Topic: Selling the War
Done Deal - We're Out of There
Elsewhere (see Lining Up the Week: What's Hot News, What's Not) there was mention of Seymour Hersh's Sunday, November 27th appearance on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" where he was discussing his latest New Yorker article, Up In The Air - Where is the Iraq war headed next? - a chat providing a little more detail on the Bush administration's withdrawal proposal. This came the same day as this from the Associated Press - White House Lays Foundation for US Troop Withdrawal (Sunday, November 27) - and the White House was saying that the plan is "remarkably similar" to a plan by Democratic senator Joe Biden, but they thought of it first, and this is not "cut and run" or anything like it.
One sees that of the news stories that were forming over the previous weekend this is the one that had legs. Of course, to make the case that we should start withdrawing troops (or redeploying them, which sound much better), the administration had better be able to show that things are going so well in getting the new Iraqi government up and running that we've sort of, kind of won, or something. And that renders all that anger that recent Friday night in the House of Representatives, with the witch-lady from Cincinnati calling the decorated Marine a coward and that forced vote to "stay the course" and all the rest, somewhat moot.
Note here all the right wing commentators savagely attacking that cowardly quitter Biden for what he said in the Washington Post about withdrawal, or redeployment, just a few hours before the White House said Biden was right on target, but the Bush team had thought of it first. Well, sometimes it's hard to be a loyal supporter of the flawless president. Sometimes you get blindsided by the guy. No one distributed the new talking points in time.
Fred Kaplan, over at SLATE.COM, tells us it's going to get even more upside down -
Kaplan says that, assuming the forecasts about the speech are true, the White House "is as cynical about this war as its cynical critics have charged it with being."
Yes, it has been obvious that once there was an Iraqi constitution, and then an elected government, we could say we did the job and begin to get out, no matter what we said about "staying the course" until every last "insurgent" was either dead or rendered pleasant and democratic (the non-capitalized version, of course). This does, as Kaplan notes, explain what all the rush was about. We pushed the schedule - no deviation from that - so we can get out, or mostly out, before the 2006 mid-term elections here, where those who carried the water for Bush in the house and senate face voters with doubts and questions and a bit of anger. The idea is to take away the war as an issue in the elections. That's pretty obvious. Yeah, the new Iraqi constitution is still a work in progress, and perhaps it is so "deeply flawed" it is "more likely to fracture the country than to unite it." Kaplan's argument is that this doesn't matter as much to the guys who run things for us all in Washington as their staying in power.
But note this:
Yep, that will work - except with those who still have working bullshit detectors and see we just spent a half-trillion dollars, three years, over 2,100 good lives, have over ten-thousand wounded and maimed, for what? A key country, with the third largest oil reserves known to exist, in chaos and civil war?
Well, you say, at least Saddam Hussein no longer runs the place.
True. Fine. But is this what we wanted?
Maybe not, but that's where we are - a substantial withdrawal is at hand. Read Kaplan. Top military officers have been privately, and not so privately, warning that current troop levels in Iraq cannot be sustained for another year or two. The Army and the National Guard and Reserves are near some sort of breaking point. What Representative Murtha proposed on the 17th that angered so many people - his call for an immediate redeployment - wasn't just personal anguish and geopolitical clear thinking. Kaplan comments that was, "quite explicitly, a public assertion of the military's institutional interests - and an acknowledgment of Congress' electoral interests." Although Kaplan doesn't say it flat-out, Murtha, a friend of the top brass at the Pentagon for decades, could be just laying it out for them, as their voice in the congress. Consider it a rebellion of the generals, where they use Murtha as their voice to get things changed. They've seen the light. As Kaplan puts it - "Murtha wasn't merely advocating redeployment; he was practically announcing it."
The White House lost the generals? You could see it that way. And note Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on November 22nd said "I suspect that American forces are not going to be needed in the numbers that they are now that much longer." She said it on CNN, and then she said it on Fox News. Was she addressing the generals? Maybe so.
And it does make political sense for anyone who wants to be reelected.
Is this the right thing to do, draw down the forces? Who knows?
Will there be total disorder and possibly a civil war with casualties ten times greater than we have now? A regional war with Iran lining up with the Shiites in Iraq and the other Arab states in the region lining up with the Sunnis in Iraq? Who will line up with the Kurds, who aren't "Arabs" ethnically but are Sunni Muslims, and a century-long worry for Turkey? This could get messy.
Questions, since President Bush is going to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Well, the man does not do nuance, and doesn't like detail. He likes to make things real, real simple. He hates people telling him things are complicated or this or that might not work. He doesn't like experts - or advice, which he sees as disloyalty. He likes to go with his gut instinct. He's that kind of guy. You either trust him or you don't - and if you don't, he doesn't want to deal with you.
But what the American people in the past have loved him for - these manly traits - may no longer be useful, given the issues now. But that's too bad. He's in charge.
We're in for a bumpy ride.
Note this email from a reader at Andrew Sullivan's conservative, pro-war but unhappy-with-Bush site -
Yes, that would be sad. But it's maybe not that the guy is "too much of a fool" to explain the rather significant benefits of what we're now doing in Iraq. Maybe he's just not that interested in that, and never has been and never will be - or at least not in detail. He's explained as much as he's going to explain it, as much as he understands it. One suspects he's puzzled, and a bit angry, that people want something more. It's not that there's no progress to report, no plan, and no direction. The man has said, "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." You can sense his frustration - Why won't that do? - Why do people want more?
Sullivan himself -
Sullivan of course seems to think a decision to change is possible, that some change of heart could have the man decide to attend to detail and all the rest.
A refusal to do this? No. The capacity is not there.
Whether the problem is intellectual - he just cannot think that carefully (lacks the horsepower for it, so to speak) - or a personality-based thing - really doesn't matter. Sullivan casually tosses in the idea of the man is, perhaps, not capable of change and this may not be a refusal at all. We elected a man a very limited ability and no curiosity - because we thought that was what was needed in these times.
Wrong. Maybe we'll do better in 2008 - if we all live that long.
James Wolcott being colorful -
So we have three more years of this.
Oh, and as for the doofus shtick, see the now famous photo and text here - Bush the bumbling but lovable goofball. The photo is the new icon of the whole problem.
The Formerly Great Writ
Goodbye, habeas corpus. Hello, executive detention.
Emily Bazelon - Monday, Nov. 28, 2005, at 4:27 PM ET - SLATE.COM
This is a discussion of a provision in the renewal of the Patriot Act that makes it much, much harder for American prisoners to challenge their convictions in federal court.
As you know, and as you are reminded, "Habeas Corpus, the Great Writ, dates from 1305 and the reign of King Edward I in England. It allows detainees to ask a court to order their warden to explain the basis for their detention. (The Latin, translated as "you have the body," refers to the warden's powers.) Detainees can petition for habeas review if they are held without trial, or if they're convicted and claim that their constitutional rights were violated at trial. Habeas is the means by which state prisoners, on rare occasion, can be heard in federal court."
The whole thing is full of the legal precedents and disputes involved, but you might note the issue now is far more than the president having the authority to decide, with no review by anyone, that any American citizen can be locked up with no rights for as long as he chooses, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. That's a given now.
As for run-of-the-mill criminal defendants, the proposed revision to the Patriot Act would take Habeas Corpus from the federal courts and give the attorney general the authority to decide such things. We'd all be subject to the unilateral power of executive detention.
You want to be safe, don't you?
Just consider the nature of the man to whom congress and our courts have given this new power.