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"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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Thursday, 18 August 2005

Topic: Dissent

Momentum: From Brighton, New York to Paris, France

And so it goes on: Vigils Calling for End to Iraq War Begin (Angela K. Brown, Associated Press, Thursday, August 18, 2005) -
As the sun dipped behind the pastures around the campsite near President Bush's ranch, more than 200 people clutched candles and gathered silently around a flag-draped coffin.

The vigil calling for an end to the war in Iraq was among hundreds nationwide Wednesday, part of an effort spurred by Cindy Sheehan's anti-war protest in memory of her son Casey, killed in Iraq last year.
The organizers were, TrueMajority and Democracy for America - 1,600 "vigils" from coast to coast. And the AP notes one was also held in France at Paris' Peace Wall, that glass monument near the Eiffel Tower that says "peace" in 32 languages.

That would explain an email received here in Hollywood early Tuesday from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis -
One of my club members sent this:

Tomorrow, Wednesday August 17, we want to join thousands of Americans who are holding demonstrations in the USA in support of Cindy Sheehan and her fight to end the war in Iraq. Please contact us if you wish to join us. We propose to appear in front of the US Embassy in Paris at 1200 noon on Wednesday the 17th.

Thank you.
It's a bit of a walk from the embassy, just north of the Place de la Concorde, over to the Peace Wall by the big iron tower, but manageable.

Back here?

AP notes Oklahoma City and one Marie Evans: "There was no question in my mind that we needed to make a statement in Oklahoma, which is a very conservative state," she said, holding a sign that read, "Every day President Bush plays in Crawford our young men die." Demonstrators in Nashville had candles, flags and banners, like the one that read: "Thank you for your courage Cindy." Charlottesville, Virginia? Joan Schatzman: "I'm a mother who has a 20-year-old son. I did not spend 20 years of my life raising someone to be squandered in a war." Minneapolis - Saint Paul? Sue Ann Martinson: "There were no weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqis didn't have anything to do with 9-11."

And so on. The New York Times covers it here (Elisabeth Bumiller, dated August 17) with this on Sheehan: "She's like a herald, waking everybody up," said Tom Matzzie, the Washington director for The Times also notes vigils in Rockefeller Center and Clover Park out here in Santa Monica. At Union Square in New York? About three hundred people, including "one protester dressed like a hooded prisoner in the infamous photos from the Abu Ghraib prison." Also noted: Somerville, Massachusetts, north of Boston, one hundred fifty people, a similar crowd in White Plains, and two hundred in a field next to the expressway west of downtown Chicago. Also in New York - 106th Street and Broadway, and in Riverside Park.

Something is up, even in smug Brighton, New York, on the east side of Rochester. (Disclaimer: this writer spent much of the seventies teaching at an exclusive prep school on Clover Street in Brighton.) An account of that vigil with many photos is here.

Something a bit different in the UK with this:

Families of dead troops hope to see Blair in court
Legal fight begins for inquiry into lawfulness of Iraq conflict
Audrey Gillan, The Guardian (UK), Thursday August 18, 2005
Tony Blair could be forced to give evidence under oath after families of 17 soldiers killed in Iraq began a legal bid yesterday to secure an independent inquiry into the lawfulness of the 2003 conflict.

A lawyer representing the families lodged papers at the high court in London, seeking a judicial review of the government's decision this May not to order an investigation into the legality of the war in Iraq.

They hope the inquiry will be held within six months.

The first three defendants named on the papers are the prime minister, the defence secretary at the time, Geoff Hoon, and the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith.

The families have demanded that judges investigate to see whether the government misled the public about the war.
Now that's curious.

Gillan focuses on one Reg Keys, the father of Corporal Tom Keys, twenty, who was one of six royal military police troops killed in Majar al-Kabir. Keys says these sorts of things:
"We strongly feel that our sons were sent into a conflict not backed by international law or the United Nations. Our boys were fully prepared to lay their lives down to defend their country. They were sent to war on a falsehood, against a background of propaganda of WMD. Look at the state of Iraq, it's a crucible of terror.

"We feel we have to pursue this case to make our prime minister accountable for his misdemeanours. He misled parliament and it is well-known now that it was a done deal in 2002 that he was going to go to war [alongside] George Bush."
The families are contending that, under human rights laws, if the British state is involved in the use of lethal force there must be an independent inquiry. "Why were these soldiers sent out to Iraq when it appears from everything in the public domain that the Iraq war was illegal and that therefore the sons and daughters of these families died for no good reason?"

The difference between us and the Brits is that we do the emotional outpouring thing - dramatic but perhaps useless, if not counterproductive with those now in power - whilst restraint and decorum there mean taking legal action. Adam McKay notes: "George W Bush may be the first president ever who you can honestly describe as petulant." The demonstrations mean little. Would a lawsuit mean more?

Well, the Brits of a certain class are more thoughtful than their American cousins. Horace may have said "Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori" - but Wilfred Owen gave the definitive comment on that here. We're not so scholarly. Over here no one reads Horace or Owen.

We read Pat Buchanan, our traditional and quite xenophobic voice on the right. But he says this on August 17 -
... Cindy Sheehan may be the catalyst of crisis for the Bush presidency.

As a Gold Star mother of a soldier son slain in Iraq, Sheehan has authenticity and moral authority. Wedded to the passion of her protest, these make her a magnet for a bored White House press corps camped in Crawford for August. Cindy and the president are the only stories in town. And as a source of daily derogatory commentary on the president, Sheehan is using the media, and the media are using her, for the same end: to bedevil George W. Bush.

... Put bluntly, the bottom is falling out of support for the commander in chief.

... If President Bush cannot describe "victory" in terms convincing enough to Americans willing to spend blood indefinitely, he will have to persuade them to stay the course by describing what a disaster defeat will mean for Iraq and for America's position in the world.

But to do that would raise a question: Why, then, in heaven's name, did America take such a risk, when Iraq was never a threat?

September could see the coalescing of an anti-war movement that both bedevils the White House and divides a Democratic Party that seeks to benefit from a losing war, without having to offer a plan to win it or end it, without being held accountable for having supported it, or responsible for undercutting it.

Our politics appear likely to become even more poisoned when the president returns from his troubled vacation.

Marc Cooper writing in the LA Weekly (Issue of August 19-25) notes the poison:
- Has there recently been a more vile moment in our already debased body politic than that staged this past weekend when Fox News contributor and radio talk-show host Mike Gallagher convened his ?army? contra Sheehan and, wielding a bullhorn, led a chant of ?We Don?t Care??

- Indeed, the administration has so relentlessly painted itself into a corner, it has so twisted the facts to justify an ill-conceived and mismanaged war, that the president?s handlers consider a pro forma meeting with Sheehan to be a sign of unacceptable waffling and weakness. Steely-souled Dubya ain?t about to give in either to terrorists or to that crazy lady from California.
So just what are we doing and why - and does anyone really have to explain it?

Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, comments on the item in the pages, A Vacuum Where the Noble Cause Should Be, and particularly on what Maureen Dowd said in the Times: "Pressed about how he could ride his bike while refusing to see a grieving mom of a dead soldier who's camped outside his ranch, he added: 'So I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so.'"

Cindy Sheehan's son has no life anymore. Why shouldn't she ask why not? Didn't he deserve his life? How is it that Bush thinks he 'deserves' his life more? The guy is a hapless goon. All the parents deserve an answer.

And as long as you are asking, 'why continue?' - think about how long, and what it's expected to achieve. If all that's on the menu is Bush Senior's prediction, the thing should have been stopped yesterday.

Those last days in Vietnam were messy but they got it over with. The Vietnamese won Vietnam. They got their country back.

The way Bush junior has arranged it, bungled it, it looks unlikely that the Iraqis will get Iraq back. You, we, are going to get a pile of fundamental Islam, from Baghdad to Islamabad, thanks to GW Bush. The neo-cons get their wish granted - a new 'evil' empire.

As long as we need their gas there will be a new 'cold' war. Like, forever. Which is the same amount of time that some folks are going to make piles of money out of it.

In the blizzard of lies and ill-informed opinion it's often overlooked that the purpose of democracy is to make money, the more of it the better. A long 'cold' war will do the trick. It did last time.

How long will it take those bozos to start telling us we're in another 'cold' war? It's an answer for Cindy Sheehan after all.
So that's the answer? It very may well be.

"I've got a life to live and will do so." Sorry about your son. He doesn't. "Let's fight terrorism - now watch this swing." (Ah, you had to see the movie.)

Posted by Alan at 10:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005 10:06 PDT home

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Topic: Dissent

A Vacuum Where the "Noble Cause" Should Be

Nature abhors a vacuum - that sixth-grade science idea that empty or unfilled spaces are somehow unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics or some such thing - seems to be playing itself out in the world of politics. Cindy Sheehan created a vacuum - she wants to know why her son had to die in Iraq a year ago. Bush's statement that these soldiers died in a "noble cause" didn't sound right, and she decided to go to Texas and ask to see the president so that he could explain to her for what "noble cause" her son died.

Is this a grandstanding PR thing - or a real question? Whichever it is there seems to be a vacuum where the "noble cause" should be. That can be lost in how complicated it has all become, with various parts of the anti-war left lining up behind the woman who lost her son - each with its own agenda - and all flavors of the pro-war right lining up against her - there too with a variety of motives. Her husband has filed for divorce, and her in-laws think she's wrong, and she wasn't always this way and all the rest - but she asked a question.

The original "noble cause" - we were preemptively protecting our country from an Iraqi attack with weapons of mass destruction when no one else would do anything - didn't work out. We said the weapons of mass destruction were there, the inspectors said it didn't seem so, we said we knew just where they were and the inspectors were fools, Saddam Hussein was slowly allowing more and more access, we said that wasn't good enough - and so on. We were wrong. The parallel try at a "noble cause" was claiming this was simply bringing to justice a man who led a regime in cahoots with the worst of the worst, al Qaeda. That initially seemed a little odd, since that Osama fellow running al Qaeda had often ragged on Saddam Hussein as a corrupt secularist who had no religious mission and was, therefore, an enemy of the movement, or whatever you wish to call it. Evidence that this was not the case and somehow Hussein was involved in all the bad stuff never panned out. We were wrong. The third try at a "noble cause" was that we would bring some sort of secular Jeffersonian democracy, and a free-market capitalist system to the Middle East, and all the nations in the regions would say, "What a good idea - let's do that too!" But on Monday, August 15, 2005 - the deadline for the draft of the new Iraqi constitution - nothing happened, and when it does we won't get a secular Jeffersonian democracy - they cannot even decide on the kind of Islamic republic they want to have. As reported in the Washington Post last Sunday -
"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."
So now the question hangs in the air - just what is the "noble cause" now?

Sheehan lost her son for that cause, and she thinks she deserves an answer. You can say "but her husband is divorcing her" or "she's a tool of Michael Moore" or "her son would not have wanted her to do this thing" - but forget her. Really. She was useful in raising the question in the most dramatic of ways - she lost her son - but the question is more important than she is.

She just started something. Digby over at Hullabaloo comments:
Political theatre works. If people could be politically persuaded by civilized debate, the Lehrer News Hour would be the highest rated news show on television. Most people need drama, excitement, pathos, catharsis - on some level their emotions have to connect with their minds in order to understand.

Up to now, the story of Iraq has been told through the prism of American might and glory. It was a stirring tale. Unfortunately, the story of Iraq isn't really a story of might and glory; it's a story of arrogance, incompetence and human suffering. That's the story that Cindy embodies as she stands out there in the hot sun, surrounded by supporters, asking the president to answer the question for which he has no answer.

The spectacles of 9/11 and Iraq are over. Even the war supporters are singing a different tune now - the swashbuckling "I-raq 'n Roll" has given way to the mournful "Arlington." Cindy Sheehan's story is the story of that shift in the zeitgeist. We do not need to be afraid of this; it's good for the country.
Is it?

Should we ask why did we do this - and why do we continue?

Monday from "Our Man in Baghdad," my nephew Major Cook offered this: "If we pull out now, the almost 2000 of my brothers and sisters that have sacrificed will have done it for no reason. Relentless resolve will get us through and the results will benefit many."

But that's the whole point, and why so many are angry. The idea is someone betrayed those almost two thousand good people - and they are dead. And they are dead for no good reason. That is, in some minds, criminal - unless there is a clear explanation of why their deaths were necessary. "The results will benefit many." How? Many Americans don't get it.

The three main explanations of the "noble cause" crumbled - reality can be brutal. Is there something underlying them all that makes this all noble?

The families of those who die, or who are crippled in one way or another, may deserve an answer. The counterargument that these people do not merit or even want an answer - you trust your commander-in-chief and assume he knows more than we all do and is honorable and right - may apply to a good portion of the nation. Some have faith and proud, unquestioning allegiance. They call it patriotism. That may not be good enough for others. Some have questions - they want to know why this and why that, and see themselves as participants in our government. They ask questions, especially when they lose a family member. And they call that patriotism. It has to do with the notion we have a participatory democracy and that sort of thing.

On one side? Unquestioning loyalty. On the other? Questions and ideas and a need for understanding the whys and all that.

Each side believes the other is dead wrong, and unpatriotic.

What follows is for the questioners.

Mid-week this was going around - "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam" George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft, Time (2 March 1998). Why did the current president's father say in 1988?
While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well.

Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different - and perhaps barren - outcome.
One of those commenting on it was Digby over at Hullabaloo with Shoulda Listened To His Daddy:
That's a snarky title, but it's quite true anyway. There are going to be many different ways to evaluate this period in our history, but the prism of the father-son relationship is perhaps the most compelling - and maybe the most important. That combination of the second rate son with the manipulating neocon advisors is the stuff of Shakespeare.

Look at what Scowcroft and Bush Sr were saying and look at the state of Iraq today. It is breathtaking, isn't it? It can really only be explained by magical thinking on the part of the neocons and the long frustrated desire on their part to conquer something. And Georgie just wanted to do what his father didn't do - take out Saddam and win a second term. By that standard he's been a rousing success. One wonders if he feels satisfied. He doesn't look it.

In our endless search for explanations as to why they really did this inexplicable thing, Junior's relationship with his father and the neocon psyche are probably the places where the answers truly lie.

I wonder what would happen if a reporter were to ask Junior how he felt about the fact that his father's predictions of failure in Iraq had all come true? I'd really like to see that.
One suspect no one will ask the question. And is the stuff of Shakespeare? Is the reason for the dead so personal?

Wednesday in the New York Times Maureen Dowd carries that forward:
How could President Bush be cavorting around on a long vacation with American troops struggling with a spiraling crisis in Iraq?

Wasn't he worried that his vacation activities might send a frivolous signal at a time when he had put so many young Americans in harm's way?

"I'm determined that life goes on," Mr. Bush said stubbornly.

That wasn't the son, believe it or not. It was the father - 15 years ago. I was in Kennebunkport then to cover the first President Bush's frenetic attempts to relax while reporters were pressing him about how he could be taking a month to play around when he had started sending American troops to the Persian Gulf only three days before.

On Saturday, the current President Bush was pressed about how he could be taking five weeks to ride bikes and nap and fish and clear brush even though his occupation of Iraq had become a fiasco. "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life," W. said, "to keep a balanced life."

Pressed about how he could ride his bike while refusing to see a grieving mom of a dead soldier who's camped outside his ranch, he added: "So I'm mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so."
Like father, like son - very Shakespearean.

And now?
As W.'s neighbors get in scraps with the antiwar forces coalescing around the ranch; as the Pentagon tries to rustle up updated armor for our soldiers, who are still sitting ducks in the third year of the war; as the Iraqi police we train keep getting blown up by terrorists, who come right back every time U.S. troops beat them up; as Shiites working on the Iraqi constitution conspire with Iran about turning Iraq into an Islamic state that represses women; and as Iraq hurtles toward a possible civil war, W. seems far more oblivious than his father was with his Persian Gulf crisis.

This president is in a truly scary place in Iraq. Americans can't get out, or they risk turning the country into a terrorist haven that will make the old Afghanistan look like Cipriani's. Yet his war, which has not accomplished any of its purposes, swallows ever more American lives and inflames ever more Muslim hearts as W. reads a book about the history of salt and looks forward to his biking date with Lance Armstrong on Saturday.

The son wanted to go into Iraq to best his daddy in the history books, by finishing what Bush senior started. He swept aside the warnings of Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell and didn't bother to ask his father's advice. Now he is caught in the very trap his father said he feared: that America would get bogged down as "an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land," facing a possibly "barren" outcome.
And this sort of thing indicates it's not getting better here on the home front:
The day after burying their son, parents of a fallen Marine urged President Bush to either send more reinforcements to Iraq or withdraw U.S. troops altogether.

"We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out," Rosemary Palmer, mother of Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II, said Tuesday.

Schroeder, 23, died two weeks ago in a roadside explosion, one of 16 Ohio-based Marines killed recently in Iraq.

The soldier's father said his son and other Marines were being misused as a stabilizing force in Iraq.

"Our comments are not just those of grieving parents," Paul Schroeder said in front of the couple's home. "They are based on anger, Mr. President, not grief. Anger is an honest emotion when someone's family has been violated."

Palmer accused the president of refusing to make changes in a war gone bad. "Whether he leads them out by putting more troops on the ground or pulling them out ? he can't just let it continue," she said.

... The Ohio couple have long opposed the war and tried to dissuade their son from joining the Marines, but have made their views public only since his death. On Tuesday they urged Americans to voice their opposition to the war.

"We want to point out that 30 people have died since our son. Are people listening?" Palmer asked.
It seems Sheehan is not the only one who wants answers.

And this won't do (from Cox News, what Dowd was talking about):
President Bush, noting that lots of people want to talk to the president and "it's also important for me to go on with my life," on Saturday defended his decision not to meet with the grieving mom of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But, I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

The comments came prior to a bike ride on the ranch with journalists and aides. It also came as the crowd of protesters grew in support of Sheehan, the mother who came here Aug. 6 demanding to talk to Bush about the death of her son.
To the loyalists, that is strength. To the questioners? Choose your adjective.

There is an alternative theory to the father-son Shakespearean model, something else to fill the "noble cause" vacuum - the madness theory.

From the quite unreliable Capitol Hill Blue we get Is Bush Out of Control? - from Doug Thompson.
Buy beleaguered, overworked White House aides enough drinks and they tell a sordid tale of an administration under siege, beset by bitter staff infighting and led by a man whose mood swings suggest paranoia bordering on schizophrenia.

They describe a President whose public persona masks an angry, obscenity-spouting man who berates staff, unleashes tirades against those who disagree with him and ends meetings in the Oval Office with "get out of here!"

In fact, George W. Bush's mood swings have become so drastic that White House emails often contain "weather reports" to warn of the President's demeanor. "Calm seas" means Bush is calm while "tornado alert" is a warning that he is pissed at the world.

Decreasing job approval ratings and increased criticism within his own party drives the President's paranoia even higher. Bush, in a meeting with senior advisors, called Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist a "god-damned traitor" for opposing him on stem-cell research.

"There's real concern in the West Wing that the President is losing it," a high-level aide told me recently.

A year ago, this web site discovered the White House physician prescribed anti-depressants for Bush. The news came after revelations that the President's wide mood swings led some administration staffers to doubt his sanity.
That's followed by a recap of what's in Justin Frank's book, Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. See our friend Douglas Yates on that in these pages last summer.

Doug Thompson now? "The President of the United States is out of control. How long can the ship of state continue to sail with a madman at the helm?"

It's a theory to fill the vacuum.

Whatever theory you like, there's the political problem.

James Wolcott calls up Immanuel Wallerstein - Senior Research Scholar at Yale, former President of the International Sociological Association, and the author of, among other works, the three-volume The Modern World-System - with this:
... for the Bush regime, the worst picture of all is on the home front. Approval rating of Bush for the conduct of the Iraqi war has gone down to 36 percent. The figures have been going steadily down for some time and should continue to do so. For poor George Bush is now faced with the vigil of Cindy Sheehan.

... Of course, George W. Bush hasn't had the courage to see her. He sent out emissaries. She said this wasn't enough, that she wanted to see Bush personally. She has now said that she will maintain a vigil outside Bush's home until either he sees her or she is arrested.

Bush won't see her because he knows there is nothing that he can say to her. Seeing her is a losing proposition. But so is not seeing her. The pressure to withdraw from Iraq is now becoming mainstream. It is not because the U.S. public shares the view that the U.S. is an imperialist power in Iraq. It is because there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel... They want out. Bush is caught in an insoluble dilemma. The war is lost.
As for the loyalists?

Anti-war protestors supporting Cindy Sheehan erected white crosses bearing the names of fallen soldiers at her Crawford campsite. An anti-Sheehan protestor drove his pickup truck through the crosses (here) - at about the time a prayer service was to begin at Sheehan's camp Monday, a sheep farmer fired a shotgun into the air. "This is still redneck country," he said (here - and they pile on. As Media Matters reports.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Washington Times columnist - Sheehan's statements "emboldened" America's enemies. He also called her "the poster child for surrender." As mentioned previously, Bill O'Reilly called her treasonous. Jimmy W. Hall in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Cindy Sheehan evidently thinks little of her deceased son, his sacrifice or of those left to do the noble work in his absence." And this: "The lady is on the wrong team. She's disgraceful." And this: "Is the proper answer to her bitterness really to belittle and undermine public support for the efforts of those still serving?" And this: "My suggestion to her ... is that she think about the lives of those still in Iraq. Undermining public support for our efforts in Iraq helps the enemy, her son's murderers. They love people like her, but hate those like her heroic son."

The best is David Horowitz here:
Cindy Sheehan is the most prominent symbol and chief mouthpiece of a psychological warfare campaign against her own country in time of war that can only benefit its enemies on the field of battle. It is one thing to criticize a war policy. It is quite another to accuse your own country of creating the monster it went to war to remove and fabricating intelligence information to send American youth into battle to die for a lie - which is what she has done. She has made herself a willing tool of anti-American forces in this country that want America to lose the war in Iraq and the war on terror generally. She is promoting a cause - immediate withdrawal from Iraq - that would lead to a bloodbath in the region and in the United States. She has joined forces with an Unholy Alliance on the other side in the epic battle for freedom in the Middle East and has shown that she will do and say anything to discredit the United States and its commander-chief -- acts which serve the enemy and endanger American lives. She is a disgrace to her brave son who gave his life for the freedom of ordinary Iraqis and the security of his countrymen. She has betrayed his sacrifice and embraced his enemies.
That's what happens when you ask questions. One thinks of the bumper sticker you see here and there - "Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up, And Hold On."

Some folks resent that. And they wonder about things like these items at the news aggregator Cursor. From Wednesday, August 17, 2005:
Car bombs killed at least 43, and U.S. forces reportedly opened fire on a crowd of workers in central Baghdad, where the city's morgue received the bodies of 1100 civilians during the month of July, in "the most psychologically damaged place in the world."

"Americans should not imagine " that Iraq will not be "dependent on significant levels of U.S. military support for years to come," says military historian Frederick Kagan, who argued in 2003 that "the American military today may be in the best position of any military in history."
And that's just the start of the page.

What are we doing and why? Some sense a vacuum here. The first two of the three main rationales for all this turned to dust. The third - to bring some sort of secular Jeffersonian democracy, and a free-market capitalist system, to the Middle East - doesn't look likely now. Why are we doing all this? Should we ask ? or "Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up, And Hold On?" Or should we trust there a fine reason, and although we won't be told it, it's noble and has nothing to do with intensely personal and unresolved father-son issues, nor with any form of madness.

I can hear my conservative friends saying to me - "Don't ask all these questions. Trust the guy. It's none of your business."

Yes it is. That's my nephew over there, someone I admire and trust and love.


Enough on the war. It doesn't matter, given this:

Flu pandemic could trigger second Great Depression, brokerage warns clients
Helen Branswell, CBC News, Wednesday, August 17, 2005, 06:36 PM EDT
TORONTO (CP) - A major Canadian brokerage firm has added its voice to those warning of the potential global impact of an influenza pandemic, suggesting it could trigger a crisis similar to that of the Great Depression.

Real estate values would be slashed, bankruptcies would soar and the insurance industry would be decimated, a newly released investor guide on avian influenza warns clients of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

"It's quite analogous to the Great Depression in many ways, although obviously caused by very different reasons," co-author Sherry Cooper, chief economist of the firm and executive vice-president of the BMO Financial Group, said in an interview Tuesday.

"We won't have 30-per-cent unemployment because frankly, many people will die. And there will be excess demand for labour and yet, at the same time, it will absolutely crunch the economy worldwide." ...

Posted by Alan at 20:57 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 17 August 2005 21:21 PDT home

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

Topic: Photos

Union Station, Los Angeles

No politics today - a photo shoot late this morning, downtown.

Union Station, built in 1939 for the Union Pacific, the Southern Pacific, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe - considered to be "The last of America's great rail stations." Designed by the father and son team of John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson. Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, Streamline Modern, mixed - add some Moorish and Aztec details, and travertine marble. You've seen it in many movies. Photos, Tuesday, August 16, 2005.

Four high-resolution shots here. A photo album of twenty-eight shots here, including shots of one of the many locomotives here built by my friends in London, Ontario. Almost all the Los Angeles Metrolink locomotives were built there.

Not here or in the album? In the adjoining courtyard, a union rally - the AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), Local 1902/1001. These folks run the water system here, and they want a new contract. Be that as it may, for this rally they hired a mariachi band - the best I've ever heard. The photos of the band and the rally will appear in this coming Sunday's Just Above Sunset as a special feature.


Enter and buy your tickets...

The old restaurant - architect Mary Colter

One of those Canadian locomotives...

The front door, so to speak...

Posted by Alan at 20:51 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005 20:57 PDT home

Monday, 15 August 2005

Topic: Selling the War

What's gone wrong with the narrative?

If Sunday, August 14, was the day The Day the Wheels Fell Off, with Frank Rich in The New York Times saying that, for all intents and purposes, the war is over, except the president doesn't seem to realize it, and the same day Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer in The Washington Post reporting that key people in the administration are admitting we're just not going to get what we fought for, a democracy in Iraq - it seems the best we can hope for is some form of Islamic republic - then Monday was the day things might have been better. The first two major rationales didn't pan out - WMD and ties to al Qaeda - so maybe...

Monday, August 15, 2005 was the deadline for the draft of the new Iraqi constitution. That didn't happen. No WMD, no ties to al Qaeda - so this wasn't war to keep us safe from those - and now this. Democracy, that's the ticket! So we won't get a western-style one – no matter - but now they cannot even decide on the kind of Islamic republic they want to have.

Iraq constitution drafters get extension
Parliament grants seven more days to complete draft; Bush, Rice hail effort
MSNBC News Services, Updated: 6:42 p.m. ET Aug. 15, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's parliament agreed to a seven-day extension for leaders to complete a draft constitution after politicians failed to reach a midnight Monday deadline to agree on the charter. The White House, apparently resigned to the delay, hailed the constitution as "the most important document in the history of the new Iraq" and reinforced the completion procedure as "an Iraqi process."

Parliament adjourned after voting to extend the deadline until Aug. 22, acting on a request from Kurdish leaders for more time.

Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish framers of the charter had reached a tentative deal late Monday, agreeing on issues ranging from oil revenues to the country's name but putting off decision on the most contentious questions - including women's rights, the role of Islam and possible Kurdish autonomy.

Efforts to meet the Aug. 15 deadline showed how determined Iraqis are to maintain political momentum under intense U.S. pressure, but their failure to agree was a clear sign that their sharp political divisions are far from over.
Ah, there are difficulties. Maybe they'll work out something or other.

The best rundown of what those difficulties are is from Juan Cole, the professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan, here.

In short? Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani dislikes the idea of a confederation, which would seriously weaken the central government and might pave the way for a break-up of the country. The major advocates of a loose federalism plus provincial confederation are SCIRI and its paramilitary offshoot, the Badr Organization, and they're unhappy. The Kurds have a three-province confederation, which even has its own legislature (Scotland?), and have demanded that it be expanded (adding parts of three other provinces) - and they've also demanded that some proportion of petroleum receipts from Kirkuk in the north stay in the Kurdish confederation. The Shiite south has a bigger and younger field, the Rumaila oil field, and a Shiite confederation of provinces would benefit if they could keep a proportion of the petroleum receipts locally rather than having them go to Baghdad. The Sunni Arabs at the moment have no petroleum fields, so they do not like this system and are making a stand against it. Add to that the Shiites also want a provision in the constitution that no statute may be passed by the federal legislature that is contrary to Islamic law (shariah). The Kurds reject this provision absolutely. And should the prime minister or president actually appoint the provincial governors, who are not elected by the people? That's a regional thing, and how things work in Egypt, for example. And of course the Shiites are moving closer to Iran, and Bush says over the weekend that he could take military action against Iran over its nuclear program - in an interview broadcast in Iraq from Israel. That's what Cole says.


Can this be fixed, even with an additional week of negotiations?

I asked my nephew, Major Cook, in Baghdad - West Point '90, previously posted to Mosul, fluent in Turkish (there was that year's posting in Istanbul and now he knows more about Kurdish matters than anyone I know) - and got this back:
Fixed? Whew, pretty ambiguous - so I think we should use the words "made to work." In actuality, many Iraqis are embracing democracy, but it is old-school lovers of Islamic Law (Sheriat) like SCIRI that continue to drive a wedge between religious factions that keep this country apart. Truth be known, not all will like the constitution, but they all will get a chance to vote on it. That will be the democracy of it - and if "No" is the vote on the constitution, then the December vote will not be to elect the lasting National Body but another temporary government to build yet another constitution. Regardless, the US Military is not in the politics business. It is our job to provide a secure environment to allow the process to continue. But, in the end, I think it will be "made to work" - and if SCIRI doesn't come to the table to facilitate a solution, then the Iraqi people may vote around them, though that is unlikely. But, heck, that is democracy, and I like to see it.
Fair enough. The military secures the environment for the "nation building" to begin, but they don't do the building. Of course that has been a tough go, but Brian and his like are doing their best to make it possible. And the Iraqis will build - what, exactly?

That is not a question for the military. It is not a tactical or operational question. It is a question of strategy, the geopolitical kind. The civilian leadership, the administration we elect, works those questions.

Comments here and there on Monday?

Eric Alterman asks What do we have here? He pulls this quote from the Sunday Post item:
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
He says this:
Yeah well, you know what's coming next; tens of thousands dead; more than that wounded; hundreds of billions wasted; the hatred of the world; the creation of countless terrorists and torture victims, the destruction of a nation; and the dishonoring of the leadership of the United States of America. All in the service of something that "was never realistic," an "unreality" that was sold to us by a dishonest, fanatical group of ideologues and their cheerleaders in the so-called liberal media.

What's is perhaps most galling about this is the fact that if you tried to warn your fellow citizens against just this likelihood three years ago when it was still preventable, you were part of some decadent, fifth-columnist coastal elite that hated America, while the chest beating patriots were the ones who drained this nation of its blood and treasure is the service of their own lethal combination of ignorance, arrogance, and ideological obsession. Onward Christian Soldiers.
Jerry Bowles says this:
No WMDs, no al Qaeda link, no Iraq oil boom, and now, insult to injury, no democracy. A secular country with relative freedom for women is about to become an Islamic Republic and breeding ground for future terrorists.
Yes, so it would seem. But if is what they choose?

Somehow, in a geopolitical way, this is not what we intended.

But that is what we were sold.

Harold Meyerson covers the press side of sales job in this item in the upcoming edition of Prospect (issue date September 10).

This was a war of choice - a preemptive war (or preventative or prophylactic war, if you will) - and it needed promotion.
A war like the Iraq War, whose public support before the idea was seriously discussed started out well below 50 percent, needs to be sold - "marketed," as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card once put it - needs, well, marketers.

And, in the information age, an administration can't, and doesn't, market alone. It takes an army of salespeople - it takes a village, you might say - to accentuate the positive. And when an administration spreads demonstrable lies and falsehoods, or offers "evidence" that can't be wholly refuted but for which there is nevertheless no existing proof, it takes that same army to stand up and say: "Yes! These assertions are true! Those who deny them are unpatriotic, or simpletons, or both!" And finally, when the war goes terribly, terribly wrong, that same army is called to the ramparts one last time, to say, in a fashion that approaches Soviet-style devotion: "Things are in fact going well! The insurgency is dying! Abu Ghraib is not a scandal! Saddam Hussein did have ties to al-Qaeda; you just don't know it yet!" And so on.

For its war in Iraq, the Bush administration relied on and benefited from the cheerleading of a group of pundits and public intellectuals who, at every crucial moment, subordinated the facts on the ground to their own ideological preferences and those of their allies within the administration. They refused to hold the administration's conduct of the war and the occupation to the ideals that they themselves professed, or simply to the standard of common sense. They abdicated their responsibilities as political intellectuals - and, more elementally, as reliable empiricists.
And so they did.

He singles out William Kristol, working on promoting the war since 1998 - getting rid of Saddam Hussein should be the central goal of our foreign policy. Then came 9/11 and a month later you get this on NPR's Talk of the Nations: "We know that over the last three or four weeks, he has moved many of his chemical and biological weapons programs in preparation for possible U.S. attacks." Yeah, yeah. On November 19, 2001, he and Robert Kagan wrote: "Iraq is the only nation in the world, other than the United States and Russia, to have developed the kind of sophisticated anthrax that appeared in the letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. What will it take for the FBI and the CIA to start connecting the dots here? A signed confession from Saddam?" Right. April 2003 on NPR again: "There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America - that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all." And so on and so forth...

Charles Krauthammer (Time and the Washington Post)?

In the spring of 2003, with Secretary of State Colin Powell was trying to slow things down at bit - remember the Pottery Barn Rule business? - Krauthammer: "No more dithering. Why does the president, who is pledged to disarming Hussein one way or the other, allow Powell even to discuss a scheme that is guaranteed to leave Saddam Hussein's weapons in place?" And Meyerson points out that when the interim government of Iyad Allawi was about to come into office, Krauthammer said this on Fox News - "It's the beginning of the end of the bad news. I mean, we're going to have lots of attacks, but the political process is under way." On Abu Ghraib? "A huge overreaction. Nobody was killed. Nobody was maimed." Well, some were.

Victor Davis Hanson, the classics professor and intellectual of the neoconservative right?

"In the same way as the death of Hitler ended the Nazi Party and the ruin of the Third Reich finished the advance of fascist power in Europe, so the defeat of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi dictatorship will erode both clandestine support for terrorism and murderous tyranny well beyond Iraq." Tell the fifty-plus dead in London, Victor. Why would things be all better when we captured Saddam Hussein? "The Romans realized this and thus understood that Gallic liberation, Numidian resistance, or Hellenic nationalism would melt away when a Vercingetorix, Jugurtha, or Mithradites all were collared, dead, or allowed suicide." It seems history doesn't repeat itself.

Meyerson call Thomas Friedman of the New York Times an enabler. Christopher Hitchens? Trotsky in Baghdad. Read the whole thing, if you want to see who was cheering.

Well, the weekend had one right-side guy changing his tune. That would be Armstrong Williams over at Townhall, where they post this bio of him:
Called "one of the most recognized conservative voices in America" by The Washington Post, Armstrong Williams is a pugnacious, provocative and principled voice for conservative and Christian values in America's public debate.

An entrepreneur and third-generation Republican, Williams has become a multi-media wonder, taking stands for what's right on radio and television, in print and cyberspace. Focusing on issues such as the work ethic, personal responsibility, welfare reform, affirmative action, and especially the restoration of morality in today's society, he brings an independent view with a refreshing twist to the central issues of our day.
Monday's refreshing twist - Armstrong Williams suddenly says, Time to Get Out of Iraq:
We cannot win this kind of war of attrition. US soldiers are dying at a rate of one per day. Meanwhile the rest of the world is having trouble supporting the United States. You cannot lead in a global democracy, if people do not trust you. It is undeniable that we went about this in a very flawed manner. We need to admit that. We cannot solve the problem of terrorism by asserting our will on the world. Meanwhile, the deterioration of Iraq continues, serving as a sad reminder of the failed promise of this mission, and the need to pull out.
Oh my! In the compendium of conservatism, Townhall?

Maybe it's time to slap people back in line, as in this:

Bush slaps down top general after he calls for troops to be pulled out of Iraq
Philip Sherwell, The Telegraph, Sunday, August 14, 2005
The top American commander in Iraq has been privately rebuked by the Bush administration for openly discussing plans to reduce troop levels there next year, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

President George W Bush personally intervened last week to play down as "speculation" all talk of troop pull-outs because he fears that even discussing options for an "exit strategy" implies weakening resolve.

Gen George Casey, the US ground commander in Iraq, was given his dressing-down after he briefed that troop levels - now 138,000 - could be reduced by 30,000 in the early months of next year as Iraqi security forces take on a greater role. ...
He said the wrong thing. Seems to be a trend.

Note this from USA Today - the Ohio Marine reserve regiment with the nineteen combat deaths earlier this month had repeatedly requested as many as 1,000 additional troops to help defend the area of western Iraq they were covering.
Regimental Combat Team 2 began asking for additional troops to police its volatile 24,000-square-mile territory before most of its Marines deployed in February, said operations officer Lt. Col. Christopher Starling, 39, of Jacksonville, N.C.

Starling said the unit could "optimally" use one more battalion, about 1,000 troops, to take some of the pressure off the Reserve unit, which is spearheading an offensive in the region. "With a fourth battalion, I wouldn't have to play pick-up ball," Starling said.

The requests for additional forces were passed to higher headquarters in nearby Ramadi; it is unclear whether they went beyond that level, Starling said.

14 of the regiment's troops were killed in a single incident when an enormous roadside bomb destroyed their amphibious assault vehicle, and another five were killed in firefights.

Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita responded to the USA Today story by saying he doesn't doubt that "every colonel wishes he had more in his area, but the decisions about how troops are (deployed) are made by the commanders above them."
Rumsfeld often says that if those commanders requested more troops, they'd get them. There are no more.

But things are fine.

As in this...

The "Marine of the Year" as named in the Marine Corps Times (citation here) is being charged with attempted murder. It seems he "fired a shotgun from his apartment window at a group of revelers outside a nightclub." Previously? He prepared soldiers for open-casket funerals while serving as a military mortician in Iraq.

Folks are edgy.

How did we get in this mess? There's word going around that John Bolton visited Judith Miller in Jail this weekend. See this: "Steve Clemons has verified that John Bolton was one of Judith Miller's regular sources on WMD issues, and that MSNBC stands by its story that Bolton gave testimony to the grand jury about the State Department memo in question. Bolton, you may recall, has previously been identified to have been involved in the Niger uranium claims that Wilson's trip helped disprove ..."

What were they talking about? What's gone wrong with the narrative?

And that woman down in Texas - Cindy Sheehan - is still a bother. She's screwing up the narrative too.

Christopher Hitchens tries to take care of that.

Cindy Sheehan's Sinister Piffle
What's wrong with her Crawford protest.
Christopher Hitchens - Posted Monday, Aug. 15, 2005, at 11:50 AM PT - SLATE.COM

No one uses the word "piffle" much these days. Pity. It's a good word.

Note this:
I dare say that her "moral authority" to do this is indeed absolute, if we agree for a moment on the weird idea that moral authority is required to adopt overtly political positions, but then so is my "moral" right to say that she is spouting sinister piffle. Suppose I had lost a child in this war. Would any of my critics say that this gave me any extra authority? I certainly would not ask or expect them to do so. Why, then, should anyone grant them such a privilege?
And this:
What dreary sentimental nonsense this all is, and how much space has been wasted on it. Most irritating is the snide idea that the president is "on vacation" and thus idly ignoring his suffering subjects, when the truth is that the members of the media - not known for their immunity to the charm of Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod in the month of August - are themselves lazing away the season with a soft-centered nonstory that practically, as we like to say in the trade, "writes itself." Anyway, Sheehan now says that if need be she will "follow" the president "to Washington," so I don't think the holiday sneer has much life left in it.
And this:
There are, in fact, some principles involved here. Any citizen has the right to petition the president for redress of grievance, or for that matter to insult him to his face. But the potential number of such people is very large, and you don't have the right to cut in line by having so much free time that you can set up camp near his drive. Then there is the question of civilian control over the military, which is an authority that one could indeed say should be absolute. The military and its relatives have no extra claim on the chief executive's ear. Indeed, it might be said that they have less claim than the rest of us, since they have voluntarily sworn an oath to obey and carry out orders. Most presidents in time of war have made an exception in the case of the bereaved -Lincoln's letter to the mother of two dead Union soldiers (at the time, it was thought that she had lost five sons) is a famous instance -but the job there is one of comfort and reassurance, and this has already been discharged in the Sheehan case. If that stricken mother had been given an audience and had risen up to say that Lincoln had broken his past election pledges and sought a wider and more violent war with the Confederacy, his aides would have been quite right to show her the door and to tell her that she was out of order.

Finally, I think one must deny to anyone the right to ventriloquize the dead. Casey Sheehan joined up as a responsible adult volunteer. Are we so sure that he would have wanted to see his mother acquiring "a knack for P.R." and announcing that he was killed in a war for a Jewish cabal? This is just as objectionable, on logical as well as moral grounds, as the old pro-war argument that the dead "must not have died in vain." I distrust anyone who claims to speak for the fallen, and I distrust even more the hysterical noncombatants who exploit the grief of those who have to bury them.
For the record, Cindy Sheehan did not claim he son was killed in a war for a Jewish cabal. That would be David Duke, the former KKK fellow of the far right.

This demonstration, or whatever it is in Texas, may be "dreary sentimental nonsense" - and even some of us on the left are just tired of it - but is a small matter in a larger drama. Hitchens may wish to scoff at her and erase the problem with hyper-literate scorn. If there is a larger drama, this is only, now, a compelling subplot. Hitchens is slick, and he knows his facts. But removing her from the narrative - she will be "swift boated" away soon - won't make much difference now. The main plot is the problem.

So where's that constitution in Iraq? And in a week, or two or three, what will we have there?

We waged this war for what? Cindy Sheehan is not the only one asking questions now.


An additional comment from Baghdad -

Major Cook says he just doesn't get it - this all it shows the lack of understanding of what is going on over there. From Baghdad:
I really don't understand Mr. Meyerson's posting as all wars need promotion. The way to win, especially against the tyranny of the insurgency, is to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the populace that they rely on for support. The al Qaeda and Zarqawi's of the World are masters at publicizing their crusades. Hell, Zarqawi has his own web magazine. If we leave their sentiments and don't illustrate all the good we are doing, then the wedge will never be driven and the people will never walk away from the crusade of hate. That leads me to another note on Mr. Armstrong Williams' words, "Time to Get Out of Iraq." Does he know Zarqawi? Just as the democracy is gaining momentum and we are training Iraqi forces to stand on their own? Insurgencies, have never been wars of attrition, they are wars, and even campaigns for the betterment of societies. When Iraq gains and can maintain the increased hope and security (provided by a standing government backed by a viable constitution and standing armed forces), the insurgency will be beaten. If we pull out now, the almost 2000 of my brothers and sisters that have sacrificed will have done it for no reason. Relentless resolve will get us through and the results will benefit many.
Resolve is the question, isn't it?

Posted by Alan at 21:15 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005 07:11 PDT home

Sunday, 14 August 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

The Day the Wheels Fell Off: Three Items from Sunday, Bloody Sunday
It seems the war is over - and no one told me. And Cindy Sheehan didn't end it. What do I write about now?

First is this odd item that will tick off a lot of people. We'll see.

My favorite detail?

"A Bush loyalist, Senator George Allen of Virginia, instructed the president to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother camping out in Crawford, as 'a matter of courtesy and decency.' Or, to translate his Washingtonese, as a matter of politics. Only someone as adrift from reality as Mr. Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7."

That aside, this is worth a read…

Someone Tell the President the War Is Over
Frank Rich, The New York Times, August 14, 2005
LIKE the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. "We will stay the course," he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. …
Key items:
... the tipping point this month in Ohio. There's historical symmetry in that. It was in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, that Mr. Bush gave the fateful address that sped Congressional ratification of the war just days later. The speech was a miasma of self-delusion, half-truths and hype. The president said that "we know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade," an exaggeration based on evidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would later find far from conclusive. He said that Saddam "could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year" were he able to secure "an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball." Our own National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1 quoted State Department findings that claims of Iraqi pursuit of uranium in Africa were "highly dubious."

It was on these false premises - that Iraq was both a collaborator on 9/11 and about to inflict mushroom clouds on America - that honorable and brave young Americans were sent off to fight. Among them were the 19 marine reservists from a single suburban Cleveland battalion slaughtered in just three days at the start of this month. As they perished, another Ohio marine reservist who had served in Iraq came close to winning a Congressional election in southern Ohio. Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a "chicken hawk," received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Mr. Bush.
And this:
But just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. In an interview with Tim Russert early last year, Mr. Bush said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war," adding that the "essential" lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have "politicians making military decisions." But by then Mr. Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it's our failure to provide that security that has turned the country into the terrorist haven it hadn't been before 9/11 - "the central front in the war on terror," as Mr. Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he's the one who recklessly created it.
And this:
Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.

WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we'll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.
A comment from the left, on Daily Kos (Armando):
Frank Rich becomes the first mainstream columnist to say out loud what we have been saying for some time - there are no more corners to turn in Iraq. There are no solutions to this Debacle. Bush has failed. Now we must find a way out that best serves the interests and the security of the United States and the world. A time for new leadership, which long since arrived, remains the most important imperative - because BushCo has no clue and has no resolve. The control of this situation must be snatched from them. By public pressure and by electing Democrats with starch in 2006.
That'll be a tough sell.

But then again, it seems a few folks in the administration are admitting this isn't working. This appeared on the front page of the Washington Post the same morning, Sunday, August 14, 2005.

U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq
Administration Is Shedding 'Unreality' That Dominated Invasion, Official Says
Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer, The Washington Post, Sunday, August 14, 2005; Page A01

Key points?
The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society where the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
And this:
"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."
And this:
"The most thoroughly dashed expectation was the ability to build a robust self-sustaining economy. We're nowhere near that. State industries, electricity are all below what they were before we got there," said Wayne White, former head of the State Department's Iraq intelligence team who is now at the Middle East Institute. "The administration says Saddam ran down the country. But most damage was from looting [after the invasion], which took down state industries, large private manufacturing, the national electric" system.
Ah well. But back in the summer of 2002 "a senior Bush official" said this to Ron Suskind of the New York Times: "[Establishment liberals] believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

It seems creating our own reality was a bit more difficult than anticipated. Reality is funny that way.

And out in the red states?

Andy Mead, Lexington Herald-Leader (Kentucky), Sunday, August 14, 2005

... on Friday, Comley's grandmother, 80-year-old Geraldine Comley of Versailles, described herself in an interview as a former Republican stalwart who is "on a rampage" against the president and the war.

She said she would like nothing better than to join Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier who has been holding a peace vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Texas.

"When someone gets up and says 'My son died for our freedom,' or I get a sympathy card that says that, I can hardly bear it," Geraldine Comley said.

She said her view, developed before her grandson's death, is that Bush pushed for war because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had tried to assassinate the first President Bush, and to get control of Mideast oil.

"And it irritates me no small amount that Dick Cheney, in the Vietnam War, said he had 'other priorities,'" Geraldine Comley said. "He didn't mind sending my grandson over there" to Iraq.
Sunday, August 14, 2005 - the wheels are coming off.

So what happens now?

Posted by Alan at 08:49 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 14 August 2005 08:51 PDT home

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