to the 'breaking' and degrading of our once great American military:
    • Use of personnel for combat roles for which they weren't trained.
    • Excessively long tours of duty required by the initially insufficient deployment of troops to accomplish the mission.
    • Repeat deployments to Iraq without a decent interval at home,
    • The misuse of National Guard and Reserve personnel for a mission not connected to defense of the nation.
    • Constant failure to attain retention and recruiting objectives.
    • Institution of the infamous "stop-loss" regulation which prolongs active combat duty indefinitely.
    • Lowering the standards and upping the bonuses for enlistment.
    Direct your attention to the last of these. Private Green, apparently, was one of these raw, green recruits sucked into the service by an unselective recruiters. Patriotism and sense of duty played less of a role in their signing on than poor education and lack of civilian sector alternatives. Rumsfeld's Pentagon - and Bush's war - has required of our military to scrape the bottom of our society for cannon fodder.

    British writer Max Hastings shares a lament by an American general:
    We went into Korea ... in 1950 with a very poor army, and came out of it in 1953 with a very good one. We went into Vietnam in 1964 with a fine army, and came out in 1975 with a terrible one.
    Private 3rd class Steven D. Green, Ret. is the poster boy of our broken military.

    Sunday, July 2, 2006

    Osama bin Laden Clock: 1,755 Days

    A couple of observations on this new so-called Bin Laden tape released by As-Sahab:

    The Jihadists are clearly relying on:
    • The Osama bin Laden brand
    • Prayer
    • And Bush's ability to recruit and proselytize through by polarizing the Muslim world against the world.
    Other than that, what have they got?

    Saturday, July 1, 2006

    World Cup Soccer?

    More Like a Dixie Cup.

    Don't accuse me of losing perspective on this: Darfur is a site of crimes against humanity.

    But the World Cup in Germany is still a crime scene of sorts.

    It is still a significant crime to see four years of effort come down to a miserable shoot-out. I will not be a fan until futbol sees the wisdom of resolving ties with sudden death overtime play instead of the round-robin of penalty kicks as of present. Let the lads settle it on the field with a continuation of team play, head-to-head, mano-a-mano, instead of a firing squad. That's obscene and totally bloodless.

    The tie-breaking shootout resolution of the German-Argentine game was an atrocity I refused to watch.

    Rather than investigation of the post-game brawl, FIFA should ponder their tie-breaking rule which ignited it.