A couple of significant stories from Knight Ridder — Ron Hutcheson reports that the Bush Administration is sending mixed messages on Iraq.
Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that conditions in Iraq were improving steadily, but the American ambassador in Baghdad has said the U.S. invasion opened a “Pandora’s box” of ethnic and religious violence that could inflame the entire Middle East.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Tuesday that the “potential is there” for a full-scale civil war in Iraq. Khalilzad, a highly regarded diplomat, warned that a victory by Islamic extremists “would make the Taliban in Afghanistan look like child’s play.”
The conflicting themes – Cheney emphasizing progress, Khalilzad stressing the difficulties and dangers – highlight the Bush administration’s struggle over how to deal with bad news from Iraq. Striking the right balance between optimism and realism could be crucial as Republicans head into the November elections with their control of Congress on the line.
Striking a balance, my ass. Cheney is delusional. Awhile back I stumbled on this paper about delusional thinking —
The DSM-IV defines delusions as “erroneous beliefs that usually involve a misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences.” Delusions may be bizarre, that is, “clearly implausible, not understandable, and not derived from ordinary life experiences” or nonbizarre, that is, involving “situations that can conceivably occur in real life.” …
… One common misconception about delusions–reflected in the DSM-IV definition–is that the thinking processes of delusional individuals are defective, or different from those of normal people. In fact, research suggests that delusional people use the same rules of reasoning as everyone else. Indeed, once a normal individual forms a belief, he or she is also reluctant to change it, and will actively seek out confirmatory evidence (“confirmation bias”) and ignore contradictory evidence.
Delusional people can appear to be completely normal and rational. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to diagnose delusion because the doctor doesn’t have any way to know that what the patient believes to be true isn’t true. The delusions may be obviously delusional or may seem entirely plausible. In general, delusional people don’t have visual or auditory hallucinations the way schizophrenics do. More commonly, they become fixated on some false belief and will look obsessively for evidence to confirm the belief. For example, a delusional vice president fixated on a belief that Saddam Hussein is plotting to destroy America might rattle cages all over Washington for evidence to back up the belief, ignoring whatever doesn’t back it up. Hypothetically.
In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Cheney said that as Iraqi security forces grow and the political process advances, “we’ll be able to decrease troop levels.”
U.S. intelligence officials, who agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because intelligence on Iraq is classified, said the broad consensus in the intelligence community was that while violence had subsided somewhat since the bombing of a major Shiite shrine last month in Samarra, a few more major incidents could plunge the country into full-scale civil war.
Cheney is nuttier than a pecan farm, I tell you.
The other story at Knight Ridder, by James Kuhnhenn, says that Senate Republicans today blocked an investigation into the NSA Spy program.
Senate Republicans blocked an investigation into President Bush’s secret domestic spying program on Tuesday, but agreed to expand congressional oversight of the surveillance system in the future.
At the same time, a group of four Senate Republicans began circulating legislation that would restrict the administration’s ability to eavesdrop on U.S. residents without court approval.
The legislation would require the administration to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on U.S. residents unless the attorney general certified to House and Senate intelligence subcommittees that seeking court approval would hurt intelligence gathering.
The legislation was sponsored by Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Olympia Snowe of Maine, all Republicans.
The legislation emerged as the Senate Intelligence Committee voted behind closed doors to block a Democratic demand for a full investigation into the program. The surveillance, which is carried out by the National Security Agency, tracks communications between al-Qaida suspects overseas and U.S. residents, according to the administration.
Right now I’m a little too tired to wrap my head around this, but it seems significant.