Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, November 17th, 2007.


Contrasts

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Iraq War

Kurt Campbell notes in the New York Times that the “Iraqitects” — “the Bush Administration’s key architects of the Iraq War” — are not a group prone to losing sleep.

Indeed, what’s particularly unique about this group of national security strategists is their sheer ability to keep moving forward and to remain in the game. No public fretting or loss of composure, no signs of a larger remorse for the terrible chain of events they helped set in motion, no sense that history is not going as planned.

Even after offering atrocious advice to President Bush during the 2000 campaign, most of them are back again advising one or more of the prospective Republican candidates, and many continue to offer sage assessments and quick denunciations on Fox news about the recent developments in Iraq. All say that history will redeem them, that democracy will triumph in Iraq, and that Harry Truman has suddenly become their second favorite president of all time (no one could beat out the Gipper).

Iran poses new opportunities for scheming and planning, and Islamofascism is on the march and must be vigorously opposed. For the Iraq architects – or Iraqitects — life goes on and there is very little in the way of public accountability or introspection. Everything remains, well, normal.

Campbell uses the word normal quite a bit. Think Hannah Arendt.

Perhaps part of the curiosity is because this current generation of war planners has conducted themselves so much differently than the Vietnam era Masters of the Universe. Many from the version 1.0 of the best and the brightest – those intrepid Cold Warriors who led the country to a slogging defeat in Vietnam – had to subsequently endure booing on college campuses, shunning from old friends and colleagues, brutal treatment from the commentariat of the time, and the kind of bitter despair that generally accompanies a thoroughgoing battlefield defeat.

As a post graduate fellow at Harvard, I can still recall the lonely, ghostlike figure of Robert McNamara striding around Cambridge, making presentations to a new generation of would-be strategists about how to learn from his mistakes of the past. Others, like Dean Rusk, simply quietly retreated from public view, perhaps hoping history would treat them more gently than some of their contemporaries.

It’s a sad day when we look back at the “Vietnamitects” as role models.

The version 2.0 era of neoconservative advocates of military action to topple Saddam have behaved very differently in the midst of our current quagmire in Iraq. … very few have publicly questioned themselves over their own culpability in the entire mess. And those who have had the courage to do so, like Frank Fukuyama, have been roundly attacked and criticized from within the neocon camp. Indeed, what’s particularly unique about this group of national security strategists is their sheer ability to keep moving forward and to remain in the game. No public fretting or loss of composure, no signs of a larger remorse for the terrible chain of events they helped set in motion, no sense that history is not going as planned.

The Iraqitects remind me of a stock character in old films and television dramas, the aristocratic villain. Aristocratic villains are generally corrupt and incompetent bullies who are rich, titled, and privileged by accident of birth. No matter what messes they make, unless they are convicted of doing something treasonous or felonious (always a satisfying plot resolution) they remain rich, titled, and privileged. And they make life hell for the hero, who is usually a common-born, practical, man-of-action type.

Speaking of which, Barbara Barrett of the Virginia News & Observer writes that life is not so normal for others.

Late at night, after the moon has settled into the swamps and cotton fields surrounding Army Sgt. 1st Class Chad Stephens’ home, the soldier puts down his last drink.

He pulls himself off the sofa, leans over the television to snap quiet his latest war movie and lies in bed next to his wife of 12 years.

The dream never takes long to arrive. Stephens’ platoon of Bradley fighting vehicles is somewhere in Iraq, pinned down by the enemy.

Grenades fly at them. Bullets ding off metal. His troops holler into their radios, and Stephens, the platoon leader, feels the danger.

On this night in his dream, like every night, Stephens will keep a promise — to his soldiers and, in particular, to the mother of a blue-eyed gunner named Danny.

Nearly four years ago, in January 2004, the N.C. National Guard platoon sergeant stood in an Army classroom facing that mother and the families of the 40 men he was about to lead into war.

He stood 6-foot-4 and infantry-lean, and in the confident voice familiar to his men, he made a promise: I’ll bring your sons home.

He had wanted it to be true.

Even then, Stephens knew he was lying.

This is a powerful piece. Be sure to read it.

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Just Wrong

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Health Care, Immigration

Immigration authorities separate nursing mother and baby.

Even more heartbreaking, today Bob Herbert writes about a mother battling her health insurance provider while her daughter battled cancer.

One night, after coming home from school, Brittney suddenly found that she couldn’t walk. The cancer had attacked her spinal cord. As the doctors geared up to treat this new disaster, Ms. Hightower received word that her insurance policy had maxed out. The company would not pay for any further treatment.

Ms. Hightower was aghast: “I said, ‘What do you mean? It was supposed to be a $3 million policy.’ ”

She hadn’t understood that there was an annual limit of $75,000 on benefits. “It was just devastating when they told me that,” she said. …

…Sandra Hightower became almost frantic with the combined tasks of caring for her daughter and trying to figure out how to pay for the increasingly expensive treatments.

“Her back surgery, with the reconstruction and all that, was over three hundred and some thousand dollars,” she said. “I had to start doing fund-raisers, bake sales. And the community kicked in, my community here in Nacogdoches. Definitely the high school. And people donated to a benefit fund at the bank.”

After several months, Brittney was declared eligible for federal disability benefits, which enabled her to qualify for Medicaid. “But we still owed for everything before that,” said Ms. Hightower.

Brittney fought like crazy to survive, her mother said. But in the end, she didn’t make it. She died, at age 16, on June 5.

“I see her everywhere,” said Ms. Hightower, who still owes thousands of dollars in medical bills. “When I go to the grocery store, I see her favorite food. I go shopping, and I see the perfect little outfit that she would love.

“I’m so lost right now. And I feel like I failed my baby because I couldn’t bring in all the help she needed.”

I’m sure the wingnuts can dismiss Ms. Hightower by saying she should have chosen a job with better benefits.

Update: Satire? Pathology? You be the judge. A blogger writes,

What would life in the United States be like under a President who is obsesssed with personal power, does not respect the rule of law and has no tolerance for criticism?

Who has to wonder? But here’s the punch line — the blogger was writing about Hillary Clinton. Sort of snarks itself, huh?

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