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saturday, may 22, 2004

What Policy?

War is merely the continuation of policy by other means.

Karl von Clauswitz, On War, 1832

Let me begin by acknowledging that the quote above may not be accurate. I have seen more Internet flames over how that sentence really should be translated from the original German than I can shake a stick at (and I've shaken quite a few sticks in my day, buckaroos). But that seems to be the most common translation.

Clauswitz also said (more or less),

The war of a community—of whole nations and particularly of civilised nations—always starts from a political condition, and is called forth by a political motive. It is therefore a political act. ... We see, therefore, that war is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to war relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses.

Assuming that what Clauswitz said is still true, we as a nation must consider what policy we are continuing in Iraq. Because it seems to me that until we are clear about our policy goals we are doing little more in Iraq slaughtering other human beings.

I started thinking about this after reading Christopher Dickey's Newsweek web column "From Eden to Armageddon." Check out this part:

Americans, for their part, are increasingly frustrated and angry. Especially since the beheading of poor Nick Berg, the normally thoughtful and well-informed e-mails sent to Shadowland@Newsweek.com are giving way to furious screeds and dangerous slogans: “Nuke ‘em and start fresh,” read a note yesterday. “Get the politicians out of Iraq and let the military do their JOB,” wrote a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan. “If they can cut off heads of innocents why can’t we? That’s why we lost Vietnam! They got to play dirty but we couldn’t!!!!!”

IMO the loss of Vietnam had less to do with playing dirty than it had to do with mushy grand strategy. If we had "won," what would we have won?

In some wars, it's pretty clear what "winning" looks like. For Americans, Emperor Hirohito signing surrender papers on the deck of the legendary Missouri was victory. No reasonable person could say otherwise.

But in Vietnam our objective was, as I remember, to prop up a series of unpopular and corrupt "pro-western" (i.e., puppet) governments in South Vietnam and prevent the Communist government in the north from taking over the south. Did anyone seriously think we could fight a little war and leave South Vietnam free and stable and independent? Common sense should have told us that whatever regime we were propping up would have to be propped up in perpetuity, since it had no popular support. Did we think we could bully the north into leaving the south alone? Or did we plan to invade the north and depose the Communist government entirely? The grand strategy -- a polictical policy and a plan for how the war was supposed to continue it -- was never clear.

Thus, the entire misbegotten enterprise in southeast Asia was cloaked in ambiguity. Those who insist we could have used our superior military force to win the Vietnam War don't look beyond a military victory to a political one. Unless the military victory leads to a political resolution, there is no victory at all.

As war is no act of blind passion, but is dominated over by the political object, therefore the value of that object determines the measure of the sacrifices by which it is to be purchased.

Clauswitz, On War, 1832

Dickey continues,

Since we know we’re righteous and good, these readers figure, that justifies the worst we can do to everybody else. “These so-called abuses toward the Iraqi POWs is [sic] absurd,” writes a guy in Conroe, Texas, echoing Rush Limbaugh’s shameless musings. “Looks more like a frat prank compared to what they do as a people to our POWs. Would you rather wear panties on your head or have it sawed off? … I agree, we ought to pull out of Iraq ... to make room for the bomb blast.”

I submit that retribution is not a legitimate political objective, especially for the nation that started the war. The fact is, we Americans could slaughter every Iraqi man, woman, and child and render Iraq into an uninhabitable, radioactive desert, and still lose the war. We would still lose the war because destroying Iraq was not the political policy the war was supposed to continue.

And what was that policy, exactly? Who the hell knows?

By now it's obvious to thinking people that the "war on terrorism" was not the reason for invading Iraq, but the excuse. Without knowing them personally I cannot say how much Bush Regime insiders really were afraid Saddam would use his terrible weapons of mass destruction against Americans, or whether they really didn't care but figured the WMDs they just knew he had would give them political cover to invade Iraq. (I strongly suspect the latter.)

And I think the real reason we invaded Iraq is that the Bush team wanted to invade Iraq.

In their own minds, the political objective was to depose Saddam Hussein so that a pro-American, democratic Iraq would magically bloom and spread peace throughout the Middle East. Some of them may have actually believed this. But the shocking lack of planning for the postwar period suggests this wasn't the real policy goal, either. Otherwise the Bushies might have taken some interest in working toward that goal, instead of just talking about it.

"We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers."—George W. Bush, Houston, Texas, Sept. 6, 2000

The real goals? Oil, of course. Rewarding Bush's corporate cronies and campaign donors with fat contracts. Stimulating the economy (I understand the war has more to do with current economic growth that Shrub's tax cuts). Giving Bush's approval numbers a boost, the way the Gulf War had helped dear old dad. On a deeper psychological level, many aging Bush teamers had earned their original claim to fame during Gulf War I and subconsiously may have longed to relive the good old days. And Bush himself may have burned with a desire for retribution as well as an oedipal urge to one-up Poppy.

Bottom line, our reasons for being in Iraq are even dumber than our reasons for being in Vietnam. And slaughtering Iraqis will not change that. Now more than ever, we need clarity.

But the true threats to stability and peace are these nations that are not very transparent, that hide behind the—that don't let people in to take a look and see what they're up to. They're very kind of authoritarian regimes. The true threat is whether or not one of these people decide, peak of anger, try to hold us hostage, ourselves; the Israelis, for example, to whom we'll defend, offer our defenses; the South Koreans.—George W. Bush, Media roundtable, Washington, D.C., March 13, 2001

Politicians of both major parties are still orating about "success" in Iraq, without explaining specifically what that "success" will look like. If we cannot define success in Iraq, if we cannot identify the policy goal the Iraq War is supposed to continue, then we might as well apologize to everyone and come home.

On the other hand, it would be a good thing for the United States and the rest of the planet if Iraq could be left with a stable, legitimate government and not become a failed state. Failed states really do become breeding grounds of war and terrorism and genocide, much more so than states ruled by aging dictators, however nasty they are.

Leaving Iraq as a failed state pretty much ensures that somebody will have to march back and invade Iraq again, sooner or later, and that somebody (NATO?) will most probably include American soldiers. However, given the Bush Administration's continuing mismanagement of Iraq it's a question whether this goal is still possible. Or, even if it's possible now, will it still be possible in January 2005? And how much blood and treasure are we willing to spend to achieve this goal?

...war can never be separated from political intercourse, and if, in the consideration of the matter, this is done in any way, all the threads of the different relations are, to a certain extent, broken, and we have before us a senseless thing without an object.

Clauswitz, On War, 1832

This is what we should be discussing now; not severed heads versus frat pranks.

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11:14 am | link

thursday, may 20, 2004

Glory Be
 
(My web host has been having technical issues since yesterday. But now I can post! Yippee!)

Some on the Right are shocked, shocked, that some 9/11 families heckled former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani yesterday. I especially liked this comment:

What gives these families the right to use their overwhelming emotions while on their soap boxes, waving their angry little fingers at Giuliani, at President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, and other government officials.

The First Amendment? Just a guess.

I would not have heckled Giuliani myself, as I mostly liked Hizzoner even before 9/11 (which puts me at odds with many New Yorkers). Rudy can be a five-alarm asshole, no question. But he is pro-abortion rights and pro-gay rights and how can you dislike a guy who obviously enjoys dressing in drag?

Also, although I appreciate the need for reviewing what worked and what didn't work on 9/11, I also appreciate that nothing like that had ever happened before, so how could New York have been prepared for it? When Commissioner John Lehman called the city's disaster response plans "not worthy of the boy scouts" I do believe he misspoke. There were problems that, in hindsight, were preventable, particularly with communications equipment. But 9/11 was not your everyday disaster.

(I remember still the way emergency workers converged on the WTC site, ready to help. Physicians and nurses and paramedics mustered in lower Manhattan, as close as they could get, waiting to receive thousands of seriously injured people. These were professionals from some of the best medical facilities in the world, and they came with world-class medical supplies and equipment. And they waited. And they waited. And they waited.

The injured did not come. On that day, either you got out, or you didn't.) 

On the other hand, the families of victims have been jerked around shamefully by the Powers That Be lo these almost three years. These people are rightfully frustrated.

And then there is the matter of air quality in lower Manhattan in the aftermath of 9/11. The Bush Regime lied to us about how dangerous the air really was. As a result, many people who selflessly and heroically worked on the ground zero site to clear debris and locate the dead are now suffering terrible consequences to their health.

And I really, really want to know if Rudy Giuliani was in on the cover up.

Stuff I found while looking for other stuff -- check out these quotes at Information Addict:

 

On the other side, the conservative party, composed of the most moderate, able, and cultivated part of the population, is timid, and merely defensive of property. It vindicates no right, it aspires to no real good, it brands no crime, it proposes no generous policy, it does not build, nor write, nor cherish the arts, nor foster religion, nor establish schools, nor encourage science, nor emancipate the slave, nor befriend the poor, or the Indian, or the immigrant. Emerson

 

The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas—uncertainty, progress, change—into crimes. Salmon Rushdie

 

And appreciate the delicate irony in this definition:

 

Hysteria: Noun. A condition that afflicts liberals, esp. in their inordinate fixation on conspiracies that have been so substantiated or proven as to become incontrovertible. See here.

It's subtle, but so true ... 

 

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3:59 pm | link

wednesday, may 19, 2004

Believe It ... or Not
 
Earlier today I found news stories saying that people following the Atkins Diet lost no more weight than those on old-fashioned low-fat diets, according to the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Now comes research that could make some carb counters reach for the cookie jar. The largest study yet in the food fight over which diet works best found scarcely a difference between low-carb and moderate-fat programs after a year.

The report confirms what most dieters already know, even if they won't admit it: No magic diet bullet can produce a lasting weight loss; only personal discipline can. [USA Today]

But other articles are saying the Annals of Internal Medicine endorsed the Atkins diet, since Atkins dieters lost as much weight as those on a low-fat diet.

Atkins Nutritionals International senior vice-president Tamara Richardson said the studies vindicated the diet. But while Dietitians of Australia spokesman Tim Crowe said low-carb diets were effective for weight loss, they were not sustainable.

He said some of the health problems associated with the diet included abnormal beating of the heart, dehydration, constipation, poor concentration and an increased risk of cancer and osteoporosis. [The Age]

Believe it ... or not.

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2:35 pm | link

Worthy of Note
 
Eric Alterman comments on Micklethwait and Wooldridge NY Times column I discussed yesterday. His take was similar to mine -- he was "prepared to agree" with much of it until ...
Unfortunately, I completely lost confidence in the authors’ ability to distinguish anything at all when I read their contention that “The Ford Foundation is as liberal as Heritage is conservative.”  This, to put it plainly, is unsupportable nonsense, though it is exactly the form of nonsense that conservatives find so useful to peddle and that lazy journalists and hosts and producers of moronic cable and radio shows like to tout. 

As I’m sure even the Times editors who signed off on this piece are aware, the Ford Foundation supports peer-reviewed social science research that commands the respect of professionals working in the fields who produce and consume it. Perhaps some of that work is funded with a mildly liberal agenda, but it remains largely unimpeachable as a source.  The Heritage Foundation, on the other hand, is an entirely political operation that demonstrates little but contempt for such academic niceties.  As Heritage President Edwin Feulner explained back in 1995, "We don’t just stress credibility. We stress timeliness. We stress an efficient, effective delivery system. Production is one side; marketing is equally important.”  Burton Pines, a Heritage vice president, has added, "We're not here to be some kind of Ph.D. committee giving equal time.  Our role is to provide conservative public-policy makers with arguments to bolster our side. ...

The great conservative victory in public discourse that the authors are unwilling to admit is how effectively they have dumbed it down. " 

Stirling Newberry provides an example of the way neocons keep pounding the same (old, tired) square pegs of ideology into multi-shaped holes. The Right flatters itself by thinking they are the "party of ideas." Yes, they have ideas. But they are bad ideas, and the Right stopped coming up with new ideas several years ago.
 
In other news: I was confused about the significance of the sarin gas found in Iraq until Fafblog explained it. It's all clear to me now.
 
Two Fort Worth teachers were suspended for showing the Nick Berg beheading video in class. Three teachers in California were put on paid leave for the same offense. I'd love to know what motivated the teachers to do this. Guesses?

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8:41 am | link

tuesday, may 18, 2004

The Plot Thickens
 
As mentioned earlier today, Glenn Reynolds thinks the news focus on the prison abuse scandal is part of a plot by the liberal media to hurt President Bush and other members of his administration.
 
It's worse than that. UPI reports that the Army, CIA, and some Republican Senators are in on the plot, too.

Even worse for Rumsfeld and his coterie of neo-conservative true believers who have run the Pentagon for the past 3½ years, three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it's payback time.

Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican leadership in the United States Senate.

None of those groups is chopped liver: Taken together they comprise a devastating Grand Slam.

Whoops! Those neocons should have listened when their Mamas taught them to be nice to others!
 
How 'Bout Some Hot Links?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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8:36 pm | link

What We Stand For
 
Along with the always excellent Paul Krugman column, be sure to read "For Conservatives, Mission Accomplished" by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, writers for that socialist rag The Economist, in today's New York Times.
 
Micklethwait and Wooldridge tell the familiar story of how conservatives seized dominant power in America by being more ruthlessly focused on their agenda than liberals. The authors also repeat the claim that the Right promotes innovative ideas; the Left does not.

In theory, liberals have more than enough brain and brawn to match conservative America. The great liberal universities and foundations have infinitely more resources than the American Enterprise Institute and its allies. But the conservatives have always been more dogged. The Ford Foundation is as liberal as Heritage is conservative, but there is no doubt which is the more ruthless in its cause.

Now, perhaps, a few liberals are waking up to the task that confronts them. Americans Come Together, a group backed by the billionaire George Soros, already has 20 offices and 450 employees in Ohio alone. John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, has founded the Center for American Progress, which Democrats are calling "the liberal Heritage." But it still seems that liberals are purely reactive. Barry Goldwater may have been strong meat, but at least he had ideas. By contrast, Americans Come Together's entire raison d'être (like that of the John Kerry campaign) remains negative: to send Mr. Bush back to Texas.

"There is no such thing as spontaneous public opinion," Beatrice Webb, the great British leftist, once said. "It all has to be manufactured from a center of conviction and energy." The American Conservative Union is just one of many such centers on the right; it's a lesson that liberal America seems unable to learn.

This same point came up over and over again during the progressive conference I attended last weekend. Remember, the title of the conference was "What We Stand For: Ideas and Values to Take Back America," and the point of it was to identify a positive agenda for the center of our conviction and energy.

I highly recommend going here and clicking on the link to the archived conference, in the left-hand column under "Welcome." Then listen carefully to Mark Green's and Paul Krugman's opening remarks.

Mark Green (I'm writing from my notes here, so the words may not be exact quotes, but you can hear it all in the video) suggested these four points as the cornerstones of progressive patriotism:

1. Strengthen the Middle Class.

2. Strenghten collective security (this includes national security).

3. Strengthen democracy.

4. One nation -- end racial divisiveness.

Then Paul Krugman (notice what he says about "sunshine") spoke directly to the "great canard" that liberal ideas are tired and hackneyed and the Right is "the party of ideas." Krugman points out that the Right has a "set of zombie policies" that they trot out to fit every situation -- tax cuts, military power, deregulation. The Right has a few old, tired ideas that don't work. But what would a progressive agenda look like? Here is a basic outline of Krugman's talk -- the Sevan Pillars of Progressivism (my title, not his):

1. Intelligent economic policy -- doing what the economy needs, not taking one policy and applying it relentlessly to every situation.

2. Social insurance -- the Right insists that entitlement programs are bad, but their arguments don't hold up.

3. Regulation -- regulations are not always good, but we've learned recently that the things we regulate against are real.  The Right insists all regulations are bad, but experience has taught us otherwise.

4. Environmental protection -- there's a lot to be criticised about the way we've approached environmental protection in the past, but smarter environmental protection doesn't mean no environmental protection. We need to set up a system in which being law abiding means doing the right thing by the environment.

5. Alliances -- we strengthen ourselves by growing alliances and treating other nations with respect, as equals. The Bush policy of bullying and contempt is not making us stronger.

6. Civil liberties -- abrogating civil liberties for security does not serve the greater good. The most amazing thing about the rawness of Bush's "you get civil rights when we say you do" policies is how ineffectual they are. How many real terrorists has Ashcroft apprehended and convicted? (If you don't know, be sure to listen to the archive video for the answer.)

7. Democracy -- many want to throw aside democracy in favor of unity in the face of a threat. How close are we to the view that running against officeholders is treason? How many define "patriotism" as "unquestioning support for leaders"?

Krugman says that if you treat the big issues as as technical problems, when you look at applying our resources toward solving our problems, they aren't that hard. We have the resources. But in one issue after another, the Right and their ideologies have stood in the way of solving our problems.

Progressives must look beyond beating right-wingers in elections (although this is still vital; I don't subscribe to the view that it's better to be ideologically pure than elected) and prepare to lead America toward a rebirth of progressivism and national greatness, and away from the limiting, defeatist programs of the Right that would have us spiraling downward to third-world, banana-republic status.

We can save America from the wingnuts, but we'll have to fight hard to do it.

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10:37 am | link

Big As Life
 
The eternally obtuse Glenn Reynolds writes:

WHY THE BIG MEDIA CONTINUE TO LOSE THEIR AUDIENCE: Neal Boortz observes:

This morning in most of the newspapers I scanned during my preparation for the show the top story was still the Iraqi prison abuse scandal. Nick Berg had already disappeared from many front pages, but the prison abuse stories remain. May I suggest to you that there is a reason for this? Maybe it's just this simple: The prison abuse scandal can damage Bush, the Nick Berg story can only help him. Given the choice many editors will chose the stories that serve their cause, getting Bush out of the White House, rather than one that hurts it.

May I suggest there is an even simpler reason? That the Abu Ghraib scandal is a great deal more important because it has a significant impact on our objectives in Iraq? Nick Berg's beheading may or may not help recruit more terrorists, but in the grand scheme of things will make no difference to our foreign policy. The repurcussions of Abu Ghraib, on the other hand, negate (IMO) any possibility of leaving Iraq with a secular, pro-American government. And our last excuses for being in Iraq at all have now flown right out the window.

Such cynicism about the media, these days. But he's right. The Berg video wasn't shown on TV, and -- as Boortz notes -- the big media leaders seem almost desperate to keep the story on Abu Ghraib, even to the point of running already discredited fake porn photos purporting to be from Iraq. (And issuing lame and incomplete pseudo-apologies when caught out.)

It may be that some doctored photos were in circulation -- Reynold's documentation is a bit flimsy -- but there are plenty of photos that were not doctored -- including the ones shown to Congress last week that haven't been made public. From Newsweek:

There were 1,800 slides and several videos, and the show went on for three hours. The nightmarish images showed American soldiers at Abu Ghraib Prison forcing Iraqis to masturbate. American soldiers sexually assaulting Iraqis with chemical light sticks. American soldiers laughing over dead Iraqis whose bodies had been abused and mutilated. There was simply nothing to say. "It was a very subdued walk back to the House floor," said Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "People were ashen."

But in Glennworld, because there exist somewhere a few photos that are claimed to be fake, then none of this matters. They are all fake.

Back to Instapundit: 

But on the Internet, where users set the agenda, not Big Media editors and producers, it's different. As Jeff Quinton notes, Nick Berg is the story that people care about:

Right now the 10 phrases most searched for are:
nick berg video
nick berg
berg beheading
beheading video
nick berg beheading video
nick berg beheading
berg video
berg beheading video
"nick berg"
video nick berg

Funny that Glenn used the word pornography. We might also draw upon the words prurience or voyeurism, which in their broadest sense go beyond sexuality. People look at the video for the same reason they used to pay money to P.T. Barnum to see the freak show. As Barnum might say, it's sensational.

However, as I wrote last week, I wouldn't look at that video if you paid me. This is not because I don't care about Nick Berg, but because I do care about Nick Berg. Frankly, I can't imagine how anyone who cares about Berg as a human being could look at that video. It's too horrible. (And I suspect most people would be horrified by it, which is another simple reason the video has not been shown in most major U.S. news media.)

IMO the voyeurs who are getting off on the Nick Berg video have little empathy for the man who was Nick Berg. However, they do have a keen interest in Berg's head as a justification for their own prédilections.

Back in the 19th century, Democrats used to accuse Republicans of "waving the bloody shirt" when the Pubs blamed the Dems for the Civil War and the assasination of Lincoln. The phrase refers to the scene in Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, in which Mark Antony holds up Caesar's bloody toga to inflame the people of Rome against his assassins.

Today, when the hawks want to distract us from the fact that all of their reasons for making war in Iraq have crumbled to dust, they wave the bloody head.

Or maybe they're trying to distract themselves. To them, Berg's head is a justification -- we have to kill those people because, you know, they are barbarians. That gives us a right to torture them and kill them without a whole lot of concern about whether individuals are guilty of something or not. Just like the terrorists who killed Nick Berg were not much concerned about who Nick Berg was and why he was in Iraq.

Along these lines, please read "Lessons of History" by  Christopher Dickey in Newsweek. See also this editorial by Rep. David Obey, D-WI:

America and the world rightly reacted with revulsion to the photos of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated and tortured at Abu Ghraib prison. There's a simple reason why - these acts were not just an affront to America's values, but to humanity's.

Yet in recent days, comments from some on Capitol Hill seem to be adding an air of moral relativism to this incident. In a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week, I heard members of Congress say that "maybe we need to fight fire with fire," and that "if the other side won't play by our rules then maybe we should be playing by theirs."

This kind of political spin may insulate some from any sense of remorse or accountability....

That's it, isn't it? Waving the bloody head insulates Bush's Kool-Aiders from any sense of remorse or accountability for Abu Ghraib.

But for the rest of us, our morals are not dependent on what someone else does, but on what we do. One bloody head does not absolve us of what was done in Abu Ghraib.

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7:23 am | link

monday, may 17, 2004

Impenetrable
 
As we commemorate the day, fifty years ago, when a few activist judges decided Brown v. Board of Education in favor of integration, President Bush stood up and said, "The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges." This from a guy who owes his job to a few activist judges.
 
IMO marriage as a sacred institution shouldn't be defined by any branch of government, but let's not quibble ...
 
Here's another charming story: Pope John Paul II named six new saints today, including a woman who martyred herself by refusing an abortion.

The Vatican has long championed the case of Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian pediatrician who died in 1962 at the age of 39 - a week after giving birth to her fourth child.

Doctors had told her it was dangerous to proceed with the pregnancy because she had a tumor in her uterus, but she insisted on carrying the baby to term.

I respect Donna Molla's decision, although I do wonder how her first three children, who grew up without their mother, felt about it. But I don't know whether to thank His Holiness for reminding us that sometimes medically safe abortions are necessary to save women's lives, or to be annoyed at his attempt to teach Catholic girls they are nothing but brood animals. (As opposed to Catholic boys, who are ... well, let's not go there.)

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9:54 pm | link

Torture News Roundup!
 
It's getting hard to keep up with this stuff ...
 
Seymour Hersch writes in The New Yorker:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror. [The New Yorker, May 24 issue)

Hersch goes on to say that Rummy's plan "encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners."

The White House denies this. Sunday, a White House spokesperson said that the abuses had not been sanctioned by the Department of Defense. Billmon has some must-read comments on the White House's denial here.

Meanwhile, a Newsweek investigation corroborates Hersch's story and also implicates Bush.

...as a means of pre-empting a repeat of 9/11, Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. In doing so, they overrode the objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell and America's top military lawyers—and they left underlings to sweat the details of what actually happened to prisoners in these lawless places. [John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 24 issue]

The right-wing Frontpage cite is running an article tut-tutting Hersch's article, but hasn't gotten around to denying the Newsweek article yet. You know they will, though. David Horowitz howls that "liberals" have handed the terrorists a victory (of course, with Bush setting policy, who needs liberals?) and calls the adoption of new guidelines a "retreat."

The above-linked Newsweek article details what was retreated from, based on evidence shown to Congress.

There were 1,800 slides and several videos, and the show went on for three hours. The nightmarish images showed American soldiers at Abu Ghraib Prison forcing Iraqis to masturbate. American soldiers sexually assaulting Iraqis with chemical light sticks. American soldiers laughing over dead Iraqis whose bodies had been abused and mutilated. There was simply nothing to say. "It was a very subdued walk back to the House floor," said Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "People were ashen."

But of course we have to do these things because, you know, those Middle Eastern types are so barbaric.   

And aren't you glad the Dems didn't nominate Joe Lieberman?

On CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, called the allegations serious and said they should be investigated. But, he said, if a special interrogation unit focused on suspected terrorists could have prevented Sept. 11, "I don't think there are many Americans who would say we shouldn't use whatever means are necessary to extract that information." [New York Newsday]

Those investigating how far up the prison abuse scandal goes should remember something the White House did back in May 2002 -- the Bushies "unsigned" a treaty creating an International Criminal Court. President Clinton had signed the treaty; the Bushies decided that the signature of an elected President of the United States was invalid. Makes you wonder what the Bushies already had in mind -- and what was already going on -- back in May 2002.
 
Via No More Mister Nice Blog, a compendium of the Wit and Wisdom of Rush Limbaugh. You gotta see this. Also, be sure to read this Maureen Farrell commentary on Buzzflash.
 
PS -- Did y'all see the Tim Russert interview of Colin Powell, when the press "aide" tried to cut off questioning? I've never seen such a thing on American television before, and I hope to never see it again. It sent chills up my spine, I can tell you. Here's the transcript:

Russert:  Finally, Mr. Secretary, in February of 2003, you placed your enormous personal credibility before the United Nations and laid out a case against Saddam Hussein citing...

Powell:  Not off.

Emily:  No.  They can't use it.  They're editing it.  They (unintelligible).

Powell:  He's still asking me questions.  Tim.

Emily: He was not...

Powell:  Tim, I'm sorry, I lost you.

Russert:  I'm right here, Mr. Secretary.  I would hope they would put you back on camera.  I don't know who did that.

Powell:  We really...

Russert:  I think that was one of your staff, Mr. Secretary.  I don't think that's appropriate.

Powell:  Emily, get out of the way.

Emily:  OK.

Powell:  Bring the camera back, please.  I think we're back on, Tim.  Go ahead with your last question.

Give Secretary Powell credit for overriding the aide and finishing the interview.
 
 

|

7:02 am | link

sunday, may 16, 2004

Hot Links
 
This Observer article by William Paff deserves careful reading. I think he's on to us.

A 'new America' was said to have emerged, but it would be better to say an old one found new empowerment. It was recently described by former US ambassador to France Felix Rohatyn as 'more radical and more committed than ever to the need for unchallenged military dominance. It is more individualistic than Europe, more religious, conservative and patriotic ... [These factors] will influence everything America does from now on, both in its foreign and its domestic policies.'

This is undoubtedly true, but this 'new' America amazingly resembles the isolationist and xenophobic America between 1920 and 1941. What is new is that it has become the most heavily-armed nation on Earth and believes it is, and should remain, number one.

The article ties together the wingnuts' xenophobic antagonism toward Europe with post-Cold War prattle about "The End of History." (Pfaff writes, "This was an American Marxism, a dialectical interpretation of history as having been a march from the Neolithic cave to US military and moral superpower -- and inevitable hegemony.")

I remember reading Francis Fukuyama’s "End of History" thesis back in the late 1980s and was utterly baffled by it. I realize now I didn't understand it because I didn't share conservative notions of American exceptionalism. Frankly, there's a stubborn childishness about the "end of history" nonsense -- a fairy-tale faith that once the villain was slain, the protagonists of the story would live happily ever after. And now the children are running the country ...

Special Series
 
 
 
 
More Hot Links
 
 
 
 
 

|

8:14 pm | link

Call to Arms
 
I'm still digesting this weekend's progressive conference at NYU, "What We Stand For: Ideas and Values to Take Back America," which was sponsored by The Nation and the New Democracy Project.
 
IMO the overarching theme of the weekend was best summed up by Joe Trippi: "It's no longer about Kerry and Bush. It's about us."
 
If liberals and progressives are to have real political power in America, we have to stop looking to leaders or to parties to make it happen for us. We've got to organize and create that power ourselves. It has to come from us.
 
Like many others, I am weary of the way the Democratic Party engages in move-to-the-right, me-too tactics to win elections. The Dems treat the radicals of the GOP as if they were a monster to be appeased and tip-toed around.
 
F*** that. It's time to take up a sword and slay the damn thing. 
 
The main strategy points that emerged this weekend are these:
 
1. Beat George Bush (and as many GOP senators and congressmen as possible) in November.
 
2. After he's elected, kick Kerry's butt, hard and often, to push him onto a progressive path. Same thing for Dems in Congress.
 
3. Organize to become the major power and voice in the Democratic Party.
 
Progressives have been seriously undermined by the corrupting influences of Big Money in U.S. campaign politics. Politicians of both parties are lining up to the same sources for money -- the same big donors, the same corporate interests. More than one speaker said that Dems maneuver to receive the second-biggest checks from these donors.
 
Second, conventional wisdom says that Dems should campaign for voters who have voted in the past. This means Democratic candidates must package themselves to be attractive to "swing" voters who may have gone for Bush last time. This means moving to the right.
 
The antidote to both of these barriers to progressives is to energize new voters and identify new sources of money. The new money is already being found, through the Internet. Bloggers and organizations like Moveon are raising unprecedented amounts of money for Kerry and other Dem candidates. Also, trade unions (and Moveon, etc.) are engaging in voter registration drives that could make a real difference.
 
One other factor someone mentioned -- I believe it was Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., the keynote speaker -- that progessives put too much energy into single issues, like the environment or women's rights. We marginalize ourselves by competing for attention for our pet causes.
 
I'm out of blogging time for the moment, but there's a lot more to say ...

|

11:20 am | link


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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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It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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