Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, November 18th, 2005.


Cowards

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Congress, Iraq War

Ohio Congresswoman and former maha next-door-neighbor Jean Schmidt called John Murtha a coward on the floor of Congress today.

I just saw it on television. I don’t have the exact quote, but it was something to the effect of “Cowards cut and run; Marines never do.”

I am reasonably certain the congresswoman is not a Marine, btw.

Congressman Murtha is on television denouncing the house resolution today calling for an immediate pullout from Iraq. He feels it makes a mockery of his proposal from yesterday. By Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press:

House Republicans, sensing an opportunity for political advantage, maneuvered for a quick vote and swift rejection Friday of a Democratic lawmaker’s call for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.

“We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. “We will not retreat.” …

… The GOP leadership decided to act little more than 24 hours after Rep. Jack Murtha, a hawkish Democrat with close ties to the military, said the time had come to pull out the troops. By forcing the issue to a vote, Republicans placed many Democrats in a politically unappealing position – whether to side with Murtha and expose themselves to attacks from the White House and congressional Republicans, or whether to oppose him and risk angering the voters that polls show want an end to the conflict.

Murtha says that the Republican resolution is not what he proposed, and he is upset that, after he spent months thinking and working out the details of his proposal, The GOP would, in effect, put up a straw proposal in its place just so they could knock it down.

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Questions for Righties

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Congress, conservatism, Iraq War, liberalism and progressivism

Dana Milbank writes in today’s Washington Post:

In his 37 years in the military, John Murtha won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with a Combat “V,” and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. As a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania for the past 31 years, he has been a fierce hawk, championing conflicts in Central America and the Persian Gulf.

Yesterday, he was called a coward.

It was as sure as the sun comin’ up in the morning that the righties would smear Murtha for his speech calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Righties have utterly lost the ability to just disagree with someone. Opposition must be crushed.

After Murtha stunned the Capitol with a morning news conference calling for a pullout from Iraq because our “troops have done all they can,” the denunciations came quickly.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) accused Murtha of delivering “the highest insult” to the troops. “We must not cower,” Hastert lectured the old soldier.

Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) informed Murtha that his views “only embolden our enemies” and lamented that “Democrats undermine our troops in Iraq from the security of their Washington, D.C., offices.”

At a rival news conference called four hours after Murtha’s appearance, Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), who like Hastert and Blunt does not have military service on his resume, alerted the 73-year-old Murtha that “the American people are made of sterner stuff.” And Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) said the likes of Murtha want to take “the cowardly way out and say, ‘We’re going to surrender.’ “

Murtha wasn’t surprised.

Murtha, whose brand of hawkishness has never been qualified by the word “chicken,” was expecting the attacks. “I like guys who’ve never been there to criticize us who’ve been there. I like that,” the burly old Marine said, hands in pocket. Referring to Vice President Cheney, he continued: “I like guys who got five deferments and never been there, and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.”

If you really want to read what’s being said about Murtha on the Right Blogosphere you can find plenty of links of Memeorandum today. But you know what they’re saying. They are calling Murtha every vile name they can think of. For example, in a post titled “Democrats Keep Shifting Towards Surrender,” Captain Ed writes,

Rep. John Murtha pushed the national argument on the Iraq War further towards the International ANSWER/MoveOn agenda this afternoon by demanding an immediate start of an American retreat from Iraq, declaring that American soldiers do not have the capability to defeat terrorists. He based his conclusion not on the facts on the ground, but apparently his experience in Viet Nam, which he tossed around like a West Point degree all afternoon long.

This is, of course, a deeply dishonest representation of what Congressman Murtha actually said. But instead of addressing the congressman’s points, such as —

I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

— which must be what Captain Ed mistranslated into “American soldiers do not have the capability to defeat terrorists,” the Right does what the Right always does and erupts into a festival of mud-throwing.

I’d like the righties to answer two questions honestly. Yeah, I know, when pigs fly. But this is the discussion we should be having if rightes were capable of rational discussion:

The first question is What is our political objective in Iraq? I want a concrete answer, not just “peace, prosperity, and freedom,” because those are a tad open ended. This nation was founded (if you count from the ratificaton of the Articles of Confederation) 224 years ago, and we’re still working on those objectives ourselves. We’ve done better than a lot of other nations with them, granted, but even we don’t have them perfected.

I know a lot of you want to say Screw the objectives; let’s just get out. Maybe so, but right now I’m not trying to determine what our Iraq policy should be. Rather, I’m looking at the national discussion we are not having to determine what the policy should be.

I believe the original Neocon vision was to establish a pro-American government in Iraq headed by their buddy Ahmed Chalabi or a reasonable facsimile thereof. The recent reception Chalabi got in Washington makes me think the Neocons are still holding out hope for this. Cards on the table, rightes–is that still the goal? And if so, we need to talk. We need to talk about why the Neocons are stll married to Chalabi. We need to talk about whether a stable, democratic, and pro-American government, with or without Chalabi, is still possible in Iraq. Or, will we settle for any government the majority of Iraqis consider legitimate, even if that government doesn’t like us much, for the sake of regional stability?

In other words, given our current status (assuming we can agree on that), what can we realistically expect to achieve that would serve the best interests of the United States and Iraq? We should consider both the stability of the Middle East and the discouragement of terrorism. We should also consider rationally how much of our military resources we can afford to commit before we weaken our ability to respond to other problems beside Iraq.

Once we’re settled on the objective, we can go on to the second question — Is our military activity supporting that objective? One of Congressman Murtha’s points is that it isn’t. Yesterday the congressman said,

It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

General Casey said in a September 2005 Hearing, “the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.” General Abizaid said on the same date, “Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is a part of our counterinsurgency strategy.” …

…I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won “militarily.” I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.

The congressman is hardly the first person to warn that our presence in Iraq is fueling the insurgency. It is obvious to me we are simultaneously feeding and smothering the same fire. Righties lack the moral courage to address this issue; they just jerk their knees and deny it. But if civilians are being burned with white phosporous, even accidently, generations of Iraqis will remember. Assuming that establishing a pro-American government in Iraq is an objective, pissing off the populace seems counterproductive. At the very least we should be looking hard at our rules of engagment to minimize these little accidents. On the other hand, putting too many constraints on our soldiers puts them at greater risk.

The obvious solution is to expect the Iraqis to fight their own bleeping insurgency. But as Steve M. calculated, at our current rate “the Iraqi military will be able to replace the 160,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq in the year 2592.” No, that’s not an exageration. Based on the Pentagon’s own reports, we’re averaging 22 fully training Iraqi soldiers a month. So unless we can find a way to crank out fully trained Iraqi soldiers a damn sight quicker than we’re doing it now, we’re going to have to make up our minds what “victory” we will settle for. Otherwise 20 years from now the children of today’s U.S. soldiers in Iraq will be fighting the children of today’s insurgents.

The terrible truth that the Right refuses to face is that we could win a military objective and lose the political objective. I’m sure we could, if we really tried, obliterate Iraq, but I think even righties — some of ’em, anyway — ought to be able to comprehend that obliteration would be counterproductive to Iraqi freedom and prosperity and all that. We need to make some firm decisions about how aggressively the U.S. can pursue a military objective without utterly screwing up the political objective.

Congressman Murtha’s contention, stated above, is that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding our political goals. Are there any righties out there willing even to discuss this, beyond “You’re wrong” and “Murtha stinks”? Are our military actions furthering or impeding our political goals in Iraq? And if the answer is “impeding,” then what the hell are we fighting for?

If any righties wander by here and want to provide serious answers to these questions based on factual evidence, they are welcome to do so. Knee-jerk comments or gratuitious insults will, as usual, be deleted.

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Who’s Getting Conned?

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abortion

Following up the last post, which explains why Republicans really don’t want Roe v. Wade overturned — Michael Kinsley writes in Slate that most of the talk about precedent on Capitol Hill these days is, of course, all about Roe v. Wade. “[B]y the absurd unwritten rules of these increasingly stylized episodes, they are not allowed to ask him and he is not allowed to answer. So the nominee does a fan dance, tantalizing the audience by revealing little bits of his thinking but denying us a complete view.”

While Roe defenders play this double game, ostensible Roe opponents, especially those in the White House, may be playing a triple game. Their public position is A) Roe is a terrible decision, responsible for a vast slaughter of innocents; B) legal abortion is deeply immoral; C) we ignore all this in choosing Supreme Court justices, and you (Roe defenders) should, too. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s not believable. The natural assumption is that Bush is trying to con abortion-rights supporters. Only an idiot would squander the opportunity to rid the nation of Roe because of some fatuous nonsense about picking judges without finding out the one thing you most urgently want to know.

But Machiavellians of my acquaintance believe that it is the anti-abortion folks who are getting conned. The last thing in the world that Republican strategists want is the repeal of Roe. If abortion becomes a legislative issue again, all those pro-choice women and men who have been voting Republican because abortion was safe would have to reconsider, and many would bolt. Meanwhile, the reversal of Roe would energize the left the way Roe itself energized the right. Who needs that?

As I wrote in the last post, for years right-wing politicians have been taking shelter in Roe even as they denounce it. A repeal of Roe would end their little game of making promises to the Fetus People while winking at moderate voters that, of course, we can’t really outlaw abortion.

One tangible example of this are the repeated attempts to ban so-called “partial birth” abortions. Both federal and state legislators continuously crank out laws crafted to both please the Fetus People and displease the courts. And when the laws are bounced–and I think they are written in a way that will ensure they are bounced–the legislators can claim righteous intentions and scapegoat the courts.

But now that the Republicans are in a position to install an anti-Roe majority on the Supreme Court, the rules of the game are about to change. Conservative politicians will, literally, have to put up or shut up.

It’s for this reason that some lefties think we’d be better off without Roe. I’m not among them. I think if Roe were overturned, statehouses across the land would immediately be thrown into chaos–pretty much where they were before Roe, but worse. Abortions would be unavailable in the South and big chunks of the Midwest, forcing women of means to travel and women without means to perforate themselves with coathangers. Yes, the backlash would be huge, and in time it would drive the almighty “Right to Life” movement the way of the Anti-Saloon League. But it would take years to straighten out the mess, and much suffering would result.

Will Republicans, realizing this, pull back from the brink? Even if they would like to, I’m not sure they can. George W. Bush is the one making nominations, and he doesn’t care about consequences. He just cares about power. Further, the Harriet Miers messs proved that the hard right owns him, and he’s not going to risk “disappointing” them again as long as he’s in office. And even if pigs can fly and either Alito or Roberts were not really anti-Roe, there’s a good chance Bush could get another SCOTUS pick before he vacates the White House.

What about Karl Rove, who has been trying to build a permanent Republican majority? Although Rove is supposed to be some kind of all-seeing evil genius, I wonder sometimes if he isn’t more of an idiot savant. He’s brilliant at doing one thing–building political power through sheer nastiness. He may not be wise enough to see the seeds of destruction he has planted.

If Roe survives the next few years, it’ll be a miracle. But sometimes, as with Prohibition, Americans have to learn the hard way.

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