Mistakes Have Been Made

OK, I’ll live blog the damnfool speech. You’d better appreciate this.

He’s calling the maneuver a “new strategy.” The violence of Iraq overwhelmed the political games. He’s talking about a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today. This is unacceptable.

“Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.” That’s supposed to be the money quote. “Where mistakes have been made” seems a bit weaselly to me.

Holy shit, he mentioned September 11. Stopit stopit stopit!!!

He’s saying that the Iraqis have a new plan — it’s not even our bleeping plan — and he’s claiming that experts (e.g., Barney and the White House goldfish) have reviewed the plan and say it will work. So it’s really the Iraqi plan, not our plan, and we’re just sending five brigades to be embedded in Iraqi units to help Iraiqis clear and support neighborhoods.

This time we’ll have the force levels we need to hold areas cleared of insurgents. No more whack-a-mole. Malaki has pledged sectarian violence will not be tolerated. Well, I feel better.

If the Iraq government doesn’t follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people. He really said that. I think Laura needs to sit him down for a long talk.

He’s wooden. No passion in this speech. He sounds as if he’s announcing the opening of a new supermarket.

He mentioned the Iraq Study Group, as if he’s really paying attention to it.

No one in America is still listening to this. Blah Blah Blah. There’s an episode from Season One of Rome on HBO I’m missing for this.

Our commanders believe we have an opportunity in Anbar Province to strike insurgents, or terrorists, or somebody.

OK, he’s mentioned Iran and Syria. Hmm.

Monotone droning. This is not a good performance. He’s not saying shit he hasn’t already said, so content is not particularly newsworthy.

“There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.” So if we arrange one, will he go away?

On HBO, right now Julius Caesar is chasing Pompey Magnus around Greece. They had real wars in those days, buckaroos.

Oh, gawd, this is a bad speech. Booooring. Same old, same old.

It’s over. Deep breath.

He’s the postgame wrapup. Keith Olbermann says Bush mentioned Lieberman, which must have been while I was flipping to HBO. He also used the word “sacrifice” at some point, as British newspapers had predicted.

Here’s Dick Durbin, Senator from Illinois. Bush is ignoring the advice of his own generals. 20,000 too few to end the civil war, and to many to risk. We have paid a heavy price. We’ve given Iraq a lot, he says. Now in the fourth year of this war, it is time for Iraqis to stand and defend their own nation. They must know that every time they dial 911, we’re not going to send more soldiers. It’s time to begin the orderly redeployment of our troops.

Questions: Durbin used the word civil war with the president, he said.

Chris Matthews’s interpretation is that Bush is calling for a broadening of the war vis à vis Iran and Syria. I want to get a transcript and re-read that part.

Joe Scarborough says most of the Republicans will come back to support the President after the speech after his “clear and sober assessment” of the way forward. Those people are bought cheap.

Barack Obama speaks: The American people and troops have done everything asked of them. An additional 20,000 troops will not help. Obama says he will “actively oppose the president’s proposal.” We should engage in a dialogue with Iran and Syria. The President is saying the same stuff he’s been saying.

Prelude to the Speech

I guess I’ll watch the speech so you don’t have to.

I’m hearing noises from the cable news bobbleheads that Republican support for the escalation is weak and crumbling. I can’t tell from current news stories how widespread the Republican insurgency might be. If a substantial number of congressional Republicans fall away, and vote no even on a non-binding resolution, this could pave the way for bigger and better things in the future — like a binding vote to de-fund the war. And how’s about impeachment?

Jonathan Turley on Countdown — The president can only spend funds that are given to him by Congress, he says. Go back to the Mexican War to see conditions put on funds. Congress prevented the U.S. to go into Angola and to get out of Somalia. The framers of the Constitution deliberately divided the war powers between Congress and the President. They wanted these two branches to negotiate and cooperate on decisions to go to war.

Non-binding resolutions are the same thing as doing nothing at all Turley says. But Congress can stipulate that no money in an Iraq appropriation bill might be used in a surge. If Dubya tries a signing statement countermanding the clear will of Congress on an appropriations bill, it would be nothing short of theft.

At the Washington Post, Dan Froomkin says the escalation is a change of tactic, not strategy.

Peter W Galbraith explains why the surge won’t work.


I started out to write a letter to the editor, and (you know me!) went on way too long. But here’s a first draft, submitted for your correction and comments. I’ll do a podcast version and maybe tidy it up and whittle it down for the newspaper letter editors later this afternoon.

As I write this, Congress is debating the President’s proposed troop escalation. And pundits are debating whether attempting to stop escalation is politically smart. But there are larger issues here than politics or even the war itself. The debate over escalation in Iraq is also a debate over the integrity of our Constitution and the system of government that has sustained this nation for 218 years.

Even a sloppy reading of American history should tell us that the Founding Fathers never intended one man, even one with a title so lofty as Commander-in-Chief, to have the power to deploy the military any way he wants for as long as he wants at his own discretion.

History had provided many examples of one man with control of an army seizing dictatorial powers. For this reason, the authors of the Constitution divided authority over war and the military between Congress and the President. Consider that an early draft of Section 8 gave Congress the authority “to make war,” not just to declare war. The change was made to allow the President some leeway to act quickly without congressional debate when enemy troops are landing on our shores. It was not intended to strip Congress of all but a ceremonial role in approving the President’s war plans.

Most of the authors of the Constitution were loathe even to maintain a standing army. For that reason, the Founding Fathers decided to keep only a minimal federal force and primarily rely on state militias for the nation’s defense (Article I, Section 8, clauses 15 and 16). The militias were to be under the command of the several state governors until called into federal service (with a governor’s permission) by Congress and the President, which further divided control of the military between the state and federal governments.

The original militia system proved inadequate for the nation’s defense, and in the 20th century the state militias became today’s National Guard. But the National Guard was never intended to be the President’s personal plaything, and the citizen soldiers of the Guard cannot – must not — be kept in a foreign war merely at the President’s pleasure.

It was not until the Cold War that the United States chose to maintain a formidable federal military at all times, war or no. Our military might requires more, not less, vigilance that the nation’s war powers not fall into the hands of just one man.

President George W. Bush has embraced a controversial theory called the “unitary executive” to justify his increasingly autocratic powers. In issues from warrantless surveillance to stripping a citizen of the right of habeas corpus at his discretion, President Bush has pushed the powers of the presidency far beyond what any President has assumed before. And this includes wartime presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.

President Bush justifies these powers by evoking the threat of terrorism. I was in lower Manhattan on September 11, and I have seen the worst that terrorism can do with my own eyes. I know that terrorism destroys precious lives, landmarks, and vital infrastructure.

But terrorists cannot destroy the United States. Terrorists cannot occupy our territory and force us to abandon our political institutions to despotism. Only we can do that.

Today many television and newspaper pundits warn our senators and representatives that trying to stop the escalation is politically risky. Why stopping the unpopular acts of an unpopular President should be politically risky isn’t clear to me, but we are told it is. Today the men and women we elected to represent us struggle to find the courage to enact the will of We, the People. Instead, they tiptoe about in fear of the White House and will not use the power the Constitution gives them. The system of checks and balances has withered away, and a single secretive, autocratic man who has shown us little else but bumbling incompetence and moral cowardice for the past six years rules the nation like Caesar. How did we come to this?

I ask our senators and congresspersons to please look beyond their personal ambitions and whatever heat they might take from the President’s apologists. Instead, please think of the nation. Think of the soldiers whose lives are forfeit to President Bush’s stubborn refusal to face reality. And think of preserving the Constitution and the integrity of the separation of powers for generations to come.

Buckpassing Already?

Looks like the President is in pre-emptive butt-covering mode. Just posted on the New York Times site — John O’Neil writes,

President Bush will announce tonight that the additional American troops he plans to sent to Baghdad will act only in support of Iraqi forces, and that they are being sent only because the Iraqi government has promised a “fundamental” change in policy, a top White House official said this morning.

Dan Bartlett, the White House counselor, said that as a “precondition” for the increase in American forces, the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has agreed to assign more Iraqi troops to the capital and to remove restrictions on their operations that had protected Shiite militias tied to his political allies.

“President Bush would not commit one additional troop to Baghdad if it weren’t based upon a new strategy,” Mr. Bartlett said on Fox News this morning.

Translation: If the pooch gets screwed, it’s Maliki’s fault.

In an interview with an Arab television station on Tuesday, Mr. Maliki gave a different picture of the agreement reached with Mr. Bush on the new strategy during a two-hour videoconference last week.

He said that Mr. Bush would announce measures “to speed up the building and arming of Iraqi forces, increasing Baghad’s security in order to stabilize it and supporting the government in the economic field,” according to The Associated Press.

Mr. Maliki said that Mr. Bush “wanted to express his continued commitment to support” his government.

Maliki and Bush — perfect together. Someday they should share a cell.