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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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Sunday, 20 November 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Big Story Weekend, or the Sunday Funnies

Sunday, November 20, the newspaper of this odd town out here in the west, the Los Angeles Times, has the scoop of the week, if nothing else at all happens this week – and they ran it on the front page, upper right – dateline Berlin (see photo at end) -

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'
The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.
Bob Drogin and John Goetz, Special to The Times

Ah yes, the Bush administration publicly repeated information from a source known as Curveball despite warnings from his German handlers that the information was unreliable, as in this:
Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

... "This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."

The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems. "He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy," said a BND official who supervised the case. "He is not a completely normal person," agreed a BND analyst.

... The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball's case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball's claims as a justification for war.

"We were shocked," the official said. "Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven... It was not hard intelligence."
There's a ton of detail in the item, but the whole thing is concrete evidence one key justification for the war, and one key section of what Colin Powell presented to the UN, was bogus, and key players were told it was bogus - and they used it anyway. And it worked. People bought it. Curveball was not first in his class at the technical school, he was last, and he didn't have a big job with the evil people making mobile chemical weapons laboratories on big trucks, but was a minor functionary in another area who heard someone might be thinking about that, and he was fired in 1995 anyway for being a flake, and on and on. He was glad-hander and an alcoholic and full of crap. Even Saddam's bad guys found him useless. We didn't.

There's a storm of controversy over this, beside the obvious comments that we used this useful idiot's yarns because they were useful when we knew they were not based in any kind of reality most people acknowledge. The secondary commentary is all the wonderment that the congress cannot get around to "Phase Two" of their investigation of whether or not intelligence was manipulated before the war, but the Times, out here in the land of movies, pneumatic starlets and smog, can get a small team together, talk to all the key people in various foreign intelligence services, do some digging of their own, and come up with this.

What can the administration say? Everyone thought this guy was giving us the truth? The Germans didn't think that. They told us. The CIA knew better. The DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) knew the guy was hopeless and the information just junk.

Well, this really isn't much of story. It'll sink. What else is new? This is no "smoking gun" or "nail in the coffin." It's supporting evidence for the disgruntled whose kids have died or come home limbless with brain damage. The administration will say was an honest mistake made because they were so worried about us all, or if you follow Jonah Goldberg's line of reasoning, a "noble lie" for a greater good - told on purpose, knowing it was a lie, but to achieve something really important. FDR did the same, saying we'd stay out of WWII when he was getting us in. It's the same thing, or so Jonah says.

It doesn't matter now.

Over at the Washington Post, former senator (and Florida governor) Bob Graham, and former Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, explains that, way back when, he was getting information that the intelligence was questionable - "I, too, presumed the president was being truthful - until a series of events undercut that confidence." So he was saying we were being conned, nicely, in debate after debate - and that this call for taking over Iraq would lead to a war that would undercut "the war against al Qaeda." He didn't do so well with that. The Democrats ran Kerry.

So you couldn't get away with that then. You'd appear some sort of unpatriotic tin-foil hat kind of guy. But you can say it now, in a major newspaper (if you're part of the Graham family that owns the newspaper). It's not news.

Over at Rolling Stone, James Bamford here says the same thing happened with an informant named Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri. This guy said he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's merry madmen secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. But he failed the CIA polygraph test and that sort of thing. He was making it up. We knew it was bull. But what he said was carefully leaked to Judy Miller and the New York Times ran with it. She got her scoop. Hey, you market the product you have, not the product you want.

So? It doesn't matter now.

And the Christian evangelical party that runs the joint now is trying to be a little looser about things. Last week, one of their big thinkers, Charles Krauthammer, here addressed "intelligent design" and told the true believers that science and faith were not incompatible, and maybe this God-did-it stuff might best be left for philosophy classes, or comparative religion or that sort of thing. Newton was a believer, after all - science might be a good thing, and by the way, we could lose some voters if we keep up with this business about the earth being only six thousand years old and the Grand Canyon proof of the Noah flood and all that. The Vatican's astronomer too said last week Darwin was just fine - the Catholic Church had no problem with him at all. The pope hasn't weighed in yet.

Of course, out here a group of students from Christian academies are suing UCLA, actually the whole University of California system. The problem is bias, in particular anti-Christian bias. It's a problem with admissions criteria. The University of California schools won't give them credit for high science courses that say science is wrong - God did it all - so they cannot get in. And they haven't read "ungodly" books so they seem to be a bit short in history and literature. One assumes they're fine in mathematics.

We'll see how that one goes. These are pubic universities, and the argument is such public institutions cannot use a religious test to bar applicants for admission - it's a violation of the first amendment regarding the state not taking sides in religious matters. Interesting.

Anyway, even the president is lightening up. All that talk that anyone who said the pre-war intelligence was in intentionally manipulated would send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will" - it was unpatriotic and close to treason?

Just kidding, as in this -
People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq. I heard somebody say, well, maybe so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position. I totally reject that thought. This is not an issue of who's patriot [sic] and who's not patriotic. It's an issue of an honest, open debate about the way forward in Iraq.
What happened?

Steve Benen here -
At this risk of sounding ungracious, isn't it a little late in the game for Bush to express tolerance for dissent?

After all, only a week ago it was the president who said criticisms from Democrats "send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." It was also his White House that issued a formal statement in response to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), comparing him to Michael Moore - for the Bush gang, a serious insult - and suggesting that Murtha's position purports to "surrender to the terrorists." And it was the Vice President who offered similar rhetoric, lashing out at "a few opportunists" he believes are undermining the troops.

Indeed, at a press conference in Korea last week, a reporter told Bush that Dick Cheney called it "reprehensible" for critics to question how the administration took the country to war, while Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said it's patriotic to ask those kinds of questions. Asked who he thinks is right, Bush said, "The Vice President."

But now the president wants everyone to know that we're having an "honest, open debate" and he "totally rejects" calling others' patriotism into question. Looks like he was for demagogic attacks before he was against them.
Well, perhaps he's been told that when just ordinary people, the bystanders watching all this, see him and Uncle Dick, again and again, say anyone asking questions is unpatriotic and aiding and abetting the enemy in time of war, they're getting the idea that something is wrong here - it looks someone you has something to hide. And bystanders vote. And the administration needs the house and senate in their party's hands after the 2006 mid-term elections, or they cannot get things done their way. There's three more years of ruling America at stake. Better play nice. Bush has got his core thirty-four percent. Time to be a good guy for the bystanders, those middle people.

And it's time to be nice on another front. With a close family member serving in Baghdad, I know the default position in that environment of hope and danger, intense idealism and boredom, wanting to be home and wanting to stay and do the job honorably and right, is pro-war and pro-administration. Of course.

But then there's this guy "Stryker," also over there in the thick of things, who on this blog Digital Warfighter says this of Bush and the Republicans -
I have never seen a Party so full of shit when it comes to supporting the military. They fight wars on the cheap and get people killed unnecessarily, instead of fighting with everything we've got under a coherent and cohesive strategy that ensures military victory. They let domestic politics trump military necessity, preferring to lie and shift the blame rather than address the problems and solve them like real men. They care about image rather than substance, empty rhetoric instead of courage, mediocrity instead of excellence, and Machiavellian maneuvering instead of strong moral character. They have demonstrated nothing but contempt for us and for those that have served honorably in the past. They play us for suckers and weep crocodile tears at our deaths as their stock values rise. They are strangers to integrity and completely bereft of the basic values that we hold dear. They are without honor. They can go to hell.

If this is what Republicans mean by 'supporting the troops,' then they can by all means support the insurgents. We'd have a free and democratic Iraq by the end of the year.
The man is pro-war, and he's there. And he's unhappy.

Is his position so far from those who are calling Bush out here?

Even those of the left know war is sometimes necessary, but you do your best to know when it is and when it is not. And you don't trick people into supporting it - you lay it all out, all of it, and discuss it. And if war, then, damn it, you do it right, and you don't screw the people who stand up and do the job for us all.

There's a big and odd middle here who are not happy - folks from left and right who just don't like being kept in the dark, and want some say in what happens and not be told to keep quiet. That was the whole idea back in the 1770's, wasn't it? Remember some folks met in Philadelphia, there was this war with the Brits, we put some basic rules and such on paper and agreed some things were fundamental to how we'd get along?

What happened? It doesn't matter now?



About the Los Angeles Times posting a feature story from Berlin - it's not so odd. On the long trail from the Griffith Park Observatory, high over Hollywood, across the hills to the Hollywood sign, this is just up the hill from the observatory.

Posted by Alan at 21:06 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 20 November 2005 21:10 PST home

Topic: Making Use of History

This Day in History

Sunday, November 20, 2005, would have been Bobby Kennedy's eightieth birthday, or so I see here - a discussion of who he was and what he was doing, and what it all meant. I remember the sixties.

What stuck me was this excerpt from a speech the younger Kennedy made in Cleveland -
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions, indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor; this poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look on our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers. Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what program to enact. The question is whether we can find in our midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled nor enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.
Well, he got shot, but be that as it may, one wonders who in the political realm is saying such things today.

Heck, with the most important leader of the Christian evangelicals, Pat Robertson, last month calling for our government to assassinate the elected leader of Venezuela, we have the State Church, so to speak, arguing disagreement should be met with force. They call themselves soldiers for Christ - some of them bomb abortion clinics and assassinate doctors, to save the "lives" of the yet-to-be-born.

But Robertson was not elected to any office. So he doesn't count.

As for the meeting this difficult world "not with cooperation but with conquest," and seeing others as those "to be subjugated and mastered," those we have elected to office say we are not doing that sort of thing at all. We just occupy Iraq - going on two and a half years now - telling them their oppressor is gone and they should run their place the way we say, because it's the best way to run things - secular and free-market and privatized for the maximum influence of large corporations. Everyone knows that, right? How can they be so dumb? Why are they resisting?

As for how the administration gets its way, well, "when you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family," well, that works. You stay in power.

I posted this on 28 May 2003 - and stand by it -
Do you remember the clear-headed, no-bullshit, let's-be-fair liberals of yesterday? Bobby Kennedy in that last run just laying it all out - hey, some stuff is wrong here and why don't we think it through, fix it and make things better? Well, Bobby got shot. Martin Luther King doing the same thing. Well, he got shot a few months earlier than Bobby. Of course, to be fair, George Wallace got shot too. Lots of people got shot.

But the point is that those optimistic "why don't we fix it and make things better" kinds of guys are nowhere to be found these days. What you'll see on Bush campaign stickers in the 2004 election? You know - variations on "Just Do It" or "Money Talks, Bullshit Walks" or "Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up, And Hold On" - and of course that quote from Marge Simpson - "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." The other side, the Democrats, will have bumper stickers asking if we all can't just get along.

No Democrat will win anything by whining about the smirking frat boy or by fretting about some British essayist hating cheeseburgers and everything American. To win the Democrats would have to field an opponent with a sense of humor, some brains, and a lot of optimism, someone who listens to what is being said, and is willing to say - "Hey, some stuff is wrong here and why don't we think it through, fix it and make things better?"

It does not seem like that is going to happen. And if it did, he or she would get shot.
How are things different now?

Well, on the Kennedy birthday you could see Senator Joseph Biden on Fox News, talking about a possible filibuster of the Alito nomination, and Fox anchor Chris Wallace, Mike Wallace's son, wishing Joe a happy birthday. Same day? Same party? Yep. But we're living in diminished times.

Also I see here, oddly enough, that Sunday, November 20, 2005, is the sixtieth anniversary of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) trials staring up in Nürnberg, Germany. There are a few links there to jog your memory, and the comment that, although we helped create the International Military Tribunal, we now don't want anything to do with the International Criminal Court.

All these decades later... the world has changed. So have we.

Posted by Alan at 16:43 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Announcements

Redirection - The Mother Ship Returns

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the magazine-style weekly that is parent to this daily web log, is now online. This is Volume 3, Number 47, for the week of Sunday, November 20, 2005.

What's there? This week, a review of one of the most extraordinary weeks in the last few years, as political discourse starts with discord and ends with shouting and insults. The national conversation turns nasty, here presented in detail, with commentary, in the order it happened. The dam broke. The six items are extended and updated versions of what first appeared on this daily site.

New material?

On the international scene, "Our Man in London," Mick McCahill has news from over there, but really asks for advice on his screenplay, while "Our Man in Paris," Ric Erickson, let us know things are returning to normal, but not really as you will see in the details the wires services stateside just don't cover. Oh yes, there's also this note to London from Paris via Hollywood, with a long, thoughtful comment from Atlanta - a readers' discussion outside the usual borders.

Bob Patterson is back, wondering about his influence in an odd imaginary dialog, and on the book beat again, noting some odd titles you might want to find.

Photography? "Our Eye on Paris," Don Smith, is back with three shots of Paris that are deeply French, while locally those elsewhere get four pages of this beautiful and very odd place, where, for eighty or more years people have tried to find paradise. Sometimes we come close out here, and sometimes we don't.

The quotes this week match the national dialog - some unusual ones on anger and resolution.

Direct links to specific pages -

Current Events ______________________

Parting Shot: Did so! Did Not! Did So! Did Not!
Choose Your Poison: The Array from Tuesday, November 15
Paying Attention: The News is a Target-Rich Environment
Opportunists: Things Coming to a Head
Acrimony: More than a Nasty, Sometimes Personal Debate
Saturdays: Who's Listening?

The International Desk ______________________

Our Man in London: Cheap Shots and Ethical Dilemmas (or The Joke-teller's Responsibility in an Age of War)
Our Man in Paris: All's Quiet, But…
Follow-Up: A Note to London from Paris via Hollywood

Bob Patterson ______________________

WLJ Weekly: No One Died When the Dog Ate My Homework
Book Wrangler: Who Was Canada's Most Famous Outlaw?

Guest Photography ______________________

Our Eye on Paris: Magic Paris

Local Photography ______________________

Danger: Being Careful Out Here
The Season: Christmas on the Way
Botanicals: In Bloom, Los Angeles - Late November 2005
Vistas: Sea, Sky and Long Hills

Quotes for the week of November 20, 2005 - Anger and Resolution

And a small version of one of the photographs you'll find there -

Posted by Alan at 14:54 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 20 November 2005 14:55 PST home

Saturday, 19 November 2005

Topic: For policy wonks...

Saturdays: Who's Listening?

You have to be a real political junkie to listen, each Saturday morning, to the president's weekly radio address, and even more of one to list to the weekly response form whatever Democrat draws the short straw. News radio, out here in Los Angeles, is dead on Saturday. One all news station (KNX) drops the two addresses somewhere in the four-hour call-in food show, between recipes. The headline news station (KFWB) may give a one-sentence summary, and that's a short sentence. The progressive station (KTLK) runs infomercials for miracle cures, and gets to its regular programming later in the day. The many right-wing talk stations prefer their own rants. No one listens. Why either the White House or the opposition bothers at all is a question.

There are a lot of people dying in Iraq - bombs taking out ninety or a hundred Shiite folks Friday, and thirty or forty more Saturday. And Saturday we lost five more of our people. This is not going well. It'd be nice to know what each side says about this, in a concise weekly summary.

Well, someone listens. Apparently, the Saturday address from the president was a compressed version of the speech he gave the day before to our troops in Korea, where he happened to be at the time. The text is here - stay the course, we'll stand down when the Iraqis stand up, we will fight until we win. We will not "cut and run" as suggested by that nice but deluded old congressman from Pennsylvania.

We'll win this.

Josh Marshall here -
The real problem though - and this becomes clear listening to the president, and increasingly from his supporters - is that the president no longer has any coherent idea of what the war he's fighting amounts to or what victory would look like.

He says we'll fight it out to victory or that "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But it's been a really long time since I've heard any coherent plan for what we're trying to do besides slogans like this.

If we're honest I think what the president is saying is this: We're going to stay in Iraq until the place calms down and we can leave with a sense that we've accomplished something.

Isn't that basically the idea?

We're not going to leave as long as the place is a slaughterhouse and a total mess because leaving then will look like we couldn't accomplish what we wanted to accomplish and got run out and thus, in whatever sense, got beat.

I think perceptions of national power and 'credibility' actually mean something. But a sensible fear of losing either was a good reason not to get into this situation in the first place.

And I don't see where, at the moment, we have any real or coherent strategy for calming the place down - either a military strategy or a political one….

So at the moment, there's not even a reasoned fight between staying in and getting out. Getting out is the only coherent strategy or approach on the table. That doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. But it is clear and definable. On the other hand, there is the president, who hasn't put forward any concrete description of what our goals are or any coherent (let alone, a good plan) plan for accomplishing them. Under President Bush's leadership, in Iraq, we've become the national embodiment of the eternal Mr. Micawber, always waiting "for something to turn up."
Armando over at Daily Kos here -
What pretty words from a perfect fool.

First, he believes a Constitution overwhelmingly disapproved by the Sunni, the very group fueling the Iraqi insurgency, is the solution to the political problems in Iraq. If he truly believes this, what more can one say? There can be no hope until there is true sober judgment, not this nonsense offered by Bush.

Second, is he still clinging to this ridiculous idea that the United States is NOT the focus of hatred in the Arab world? Does he believe that he is democratizing the Middle East? Delusion. Sheer delusion. Again, this is simply not the view of a man who has a freaking clue.

… Does Bush even know what is going on? Who can have any confidence in this Administration on Iraq? It becomes virtually impossible to even discuss the relative merits of alternate strategies when the Bush Administration is involved.

This is the worst President and worst Administration in the history of the nation. The situation would be near impossible to manage for the best of Presidents and Administrations. When we are governed by the worst, it is little wonder that folks like John Murtha advocate withdrawal as soon as is practicable.
So these two listened. Maybe it was best to sleep in, then run errands. The divide is deep. Nothing is changing.

Posted by Alan at 17:20 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 18 November 2005

Topic: Breaking News

Acrimony: More than a Nasty, Sometimes Personal Debate

As mentioned in Things Coming to a Head, in third volume of the CS Lewis "Perelandra" trilogy, That Hideous Strength (1945), one of the characters says this -
If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family - anything you like - at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren't quite so sharp; and that there's going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.
And that's where we are now. The week ended with an extraordinary house session, full of anger and shouting, as "the possibilities of even apparent neutrality" just about disappeared.

Oh, a minor note, in the upcoming New Yorker, Adam Gopnik, that fellow who wrote Paris to the Moon, has a detailed assessment of CS Lewis. There's a lot out there on Lewis right now, due no doubt to the upcoming release of the Disney film version of the Narnia books.

But that's beside the point.

The news shows had all the clips, and anyone could watch on C-SPAN the house session that was "spirited" far beyond anything Tony Blair faces at Question Time in the House of Commons, and only just a bit shy of the fistfights and chair-throwing you see now and then in the Taiwanese legislature. And it was so early nineteenth century.

This was the setting, as Associated Press reports it -

House GOP Seeks Quick Veto of Iraq Pullout
Liz Sidoti, Friday, November 18, 2005
House Republicans maneuvered for swift rejection Friday of any notion of immediately pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, sparking a nasty, sometimes personal debate over the war following a Democratic lawmaker's own call for withdrawal.

Just a day after Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., stoked the surging political firestorm over President Bush's Iraq policies by calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Republicans brought a measure to the House floor urging that the pullout begin immediately.

With the symbolic vote, Republicans were hoping to place Democrats in an unappealing position - either supporting a withdrawal that critics said would be precipitous or opposing it and angering voters who want an end to the conflict. They were also hoping the vote could restore GOP momentum on an issue - the war - that has seen plummeting public support in recent weeks.

"We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will not retreat," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said of the nonbinding resolution.

Furious Democrats accused the GOP of orchestrating a political stunt and changing the meaning of the proposal by Murtha, who has said a smooth withdrawal would take six months. Democrats said they planned to counter by voting against the GOP provision en masse.
In short, Murtha offered a proposal for getting out, as soon as "practicable" (six months, he figured), with a plan for assuring stability in the area and this and that. The Republicans took his proposal, rewrote it to say we get out immediately, and said, okay; let's vote on THAT!

The Democrats said that wasn't the same thing at all. The Republicans said yes, it was, or what Murtha "really" meant.

No he didn't! Yes he did!

Shouting and much gavel-banging followed, with folks jumping out their seats and rushing around.

Who are YOU to rewrite what he proposed and call it his! Well, that's what her REALLY proposed! No it isn't! Yes it IS!

Here's the difference. You decide.

Murtha's resolution:
Whereas Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to "promote the emergence of a democratic government";

Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U, S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;

Whereas more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;
Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;

Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency,

Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80% of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq;

Whereas polls also indicate that 45% of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified;

Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action;

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That:

Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
Here is the "rewrite" - the full and complete Republican version of the Murtha resolution:

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
The Republican position is, of course, their rewrite is what all Americans knew Murtha really meant, and what all the opponents of Bush were really, really saying all along, no matter what the actual words here were - and they'd call this guy's bluff and force all these critics of Bush and the war either to admit that is what they really wanted, by voting for this, or by voting against it give their full support to a war that may go on for as long as it goes on, or until the commander-in-chief, not anyone else, says we've won. They'd force them to call for immediate withdrawal, and expose them as cowards, or force them into a vote of complete and unquestioning confidence in the president.

It's one or the other. There's no middle ground.

The Democrats said it was a false choice, and voting for something no one proposed. The Republicans said, no, it wasn't - this is what you really are saying even if you won't admit it - so say either Bush has always been right and made no mistakes, ever, or that you want to give up like cowardly dogs - there are only two alternatives, either vote for what we know you are really saying, or for against it, admitting Bush has always been right. Put up or shut up.

One Democrat in a clip - they didn't identify him - asked why the Republicans were doing this. We just want to talk about what we should do about this war. It's our job.

He was shouted down.

Now this all may strike you as cheap, theatrical, and rather stupid. It may offend your sense of logic. You may think it's childish. But the Republicans are counting on most Americans saying, "AH HA! - Now we see who is cowardly and hates America and hates our troops - This reveals ALL!"

We'll see if that happens. Glancing at the immediate reaction on the web, the right side is saying this is brilliant and exposes the cowards for what they are, and the left side is pretty pissed.

Were any minds changed? Probably not.

But people on both sides are pretty angry.

This was an interesting house session.

There was Jean Schmidt, Republican from Ohio, the newest member of the house, having just narrowly won her seat in a nasty fight with Paul Hackett, a fellow who fought in Iraq and is, of all things, a Democrat. (That race was discussed in these pages here and here - she's a nasty piece of work.)

At one point in this whole mess she told the house of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel.

"He asked me to send Congress a message - stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message - that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Martha was a Marine for thirty-seven years. He reenlisted to fight in Vietnam. He has two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. Three years ago, he won the Semper Fidelis Award of the Marine Corps Foundation, the highest honor the Marines can confer.

She called him a coward and not much of a Marine.

She's the daughter of a well-known local banker - a guy who owned Indianapolis racecar teams on the side. She's married to an investment counselor. She has a twenty-seven-year-old daughter. She's a leader of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. She should know?

But that's when it got good. A bunch of Democrats booed and shouted her down. Harold Ford (Tennessee) charged across the chamber's center aisle screaming that Republicans were making an uncalled-for personal attack. Marty Meehan (Massachusetts) was yelling, "You guys are pathetic. Pathetic!" Everything came to a standstill. They turned off the microphones for ten minutes after this -
The Speaker Pro Tempore: The house will be in order. The house will be in order. The house will be in order. The house will be in order. The house will be in order. The gentlelady will suspend. And the clerk will report her words. All members will suspend. The gentleman from Arkansas has demanded that the gentlelady's words be taken down. The clerk will report the gentlelady's words.

The Speaker Pro Tempore: The house will be in order. Members, please take seats. The gentlelady from Ohio.

Ms. Schmidt: Mr. Speaker, my remarks were not directed at any member of the House and I did not intend to suggest that they applied to any member. Most especially the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania. I therefore ask for unanimous consent that my words be withdrawn.

The Speaker Pro Tempore: Without objection. The gentlelady's words will be withdrawn.
Well, she didn't want to be censured. House rules do not allow members "to impugn the integrity" of any other members.

She's new. She doesn't need that. So she took it back.

But one assumes she got a kick out of being referred to as "the gentlelady from Ohio." That's a laugh.

Conservative but perpetually cantankerous pro-war pundit Andrew Sullivan adds this -
She later withdrew her remarks from the record. But those words linger as a reminder of what these Republicans have become. ... Every time you think these Republicans can sink no lower, even after their vile smears against Kerry's service last year, they keep going. They make me sick to my stomach.

Why not the Murtha proposal? Here's what strikes me as the salient question right now. Why won't the Republicans force a vote on the Murtha proposal - a phased withdrawal over six months - rather than "immediate" withdrawal? If the GOP wants to demonstrate a backbone on the war, let them force that vote. I'd passionately vote it down, if I were a Congressman.

But the GOP's proposal is again not a sign of strength. It's a straw man: as cheap and tawdry as the current GOP leadership.

Let me add something more. How pathetic is the credibility of a commander-in-chief that while he is abroad, all hell breaks loose on the war he is allegedly waging?

Bush has lost the country on this.

It's not the media's fault, not the Democrats', not the military's. It's Bush's, and his sad excuse for a defense secretary.
Yeah, that's about it.

And by late evening the Democratic leader, Pelosi, was suggested everyone on their side vote for the damned fake proposal. It doesn't matter. One suspect she knows they've won something big here. There's a sort of "stench of desperation" on the Bush side now. Let it ripen.

Heck, you might as well be the adult in the situation.

And readers might want to check out this in the latest Newsweek from Christopher Dickey, on why Murtha may just be right.

It opens with him chatting with Paul Wolfowitz in Paris, "over a glass of Champagne and under the eyes of raging priests on a vast Old Testament tapestry." Where's that? A venue out of my league, of course - and later he says they chatted again at the cocktail party after a World Bank conference in the ornate reception room of a grand palais, which he doesn't identify.

But once you get past the settings you learn the prime theorist who gave us this war doesn't have much to say about it now. He pulls an Edith Piaf - no regrets - but also he won't talk about things now, other that to say, "I think there shouldn't have been an occupation."

What? It seems Wolfowitz always thought that Ahmad Chalabi should run post-invasion Iraq. And he may yet. Whatever.

Dickey -
So the big mistake in Mesopotamia, it would seem, was not following the grand plans of the best and the brightest who took us to war there in 2003. Others failed, not they. And maybe the armchair war-lovers of the Bush administration really believe this. Ideologues see the world through different lenses than ordinary people. From their perches in government or academe, they like to imagine themselves riding the waves of great historical forces. Faced with criticism, they point fingers at their enemies like Old Testament prophets and call down the wrath of heaven.

But there's no reason the rest of us should delude ourselves, which is one reason, I suspect, that Democratic Congressman John Murtha, a retired Marine colonel and long-time friend of the U.S. military on the Hill, spoke yesterday with such unfettered outrage. ...
The discussion of Murtha that follows is detailed, and leads to this -
The Bush administration no longer sets the agenda in Iraq, in fact, and hasn't for at least two years. The watershed came in November 2003 when there was a dramatic spike in U.S. casualties and Washington suddenly scrambled together a policy for transferring sovereignty back to Iraqis instead of pocketing it indefinitely for the Pentagon and the oil companies, as originally intended. The American invasion, which was supposed to be proactive, has led to an occupation that is entirely reactive, and it's clear - or ought to be - that the castles in the air constructed by Wolfowitz and his friends have been blown away by facts on the ground.

President Bush showed hopeful signs of pragmatism earlier this year, but no longer. His speeches over the last week, with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld singing backup, attack critics for rewriting the history that they have tried to invent. What's the bottom line of what Bush is saying now? That we are now in Iraq and have to stay the course because ? the terrorists want us there. As the White House transcript puts it, "Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power, so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq." But - the terrorists we're fighting now didn't have any power in Iraq until our invasion. Ideologues like to fight ideologues, so they tend to miss details like that.
So we stay, and we stay because we went there?

It like you decide to walk down this road, to get somewhere you really want to be. But after a long, long time you discover you've been walking down the wrong road. You cannot get there on this road. But you've walked for so very many miles on this particular road, and pressed on through the blisters and pain and all the rest. You've put so much into it. Going back to where you started would be really hard - retracing your steps would take as much time and effort as you've spent already. And if you go back, what if the next road you choose is also the wrong one? And maybe, just maybe, by some miracle, on this wrong road you'll get to where you wanted to be. You never know. It could happen. Or maybe you'll get to someplace that will be, maybe, something like where you wanted to be - not exactly where you wanted to be, but something like it. So you keep walking. You keep a positive attitude - can't be a defeatist after all.

This is all something like that, not the Beckett play about waiting, but the one about walking he didn't get around to writing. This time Tom Stoppard can write the dialog.

- "We've traveled too far, and our momentum has taken over; we move idly towards eternity, without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation"

- "All your life you live so close to truth it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye. And when something nudges it into outline, it's like being ambushed by a grotesque."

- "Life is a gamble, at terrible odds - if it was a bet you wouldn't take it."

Something like that...

Posted by Alan at 21:25 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005 21:50 PST home

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