Topic: Couldn't be so...
Veterans Day: The World Gone Mad, or at Least Angry
President Wilson said that on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour of each year we should celebrate the end of the Great War, what was the first of the World Wars. In 1918 this was Armistice Day. Now it's Veterans Day, one more day in the Iraq war, a day we lost five more soldiers, bringing us to 2,065 or so.
Traditionally, the president gives a speech for this occasion. Usually this has to do honoring those who fought.
This Veterans Day was a bit different, with the president in some trouble - almost six in ten Americans think he lied to get us into this war (see the AP item here), and his approval ratings in all polls now in the mid-thirties, and disapproval ratings generally around sixty percent.
The New York Times noted, the day before, what was coming in the speech: His Image Tarnished, Bush Seeks to Restore Credibility - "Faced with a bleak public mood about Iraq and stung by Democratic accusations that he led the nation into war on false pretenses, President Bush is beginning a new effort to shore up his credibility and cast his critics as hypocrites."
And so he did. The text of the speech is here. There wasn't that much about the veterans - or anything about the Armistice of 1918 and it implications. This was something else.
The New York Times - Bush Forcefully Attacks Critics of His Strategy in Iraq - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq policy, accusing them of trying to rewrite history about the decision to go to war, and saying their criticism is undercutting American forces in battle."
The Washington Post - Bush Attacks Iraq War Critics - Senator Kennedy Accuses Bush of Exploiting Veterans Day - "President Bush lashed out today at critics of his Iraq war policy, strongly denying any manipulation of prewar intelligence and accusing his detractors of sending "the wrong signal" to U.S. troops and America's enemies."
You get the idea.
And this "rewriting history" business?
The speech was centered on the hypocrisy of those claiming they were misled into this war. They voted for it, those Democrats, and they all thought Saddam was building nuclear weapons and had tons of bad stuff and all the rest. And they had the same information.
Well, they didn't have the same information. A lot of it was a summary of this or that with any doubts left out. It was "shaped." And much was information the administration knew fell between questionable and already disproved. But close enough? The White House now says yes, close enough, and the opposition says no. These people now say they wanted details?
And the vote was to send a message to get the UN inspectors and Iraq to let us know all - we were serious. But the administrations says these folks who claim to have been deceived must have know that they were voting for what actually happened - telling the inspectors to stop immediately, get out for their own safety, and then we invade and occupy. When the president said they were voting for a form of pressure and that war was his "last resort," they should have KNOWN he didn't mean that? That seems to be the implicit message - they were too dumb to understand what they were voting for, and now is no time cry foul.
And this bellyaching sends "the wrong signal" to our troops and "America's enemies." It's unpatriotic. As Glenn Reynolds, one of the main voices on the right, says of all this here - "And yes, he should question their patriotism. Because they're acting unpatriotically." Well, the charge could be hurled the other way - conning us into a war on bullshit information doesn't seem too patriotic.
If they administration conned themselves? Well, then we're in real trouble - but we really don't have to keep participating in this madness.
This speech? It would have been nice if he thanked the veterans. Well, to be fair, he did. But he also had other, bigger fish to fry. Too bad. They deserve better.
And there was nothing new here. In fact, you might want to look at this table - the speech is almost word for word what he gave to the National Endowment for Democracy, Oct. 6, 2005.
But for a different bit of discourse you might turn to a slightly different way of dealing with people who disagree with you, something that entered the national dialog late in the week. You call for their death and destruction, as in these.
In Tuesday's off year election voters in San Francisco decided military recruiters would be banned from public schools. The schools weren't the right place for that. Enter Bill O'Reilly, the voice of sensible America, the "no spin" guy, as reported here:
So they're not part of America any longer? Bill has decided that? Well, they're all queers, of course. Cut 'em off. (As for Coit Tower, would its removal be that much of a loss?)
The same day CNN was reporting this from the Reuters wire - Pat Robertson, the voice of the Christian conservative right, the evangelical leader with a pipeline into the White House - was upset with the off year election results in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the school board that was advancing "intelligent design" in the public schools there, in a trial that got worldwide attention, was voted out office. Now they want science taught in science class, and discussion of the supernatural, that science doesn't cover, taught in classes that cover religion and philosophy. It seems they feel one ought not to confuse the one with the other. Pat's not happy, and says God isn't happy either.
Citizens of San Francisco, and citizens of Dover - you voted, and now you have been cast out.
Well, some people just don't count, as in last Thursday's senate vote. Senate Approves Limiting Rights of U.S. Detainees - "The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured 'enemy combatants' at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts."
Well, that will end the lawsuits, and the reaction was immediate from the right, as in Michelle Malkin calling this Sanity in the Senate. She loves this move by senator Lindsay Graham. Of course, she's been calling for internment camps for all American Muslims too. Her point? Some people just don't deserve the right to know what they're charged with, or the right to explain themselves, or the right to humane treatment. They're a "different sort" of people.
From the left? Steven Clemons - Lindsey Graham Leads on Shameful Legislation. And out here at UCAL, Mark Kleiman doesn't know whether to Laugh, cry, or puke: "How Graham intends to square this with Article 1, Section 9 - The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. - is beyond me." (And he consults some legal experts here.)
That famous criminal defense attorney from Denver you see on television off and on does the legal thing with No Habeas for Them, No Habeas for Us - Tinkering with habeas corpus ?. Habeas Corpus is now being discussed all over, and nine democratic senators who missed the vote are asking for a new vote.
So who gets to have rights? And who doesn't?
Anyone can see what's at the core of this. Those who we capture who seem to be bad guys, or may know what the bad guys are up to, or who are just damned unlucky to have been picked up by mistake, are not really like us. Are they really humans like us? The question underlies the whole argument as to whether we, who never would torture anyone, should be allowed to practice torture. It's the argument for this being a "special case" in each circumstance - they're not really fully human, or we're so frightened we cannot allow that they are.
And this torture issue won't go away.
Put aside what it says about those who practice it, and their humanity. The problem is that it just doesn't work. Even the guys in the CIA, at the "worker bee" level, say so in this bit of digging from Knight-Ridder - Operatives Say CIA Exemption on Torture a Mistake. It's detailed, but boils down to use torture and you get unreliable information - folks say lots of things to stop the pain - and too those others who might have been inclined at sometime in the future to help you out will hate your guts, and so all your sources dry up. It just screws things up.
But of course the Knight-Ridder item doesn't cover the obvious. If you want lies to support your view of the world then torture can provide those lies, and you can tell others, and yourself perhaps, that things really are as bad as they seem. The poor devil will tell you anything you want to hear. The key is you really want to hear it. And that's your problem. The long-cultivated sources aren't telling you what you want.
Ah well, this too doesn't matter. The trades are full of stories that the Knight-Ridder chain is up for sale, and the key bidder is a rich Republican operative. Such stories will disappear. Cheney will be a hero again.
Out here, the Chicago-based Tribune folks who own the Los Angeles Times are cleaning house. They just fired their liberal columnist Robert Sheer after twenty-eight years, the one who Bill O'Reilly wanted fired when he made fun of Bill, and fired their political cartoonist. Circulation is down. Shift right?
In any event, the Times is now contracting with various folks while building a new "stable" of editorial writers. In the transition you get a bit of this and a bit of that, as in what they came up with on Friday, November 11, on this torture thing.
David Gelernter here argues the usual - what if you had someone who knew where a nuclear bomb was set to go off in Manhattan and you had no time? You'd have to torture him to get to the bomb and disarm it and all the rest. You save the city!
Hollywood stuff. You have to do what you have to do, or millions die? Yeah, yeah. What if, to stop the unbearable pain, he (or she) tells you this bomb is in a storage room uptown at 7th and 52nd Street, when it's really in a basement down on lower Broadway? They win. The unbearable pain stops. The bomb goes off. What are you going to do? Sue them? Hurt them more?
The Times also prints this from Larry C. Johnson: "I think Dick Cheney has been watching too many Hollywood flicks that glorify torture. He needs to get out of his undisclosed location and talk to the people on the ground."
Johnson is a retired career officer from the CIA and covers the same ground as in the Knight-Ridder item, but with personal stories. He says even the Israelis have given up on torture - they play cards with their captives and let them call home and all the rest. And they do get their information. Yeah, it's sneaky, and not very heroic, but in the real world it actually works.
But what if, what if, what if...
All these special cases, all this talk that these are the worst of the worst and really different from "real" people, and we have to do what we have to do, even if it doesn't work, makes one wonder if we have two realities here.
As for special cases, on a lighter topic, you have to love this one, concerning the new nominee to the Supreme Court. From the Washington Post, Alito Defends His Actions In Two Appeals Court Cases: "In Letter to Senators, Nominee Denies Conflict of Interest - Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. said yesterday that he did nothing improper when he ruled in cases involving two financial firms in which he held accounts." Except he's on record saying he would recuse himself. He was kidding? No, these were "special cases." Duncan Black's take on this? Alito: I Lied and I'm Proud of It.
Whatever. He will be confirmed. People can be so picky.
On the other hand, one cannot take the whole crew in Washington too seriously.
We're in some fiscal difficulty. Big federal deficit (record), big trade deficit (record), all those hurricane recovery costs (record number this year), an expensive war, tax cuts for the wealthy reducing tax revenue by a third or more - quite a mess.
But there's this: House Leaders Postpone Vote on Budget Bill: "Facing defeat, House Republican leaders on Thursday abruptly called off a vote on a contentious budget-cutting bill in a striking display of the discord and political anxiety running through the party's ranks."
Some objected to oil drilling in protected areas Alaska (ANWAR), some to cutting 300,000 kids from the food stamp program, some to cutting Medicaid benefits so fewer people could see a doctor on the government's dime even if they paid taxes for just that, some, from the northeast, objected to cutting funds to help the poor meet their heating bills with fuel prices at record highs and oil companies making record profits. No one wants to be the bad guy. And people vote when they're angry.
One of our congressmen from out here in California said, "We are not cutting Medicaid for those truly in need." He seems to think there are upper and middle-income Medicaid beneficiaries. Say what?
Reactions? From the left: GOP: The gang that can't shoot straight. From the right: Republican Bedwetters on the Hill.
Well, Tom DeLay is no longer running the shop and is not there to slap everyone around. Karl Rove is occupied with the possibility he will be indicted for a felony or two and hasn't the time to warn any one of these folks if they don't vote right they will be personally destroyed and their families will go down with them. What the president wants? Who cares?
Will the next three years be like this, a free-for-all?
Nothing will get done. Well, the bad stuff won't get done. But the good stuff won't get done either.
Finally, just a note. Like a dog gnawing an old bone, Steven Hadley, one of the guys who really, really, really wanted this war, now in Condoleezza Rice's old job as National Security Advisor, is still at it.
Bush Aide Fires Back at Critics On Justification for War in Iraq - "The White House went on the offensive in the debate over the Iraq war yesterday, insisting that U.S. intelligence had compiled a 'very strong case' that Saddam Hussein harbored banned weapons and accusing congressional critics ... "
What? Steve, we've moved on. They weren't there. Get over it.
So the week ended with Veterans Day, and no end to the madness.