No Escalation

There’s buzz building about a speech by Senator Ted Kennedy at the National Press Conference Club this morning. The Senator is sponsoring a bill requiring congressional approval of Bush’s planned escalation in Iraq.

Eventually I hope to post a YouTube video of the speech. Raw Story has a transcript.

In a conference call to bloggers, the Senator reminded us that the resolution of October 2002 that authorized use of force in Iraq was predicated on three assumptions: (1) That Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction; (2) that Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship with al Qaeda; and (3) that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions. Well, the first two turned out to be false, and the third is now moot. President Bush cannot assume to continue military action in Iraq without further authorization.

But time is critical. If Congress doesn’t speak right now, Bush could have more troops on their way to Iraq the day after tomorrow. And then Congress would be put on the spot to refuse appropriations for actions already taken and troops already deployed.

The idea that Congress doesn’t have the authority to limit Bush’s actions is refuted by history. The Center for American Progress has a list of caps and limitations imposed by Congress in military adventures past.

Robert Greenwald forwarded this email from the Senator and asked it be disseminated:

Thank you so much for your concern and involvement on the issue of Iraq. I deeply believe that Iraq is the defining issue of our time. I am proud to have voted against the authorization for war in 2002, but the issue now is what we do going forward. Tomorrow night, President Bush is going to outline for the nation his “way forward” in Iraq. And from all reports, his way forward involves escalating American involvement by sending up to 20,000 more soldiers and Marines to fight in the middle of what has become a civil war. Every American, no matter what their political stripe, knows that the current strategy isn’t working and that we need a better way forward. I believe that President Bush’s plan is the wrong way forward. It’s just stay the course under a different name, and I strongly oppose it.

Today, I will introduce legislation that requires Congress to vote before the President escalates troop levels in Iraq. My legislation will provide that not one additional soldier can be sent and not one additional dollar can be expended until Congress debates and approves the President’s proposed escalation of American forces in Iraq. If the election in November was about anything, it was about accountability and the need for a changed policy in Iraq. Most Americans oppose this war, and an even more oppose sending more troops to Iraq. The American people deserve to be heard before we appropriate additional funds for additional troops in Iraq. In October 2002, Congress authorized (1) a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein because (2) he was believed to have weapons of mass destruction and (3) an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, and (4) because he was in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution. Today, Saddam Hussein is dead and we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction or operational relationships with Al Qaeda and there is a new, elected government in Iraq that is not in defiance of a Security Council Resolution. No one can dispute that the mission of our armed forces today in Iraq no longer bears any resemblance to the mission authorized by Congress.

Instead of continued mistakes and shoot-from-the-hip policies, it’s time to get this right. The President must make clear the mission of our troops and lay out a path to bring them home, and Congress must stop being a rubberstamp for failed policies and stand up and act.

We know from history that an escalation of troops into a civil war won’t work. Our leaders tried it in Vietnam, and each surge of force lead to the next. It escalated the war, instead of ending it. Like Vietnam, there is no military solution to Iraq, only political. It seems that the President is almost the last person in America to understand that.

An escalation of American forces would only compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq. A military escalation in Iraq will not strengthen our national security; rather, it would further weaken it by enabling the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future. And an escalation will not lead us to victory. American troops can’t force the Iraqis reconcile their internal differences.

Our service men and women in Iraq have served with distinction and valor. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do, and they’ve done it well. More than 3,000 of our best and our brightest have been killed in Iraq and more than 22,000 more have being wounded, many of them seriously. Our troops deserve a policy worthy of their sacrifice and their bravery, and I will continue to fight until we have one.

I urge every American to ensure their voice is heard in this critical decision. When the President speaks tomorrow night, he must be reminded that accountability and responsibility are no longer extinct in Washington ? they are alive and well.

Thank you, Robert, for always being involved in what Olive Wendell Holmes called the passion and action of our time. You continue to make an enormous difference. All the best,

Ted Kennedy

So, right now, contact your congressperson. Contact your senators. Write letters to newspapers. Do whatever you can to show support for Congress to stop more useless slaughter.

Update: Gallup Poll says the public opposes troop escalation by 61% to 36%.

Getting Colder

Following up the last post — Just to show How Far the Righty Have Fallen — rightie bloggers are whoopin’ and high-fivin’ it up over the missile strike in Somalia. For example, Curt at Flopping Aces celebrates payback for the U.S. troops killed in the 1993 “Blackhawk Down” firefight in Mogadishu. “God knows we would never get it when Clinton was in office,” he says.

I assume the Bush Administration plans a retaliation for the U.S.S. Cole bombing of 2000 sometime in 2013. I guess we’re taking the old saying “revenge is a dish best served cold” literally.

The Pentagon says the recent attack was not about what happened in 1993. However, one of their justifications for blitzing the Islamists involved the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al Qaeda in 1998. Suspected perpetrators of those acts of terrorism are being harbored by the ICU, the Pentagon said.

In 1998 the Clinton Administration waited only 13 days after the embassy bombings, not 13 years, to launch cruise missiles that struck an al Qaeda training complex in Afghanistan and destroyed a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in the Sudan that allegedly produced nerve gas. You might remember that subsequent news stories said the facility in Sudan was a legitimate pharmaceutical plant and that the missile attack killed an innocent night watchman. Republicans verbally bludgeoned President Clinton about the dead night watchman and the “aspirin factory” for, well, a long time. I think they’re still at it.

Still, you’d think that they would have approved striking and destroying an al Qaeda training facility in Afghanistan. Guess again; grief for that dear, innocent night watchman far overwhelmed any concern for national security. Ol’ blood ‘n’ guts himself, Christopher Hitchens, sniffed:

Well then, what was the hurry? A hurry that was panicky enough for the president and his advisors to pick the wrong objective and then, stained with embarrassment and retraction, to refuse the open inquiry that could have settled the question in the first place? There is really only one possible answer to that question. Clinton needed to look “presidential” for a day. He may even have needed a vacation from his family vacation. In any event, he acted with caprice and brutality and with a complete disregard for international law, and perhaps counted on the indifference of the press and public to a negligible society like that of Sudan, and killed wogs to save his own lousy Hyde (to say nothing of our new moral tutor, the ridiculous sermonizer Lieberman). No bipartisan contrition is likely to be offered to the starving Sudanese: unmentioned on the “prayer-breakfast” circuit.

After 9/11, of course, the rightie tune was that Clinton should have acted quicker and bombed the Afghanistan facility while Osama bin Laden was still there. The attack missed him by hours.

Regarding the pharma plant, though I understand the CIA and some former Clinton Administration officials still stand by the nerve gas claim, consensus leans on the aspirin factory side of the story. Even so, going by this Wikipedia article, the Clinton Administration was a lot more successful at capturing, prosecuting, and convicting the perpetrators of the embassy bombings than the Bush Administration has been concerning those responsible for 9/11.

However, as this blogger points out, righties since then have become considerably more sanguine about the slaughter of civilians, including children, in the name of fighting terrorism. Yep, after the attacks on 9/11 the righties shed their tender sensibilities rather abruptly, and they flipflopped from complaining that Clinton had done too much to claiming he hadn’t done enough.

The missile story also reminded me of this famous exchange between Senator Bob Kerrey and National Security Adviser Condi Rice from the 9/11 commission hearings:

KERREY: You’ve used the phrase a number of times, and I’m hoping with my question to disabuse you of using it in the future.

You said the president was tired of swatting flies.

Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to al-Qaida prior to 9-11?

RICE: I think what the president was speaking to was …

KERREY: No, no. What fly had he swatted?

RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on …

KERREY: No, no …

RICE: … when the CIA would go after Abu Zubaydah …

KERREY: He hadn’t swatted …

RICE: … or go after this guy …

KERREY: Dr. Rice, we didn’t …

RICE: That was what was meant.

KERREY: We only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August 1998. We didn’t swat any flies afterwards. How the hell could he be tired?

RICE: We swatted at — I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that’s what he meant by swatting flies. It was simply a figure of speech.

KERREY: Well, I think it’s an unfortunate figure of speech because I think, especially after the attack on the Cole on the 12th of October, 2000, it would not have been swatting a fly. It would not have been — we did not need to wait to get a strategic plan.

Dick Clarke had in his memo on the 20th of January overt military operations. He turned that memo around in 24 hours, Dr. Clarke. There were a lot of plans in place in the Clinton administration — military plans in the Clinton administration.

In fact, since we’re in the mood to declassify stuff, there was — he included in his January 25th memo two appendices — Appendix A: Strategy for the elimination of the jihadist threat of al-Qaida; Appendix B: Political military plan for al-Qaida.

So I just — why didn’t we respond to the Cole?

RICE: Well, we …

KERREY: Why didn’t we swat that fly?

Ahh, those were the days. There’s more amusing nostalgia in the linked old post. Are the righties now reduced to cheering the swatting of flies? To be fair, Pajamas Media reports the U.S. has “boots on the ground” in Somalia, but so far I haven’t picked up this information in other news stories.

In January 1998, the neocons at PNAC sent a letter to President Clinton advising him that “regime change” in Iraq should be the aim of U.S. policy in the Middle East. A look at PNAC’s archives for 1997-2000 reveals the pnac’ers were obsessed with Saddam Hussein. But they seem not to have noticed Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda at all, unless I’m missing something. Even memorandums written within days of the embassy bombings are about Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. And these are the same geniuses pushing Bush into an escalation in Iraq now. If neocon policies don’t touch off a pancontinental war across the Middle East and much of Africa it will be a miracle.

Another Mission Accomplished

The Pentagon said yesterday that the U.S. had attacked suspected al Qaeda targets in southern Somalia. CNN reports:

The operation was launched based on intelligence that al Qaeda operatives were at the location, but there was no immediate indication of how successful the strike had been.

The official said the al Qaeda operatives had fled south late last month from Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, after Ethiopian-backed Somali troops forced out Islamist militants who had taken over much of southern Somalia. (Watch CNN’s Barbara Starr report on al Qaeda in Somalia.)

He did not identify the operatives, but U.S. officials accused the Islamic Courts Union of harboring suspects in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

As this BBC timeline explains, the Ethiopian-backed Somalian government, which has been battling to take Somalia back from Islamists for awhile, captured Mogadishu right after Christmas and seized the port of Kismayo — “the last remaining stronghold” of the Islamists — on January 1. The BBC explains that now the United States is attacking Islamist fighters to keep them from regrouping and fomenting guerrilla war, which might make Somalia start to look a whole lot like Iraq.

As Andrew Cawthorne of Reuters reported after the fall of Kismayo on January 1,

“Washington encouraged Addis Ababa [Ethiopia] to go ahead. They provided the same sort of diplomatic cover they did for Israel going into Lebanon last summer, and for similar reasons — to keep a foothold in the region,” said analyst Michael Weinstein.

“Ordinary Americans are fed up with foreign interventions. So what’s happened in Somalia is now going to be a preferred strategy — using allies in the region as their catapult,” said Weinstein, a politics professor at Indiana’s Purdue University.

Western military sources say the United States gave Ethiopia intelligence and surveillance help to accelerate its victory.

Both Washington and Addis Ababa had portrayed the Islamists as linked to and even run by al Qaeda, putting Somalia firmly on the map of the U.S.-led global “war on terror”.

Yet President George W. Bush, haunted by such moments as his premature declaration of victory in Iraq in 2003, and his Africa policy-makers are unlikely to be crowing victory quickly.

Some analysts predict the Islamists, who fled rather than take heavy casualties, could regroup and fight an Iraq-style insurgency from remote corners of Somalia, or carry out bomb attacks elsewhere in east Africa.

“The parallels with Iraq are unsettling,” said Nairobi-based Somalia expert Matt Bryden.

There is no guarantee of peace and harmony in Somalia now that six months of Islamist sharia rule are over.

Indeed, the rapid return of warlords to Mogadishu shows how easily it could slide back into the anarchy and chaos it has suffered since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

“The Americans have learned enough in Somalia not to run up a ‘mission accomplished’ banner,” Bryden said.

Au contraire. Vance Serchuk The Weekly Standard seems to be waving a “mission accomplished” banner rather proudly in the current issue (January 15):

After holding Mogadishu for six months, Somalia’s Islamists have been swept from power, ousted in a blitzkrieg attack by the Ethiopian military. The nature of the emerging political order in Somalia remains profoundly uncertain, with the retreating Islamists threatening to wage an Iraq-style insurgency, and the internationally recognized Somali government facing doubts about its popular legitimacy, internal cohesion, and ability to ensure even basic security. Still, the battlefield gains of the past two weeks have created a rare window of opportunity in this long-suffering corner of the Horn of Africa, as well as in the broader war on terror.

The rout of the Islamists also represents a surprising success for the Bush administration, whose Somalia policy seemed hopelessly mired in interagency acrimony just a few months ago. Following the defeat of a coalition of CIA-backed “secular” warlords by the Islamists earlier this year, angry accusations flew from the State Department about Langley’s botched efforts, which seemed to have helped consolidate the very threat they were intended to preempt.

Yet ultimately, it was the behavior of the Islamists themselves, once established in power, that spurred key officials at Foggy Bottom to embrace a new, more aggressive set of policies. Prisoners to their ideology, the hardliners in Mogadishu failed to take the pragmatic steps that could have led to a rapprochement with the United States and allowed them to outflank the hapless “official” Somali government. Instead, the Islamists continued to shelter several known al Qaeda operatives, while welcoming other foreign jihadists into their ranks.

If only those awful hardliners had taken those pragmatic steps … but at The Agonist, Ian Welsh puts a different spin on pragmatism:

See, here’s the thing. The US, again, refused to talk directly to the ICU [Islamic Courts Union]. The ICU, like Hezbollah, wanted, needed, recognition (even more than Hezbollah). A deal could have been made. But it wasn’t. Instead what the US has done is back a foreign invasion in support of a puppet government with no popular support. …

…To summarize: the US has backed letting the warlords get back to their business of murder, extortion and rape. I’m sure the Somali people appreciate that.

Perhaps you see the problem.

Anyway, Jonathan Clayton of the Times (UK) writes that Somalia could start looking a whole lot like Iraq anyway.

The United States’ decision to bomb Islamists holed up in a corner of Somalia near the border with Kenya is a high-risk tactic which could ignite an Iraqi-style insurgency across a swathe of East Africa, analysts and regional experts say.

Buoyed by the success that its allies — Ethiopia and the UN-backed transitional Government — have had in driving the Islamists out of the capital in recent weeks, Washington clearly feels that it has an opportunity to wipe out what it sees as a persistent threat to Western interests in the region. The Americans have gone for the jugular.

The danger is that the high loss of life reported and the likelihood that many non-al Qaeda sympathisers have been killed, including more moderate leaders of the defeated Union of Islamic Courts, could see the operation backfire spectacularly and unite Somalis against its new US-supported government.

“The US has sided with one Somali faction against another, this could be the beginning of a new civil war … I fear once again they have gone for a quick fix based on false information. If they pull it off, however, it could be a turning point. The stakes are very high indeed, now,” said one highly respected regional analyst, recalling the futile US role in the hunt in the early 1990s for one Somali warlord which resulted in the Black Hawk Down incident when 18 US special forces troops were killed.

It may take some time to sort out the facts, but today’s news stories contain a number of claims of many civilian casualties as a result of the U.S. attacks, plus indications that Somalians are pissed off. Ethiopia and Somalia have a history, as they say, plus Ethiopia has a large Christian population, and Somali Muslims were not thrilled by the presence of Ethiopian troops in their country. Add civilian casualties from a U.S. raid, and insurrection easily could follow. Voilà — the mission is un-accomplished.