Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Monday, December 12th, 2005.

Cut and Run

Bush Administration, Iraq War

The London Times reports that UK and US troops are fixin’ to begin a pullout of Iraq at the beginning of 2006.

Richard Beeston and Stephen Farrell in Baghdad and Michael Evans in Basra write,

BRITAIN and America are planning a phased withdrawal of their forces from Iraq as soon as a permanent government is installed in Baghdad after this week’s elections.

In a move that has caused alarm in the outgoing Iraqi administration, American and British officials have made clear that they regard the end of Iraq’s two-and-a-half-year transitional period as the green light to begin withdrawing some of their combined force of around 170,000 troops as early as March. …

…The moves appear to run contrary to statements by President Bush and John Reid, the Defence Secretary, who insist that coalition forces will not “cut and run” and will stay until the mission in Iraq is complete.

Indeed, in his speech today, Bush said,

We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Our goal is victory. And victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation.

… or by the end of 2006, whichever comes first.

BTW, I really liked this part of today’s speech:

I’ve come to discuss an issue that’s really important, and that is victory in the war on terror. And that war started on September the 11th, 2001, when our nation awoke to a sudden attack.

Like generations before us, we have accepted new responsibilities. We’re confronting dangers with new resolve. We’re taking the fight to those who attacked us and to those who share their murderous vision for future attacks.

We will fight this war without wavering, and we’ll prevail.

The war on terror will take many turns, and the enemy must be defeated on every battlefield, from the streets of Western cities, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the tribal regions of Pakistan, to the islands of Southeast Asia and to the Horn of Africa.

Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity.

So we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror.

That boy’s still tying 9/11 to Iraq. He ain’t givin’ up.

He presented a slightly different angle during the question-and-answer session:

QUESTION: Mr. President, I would like to know why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalists or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed.

BUSH: What did she – I missed the question. Sorry.

I beg your pardon. I didn’t hear you. Seriously.

QUESTION: I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirm that such a link existed.

BUSH: Oh, I appreciate that.

9/11 changed my look on foreign policy. I mean, it said that oceans no longer protect us; that we can’t take threats for granted; that if we see a threat, we’ve got to deal with it. It doesn’t have to be militarily necessarily but we got to deal with it. We can’t just hope for the best anymore.

So the first decision I made, as you know, was to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harboring terrorists. This is where the terrorists plan and plotted.

And the second decision – which was a very difficult decision for me, by the way, and it’s one that I didn’t take lightly – was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He is a declared enemy of the United States. He had used weapons of mass destruction. The entire world thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations had declared in more than 10 – I can’t remember the exact number of resolutions – that disclose or disarm or face serious consequences.

I mean, there was a serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein: `You’re a threat.’ And the 9/11 attacks accentuated that threat, as far as I’m concerned.

And so we gave Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm. And he refused.

And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I’d make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.

Are we making sense yet?

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Follow the Money


I said even before the invasion that the Iraq War was the mother of all money laundering schemes. Here’s a blog dedicated to proving me right. Cannonfire doesn’t just track down corruption in Iraq; the blogger (Joe Cannon) is pulling together threads like BCCI, Iran-Contra, the CIA, and Duke Cunningham. See this post, for example. Fascinating stuff.

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Capital Punishment

criminal justice

Breaking news: Gov. Schwarzenegger denied clemency to Tookie Williams, which means it’s nearly certain Williams will be executed after midnight.

The ACLU has a useful death penalty FAQ.

According to Amnesty International
, “In 2004, 97 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Viet Nam and the USA.”

Also according to Amnesty International, homicide rates in death penalty states tend to be higher than in non-death penalty states.

I have read arguments that the death penalty encourages violence, because it legitimizes a violent “solution” to problems. I suspect there’s something to that.

See also: Attywood.

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Today’s Speech by President Bush

Bush Administration, Iraq War

I missed it. Didn’t know he was giving one today. The li’l booger just snuck right past me and gave a speech without my knowing about it. Well, eventually somebody will post a transcript.

Update: Word is that the theme of today’s Iraq speech was spreading democracy over there so we don’t have to spread it here …

Update: Here’s a transcript of the questions-and-answers section of the speech, which is slightly more interesting than the speech itself.

Also: Dan Froomkin has a follow-up to the Bubble story.

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Looking for Love

Bush Administration, Democratic Party, Republican Party

Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen write in Time that President Bush is looking for a new groove.

White House strategists believe they have ended the slide in Bush’s approval ratings, which lately have been topping 40% again. “It’s time for the Bush comeback story!” one coached TIME for this article. “The perfect storm has receded. We have better news in Iraq, oil prices are down, and Katrina has kind of fallen off the radar screen in terms of public concern.”

With that last sentence in mind, let’s crash ahead to the next paragraph:

The plan is to make January a critical month in what the President’s aides hope will be a turning-point year. The White House expects a quick victory on Bush’s Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, and the State of the Union speech will nod to big goals. But when it comes to fresh and concrete ideas, the list of what Bush will actually try to accomplish in 2006 is so modest that one bewildered Republican adviser calls it “an insult to incrementalism.”

He needs big goals? How about getting out of Iraq, finding alternative fuel sources, and rebuilding New Orleans?

White House advisers tell TIME that the agenda for 2006 is in flux and that senior aide Karl Rove is still cooking up ideas. But the initiatives they have settled on sound more like Clinton’s brand of small-bore governance: computerizing medical records; making it easier for workers to take their health benefits with them when they leave a job and–an idea that captured Bush’s imagination in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina–giving a boost to Catholic and other private schools as an alternative for inner-city children. While Bush still hopes to sign an immigration bill by summer and plans to talk a lot about the subject next year, his program to offer temporary legal status to illegal immigrant workers remains a tough sell with the conservatives in Congress.

I guess a manned Mars landing is off the table.

However improbable the odds at this point or modest his short-term goals, aides say, Bush still subscribes to Rove’s long-held dream that his will be the transformational presidency that lays the groundwork for a Republican majority that can endure, as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition did, for a half-century or more. Once he gets past the midterm elections, Bush plans to introduce a concept that, if anything, is even more ambitious than his failed Social Security plan: a grand overhaul that would include not only that program but Medicare and Medicaid as well.

Well, let’s see — FDR left behind a legacy of programs and accomplishments that enormously improved the standard of living of most Americans. GWB will leave behind a legacy of devastation that will enormously undermine the standard of living of most Americans. Yeah, I see the connection.

If Bush is truly looking for a challenge, I say cleaning up his own messes ought to be Job One. It’s going to be Job One for the next several administrations; might as well get started now.

Bush is not the only politician in America looking for a raison d’être. Ron Fournier writes for the Associated Press that Democrats are trying out campaign themes for ’06 and ’08.

Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean has commissioned confidential polling and analysis that suggest candidates in 2006 and 2008 should frame their policies — and attacks on Republicans — around the context of community.

It seems to be the emerging message from a party that has been bereft of one.

Yet “this is not a new theme,” writes Fournier, who needs to make up his mind.

Fournier provides quotes from prominent Democrats. John Edwards:

“There is a hunger in America, a hunger for a sense of national community, a hunger for something big and important and inspirational that they all can be involved in,” Edwards, the party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee, told delegates at a weekend convention of Florida Democrats.

Gov. Tom Vilsack:

“What’s happening in this country is we’re losing our sense of common purpose,” Vilsack told Florida Democrats. “We’re losing a sense of community.” …

… “When we work together, when rely on one another, when we care about one another we remove the fear of sharing,” Vilsack said. “I believe the current administration and its polices is eroding the sense of community. This country’s two great things — the self-reliant individual supported by community — is what made the American dream … possible.”

Sen. Barack Obama:

Equating the GOP agenda for Social Security, public school vouchers and Medicare with “social Darwinsim,” Obama said the key to the nation’s success is striking a balance between individual and collective responsibility.

“It has to do with individuals,” he said, “but it also has to do with community.”

Not bad, but I’d like to see a little more old-time, fire-in-the-belly populism. I think people have grown weary of slogans and empty rhetoric, and they’re going to want to hear specifically and concretely how a Democratic approach to governance will differ from the Republican one.

Meanwhile, the original it-takes-a-village girl, Hillary Clinton, is attempting to tip-toe to the nomination so as not to be caught actually taking a stand anywhere. Dan Balz writes in the Washington Post,

At a time when politicians in both parties have eagerly sought public forums to debate the war in Iraq, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has kept in the shadows.

Clinton has stayed steadfastly on a centrist path, criticizing President Bush but refusing to embrace the early troop withdrawal options that are gaining rapid favor in her party. …

… Faced with rising pressure to join the intensifying debate over an exit strategy and Bush’s policies, the politician many think will seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008 chose as her medium a 1,600-word letter outlining her views, recently e-mailed to constituents and supporters.

In the e-mail, Clinton took responsibility for her vote for the 2002 resolution authorizing Bush to go to war, while leaving open whether she would have opposed it, given what is now known about faulty intelligence and mismanagement by the administration. She pummeled Bush for his conduct of the war itself but left murky how long she believes U.S. forces should stay in Iraq. As she told Kentucky Democrats earlier this month, “I reject a rigid timetable that the terrorists can exploit, and I reject an open timetable that has no ending attached to it.”

Pathetic. And pretty much why Democrats lost control of government, in a nutshell.

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