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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Tuesday, 19 December 2006
Surfing the Big Surge
Topic: Iraq

Surfing the Big Surge

When Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff became rich and famous did his friends start calling him Big Serge? Maybe so.

Be that as it may, we're in for the Big Surge. Tuesday, December 19, that became clear. As it was in Vietnam when things didn't go well, so it will be in Iraq. We will throw more troops at the problem. That seems certain in spite of the news that morning from the Washington Post. It seems the leadership of the military isn't okay with that -
The Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military.

... The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

… Even the announcement of a time frame and mission - such as for six months to try to secure volatile Baghdad - could play to armed factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy, the chiefs have warned the White House.
So the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously say don't do that. The idea of "surging" fifteen to thirty thousand additional troops into Iraq in a last ditch effort to stabilize the country just makes no sense. Kevin Drum here says the Joint Chiefs know that the White House is "just casting around for plausible-sounding ideas and has no real plan for how to use the additional soldiers." But that's wrong. There is a plan for how to use these soldiers. Their mission is saving face.

The Post item indicates the military's caution on shipping thousands of additional troops "temporarily" to Iraq is based on the obvious case that such a move could be useless without new political and economic steps - basically they question whether sending more troops to Iraq would feed a perception that the mess in Iraq is mainly a military problem. It isn't. They seem to be saying that in their view the mess in Iraq is largely political, fed by economic distress, among other issues. Fixing that sort of thing is not what they do. The president must have them confused with State, or economic development people.

But that's not the point. The war is a disaster - sold to a reluctant public on claims that to some were dubious and in the end turned out to be completely bogus. Then it stretched on, and Iraq seemed to skip the civil war thing and go straight to general anarchy - one almost expects one of the many militias there to be led by a blustering, mustachioed General Anarchy. This year, in a joint report, all nineteen of our intelligence agencies concluded the war had fueled terrorism around the world, not tamped it down, and rather than making us safer had done the opposite. Training the new Iraqi army and police to rise above sectarian and religious concerns and work together - Shi'a, Sunni and Kurd, side by side and smiling, building a new and inclusive and tolerant Iraq - might never really have been possible. Now it is just laughable. And we were told that happening was the only way we would ever leave - when they stand up, we stand down. That's clearly not going to happen, in the real world. Then the midterm elections seemed to be a slap in the face to the president and the administration on the whole matter. Both houses of congress changed hands - and those who control the fund and chair the committees are now going to ask a whole lot of questions. The Iraq Study Group said things are "dire" and things must change. Approval for the president's handing of the war is at twenty-one percent. The percent who think sending more troops is a good idea? That would be eleven percent.

The real point here is the president proving he was not wrong, and he'll show everyone he was not. He'll send tens of thousands more of our guys into the fight to show us all we can win this thing, and we're all dead wrong. He will not be told he's wrong. Of course there was the effort, announced with great fanfare last summer, Operation Together Forward II, to pour more troops into Baghdad, to stop all the nonsense there. That worked for a few weeks - then things got even worse. But it will work this time. He will not be told he's wrong. So he'll try again.

See Tariq Ali in the Guardian (UK) with The War is Already Lost -
Once a war goes badly wrong and its justifications are shown to be lies, to insist that a "democratic" Iraq is visible on the horizon and that "we must stay the course" becomes a total fantasy. What is to be done?

In the US a group of Foggy Bottom elders was wheeled in to prepare a report. This admitted what the whole world (Downing Street excepted) already knew: the occupation is a disaster and the situation gets more hellish every day. After US citizens voted accordingly in the mid-term elections, the White House sacrificed the Pentagon warlord, Donald Rumsfeld.

… the old men in Washington recognize the scale of the disaster. Their descriptions are strong, their prescriptions weak and pathetic: "We agree with the goal of US policy in Iraq, as stated by the president: an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself." Elsewhere they recommend a deal with Tehran and Damascus to preserve post-withdrawal stability, implying that Baghdad can never be independent again. It was left to a military realist, Lieutenant-General William Odom, to demand a complete withdrawal in the next few months, a view backed by Iraqis (Shi'a and Sunni) in successive polls. The occupation, Kofi Annan informs us, has created a much worse situation than under Saddam.

… None of the scenarios being canvassed in Washington, including by the Democrats, envisage a total US withdrawal. That is a defeat too unbearable to contemplate, but the war has already been lost, together with half a million Iraqi lives. Trying to delay the defeat (as in Vietnam) by sending in a "surge" of troops is unlikely to work.
But we're going that route. As for the views of the Joint Chiefs, Drum points out the obvious -
If the Chiefs stand their ground, it will be very difficult for Bush to buck them. But if he gives up on the surge, what possible alternative can he offer that even remotely seems like a serious change of direction? Rock, meet hard place.
But then reader DK at Talking Points Memo has it all figured out -
It hit me the other day that what the surge is going to accomplish for Bush and Cheney is to take them through these next two years. By the time they can claim to have the extra troops in Baghdad it's gonna be May or June. They'll be there a few months till everyone has to admit that it isn't working (though in the interim I would predict the first really horrendous event in which our troops suffer a big loss, like 200 men in one blast), then it will be the end of 2007 and the argument will be about whether we should remove some of the surge troops. That will take a few months, at least, and we'll be in the throes of a presidential election. Bush won't want to do anything too "political" at that point, of course, so he'll happily leave it to the new prez to make shitcakes out of shit. And Bush and Cheney will spin it for all it's worth for the rest of their lives...
Maybe so, and if so, what do the Joints Chief matter here?

The president's press secretary, Tony Snow, late of Fox News, later in the day said there really was no disagreement with the Joint Chiefs anyway - "The president has not made a decision on the way forward, and he has asked military commanders to consider a range of options and they are doing so." So everyone should relax.

And someone had been watching Fox News -
Fred Barnes just said that it's not true that the joint chiefs unanimously oppose an escalation of the war - it's that they are afraid Bush won't send enough troops to get the job done and that if it's a temporary escalation, the whole place will fall apart after we pull those troops back out.

He didn't think those were important differences of opinion, naturally, because he has once again cast his lot with Junior, but really, these are huge and serious concerns.

It's clear that Bush is listening to these armchair Napoleons because they are saying that he can "win" if he just sends in a few more troops for a few months and claps louder. And his generals are all saying that the only way he can "win" is with a massive new army that stays in Iraq forever. That is the reality based choice for "winning." Period. And it isn't going to happen because 70% of the country have wised up to the fact that this pony hunt is making the country less safe and it's costing us our future.
Well, it actually is -
The Defense Department has requested $99.7 billion more in emergency funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism that, if approved, would bring war spending in fiscal 2007 to a record $170 billion.

The request is in a 17-page memo approved Dec. 7 by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England that is under review at the White House. About half the new money - $48 billion - would go to the Army, which says its costs have risen sharply as fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan drags on and more equipment is destroyed or damaged.

The request, added to the $70 billion that Congress approved in September, is 45 percent higher than the $117 billion in supplemental funding approved last year. It reflects an earlier England memo telling the services they could include expenses they considered related to the global war on terror even if not strictly to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Saving face is expensive. Lots of other things won't get funded - and big tax cuts for the wealthy don't help much either. But it's what we signed up for. The message to us is pretty much screw the Joints Chiefs, and screw public opinion, and screw the new congress that actually thinks they matter - the vote in 2004 was what it was. If you want change you'll have another shot at that in a few years. Until then the decider will decide - and you'll like it and shut up.

And at the end of the same day the Washington Post posted an item on their exclusive interview with the president - "President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point."

This was just days after the Army's top general, Peter Schoomaker, warned that the service would "break" without more troops. So we'll fix that. The military commanders worry that the already "stretched" Army and Marine Corps would be even thinner once the now inevitable "short-term" surge ended? This has nothing to do with that. It will take years to add substantially to the size of the military. But you have to start somewhere. And Rumsfeld is really gone - he had laughed at any call to increase the size of the military, arguing that "technological advances and organizational changes" could give the Army and Marine Corps the extra capability it needed, when it needed that. That was his "transformation" crusade - technology-based "just in time" inventory control applied to the military. Oops. Maybe later.

Robert Burns, the Associated Press military writer, not the dead Scottish poet who messed up everyone's New Years Eve with that incomprehensible ditty, had a good roundup of this all, with these nuggets -
Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who will become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next month, echoed those sentiments Tuesday. "I'm convinced the Army and the Marines are near the breaking point," Skelton said, while expressing skepticism that a big troop surge would be worth the trouble.

… Even the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which advocated removing most combat troops by early 2008, said it could support a temporary increase if U.S. commanders believe it would be effective. Roughly one-third of the 140,000 American troops in Iraq are combat forces.

… The Army announced on Tuesday evening that it will accelerate the planned creation of two additional combat brigades as a means of relieving some of the strain on troops caused by repeated and increasingly frequent deployments to Iraq. Both brigades will be ready to join the rotations to Iraq by next April, 11 months ahead of schedule in the case of one brigade while 17 months ahead for the other.

… The American Enterprise Institute issued a report last week recommending a surge of seven Army brigades and Marine regiments starting next spring. A contributor to that report was retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, who was the vice chief of staff at the time the Iraq war was launched in 2003.

… Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, said Saturday that one option under consideration by the president is sending five or more additional combat brigades, which equates to roughly 20,000 or more troops. Conway did not say he opposes that proposal, but he emphasized the potential drawbacks.

"We would fully support, I think, as the Joint Chiefs, the idea of putting more troops into Iraq if there is a solid military reason for doing that, if there is something to be gained," he said. "We do not believe that just adding numbers for the sake of adding numbers - just thickening the mix - is necessarily the way to go."

The five or more extra brigades would, he said, be units already scheduled to go to Iraq in a later rotation. But he added that using those troops now would mean "a lesser capable" force in the future.

"You better make sure your timing is right," he said. "Because if you commit the reserve for something other than a decisive win or to stave off defeat, then you have essentially shot your bolt."

The Army's Schoomaker told reporters last week that a surge would make sense only under certain conditions. "We would not surge without a purpose," Schoomaker said. "And that purpose should be measurable."
But how do you measure the president regaining the respect of the nation and the world? That's what this seems to be about.

Oh, and add this to the mix - "The Defense Department is thinking about a major buildup of U.S. Navy forces in the Gulf as a show of force against Iran, a senior defense official said Tuesday."

More of the same - the world WILL respect us. The next two years are laid out for all to see.

But what about the midterm elections? Didn't they change things?

E. J. Dionne in the Post argues they changed the fundamentals -
It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South. Democrats seemed to accept this definition of reality, and they struggled - often looking ridiculous in the process - to become fluent in NASCAR talk and to discuss religion with the inflections of a white Southern evangelicalism foreign to so many of them.

Now the conventional wisdom sees Republicans in danger of becoming merely a Southern regional party. Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens in the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology.

Only a few months ago, it was widely thought that accusing opponents of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq would be enough to cast political enemies into an unpatriotic netherworld of wimps and "defeatocrats." Now the burden of proof is on those who claim that fighting in Iraq was a good idea and that the situation can be turned around.
Maybe the tables have turned. It's not just the Joint Chiefs. There's something in the air.

It may be the kids -
In 1984 three exit polls pegged Ronald Reagan's share of the ballots cast by Americans under 30 at between 57 and 60 percent. Reagan-style conservatism seemed fresh, optimistic and innovative. In 2006 voters under 30 gave 60 percent of their votes to Democratic House candidates, according to the shared media exit poll. Conservatism now looks old, tired and ineffectual.
Also note this -
Speaking as a political scientist.... Generally speaking, the "you get more conservative as you get older" myth really is a myth. People's ideological/partisan identification doesn't change much after the age of 30. If someone votes for the same party three times in a row, they're hooked for life. It takes some earth-shattering to change after that.

People don't get more conservative as they get older, but they do get more rigid. What happens is that ideology acts as an informational screen - people shield out stuff that is inconsistent with their predispositions (which is why FOX News works). So as we get older, our attitudes get reinforced.

So liberals should NOT get happy if people who are under 30 are on the left, because the young are very volatile. But after thirty, it's smooth sailing.
Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the ridiculously influential "Kos," adds it up -
The youth vote turned out heavily in favor of Kerry and Democrats this year. If we can hold them in 2008 - and it's critical that the Democratic Congress and our 2008 nominee speak to this demographic - then we've got ourselves a massive demographic advantage over the coming decades.

Couple that with the fact that Darwinian capitalism is under attack, the war is a mess, people are tiring of having Christian fundamentalist morality shoved down their throats, and conservatism is nothing but a cesspool of corruption, and we're seeing the seeds of a solid governing progressive majority emerging in the next few election cycles.
And Kevin Drum chimes in - "Preach it, brother. If the 2006 election did nothing else, I hope it convinced the chattering classes that Iowa is no more the 'real America' than California is. We'll see."

In the meantime, there's a war to escalate. There seems no way to stop that.

Posted by Alan at 21:42 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006 07:02 PST home

Monday, 18 December 2006
Dissent - Some Voices, Not Many
Topic: Dissent

Dissent - Some Voices, Not Many

Those of a certain age remember the antiwar protests of the late sixties and early seventies. The great unwashed took to the streets, and perhaps prolonged the war by offending a whole lot of people. Many might not have thought much of the mess in Vietnam, but they also weren't shaggy free-love peace-and-dope hippies, burning draft cards and bras and whatnot. The "vast silent majority" that Nixon claimed implicitly supported his policies - something about bombing the bad guys into submission, pouring in more troops, even into Cambodia, while secretly negotiating a winless exit in the Paris talks - were, as he said silent. Perhaps he misunderstood them. Perhaps the pushy young folk put them off, so they said nothing. Withholding comment is, however, not approval. Silence regarding the government's actions is not, necessarily, endorsement of those actions, or of the policies behind them. It's just silence.

Now, with the approval of the president's handling of the war at twenty-one percent, lower than any comparable time in the Vietnam days, we have the silence again. No one is in the streets, save for a few coalescing around the well-marginalized Cindy Sheehan. We all support the troops now, and have our won't-mar-the-paint magnets on our SUV's that say so. We have no problem with the guys who put it on the line for us, even if we think they're being used for a useless cause. The prospect of a super-stable and friendly secular free-market Iraqi democracy we've wedged by force of arms into the Middle East seems unlikely. We'll get something less than that, at best. That's not what we were originally told we were doing over there, and as it became the last plausible reason for whatever it is we're doing, the idea that this was ever considered a sensible and achievable goal has many rubbing their eyes. That was the plan? You guys thought you could do that, and also thought it would be cakewalk-easy and pay-for-itself cheap? Just who is smoking good shit these days? Radical, man!

But we have no protests. Only a few words of the old song apply - "There's something happening here - what it is ain't exactly clear." Forget the rest of the words. And anyway, the song was actually about the small Riot on Sunset Strip - Sunset and Laurel Canyon, just down the block - back in November 1966. Those days are long gone - Pandora's Box is now a bus stop.

Perhaps we're now into a different way of getting things changed. The midterm elections changed Congress. The Republicans who rubber-stamped anything the administration chose to do - for whatever reason or for no reason at all - were tossed out. The House is now firmly in the hands of the opposition, and the Senate barely so, with a key opposition senator in hospital recovering from brain surgery. Changing the lawmakers is probably more effective than thousands forming a circle around the Pentagon and trying to levitate it (October 21, 1967) - no chanting involved. And Rumsfeld is gone, so what's the urgency? And then too, a panel of "wise old men" (well, they were old), the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, commissioned by congress with administration approval, has declared the Iraq War is just not working - we need to change policy, strategy and tactics if we're to have any good come of it, and even if we do, it's an iffy proposition anyway. Better musty old James Baker says such things than some Abbie Hoffman. Levitating the Pentagon was Hoffman's idea, and those crazy days of long ago seem quaint, so to speak, like the Geneva Conventions, perhaps. We are more serious now, even if we are less whimsical.

But it is clear the president is doing everything he can to justify ignoring the seventy-nine recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. It's clear we're in for a major escalation - one last push, or surge, with twenty to fifty thousand more troops on the ground. This will be the "new way forward" - more of the same, with a new name. We don't have more troops, of course, so that means extending tours and accelerated deployment of troops now in the pipeline. Key generals are saying the military is just about broken, and even Colin Powell agrees, adding that it might also be nice if the "new" troops knew what their mission will be, as that is not clear at all.

Peter Baker in the Washington Post captures the dilemma, that "as Bush rethinks his strategy in Iraq and approaches one of the most fateful moments of his presidency, he confronts difficult questions: At what point does determination to a cause become self-defeating folly? Can he change direction in a meaningful way without sacrificing principle?"

Probably not. We "go big." That's how he thinks. We understand. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that sixty-six percent of Americans do not think Bush is willing to change his policies in Iraq. We all know that. Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Powell in Bush's first term - "I just don't believe that this president, with this vice president whispering in his ear every moment, is oriented to change. And even if he were, I don't believe his administration is capable of implementing change." Won't change, and even if these guys decided they would change, they can't. Done - game, set, match.

And there was what the president said in his year-end interview with People magazine -
I think it's been a very difficult year in Iraq - for our troops, for the families of the troops, for the Iraqi people. And it's been difficult for the American people, because success in Iraq has been slower coming than any of us would like. And so the task at hand now is to come up with a new way forward. I think most Americans fully understand the importance of success; they're wondering whether we have a plan to succeed. It's my job to listen to a lot of opinions and come up with a strategy that says we have a plan.
What? Yes, he said the real problem he faces is how, in the absence of a plan, to convince us all he has a plan. Admittedly, he is not good with words. He may have meant something else. But he literally said his job is to fool us all, to fake us out and make us believe there is a plan. Maybe he just means that there really is a plan, and he doesn't quite understand it, but knows it's his job to point to it when asked. In the same interview he's asked whether all the problems he faces bother him, and says you'd think he couldn't sleep at night with all that's going on, but he's been sleeping surprisingly well. He's cool.

Surreal and mind-bending protests in the streets are unnecessary. How to you top the president?

Still, people are uneasy with him. Christopher Caldwell, in the New York Times Magazine speaks to that -
Why have few such people risen to the defense of George Bush?

Here is a guess. The recent election feels like something more intimate than a personnel change. It feels like the beginnings of an escape from a twisted relationship.

… Why are opinions so personal when it comes to President Bush? Because he has frequently sought, like the child of the 1960s that he is, to blur the line between the personal and the political. Posing as an amiable guy rather than a partisan politician has great advantages in democratic power politics. Even if not all of them vote for you, most Americans want to believe that their president is a jolly good fellow. But when a politician makes likeability a substitute for authority, his opponents make hatred a substitute for opposition.
Hatred? Maybe so. Or perhaps there's monumental frustration with the man-child, the incurious "C+ Augustus" as some call him. He's going to massively escalate the war, but in a likeable way. This is Douglas Adams territory. How did it come to this?

Under the penname Pachacutec you'll find this -
Let me say this slowly. It's something I've never said before.

Bush is unfit for office. He's not my president.

Now, I've called him nuts, crazy, dangerous, said he should be censured over warrantless wiretapping, and so on. I've said he's paranoid and craven and callow and cowardly. I've said his 2000 election was undemocratic and probably illegitimate, in some fashion. Selected, then elected. And even with all that, I still mentally sustained a degree of deference to him, in some corner of my mind, as President of the United States.

I've never called for impeachment and I'm still not. I'm not raving or slamming my fingers down on my keyboard. I'm feeling very calm. I'm not trying to be funny, snarky, witty or anything else. I'm just grappling with the incredible hubris… words fail. "Irresponsibility" is too thin. What's the word? How does one characterize the absolute contempt this man has for human life, for the expressed will of the American people, who have completely repudiated his failed occupation of Iraq, now that he's indulging his fantasies of an escalation?

I think a lot of people in the mythical middle who thought he was basically a good guy who's been stubborn and wrong are coming to the realization that he's dangerous, almost to an inhuman degree. He's pissed all over the Baker-Hamilton charade which, for all its flaws, still helped cement the notion in the popular mind that to continue is to fail. And his response is to go in exactly the opposite direction all the world, including the American public, wants him to go? I knew he would do it; I'm not saying I was surprised. But the blunt reality of it staggers.

I know we all know this stuff, and I can't account for why this is hitting me the way it's hitting me now, for as long as I've been hammering at this worst president ever. But it is.
Note there's no "let's take it to the streets" talk here. This is resignation, not protest. In fact, the call is for something else entirely -
I'm not arguing for impeachment, not because I don't think he's been criminal, or even because he doesn't deserve it. I believe he does. But I want the Democrats during these next two years to begin to change things, pass some good legislation. They can't pursue impeachment and do all that stuff at once. Our home, our world, is on fire. Put out the fire first. We don't have time to impeach this horrible man.

I do want vigorous investigations, and I'm a real Waxman kind of guy. Leahy, Dorgan, Conyers, the whole gang. More, more, more. Why? Because we need to educate the public and find out just how much damage has been done to the Constitution so we can set about putting things right again.
So let's be practical. This isn't the sixties, after all.

At the same site you'll find Scarecrow -
The day that the Iraq Study Group released its much anticipated report detailing the "grave and deteriorating" conditions in Iraq and recommending the President change his course, the official barometer of public moods, NBC's Tim Russert, passionately sounded the alarms as the Baker/Hamilton/O'Connor intervention unfolded before the public, press, and Congress. It was as though the catastrophe of Iraq and the need for an extraordinary intervention had been revealed to us for the first time. It was another Walter Cronkite Viet Nam moment.

Over the next week, the media zeroed in on what they assumed was the relevant question: "Will the President listen?" It was an interesting question, revealing more about how far the centrist media lags behind than it was asking about the President. Initial analyses wondered how a President so desperately in need of a "graceful exit" could possibly ignore so clear a message from such a distinguished, centrist and bipartisan group of Americans.

The wrong question stayed on the media's minds for about a week, while many of us waited impatiently for that inevitable epiphany, best exemplified by ISG member Leon Panetta. Barely a week after the report's release, he expressed total surprise that the President didn't seem to be listening at all and never had any intention of changing his fundamental policies or the way he pursued them.

… What does it mean when a savvy and experienced Washington hand like Panetta, along with most of the media, is still surprised by all this? … At least now even the Beltway knows the answer to the wrong question, so perhaps it's time the media got to the more difficult and important question: "What should the country do when the President and his men continue to drive the bus into the Iraq ditch, but they ignore both the ISG report and the electorate's resounding message to start disengaging from Iraq?
That's a good question. But the press is consumed with the "when" of the matter. When will we hear what we all know will be more of the same - much more? The idea is that a better question is, since everyone knows what will be announced as our "new" policy, just what to do about it?

And the "it" is multifaceted -
The President's men are going to prosecute this war to the bitter end no matter what the cost in lives and treasure, no matter what the American people said in November and no matter what the media think or what the family intervention wants. Reality-based thinking needs to start from that premise.

This is not just about sending more troops to Iraq to be shot at by everyone the President's policies and macho posturing are antagonizing, which is getting to be just about everyone. As the New York Times Sunday editorial, Unfinished Business reminds us, this Administration is hell bent to continue staining America's honor through every egregious violation of the rule of law - warrantless spying, renditions, indefinite detention, denial of counsel and legal recourse, torture, phony Iraq trials - brought to light in the last three years, not to mention those we don't yet know about but are undoubtedly occurring. And it's not just Middle Eastern "unlawful combatants" who are subject to the most serious crimes, now sanctioned by the Military Commission's Act. Immigrants and US citizens and whistleblowers and relief agencies are also victims or targets.

This regime does not believe in America. They don't accept the principle that the authority of government flows from the consent of the people. They don't believe in America's core ideas of democracy, or the rule of law, checks and balances, the Bill of Rights, individual human dignity, or such quaint notions as pursuing negotiations instead of war. They are putting the security of everyone in the Middle East, friends and foe alike, in danger, and they're starting to bring the war home.

So what do we do now? Nothing is going to stop these people from continuing what they're doing, and more of it, except removing them from office (or seriously threatening to do so). We need to begin asking questions about how we bring that about.
That's a little more like to old days. It's not a call for impeachment, exactly, but a call to start thinking about how to do it. We live in an age when being practical matters. Everyone knows you cannot levitate the Pentagon. You do what you can - although impeachment may be nearly as impossible. But it is, at least, theoretically possible.

But why do it? Christy Hardin Smith has her reasons -
The Bush Administration has managed to do in six short years what more than two hundred years of our nation's history had not done: un-do the notion of American commitment to human rights, the rule of law, and to freedom and justice. All with a series of decisions, one piling up on top of the other - with no check, no balance, no oversight, simply one rubber stamp after another for the last six years from the Republicans in Congress who cared more about their hold on personal power than they did about their oath to uphold and protect the Constitution.
And what set her off, in this case, is this -
Detainee 200343 was among thousands of people who have been held and released by the American military in Iraq, and his account of his ordeal has provided one of the few detailed views of the Pentagon's detention operations since the abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib. Yet in many respects his case is unusual.

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the FBI about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.

At Camp Cropper, he took notes on his imprisonment and smuggled them out in a Bible.

… Nathan Ertel, the American held with Mr. Vance, brought away military records that shed further light on the detention camp and its secretive tribunals. Those records include a legal memorandum explicitly denying detainees the right to a lawyer at detention hearings to determine whether they should be released or held indefinitely, perhaps for prosecution.

The story told through those records and interviews illuminates the haphazard system of detention and prosecution that has evolved in Iraq, where detainees are often held for long periods without charges or legal representation, and where the authorities struggle to sort through the endless stream of detainees to identify those who pose real threats.
Vance continued to be held, badly treated, and denied access to a lawyer for more than two months after the FBI had already told the military that he was the whistleblower in the case. He was one of the good guys. But there's a kind of momentum here.

Before his release, his "captors" seemed quite interested in whether he intended to complain afterwards. He's suing. The Pentagon continues to deny that it did anything wrong. Of course the Justice Department will press for his lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld to be dismissed, and will probably prevail. Rumsfeld is gone.

Should people rise up in protest when a citizen, and Navy veteran, is held, under the terms of a legal memorandum explicitly denying him the right to a lawyer at detention hearings to determine whether he should be released or held indefinitely? Maybe so, but this story will sink with all the rest. The days of protest are over.

Just a reminder of the days of protest - Jon Wiener is author of Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, University of California Press, January 21, 2000, and served as historical consultant on the 2006 documentary The US v John Lennon. In the Tuesday, December 19, Guardian (UK), he offers some perspective -
When the Dixie Chicks told an audience in London in 2003 that "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas", they set off a political storm in the US that echoed the treatment meted out to John Lennon 30 years earlier. They were talking about the Iraq war, while Lennon had been campaigning against the Vietnam War.

The Dixie Chicks got in trouble with rightwing talk radio. Boycotts followed, and lead singer Natalie Maines ended up publicly apologizing to President Bush.

What happened to Lennon was of course worse. The turning point for the Beatles came with their 1966 US tour, when they first publicly criticized the war in Vietnam. As the decade wore on, Lennon was the target of increasingly aggressive media ridicule, especially when he began experimenting with new forms of political protest - such as declaring his honeymoon with Yoko Ono a "bed-in for peace."

In the next couple of years, establishment hostility turned nastier on both sides of the Atlantic, as the former Beatle embraced more serious radicalism, making common cause with Tariq Ali (then editor of the Marxist Red Mole). In 1971, Lennon joined a march in London against internment without trial in Northern Ireland and helped fund the republican cause. By the time he left for New York that autumn, the knives were out.
So in the late sixties Lennon had been busted for cannabis possession, claimed it had been planted by the police, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. Within months of his joining the anti-war movement here and publicly attacking President Nixon, the administration responded with deportation proceedings. That was in the courts for years.

The context -
What exactly had Lennon done? It wasn't just singing Give Peace a Chance - it was when and where he sang it; 1972 was an election year, Nixon was running for re-election and the Vietnam War was the key issue. Lennon was talking to anti-war leaders about doing a tour that would combine rock music with anti-war organizing and voter registration. That was the key, because it was the first year 18-year-olds had been given the right to vote. Young voters were assumed to be anti-war, but also known to be the least likely of all age groups to vote. Lennon and his friends hoped to do something about that. Nixon found out about the former Beatle's plans, and the deportation order followed.

The threat was effective. Lennon's lawyers told him to cool it and the tour never took place. Nixon won in a landslide, and the war in Vietnam went on for three more blood-soaked years. Lennon spent the next couple of years facing a 60-day order to leave the country, which his lawyers kept getting postponed.
Ah, those were the days.

And this assessment -
In some ways Lennon was naive. When he moved to New York, he thought he was coming to the land of the free. He had little idea of the power of the state to come down on those it regarded as enemies. His claim that the FBI had him under surveillance was rejected as the fantasy of an egomaniac, but 300 pages of FBI files, released under freedom of information after his murder, show he was right. The FBI is still withholding 10 documents - which we hope will finally be released today - on the grounds that they contain "national security information provided by a foreign government": almost certainly MI5 documents on Lennon's radical days in London.

Lennon never apologized to the president. He fought back in court to overturn the deportation order. But in the year after Nixon's re-election, Lennon's personal life fell apart and his music deteriorated. In the end, Nixon resigned in disgrace after Watergate, and Lennon stayed in the US.
And then he was shot dead. On the other hand, in 2004 a group of activist musicians organized an election-year concert tour of battleground states "with a strategy very much like Lennon's." Headlining the Vote for Change tour were the Dixie Chicks.

What were they thinking? The days of protest are over. We live in different times. Time magazine's annual "Person of the Year" issue hit newsstands Monday, December 18, with its odd choice - YOU. But the "you" in this case is any content creator on the Internet. That must be where the protest is these days - along with the personal silliness of MySpace and all the blogs about cooking and old trains and breeding cocker spaniels. Everything got all personal, and diffused.

Well, you use the forum you have. Or you got to war with the medium you have, not the one you want. Who wants to levitate the Pentagon anyway?

Posted by Alan at 22:30 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006 07:30 PST home

Sunday, 17 December 2006
Relaxing
Topic: Announcements

Relaxing

There no Sunday evening column. Things got backed up by a day. There was this family birthday party down in San Diego on Saturday - Nicholas turned three. That meant the weekend edition of Just Above Sunset, the magazine-format parent to this website, had to be assembled and posted on Sunday, not Saturday. And that takes time.

Check it out. This week, six extended observations on current events, one quite alarming, and one having little to do with politics as it has to do with malls and surrealism and such (it is Christmas shopping time) and includes reader comments - eleven pages of astonishing Southern California photography, five of them botanical in nature and the others… well, you'll see. What about that scientologist Santa on Hollywood Boulevard? And those birds are a bit scary. Note also the page "Glow" is highly recommended - better than Hallmark, or something.

There are the weekly diversions - handy (and cynical) quotes on listening (this was the week for that, as that is what the president says he is doing), and the weekly dose of the weird from our friend in Texas.

And there are some amusing hidden photographs here and there, if you look around.

Some of the material appeared here first, but it has been revised and expanded. Much is new.

Now it's time to relax.

Homer Simpson phone for sale on Hollywood Boulevard


Posted by Alan at 20:41 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Saturday, 16 December 2006
On Listening
Topic: Perspective

On Listening

"Most people need a good listening to." - Maria Galenza

"I can't help thinking that this would be a better world if everyone would listen to me." - Lucy Van Pelt, Peanuts (Charles Shultz)

"Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." - Winnie the Pooh (Alan Alexander Milne)

"If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut." - Albert Einstein

"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." - Andre Gide

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." - Ernest Hemingway

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with." - Kenneth A. Wells

"It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

"To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also." - Igor Stravinsky

"No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why." - Mignon McLaughlin

"Listening is the only way to entertain some folks." - Kin Hubbard

"There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves." - Albert Guinon

"I'll not listen to reason. Reason always means what someone else has to say." - Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

"Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker." - Isaiah Berlin

"No man ever listened himself out of a job." - Calvin Coolidge

"Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening." - Dorothy Sarnoff

"Listen. Do not have an opinion while you listen because frankly, your opinion doesn’t hold much water outside of Your Universe. Just listen. Listen until their brain has been twisted like a dripping towel and what they have to say is all over the floor." - Hugh Elliott

"A good listener is a good talker with a sore throat." - Katharine Whitehorn

"A good listener is usually thinking about something else." - Kin Hubbard

"Everybody lies, but it doesn't matter because nobody listens." - Nick Diamos

"Heaven, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own." - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"Don't LOOK at anything in a physics lab. Don't TASTE anything in a chemistry lab. Don't SMELL anything in a biology lab. Don't TOUCH anything in a medical lab. And, most importantly, don't LISTEN to anything in a philosophy department." - Bill Lye

"Women like silent men. They think they're listening." - Marcel Archard

Posted by Alan at 09:46 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Friday, 15 December 2006
Forcing Change - Dealing With the Self-Righteous
Topic: NOW WHAT?

Forcing Change - Dealing With the Self-Righteous

The news that was not news was that there would be no news. Friday, December 15, we were told she said it again -
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday rejected a bipartisan panel's recommendation that the United States seek the help of Syria and Iran in Iraq, saying the "compensation" required by any deal might be too high. She argued that neither country should need incentives to foster stability in Iraq.

"If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway," Rice said in a wide-ranging interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.
Nothing new here. In late summer, regarding talking to Syria about the short Israel-Hezbollah war that had devastated Lebanon, she had said then that there was no point in talking with them about the issues in the region, as "they know what they must do," slamming that door shut. We don't talk. Others know what they should do.

It's just passive-aggressive nastiness. Any man who has been married knows all about the tactic. Anyone who had a guilt-inducing Jewish or Catholic martyr-mother knows too. You can ask what you did wrong, what you're supposed to do, but your receive silence - until you do whatever it is you should, or stop doing whatever it is you shouldn't. You have to guess a lot. It's supposed to be educational, one presumes. If you finally figure out what's going on, without being told what the problem is at all, or, if you luckily do guess the problem, and actually figure out why it matters, and then do what you were too stupid to know you should have done - the "right thing" you just didn't understand - you get a pat on the head, maybe.

Sometimes you just say "screw it" and walk away. It's both insulting and frustrating, and once you get over your anger, somehow comic. Why did you even buy into it, if you did?

Those who follow "the new American diplomacy" - we don't talk - shake their heads at this official stance. For example, Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly notes that Rice's statement isn't really anything new, but he's still freshly astounded whenever he hears it again -
This is, basically, an argument for never negotiating with anyone. After all, why bother if states will simply do what they want to do regardless? (cf. President Bush's belief that Syria already "knows my position.")

Conservatives often accuse liberals of elevating negotiation into an end in itself. It's a fatuous charge, but its mirror image isn't: as a matter of principle, contemporary conservatives really do seem to have broadly rejected even the concept of negotiating with our enemies. I guess you could armchair psychoanalyze this belief forever, but I imagine it's mostly caused by a fear that they might actually succeed. Take a look at Iraq: in the end, it acquiesced to every American demand in 2002 and 2003, and that just made it harder to gain support for the invasion we wanted.

It's no wonder Bush hates the idea. He's probably afraid the same thing might happen with Syria.
Matthew Yglesias agrees that may be true - we're afraid negotiation might work and then we'd really be in a bind - but says he would press further -
Conservatives combine this with an oddly expansive view of who "our enemies" are. Iran is plausibly characterized as an enemy who liberals think we should negotiate with. Our lack of diplomatic relations dates back to the hostage crisis in the immediate aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, and the Revolution was loaded with anti-American rhetoric and ideology from the get-go. It's a bona fide enemy, and we should negotiate with them.

But in what sense is Syria "our enemy" except in the sense that the Bush administration won't conduct diplomacy with the Syrian government? Syria isn't pushing for regime change in the United States. Syria isn't trying to conquer Mexico as part of a first step to restructure the politics of North America. Syria was part of our coalition during the first Gulf War. Throughout the Clinton administration there were frequent US-Syrian diplomatic talks running parallel to US-Israeli diplomatic talks aimed (unsuccessfully) at resolving the dispute over the Golan Heights and normalizing relations between Syria and Israel. After Operation Grapes of Wrath the US and Syria worked together on the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Agreement. After 9/11, Syria offered intelligence cooperation against al-Qaeda.

Syria's not an ally of the United States. But it's not our enemy in any meaningful sense. It's just a country the administration more-or-less severed diplomacy with unilaterally for no real reason.
"After 9/11, Syria offered intelligence cooperation against al-Qaeda." They did. Yep, we sent that Canadian fellow we grabbed at the Newark Airport to Syria for a year. They tortured him for us, to get him to confess he was an al Qaeda operative and to get him to tell us what the big plan was and where the top bad guys were hiding. Yes, he turned out to be just a completely innocent electrical engineer returning from vacation, just as the Canadians had warned us, and he couldn't tell us "the big plan" - he didn't know what we were talking about - and he knew no one and nothing useful at all, but that wasn't exactly the Syrians' fault. As for Operation Grapes of Wrath, that was the Israeli Defense Forces' code-name for a sixteen-day military blitz against Lebanon in 1996 in an attempt to end shelling of Northern Israel by Hezbollah. Hezbollah called it the April War. Israel names things better. Israel did a lot of airstrikes and shelling, just like last summer - and a UN installation was hit causing the death of one hundred eighteen Lebanese civilians. Hezbollah's cross-border rocket attacks targeted civilian northern Israel, which was equally nasty. But they also fought directly with Israeli and South Lebanon Army forces. The conflict was "de-escalated" on 27 April of that year with the agreement mentioned - all parties agreed to stop with the killing civilians stuff. Syria brokered it. They have been helpful.

Syria may be assisting the insurgents in Iraq now, which is what we claim. We say that's obvious, and they say they're doing no such thing. Both are probably lies. But really, we just don't like their attitude - they openly say our war is wrong-headed and destabilizing the region. That is insulting. You don't just come out and say the President of the United States made a monumentally bone-headed decision. That makes George and Dick and Donald resentful. Of course the Syrians also have to deal with wave after wave of Iraqi refuges from the chaos in Baghdad flooding Damascus and overwhelming the infrastructure there, which, in turn, seems to make them grumpy. There may be much to talk about, when you think about it. But we won't talk, until they stop doing what they say they're not doing, and maybe not even then.

So enter the freelancers -
The White House said Thursday that a Democratic senator's meeting with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was inappropriate and undermined democracy in the region, while three more senators, including a Republican, made plans to visit Damascus in defiance of President Bush.

The visits are troublesome for the Bush administration because they come in the wake of the report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which has called for the United States to engage in direct talks with Iran and Syria. Mr. Bush has steadfastly resisted such talks, and the visits by the senators could add to public pressure on the White House to change that policy.

Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, was in Damascus on Wednesday to meet with Mr. Assad; he later told reporters that he saw a "crack in the door" for the United States to cooperate with Syria on Iraq. Senators Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut; John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts; and Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, all plan to visit Syria in the coming weeks.
That is rather extraordinary. The administration says no jaw-jaw in this case - we will not talk with these insulting troublemakers. And senators from both parties say "screw that" - as that makes no sense - and fly over for a chat. They just took our foreign policy out of the hands of our passive-aggressive leaders, preferring more "direct" communications. The words "lame duck" come to mind.

Kerry - "The bottom line is we have a very clear and distinct responsibility to ask questions. A lot of Americans wish a lot more questions, a lot tougher questions, had been asked before we got into the mess we're in over here."

Dodd - "Members need to go to hot spots, not just garden spots."

Specter, the "moderate" Republican, had already said in a statement on the Senate floor that he had "long advocated" negotiating with Syria - "We need to keep our friends close and our enemies closer." Not original, but a power play. When the State Department and administration won't do their job, someone has to.

And it got hot. Tony Snow, the White House press secretary - "We think it's inappropriate. The concern here, among other things, is that this does not strengthen the hand of democracy in the region."

Who knows what that means, logically? The White House says that Syria is helping to fuel the insurgency in Iraq, and is "particularly incensed" at Syria for supporting Hezbollah and for trying to destabilize the Lebanese government. You don't talk to people who do such things. One has to assume then that the Syrians are fighting the big "democracy plan" we have for the region, and we don't much care about their parochial and local or politically pragmatic motives. They're messing with George's plan. That's unforgivable. And Snow warned that these visits "may cost some people their credibility" - Nelson from Florida will be on Rove's hit list now, or something. There will be some sort of smear - Snow pretty much promised that.

Nelson contends he did the right thing, and he may have. Later he was in Lebanon with its prime minister -
"I told Prime Minister Siniora that I told Assad to keep his hands off Lebanon," the senator said. He said he approached his meetings in Syria with "realism, not optimism," and added of Mr. Assad, "I don't trust him at all."

Despite the harsh words from the White House, the Bush administration does have diplomatic ties with Syria, and Mr. Nelson said American Embassy officials have been "just ecstatic" to receive reports from his visits, "because so often they don't have access to a highly controversial leader in the country until somebody like a senator comes along."

Mr. Nelson said he had already briefed R. Nicholas Burns, the State Department's third ranking official, about his meeting with Mr. Assad.
He's just doing the job the administration won't do. It's almost a coup, when you think about it.

And even the press is getting into the act. David Ignatius of the Post is, with this column -
DAMASCUS, Syria -- What positions would Syria take if it entered a dialogue with the United States about Iraq and other Middle East issues? I put that question Thursday to Walid Moallem, Syria's foreign minister, and he offered surprisingly strong support for the recommendations made last week in the Baker-Hamilton report.
And note this assessment from Yglesias -
There's good and there's bad in David Ignatius column on diplomacy with Syria but the genuinely absurd part of the column is not-at-all something Ignatius can be blamed for.

… Note the dateline: Damascus. Note the interviewee: Syria's foreign minister. It's not that hard. I don't have the budget for a trip to Damascus, and I bet I lack the clout for an interview with the foreign minister. But the State Department can surely swing the trip. Exploring the possibility of diplomacy requires, quite simply, nothing more than for Rice or Robert Zoellick or David Welch to, you know, go to Syria and ask what's up. It's lazy, insane, or just insane laziness not to do it. But no. Top officials will meet with the Syrian opposition but not the Syrian government. Because, I guess, if we close our eyes and wish hard enough, the Syrian government will just go away and the opposition will take over?

At any rate, here's Ignatius' complete interview with the Foreign Minister, and good for him for making the trip.
Yes, the senators and press meet with the Syrian government, to see what the lay of the land is and what can be worked out, if anything, and our administration will only meet with the wild-eyed rebels, to provide them funds to somehow get their act together and overthrow the government there. We, officially, don't do diplomacy. We only do regime change. The traditionalists, who still believe in classic diplomacy - hard nosed negotiations where you say what you won't give up and what is on the table, and ask the other side to do the same, and see what can be worked out - are doing what they can. The administration would prefer the twenty-year-olds with their AK-47's to take over that Syrian joint. Dealing with them is a whole lot easier than dealing actual adults who have their own issues and ideas, and concerns you may not realize, and want to know what you think, and may or may not want to see if everyone can get at least part of what they want. Dealing with the children is easier. It's a matter of courage. The administration may just be afraid. That would make them cowards, putting us all at risk. That couldn't be, could it?

Well, at least we'll have a "new way forward" and all that. That Iraq Study Group report shook things up. At the end of the week the best rundown on that came from an item from the McClatchy newspapers (formerly of Knight-Ridder), the crew that was alone in getting things exactly right before the war.

The baseline -
The president signaled Wednesday that neither the study group's pessimistic assessment nor the bleak situation in Iraq nor the results of the midterm elections have shaken his belief that victory in Iraq is possible.

"We're not going to give up," said Bush, who plans to announce his new strategy early next year.

While some key decisions haven't been made yet, the senior officials said the emerging strategy includes:

- A shift in the primary U.S. military mission in Iraq from combat to training an expanded Iraqi army, generally in line with the Iraq Study Group's recommendations.
That sounds a lot like "as they stand up, we stand down. The new way forward will be more of the same. And victory is possible, even if no one can precisely define it in this case.

There is some additional filigree of course - "A revised Iraq political strategy aimed at forging a 'moderate center' of Shiite Muslim, Sunni Muslim Arab and Kurdish politicians that would bolster embattled Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. The goal would be to marginalize radical Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents."

Isn't it pretty to think so? We just get them, as John McCain has put it, to stop this bullshit. We tell them, simply, to stop thinking about religion so much, and just stop blowing things up. And they will. It's a fine idea. Of course they'll do that. And pigs will fly.

And this - "More money to combat rampant unemployment among Iraqi youths and to advance reconstruction, much of it funneled to groups, areas and leaders who support Maliki and oppose the radicals."

That's not a bad idea. Who will be in charge of distribution? Do we send Paul Bremmer back? Will Halliburton handle this? The missing eight billion dollars, cash, from the first year or so of this war raises questions. Will someone keep any sort of books this time? There were no books before - not even an Excel spreadsheet. "We just don't know where the money went" may not fly this time. Ah, maybe they learned their lesson.

And this - "Rejection of the study group's call for an urgent, broad new diplomatic initiative in the Middle East to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reach out to Iran and Syria. Instead, the administration is considering convening a conference of Iraq and neighboring countries - excluding Iran and Syria - as part of an effort to pressure the two countries to stop interfering in Iraq."

Huh? See above, and Josh Marshall - "Okay, so it'll be us, 'Iraq,' Jordan and the Saudis holding a conference to get the Syrians and Iranians to stop messing around in Iraq. Why didn't we think of this before?"

Actually, that parallels our efforts with North Korea - we won't talk directly with North Korea but think we can get other nations, China and Japan, to talk them into what we want them to do, not go nuclear, without us having to actually face them ourselves and say things and listen to things. And how did that work out?

And as for John McCain's "send in twenty-thousand" plan - "A possible short-term surge of as many as 40,000 more American troops to try to secure Baghdad, along with a permanent increase in the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps, which are badly strained by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan."

So who's got the bigger dick now? McCain gets neutered. The president calls and raises, a double-down bet. He's the man. But see John Burns in the New York Times - Military Considers Sending as Many as 35,000 More U.S. Troops to Iraq, McCain Says - "Senator John McCain said Thursday that American military commanders were discussing the possibility of adding as many as 10 more combat brigades - a maximum of about 35,000 troops…" Did I say twenty thousand? The military wants more than double that, and I agree, and it wasn't George's idea, it was their idea, not his. So my dick is bigger. And so on.

Basically the Baker-Hamilton report backfired - "Bush appears to have been emboldened by criticism of its proposals as defeatist by members of the Republican Party's conservative wing and their allies on the Internet, the radio and cable TV."

They said his daddy's man was wrong. Bill Kristol said so. So did Rush Limbaugh - "This is cut and run, surrender without the words."

So who's do you turn to, if daddy's man tells you to surrender? That's obvious - "According to a senior State Department official, the president is listening closely to a former Republican secretary of state, but it isn't Baker. Henry Kissinger, a frequent White House visitor, has been to see Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a half-dozen times, he said."

Nixon. One more time. And how did that work out?

There is no forcing change in the case. The self-righteous are doing just fine, thank you.

Posted by Alan at 22:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006 22:54 PST home

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