Topic: Couldn't be so...
Resolving Dissonance: Major and Minor Illustrations
Enough of the congressman from the squat mountains east of Pittsburgh (Johnstown and that area) saying it's time for an orderly but rather rapid withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, as they've done as much as they can do, and keeping them there is making many things worse. The firestorm raging from that proposal last week goes on and on, and sucks in other issues - whether we were conned into this war and all the rest. There's been a good deal of name-calling as to who's a coward and who's not, and who's delusional about what we have achieved, and can reasonably achieve, and who's not.
All that may settle down into an orderly discussion of what we should do now and why we should do this or that, carefully balancing risk and opportunity, considering our short-term and long-term strategic aims, considering what is likely to happen when we're gone from there, considering what staying indefinitely or leaving soon would mean in geopolitical terms about our influence in the world (our power to bring others into approving of or even joining in our actions), and what that would do to our military capabilities, now stretched thin - but you wouldn't bet the rent money on such a discussion developing.
Too many have too much emotionally invested in this, one way or the other, to step back and think about all the complex implications of what we do now, so dispassionate and detailed analysis is almost impossible - and politicians facing the 2006 mid-term elections know that the dramatic posturing they do now can make the difference between staying in office and going back to writing wills and reviewing minor business contracts at the local law office.
But Tuesday, November 22nd things got even more complicated with the results of that conference in Cairo - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers, as well as leading Sunni politicians, agreeing on a few things.
From the Associated Press account (Salah Nasrawi) here -
The Bush-Cheney admistration has argued with great energy that that last thing we should have is any kind of timetable for withdrawal. That would play into the hands of the bad guys - they'd just wait for us to leave and then do whatever bad guys do, and everything we've fought for would be lost. And here the three key groups we're doing all this for, say no, they do want a timetable.
Now much can be said about this, and much has, but the paternalistic and condescending " trust us, you don't really want that" messages no doubt burning up the diplomatic cable lines from DC to Baghdad after this Cairo pronouncement may make those we helped to power a bit angry. It appears we didn't ask them what they think, so we got blindsided.
The paternalism here is deciding what's best for your little kids - you don't ask them because they're too immature to know what's best for them. That's far beyond insulting when the other folks are just not kids, although fine for your five-year-olds. Oddly, this you-really-don't-know-what's-good-for-you paternalism is the defining characteristic of this administration. One suspects those who don't have much use for this gang, and haven't had since they came to power - a good chunk of the public here and around the world, and almost all other world leaders - are, underneath it all, seething a being told, implicitly, they're all little kids and really should let they grownups take care of things. Oddly, Tony Blair has no problem with it, and being told for years he's "Bush's poodle" seems to make him smile. Ah well.
They shouldn't have said "timetable."
Of course there will be the usual cover-up of the miscue - not everyone seems to be on the same page, as they say - with Washington saying everyone concerned really agrees, really, and this pronouncement is just what the president has been saying all along - "As the Iraqis stand up we stand down." No big deal.
But they had to go and use that word "timetable." One imagines our "from the gut" instinct-driven keep-it-simple my-way-or-the-highway president is well beyond miffed with these folks, but how does he lash out? What can he do?
Buried in the Cairo communiqué is, however, something even more problematic. You saw it. The leaders of the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance - "a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens."
Think about that. A "legitimate right" of resistance to what? Would that be to our guys on the ground, or are our guys there "to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens." The ambiguity is maddening. This can be interpreted as the combined factions saying, "Don't call us terrorists if we exercise our legitimate right to resist the foreign occupiers of our country." What else could it mean?
One view here - "In other words, Iraq's leaders just painted a bullseye on the backs of American soldiers and said they're fair game."
Are there other foreign occupiers? Who else is there to resist but us?
There's a lot of angry comment out there on this, and we'll see how the administration explains this one away. They don't really mean what they say about some "legitimate right of resistance" - it was just something they threw into the mix to mollify the Sunni folks and really shouldn't be taken seriously? That's probably the best approach. Someone will look thoughtful on Fox News and say just that, no doubt. But these guys in Cairo made things harder to explain.
And there was more to explain the same Tuesday. The White House dismissed claims George Bush was talked out of bombing Arab television station al-Jazeera by Tony Blair. What? According to this in the British tabloid Daily Mirror, that's what happened on April 16 last year. We were launching that all-out assault on Fallujah, and al-Jazeera had reporter in there showing the world civilian casualties and such. Bush was angry. Was he kidding about bombing al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar, one of our close allies in the area and where we have major sating areas? Who knows? There seems to be a memo about this.
Reaction to the Mirror items was intense. It does put the previous "accidental" bombings of Al-Jazeera and the "inadvertent" death of this or that journalist in Iraq in a different light. Maybe Eason Jordon was right. As noted in these pages last February, Eason Jordan resigned his position as CNN's chief news executive - and he had led much of that network's war coverage. It seems that on January 27 in Davos, Switzerland, at The World Economic Forum, in an informal panel discussion, he suggested that US troops had targeted and killed journalists. He immediately back-peddled and said that was what was being said in much of the Arab media, and he didn't know that was so - but the damage was done. Word got around. The same right-wing blogs that claimed to have just brought down Dan Rather sensed blood in the water, Fox News picked it up, and the fellow threw in the towel. And now?
Oh, this is a minor thing. Even if Bush was serious, Blair talked him down. Sometimes the clever child can calm the angry parent before daddy does something bad.
But the major things keep percolating away.
No, not this:
There's lots of detail, and this information was withheld from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Is this a "smoking gun" of some sort?
Maybe. The administration was told, flat-out, that line of thinking was wrong - and decided they knew better than the spies in the field and the nerds who monitored satellite traffic and the political analysts and all the rest? This merely explains why Cheney and Rumsfeld set up Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans - to show that the CIA and Defense Intelligence and the National Reconnaissance Office and State were all wrong - and to have something BETTER for the congress. Some would call it ignoring the facts. Some would call it lying to congress and the public. Some would call it crass manipulation and maybe an impeachable offense. And some would call it patriotic enthusiasm for what had to be done. Take your pick.
The dispute continues.
All that is surface. What lies below is more troubling.
If you have wandered over to the Just Above Sunset page of links to the big-time political web logs, left and right (here - but in need of a few updates), you find a link to a satire site - Patriot Boy - where General JC Christian signs each item "Heterosexually Yours" - the manly man - and tries to rid himself of his "inner Frenchman" and wonders why his little general (and two grenades) won't stand up at attention when called upon. You get the idea. It's political satire at its snarkiest.
But Tuesday the 22nd something happened, as in this -
Sometimes you just cannot do satire. It's just wrong.
What bothers him is what lots of people have thought about - what Jason Vest reported in the National Journal here -
That's where we are.
Digby at Hullabaloo adds this -
And there's this from The Observer (UK) -
And there's this from Seymour Hersh -
And this from Bill Montgomery -
And so we are.
The General also links on the BBC item on just what white phosphorous does to folks, and adds a photo. He says, "Let's not forget to revel in our God-like power to destroy cities with storms of fire and brimstone."
He then says, "I can't bear the thought of my grandson living in the world these bastards are creating. We have to do all we can to defeat them."
Satire is not appropriate.
Yeah, but this has been going on a long time.
We've been here before, with the same cast of characters.
See this from Newsweek last January -
And so we have. The death squads are back.
That Newsweek item was mentioned in these pages last January here, with the note that this time around we have to make sure we don't end up raping and killing any nuns, as American Catholics do vote. (El Salvador - December 2, 1980 - four American nuns are killed by a death squad in El Salvador - financed and armed by the United States - our key guy for El Salvador at the time was John Negroponte - see CNN here.)
John Negroponte? Montgomery reminds us -
And so on and so forth. Same crew. Same results.
John D. Negroponte - US ambassador to the United Nations from September of 2001 until June 2004 and US ambassador to Iraq from June 2004 to April 2005, and now Director of National Intelligence.
Why is "Patriot Boy" surprised?