The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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saturday, august 27, 2005

Danger Abled
Conspiracy theorists across the political spectrum are having a field day with the new "Able Danger" revelations. Able Danger, as you probably have heard, was a data mining project initiated during the Clinton Administration to help track al Qaeda cells. Three individuals who say they worked on the project claim that 9/11 highjacker Mohamed Atta, among other terrorists, had been identified and located in the U.S. by Able Danger.
The Able Danger story has become a crusade for Republican Congressman Curt Weldon as part of his larger campaign to shift the blame for bad 9/11 intelligence to Bill Clinton.
Able Danger is controversial because (1) the 9/11 Commission was told about Able Danger but left it out of its final report; and (2) it is claimed that in 2000 military lawyers prevented the Atta information from being shared with the FBI.  
The Able Danger story has some obvious attractions for the Right. It casts doubts on the FBI's timeline of where-Atta-was-and-when, enabling the rebirth of the "meeting in Prague" scenario often used to tie the 9/11 attacks to Saddam Hussein. It gives them another opportunity to smear Jamie Gorelick. And it enables bashing of the 9/11 Commission findings.
Regarding the 9/11 Commssion, I'd like to second Kevin Drum's comments: 

It's worth noting, however, that Curt Weldon is continuing the blast the conveniently scapegoatable 9/11 Commission over their failure to follow up on Able Danger, while staying oddly silent about the Army, which is most clearly at fault here if all these charges turn out to be true. This is almost certainly because Weldon wants to stay on good terms with the Pentagon, whose support he wants for his own data mining program.

But Weldon's hyperventilating doesn't change the fact that the 9/11 Commission genuinely appears to be caught in the middle here. The Pentagon told the 9/11 Commission that Able Danger didn't come up with anything, and that's the story they've stuck to ever since. If anybody's lying here, it's either the Weldon/Shaffer/Phillpott/Smith crowd or else it's the Pentagon. There's no evidence so far that the 9/11 Commission did anything wrong.

I watched a C-SPAN interview of Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, one of the Able Danger witnesses. Lt. Col. Shaffer, who seems intelligent and sincere, said that his personal set of documents (stored at some Army facility) have disappeared. (Most creative free association so far: Look for the documents in Sandy Berger's socks.)
On the other hand, via Kos diarist TopDog08, Shaffer's lawyer said the Pentagon ordered the documents destroyed in 2003. Also, the Able Danger project was terminated in the spring of 2001 by the Bushies, probably about the same time the Bushies scuttled all other Clinton administration anti-terrorism initiatives already in progress because Dick, Condi, Colin, et al. didn't believe al Qaeda was any big deal.
But before everyone gets all excited about botched intelligence, please read Terry McDermott's op ed in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, "Seeing What We Want to See." McDermott presents a good argument that Atta couldn't have been in the U.S. when Able Danger said he was, and that Able Danger's "findings" were most likely a case of mistaken identity. Further,

Whatever the resolution of the Able Danger imbroglio, there were plenty of missed opportunities on the road to 9/11. German law enforcement knew in mid-1999 that Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, another Sept. 11 hijacker, were acquaintances of an Al Qaeda recruiter. This information was passed on to the CIA. The name of a third hijacker, Ziad Jarrah, was given to U.S. intelligence agencies in early 2000 when he was interrogated at length as he passed through customs in the United Arab Emirates en route from Afghanistan to Germany. He told Emiratis he was going to the United States to become a pilot. The Emiratis say they passed this information to the Americans.

More famously, the CIA tracked two known Al Qaeda operatives through eight CIA stations from the Middle East to Malaysia, then somehow didn't notice as they walked onto a jetway and a plane bound for Los Angeles. We don't need to invent intelligence failures; we need to grapple with those that we already have.

Amen to that.
Update: Today's New York Post says one part of the Able Danger project was terminated in 2000 because Able Danger had identified Condi Rice as a security risk.
Cyber-sleuths working for a Pentagon intelligence unit that reportedly identified some of the 9/11 hijackers before the attack were fired by military officials, after they mistakenly pinpointed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other prominent Americans as potential security risks, The Post has learned. ... 

...The Pentagon canceled its contract with the private firm shortly after the analysts — who were working on identifying al Qaeda operatives — produced a particularly controversial chart on proliferation of sensitive technology to China, the sources said.

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, the veteran Army officer who was the Defense Intelligence Agency liaison to Able Danger, told The Post China "had something to do" with the decision to restructure Able Danger.

Sources said the private contractors, using sophisticated computer software that sifts through massive amounts of raw data to establish patterns, came up with a chart of Chinese strategic and business connections in the U.S.

The program wrongly tagged Rice, who at the time was an adviser to then-candidate George W. Bush, and former Defense Secretary William Perry by linking their associations at Stanford, along with their contacts with Chinese leaders, sources said.

Make of that what you will.

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9:03 am | link

friday, august 26, 2005

Exits and Strategies
Gen. Wes Clark's op ed about Iraq in today's Washington Post may, at least, help broker some peace between the "immediate-withdrawal" and "attempt to establish stability before withdrawal" factions of the Left. See, for example, reactions from Armando of Kos and Mark Kleiman.
Clark provides a brief overview of some of the ways the Bushies have screwed the pooch and suggests practical ways in which some goals might yet be achieved. But, as Armando says, Bushie mismanagement "has placed us on the brink in Iraq leaving us this close from having no options but to withdraw." Our debates over gradual versus immediate withdrawal may prove to be naught but exercises in rhetoric.
How have the Bushies screwed the pooch? Let me count the ways ...
Jonathan Chait makes some good points in today's Los Angeles Times. The same tactics that allow Bush to get his way in Washington don't work in warfare, says Chait.
"Bush's political successes all have three main elements in common, none of which translates well into fighting a war," Chait writes. These elements are (1) partisan discipline; (2) massive giveaways to well-organized lobbies; and (3) lying. Strongarm party members into voting as a block; lard legislation with special provisions for the K Street crowd, and then deceive the public that they, not the wealthy and privileged, will somehow benefit. And don't let anyone know what that Medicaid bill is really going to cost.
Domestically, the effects of bad policy take a while to be felt. By the time the public figures out it has been hoodwinked--if it ever does--the Bushies will have retired, and some future White House and Congress will have to deal with the mess.
But war doesn't work that way.
When it comes to crafting policies that are good, rather than policies that merely seem good to an inattentive public, the Bush administration turns out to be awful. You can insist that 125,000 troops are enough to reconstruct Iraq, just as you can insist that $400 billion is enough to pay for the Medicare bill. The difference is, the effects of higher federal debt can be obscured for a long time. But when Iraqi reconstruction has essentially halted, some two-thirds of the population lacks employment and terrorists and other armed thugs are roaming freely throughout Iraqi cities, lies can get you only so far.
Via Shakespeare's Sister, be sure to read David Frum's NRO column in which Frum complains that Bush is failing to communicate. Be sure to read the comments, too. Even the NRO set is noticing that Bush's rhetoric is, um, detatched from reality. Frum writes,
Again and again during the Bush presidency - and yesterday most recently - the president will agree to give what is advertised in advance as a major speech. An important venue will be chosen. A crowd of thousands will be gathered. The networks will all be invited. And after these elaborate preparations, the president says ... nothing that he has not said a hundred times before.

If a president continues to do that, he is himself teaching the public and the media to ignore him - especially when the words seem (as his speech yesterday to the VFW seemed) utterly to ignore the past three months of real-world events.

A reader from Ohio:

"Amen to your diary today on NRO. I remember a few months ago waiting in anticipation in front of the TV screen screen when Bush delivered his 'major speech,' at Fort Bragg I think. I felt myself getting frustrated and even bored as I watched, this was just the same old rhetoric, fight the terrorists, stay the course, blah blah. I wanted details! What is going well, what is not going well, how have the plans changed, etc... I would so much rather hear the President lay out what was done right, what mistakes were made, how are they adapting to these mistakes. The speech was completely devoid of substance. I read about our troops being killed by roadside bombs. Why are they on the road? Where are they going? What are they doing? What are they building? Does the administration still believe Iraq will be a happy democracy? In three years? five? ten? You won't find a stronger supporter of the President then I am but when I watch his Iraq speeches I just want to scream! AAAHH!!! I think he's cried wolf too many times with these so-called 'major speeches.' I honestly cannot blame the major networks for not showing them."

We on the Left look on and say, what did you expect? He's been faking all along. But he is faking really badly now, isn't he? Surely there are some good things going on in Iraq that the Bushies can trot out and brag about. Isn't Karen Hughes nearby?
I think there are a number of pathologies at play here. However, I've got some pathologies of my own (a nasty cold) and think I will leave that discussion for another time.

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12:03 pm | link

The Course We're Staying
``So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror.'' -- George W. 
"Bush: War in Iraq will last at least another three and a half years." -- Steve M.

After repeated major combat offensives in Fallujah and Ramadi, and after losing hundreds of soldiers and Marines in Anbar during the past two years - including 75 since June 1 - many American officers and enlisted men assigned to Anbar have stopped talking about winning a military victory in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland. Instead, they're trying to hold on to a handful of population centers and hit smaller towns in a series of quick-strike operations designed to disrupt insurgent activities temporarily.

"I don't think of this in terms of winning," said Col. Stephen Davis, who commands a task force of about 5,000 Marines in an area of some 24,000 square miles in the western portion of Anbar. Instead, he said, his Marines are fighting a war of attrition. "The frustrating part for the (American) audience, if you will, is they want finality. They want a fight for the town and in the end the guy with the white hat wins."

Rightie hawks must feel cheated. They wanted a quick, dashing war ending in decisive victory, followed by copious hosannas and garland strewing and praise for Dear Leader.  They dreamed of televised battle highlights and action-packed feature films. And oh, how they longed for the humiliation of us snooty peaceniks, who would be forced to watch Bush's vindication and think ourselves accurs'd we were not there ... in the ranks of that noble band of brothers, the 101st Fighting Keyboarders.

Notice how they're pissed at us about Iraq. They must be frustrated as all hell. They either believe Iraq is a glorious victory and we lefties (in collusion with the libruhl media) aren't being forced to admit it, or they believe victory is slipping away only because leftie faithlessness is sending bad-thought vibes halfway around the world and fouling things up.

And, y'know, we're not supposed to call the enemy insurgents. We're supposed to call them terrorists. But our troops in Iraq didn't get the memo.

Instead of referring to the enemy derisively as "terrorists" - as they used to - Marines and soldiers now give the insurgents a measure of respect by calling them "mujahedeen," an Arabic term meaning "holy warrior" that became popular during the Afghan guerrilla campaign against the Soviet Union.

Never mind.

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6:57 am | link

thursday, august 25, 2005

Leaderless on the Left
Great article by Gary Younge in the Guardian [emphasis added]:
The reason Sheehan has become such a lightning rod is because that mood has found only inadequate and inconsistent expression in Congress. It has been left to her to articulate an escalating political demand that is in desperate need of political representation. This marks not only a profound dislocation between the political class and political culture but a short circuit in the democratic process. The mainstream has effectively been marginalised.

This is not particular to the US. In Britain, the view that there was a link between Iraq and the London bombings was shared by two-thirds of the population, but the handful of politicians who dared to mention it were shouted down in parliament and vilified in the press. In Germany, all the main parties support the labour market reforms that will cut welfare entitlements and reduce social protection, even though most of the population do not. But what many "centre-left" politicians regard as electoral expediency is actually becoming an electoral liability. Evidence exists that support for more radical stances is there if only they had the backbone to campaign for it.

In Germany, a new leftwing party combining ex-communists and disaffected Social Democrats is attracting 12% in polls and could yet rob the right of an outright victory next month. This month, in a congressional byelection in southern Ohio, Paul Hackett, a marine reservist who recently served in Iraq, stood for the Democrats on an anti-war platform. In a constituency where the Republicans won with 72% of the vote nine months ago, Hackett branded Bush a "chicken hawk". He won 48%, turning a safe seat into a marginal.

Sadly, such examples are all too rare. Sheehan has revealed both the strength and the weakness of the left. We have a political agenda that can command considerable mainstream support; yet we do not have a political leadership willing or able to articulate those agendas. We wield political influence; we lack legislative power.


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4:12 pm | link

Rove Review
There's a long background article on Traitorgate in today's Los Angeles Times by Tom Hamburger and Soni Efron.  I don't believe it contains any new information, but it puts the saga together in a generally coherent way.
One of the better parts describes the preparations for Colin Powell's February 2003 speech to the UN. A couple of weeks before the speech, Scooter Libby (Cheney's aide) gave Powell a 48-page document that presented "intelligence" on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. Powell's chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, had the job of sorting out which "intelligence" items were verifiable and which were not. Wilkerson believed the document was based at least in part on data provided to Cheney by Rumsfeld's intelligence group.
"Where else did they get this 48-page document that came jam-packed with information that probably came first from the [Iraqi National Congress], Chalabi and other lousy sources?" Wilkerson asked.
Indeed. Anyway, Wilkerson made an attempt to straighten out the mess. 
To sort out the conflicting intelligence, Wilkerson convened a three-day meeting at CIA headquarters. Its rotating cast included the administration's major foreign policy players: Libby, Hadley, Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, Tenet, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin and Rice.

Wilkerson was told that Libby had said the 48-page document was designed to offer Powell "a Chinese menu" of intelligence highlights to draw from for his speech. Powell and his team were skeptical of most of it. Rice, Tenet and Hadley were trying to reinsert bits of intelligence they personally favored but that could not be corroborated. Hadley offered an unsubstantiated report of alleged meetings between Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague shortly before the attacks

"The whole time, people were trying to reinsert their favorite … pet rocks back into the presentation, when their pet rocks weren't backed up by anything but hearsay, or Chalabi or the INC or both," Wilkerson said.

In the end, Powell agreed with Tenet to rely mainly on the national intelligence estimate on Iraq, which had been vetted by the CIA. Wilkerson came to believe that the Pentagon officials, and their allies in the White House, doubted what the intelligence community said because "it didn't fit their script" for going to war.
Here's a detail that was known but has mostly fallen through the cracks:
The day of Powell's speech, U.S. officials provided the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency, with documents supporting the assertion that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium ore from Niger. Within weeks, the agency determined the documents were clumsy fakes. The episode has never been explained.

"It was very clear from our analysis that they were forgeries," Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the atomic energy agency, said in an interview. "We found 20 to 30 anomalies within a day."
George Tenet emerges from this article as something less than the utter sycophant I sometimes think he is:
On July 11 [2003], the traveling White House launched a coordinated effort to end the controversy.

First, Rice told Tenet that she and the president planned to tell the media that Bush's speech "was cleared by intelligence services," as the president said that day in Uganda.

Hours later, Tenet — traveling in Idaho — released his own statement that at first appeared helpful to the White House. It took responsibility for allowing the uranium claim into the State of the Union.

"This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed," Tenet said. He also described Wilson's trip as inconclusive, and said it was authorized by lower-level CIA officials and was never flagged for review by top officials.

But Tenet added that the CIA had earlier provided cautions about using the Niger evidence to conclude Iraq had obtained uranium. In effect, he was
pointing a finger at the White House for failing to heed previous warnings.

"We're screwed," said one White House official, reading the statement on his Blackberry. Blame-shifting intensified amid media speculation about how the words got into the speech.

And note the next paragraph:

That same day, Rove took the call from Time's Cooper and, in response to a question, told him that Wilson's wife was in the CIA and was responsible for her husband's mission. Cooper says that Rove did not use her name.

One other little factoid I'm not sure I've heard before (it's so hard to keep track) is that Matt Cooper's testimony was delayed for more than a year because Patrick Fitzgerald did not ask Karl Rove to give Matt Cooper a personal waivor. I don't know where that falls on the significance scale, but there it is.

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8:20 am | link

wednesday, august 24, 2005

What Goes Up...
The "President's" approval ratings have hit a new low, says the Wall Street Journal:
President Bush's job approval ratings are at their lowest point of his presidency as only 40% of U.S. adults have a favorable opinion of his job performance and 58% have a negative opinion, according to a Harris Interactive poll.
This is a decline from just two months ago in June when the president's ratings were 45% positive and 55% negative. Much of this decline can be tied to the public's opinion on important issues. The war in Iraq has climbed to the top of a list of issues Americans say it's most important for the U.S. to address and the economy is now viewed as the second most important issue, according to the poll. ...
...Americans were also asked in the poll to name the two most important issues that the U.S. government needs to address. When considering the most important issues, 41% of those polled say the war is most important, sharply higher than 24% in June.
Writes Josh Marshall: 

Bush's current stay-the-course speechifying tour is intended to stop this bleeding. But when even erstwhile allies like David Frum are complaining that "President Bush's words on the subject of Iraq have ceased connecting with the American public," it's hard to see how repeating the same old soundbites, even with precise casualty figures empathetically thrown in, will do the trick.

P.S. Note Frum's comment that he's been flooded with emails -- from National Review readers, remember -- agreeing with him. Republicans are nearing a state of panic over Iraq.

At MyDD, Chris Bowers observes that American political consumers are growing weary of the Republican's top product--fear.
In February of 1994, the year of the Republican takeover, 36% of the electorate cited crime as one of the two most important issues for the government to address. However, it began a slow decline from that point, hovering in the teens for a few years, before dropping into single digits in the two years before 9/11. Post-9/11, it disappeared from the national radar entirely, never again passing 3%. At exactly the same time as "crime" disappeared, "terrorism" appeared, first cheeking in at 22%. Those most concerned with terrorism seem to have also been those who, pre-9/11, were most concerned with crime.
But the tide is turning:
Right now, fewer people than ever cite a generalized concern with "terrorism" as one of their main priorities. Since the days immediately following 9/11, terrorism has eroded as a major national issue, hitting 7% in October, and hovering between 4%-7% ever since. No wonder the administration recently sought to change the name of the "War on terror." People have finally begun to break from the neoconservative view of Iraq as part of a broader struggle against something or other, and instead now view it as its own entity. We don't need to tell Bush and his minions that the war on terrorism is over--they already know that.

Iraq has been separated from the "war on terror" in the mind of the public. Further, Iraq is beginning to crowd out the "war on terror" in the public's mind almost entirely. Without a focus on some sort of frightening, generalized "Other," the battle of civilizations is waning. Unsurprisingly Bush's numbers are simultaneously collapsing. We win when that battle is not being fought. Bush is not going to turn these numbers around easily.

The numbers could be turned around, I think, but to do so Bush would have to adopt new tactics and tone. The swagger doesn't work if there's nothing to swagger about.
Is Bush on drugs? He is more "animated" than I think I've ever seen him. He's all hunched over, swinging his arms wildly, screaming into the microphone. It's quite a performance.

My favorite line so far is the patented "they can run but they can't hide." C'mon. You just have to sit back and admire the sheer audacity of continuing to say that after four long years.

He must be thrilled to be back in the saddle, running for president, which is the only thing he knows how to do.
On the other side of the 'sphere, some of the righties have felt the tremors. Via Memeorandum, Glenn Reynolds writes, 


Does anyone remember April and May of 2005? And the months preceeding them? The Orange Revolution? The Arab Springtime? The Cedar Revolution of Lebanon - all of them seeming to have a fire lit under them, a wonderful fire of liberty. Remember Revolution Babes?

[I do believe someone turned off the smoke machine and adjusted the mirrors.--maha]

All around the globe, there was a spirit of something that felt a lot like the Will to Power - something that was building in momentum…like we were on the brink of something truly remarkable and historic and new.

Then, suddenly - poof! - it all stopped? It all just seemed to go away. It was like a big giant foot just came down and stomped out all of those wonderful fires…and the White House seems to have just…blink! Forgotten about it.

I like W a lot, but what the hell?

Judging by the polls, a lot of people are wondering.

Arab Spring? What drugs are these people on?
It's likely that once Bush gets back to Washington in September and the Bullshit Machine is cranked up to full speed, enough propaganda will be catapulted to reassure the righties. But I think Bush has finally painted himself into a corner, and all the photo ops and banners and talking points in the world won't get him out of it. To get out of this mess he's going to have to do something substantive.  And I don't think he's got it in him.
From Liberal Oasis "...despite the overly-hyped falling of Saddam’s statute, the capture of Saddam, the purple finger moment, etc. – patience for a ill-defined mission is wearing thin."
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the same poll measured a decline in approval ratings for Democrats, also. These are the rewards for being the "me, too!" party. Washington Dems supported Bush's war for fear of being "soft on terrorism." And where did it get them? Swift-boated down the river, that's where. Gary Hart writes in today's Washington Post:
Like the cat that jumped on a hot stove and thereafter wouldn't jump on any stove, hot or cold, today's Democratic leaders didn't want to make that mistake again. Many supported the Iraq war resolution and -- as the Big Muddy is rising yet again -- now find themselves tongue-tied or trying to trump a war president by calling for deployment of more troops. Thus does good money follow bad and bad politics get even worse.
I think the base of the Democratic party has come to the conclusion that one of the reasons Democrats have been successfully tagged as being soft on terrorism, crime, national security what have you, is because of the way we appear to the American people when we allow the other side to bash, swift-boat and deride with impugnity. And they have concluded that one way to show that we are not in fact a party of wimps and sissies is to call out the Republicans.
I'm not sure if any of the beltway insiders could carry this off, however. Too much water under the bridge, or brown on the nose, or whatever.
Also: Read Billmon.

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2:28 pm | link

tuesday, august 23, 2005

Down the Rabbit Hole
Speaking of Iraqi sovereignty, Billmon writes,

At this point, the American team in Baghdad isn't even pretending its just observing (or, at most, facilitating) of a authentically Iraqi process. They're leaving that nonsense to Condi Rice. But whatever is being gained in terms of negotiating "progress" by browbeating the Iraqis is being paid for with a massive loss of legitimacy. This one brief passage from the Washington Post kind of illustrates everything problematic about such a neocolonial exercise:

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad shuttled among Iraqi leaders, pushing late Monday for the inclusion of Sunnis in talks, negotiators said. U.S. Embassy staff members worked from a Kurdish party headquarters to help type up the draft and translate changes from English to Arabic for Iraqi lawmakers, negotiators said. (emphasis added.)

So the constitution of Iraq -- a country that is, after all, about 80% Arab -- is being written in English and then translated back into Arabic by American diplomats working out of the headquarters of a Kurdish political party. This is as if the constitutional debates in Philadelphia in 1787 had been conducted in French, while the French ambassador dictated the actual wording of the text to James Madison, who translated it back into English.

Imagine trying to defend that in the Federalist Papers.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch--Eugene Robinson writes in today's WaPo:
Hagel has put the [Vietnam] Analogy in play, and that's nothing but bad news for George W. Bush and his policy in Iraq.

Which is a good thing, since the president's policy amounts to the belief that if he concentrates really hard -- and stays in shape by regularly doing the Tour de Crawford on his mountain bike -- he'll be able to summon a miracle.

This all makes more sense if you regard the federal government as a dysfunctional family, most of which plays the part of George Bush's enablers.
PRESIDENT BUSH'S SUNNY DECLARATION on Monday that Baghdad's leaders were "defying the terrorists and pessimists by completing work on a democratic constitution" was unfortunate not only for its timing but for its willfulness. Just hours after Bush's speech, Iraqi leaders announced (again) that they were unable to agree on a draft constitution. Just as disturbing, however, is the continuing disconnect between the president's perspective and Iraq's reality.

In his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush again conflated Al Qaeda and Iraq, neglecting to note that Al Qaeda put down roots in Iraq only after the invasion or that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 or Osama bin Laden. His description of Iraq's constitutional negotiations — "a difficult process that involves debate and compromise" — understates the depth of animosity in Iraq. On Monday, representatives submitted an incomplete draft to the National Assembly because of continued disagreement on basic issues such as the strength of a central government and the role of Islam. ...

... Wishful thinking and stubborn optimism do not constitute a policy. The sooner realism prevails, complete with metrics for progress and consequences for those who fail to meet them, the better.

I have no way to know for certain, of course, but my hunch is that Bush (a) genuinely believes his Iraq policy is a success, and (b) genuinely believes he has an Iraq policy. And his courtiers scramble to make it so.    

Very nice pro-evolution op ed in today's New York Times.

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7:50 am | link

monday, august 22, 2005

What's New?
I take it nothing earth-shattering happened last week. As far as I can tell, the only significant development is the (very slow) realization, dawning in a few rightie minds, that Iraq could become an Islamic theocracy.
This post by rightie blogger Professor Bainbridge presents the same arguments against the war that we liberals were making before it happened.
... if Iraq's alleged WMD programs were the casus belli, why aren't we at war with Iran and North Korea? Not to mention Pakistan, which remains the odds-on favorite to supply the Islamofascists with a working nuke. If Saddam's cruelty to his own people was the casus belli, why aren't we taking out Kim Jong Il or any number of other nasty dictators? Indeed, what happened to the W of 2000, who correctly proclaimed nation building a failed cause and an inappropriate use of American military might? ...
...The trouble with Bush's justification for the war is that it uses American troops as fly paper. Send US troops over to Iraq, where they'll attract all the terrorists, who otherwise would have come here, and whom we'll then kill. This theory has proven fallacious. ...

...the fly paper strategy seems to be radicalizing our foes even more. For every fly that gets caught, it seems as though 10 more spring up....

...While we remain bogged down in Iraq, of course, Osama bin Laden remains at large somewhere. Multi-tasking is all the rage these days, but whatever happened to finishing a job you started? It strikes me that catching Osama would have done a lot more to discourage the jihadists than anything we've done in Iraq.

Deja vu, anyone?

In another line, though, the Professor reveals he still has some blind spots:

... why are we apparently going to allow the Islamists to write a more significant role for Islamic law into the new Iraqi constitution?

Iraq is a sovereign country, is it not? I've argued with many a rightie that the U.S. is still controlling, or trying to control, the Iraqi government. Righties pooh-pooh this. Yet with their next breath they reveal they expect the U.S. to control Iraq.
This takes us to the rightie definition for freedom. To a liberal, political freedom is all about self-determination, personal autonomy, and free will. To a rightie, freedom is a code word for conforming to rightie standards.
But the Iraqis are determined to be Iraqis, not Little Americans. Dan Froomkin:
Newsweek's Howard Fineman tells NBC's Matt Lauer this morning that too much role for Islam in the Iraqi constitution would be "dangerous for the president politically . . . because his core support in the Republican party are religious conservatives, Christian activists, and I'm told that some leading Christian leaders here in the United States have told the administration . . . that if the constitution ends up being one that enshrines Islamic law, and lessens the possibility of religious freedom in Iraq, that American religious conservatives are going to be very upset with this president."
Freeper heads are exploding. "We'd be better off with Sadam if this is the ultimate result." Bleeping Saddam lovers.


Last week in the UK the shooting by police of Jean Charles de Menezes was still the top story. It is still not clear how it was that Mr. Menezes was mistaken for a terrorist. Leaked documents contradict the initial police version. There is concern Scotland Yard attempted a coverup.
Other top stories included the British Airways and sympathy strikes and results of the A-level exams.

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12:42 pm | link

Daliwch ati!
I'm back! I had a lovely time. And I heard very little U.S. news all last week, which means I may have some catching up to do before I jump into regular blogging.
Truly, the only U.S. news I have heard in the past few days is that Merck lost a Vioxx lawsuit in Texas, inspiring many Brits to jump on the litigation bandwagon themselves. And Tiger Woods was playing golf somewhere. That's it.
The photo above was taken at one of the most "Welshy" places on the planet. Harlech Castle was built by King Edward I in the 1280s as part of his campaign to subjugate the Welsh. The castle is revered in Wales as the site of the last stand of Owen Glendower (a.k.a. Owain Glyndwr or Owen Glyn Dŵr) in 1409. (Glyndwr and his followers had rebelled against the English and for a brief time had liberated all of Wales. 'Twould make a great epic movie.) Sixty years later, during the War of the Roses, Harlech was the last Royalist stonghold to fall to the Yorkists.
The castle was built on a rocky promontory overlooking the Atlantic. This promontory is mentioned in The Mabinogion as the site of the court of  Bendigeidfran, also called Bran, a giant and/or god who ruled Wales and England in ancient times before the land had been divided into Wales and England. (See especially "Branwen, Daughter of Llyr.")
The view from the top of the castle towers is truly stunning--an ocean framed by heather-covered mountains. The photograph doesn't do it justice.
The Welsh flag, bearing the standard of the red dragon, was the only flag flying over the castle when I was there. I saw hundreds of dragon flags in Wales, but only one Union Jack, and that was flying over a courthouse.

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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

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September 15, 2004, 90.1 FM.



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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


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."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

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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