Saturday, January 13, 2007
... doesn’t mean people aren’t speaking.
From Bush’s defensive radio address this morning:
Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.
All righty, then. I’ll play. Off the top of my head, here are just two examples of what "proposing nothing" looks like, starting with: John Murtha’s plan:
- To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
- To create a quick reaction force in the region.
- To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
- To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.
Then there’s the Iraq Study Group report, first commissioned by the president, then ignored by the president, then the choice to actively pursue the precisely opposite suggestions is made ... by the president:
Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.
...Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively.
... The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.... The United States must not make an openended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.
Now we can collectively play with Google all the live-long day to find a couple hundred non-bone-headed alternatives to Bush’s troop escalation and "scare the living shit out of Iran" strategy. But really, why is the burden on us? Or on Congress? Newly elected Congressional representative Chris Murphy said it best during his campaign last August:
"It is like dropping a raw egg and asking me what my plans are for putting it back together."
This is your omelet, Mr. Bush. Unstuff your ears, do some research on what many, many military experts and Congressional leaders have recommended, and figure out how to re-shell your own damn egg. And quit whining in your radio addresses that other people won’t clean up the mess you and you alone have made of the world.
Environmental activists have long been familiar with the concept of SLAPPs: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Basically, the idea is to hit citizen activists with lawsuits that, even if they have a solid case, would bankrupt them to fight, especially against the deep corporate pockets of the plaintiffs. It's a way of shutting down those annoying citizens who have enough chutzpah to stand up to moneyed interests.
Now it looks like Big Media is about to fight back against citizen bloggers with the same tactic.
No doubt you've read by now of the travails of Spocko, the little blogger down in the Bay Area who >decided to fight back against the hatemongering being spewed over the public airwaves from the Disney-owned AM station KSFO. He did this primarily by posting excerpts of their spew on his blog, and then writing to the shows' sponsors and asking if they wanted to be associated with that kind of "entertainment."
It was working; at least one major account, from Visa, withdrew from sponsoring programs at KSFO. So just before Christmas, Disney attorneys threatened his ISP with a lawsuit, claiming his excerpts violated their copyright.
As Media Matters notes:
- This letter-writing campaign apparently got results, as major advertisers such as MasterCard, Bank of America, and Visa reportedly pulled their ads from the station. But as numerous blogs have noted in recent days, on December 21, ABC Inc., a subsidiary of the Disney-ABC Television Group, apparently issued a cease-and-desist letter targeting Spocko and his blog for copyright violation. Specifically, ABC alleged that by posting brief audio clips of various talk radio hosts on KSFO, the site was "in clear violation" of the station's copyright. The letter demanded that the owner of the site "remove the content immediately." Soon after, according to Spocko, his Internet service provider shut down his blog.
Spocko, fortunately, was able to find another ISP and has his blog back up, though not all the sound files have been restored yet.
Interestingly, Morgan and Co. went back on the air today, claiming that it is they whose free-speech rights are being attacked here:
- "We have been under attack here at KSFO radio," Morgan stated on January 11, in response to the increased coverage of the controversy. "It is something that has been quite disturbing to us at a number of levels but we are prepared to fight back against people who are trying to get us fired here at KSFO radio and who are trying to deprive us of a livelihood and who are trying to deprive us of our free speech rights."
Let's be clear: Getting to use the public airwaves to broadcast your opinions is not a right -- in fact, it's a privilege extended to very few people in this country. The rest of us are relegated to such means of exercising those rights the usual way -- writing letters to the editor, making streetcorner speeches, publishing a blog, whatever.
If Melanie Morgan's sponsors decide they don't want to underwrite her hatemongering, that isn't taking away her rights, only her extraordinary privileges. If she wants to continue speaking, she still can, just as the rest of us do. She could, say, start a blog.
But that, you see, is exactly the kind of speech she and her cohorts are trying to silence.
There are all kinds of free-speech issues at stake here -- but nearly every one of them involves Disney's attempts to quash Spocko's free-speech rights. The excerpts he posted clearly fall under classic "fair use" clauses regarding copyright law. More significantly, the posts represent classic political speech, and as such enjoy the fullest constitutional protection the law affords.
- Declining to offer any specifics, she claimed Spocko had highlighted "these audio clips which are out of context, old, or in some cases just outright lies."
Can someone explain to me how an audio clip could be "an outright lie"? I understand the whole context issue, but if you say something on air, and it's recorded, then it's incontestable that you said it.
- Morgan went on to assert that Spocko "has been joined by some very dangerous and frightening fringe-left groups in this country" and specifically singled out Media Matters. "This is all going through Media Matters," she said.
Morgan further announced that KSFO would be pre-empting its regularly scheduled programming on January 12 to air a live special intended to "hit back against those people who are trying to silence us and take away our free speech rights, get us fired, thrown off the air, because they don't like what we have to say." She explained that she and the other KSFO hosts targeted by Spocko -- Brian Sussman and Morgan's Morning Show co-hosts, Lee Rodgers and Officer Vic -- would host the special program, which she said would last "three hours or however long it takes to answer all the questions." Morgan invited "the public as well as the media as well as bloggers to participate in this."
Morgan's bizarre paranoia no doubt will be onstage for this broadcast. Note what she says about Spocko:
- But he thinks that he is a very powerful individual now, and he's had his stalker friends on the Internet join with him, including a man named by the name of Mike Stark, who actually stalked Senator Allen -- Senator George Allen's campaign. This is all going through Media Matters, being coordinated as a strike against us through Media Matters, and by us I mean Lee Rodgers, I mean myself, I mean Officer Vic, and I mean Brian Sussman. I'm not going to get into any more details about this, other than to say that tomorrow morn -- tomorrow at noon [Pacific time], we're going to do something we have never done before here at KSFO.
Of course, we've witnessed Disney's gradual transformation into a right-wing propaganda organ this past year, embodied by their faux "docudrama" blaming Bill Clinton for Sept. 11 and painting the Bush administration as essentially blameless in the matter -- a film created by a right-woing religious organization. When called on it, the network worked hard to cover its tracks.
It's worth remembering just what it was that Morgan and her fellow KSFO talk jocks said on the air that drew the attention of Spocko and sent her sponsors fleeing. As I noted previously, what they've specialized in is vile eliminationist rhetoric that creates a mindset in which violence against liberals and anyone else they disagree with is acceptable:
- -- Laughing with Coulter about executing New York Times editor Bill Keller.
-- Agreeing with guest Peter Mulhern as he says, "A great deal of good could be done by arresting Bill Keller having him lined up against the wall and shot."
-- Joking with "Officer Vic" as he imitates Keller being electrocuted.
-- Joking about killing a black man after torturing him. (This clip features co-host Lee Rogers talking about shooting a black man between the eyes and torturing him by attaching electrodes to his testicles while Morgan laughs.)
-- At the end of a shared rant describing their utter loathing for all liberals, her co-host, Rogers, warning that "the day will come when unpleasant things are going to happen to a bunch of stupid liberals and it's going to be very amusing to watch."
It's one thing for these things to be spewed on-air with no consequences whatever. Thanks to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, we've grown accustomed to that.
Rhetoric like this is offered as mere "entertainment" and "hyperbole," but it has a much more serious and broader effect. It essentially lodges in the public mind the notion that the solution to their problems is to eliminate liberals violently. It's more than just about encouraging others to act -- when it's broadcast on the public airwaves, it amounts to giving permission for this kind of behavior.
And when a corporate entity seeks, under the color of law, to silence anyone who would stand up against this kind of talk, it amounts to broad, semi-official support for it.
But in Melanie Morgan's own little upside-down Wonderland -- in which she has made herself the Queen, demanding "off with their heads!" -- she is the one being persecuted. And Disney is just her noble protector.
Maybe we bloggers should just stick to singing "It's a Bush Bush World". Or will Disney sue us for that?
TRex at Firedoglake has some suggestions about how you can fight back.
Coming shortly: An interview with Spocko himself.
Friday, January 12, 2007
(DOD) A deliberate or unpremeditated increase in scope or violence of a conflict.
ThinkProgress has argued that media outlets are misleading Americans when they use the term “surge” to describe President Bush’s new Iraq proposal.
As we documented Wednesday, when “surge” was first adopted by the mainstream media in November 2006, the term was specifically defined as a “temporary,” “short-term” increase in U.S. forces. In fact, the most prominent advocates of escalation all reject a short-term increase in U.S. forces, and the Bush administration will not specify the length of the current policy. “I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be,” Defense Secretary Gates said yesterday.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) made headlines last month after complaining about Congress’ new schedule that requires members to work five days a week:
Yet, last night, Kingston offered this advice to Americans living in poverty: work longer hours. During House debate over the minimum wage, Kingston said raising the minimum wage would do nothing for poor Americans. Instead, if people marry and work longer hours, “they would be out of poverty,” he said. “It’s an economic fact.”
“Keeping us up here eats away at families,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families — that’s what this says.”
Kingston is wrong. The annual salary for full-time workers earning the federal minimum wage “still leaves a family of three about $6,000 short of the poverty threshold.”
President Bush's Dog and Pony Show. Promising Escalation That Iraqi's Don't Want.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
The media, in other words, has continued to use the term “surge” even though its definition has fundamentally changed.
The choice of words is not an academic point. A CBS poll released Monday found that only 18 percent of Americans support an escalation of forces in Iraq. However, when asked whether they support a “short-term troop increase,” the number jumps to 45 percent approval (48 percent disapproval).
Every time the media repeats the word “surge,” they are helping to mislead the American people about the long-term escalation being proposed. Reporters and news organizations have a responsibility to stop using the term to describe President Bush’s policy.
‘SURGE’ ORIGINALLY DEFINED AS ‘TEMPORARY,’ ‘SHORT-TERM’ INCREASE IN TROOP LEVELS:
NOVEMBER 20: NEW YORK TIMES REPORTS MCCAIN WANTS ‘SHORT-TERM SURGE’: “In Washington, a leading Republican supporter of the war, Senator John McCain of Arizona, said American troops in Iraq were ‘fighting and dying for a failed policy.’ But Mr. McCain continued to argue vigorously for a short-term surge in American forces, and he gained a vocal ally in Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina…” [New York Times, Brian Knowlton, 11/19/06]
NOVEMBER 20: CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR REPORTS ON ‘TEMPORARY SURGE’: “Speculation over a temporary surge in troops has been fueled in part by sources close to administration deliberations on Iraq strategy.” [Christian Science Monitor, Howard LaFranchi, 11/20/06]
NOVEMBER 20: WASHINGTON POST REPORTS ON ‘SHORT’ ‘TEMPORARY’ TROOP INCREASE: “Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, the officials said. The purpose of the temporary but notable increase, they said, would be twofold…” [Washington Post, Thomas Ricks, 11/20/06]
NOVEMBER 21: NEW YORK TIMES REPORTS SENIOR BUSH OFFICIALS BACK ‘SHORT-TERM’ ‘TEMPORARY’ SURGE: “Pentagon officials conducting a review of Iraq strategy are considering a substantial but temporary increase in American troop levels and the addition of several thousand more trainers to work with Iraqi forces, a senior Defense Department official said Monday. The idea, dubbed the ’surge option’ by some officials, would involve increasing American forces by 20,000 troops or more for several months… ‘There are people who believe that a short-term surge would have a beneficial impact, but there isn’t universal agreement on that yet,’ said the senior official.” [New York Times, David Cloud, 11/21/06]
NOVEMBER 21: NBC NEWS REPORTS ON ‘SHORT-TERM SURGE’ OPTION: Let’s talk a bit about some of the plans that the Pentagon is supposedly considering. First of all, sending 20,000 more troops into Iraq, a short-term surge in an effort to try to stabilize Baghdad. [Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC, 11/21/06]
NOVEMBER 22: FOX NEWS REPORTS ON ‘TEMPORARY’ SURGE: “The new Marine Corps commandant General James Conway…said the idea some people are now suggesting of creating a temporary surge of U.S. forces in Iraq could be accomplished with the current force of about 180,000 Marines, but would have an undesirable impact later on.” [Brit Hume, Fox News, 11/22/06, available on Lexis]
NOVEMBER 22: ABC NEWS REPORTS ON ‘TEMPORARY’ SURGE: “A temporary increase in US force levels in Iraq. And what General Conway said is that the Marine Corps could facilitate a temporary surge of no more than 60 days, really. He said that’s about the limit.” [ABC News, Jonathan Karl, 11/22/06, available on Lexis]
IN FACT, WHITE HOUSE IS PLANNING LONG-TERM ESCALATION OF U.S. FORCES:
TIME REPORTS BUSH PLANNING ESCALATION FOR ‘UP TO TWO YEARS’: “Sometime next week the President is expected to propose a surge in the number of U.S. forces in Iraq for a period of up to two years.” [Time, 1/4/07]
DECEMBER 27: ARCHITECTS OF THE ESCALATION PLAN ADMIT IT WILL NOT BE SHORT-TERM: In a joint Washington Post op-ed, retired Gen. Jack Keane and right-wing scholar Fred Kagan said they needed to “cut through the confusion” and admitted a troop increase would require “at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail.” [Washington Post joint op-ed, 12/27/06]
JANUARY 8: NEW U.S. GROUND COMMANDER IN IRAQ ANTICIPATES ESCALATION FOR ‘TWO OR THREE YEARS’: The New York Times reported on Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. “The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it might take another ‘two or three years’ for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war. [New York Times, 1/8/07]
JANUARY 9: MCCAIN SAYS 6 MONTHS IS TOO SHORT & ‘THE WORST OF ALL WORLDS WOULD BE A SMALL, SHORT SURGE’: “There are two keys to any increase in U.S. force levels: It must be substantial, and it must be sustained…The worst of all worlds would be a small, short surge of U.S. forces.” [Sen. John McCain, Sacramento Bee op-ed, 1/9/07]
But Congress does have the authority to use “several different policy levers to guide U.S. national security policy as it relates to the deployment of American troops.” Congress has done so many times over the last 35 years.
In November 1993, McConnell supported a move by Congress to place limits on military spending for U.S. troop deployments in Somalia. Section 8151 of Public Law 103-139 “limited the use of funding in Somalia for operations of U.S. military personnel only until March 31, 1994″ and permitted “expenditure of funds for the mission thereafter only if the president sought and Congress provided specific authorization.”
The language passed the Senate as an amendment introduced by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV). McConnell voted for it. He also spoke on the Senate floor about the legislation:
The narrow issue before us tonight is simply how do you leave? We are leaving, we all agree on that. … The only issue here tonight is how we leave and, in my judgment, the Byrd amendment better defines the proper exit for the United States in this most unfortunate experience in Somalia, at least since May. [Congressional Record, S13447, 10/14/93]
It’s one thing for McConnell to support Bush’s escalation plan. It’s another to mislead about what Congress can do to stop it.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Kennedy: "Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam"
"As the election in November made clear, the vast majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq, and an even greater number oppose sending even more troops to Iraq today," said Kennedy. "The President is Commander-in-Chief, but in our democracy he is still accountable to the people. Our system of checks and balances gives Congress – as the elected representatives of the people – a central role in decisions on war and peace."
Kennedy then announced his legislation which would not cut funding for active military already in Iraq, but that would require the Congress to vote before Bush can escalate troop levels in Iraq.
"Today, I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people’s right to a full voice in the President’s plan to send more troops to Iraq," said the Massachusetts Senator. "Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts will introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives. Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President’s plan."
Kennedy cited Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, saying it gives Congress the authority to fund all military action and to demand answers and justification from the White House before it approves funding for any presidential military initiatives.
"Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq. But the November election has dramatically changed all that," Kennedy said.
The speech then took a dramatic turn, with Kennedy quoting Lyndon B. Johnson talking with resolve about Vietnam and it sounding remarkably like George W. Bush today:
“It became clear that if we were prepared to stay the course, we could help to lay the cornerstone for a diverse and independent Asia… If we faltered, the forces of chaos would scent victory and decades of strife and aggression would stretch endlessly before us. The choice was clear. We would stay the course. And we shall stay the course.""That is not President Bush speaking. It is President Lyndon Johnson, forty years ago, ordering a hundred thousand more American soldiers to Vietnam," said Kennedy.
"Those comparisons from history resonate painfully in today’s debate on Iraq. In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy. The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last. Instead, each one led only to the next.
"Echoes of that disaster are all around us today. Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam."
Kennedy also quoted military leaders who have advised against further troops in Iraq including General John Abizaid who said, in speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee in November, “I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more and from taking more responsibility for their own future.”
And, as is true with the massive change in priorities taking place in Washington in just the last week, Kennedy's speech sent the overall message that the change voted on by the American people in November, will be realized.
"We campaigned as Democrats in 2006," said Kennedy. "And we must govern as Democrats in 2007."
Arianna Gives us a diagnostic guide for W's speech.
The President's Speech: A Diagnostic Guide
Paging Dr. Freud... or at least Dr. Phil.
When it comes to the White House's latest "new approach" to Iraq, we are definitely entering "the lunatics have taken over the asylum" territory.
The judgment behind it -- looking at the advice of military experts, and the unambiguous results of the November election, and deciding the proper response is to escalate our involvement in Iraq -- is straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.Psychiatric literature defines delusional thinking as "false or irrational beliefs maintained despite clear evidence to the contrary."
Sound like any commander-in-chief you know?
Indeed, watching Sen. Lindsey Graham shill for the administration on Meet the Press this weekend, and hearing him state with utter conviction and a gleam in his eye, "We've got a new team on the ground. We're going to come up with a new strategy. The strategy is going to be designed to win," I couldn't help but think of the reports from psychiatrists who have treated patients with delusional personalities. The truly deranged are often so committed to their delusions, and so insistent, that part of your brain actually starts thinking: Hmm, maybe this person really is Napoleon! Maybe that woman really is a fried egg! Maybe the surge really will lead to victory in Iraq!
Meanwhile, the other part of your brain -- the rational part -- is reminding you that, no, in fact, that person is not Napoleon or any part of a Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast. They are simply utterly insane.
So now, as the president prepares to preempt Deal or No Deal to lay out his new plan for Iraq in prime time on Wednesday night (and wouldn't it be great if we could all collectively shout "No deal! No deal!!" at him through our TVs?), it might be useful to have a diagnostic checklist -- things we should to be looking for during the speech to help us evaluate where the president currently stands on the "I'm a fried egg" delusion continuum. (Hat tip to Dr. Bill Frist, who paved the way for such video-diagnoses.)
Here are some of the key symptoms of "false or irrational beliefs maintained despite clear evidence to the contrary" we should be looking out for:
Does he display clear indications of denial, continuing to use words like "victory," "win," and "stable democracy"? Does he avoid using the phrase "civil war"? When he repeatedly talks about "sacrifice" does he skip over the fact that this doesn't include me and you, and over 99 percent of Americans?
Does he exhibit signs of the classic layman's definition of insanity: repeatedly doing the same thing but expecting a different result? Look to see if he trots out strategies that have already failed time and time again and acts like he expects them to have a different outcome. Be on particular alert for mentions of a new Baghdad security plan, and see if they are accompanied by any reference to the five previous such plans, all of which have failed to curb the chaos. And keep an eye open for even the slightest acknowledgment that throughout the war the military has repeatedly carried out troop surges of more than 20,000 and the bloodshed in Iraq has continued to increase.
Does the patient -- I mean, the president -- demonstrate magical thinking, signs of a belief that merely wishing for something can make it so? For example, when he talks about sending an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, does he acknowledge the reality that military commanders have told him they don't have the troops available to deploy more than 9,000 soldiers? Does he appear cognizant of the fact that in order to come up with even 20,000 troops the military would have to remobilize reserves, extend current tours of duty, give new units dangerously little time to train, shorten the amount of time between tours for troops returning home, and leave America even less able to deal with any new security threat?
Does he continue to make the claim that we're fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them over here...even though there isn't a shred of evidence that the war in Iraq has made us safer, and a great deal of evidence that it has, in fact, had the opposite effect?
Does he continue to irrationally link the war in Iraq to 9/11, as Tony Snow did on Monday when he claimed the president "understands there is a lot of public anxiety" about the war, but that the American people "don't want another September 11."
Does he admit that the new top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Odierno said that even with a troop surge, it could take another "two or three years" for our troops to get the upper hand in Iraq?
Does he explain where the $100 billion in additional war funds he will be asking Congress for next month is going to come from, or do you get the sense that he believes it will come from the exact same place the additional troops will come from?
Sadly, I think the diagnosis is inevitable. Nothing in Bush's history suggests otherwise. This will leave the rational treatment of the war in the hands of Dr. Reid, Dr. Pelosi, and their Congressional cohorts. The prescription? A straitjacket on the president's war funding requests.It's one thing to believe you're Napoleon. It's quite another to send more young people to die in your Waterloo.
Monday, January 08, 2007
On Wednesday, President Bush will be giving an address to the nation about Iraq. He will be using the opportunity to introduce Operation Clap Louder, aka Operation Second Verse Same As The First, aka Operation Double or Nothing, aka Operation Save Bush's Ass.
All right, I admit it. I find this entire exercise a waste of time, unworthy of anything but mockery, and I find it surprising that anyone in America honestly has to pretend at taking this seriously, after this many years of Operation Same Damn Thing.
So fine. Let me give you the short version of the President's upcoming speech, which will contain no revelations, no accountability, no new strategy, unabashed fearmongering, digs at the patriotism of critics, and a deer-in-the-headlights speaking style that Dan Quayle wishes he could master. It'll go something like this:
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca.
Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense! Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this [war]? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this [war]! It does not make sense!
Look at me. I'm [President of the United States], and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that [Senate chamber] deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed [Senate], it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must [expand a war with no objectives or plan for victory.]
And that's why sending another ten or twenty thousand men into Iraq is a good idea. Or something. Repeat six months later.
The problem in all this is once again that actual military experts don't have a voice, here. The people pushing for the "surge" are people trying to salvage not Iraq, but their own tattered shreds of credibility. You've got the American Enterprise Institute, Bill Kristol, and Karl Rove planning military strategies for a president whose deepest thoughts revolve around what he's going to have for dinner, because "losing" is not an option, and "winning" has long ago ceased to be possible. You've got people like the Iraq Study Group actually studying the available options and coming up with a completely contrary strategy, but since that strategy admits a core, unspeakable truth -- that we're losing -- Bush and his personal uberhawkish politburo don't want anything to do with it.
And so here we are. In a grand game of "sustained surge", e.g. conflict escalation in the midst of a sectarian civil war. A double-or-nothing bet on a clearly losing hand, using the lives of American soldiers as their chips. It doesn't matter to the AEI -- they ain't fighting. Doesn't matter to Rove -- his life ain't on the line. Doesn't matter to Bush -- he's the decider. The little people are the "doers", only significant when in abstract, five-figure numbers.
There's simply no way to take any of this supposed plan "seriously". There's nothing serious about sending another ten, twenty or thirty thousand men into a situation that still lacks a clear mission or objectives other than a nebulous "and then democracy will happen, and we'll all get ponies." There's no "seriousness" required on the part of either McCain or Lieberman in continuing to support the same failed policy they've supported all along. It's not seriousness, it's cowardice. Like Bush, they similarly can't abide being proven inept, and so the entire country is supposed to continue this game -- this fiction -- in order to save their sorry hides from the reproach of history.
But if that's what passes for "seriousness", these days, what the heck, I have an equally serious proposal: we should cut out the middlemen here, and just send Chewbacca to Iraq. Chewbacca could kick some ass, he'd be greeted as a furry liberator, and we'd be done.
True, this plan is complicated by the fact that Chewbacca is a fictional character. But considering that the Bush/McCain/Lieberman plan for sending more troops is fictional too, I'm not seeing that as a showstopper.
So terribly sorry for not taking the latest clap-louder "plan" seriously. But if we're going to start proposing fictional, farcical victory plans, let's at least have the common sense to chose ones that will only fictionally get people killed.
Bush Still Has No Exit Strategy. Bush's "New Plan" claims to make Iraqi's meet timetable. The question should be "or what?"
George W. Bush, 4/9/99:
“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”
And on the specific need for a timetable, here’s what Bush said then:
George W. Bush, 6/5/99
“I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.”
January 8th, 2007 12:59 am
Plan Sets Series of Goals for Iraq Leaders
By Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny / New York Times
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 — President Bush’s new Iraq policy will establish a series of goals that the Iraqi government will be expected to meet to try to ease sectarian tensions and stabilize the country politically and economically, senior administration officials said Sunday.
Among these “benchmarks” are steps that would draw more Sunnis into the political process, finalize a long-delayed measure on the distribution of oil revenue and ease the government’s policy toward former Baath Party members, the officials said.
As the policy is being debated in Washington, the new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that his plan was to send additional American troops, expected to be part of the policy change, into Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods, and that under the new strategy it may take another “two or three years” to gain the upper hand in the war.
Without saying what the specific penalties for failing to achieve the goals would be, American officials insisted that they intended to hold the Iraqis to a realistic timetable for action, but the Americans and Iraqis have agreed on many of the objectives before, only to fall considerably short. (Here is where you ask "or what?")
And the widespread skepticism about the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy among Democrats and some Republicans was underscored by the new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, in a television interview broadcast Sunday. She, along with the Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, informed the president that they were opposed to increasing troop levels.
“If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it,” Mrs. Pelosi said on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.” “And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions.”
She also suggested that Congress should deal with financing for the current war and for the proposed increase as separate issues. “If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now,” she said.
Whether lawmakers are prepared to advocate legislative steps to withhold funds from an expanded mission is unclear. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that as a practical matter, there was little that lawmakers could do to prevent Mr. Bush from expanding the American military mission in Iraq.
“You can’t go in like a Tinkertoy and play around and say you can’t spend the money on this piece and this piece,” Mr. Biden said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” “He’ll be able to keep the troops there forever, constitutionally, if he wants to.”
“As a practical matter,” Mr. Biden added, “there is no way to say, ‘Mr. President, stop.’ ”
Mr. Bush is expected to refer to the benchmarks in a much-anticipated speech this week outlining his new Iraq strategy, including plans to send as many as 20,000 additional troops. Administration officials plan to make the benchmarks public sometime after the address.
In addition to trying to ease Congressional concerns over the new strategy, the administration is trying to instill discipline in an Iraqi government that has been slow to act and hampered by sectarian agendas.
“There will be an approach and a strategy that reflects not only the desire for the Iraqis to take more responsibility but the need for the Iraqis to step up,” a senior administration official familiar with the deliberations said. “This is not an open-ended commitment. We are putting real specific requirements and expectations on the Iraqi government.” (and if they don't meet those requirements? then what?)
The Americans and Iraqis have agreed on benchmarks before. Indeed, some of the goals that are to be incorporated on the list of benchmarks have been carried over from an earlier list that was hammered out with the Iraqis and made public in October, but never met.
The benchmarks, for example, include a previously stated commitment: setting a date for provincial elections. That goal is intended to enfranchise Sunnis — who had initially boycotted the political process — and thus give them a role in the governing of Sunni-dominated areas.
Another measure that was carried over from the old list of benchmarks is the final completion of the long-delayed national oil law that would give the central government the power to distribute current and future oil revenues to the provinces or regions, based on their population.
The list of benchmarks will also deal with the still-unresolved matter of settling a new policy on de-Baathification. There is wide agreement among experts that the initial Iraqi approach toward former Baath Party members was too sweeping and excluded too many from government service and entitlements. A revised approach would seek to address those concerns by, for example, paying Army pensions to some former Baathists who have been excluded from receiving them.
One important theme of the new Iraqi strategy will be encouraging the Iraqi government to spend more on projects and programs in Sunni areas. Most of the funds allocated for the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province in western Iraq have never actually been expended. That has encouraged opposition to the Iraqi authorities in Baghdad and handicapped the American military’s counterinsurgency efforts in the province.
“The assessment has been that the disbursement of funds from the Iraqi government from Baghdad out to the provinces, particularly the Sunni provinces, has been either slow or nonexisting,” the senior Bush administration official said. “That has to change.”
Administration officials said that by more clearly defining the goals and by planning to make them public some time after Mr. Bush’s address they hoped to encourage a sense of accountability on the part of the Iraqis. (Shouldn't have all this been done THREE YEARS AGO?)
Mr. Bush discussed some of the goals — the need for provincial elections, the enactment of the oil law and reform of Iraq’s de-Baathification policy — during his recent video conference with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
The Americans have not been the only ones underscoring the need for benchmarks. The Maliki government has pressed to gain direct command of Iraq’s 10 army divisions, insisting it should be achieved by June. Some American officials have been concerned that it is overambitious. Nevertheless, an administration official has indicated that it is among the goals.
In Washington, the idea of benchmarks has been generally welcomed by lawmakers, though many remain skeptical that they will be achieved on schedule.
After meeting with the president and his national security team on Friday at the White House, senators from both parties said they told Mr. Bush they would have trouble supporting an American troop increase unless the plan included specific goals for the Iraqi government.
Senator John E. Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, said one of his Senate colleagues asked why the effort to add to American forces in Iraq would be more likely to succeed than previous troop increases. Mr. Sununu said the president and Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, responded that Mr. Bush’s plan would “include more specific goals, different rules of engagement and different expectations for cooperation with the Iraqi government.”
Mr. Sununu said when he raised questions about oil revenue distribution, provincial elections and national reconciliation, he received “strong assurances that these were recognized as critical issues, that they were being addressed by the Maliki government,” with one proposal that was nearing completion for the distribution of oil revenue and another regarding provincial elections.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.
Bush's Folly: White House trying to push off the loss of Iraq to the Next President. Troops are dying to help Bush save face. Impeach Now.
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 5, 2007; A06
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he believes top officials in the Bush administration have privately concluded they have lost Iraq and are simply trying to postpone disaster so the next president will "be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof," in a chaotic withdrawal reminiscent of Vietnam.
"I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost," Biden said. "They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy -- literally, not figuratively."
Biden gave the comments in an interview as he outlined an ambitious agenda for the committee, including holding four weeks of hearings focused on every aspect of U.S. policy in Iraq. The hearings will call top political, economic and intelligence experts; foreign diplomats; and former and current senior U.S. officials to examine the situation in Iraq and possible plans for dealing with it. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will probably testify next Thursday to defend the president's new plan, but at least eight other plans will be examined over several sessions of the committee.
Other witnesses invited for at least 10 days of hearings include former national security advisers and secretaries of state, including Brent Scowcroft, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger, Madeleine K. Albright and George P. Shultz.
Biden expressed opposition to the president's plan for a "surge" of additional U.S. troops and said he has grave doubts about whether the Iraqi government has the will or the capacity to help implement a new approach. He said he hopes to use the hearings to "illuminate the alternatives available to this president" and to provide a platform for influencing Americans, especially Republican lawmakers.
"There is nothing a United States Senate can do to stop a president from conducting his war," Biden said. "The only thing that is going to change the president's mind, if he continues on a course that is counterproductive, is having his party walk away from his position."
Biden said that Vice President Cheney and former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "are really smart guys who made a very, very, very, very bad bet, and it blew up in their faces. Now, what do they do with it? I think they have concluded they can't fix it, so how do you keep it stitched together without it completely unraveling?"
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Observing President Bush in action lately, we have to wonder if he actually watched the election returns in November, or if he was just rerunning the 2002 vote on his TiVo.
That year, the White House used the fear of terrorism to scare American voters into cementing the Republican domination of Congress. Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney then embarked on an expansion of presidential power chilling both in its sweep and in the damage it did to the constitutional system of checks and balances.
In 2006, the voters sent Mr. Bush a powerful message that it was time to rein in his imperial ambitions. But we have yet to see any sign that Mr. Bush understands that — or even realizes that the Democrats are now in control of the Congress. Indeed, he seems to have interpreted his party’s drubbing as a mandate to keep pursuing his fantasy of victory in Iraq and to press ahead undaunted with his assault on civil liberties and the judicial system. Just before the Christmas break, the Justice Department served notice to Senator Patrick Leahy — the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee — that it intended to keep stonewalling Congressional inquiries into Mr. Bush’s inhumane and unconstitutional treatment of prisoners taken in anti-terrorist campaigns. It refused to hand over two documents, including one in which Mr. Bush authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to establish secret prisons beyond the reach of American law or international treaties. The other set forth the interrogation methods authorized in these prisons — which we now know ranged from abuse to outright torture.
Also last month, Mr. Bush issued another of his infamous “presidential signing statements,” which he has used scores of times to make clear he does not intend to respect the requirements of a particular law — in this case a little-noticed Postal Service bill. The statement suggested that Mr. Bush does not believe the government must obtain a court order before opening Americans’ first-class mail. It said the administration had the right to “conduct searches in exigent circumstances,” which include not only protecting lives, but also unspecified “foreign intelligence collection.”
The law is clear on this. A warrant is required to open Americans’ mail under a statute that was passed to stop just this sort of abuse using just this sort of pretext. But then again, the law is also clear on the need to obtain a warrant before intercepting Americans’ telephone calls and e-mail. Mr. Bush began openly defying that law after Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a court order on calls and e-mail between the United States and other countries.
News accounts have also reminded us of the shameful state of American military prisons, where supposed terrorist suspects are kept without respect for civil or human rights, and on the basis of evidence so deeply tainted by abuse, hearsay or secrecy that it is essentially worthless.
Deborah Sontag wrote in The Times last week about the sorry excuse for a criminal case that the administration whipped up against Jose Padilla, who was once — but no longer is — accused of plotting to explode a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States. Mr. Padilla was held for two years without charges or access to a lawyer. Then, to avoid having the Supreme Court review Mr. Bush’s power grab, the administration dropped those accusations and charged Mr. Padilla in a criminal court on hazy counts of lending financial support to terrorists.
But just as the government abandoned the “dirty bomb” case against Mr. Padilla, it quietly charged an Ethiopian-born man, Binyam Mohamed, with conspiring with Mr. Padilla to commit that very crime. Unlike Mr. Padilla, Mr. Mohamed is not a United States citizen, so the administration threw him into Guantánamo. Now 28, he is still being held there as an “illegal enemy combatant” under the anti-constitutional military tribunals act that was rushed through the Republican-controlled Congress just before last November’s elections.
Mr. Mohamed was a target of another favorite Bush administration practice: “extraordinary rendition,” in which foreign citizens are snatched off the streets of their hometowns and secretly shipped to countries where they can be abused and tortured on behalf of the American government. Mr. Mohamed — whose name appears nowhere in either of the cases against Mr. Padilla — has said he was tortured in Morocco until he signed a confession that he conspired with Mr. Padilla. The Bush administration clearly has no intention of answering that claim, and plans to keep Mr. Mohamed in extralegal detention indefinitely.
The Democratic majority in Congress has a moral responsibility to address all these issues: fixing the profound flaws in the military tribunals act, restoring the rule of law over Mr. Bush’s rogue intelligence operations and restoring the balance of powers between Congress and the executive branch. So far, key Democrats, including Mr. Leahy and Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, chairman of a new subcommittee on human rights, have said these issues are high priorities for them.
We would lend such efforts our enthusiastic backing and hope Mr. Leahy, Mr. Durbin and other Democratic leaders are not swayed by the absurd notion circulating in Washington that the Democrats should now “look ahead” rather than use their new majority to right the dangerous wrongs of the last six years of Mr. Bush’s one-party rule.
This is a false choice. Dealing with these issues is not about the past. The administration’s assault on some of the nation’s founding principles continues unabated. If the Democrats were to shirk their responsibility to stop it, that would make them no better than the Republicans who formed and enabled these policies in the first place.