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Friday, July 30, 2004


Guest Blogger Paul Parker

Kerry’s speech surpassed my expectations. My highlights closely parallel those excerpted in Mara Liasson’s report this morning on NPR’s morning edition, so if you missed the speech, you can listen online ("Kerry Delivers Forceful Challenge to Bush" segment). Most of the highlights were rhetorically masterful, saying something about himself, and about Bush, at the same time:

  • The intros by the Swift Boat crews and by Max Cleland came off okay; like Kevin’s guest blogger Amy at the Political Animal, I was wondering if they were not taking this a bit too far.
  • His biofilm and introductions stressing his life of service, coupled with the assertion that he has never backed away from service to his country, he projects the requisite strength. And also makes you wonder, who would?
  • As Kos blogged in realtime, Kerry nicely turned Bush’s rhetoric of ‘restoring dignity and honor to the White House” back on Bush, promising to restore “truth and credibility.”
  • The values talk, that paralleled Obama’s: we are all Americans, and please Mr. Bush, let us not divide America for gain.
  • Kerry used religion, and used it well (the Democrats know they are losing lower income whites over values issues, and religion is central to this). First, he appealed to many people who might be religious (or who say they are, when they mean something more akin to spiritual) by noting he does not wear his religion on his sleeve. Second, he used Lincoln well: ‘its not about whether God is on our side, but if we are worthy of God.’ Note it’s a paraphrase. Third, he tied religious references to Democratic policies – a little over the top for the commentators on PBS, but a reward for the faithful: “honor thy mother and father,” means not privatizing social security. (‘well, what if we let Halliburton run it, sir?’).
  • There’s more decent analysis of the religion talk by Steve Waldman at

For the bottom liners, Kos is usually first and fullest with the polls.

Happy Friday.

Political Advertising through the ages

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

Political junkies may like to listen to Fresh Air host Terry Gross’s interview with David Schwartz, curator of film at the American Museum of Moving History. He discusses the evolution of campaign commercials since 1952. The interview ends with a discussion of George Bush’s campaign attacking his opponent as a Massachusetts liberal, weak on defense.

Yes, you remember 1988. And you’ll hear more about the evils of Dukakis in the next months. Innoculate yourself now by googling Dukakis + Kerry. His new show at The American

For those with broadband, relive the past with the online exhibit, The Living Room Candidate Here in the boonies, I am working on 19.2 kbps dialup speed. Text is good.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Say Hello to Peter

Let me introduce the other guest blogger who will soon be appearing in this space while I'm vacationing: Peter Dombrowski.

I've known Pete since graduate school at Maryland. He grew up in Massachusetts (yes, he's a long suffering Red Sox fan) and currently works nearby at the Naval War College. For some years, he has been a Professor in the Strategic Research Department, but this summer he took over as editor of the Naval War College Press.

Of course, Pete will not be blogging from work, nor will he be blogging as any kind of spokesperson of the Naval War College.

Doesn't he look serious?

In 1996, the University of Pittsburgh Press published his book, Policy Responses to the Globalization of American Banks, which means that Pete knows a great deal more than I do about international economics.

Loyal readers may remember that Pete and I have worked on some projects together, resulting in a couple of journal articles. Watch this space over the next few months for more news on that front.

Anyway, Pete travels the world for the Navy (or he did, before budgets became a bit tighter) and participates in all kinds of conferences and projects. At home, he travels far and wide with his wife Ann (also a Maryland PhD) as they encourage their daughter's athletic pursuits. Well...they went to Ohio for a meet and I was impressed.

The blog will be in good hands. Happy reading!

Say Hello to Paul

I'm going on a family vacation and will not be blogging all that frequently for awhile. I enjoyed the time away over the 4th of July and thought Avery did a great job filling in. He's still got a set of keys, so he's welcome to blog here, but I'm pretty sure he's going to be away too.

No fear. I've arranged for two other guest bloggers.

One is Paul Parker, who attended grad school with me at the University of Maryland and was later best man at my wedding. This means he is also a Political Scientist, but his expertise is public law.

Paul grew up not far from Seattle, but landed at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. You know he's my kind of guy; after all, he told an interviewer this:
I was excited to move to the Midwest in the late 1980s.
He's only a few hours drive from beautiful Kansas.

Let's see, what more should I tell you? Oh, Paul is an amateur photographer. About five feet from me, I have a terrific framed photo of Sandy Koufax that Paul took in 1987 when we were in Florida during spring training.

About two years ago, Paul published A Portrait of Missouri, 1935-1943: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration (University of Missouri Press), which looks like it includes a a number of really interesting photos from the Depression era.

Glancing around the web, I note that Paul has something in common with former President Jimmy Carter. He's also busy trying to help churn out future lawyers.

Anyway, Paul told me some of the things he's going to cover and I think readers will be well-served by sticking around and reading what he has to say. I won't steal his thunder; he can tell you the rest of the story.

Heck, invite your friends and family to read too.

Another view on Kerry

Guest Blogger Paul Parker

Thanks to Rodger for a swell intro. He's deserving of some nice R and R with the family, and we'll try not to burn down the house while he's away.

Let me start by piggybacking on Rodger’s post on John Kerry and Iraq, and the frustration Avery expresses about the Kerry camp, and Kerry’s message not getting out. I heartily recommend Philip Gourevitch’s profile of Kerry in last week’s New Yorker. The profile provides nervous Dems some insight into Kerry’s thinking, and its also the kind of piece that makes my vote on November 2 transcend being “anybody but Bush.”

Here’s an excerpt, starting with a discussion of Kerry’s vote against the $87 billion reconstruction bill, after the vote for (Biden’s proposal to pay for it by rolling back tax cuts), the vote that gave rise to that Bush commercial soudbite that makes you cringe:

Kerry prefers to describe his opposition as a protest vote, since he cast it knowing that the measure would pass, and he considers it a minor matter compared with the Bush Administration’s own inconsistencies about Iraq. “They have flip-flopped every step of the way in this thing,” he told me. “They flip-flopped on their rationale, they flip-flopped on what they said they’d do, they flip-flopped on each of the promises the President made about how he’d conduct it. They flip-flopped on when they would transfer authority. They flip-flopped on to whom. They flip-flopped on the U.N. They have flip-flopped on the intel, and they have obviously flip-flopped on the numbers of troops needed and how they would manage those troops, what the deployment times would be. I mean, this is an unbelievable series of flip-flops, with grave consequences.”

At campaign rallies, Kerry often says of Bush, “If you think I would have taken us to war the way he did, you shouldn’t vote for me.” This line is carefully formulated, he told me, “Because I might well have been in Iraq if Saddam had stiffed the U.N., continued to not allow inspections, hidden things. But I would have brought other countries to the point of impatience with him. Then they would have been there with us. And the President could have done that. I know it because I spent the time to go up and meet with Security Council representatives. I talked to them at great length prior to the vote.”

The first paragraph makes me anxiously anticipate the campaign season and the debates. I trust Kerry will vocalize such things. The article points out Kerry sometimes makes his supporters uncomfortable in not being more aggressive. Indeed. But it also makes clear that's his style, and mostly he makes it work.

I would expect the second paragraph to be central to the Kerry message from here on out: policy choices, not intelligence failures, got us where we are. Bush places so much stock in being a decisive leader, it should be easy to link failed policies to failed leadership.

update: I wrote this midday on Thursday, and I finish it off as the biofilm is rolling at the Fleet Center. so by now, you have seen his speech, and the spin on the speech. But read the profile for more good insight to his thinking on Iraq I, the buildup to Iraq II, and the occupation / reconstruction.

Kerry and the War

Yesterday, I defended John Kerry's failure to call for American withdrawal from Iraq.

I don't really agree with Kerry on every point, but I think this is a very difficult issue and his position is rational and sincerely held. His concerns about the aftermath of withdrawal -- civil war and the creation of a new failed state host of terror -- are real and deserve serious attention.

If the US were to withdraw from Iraq, there's a pretty good chance the country could disintegrate into civil war. If we're lucky, the result would be separate (and stable) Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions.

More likely, the parties would divide roughly into mini-state regions and those mini-states would be constantly contested. That is, fighting would be continuous and nasty. If nothing else, the parties would bicker over the oil reserves, which are not evenly dispersed throughout Iraq. The Sunni regions of Iraq have very little oil.

There's also a high risk that the Shiite majority would either align openly with Iran or form its own version of theocracy.

None of this is desirable from the US perspective and I think it explains why Kerry thinks the US has to remain in Iraq to finish Bush's botched job.

Say what you want about Saddam Hussein, but he was not in bed with Islamic terrorists and he was not aligned with Iran.

In some ways, the potential outcomes are far worse than they were in Vietnam. There, if the US withdrew, the worst-case consequences were clear: The North would win, the entire country would fall under the Soviet orbit, and neighboring states might be threatened. The US would likely have to bolster neighboring states like Thailand.

Given that the "cold war" was, after all, cold, this was an unpleasant prospect, but the US ultimately could live with it. The conflict was far away from the US (and Europe, for that matter), so it would be a reasonable loss. Major regional friends like South Korea and Japan would not be directly or immediately threatened.

In the Iraq scenarios, however, the consequences for the US are much worse. First, a failed state might be hospitable to al Qaeda, which has proven it can and will strike the US. Think Afghanistan, with better infrastructure and technicians.

Second, Iraq has the second largest supply of proven oil reserves. As was demonstrated during the Iranian revolution, oil prices and western economies can be vulnerable to regional unrest. This is actually something I didn't mention when blogging about Carter's foreign policy. The US suffered both high unemployment and high inflation during this time. It wasn't really Carter's fault, but the numbers don't lie: inflation was over 11% in 1979 and 13.5% in 1980. During each year of the Carter administration, unemployment dropped from 6.9 to 6.0 to 5.8 -- until 1980 when it zoomed up to 7.0%. This was widely blamed on crude oil prices:
The Iranian revolution resulted in the loss of 2 to 2.5 million barrels of oil per day between November of 1978 and June of 1979. In 1980 Iraq's crude oil production fell 2.7MMBPD and Iran's production by 600,000 barrels per day during the Iran/Iraq War. The combination of these two events resulted in crude oil prices more than doubling from $14 in 1978 to $35 per barrel in 1981.
The image of Carter's "impotent" and "disastrous" foreign policy result from these events.

It is very important to keep in mind that Kerry is primarily worried about security issues in Iraq -- not pie in the sky dreams of democratizing the Middle East. Presumably, he'll remove American forces as soon as he thinks it is possible to do so.

That might come after Iraqi elections, or after US troops are provided some relief by NATO forces, or troops from other states. It might come after significant numbers of Iraqi security forces have been trained to do their job.

Frankly, it might come if another "strongman" leader consolidates the country. Iraq in some ways is like Yugoslavia after the death of Tito. Can any individual keep it together?

Nonetheless, because Kerry offered so many caveats to his October 2002 war vote, he is relatively free to declare the entire project a failure of the Bush administration and to try radical new approaches.

Perhaps the US could try some bold initiative that works with regional states to address the problem. Invite Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Syria and the Saudis and have a real conversation with Iraqi Sunni, Kurd, and Shiite leaders about Iraq's future.

Bush's reelection means neocon cowboys will still be running American foreign policy. Kerry's election means the freedom to innovate about the policy.

This neither makes Kerry Bush-lite nor a liberal imperialist.

It makes him a serious leader for a serious time.

I suspect we'll hear much more about some of this tonight.

At minimum, Kerry will talk about the need for allies and diplomacy, the existence of non-military tools in the toolbox, and the fact that the US shouldn't go to war under dubious circumstances.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Kerry and Iraq, continued

I blogged a couple of days ago about Kerry's war vote, referencing at length his October 2002 speech.

In the comments, Avery asked:
Why on Earth aren't the Kerry people being clearer and more forceful in responding to the 'flip-flop' charge? Why did I have to wait to hear this from you instead of having Kerry be on TV with an ad showing his speech in 10/02 and turning that back around on Bush, saying Bush acted beyond the authority that Congress gave him? Does he have any idea how to run a campaign?
These are all great questions and I fully expect Kerry to explain his record as the campaign develops between now and the election. Let's see what he says this week, eh?

Luckily, based on the polling data, Bush's attack ads haven't seemed to hurt Kerry all that much.

I thought about digging through the news archives to find examples of Kerry explaining himself. Given the rigors of day-to-day campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, etc., I'm quite confident he offered a viable explanation. Here's one recent story from the Boston Globe that helps:
Kerry said Bush had personally misled him into casting his vote to support the war by indicating that the administration would exhaust diplomatic options before using force. In fact, Kerry said several Middle Eastern leaders, including Saudis, had told him the Bush administration was committed to war more than a year before the actual invasion. But he set aside his concerns after receiving assurances from President Bush.

"The president went back on his word," Kerry said. "I take that personally."

He added: "Evidence is mounting significantly that they made a decision, then framed an argument to support it. I think there are very serious questions about that that remain to be answered."
Let me make a leap here. I'm guessing Avery and many of my readers would prefer for Kerry to renounce the war altogether and call for US withdrawal ASAP.

Unfortunately, while well-meaning, critics are arguably making the same mistake that Kerry's Republican critics have made when they call Kerry a flip-flopper. Kerry voted for the Senate Resolution in October 2002, but opposed the war. The context had changed with the presence of the inspectors and Iraq's compliance.

Once again, however, the context has changed. Kerry opposed the war, but will inherit that very same war. What to do?

Kerry explained his plan for Iraq on his campaign website, in a speech called - "This Moment in Iraq is a Moment of Truth," delivered at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on April 30, 2004.
As complicated as Iraq seems, there are really only three basic options: One, we can continue to do this largely by ourselves and hope more of the same works; Two, we can conclude it’s not doable, pull out and hope against hope that the worst doesn’t happen in Iraq; Or three, we can get the Iraqi people and the world’s major powers invested with us in building Iraq’s future.

Mistakes have complicated our mission and jeopardized our objective of a stable free Iraq with a representative government, secure in its borders. We may have differences about how we went into Iraq, but we do not have the choice just to pick up and leave—and leave behind a failed state and a new haven for terrorists.

I believe that failure is not an option in Iraq.
Agree or disagree, it is a coherent position.

Afghanistan was a failed state. Somalia. Lebanon.

Terrorism can thrive in failed states. While terrorists also work and hide in affluent states, these places have served as the training and recruitment ground for Islamic terrorists.

Kerry goes on to recommend internationalizing the security situation on the ground, pulling in forces from other major powers and especially NATO. He wants to work through the UN and America's alliances.
Other nations have a vital interest in the outcome and they must be brought in.

To accomplish this, we must do the hard work to get the world’s major political powers to join in this mission. To do so, the President must lead. He must build a political coalition of key countries, including the UK, France, Russia and China, the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, to share the political and military responsibilities and burdens of Iraq with the United States...

The immediate goal is to internationalize the transformation of Iraq, to get more foreign forces on the ground to share the risk and reduce the burden on our own forces. That is the only way to succeed in the mission while ending the sense of an American occupation.
Kerry then calls for more financial and technical assistance to Iraq and for a massive training program for Iraqi security forces -- all this again to be accomplished in tandem with other states.

In the end, Kerry answered war critics fairly directly, though he framed it around states like Germany and France:
But why would others join a cause that they did not support in the first place? For one simple reason: it’s in their self-interest. For the Europeans, Iraq’s failure could endanger the security of their oil supplies, further radicalize their large Muslim populations, threaten destabilizing refugee flows, and seed a huge new source of terrorism.

And for Iraq’s neighbors, a civil war in Iraq could draw them in, put moderates in the region on the defensive and radicals on the rise. And a civil war could threaten the regimes in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

These compelling interests have always existed and they must now be the central piece of a diplomatic effort long overdue.
As much as I wish the US had never gone to war in Iraq, I'm afraid that Kerry might well be right.

The world simply has to bring genuine security to Iraq. While that has got to include the end of American military occupation, it also has to include many other tangible elements.

Kerry promises to "use every tool of diplomacy and persuasion to bring others along."

Does this make Kerry simply Bush-lite?

No, at minimum there is at least one important difference. Bush is like the used car dealer who already sold you a lemon. You now need another car to provide basic transportion, but you're not going back to the same dealership.

Even the President seems to know this:
"There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
Well, maybe he doesn't.

Convention-al Wisdom: Carter's Foreign Policy

Laura Rozen, a freelance journalist who sometimes writes for the The American Prospect and who is covering the Democratic National Convention, wrote this on her blog earlier this week:
"I kind of knew this was not my natural habitat when the convention audience gave a rousing heartfelt standing ovation to Jimmy Carter, just as he was taking the podium. I think Carter has done many admirable things in terms of democracy and peace promotion, but his presidency was a disaster and just what Kerry does not want to be associated with -- foreign policy impotence, essentially."
Other bloggers (especially on the right), and apparently someone on MSNBC (and of course Fox) said much the same.

I know the common perception is that Carter's presidency was a disaster, but I'm going to briefly challenge the idea that his foreign policy was impotent (and disastrous).

First, a quick list of his accomplishments:
*** Carter elevated human rights towards the top of the US foreign policy agenda. This probably helped topple some brutal dictatorships. Carter is often blamed by the right for helping to bring the Sandanistas to power in Nicaragua, so he should perhaps by credited for helping end the martial law imposed by Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Arguably, the human rights emphasis encouraged the Solidarity movement in Poland, which presaged the collapse of the Soviet empire. In 1980, Carter warned the Soviets not to invade Poland.

*** Carter personally brokered the Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt (significant, given the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973), which included the return of the Sinai peninsula to Egypt and established a useful framework for future Middle East peace negotiations.

*** Carter engineered the concluding episodes of the Panama Canal Treaty, which has been a huge success. The canal handover ended a long legacy of US colonialism.

*** Carter granted diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China.

*** Carter negotiated the SALT II arms treaty. Reagan called it "fatally flawed," but the US complied with its terms for most of his presidency.
Obviously, some of these events are interpreted differently by the left and the right, but I would suggest they certainly dispel any notion of "impotence."

If your take on foreign policy is hawkish, I could add some other accomplishments.
*** Carter moved forward on most of the strategic weapons systems that are often associated with the presidency of Ronald Reagan: the MX missile, Trident submarine, Pershing II missiles for Europe, etc.

*** Carter announced the Carter Doctrine in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The US would, he declared, use military force to protect oil interests in the Persian Gulf. Arguably, George Bush enforced this very doctrine in the 1991 Gulf War.

Carter reinstated draft registration, which continues today. If the US needed a draft in a national emergency, registration undoubtedly saves weeks, if not months of preparation.
Now I personally opposed most of the Carter-Reagan strategic arms decisions and would have preferred alternative energy investment to the huge military spending in the Gulf region, but a lot of hawkish critics of Carter embrace all these things. I don't think this is what Rozen had in mind when she wrote about Carter's alleged disastrous presidency and impotent foreign policy.

So what are the alleged failings?

1. Iran: Carter's presidency suffered tremendous damage from the fall of the Shah and the lengthy hostage crisis. The "Rose Garden" strategy made it seem as if Carter was hiding behind White House walls as 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. A bold rescue attempt failed and the ABC TV program "Nightline" provided a daily reminder of the "Hostage Crisis, Day xxx."

What can I say about this disaster?

Well, former University of Kansas debater and Reagan National Security Council staffmember Gary Sick has alleged that the Reagan-Bush campaign interfered with Carter's diplomacy by secretly negotiating with Iranian militants to delay the release of the hostages until after the election.

If true, and I realize that this was all played out more than a decade ago, the Reagan-Bush actions would certainly undercut the idea of Carter "impotence" and shift the blame for the disaster, eh?

At minimum, it is clear that Republicans stole Carter's debate briefing books. A congressional investigation found that William Casey (soon to be CIA director) "was receiving highly classified reports on closely held Carter administration intelligence on the Carter campaign and the Democratic president's efforts to liberate the hostages."

Regardless of all this "inside baseball," the Shah was a brutal dictator supported by the US after being installed by the CIA in 1953. Carter didn't topple him and didn't act to stop his being toppled.

Few critics say exactly what they would have done differently. The Reagan administration demonized Iran and buddied up to Saddam Hussein. Which act was worse?

2. I suppose that many blame Carter for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but I think there is very little evidence that US policy affected this decision one way or the other. Of course, many analysts see this Soviet decision as the beginning of the end of the red empire. US support for the Afghani resistance, initiated by Carter, bogged down the regime for a decade. The Bush and Clinton administration's failure to help Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew helped allow the Taliban to come to power.

3. Could Rozen have been thinking of the Muriel boatlift from Cuba? I doubt it. The right criticizes Carter for letting Castro to unload thousands of criminals from Cuba into the US, but 125,000 Cubans were allowed to leave Cuba in April 1980.

In fact, Castro apparently sent only about 2750 criminals (the number includes some who were mentally ill and otherwise "undesirable") to the US and nearly 1400 of those were repatriated in 1984.

What US President would have turned down more than 100,000 Cuban refugees?

4. Left-wing critics of Carter sometimes say he was a hypocrite on human rights, failing to act in places like Indonesia and Cambodia. Carter basically just continued longstanding US policies that didn't change much under Reagan.

While I certainly wish Carter had behaved quite differently towards these states, I doubt this is what Rozen had in mind.

In sum, I just don't see a case for foreign policy impotence and there's frankly not much of a case for disaster either.

After all, there were some major successes.

How would we think of the Middle East today if Egypt and Israel had fought another war or two in the last quarter century? What if Panama had exploded? Would the Soviet Union still exist if the US hadn't started to emphasize human rights in its foreign policy and Solidarity hadn't taken hold?

And of course, Carter has been an exceptional public servant in the past 20 years, though the Carter Center, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Didn't he win a major prize for some of those efforts?

He was a terrific choice to speak at the Democratic National Convention.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Media matters

Check out the "Media Views Archive 2004" on the FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) website and you'll find a great deal of media criticism by assorted writers.

Many pieces are by high profile lefty blogger Atrios (of Eschaton), taken directly from his blog. His blog has included incisive media criticism of a wide variety of media reporters and outlets, including Aaron Brown, Bill Buckley, Barbara Bradley Hagerty (NPR), Rush Limbaugh, Lisa Myers, Elizabeth McCaughey, Andrea Mitchell, Cokie Roberts, the Washington Post, the World Journalism Institute, CNN, and Newsweek.

One article on FAIR's website, on Tucker Carlson, is by Duncan B. Black and was published on the Media Matters website.

Why am I telling you? Well, Atrios now includes this statement at the bottom of his blog:
Eschaton -- a weblog by d u n c a n b l a c k
In other words, Atrios has revealed himself to the world. And from the Democratic National Convention there are pictures in the blogosphere, and plenty of bloggers confirming his identity (read the comments). Dave Winer says this:
Now there officially has been news at the DNC. The uncloaking of a blogging super-hero.
Winer too has a photo.

Since Atrios has raised over $275,000 for Kerry (and thousands more for other candidates and the DNC), I suppose this was inevitable.

Also, since I believe in transparency, I suppose this is a "good thing." While Atrios usually talks about the words public figures have spoken or written, he has sometimes noted when their personal behavior is inconsistent with those words. Now, he will be vulnerable to the same, I suppose.

It's kind of interesting that Duncan Black is an academic, though I never thought he was an economist.

That said, I'm not surprised he's also an urbanist. A couple of friendly urbanists that I know occastionally read this space. Can anyone say something about Duncan Black's academic work? I see that he used to be at UC-Irvine and coauthored papers/articles with a former colleague (or mentor) at Brown...

Update: A newspaper has the story, but doesn't seem to realize it's big news in the blogosphere. Really, really big news, apparently.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Turner's speech

Well, I didn't see Congressman Jim Turner's speech tonight, but as promised, I found a transcript and read it. It's available on the KTRE-TV (Lufkin/Nacogdoches, TX) website.

Frankly, it is short and not especially informative. These are the key paragraphs:
John Kerry knows that in this new war, the front lines are here at home. Americans do not run from a fight, nor will we accept living in fear. As the lead Democrat on the HOuse Committee on Homeland Security, I have seen the work we need to do to protect America from danger.

And I'm here to tell you John Kerry has a plan to make our homeland secure. John Kerry will fix our broken intelligence system to stop terrorists before they strike again. He will bolster security at our borders. He will make our vulnerable targets-our nuclear and chemical plants, our refineries- more secure to keep those who live nearby safe from harm. He will ensure that every cargo container entering our ports is screened for radiation, protecting us from the threat of nuclear terrorism. The cost of securing America is great, but the cost of failing to secure America is even greater.
Given the number of speakers, I guess this was all they could include.

Kerry's Iraq Vote

Democrats are spending this week celebrating the nomination of Senator John Kerry as their presidential candidate.

Skeptics on the left point out that Kerry voted for the Iraq war in October 2002 and thus is no better than Bush.

Skeptics on the right point out that Kerry voted for the Iraq war in October 2002, but say that he's a "flip flopper" for criticizing the war and the occupation.

Inspired by Howard Labs, I decided to take a closer look at what Senator Kerry actually said when he voted in October 2002. What did he say on the floor of the US Senate?

What did he think he was doing?

Much of the speech, particularly at the beginning, focuses on the alleged threat from Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Like the Bush administration, Kerry was apparently wrong about Iraq's alleged WMD.

For Kerry, the only reason to go to war was Iraq's alleged WMD threat. He did not support war merely for regime change, or because of barely existent links to al Qaeda:
The reason for going to war, if we must fight, is not because Saddam Hussein has failed to deliver gulf war prisoners or Kuwaiti property. As much as we decry the way he has treated his people, regime change alone is not a sufficient reason for going to war, as desirable as it is to change the regime....regime change in and of itself is not sufficient justification for going to war--particularly unilaterally--unless regime change is the only way to disarm Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction pursuant to the United Nations resolution.

As bad as he is, Saddam Hussein, the dictator, is not the cause of war.
Kerry did not try to imply that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11. Indeed, he noted instead that "the administration has failed to provide any direct link between Iraq and the events of September 11."

Kerry noted, moreover, that the administration had even by October 2002 undermined the credibility of its WMD claims by talking about going to war even before a clear justification had been agreed among the international community:
By beginning its public discourse with talk of invasion and regime change, the administration raised doubts about their bona fides on the most legitimate justification for war--that in the post-September 11 world the unrestrained threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein is unacceptable, and his refusal to allow U.N. inspectors to return was in blatant violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement that left him in power. By casting about in an unfocused, undisciplined, overly public, internal debate for a rationale for war, the administration complicated their case, confused the American public, and compromised America's credibility in the eyes of the world community. By engaging in hasty war talk rather than focusing on the central issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the administration placed doubts in the minds of potential allies, particularly in the Middle East, where managing the Arab street is difficult at best.
In short, Kerry said that Bush's goal seemed to be war and regime change, rather than Iraqi disarmament. Left-leaning critics made this same accusation at the time.

Kerry also noted the failure to build domestic political support, and the failure as of that time fully to address prominent criticisms that were being raised by the foreign policy elite (including many Republicans):
Indeed over the course of the last 6 weeks some of the strongest and most thoughtful questioning of our Nation's Iraq policy has come from what some observers would say are unlikely sources: Senators like CHUCK HAGEL and DICK LUGAR, former Bush Administration national security experts including Brent Scowcroft and James Baker, and distinguished military voices including General Shalikashvili. They are asking the tough questions which must be answered before--and not after--you commit a nation to a course that may well lead to war. They know from their years of experience, whether on the battlefield as soldiers, in the Senate, or at the highest levels of public diplomacy, that you build the consent of the American people to sustain military confrontation by asking questions, not avoiding them.
Since these critics were saying that an Iraq war would distract from the "war on terror," this is a pretty serious disagreement with the administration. Indeed, Kerry clearly distinguishes Iraq from the war on terror in this speech and criticizes the administration for failing to fulfill its promises in Afghanistan.

This is the bottom line: Kerry would not have gone to war so long as the arms inspections were working:
I believe ultimately Saddam's unwillingness to submit to fail-safe inspections--is absolutely critical in building international support for our case to the world. That is the way in which you make it clear to the world that we are contemplating war not for war's sake, and not to accomplish goals that don't meet international standards or muster with respect to national security, but because weapons inspections may be the ultimate enforcement mechanism, and that may be the way in which we ultimately protect ourselves.
Put differently, if Saddam started playing games with the inspections, even the French would support war.

Additionally, Kerry claimed in October 2002 that he would not have supported a congressional resolution that allowed the President to take the US to war without the UN:
I want to underscore that this administration began this debate with a resolution that granted exceedingly broad authority to the President to use force. I regret that some in the Congress rushed so quickly to support it. I would have opposed it. It gave the President the authority to use force not only to enforce all of the U.N. resolutions as a cause of war, but also to produce regime change in Iraq, and to restore international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region. It made no mention of the President's efforts at the United Nations or the need to build multilateral support for whatever course of action we ultimately would take.

I am pleased that our pressure, and the questions we have asked, and the criticisms that have been raised publicly, the debate in our democracy has pushed this administration to adopt important changes, both in language as well as in the promises that they make.
Obviously, Kerry later learned it was a bad idea to trust the administration on this score.

I'm sorry for quoting so much of this, but it is pretty damn important that the opponents of war realize that Kerry is neither a hawk nor a flip flopper on this issue:
If the President arbitrarily walks away from this course of action--without good cause or reason--the legitimacy of any subsequent action by the United States against Iraq will be challenged by the American people and the international community. And I would vigorously oppose the President doing so.

When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. I will vote yes because I believe it is the best way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. And the administration, I believe, is now committed to a recognition that war must be the last option to address this threat, not the first, and that we must act in concert with allies around the globe to make the world's case against Saddam Hussein.

As the President made clear earlier this week, "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." It means "America speaks with one voice."

Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.

In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days--to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.

If we do wind up going to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent--and I emphasize "imminent"--threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.
By March, Kerry was making it clear that these standards had not been met. He opposed the timing of the war and supported the work of the inspections.

In his speech, Kerry specifically said that he would support war only if the situation on the ground worsened -- and that he was explicitly not voting to give the President the authority to wage preventive war:
Every nation has the right to act preemptively, if it faces an imminent and grave threat, for its self-defense under the standards of law. The threat we face today with Iraq does not meet that test yet. I emphasize "yet." Yes, it is grave because of the deadliness of Saddam Hussein's arsenal and the very high probability that he might use these weapons one day if not disarmed. But it is not imminent, and no one in the CIA, no intelligence briefing we have had suggests it is imminent. None of our intelligence reports suggest that he is about to launch an attack.

The argument for going to war against Iraq is rooted in enforcement of the international community's demand that he disarm. It is not rooted in the doctrine of preemption. Nor is the grant of authority in this resolution an acknowledgment that Congress accepts or agrees with the President's new strategic doctrine of preemption. Just the opposite.
Kerry spoke of an obligation to attempt to use inspections first; war must only be a last resort.
I believe the work we have begun in this Senate, by offering questions, and not blind acquiescence, has helped put our Nation on a responsible course. It has succeeded, certainly, in putting Saddam Hussein on notice that he will be held accountable; but it also has put the administration on notice we will hold them accountable for the means by which we do this.

It is through constant questioning we will stay the course, and that is a course that will ultimately defend our troops and protect our national security.
To me, this does not read as if Kerry was supporting war. He wanted concerted UN action to bring back inspections.

And he intended to hold the administration responsible if it failed to support inspections and garner international support.

His preferred policy was working, as Iraq did allow the return of the inspectors, who had unfettered access to every site in Iraq.

The policy failings started mounting up much later, once Bush said "time is up" and the US began bombing, invading and then occupying Iraq.

Update: Chris Young at Explananda isn't convinced and says Kerry knew that he was granting Bush carte blanche to go to war. Young says, "I agree with Payne that Kerry didn't want a war, and would have preferred to let inspectors continue their job. But that wasn't what the vote was really about, and Kerry either knew it or he doesn't deserve to be president."

Hmmm. I'm as cynical as the next guy and I thought war was pretty likely through the fall of 2002. However, I also thought that war critics (including Brent Scowcroft, Jim Baker and perhaps even the President's father) had set some traps for the administration by convincing them to work through the UN and allow for the inspections process to work. To me, war seemed avoidable, even for the Bush administration, into December. Once they denounced the massive Iraq report almost as soon as it was delivered, I knew they weren't serious about the UN. Nonetheless, plenty of smart people thought war was avoidable -- and there was reason to believe that the Republicans were pushing the congressional vote in 2002 for domestic political reasons.

Anyway, this is from a PBS New Hour Broadcast, November 25, 2002:
JOHN MEARSHEIMER: I think that two things have happened to the Bush administration over the past few months. One is, I think they've become more aware of the down-side risks of attacking Iraq. And secondly, I think they are aware that there is a lot of opposition in this country to a war against Iraq. And as a result, the Bush administration appears to be willing to let the U.N. inspections regime work, and then maybe declare victory and avoid a war.
Other reasonable people made similar claims -- at the time.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Frank assessment

Thomas Frank:

I haven't yet had a chance to read, What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank, but I've started to follow the controversy about it.

Frank, like me, grew up in Kansas and then attended the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in History from the University of Chicago.

Here's some info about the book's purpose from the blurb on Powell's website:
In asking “what ’s the matter with Kansas?”—how a place famous for its radicalism became one of the most conservative states in the union—Frank, a native Kansan and onetime Republican, seeks to answer some broader American riddles: Why do so many of us vote against our economic interests? Where’s the outrage at corporate manipulators? And whatever happened to middle-American progressivism?
Just a few minutes ago, I saw Frank on C-SPAN2 in a forum that seemed to be taking place in Lawrence, KS. I missed Frank on Bill Moyers show "NOW" July 9, but I did find the transcript of that program.

Basically, Frank argues that the Republican party, using issues like abortion, have fomented "Populist Conservatism" in places like Kansas:
People have decided that cultural issues outweigh their economic interests. Or they outweigh everything. And they vote for conservatives on this basis.
He adds, however, that Republicans have made no headway in the culture wars. I guess the recent defeat of the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage supports this conclusion.

So a significant portion of the Republican base rallies around school prayer, the public posting of the 10 commandments, abortion, tv/movie content, etc. Yet, the crusades on these issues go nowhere -- even as the politically empowered Republican government leaders move to rework economic policies that hurt the common person. They've deregulated, privatized and crushed unions.

When I was driving to Cincinnati last week, I heard Laura Ingraham on the radio criticizing the book and its elitism. Thus, I know the right is paying attention to Frank's book.

Has anyone here read it yet?

Note to Avery: Did you notice that I linked to Powell's as you suggested, rather than amazon? Will the left blogosphere follow suit?

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Halliburton's woes

This has not been a good week for Halliburton.

First, the company revealed yesterday that is lost money in the second quarter, supposedly more than $660 million. Most of my readers probably find that amazing since so much of their revenue comes directly from the US government, with almost no competition and very little oversight:
One-third of Halliburton's revenue came from Iraq in the second quarter.
Their quarterly revenues were $6 billion. Unfortunately for them, their even bigger losses come from places like Brazil or from asbestos litigation.

Halliburton's presence in Iraq exceeds that even of the United Kingdom, as I noted the other day. Sadly, Halliburton has lost 42 employees or contractors in Iraq, while the UK has lost 61 troops.

Anyway, back to the bad news from this week. It was disclosed a few days ago that Halliburton is being investigated by a federal grand jury for possible violation of US trade sanctions against Iran. It is beyond dispute that a subsidiary of Halliburton, registered in the Caymen Islands and headquartered in Dubai, does business with Iran (of "axis of evil" fame). The question is whether the Caymen Islands firm is genuinely non-American, since US trade sanctions forbid US firms from having the kind of economic ties that the company clearly has in Iran.

To comply with US law, companies must not only have a foreign registry, they must also employ no Americans and act independently of the parent company. The investigation covers time when Vice President Dick Cheney was President of Halliburton, 1995-2000.

And it is serious:
Halliburton disclosed in public financial filings this week that the Treasury Department, which had been investigating the matter since 2001, had forwarded the case to the U.S. attorney in Houston for further investigation. The company said a federal grand jury had subpoenaed documents on its Iranian operations.

The Treasury Department refers such complaints only after finding evidence of ``serious and willful violations'' of the sanctions law, a government official said.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., whose office has provided information on the case to the Treasury Department, said Tuesday that Halliburton Products and Services was a ``sham'' that existed only to circumvent the sanctions.
Though some Republicans are trying to make this seem like a politically-inspired witch hunt, the investigation was obviously started by federal investigators in Texas working during the Bush administration over a period of years.

Incidentally, while this was an especially bad week, Halliburton has long been under investigation for possible over-charging in Iraq ($186 million for meals), and for alleged bribery in Nigeria. Some executives are also being investigated for taking kickbacks in Kuwait.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Winning the War on Terror

I realize the media is focused on the 9/11 Commission's report ("available in bookstores nationwide"), but I'd also be quite interested in a national debate on the recommendations contained in a different report: "Winning the War on Terror." Both reports are in pdf, by the way.

This latter report was issued by Congressman Jim Turner (Representing the 2nd District of Texas) back in the spring (April 27).

Matt Yglesias blogged about it on TAPPED back at the end of April (and wrote an article for The American Prospect), but I've seen virtually nothing about it since.

The ideas haven't just died however. First, Turner is viewed as an expert on these issues. For example, he was quoted in the NY Times story on the 9/11 Commission Report Thursday.

More importantly, the Democrats are planning to allow Turner to speak (albeit last) on Monday night, which is the first evening of their convention. Jimmy Carter, the Clintons and even Al Gore are speaking that same evening, so don't expect Turner to receive that much public attention.

Still, that night's theme is "The Kerry-Edwards Plan for America's Future." Given the Kerry TV commercial emphasis on rail and port security, which reflects some of what Turner recommended in his spring report, I think this is going to receive major play in the next few months during the campaign.

It's a one-two punch on security:
1. Iraq is a foreign policy disaster and has made America less security.

2. The administration has ignored real plans for improving homeland security (like ports and rails). Their tax breaks for the wealthy created huge deficits, which makes funding such security very difficult. The result is that first responders are being threatened.
Given that Guard callups to Iraq are often first responders at home, this all really fits together well.

General Wesley Clark is also addressing the convention and he too made many of these same points during his campaign. Kerry is a better politician and won the nomination, but the message is very strong -- and genuinely important to US security.

I'm going to try to see/hear Representative Turner on Monday -- or at least find a transcript.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Election updates

Several short election-related notes today:

1. Yesterday, I saw John Kerry's TV ad titled "War on Terror." In the ad, Kerry quickly hits on a number of themes that must be polling well: to win the war on terror the US needs to be tough and smart. The US must rebuild its alliances because it should not be carrying the burden of the war on terror alone. We need to strengthen homeland security by protecting trains and ports, he says. And we shouldn't be opening "fire houses in Baghdad and closing them down in our own communities." In the closing line, he emphasized that "a strong America begins at home."

It's short, simple and effective.

Indeed, in a subtle way it reminds me of Clinton's message from 1992. Many Americans thought the Bush I administration was too focused on foreign affairs, rather than on domestic issues. While 1992 was famous for "It's the economy, stupid," which arguably referred to the recession and need for new jobs, I think that related issues like health care and the burgeoning deficits (emphasized by Ross Perot) also played a big role in toppling that incumbent.

Can the same message work again, with the "homeland security" tweak? I think so. It also wears well with the Edwards's "two Americas" theme.

2. Based on the latest polling data, John Kerry would beat George W. Bush fairly handily in the Electoral College. Avery sent me a link to an encouraging post by Ted Barlow of Crooked Timber: Kerry 322, Bush 216.

Kerry is apparently doing well in many of the swing states and Bush is having trouble cracking 50% in some of his stronghold states.

And, of course, Kerry's numbers are going to get a big bounce from the convention. Gallup says the average since 1964 is 6%. Clinton in '92 got a 16% bounce!

Staying with Gallup's numbers, which have the national split Kerry/Edwards 50% and Bush/Cheney 46%...that could mean it will be 56% to 40% in about two weeks.

Or would that be 53-43? I'm not sure if the 6% is the total gap, or the amount the candidate gains (with a presumed loss by the opponent in this zero-sum game).

Anyway, if Kerry could get an 8% bounce, it could be 58% to 38%! Or maybe 54-42.

It's all good.

Imagine what the press will/would say. Maybe they'll declare that the knockout punch has finally been delivered?

Here's my post-convention/bounce headline: "Bush on the Ropes as Popularity Plummets."

And then Bush will have his comeback on the heels of his bounce in September. Sigh. But we have to be prepared for that.

3. Michael Froomkin at has a short, but very disturbing post about the way the Bush administration is limiting freedom of speech and assembly. This isn't entirely related to the campaign, but that is obviously a factor.

I clicked some of the links Froomkin has assembled. In some cases, people wearing anti-Bush or pro-Kerry T-shirts were denied access to presidential visits (note: not campaign events) even when they had tickets. The ACLU apparently got the Secret Service to agree that "protest zones" are antithetical to freedom of speech, but local police may be using them anyway.

Froomkin asks an interesting question:
the Secret Service’s official line is that they’d “do the same thing at a Kerry rally.” Has this in fact ever happened at a Kerry rally?
I cannot answer that, but it is relatively easy to find plenty of examples of former President Clinton facing his political opponents. For example, this was from a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story, December 2, 1999:
the president was driven to Westlake Center or the Pike Place Market for giant rallies of supporters. Bystanders waved, kids held handwritten signs and even conservatives smiled as they held up anti-Clinton placards.
Or take a look at this Houston Chronicle story from September 26, 1998:
Despite public opinion polls showing the majority of Americans want Clinton to remain in office, everywhere now, there are protesters. Talk radio drummed up scores of anti-Clinton picketers for a San Francisco fund-raising event attended by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday afternoon.

Hundreds more swarmed the a museum in San Jose where Clinton raised $600,000 for the Democratic Party. The crowd, divided into supporters, carrying "Peace for the president'' signs, and critics, one toting a "Clinton is the anti-Christ" placard, competed with each other in a booing and cheering contest as Clinton appeared Friday.
What is different now? Why shouldn't Bush have to see the faces and messages of those who oppose him, his war, and his other policies?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Summer reading

Inspired by Chris at Explananda, I just bought Evelyn Waugh's Scoop at Some years ago, probably in The New Republic, I read a comprehensive bibliographic essay that made me want to read Waugh.

So now I can -- and will.

Of course, this discount bookseller has a coupon that saves the buyer $5 on every $35 order (enter code habit with password bookcloseouts). Thus, I simply had to shop around for some additional purchases. My soon-to-be-11-year-old wanted some book giveaways for her party, so this was readily accomplished.

While searching around, I couldn't help but notice that the book sales lists provide some interesting sociological insights about Iraq and the wider war on terrorism.

For example, the neocons (and other hawks) have apparently saturated their market. Consider this:
Christopher Hitchens, A Long Short War: Remaindered.

Donald Kagan and Frederick Kagan, While America Sleeps: Remaindered.

Laurie Mylroie, The War Against America: Remaindered.

Laurie Mylroie, Bush vs. the Beltway: Remaindered.

Judith Miller, Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War: Remaindered.

Also for sale is an odd-looking book by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre about gun ownership and his version of "homeland security." It sounded scary.

For the conservative non-reader, Miller's book is also available in audio cassette.

They also had plenty of books by Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, but I won't link to them.

Before my readers shout in triumph about the failure of these conservative books to sell, note that there are also plenty of books for sale by Bush critics.
Norman Mailer, Why Are We at War?: Remaindered

Scott Ritter, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Crisis: Remaindered.

Gore Vidal, Dreaming War: Remaindered.
Ritter was treated unfairly by his former weapons inspector colleagues, but Mailer and Vidal are novelists writing about public affairs. Yawn.

If the hawks and doves aren't selling, what about the owls?

Um, not so good:
Peter Bergen, Holy War, Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden: Remaindered.

General Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars: Remaindered.

Alan Dershowitz, Why Terrorism Works: Remaindered.

Philip B. Heymann, Terrorism and America: Remaindered.

Mark Jeurgensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: Remaindered.

Kenneth M. Pollack, The Threatening Storm: Remaindered.

Shibley Telhami, The Stakes: Remaindered.

Strobe Talbott, The Age of Terror: Remaindered.
I don't know that it means anything, but there are 100s of copies of the neocon books and only 14 of Talbott's (though there are also 14 in paperback). Then again, there are plenty of copies of Vidal too.

Many would list Pollack with the hawks since his book helped convince many liberals to support the Iraq war. And Dershowitz has been criticized by the left for supporting torture, so he might not belong on this list either.

Telhami is a first-rate scholar and Jeurgensmeyer won the 2003 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, so don't make too much of their places on this list. And I used Heymann's book for my US Foreign Policy class in spring 2002.

Now, of course, this list proves that there are plenty of pertinent and cheap books available for my courses.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Iran a greater threat?

I think it is pretty clear that both Iran and North Korea were greater threats to U.S. security in 2002-2003 than was Iraq. Their nuclear programs are real, they had not lost the better parts of their military equipment in the Persian Gulf war, and they have strong state and societal forces that oppose the US ideologically.

That said, I don't think the US should have gone to war with either of them. Deterrence, containment and negotiation (or "engagement") were and are superior strategies.

I agree with the international law: the US shouldn't use force except for self defense, which includes preempting imminent attacks, but does not include preventive war.

Thus, I find the latest round of buyer's remorse somewhat unsettling. Sure, I'm all for challenging the justification for war in Iraq -- as well for questioning the preparation and execution of the occupation.

However, I do not think Bush opponents should rally around the idea that the US should have attacked Iran instead of Iraq.

Yet, some news coverage of the 9/11 Commission is starting to suggest that alternative: See, for example, the Los Angeles Times: "Bush, CIA at Odds on Iran."
Iran's emerging prominence in the Sept. 11 investigations looms as a potentially difficult issue for the White House, because it could raise new questions about why Bush led a war against Iraq but so far has taken a distinctly less bellicose stance toward Iran.
There were very good reasons not to attack Iraq.

There are even better reasons not to attack Iran.

Iran is a wealthier and much more powerful state than Iraq; thus, a war would most likely have been bloodier and longer. Iran is more than three times as large as Iraq and has almost three times the population. The per capita income (measured by purchasing power) is about $7000, while Iraq's was just $1600 (estimated) in 2003. Just about 90% of the population is Shi'a, so Iran is a much more unified country than Iraq. If you think post-war Iraqi resistance has been surprising, imagine the possibilities when people are driven by much more intense nationalism.

Moreover, Iran has been moving toward a viable public sphere and democratic reform. This is from the CIA:
Over the past decade, popular dissatisfaction with the government, driven by demographic changes, restrictive social policies, and poor economic conditions, has been pressuring for political reform.
This makes Iran a theocratic republic. Iran's popularly elected President, Mohammad Khatami, lived and worked as an academic in Germany. He was elected thanks to an Iranian "gender gap" as well as the youth vote. He clashes often with the hardline Islamists who control much of the power in Iran.

The European Union has taken advantage of Khatami's election by pushing the possibility of cooperation:
Over the last few years, EU relations with Iran have been developing in a positive direction. Following the election of Mr. Khatami as President in May 1997 and positive moves by Iran on a number of issues, a Comprehensive Dialogue in the form of semi-annual troika meetings at the level of Under-secretary of State / Deputy Minister was established in 1998. The political part of the dialogue covers issues regarding regional conflicts, including the Middle East conflict, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights and terrorism. The EU also decided to explore possibilities for co-operation with Iran in the areas of energy, trade and investment, refugees and drugs control.
Prior to the 2000 election and 9/11, the US was moving in this direction as well.

Iraq war opponents: let's cheer the fact that Bush has taken a "distinctly less bellicose" stance toward Iran. We cannot allow the media, the 9/ll Commission, the neocons, or even Democratic opponents to goad the US into another disastrous military conflict.

This might be a thoughtcrime in Bush's America, but I'll quote John Lennon as to the range of policy possibilities vis-a-vis Iran: "All we are saying is give peace a chance."

Update: Abu Aardvark has a fine post on this as well.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Coalition of the Willing

The Philippines has withdrawn its last troops from Iraq and is apparently no longer part of the President's "coalition of the willing."

Spain left months ago, as did Honduras. Poland's prime minister announced this weekend that the Polish deployment will decrease by half very soon.

What about Britain? Isn't the UK a solid contributing member of the coalition?

Consider this your stat of the day:
Halliburton has 15,000 workers in Iraq and Kuwait, 4,000 more than the number of British soldiers deployed there.
At least the U.S. still has some friends with global reach.

Iran and al Qaeda is reporting a much-discussed story: "9/11 Commission Finds Ties Between al-Qaeda and Iran."

While some of the details are certainly worrisome -- especially if Iran is allowing individuals from Afghanistan to pass through its borders without a passport stamp -- the story also contains a few important caveats. This is the troublesome portion:
A senior U.S. official told TIME that the Commission has uncovered evidence suggesting that between eight and ten of the 14 "muscle" hijackers—that is, those involved in gaining control of the four 9/11 aircraft and subduing the crew and passengers—passed through Iran in the period from October 2000 to February 2001. Sources also tell TIME that Commission investigators found that Iran had a history of allowing al-Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border. This practice dated back to October 2000, with Iranian officials issuing specific instructions to their border guards—in some cases not to put stamps in the passports of al-Qaeda personnel—and otherwise not harass them and to facilitate their travel across the frontier.
The caveats begin right away.

For example, the report apparently describes the Iranian cooperation with al Qaeda as "permissive" rather than active. I suspect that is similar to what pre-9/11 Pakistan was doing.

Next, the story notes that the 9/11 Commission "report does not, however, offer evidence that Iran was aware of the plans for the 9/11 attacks." And while Iran may even have offered to work with bin Laden in the past, that offer was declined by the terrorist leader "because he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia." The report apparently does not offer firm evidence that Iran participated in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, as is often alleged.

One final tidbit about the 9/11 commission. It has an interesting PR strategy:
The release of the report Thursday will be followed by a somewhat unusual outreach campaign. Commission members plan to split up into bipartisan pairs and travel the country discussing their findings and urging adoption of their recommended reforms.

Commissioners, who were criticized for appearing too partisan during public hearings earlier this year, also have agreed to avoid campaign appearances and other political activities that might undermine the credibility of their work, officials said.
Let's see if this works, eh?

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Rumsfeld vs. Halliburton

I know this quotation has appeared on some other blogs, but I recently ran across it and wanted to preserve it for posterity.

This is Representative Donald Rumsfeld on August 30, 1966, on the House floor, in reaction to the awarding of a dubious defense contract to Halliburton company Brown and Root. I found it in
Government Executive Magazine dated January 30, 2001.
During the Vietnam War-on Aug. 30, 1966-Rumsfeld told his House colleagues that it "is beyond me" why the huge contract awarded to Brown and Root of Houston and other U.S. firms to build air fields and other facilities in South Vietnam "has not been and is not now being adequately audited. The potential for waste and profiteering under such a contract is substantial."
This is important, of course, because the Pentagon awards a great number of no-bid contracts these days, many to Halliburton. Worse, the Pentagon's oversight of military contracts "has been eviscerated."
recently, secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld handed the management and oversight of the "Star Wars" missile defense system to the contractors who are building the system. "The Pentagon has created a system where contractors are evaluating themselves and then making recommendations on how much more money they need," says Senator Jack Reed (D-R.L), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It is an absurd arrangement."
I wonder if the Dems could use the old Rumsfeld quote in a campaign commercial?

Tech question

Can someone help with a blog tech question?

The past couple of days (since blogger updated its editing options), my blog template has changed. However, I didn't do anything to the template. Really.

Page down and you'll notice that old posts are no longer framed and enclosed in a white background. Instead, the text begins at the margin and the background is blue (and thus hard to read).


Note: Please send suggestions to my university email address -- or leave them in the comments. I only check the blog email address weekly (it gets very little mail). The university address is just a click away.

One thing I noticed when I looked at the html code for the past few posts. The editor is automatically entering "& n b s p ;" (without the spaces, which I need to make the code appear here) to create some spaces and blank lines. I think I've deleted them from the last few posts (since blogger introduced its new editor).

Friday, July 16, 2004

Powells "Ad - Lie" Presentation

You probably saw Secretary of State Colin Powell deliver his presentation about Iraqi WMD to the United Nations Security Council. At the least, you must have read about the evidence he made public that day, February 5, 2003.

For many Americans, Powell's presentation provided the proof they needed to support the war.

Well, it turns out that
State Department intelligence analysts weren't too happy about the data. Greg Miller, a reporter with the LA Times, has been carefully reading the Senate Intelligence Committee Report and found some interesting facts about this:
Days before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was to present the case for war with Iraq to the United Nations, State Department analysts found dozens of factual problems in drafts of his speech, according to new documents contained in the Senate report on intelligence failures released last week.

Two memos included with the Senate report listed objections that State Department experts lodged as they reviewed successive drafts of the Powell speech. Although many of the claims considered inflated or unsupported were removed through painstaking debate by Powell and intelligence officials, the speech he ultimately presented contained material that was in dispute among State Department experts.

Now, it's increasingly apparent that the U.S. went to war using very faulty evidence -- and that at least some intelligence analysts knew it:

Offering the first detailed look at claims that were stripped from the case for war advanced by Powell, a Jan. 31, 2003, memo cataloged 38 claims to which State Department analysts objected. In response, 28 were either removed from the draft or altered, according to the Senate report, which was released Friday and included scathing criticism of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence services.

The analysts, describing many of the claims as "weak" and assigning grades to arguments on a 5-star scale, warned Powell against making an array of allegations they deemed implausible. They also warned against including Iraqi communications intercepts they deemed ambiguous and against speculating that terrorists might "come through Baghdad and pick-up biological weapons" as if they were stocked on store shelves.

The documents underscore the extent to which administration and intelligence officials were culling a vast collection of thinly sourced claims as they sought to assemble the case for war.

As alleged last summer, it appears that the Vice President's office played a pretty significant role in the political maneuvering:
the Republican-controlled committee did not seek access to a 40-plus-page document that was prepared by Vice President Dick Cheney's office and submitted to State Department speechwriters detailing the case the administration wanted Powell to make.

The story describes "heated arguments" within the State Department, but the skeptics obviously didn't win enough of them.

In their critique, State Department analysts repeatedly warned that Powell was being put in the position of drawing the most sinister conclusions from satellite images, communications intercepts and human intelligence reports that had alternative, less-incriminating explanations.

The article goes into more detail and it isn't pretty.

Perhaps this explains why the war has become more-and-more unpopular.

Bottom line: Powell's advance work for the war seems to have been built on lies.

SABR Day 2

I was at the SABR convention in Cincinnati again today. I thought I'd note some interesting tidbits.

First, I saw a panel of several experts talking about the 1919 World Series. The moderator was Alan Schwarz, who writes for Baseball America, ESPN Magazine and the New York Times. I didn't learn that much (I've read a couple of books and watched a good movie on the Black Sox scandal), but it was interesting.

In the afternoon, I attended two presentations sponsored by the Statistical Analysis Committee. One was on the relative value of on base average versus slugging and the other was about the kinds of games really good teams win. Retrosheet President David Smith gave this outstanding talk.

I also peeked in on a panel of former Reds players. It was weird seeing Joe Nuxhall since I hear his voice so frequently on the Reds radio games. Lee May was pretty funny, and I especially liked his stories because he played for the KC Royals at the end of his career -- and later served as their hitting coach.

May told some funny anecdotes about Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson. His best laugh lines, however, were about Leo Durocher, who apparently slept a great deal when he was the Houston manager. Inspired, I bought a used paperback copy of Nice Guys Finish Last.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

SABR in Cincy

I'm posting from the suburbs of Cincinnati at the end of a long day.

Today, I drove up I-71 in a rental car (though it wasn't a good day for that) to attend the national convention of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

First, I attended a presentation on pitcher run support and then I went to another on the greatest leadoff hitters of the twentieth century. The latter was especially fun because the audience voted on the parameters of the study (determining the size of the N, metric for analysis, and even the interpretation).

Later, I headed over to the Great American Ball Park to see the local Reds take on the St. Louis Cardinals. It was my first visit to the new stadium and I had a good time. The food choices were pretty good and the beer was OK (if pricey). My greatest mistake was the softserve ice cream. After waiting in a long line, it was pretty tasteless.

In the game, Albert Pujols hit a no-doubt home run and the Cards won 7-2. Matt Morris started and pitched well for the victors.

Note: Blogspot has completely changed their blogging interface (Avery: check it out) and it might make it easier to improve the look. For instance, I can use color text.

With another vacation coming up, I may ask another reader or two to guest blog. OK?

The Storms

Last night, Louisville was hit by a major storm and we lost power at my house for over 15 hours. That explains the blog silence.

I just learned, however, that my latest email exchange with Shelley Emling about the Lord Butler report caused her to quote me in Wednesday's Atlanta Constitution Journal.

Butler, you may have heard, released a report assessing the Blair government's use of intelligence in the UK. Emling asked me how it was likely to play in Washington.
According to some political experts, Blair and Bush are not likely to suffer major repercussions from Butler's report.

"So far, the Bush administration has taken a number of hard hits, but no one yet perceives a knockout punch," said Rodger Payne, an expert on Iraq and international relations at the University of Louisville. "I doubt that many think such a blow will be coming from the UK."
I've noticed she goes for the punchline.

Here's the first part of my email:
I think many in Washington are going to be curious about Butler's report, but few think it is going to mean that much for the administration. The war already poses difficult political problems. You may have noticed that the President campaigned Monday by giving a speech defending the war and the Bush Doctrine. Yet, the latest polls show that over half of Americans think the war was a mistake and worsened terrorism.

Washington insiders are, of course, going to want to compare Butler's findings to the Senate Intelligence Committee's and perhaps to the 9/11 Commission's. Potentially, this kind of "inside baseball" might lead to a bigger story, but it might not be right away. The 500+ page Senate report still hasn't been fully digested from last week.
Hmmm. Anyone see a pattern?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Duped by the Propaganda Machine

The July/August Columbia Journalist Review has a terrific piece by Douglas McCollam on the vast campaign by the Iraqi National Congress to dupe both the world's major media outlets and western governments in hopes of fomenting US war against Iraq.

The INC's "nformation-collection program" was also feeding this bogus data to DIA and to the OSP at the same time -- as well as directly to the Vice President's office.

In retrospect, it must now be seen as one of the most successful (and heinous) fifth column attacks in world history.

McCollam begins his story by referencing a memo sent by Entifadh Qanbar, the spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress’s Washington office, to the US Congress. The memo notes 108 stories successfully "planted" by the INC in major media outlets between October 2001 and May 2002 (incidentally, this was Laurie Mylroie's heydey too). The INC provided "defectors" who supplied false information about Iraqi WMD and links to terrorism.

The consequences were devastating:
The balance of the stories, however, advanced almost every claim that would eventually become the backbone of the Bush administration’s case for war, including Saddam Hussein’s contacts with al Qaeda, his attempts to develop nuclear weapons, and his extensive chemical and bioweapons facilities — all of which are now in grave doubt. Similar stories appeared earlier and later, but this nine-month period following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 was crucial in creating the perception that the Iraqi dictator was a grave threat to the U.S. “The INC’s agenda was to get us into a war,” says Helen Kennedy, a reporter for the New York Daily News, whose name appears on the list. “The really damaging stories all came from those guys, not the CIA. They did a really sophisticated job of getting it out there.”
Remember, the CIA was preparing its fall 2002 NIE in this climate -- and Bush administration officials were making public speeches at the same time.

I keep meaning to point out, in fact, that Bush gave his most significant speech on Iraq to the UN on September 12, 2002, weeks before the CIA's NIE was even released.

Does that sound like a form of political pressure?

Since INC was getting cash from Congress, and may have used this cash to produce the bogus intelligence, I wonder if they broke any laws that might make them criminally liable?