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saturday, november 1, 2003

Confederacy in the Nooz!
 
Once again, candidates are sniping at each other over Confederate flags. Recently, Howard Dean said,

"I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," the former Vermont governor said in an interview published Saturday in the Des Moines Register. "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats." (CNN)

Frankly, I think Dean has to say stuff like that if he's going to get any votes in Southern primaries at all. But let's continue -- Dick Gephardt made some remark about how he wanted to be the candidate for guys with American flags in their pickup trucks. Which reminded me of another entanglement Gephardt had with the battle flag last January.

So I'm repeating here a blog from January 20, 2003. I'm not criticizing either Gephardt or Dean with this. I'm merely presenting it for the entertainment value. (This one's for you, D.R. Marvel!)

January 20, 2003

Southern Crosses
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - State officials took down Confederate flags at two historic sites Tuesday after Democratic presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt said they shouldn't be flown anywhere.

Confederate battle flags were removed at the Confederate Memorial Historic Site and the Fort Davidson Historic Site, said Sue Holst, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The flags will still be displayed inside the sites' visitor centers. ...

In Missouri, the flag had flown for decades without controversy or criticism from public officials at the Confederate memorial near Higginsville. The remains of 694 Confederate veterans and 108 wives are buried at the site.

The Fort Davidson site commemorates the 1864 Battle of Pilot Knob.
[Link to Guardian article]

I don't recall I've ever been to the Higginsville cemetary, but day trips to Fort Davidson loom fairly large in childhood memory.
 
The Fort Davidson site is in a poor, sparsely populated part of the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri. To say it is off the beaten path is to give it too much credit; even those who live in the region have to go out of their way to find it.
 
When I was a girl in the 1950s, there was nothing there but a depression in a ragged, weedy meadow where the fort used to be and a modest marker. I do not remember flags; I do remember the tree-covered mountains looming over the battlefield, one of which is crowned with a prominent rock called Pilot Knob.
 
More recently the state of Missouri built a nice little air-conditioned visitors' center housing artifacts from the Battle of Pilot Knob. And, out in the meadow, to mark the spot where Confederate dead were buried in the rifle pits, there came to be a modest Confederate flag on a short flagpole.
 
The flag was not on the place-where-the-fort-used-to-be itself, because Fort Davidson was a Union fort. The nearby town of Ironton was a Union town, the headquarters of Ulysses S. Grant's first command as a general. The Confederates buried in the meadow were part of an invading force aiming to take St. Louis. The mission had little chance of success, and it was stopped at Fort Davidson. Or, rather, it was stopped when the Union defenders blew Fort Davidson and its store of munitions to smithereens, thereby leaving an impressive hole in the ground.
 
In September 1864 Confederate Maj. General Sterling Price led approximately 12,000 men out of Arkansas, advancing north toward St. Louis. However, at least a quarter of Price's men had no weapons. His plan was to arm them by taking Union arsenals, including the arsenal at Fort Davidson, which included four 32 pound siege guns, three 24 pound howitzers, and six 3-inch ordnance rifles. In the center of the fort was a buried powder magazine.
 
When word of the advancing army reached St. Louis, Brig. General Thomas Ewing, Jr. (a brother-in-law of William Tecumseh Sherman himself) was dispatched to Fort Davidson, which was south of St. Louis in Price's path. Ewing and five companies of the 14th Iowa Infantry Volunteers reached Pilot Knob on September 26 and occupied the fort, which truth be told wasn't much of a fort-- just an earthwork structure surrounded by a dry moat. These troops, plus approximately 150 civilians from the area -- including a militia of free African-Americans -- provided about 1,300 men to stand against the Confederate 12,000.  
 
The local militia and the invading Confederates clashed in the streets of Ironton; they fought around the countryside, in the meadows and on the slopes of green mountains. The Iowa volunteers held the fort against charge after charge. The fighting ended at nightful with the Union still in control of the fort.
 
Ewing, however, realized there was no way his troops could hold another day against Price. So in the dark of night the Iowa men muffled their horses' hooves and artillery wheels with blankets and silently evacuated the fort, leaving behind a detail to destroy the remaining munitions and keep them out of Price's hands. When the gunpowder magazine exploded, the blast was heard for 20 miles.
 
Heritage and Hooey
 
As I said, I've never been to Higginsville. I looked it up on the web.

This historic site encompasses the grounds of what was once the Confederate Home of Missouri, which housed dependent Confederate veterans and their families. The last Confederate veteran living at the home died there in 1950 at the age of 108. In 1957, the Missouri General Assembly established this site as a permanent memorial to those soldiers. It includes the historic restored chapel, the cemetery where more than 679 Confederate veterans are buried, and a park landscape that features picnic sites and several small fishing lakes. Located one mile north of Higginsville.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources issued a statement that said use of the flags at Higginsville and Pilot Knob were "in context of interpretation of that part of history," and that there's no record of anyone asking for removal of the flags until now.
 
This weekend about 50 people, some in Confederate uniforms, stood outside the Missouri governor's manion to protest the removal of the flags.  

The decision to remove the flags at the Confederate Memorial Historic Site near Higginsville and the Fort Davidson Historic Site near Pilot Knob was purely political, said John Wolfe, the heritage defense chairman for the Missouri division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (news - web sites).

"They tore down our heritage, stole it from us," said Wolfe, who was among the 50 people who attended. "It's theft, it's blasphemous, it's criminal -- and all for political purposes." ...

Mark Trout, who attended the rally, said he was a member of the Sons of Union Veterans and considered suppression of Confederate heritage or emblems to be a "direct attack on the overall history of the Civil War."

He said singling out the Confederate flag was unfair because slavery existed in the United States longer than the Confederacy existed. [Robert Sandler, Associated Press, January 19, 2003]

So let's talk about history and heritage. First of all, what we're calling the Confederate flag is not the historical Confederate flag. The flag officially known as the "Stars and Bars" looked like this:

starsnbars.gif

The Confederate States of America adopted two other national flags in its short history, none of them exactly like the Confederate flag draped in the back window of half of the pickup trucks in the Ozarks. What we call the Confederate flag today was a battle flag adopted by some, not all, Confederate regiments.

Similar nonsense is going on in the neighboring state of Oklahoma.

A lawmaker who originally wanted a Confederate flag to fly at the Capitol has agreed to a compromise that would place this and 13 other historical flags across the street at the Oklahoma History Center.

Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, R-Edmond, said he would revise his flag bill to specify that only U.S. and state flags should fly at the Capitol.

Rep. Kevin Cox, D-Oklahoma City, who had opposed the idea of flying the Confederate flag at the Capitol has no objection to flying it at the history center.

Cox, who is black, said the flag does not belong at the Capitol because it represented the Confederacy "which held us in slavery."

Pettigrew said he and Cox had a different view of the Civil War. He said he had been taught it was an issue of states rights and economics. [Associated Press, January 17, 2003]

Oklahoma wasn't even a bleeping state at the time of the bleeping Civil War. More important, though, is that the "heritage" guys like Pettigrew don't know history from spinach. The truth is that slavery was the raison d'être of the Confederacy.

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. ["A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union," adopted in convention by the state of Mississippi, 1860]

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] [Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, 1861]

There it is. I don't know how much more plainly it could have been said.

Let me say, frankly, that it doesn't bother me personally if a Confederate flag flaps over some Confederate graveyard in the backwoods. And I love re-enactors of all stripes. Somebody's gotta be the Confederates and wear the butternut uniforms and wave Confederate flags around, or the re-enactments wouldn't be any fun, would they?

But those who scream about "heritage" when a Confederate flag comes down don't care about real heritage, or history. What they cherish is a mythology, and a dangerous one. It's long past time that we all acknolwedged the truth of what the Confederacy was about -- slavery. And its heritage is racial division, which does none of us any good.

The Confederate dead at Fort Davidson lay unmarked for more than a century before some state historian determined where the rifle pit was and stuck a flag on it. If the "heritage" enthusiasts care so much, they can chip in some money and buy a stone marker.

11:38 pm | link

saturday, november 1, 2003

Email from a Clark Supporter

Part of an email from R. Arango of Washington State:

The reason for this note is to share with you some perceptions of Wes Clark ...  I was in the West Point class behind Wes at West Point (class of 1967); we both taught in the Social Science department at West Point and overlapped one year.  I took over Wes’ class in political philosophy after he left in 1974 (yes, he taught Political Philosophy, not economics).

Unlike Hugh Shelton, I have the highest regard for Wes’ character and honesty -- If Wes said he never smoked dope, take that to the bank. Wes is an outstanding intellect who has a remarkable ability to place events in a broader context. I imagine that folks like Hugh Shelton (good ole boy, special operations types) were very wary of someone like Wes.  Bottom line:  I don’t believe Wes has any negative character or integrity issues, and if Gen Shelton has some, he should make them public.

So why is he running as a democrat? My conjecture: Wes is extraordinarily competitive; he wants to accomplish the highest goals life has to offer--that means he wants to be President. I suspect West looked at the political landscape in the context of his age, and realized he was not going to be able to mount a challenge to an incumbent president as a republican--I am sure Wes has other goals for himself as well (Nobel Prize would come to mind), and waiting another four years would throw him off his personal life plan--and trust me, from what I know of Wes, he DOES have a personal life plan.  I will leave it for others to make judgments about his democratic ideological purity.  I am merely offering you conjecture about his motivations.

Hey, hombre, we don't need no steenking ideological purity!

I don't know the man at all, of course, but my impression is that Clark is driven by practicality rather than ideology, and the GOP has become so ideological there's no room left for people who still know how to think. So -- welcome to the Dems, General!

10:27 pm | link

Cures versus Diseases
 
Considering the flaming mess that used to be the country of Iraq, an old saying comes to mind: Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.
 
The Bushies keep stressing that Iraqis are "better off" without Saddam Hussein in power. That may be; it's hard to judge from the other side of the planet. But what side effects will Bush's Iraq "cure" have for the rest of the world?
 
Yes, Saddam was a nasty guy; no question. But he was being contained and did not constitute a threat to the rest of us. Thanks to Our Guys in the White House, however, Iraq is quickly destabilizing into a hotbed of terrorist activity that could spread throughout the Middle East and beyond.
 
I don't want to talk about mistakes already made. Right or wrong, we got INTO Iraq, and the task for the next Democratic president of the United States will be getting us OUT. But before we argue about how to get out, I urge that we base our solutions on practicality rather than ideology.  So, I want to talk about when cures are worse than diseases, and why two wrongs don't make a right, and why we should look both ways before crossing the street.
 
"Wingnuts" Versus "Real-Worlders"
 
Those of us who are politics nerds tend to live in a left-wing versus right-wing paradigm.(1) We normally think that people who are liberals or leftists are on one side end of a political spectrum, and people who are conservative or right-wing are on the other. 
 
But let's try something else. Instead of sorting ourselves out by "left wing" and "right wing," let's put the practical, problem-solving types on one side of the room and the ideologues of either wing on the other, and see how that works. Let's call the ideologues the "wingnuts" and the non-ideologues "real-worlders."
 
Before I go any further, let's be clear what an ideologue is. (Sorry to be pedantic.) In the present context, let's define ideology as "a set of doctrines that form the basis of a political/economic system" and ideologue as "an advocate of an ideology." 
 
Ideologies are OK up to a point, but they all have their limits and pitfalls. No doctrine fits reality 100 percent of the time; most don't even come close. Real, hardwired ideologues  -- wingnuts -- are people who bend their perceptions of reality to fit their doctrines instead of adjusting their doctrines to fit reality. Real-worlders, on the other hand, may cherish some ideals (e.g., liberty is good) but are more interested in achieving practical solutions than fulfilling anybody's doctrines.
 
I found a fascinating psychology paper that says ideologues of both left and right have more in common with each other than they have with non-ideologues. Specifically:
Research investigating the relationship between cognitive style and political orientation reveals that individuals on both the political left and the right can, at times, demonstrate low levels of integrative complexity (e.g., Tetlock, 1984). Integrative complexity is defined by two characteristics: (a) differentiation, the number of different aspects of an issue that a person recognizes, and (b) integration, the development of complex connections among the differentiated characteristics (Tetlock, 1986). People scoring high in integrative complexity are able to recognize that there are many different sides to a given issue and they are able to integrate those different sides and determine a way to cope with the necessary trade-offs involved (see Tetlock & Suedfeld, 1988). [Mullen, Bauman, Skitka, "Avoiding the PItfalls of Polticized Psychology," Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003]  (2)
In English, what this says is that ideologues can't see problems as they are, but instead simplify (distort) reality so that it fits their ideologies. Non-ideologues are able to see a situation as-it-is, in all of its complexity, and deal with it in a practical matter.
 
The paper goes on to say that both left- and right-wing ideologues can score pretty high on the authoritarian and "cognitive inflexibility" scales, meaning that wingnuts of either wing can morph into jackbooted "my way or the highway" types who do poorly on the Global Change Game and shouldn't be trusted with sharp objects, not to mention actual power.
 
A new political paradigm of wingnuts versus real-worlders works for me, as I've been butting heads lately with leftists who assume I must be on "their" side because I am opposed to all things Bush. But why should I embrace Maoism just because somebody else's cognitive framework puts me and Maoists together in a box labeled "Left"?
 
As the Buddha would have said had he spoken English, cognitive frameworks are not reality.
 
Meanwhile, Back in Iraq
 
So, here we are. Even as I keyboard, all over the world people are thinking and debating and writing about how to resolve the mess of Iraq. Very simply, three schools of though are emerging:
 
1. The "U.S. out of Iraq now" school.
2. The "U.S. out of Iraq after Iraq is stabilized" school.
3. The "we got it, it's ours, so we can do what we want with it" school. (3)
 
My understanding of the "U.S. out of Iraq now" hypothesis is this: First, since we shouldn't have invaded to begin with, why compound the mistake by continuing the occupation? Second, the U.S. presence in Iraq is drawing terrorists and jihadists to Iraq like flies (4), so the longer we stay, the worse it's going to get. Third, our occupation is costing buckets of money and the lives of soldiers and civilians.
 
I believe that's most of it. If somebody can think of an argument I've left out, please add it to comments.
 
Those are compelling arguments, but I think the "gradual withdrawal" people have good arguments, too. First, people who understand Iraq better than I do say the violence will not settle down if the U.S. pulls out. Rather, with no government in place, there will be a series of power struggles between Shia mullahs and Wahabi extremists; among regional tribes and warlords, and between the Kurds and everybody else.
 
Unlike South Vietnam, which came under the control of North Vietnam when the U.S. pulled out, control of Iraq will be up for grabs. The power vacuum our bugout would create could lead to a regional bloodbath and the further destabilization of neighboring countries.  (Or not.)
 
Although it might be tempting to think the UN would agree to step in and take over, keep in mind that (1) it might not; and (2) UN peacekeepers don't have a good track record in really violent situations, such as when somebody might shoot at them.
 
If we leave now, some say, at some point in the future U.S. troops might have to go back to Iraq as part of a NATO or other international force to bring order, and by that point the place will be an even bigger mess than it is now.
 
Another "gradual" argument is a moral one -- we broke it, so we should fix it. A few of us old-timers speak fondly of the Marshall Plan, which helped bring peace to Europe after World War II. (The Bushies like to pretend that their policies are something like a Marshall Plan, but of course that's nonsense. It's more like a Yard Sale for War Profiteers Plan.)
 
The point is that good, well-meaning, non-imperialist people disagree on whether the U.S. should get out of Iraq immediately or gradually. We may disagree, but let's not smear each other over this issue.(5)
 
Where do we go from here?
 
No progress toward getting out of Iraq will be made as long as Bush is in the White House. Bush may make speeches and other noises about getting out of Iraq, but we know that as long as Halliburton et al. are still feeding at the trough, he's determined to let them. As we prepare for next year's campaign and the Democratic nominee who WILL be elected in 2004, however, I think it's important to be real-worlders and not wingnuts. .
 
All of the Democratic candidates -- even Joe Lieberman, believe it or not -- are in favor of getting the U.S. out of Iraq. Some of them are "get out of Iraq NOW" people; more of them are "get out of Iraq in stages" people. It is not true (as I've heard some say) that some Dem candidates favor an indefinite U.S. occupation.
 
We may disagree on which Dem has the best plan for getting out of Iraq, but I hope we agree that the first step toward sanity in Iraq will be to vacate George W. Bush from the oval office.
 
We must also realize that by January 2005 the situation in Iraq may have changed in ways we cannot imagine. Any plans we come up with now might be inapplicable by then. That's one more reason why it's a bit silly to argue about the fine details of anybody's plan.
 
Instead of the details of the plans, look to the character and qualifications of the planners. Which candidates are driven by practicality, and which by ideology? Which are proven problem-solvers and which have a history of being divisive, "my way or the highway" types? Although we don't want spineless appeasers, neither do we want a President who can't play well with others (like the one we have now).
 
And whatever we do, let's be sure our cures are not worse than the disease.
 
There are many other issues that we might look at in a "wingnut versus real-worlder" light, such as the next steps for the anti-Iraq War movement. Are big demonstrations useful for winning the hearts and minds of independents? Does participation by extremist ideological factions in these demonstrations do more harm to the cause of defeating Bush than good? If not demonstrating, what should we be doing to educate the public about what's wrong in Iraq?
 
What do you think?
 
Notes
 
(1) For years I swore by the left/right, totalitarian/libertarian model espoused in Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s book, The Vital Center. But we may be moving into an age in which that model doesn't work as well as it used to, or else I'm not working as well as I used to. Take your pick.  
 
(2) The Global Change Game is a kind of "Sim Planet" exercise in which a group of people try to run the world and solve its problems. Authoritarians who play the game have an alarming propensity to destroy their sim world by nuclear holocaust.
 
(3) The White House would deny this is their actual position. Well, stuff it. You ain't foolin' nobody.
 
(4) Some may recall the flypaper theory.
 
(5) OK, I'm guilty, too.  I'll try to behave in the future.

11:47 am | link

Hot Links, Chocolate Withdrawal Edition 7:06 am | link

friday, october 31, 2003

Blue-collar Presidents?
 
I hate to kick Dennis Kucinich again... okay, no I don't. It's fun. So here comes another kick.
 
There's an interview of Studs Terkel in today's San Francisco Chronicle that in which Mr. Terkel says he's
rooting for Dennis Kucinich, who "has the chance that the Bears have of winning the Super Bowl. He'd be our first blue-collar president. But he's out. . . . and Dean will do. If George Bush, with Depression and war can win, the Democratic Party should be dissolved. It has no balls."
The first blue-collar president? There's a challenge. We've had presidents who were farmers and who owned small businesses. Several were teachers, soldiers, and lawyers. Andrew Johnson was a tailor.  Harding was a newspaper editor. Truman was a farmer and then a haberdasher. Carter was a peanut farmer and Reagan was an actor. But nobody's worked in a factory (not counting summer jobs) or been a washing machine repairman, so strictly speaking none were "blue collar," I guess.
 
On the other hand, I've skimmed about in biographies of Dennis Kucinich and he doesn't seem to be all that "blue collar," either. His parents appear to have been among the hard-core unemployed for most of his childood, which makes them "no collar." He was in local Cleveland politics while still in college, and he remained a politician until he lost his job as mayor of Cleveland in 1980. Did he ever work in a factory, except maybe as a summer job? I don't know.

5:58 pm | link

Historical Revisionism Alert
 
I get the Wall Street Journal's opinion roundup by email because of my keen interest in technology. There's bound to be at least one opinion piece every day that obviously was written by a GOP-programmed bot. It's amazing what good code can do these days.
 
Still, a code-generated mix of GOP talking points and buzzwords doesn't always hang together as a coherent essay. A case in point is today's featured article, "Fickle Interventionists." (1)
 
This bot-written wonder starts out:

The polls show that most Americans understand the coming burden and still favor war; after 9/11 they realize the dangers of ignoring foreign threats. About U.S. elites there are greater doubts. Our liberal pundits and politicians are fickle interventionists; many of them signed on early to topple Saddam but have lately been offering caveats and cavils as D-Day approaches. Will they run for moral cover if the going gets tough, as they did in Vietnam?

So we wrote March 18 in describing the "largest risk" of war with Iraq.

Let's pause to reflect on these words, starting with the quotation from last March.

The polls show that most Americans understand the coming burden and still favor war;

It's true that the polls showed strong support for invading Iraq last March. For example, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of adults nationwide taken March 14-15 showed 64 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed.

On the other hand, when a Zogby poll taken March 14-15, 2003 asked likely voters, "Would you support or oppose a war against Iraq if there were hundreds of American casualties?" 46 percent said yes, 47 percent said no, and the remainder were not sure. Asked about thousands of casualties, and the support dropped to 43 percent. And when asked if they could support a U.S. action without significant UN or international support, 47 percent said yes and 49 percent said no.

In other words, many who supported the invasion did not understand the "coming burden." How could they, when surrogates of the administration were all over television and radio saying the war would be a "cakewalk," and that Iraqis would greet our troops with cheers and bouquets of flowers?

What people were ready for last March was Gulf War II -- a few days of fun television, including feel-good, rally-round-the-flag speeches and cool action videos of buildings blowing up. And then everybody goes home and life goes back to normal.

They were not ready for a real war -- a when will it end, how many will die, will my child or spouse have to go, war. But that's what they got.

Our liberal pundits and politicians are fickle interventionists; many of them signed on early to topple Saddam but have lately been offering caveats and cavils as D-Day approaches.

The "caveats and cavils" issued by the liberal "fickle interventionists" were warnings (from wiser people than exist on the WSJ editorial board) that an Iraq invasion could turn into a real war. And, the "caveats and cavils" turned out to be pretty darn accurate. If anything, Iraq is turning out to be even worse than "the fickle" predicted.

Further, the brief quotation that the bot picked up to begin today's essay was from another bot-written featured article called "The 12-Year War." This essay implied that 12 years of containment policy toward Iraq allowed the terrorist attacks of September 11 to happen. These days even the White House admits these's no connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11.

Back to today's essay:

Seven months later, this question remains the largest imponderable in calculating the odds of American victory.

I would say the largest "imponderable" is the fact that the Bushies had no clue what they were getting into when they snubbed international opinion to charge into Iraq. They were utterly unprepared for post-invasion (I started to say "postwar," but in fact the war may be just getting started) realities. They grossly underestimated the number of troops needed on the ground to maintain security. Remember what the Pentagon did to General Shinseki? This is from the New York Times last February:

Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward. [Eric Schmitt, "Pentagon Contradicts General on Iraq Occupation Forces' Size," The New York Times, February 28, 2003]

And Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wouldn't even permit discussion of the costs of the war:

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, many nations agreed in advance of hostilities to help pay for a conflict that eventually cost about $61 billion. Mr. Wolfowitz said that this time around the administration was dealing with "countries that are quite frightened of their own shadows" in assembling a coalition to force President Saddam Hussein to disarm.

Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. "I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact," Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.

At the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld said the factors influencing cost estimates made even ranges imperfect. Asked whether he would release such ranges to permit a useful public debate on the subject, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "I've already decided that. It's not useful." [Eric Schmitt, ibid.]

Translation: Most leaders of most other nations in the world had the sense to see an invasion of Iraq should be undertaken, if at all, with more advance preparation that the Bushies were willing to make. Wolfowitz and others didn't want to bother about winning allies through diplomacy, assuming that once the war commenced other countries would sign on. And, having underestimated the dangers and the costs, the Pentagon decided it didn't want to listen to debate.

(Can somebody tell me if Paul Wolfowitz has even gotten something right?)

The Wall Street Journal bot continues,

Just as the going gets rough in Iraq, some of our elites are losing their nerve.

It cracks me up when the wealthy, coddled, hothouse flowers who make up the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal call other people "elites." 

This of course is precisely the goal of the terrorists in Iraq who this week began their Ramadan offensive. Their car bombs and rocket attacks are destructive and terrifying but not a serious military threat. The guerrilla insurgency remains leaderless, with no great power support and largely confined to the Sunni Triangle surrounding Baghdad. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis continue to support the U.S. presence, and progress continues toward Iraqi self-rule. In short, Iraq is not in "chaos" or on the verge of a popular uprising, and this anti-guerrilla war is clearly winnable.

Based on their past record, when the WSJ says a war is "clearly winnable," we're in trouble. The guerilla insurgency (remember back when Rummy refused to use the word guerilla?) is becoming bigger and more organized every day. The simple fact is that Donald "let's do war on the cheap" Rumsfeld's Pentagon doesn't have enough troops in Iraq to provide the security necessary to prevent wholesale looting, never mind rebuilding.  And because support for the war is eroding, and the Bushies are spineless wimps who craft policy to fit poll numbers, and other nations will not be sending soldiers into this mess in spite of what the Bushies promise, the number of troops will not be increasing. We're not only in a quagmire; we're in one hell of an impasse.

But the Baathist die-hards know that they do not have to win in Iraq; they merely have to prevail in Washington. So like the Tet offensive of 1968 and the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983, their terror campaign is intended to shake American resolve. (2)

Does it ever occur to these genius that we should not have sent troops into Vietnam or into Lebanon, and that the resistance we encountered was, therefore, the result of our own folly? Of course not. (3) 

The moral is, don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

A good portion of the Democratic Party and its intellectual cohort are already predicting American defeat. The Vietnam analogies are flying, with Donald Rumsfeld routinely compared to Robert McNamara and President Bush to LBJ. Conveniently, they stop the analogy short of Tet, a crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong that was spun into a political victory for Ho Chi Minh in the U.S.

I don't have the energy to go into the Tet offensive and will let that particular howler go. (4) And there is a difference between Rummy and McNamara -- Rummy is worse. But let's go on ...

Some of the voices from that era are sounding the same themes again.

That's because we did the same damnfool thing again -- start a war that didn't need to be fought without enough military resources for a knockout punch and without a clear exit strategy. 

Rather than report on Saddam Hussein's torturers, they care only about Halliburton's contracts.

Translation: Because Saddam was such a nasty guy we're not supposed to complain about the White House acting as a clearinghouse for war profiteers. And what happened to the weapons of mass destruction, by the way?

Instead of focusing on how to win the war we are now engaged in, they want to refight the argument over how we got in. And rather than provide the means to win, they cry for a plan to get out.

Um, WSJ -- are you saying the ultimate goal is not to "get out"? That after liberating the people of Iraq from the yolk of oppression, we don't really intend to give them back their own country, sooner or later, and go away? Because if you know of some plan for the U.S. to remain lords of Iraq for an indefinite period of time, you'd better spit it out.

"Getting out" was always the stated goal of the Bush Administration -- to enable Iraq to become a free, independent, and democratic nation. The question being debated is not whether to "get out" but how, and when.

There are hotheads on the extreme left who want to pull out immediately and leave the mess for others to clean up. Very few Democratic politicians agree with that. But we must always be clear to the world and to ourselves that we don't want to occupy Iraq forever.

If, say, five years from now, all our troops are out of the sovereign and republican nation of Iraq, then perhaps we can claim a "win." But if, five years from now, we are still the foreign power in occupation of Iraq, then we will have lost.

The editorial continues but doesn't get any better. So I'll leave the rest alone.

Notes

(1) For more about the word interventionism and its deeper meanings when coupled with the qualifier military, see "Remember the Airlift."

(2) Let me say that once I'm done writing this particular blog I hope never to use the word resolve again. And that's a shame, because it's a perfectly good word. But every time I see that word I hear our "leader" drawl it out, and I think of how his very utterance of the word turns it into a lie -- the man didn't even have the "resolve" to stick with his cushy National Guard assignment, for pity's sake. When in his own privileged, protected little life did George W. Bush ever demonstrate resolve?

(3) For more on Lebanon and why we shouldn't have been there, see "Old Dogs. Old Tricks."

(4) Although the U.S. pushed back the North Vietnamese, the Tet Offensive represented the beginning of the end, so to speak, in Vietnam. It resulted in a callup of reserves (which LBJ had wished to avoid) and revealed that the war wasn't going as well as had been reported. For a short explanation of Tet, click here.

Unrelated link

10:21 am | link

Hot Links, Donald Luskin Is a Stalker Edition 7:54 am | link

Krugman on the Quarter
 
Preview of tomorrow's Paul Krugman column in the New York Times:

My purpose is not to denigrate the impressive estimated 7.2 percent growth rate for the third quarter of 2003. It is, rather, to stress the obvious: we've had our hopes dashed in the past, and it remains to be seen whether this is just another one-hit wonder.

The weakness of that spurt 18 months ago was obvious to those who bothered to look at it closely. Half the growth came simply because businesses, having drawn down their inventories in the previous quarter, had to ramp up production even though demand was growing slowly. This time around growth has a much better foundation: final demand — demand excluding changes in inventories — actually grew even faster than G.D.P. So it's unlikely that growth will drop off as sharply as it did back then. [Paul Krugman, "A Big Quarter," The New York Times, October 31, 2003]

In a nutshell: In the third quarter, consumer spending outpaced consumer income, which cannot continue. Without serious job growth, consumer spending will slide, and so will the economy. 
 

12:05 am | link

thursday, october 30, 2003

The News Is Marching On
 
The third quarter economic growth number of 7.2 percent is supposed to be the best since 1984. I'd be excited, except that I remember 1985, 1986, and 1987. It wasn't that great.
 
I'm hoping the job market bumps up, as I am still not working. The wolf isn't at the door yet, but it's out there someplace. This ABC report suggests I shouldn't get my hopes up.
 
A video showing acts of torture and atrocities committed by Republican Guard and Saddam Fedayeen has popped up on CNN, Fox News, and a few other places. Saddam Hussein. The video was handed over to U.S. soldiers last April. So why are the videos turning up on television now?

Pentagon officials have been pushing to get the recovered tapes declassified, a process now starting to happen. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has requested they be released to the public.

Speaking to local television stations around the United States Wednesday, Wolfowitz suggested former regime members had become the "dead-enders" attacking U.S. and coalition troops and cooperating Iraqis since the end of major combat.  [Videotape Shows Saddam's Men Torturing Iraqis," Fox News, October 30, 2003]

I guess Wolfie is afraid we were forgetting what the war was all about; weapons of mass destruction liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein.

 
9:51 pm | link

Report Links Iraq Deals to Bush Donations
 
Hot off the wires -- the next big scandal?
WASHINGTON -- Companies awarded $8 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have been major campaign donors to President Bush, and their executives have had important political and military connections, according to a study released Thursday.

The study of more than 70 U.S. companies and individual contractors turned up more than $500,000 in donations to the president's 2000 campaign, more than they gave collectively to any other politician over the past dozen years. [Larry Margasak, "Report Links Iraq Deals to Bush Donations," Associated Press, October 30, 2003]

12:26 pm | link

Hot Links 6:58 am | link

wednesday, october 29, 2003

Donald Luskin Is a Stalker
 
Atrios at Eschaton has been threatened with legal action by none other than the utterly worthless Donald Luskin. I'm so jealous!
 
Luskin, a complete waste of human protoplasm who makes a living by slandering the most excellent Paul Krugman, apparently was offended by something Atrios posted on October 7. And all it was was a header, "Diary of a Stalker," followed by a link to Luskin's web page, in which Luskin admitted to seeking out a Paul Krugman book signing.
 
So Luskin's lawyers wrote to Atrios and his web publisher with the threat of a suit if they don't remove the offending blog, along with some comments from others about the blog. The lawyers say they will take legal action. This includes issuing a subpoena to Blogger to get Atrios's real identity.
 
Considering that Luskin should have had several restraining orders put on him long before now -- this is rich.
 
As Orcinus puts it,
What's especially bizarre about this case is the spectacle of a guy who makes his living making personal attacks on a respected economist -- many of which, frankly, border on the libelous -- turning around and suing someone for being critical of his behavior. Then again, we've always known that conservatives can dish it out, but can't take it.

Luskin has just proven definitively that he has no business being a blogger himself. He has earned a complete freezeout from the rest of the blogosphere -- because, of course, we now all run the risk of being sued by the guy for even mentioning his name or opining on his work, not to mention allowing others to comment on it. Anyone who links to this cretin henceforth should be shunned as well.
A few weeks ago we ridiculed Faux News's suit of Al Franken by putting "Fair and Balanced" on our blogs. I propose that we all write "Donald Luskin Is a Stalker" on our blogs at least once a day. But don't link to his blog; link to this Trend Macrolytics page that includes Luskin's photo. Luskin is Chief Investment Officer. What do you think?

10:22 pm | link

Every Picture Tells a Story
 
Stephen Drake, an advocate for the rights of the disabled, writes in today's Los Angeles Times of his fear that the Schiavo case might be the beginning of a slippery slope:
Thousands of people with disabilities across the United States are watching the case anxiously. In fact, 12 national disability groups have filed "friend of the court" briefs in opposition to the efforts to starve Schiavo. Obviously, we want to know how all those commenting in this case feel about the lives of people with Down's syndrome, autism, Alzheimer's and other disabilities. Are they next for death through starvation? It's not so farfetched. [Stephen Drake, "Disabled Are Fearful: Who Will Be Next?" Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2003]
But is the Schiavo case about the rights of the disabled? Or about something else entirely?
 
The widely distributed photograph of Schiavo that shows her appearing to smile at her mother pulls at the heartstrings and persuades many that she is awake and aware, but her brain scan tells another story. And the story told by the photograph of her brain is that her brain cortex is gone.

Ron Cranford, one of five neurologists who examined Terri Schiavo and her brain scans for an October 2002 court hearing, said her cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls thought and awareness, is severely atrophied and has all but disintegrated. He said that process began when she collapsed from a potassium imbalance in 1990, enduring five critical minutes without oxygen, and has progressed over the years.

"There is hardly any cerebral cortex left," Cranford said. "It looks like a black hole." [Maya Bell, "Video of Brain Damaged Woman Shaping Public Opinion," The Orlando Sentinel, October 28, 2003]

Mr. Drake says that he can relate to Ms. Schiavo because he was born brain damaged as a result of a forceps delivery, and his parents were told he would be a "vegetable," which is the word being used for Ms. Schiavo. But look! Mr. Drake continues. I got better!
 
I'm very happy for Mr. Drake, but the fact is that Ms. Schiavo is not "disabled." The fact is that Ms. Schiavo is gone. The ruined organism left behind is no more "her" than your nail clippings are "you."
 
And Mr. Drake's medical history bears no resemblance to Terri Schiavo's. By a freak accident of nature, there is enough of her brain stem left to maintain heartbeat and breathing and random reflex action in an insentient body. That so many people are so frantic to maintain animation in in that body says more about our attitudes toward death than about the rights of the disabled.
 
Well-meaning people are persuaded by The Photograph and by some highly edited videos of Ms. Schiavo that the brain scans are wrong. They look at these pictures and believe they are seeing reaction and emotion and sentience. But this is projection, not unlike "seeing" a cloud as a fuzzy white bunny, or finding the face of Jesus in a plate of spaghetti.
 
The brain scan, on the other hand, represents objective fact.
 
I realize people will object to what I'm saying, because the photograph and the videos seem such compelling evidence that Terri Schiavo is still sentient. But we've been down this path before -- the case of Nancy Cruzan comes to mind. And as medical science continues to blur the edges of life and death, I suspect we'll be down it a few more times. Public education, not projection, is in order.
 
Look at Schiavo's "defenders." Her parents want to keep Terri Schiavo to be their make-believe daughter. They'll talk to her and dress her and pretend she's still their baby until, I guess, they are too frail to keep it up, or until reality dawns, or until Terri Schiavo's neurons finally stop firing and she dies. But her husband objects to his wife's body being used this way, and it's supposed to be his call to make. (And the doctors say Terri Schiavo lacks the neurological apparatus to feel pain, so starvation would not be inhumane.)
 
The anti-abortion rights people who have rallied to Schiavo are famous projectors. They've created an entire sub-genre of literature I call "the embryo narrative," in which a product of pregnancy still barely developed speaks eloquently about his/her hopes and dreams and love for mother. So projecting sentience onto Schiavo isn't much of a leap for them. They'll stand up for her life as long as the one procedure that might save it isn't an abortion.
 
And the politicians, like Jeb Bush, are projecting "votes."
 
I'm guessing that the disabled -- the genuinely disabled -- are projecting their fears of being marginalized and warehoused and perhaps euthanized onto the Terri Schiavo case. But I would think the disabled would wish to accentuate their abilities, their ambitions, their contributions, and their individuality. That makes Terri Schiavo a poor poster child.
 
I realize I've spoken glibly about a difficult subject. My mother is fading away from Alzheimer's, and since it runs in the family I am likely to go down that road someday, also. But my fears and my fate are mine, and I try not to project them onto others.
 
I say that if people respected Terri Schiavo as an individual they would not try to turn her remains into a cause. She's beyond fear and fate; let's let her go.
 

9:32 am | link

Hot Links 7:56 am | link

tuesday, october 28, 2003

White House Follies
 
Today the Miserable Failure in Chief held a press conference and said that the increased attacks in Iraq were a sign of progress. (Words fail.) 

So he's a little slow. At least he's been busy!

We are arming," he said ... "We're raising money to wage a campaign."

Against who? The Syrians? The Iranians? No, the Democrats!
The president and his White House aides have consistently denied that they are in campaign mode, as Mr Bush insists he will remain focused on "the people's business" at least until the Democrats have chosen a challenger.
 
Standing in the garden adjacent to the Oval Office on Tuesday morning, Mr Bush said: "I know the campaign has started for some. . . It just hadn't for me yet. . . In terms of the balloon drops and all that business, you know, it's going to take - it'll be a little while for me to be catching the confetti." [James Harding, "Team Bush Arms for '04 Presidential Campaign," Financial Times, October 29, 2004]
That ol' re-election thing just isn't even on his radar, huh? Never mind that he spent nearly the entire "vacation" month of August attending campaign fund raisers, which is part of campaigning.
 
But since August he's been attending to "the people's business," right? Thanks to the archives of ABC's The Note, it's relatively easy to find out what the Bushies have been up to day by day, campaign-wise. So let's take a look at the past couple of months:
  • Sept. 4, 2003: Laura Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Florence, S.C.
  • Sept. 8, 2003: President Bush attends Bush-Cheney '04 fundraiser, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Sept. 9, 2003: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Sept. 12, 2003: President Bush attends a fundraiser for Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour, Jackson, Miss.
  • Sept. 12, 2003: Vice President Cheney attends a fundraiser for North Carolina senate candidate Rep. Richard Burr, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Sept. 15, 2003: President Bush attends Bush-Cheney '04 fundraiser, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Sept. 30, 2003: President Bush attends Bush-Cheney '04 fundraisers, Chicago and Cincinnati
  • Oct. 3, 2003: President Bush makes remarks at a Bush-Cheney fundraiser, Milwaukee
  • Oct. 14, 2003: Lynne Cheney attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Atlanta
  • Oct. 15, 2003: President Bush attends Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraisers, Fresno and Riverside, Calif.
  • Oct. 16, 2003: Vice President Cheney attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraisers, Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas

Comin' up later this week:

  • Oct. 29, 2003: Vice President Cheney attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, D.C.
  • Oct. 30, 2003: First Lady Laura Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser, Tyler, Texas

This may be only a partial list, but we know for certain the President and his immediate circle have done at least this much campaigning since August. To be fair, the President himself didn't attend all of these fundraisers personally. And perhaps when Laura Bush is out raising money, she leaves a lump in the bed so George doesn't notice she's gone.

But it seems to me these people are spending an awful lot of time raising money for re-election, considering the terrible problems our country is facing right now that might need some attention. And I haven't checked out how much of the above traveling is paid by tax money.

But back to the press conference:

Mr Bush, who has already deployed some of his most capable officials to work at his campaign headquarters across the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, said his team were "preparing different strategies in order to run a viable campaign".

Having raised roughly half of the $170m his campaign expected to amass, Mr Bush also acknowledged that he would continue to work towards securing what promises to be the largest political warchest in the history of any democracy.

Mr Bush will appear at fund-raisers in Texas, Ohio and Alabama over the next five days. He will also appear at what the White House calls "welcome" events in Kentucky and Mississippi - these events are similar to campaign stops, where the president gives his stump speech on the war on terrorism and Iraq, tax cuts and job creation, as well as his domestic legislative agenda to what tends to be partisan Republican crowds.

"I'm going out to our friends and supporters saying, 'Would you mind contributing to the campaign for the year '04?'. To me, that's a part of politics," Mr Bush said. [Financial Times, ibid.]

Just imagine what he might accomplish if he lavished this much attention on, say, the economy! Well, on second thought ... back to the press conference. The President also discussed the terrorists in Iraq.

"Basically what they're trying to do is cause people to run," he said. "They want to kill and create chaos. That's the nature of a terrorist. That's what terrorists do. . . . They're not going to intimidate America." [Washington Post, October 28, 2003]

You know what would be way cool? What if he put on his flight suit and have a helicopter land him on the roof of the el Rashid Hotel in central Baghdad. Let him prance around there to show us how brave he is!

Speaking of the flight suit, read Joe Conason's Journal today to learn how the Bushies are denying responsibility for the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the Abraham Lincoln -- and why these denials don't pass the smell test.

9:28 pm | link

Don't A.N.S.W.E.R.
 
Or, why a jerking knee is no substitute for a thinking brain.
 
I hope to do just one more A.N.S.W.E.R. blog before I go back to my usual Bush bashing. As I've said before, I don't have a lot of patience for dogmatists, ideologues, or knee jerkers. Hence, A.N.S.W.E.R. gives me the willies.
 
Yesterday I expressed dismay at International A.N.S.W.E.R. for calling the Berlin Airlift a "nuclear threat" and placing it on a list with U.S. military atrocities like Wounded Knee and Vietnam. Someone left a comment that "A.N.S.W.E.R. has been a stalwart defender of democracy and liberty in the US ever since the Bush ascendancy, and that's probably because they embrace the left flank of our American political spectrum instead of running from it as you do."
 
Son, I run from ANYBODY who tries to control my brain. Left, right, anybody. I am not the least bit discriminating about it.
 
But speaking as a genuine "defender of democracy and liberty" -- I can't say how "stalwart" I am, but I try -- I maintain that just because an organization is "left" doesn't make it right, so to speak. And A.N.S.W.E.R. (hereafter called "IA") is a good example of what I'm talkin' about.
 
IA is a stepchild of the Workers World Party. The WWP is, in the words of David Corn, "a small revolutionary-socialist outfit with a fancy for North Korea's Kim Jong-Il and the goal of abolishing private property." (Before someone comments that David Corn is a dupe of the Bush Administration, note that he is the author of the best-selling book The Lies of George W. Bush.) Joe Conason (author of the best-selling Big Lies) also has some choice things to say about IA in this column (e.g., "stooges for fascism").
 
Of prominent liberal journalists, David Corn has raised the most flags about IA. In Los Angeles Weekly, Corn documented such extensive ties between IA and WWP "that it seems fair to dub it [IA] a WWP front."
Workers World Party, [is] a small political sect that years ago split from the Socialist Workers Party to support the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. The party advocates socialist revolution and abolishing private property. It is a fan of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba, and it hails North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il for preserving his country’s “socialist system,” which, according to the party’s newspaper, has kept North Korea “from falling under the sway of the transnational banks and corporations that dictate to most of the world.” The WWP has campaigned against the war-crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. A recent Workers World editorial declared, “Iraq has done absolutely nothing wrong.”  [David Corn, "Behind the Placards," Los Angeles Weekly, November 1-7, 2002]
As documented later in this article, WWP is also a stalwart defender of the Tienanmen Square massacre and the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
 
Todd Gitlin, veteran activist and one-time president of the radical Students for a Democratic Society, has also sounded alarm bells over IA and its presumptive leadership of the anti-Iraq War movement.

What a smart movement could do is put out the markers, create the organizational networks, and establish the foundation on which a more substantial antiwar movement might later be built. Alas, that is also unlikely.

The leadership of the current antiwar movement is building a firebreak around itself, turning the movement toward the bitter-end orthodoxy of the Old Left and away from the millions of Americans whose honest concerns and ambivalence might fuel it. If antiwar sentiment turns out to have any impact on the course of events, it will probably be despite the organized protests, and not because of them. [Todd Gitlin, "Who Will Lead?" Mother Jones, October 14, 2002]

And in an interview in Salon Gitlin said, "ANSWER is a cult. It's a tightly organized sect that operates in the shadows and tries to bull its way into power.... They seemed to believe that any use of American power, anywhere, under any circumstances, was illegitimate and imperial."
 
This includes uses of American power such as World War II and the Berlin Airlift. (See yesterday's blog.)
 
Last spring IA took some flak for bouncing a progressive rabbi, Michael Lerner, out of an antiwar rally. An IA spokesperson told WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer that the group wouldn't allow a "pro-Israel" speaker at its demonstrations. The dovish Rabbi Lerner is working to stop the endless wars between Israel and the Palestinians, however, so if anything he is "pro-peace." Later IA retracted and said it had bounced Lerner because he wanted an extra ten minutes to speak.
 
For background on the Lerner episode, see:
For a rebuttal that doesn't pass the smell test, IMO, see:
This page -- Authoritarian Opportunists Who Cozy Up To Genocidal Dictators - for Peace (International A.O.W.C.U.T.G.D.F.P.) points out that IA's "parent" organization WWP not only defends such "stalwarts" of democracy and liberty as Kim Jong Il and Slobodan Milosevic; it supported the Chinese government's 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre.
 
Even more remarkable, WWP supports the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Please see these articles from WWP publications:
(According to Mr. Wilson, "The Dalai Lama ruled Tibet through the use of harsh violence, maintaining a system of serfdom and slavery.") And one more:
I refuse to "embrace" these people. If you already have, I suggest taking a bath.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Note: YEE-haw! Kevin Heyden is back in the saddle at the ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose!
 
 
 
10:19 am | link

Hot Links 7:06 am | link

monday, october 27, 2003

Remember the Airlift
 
It might surprise you to learn that the Berlin Airlift was an example of a "U.S. military intervention" morally equivalent to the invasion of the Philippines or the War in Vietnam. But, by golly, it's on a list I found on the International A.N.S.W.E.R. (hereafter called "IA") web site called "A Century of U.S. Military Intervention."
 
I infer that IA didn't compile this list for the benefit of history buffs. The document is presented as part of their "struggle against war and racism." So we might reasonably assume that the purpose of the document is to show that the United States has a proclivity to foment unnecessary wars. The word intervention in this context most likely means adventurism --
Involvement in risky enterprises without regard to proper procedures and possible consequences, especially the reckless intervention by a nation in the affairs of another nation or region: “American strategic interests would . . . be even more jeopardized by Soviet adventurism in the Middle East” (Christopher T. Rand). [American Heritage Dictionary]
The only other possible interpretation of "military intervention" would be an act to stop two armies from fighting, and that doesn't make sense in context.
 
So now that we're clear what an "intervention" is -- IA distributes this long list of U.S. military "interventions" going back to 1890 for the purpose of showing the U.S. as a warmongering nation. And frankly, I agree that most of the items on the list ARE examples of military adventurism and even atrocity, starting with the massacre at Wounded Knee.
 
But the Berlin Airlift?
 
If you don't remember the airlift -- in 1948, after the Soviet occupiers of East Germany blockaded West Berlin  in order to bring it under Soviet control. Rather than go to war to take back Berlin, President Truman decided to airlift food, medicine, coal, and other supplies to confound the blockade.
 
Over a period of 321 days, 272,000 flights into West Berlin delivered thousands of tons of supplies every day. And in December 1948, the U.S. initiated "Operation Santa Claus," to airlift toys and other gifts for children. In 1949, the Soviets ended the blockade and reopened the borders. (You can read a history of the airlift from the airmen's point of view here, to the tune of "String of Pearls.")
 
Please visit the home page of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association  to learn about the airmen who risked life and limb flying supplies to Berlin. The airmen are getting on in years, and it would be good to remember what they did while some of them are still around. It makes me so sad to see them dishonored in this way, the great humanitarian deed of their youth listed on a propaganda sheet about "U.S. Military Intervention." IA should be ashamed.
 
IA's objection to the airlift is that it constituted a "nuclear threat." The IA list says atomic-capable bombers flew guard. What this means is that a B29 Superfortress squadron took part in the airlift, although the planes carried no atomic bombs. The Enola Gay, the plane that delivered the Bomb to Hiroshima, was a B29 Superfortress. Therefore, any use of a B29 Superfortress, no matter how it was armed, constituted a "nuclear threat."
 
I have no doubt that a few B29s would have discouraged the Soviets from shooting down the supply planes. But a nuclear threat? Please. .
 
By the way, the IA also lists "World War II" as a "U.S. Military Intervention."
 
And the point is: I was disturbed by Michelle Goldberg's article in today's Salon about the anti-Iraq War movement and IA's part in it.

Yet the majority of the demonstrators ... were people who'd opposed the war all along, who felt betrayed and marginalized by their government and the media's failure to take their concerns seriously, and who wanted a new American foreign policy. For many of them, "end the occupation" was a kind of shorthand. They didn't take it literally. But the people who called the protest did.

Unlike many Democrats, ANSWER isn't confused about where it stands on Iraq. According to an ANSWER pamphlet, "Counter-revolution & Resistance in Iraq," "The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance." The group, whose prodigious organizing ability allowed it to lead much of the antiwar movement, is organizing "Bring the Troops Home Now" committees across the country to circulate petitions demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. [Michelle Goldbert, "Dazed and Confused About Iraq," Salon, October 27, 2003]

Unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance? That means we're supposed to "support" today's murder of two Red Cross workers in Baghdad, among other things?
 
Sorry, IA, but no. I don't support anybody "unconditionally."
 
My first concern is that IA will (if it hasn't already) poison the anti-Iraq War movement and thereby help George W. Bush win another term in the White House, just as Nixon won re-election in 1972 by running against the anti-Vietnam War movement. The best thing that could happen for Bush right now is a big, active, noisy antiwar movement demanding "unconditional support" for "resisters" who are killing American soldiers. Four more years for Bush, here we come!
 
Dear IA: I want to take back my flag and my country, not trash them.
 
Second, I fear that the young and soft-headed are being seduced by IA's simplistic, bumper sticker, black-and-white appeal. I bump into people on the web who have no patience with the details of an exit strategy. Who needs an exit strategy? Just dump the mess on the UN and go home. Anyone who is not in favor of an IMMEDIATE withdrawal is presumed to be in FAVOR of the occupation and must be resisted!
 
I'm seeing more and more of this nonsense. And it scares the hell out of me.
 
Maybe I'm making too much of a fringe movement, but I think this trend must be watched very closely. I don't know what can be done about it. I don't have a lot of patience with dogmatists, either left wing or right wing, and I'm not very good at reaching them.
 
So this evening, I just wanted to tell somebody about the Berlin Airlift. It really was a grand, humanitarian thing. Please don't forget.
 
 
3:25 pm | link

Hot Links 8:03 am | link

sunday, october 26, 2003

Watchin' the Debates
 
Tonight's debates just finished. In general all the candidates did well, although it strikes me (once again) that Lieberman is the Odd Man Out.
 
I understand some of the candidates think the debates are a waste of time, because in a nine-person field they don't get much exposure as individuals. I disagree. I think the debates are a good exercise, for these reasons:
  • It's just us Dem politics nerds watching, but we're the base, and we're the ones who are going to carry the water and man the forts, so to speak, and we need to see these people put through their paces now. My assessments of candidates have been changed by these debates. For example, I continue to be impressed by Carol Mosley Braun, who was not on my "radar" a few months ago.
  • Assuming FDR doesn't rise from the dead, one of these nine people will be the Democratic presidential nominee and will go up against the GOP money juggernaut. The more experience he or she gets in rough-and-tumble political wrestling, the better candidate that person will be when the rest of America is watching.
  • The guys who started out as the presumptive front runners are no doubt chagrined at having to share the microphones with eight other people. But the guys who started out as the presumptive front runners ain't lookin' all that good, and it seems to me they needed some competition.

I caught a few seconds of the post-game show before I could change the channel (where's that bleeping remote when you need it?). The usual idiots talked about the  "winner" of the debate, meaning which guy landed the most punches on the other candidates. I say the idiots don't get it. We Dem politics nerds want these guys to beat up George W. Bush, not each other. I just hate it when they drag up the same old "gotchas" -- Dean's alleged waffles on Medicare; Clark's alleged waffles on the Iraq invasion.

A "punch" may give me second thoughts about the punchee, but it doesn't raise the esteem of the puncher. And nearly always, when I look into the "gotchas" I find out they're based on smoke. In the minds of Dems, I believe the real "winners" of the debates are the candidates who land the most punches on Bush. That's what we want to see.

Most of the electorate will begin to focus on the candidates next year, as we go into the primaries. Immediately after the New Hampshire Primary the field ought to drop back to four candidates, maybe five at most, possibly just three.

Wild prediction department: Dennis Kucinich eventually will drop out of the Dem race but will accept the nomination of at least one, maybe more, "third" parties. His current supporters will follow him out the Dem door and will continue to work for his election. He could be the Ralph Nader of the future.

 
9:27 pm | link

Old Dogs. Old Tricks.
 
Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld continues the Bush Administration tradition of revisionist history in today's Washington Post. He's written an op ed headlined "Take the Fight to the Terrorists" in which he declares he learned all he needed to know about terrorism from the Beirut U.S. Marine barricks bombing that occurred 20 years ago this week.  
 
In a nutshell, Rummy learned that terrorists do not fight fair. They study their targets' defenses and figure out ways to get around those defenses. They come at you from anywhere and will use any means to achieve their objective. As soon as you figure how you could have protected yourself from the last attack, they think up a new way to attack.
 
Rummy says,
When the Marine barracks was attacked two decades ago, the terrorist threat was largely conventional. Terrorists had weapons that could kill dozens or, in the case of the Beirut bombing, hundreds of people. On Sept. 11 the terrorists grew even bolder -- bringing the war to our shores and using techniques that allowed them to kill not hundreds but thousands.
I hate to break it to you, Rummy, but folks had box cutters and passenger planes and jet fuel 20 years ago. Terrorists have not, on the whole, developed new and more dangerous weapons technologies in the past 20 years. The biggest difference is that there are more terrorists now than then, and they are a lot more determined.
 
Let's skip back to Beirut. The lesson Rummy learned was that those nasty terrorists were an inventive group who did not respect barricades. But what other lessons might Rummy have learned?
 
One lesson he might have learned was to pick your fights. And Lebanon was not a fight we should have picked.
 
In 1982, President Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon in a mission that even conservative writer Michael Barone admitted was "ill-defined and open-ended." [Barone, Our Country (Free Press, 1990), p. 634]  There is a good, concise history of the Lebanon conflict online here.
 
In a nutshell, Marines were sent into Lebanon with the best of intentions -- to bring peace and security to warring people. But the Marines did not have a clearly defined mission, and Reagan Administration objectives, which shifted precariously from week to week, favored Israel and the extremely right-wing, minority Phalangist government of Lebanon over the other factions.
At the beginning of the 1980s, American relations with the Middle East continued to be dominated by the Arab-Israeli conflict and the question of oil. Israel and the Gulf became the major preoccupations of American Middle East policymakers, with alignment with the first and hostility toward the second overshadowing much else. Thus in Lebanon in 1982-1983, the Reagan administration initially went along with Israel's invasion of that country and later committed U.S. troops there while supporting a Lebanese government backed by only one of the country's sects. The objective was apparently support for Israeli objectives in Lebanon and opposition to its local rivals, the plo and Syria; but the result was a defeat for the United States and Israel and the government they supported, at the cost of the lives of over three hundred American servicemen and diplomats, the kidnapping of many other Americans, and serious damage to American interests that had been built up over more than a century of missionary, educational, and medical efforts. [The Reader's Companion to American History: Middle East-U.S. Relations]
Not to mention the fact that much of the hatred of the U.S. felt in the Middle East today was engendered by Reagan's little escapade in Lebanon. But does Rummy stop and think, maybe the key to U.S. security is to stop making enemies faster than we can shoot 'em? Of course not.
 
A variation on Pick your fights is Know your enemy.
 
Throughout the Cold War era, American foreign policy makers assumed that all communist governments were joined together in a Worldwide Communist Conspiracy to destroy the United States. The idea that some communist governments -- North Vietnam's, for example -- were not bent on worldwide conquest and the destruction of America, or that some communist nations did not want to be dominated by the Soviet Union or Red China, was simply off the radar of conservative Cold Warriors. To them, all communists looked alike and must be fought wherever they appeared. And this myopia got us into Vietnam, a terrible war that did not have to be fought.
 
The same kind of myopia infests the neocons in the White House -- all terrorists are alike. So instead of focusing on those terrorists who really did do us injury, and would continue to do so -- al Qaeda -- the Bush Admistration declared holy war on all the terrorism in the world. And we waste lives and money and resources in Iraq, a nation that was no threat to us, and al Qaeda merrily expands, unchecked.
 
"The task," Rummy writes, "is to stop terrorists before they can terrorize. And even better, we must lean forward and stop them from becoming terrorists in the first place. That is a lesson we learned two decades ago in Beirut."
 
Frankly, Mr. Secretary, I'd say you flunked.
 
See also:
 
 
"Invasion of the Corporate Body Snatchers," a retrospective of Herblock cartoons from the 1980s
 
 
 
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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

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