Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, December 15th, 2005.

This Way to the Gulags

Democratic Party, Republican Party

National Journal Hotline reports:

MA. Sen. John Kerry said last night that if Dems retake the House, there’s a “solid case” to bring “articles of impeachment” against President Bush for allegedly misleading the country about pre-war intelligence, according to several Dems who attended.

Be still, my heart. But wait …

Kerry was speaking at a holiday party for alumni of his WH ’04 bid. … Kerry Comm. Dir. David Wade, in an email, said his boss was joking.

Damn you, Kerry.

Wade: “Is it really a story that, with a smile on his face and to ensuing laughter, at a Christmas party for his hardest working troops who are still working to win in 2006, a Democrat joked about why these diehard Democrats needed to keep dreaming of a Democratic Congress? Impeachment jokes in Washington are as old as Don Rumsfeld and as funny as Dick Cheney is gruff. Only the truly humorless would say bah humbug to the rarest of partisan red meat.” Wade said Kerry often asks this question: “How are the same Republicans who tried to impeach a President over whether he misled a nation about an affair going to pretend it does not matter if the Administration intentionally misled the country into war?” More Wade: “Good luck finding a Democrat in America who disagrees…”

Predictably, some rightie bloggers commented on this, disregarding the “it was a joke” caveat. Hyenas all. The Republican National Committee actually issued a “response,” saying “For one of the leaders of the Democrat party to begin a push for presidential impeachment, in seriousness or jest, on the eve of the Iraq elections is both foolish and shortsighted.”

It was a bleeping joke.
Unfortunately. But you’ve got to watch what you say about Dear Leader.

What, you think this is America? Not any more.

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At the Movies

entertainment and popular culture, Uncategorized

Rightie movie reviews, courtesy of this fluffhead, via Shakespeare’s Sister

Get this synopsis of “Good Night & Good Luck” —

“A film portraying as noble the efforts of journalists to demonize and “take down” a US Senator whose anti-communist policies they did not like.”

Jebus. She’s talking about Edward R. Murrow’s takedown of Joe McCarthy for pity’s sake. Holy bleep. Talk about utterly depraved historical revisionism! I’d like to rub the fluffhead’s nose in a few history books. But she’s a rightie, so she can’t read. Never mind.

Here’s her comment on “A History of Violence” … “The demonization of the average mid-western American man as someone who is no hero, but a cold-blooded killer at heart.” I don’t think that’s what the director was going for; at least, that’s not what I took away from it. The main character wasn’t an “average mid-western” American man, in any event. Perhaps La Fluff didn’t see the film for herself and is just going by what other people have told her. Not smart.

Meanwhile, Steve M. has some comments on the favorite films of conservative college students. Some of the films that made the list are, um, a surprise.

I understand audiences are down in theaters, but I think that has more to do with theaters than with the films. I’ve gotten picky about which theaters I give my business to; messy theaters that don’t enforce good audience etiquette should go out of business. There’s a multiplex about a mile away from my home that I’ve avoided ever since some woman sitting near me talked loudly on a cell phone during “Return of the King.” There are plenty of other theaters that have not-sticky seats and audiences that behave.

For many years I’ve heard people complain there used to be more good movies; I think that’s because we only remember the good ones. Are films getting more depraved? I seem to remember more explicit sex and violence in the 1970s, but maybe I was hanging out with a bad crowd then. (Anybody else remember “El Topo”? Was that sick, or what?)

I don’t see every film that comes along, but of the films I’ve seen in theaters this year I believe my faves were “Batman Begins” and “Good Night & Good Luck.” I also liked “Kingdom of Heaven,” but I understand I am the only person in America who did.

Add your own film reviews here.

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No Torture Required

Bush Administration, torture

Reuters reports that President Bush “reached agreement” with John McCain on torture legislation today. Translation: Bush caved under pressure, without even having to be waterboarded.

Adam Entous and Vicki Allen write for Reuters,

Under bipartisan pressure after detainee abuse scandals, President George W. Bush reached agreement on Thursday with Sen. John McCain on legislation banning inhumane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody.

With McCain and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner at his side, Bush said the agreement would help “make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad.”

We would have been even clearer had the administration not dragged its feet for so long.

The White House had sought protections from prosecution for interrogators accused of violating the rule, but McCain rejected that, saying it would undermine his amendment.

The White House finally accepted language, which was similar to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to allow civilian interrogators accused of violating the provision to defend themselves based on whether a reasonable person could have found they were following a lawful order about the treatment of prisoners.

Some of the pressure had come from the House of Representatives, which yesterday overwhelmingly endorsed McCain’s legislation. Eric Schmitt writes for the New York Times,

In an unusual bipartisan rebuke to the Bush administration, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed Senator John McCain’s measure to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in American custody anywhere in the world.

Although the vote was nonbinding, it put the Republican-controlled House on record in support of Mr. McCain’s provision for the first time, at the very moment when the senator, a Republican, is at a crucial stage of tense negotiations with the White House, which strongly opposes his measure.

The vote also likely represents the lone opportunity that House members will have to express their sentiments on Mr. McCain’s legislation. The Senate approved the measure in October, 90 to 9, as part of a military spending bill. But until Wednesday, the House Republican leadership had sought to avoid a direct vote on the measure to avoid embarrassing the White House. …

The House vote was 308 to 122, with 107 Republicans lining up along with almost every Democrat behind Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who sponsored Mr. McCain’s language and who has become anathema to the administration on any legislative measure related to Iraq since his call last month to withdraw American troops from Iraq in six months.


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Getting What We Bargain For

Bush Administration, Iraq War

Today’s elections in Iraq could determine how much longer our troops stay in Iraq. It is possible — likely, I suspect — that the government formed today will pressure us to evacuate, “victory” be damned.

Anton La Guardia and Oliver Poole write for the Telegraph:

Three men, all of them Shia, are seen as a possible prime minister: Adel Abdel-Mahdi, of the main Shia religious faction, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI); Iyad Allawi, a former London exile who served as Iraq’s first interim prime minister last year; and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the current prime minister and head of the religious Daawa party.

One of the first tasks for the new government, which will rule for four years, will be to agree with US and British officials the procedure for a gradual hand-over of power to Iraqi forces.

There are signs that the Shia coalition that presently dominates Iraq could break up over the issue. SCIRI and Dawa want the US presence to continue for some time but they have now formed alliances with Moqtada al-Sadr, the militant cleric whose followers have fought with US and British troops and who demands the immediate departure of the “occupiers”.

Dexter Filkins writes in the New York Times that the votes will probably split evenly between secular and religious Shiites:

The cleric-led Shiite coalition is expected to get the largest number of votes but to fall short of capturing enough seats to enable Adel Abdul Mahdi, the group’s probable nominee for prime minister, to form a government. The Shiite coalition won a slim majority in the January elections, choosing Ibrahim Jafaari as prime minister, but the expected participation of the Sunni Arabs makes it unlikely that the Shiite bloc will capture a majority this time.

Juan Cole discusses the Sunni part of the puzzle:

The LA Times probably reflects the thinking of a lot of Americans in hoping that these elections are a milestone on the way to withdrawing US troops from Iraq. I cannot imagine why anyone thinks that. The Iraqi “government” is a failed state. Virtually no order it gives has any likelihood of being implemented. It has no army to speak of and cannot control the country. Its parliamentarians are attacked and sometimes killed with impunity. Its oil pipelines are routinely bombed, depriving it of desperately needed income. It faces a powerful guerrilla movement that is wholly uninterested in the results of elections and just wants to overthrow the new order. Elections are unlikely to change any of this.

The only way in which these elections may lead to a US withdrawal is that they will ensconce parliamentarians who want the US out on a short timetable. Virtually all the Sunnis who come in will push for that result (which is why the US Right is silly to be all agog about Fallujans voting), and so with the members of the Sadr Movement, now a key component of the Shiite religious United Iraqi Alliance. That is, these elections lead to a US withdrawal on terms unfavorable to the Bush administration. Nor is there much hope that a parliament that kicked the US out could turn around and restore order in the country.

Thomas Oliphant writes in today’s Boston Globe about President Bush’s recent “cycle of orations” on Iraq:

Bush loved to trumpet the fact that elections were about to be held and then will trumpet the fact that they were indeed held and people voted. But his unwillingness to discuss the elections in depth undercuts the message he is attempting to convey.

In this case, what was missing from Bush’s final oration yesterday was even a minimally broad tour of these elections. He could have at least tried to explain that because these are parliamentary elections involving multiple slates of candidates, it is possible, indeed likely, that we will not understand what happened because Iraq is so bitterly divided.

He could have urged calm and caution as Iraqis of multiple political persuasions try to sort through the tea leaves in search of some kind of majority that has a chance of actually governing the country. He could have emphasized the need for caution even more by explaining that this mystifying process could take weeks if not months and may at times become violent.

Instead, his orations at an end, he will pack up and hide for most of the next three weeks at Camp David and in Texas while others try to make sense of what is likely to be one of the messiest elections ever.

This is Bush’s pattern: To take credit for an “accomplishment” (that may not have been accomplished yet) and then leave the work to others. Oliphant continues,

The reason for the mess, by the way, involves the last so-called ”milestone” that was promoted and then trumpeted by Bush — the elections 11 months ago for an interim government and the October referendum on the constitution that this government produced.

The baloney from our government and president celebrated democracy and consensus across the regions and sects. The reality was division, actually enshrined in the constitution under which Iraqis will vote this week. Rather than heal the society, the constitution cemented its divisions in place. One of the dirty little secrets that his advisers leak to the press all the time, a secret Bush seems incapable of acknowledging, is that there is nothing to prevent virtual independence in the Kurdish North and virtual theocracy in the South –a recipe for chaos in and around Baghdad. The other dirty little secret is that the first task of whatever government is formed will be to figure out a way to change this wretched constitution so there remains at least a dim possibility of allowing freedom to exist under its amended provisions.

Bushies care more about the talking point than the reality. Yesterday in his speech he said, “We set four major milestones to guide Iraq’s transition to constitutional democracy: the transfer of sovereignty, elections for a transitional government, the adoption of a democratic constitution, and elections for a new government under that constitution. In spite of the violence, Iraqis have met every milestone — and this is changing the political landscape in Iraq.” I heard this same talking point repeated by various rightie surrogates on the cable news shows yesterday.

Last week we learned that Bush insisted the Iraqis meet the milestones no matter what, which is why the Iraqi constitution is such a mess. The August 15 deadline for writing a constitution, in particular, was “met” by declaring the constitution to have been written and agreeing to actually write it later. And the way the U.S. shoved the process forward had the effect of further alienating the Sunnis and further fueling the insurgency. The one that’s killing our soldiers, BTW. Juan Cole wrote,

In my view, though, it was crazy to attempt to write a permanent constitution in only a couple of months, and the Aug. 15 deadline should have been extended for 6 months. As it was, the drafting process became very messy toward the end; people barely knew which language they were voting for in the referendum; and the Sunni Arabs rejected the constitution almost to a person. It was a very bad outcome, and if Iraq breaks up we will almost certainly trace the break-up to the rush to get the constitution drafted and the way in which the Kurds and Shiites stacked it with goodies for themselves at the expense of the Sunni Arabs.

But getting the constitution right was less important to the Bushies than meeting that milestone. They wanted that talking point. A missed deadline would certainly have turned into a talking point for the Dems leading up to our November 2004 elections.

Gotta keep our priorities straight, you know.

Several news stories this morning say the voter turnout is high, even among Sunnis, so expect victory celebrations on the Right for the remainder of the week. And it really would be best for all of us if the Iraqi government turns out to be able to govern, as opposed to being a failed state. But what the righties don’t understand is that nothing substantive has yet been accomplished. There may yet be a good outcome from Bush’s “democratization” of Iraq, but it could be years before that outcome becomes tangible.

And it’s a crapshoot. The odds are that, sooner or later, Iraq will devolve into civil war or become a satellite of Iran. Meanwhile, our troops continue to die, and we continue to spend about $6 billion a month in Iraq while the needs of U.S. citizens go unmet for lack of funds. And as long as we are there the insurgency will continue, but Bush is too wrapped up with himself as Democracy Jesus to let go of his glorious little war. We’re stuck there until 2009 or the Iraqis kick us out, whichever comes first.

So let’s hope the elections today will result in a working government that refuses to be a Bush puppet. It may be up to the Iraqis to save us from ourselves.

See also: Harith al-Dari, “No elections will be credible while the occupation continues.”

Update: See also Steve M.

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