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Monday, May 31, 2004

The "reinvention of imperialism"

OK, so I went out of town and forgot to tell you.

No charge this week.

Yesterday, I attended a party in honor of Nayef Samhat, Professor of Government and International Relations at Centre College -- and, of course, the coauthor of Democratizing Global Politics, featured in the right hand column of this blog. I missed the AP story from April that quoted him about the Iraq insurgency:
"The invasion was clearly unprovoked and can be easily seen by many in the Arab-Islamic world as nothing more than the reinvention of imperialism," Samhat said. "The images, too, are quite similar to those of Israeli military actions against Palestinians.

"Arabs will see the similarity," Samhat said, "and associate the two quite easily."
The story goes on to quote a number of other political scientists, including Joseph Nye of Harvard, Ole Holsti of Duke, Dan Caldwell of Pepperdine, and George Lopez of Notre Dame. But Nayef is quoted first.

It's old news now, but Nye had a pretty juicy quote too, concerning the pre-war predictions about the size of the US force needed in Iraq:
"It turns out Wolfowitz was wildly wrong," said Joseph Nye, a former assistant defense secretary who is dean of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

"If they had put in more troops, they would have prevented the looting and the situation from deteriorating," Nye said.
Army General (and chief of staff) Eric Shinseki had guessed that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq, the neocons disagreed, and only 150,000 were deployed for the war.

Pre-war, Wolfowitz said Shenseki's estimate was "wildly off the mark."

Saturday, May 29, 2004

As Catholic as the Pope?

While out and about today in the family car, I was behind a van at a red light that was displaying this bumper sticker:

Immediately, I thought of the blog posts Atrios ran a few weeks ago, pointing out that a lot of Catholics are trying to frame arguments about abortion so as to preclude a vote for Kerry. Some would even preclude Kerry from Catholicism. NPR had a really bad story that outraged Atrios.

Have you ever seen a bumper sticker saying you cannot be Catholic and for the death penalty? I googled and couldn't fine one. I did find this American Catholic Bishop's statement:
We maintain that abolition of the death penalty would promote values that are important to us as citizens and as Christians.
Didn't that Governor Bush of Texas put a lot of people to death?

Oh, and Pope John Paul II weighed in as well in 1995:
"...the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in case of absolute necessity: In other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
Again, where's the bumper sticker?

Have you ever seen a bumper sticker saying you cannot be Catholic and favor the war in Iraq? After all, the Pope opposed it and the Vatican sent an envoy to the White House in hopes of avoiding "disaster."

I might add that the Iraq war wasn't just opposed by the Catholic faith. It was also opposed by the leaders of the "Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian (USA) and Orthodox churches." Bush, by the way, is a member of the United Methodist church.

Are members of his faith outraged?

Friday, May 28, 2004

IISS update

Back in September 2002, a report from the International Institute from Strategic Studies (IISS) was often referenced in the debate about Iraq's potential WMD. While the report was actually fairly skeptical of Iraq's WMD absent significant technical assistance, many major media outlets highlighted some of the scariest parts, which helped the Bush administration make its case for war.

The most dramatic headline from The Guardian: "Iraq could build nuclear weapon within months."

Of course, the IISS caveat was substantial -- Iraq either had to steal or buy fissile material, otherwise it would take the regime years to make it. Again, the "mushroom cloud" as "smoking gun" was a total distortion of the evidence.

Now, IISS returns with its annual Strategic Survey that suggests the "coalition of the willing" fighting the global "war on terror" has perhaps not succeeded very well. Indeed, the prosecution of the war has perhaps exacerbated the problem.

The document isn't on line, but the organization conveniently has a summary of news stories available on their website.

This time, bloggers like Stuart Hughes are all over these findings:
* Al-Qaeda has fully reconstituted and set its sights firmly on the US and its closest western allies in Europe.

* Al-Qaeda must be expected to keep trying to develop more promising plans for terrorist operations in North America and Europe, potentially involving weapons of mass destruction.

* There appears to be little chance in the immediate future that the security vacuum that has dominated Iraq since liberation can be filled.

* The war against terror and the Iraq conflict has led to diplomatic underinvestment in the Middle East peace process.
IISS concludes that the occupation of Iraq has meant a "potent global recruitment pretext" for al Qaeda.

Moreover, IISS estimates that al Qaeda has 18,000 global members and that about 1000 foreign fighters are in Iraq.

The administration certainly isn't framing the story in this way. Instead, Attorney General Ashcroft is implying that the terrorists are trying to elect John Kerry.

Oh, here's another right-wing distraction, in regard to the Gore speech this week: MoveOn is like the Klan (Hannity). Yes, that MoveOn. And yes, that Klan.


Like TalkLeft, I think it's patriotic to point out the hazards of current policy.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

New visual

I got this map from a website that monitors the ongoing polling about the presidential election -- and then translates the latest data into Electoral College results:

As per usual, the red states are Republican (Bush) and the blue states are Democratic (Kerry). The darker the shading, the more secure the state.

The site was updated May 26 -- yesterday.

Even though the author of the website ("The Blogging Caesar") is a Bush supporter (and has a prominent linked post called "Twenty-One Reasons Why Bush Will Win"), he (or she?) forecasts the race as Bush 201 Electoral Votes (45.3% of the popular vote) versus Kerry 337 Electoral Votes (52.9% of the popular vote).

I'd take that result.

Meanwhile, the University of Virginia's media-savvy pundit Larry J. Sabato plans to web-publish his next "Crystal Ball" on June 3. It will feature a "new interactive Presidential Electoral College Map with our current predictions for each state's leaning toward Bush or Kerry!"

I'll try to remember to check back there in a week or so.

Right now, Sabato is pointing out that the only incumbent with polling numbers like Bush's who actually won the election was Harry S. Truman (though Gerald Ford came close). Sabato says the 2004 election will be a referendum on Bush and right now the judgment is clearly "thumbs-down."

Truman's victory was virtually a miracle comeback, which appears to be what Bush will need. If I recall the history correctly, Truman was able to blast the "do-nothing" Congress (then, as now, controlled by Republicans)

It's very hard to imagine Karl Rove scripting the current situation for his candidate.

The conventional political science wisdom, as I've noted before, is that presidential elections turn on the economy -- and that perceptions about the economy are more important than the reality.

Sabato asserts that the Bush campaign has a "legitimate beef" with the media for failing to highlight a couple of months worth of good economic data, deciding instead to highlight higher gasoline and milk prices.

Since Bush is 40 months into his presidency, it seems perfectly reasonable to me to note the fact that Bush will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to oversee an economy with a net loss of jobs -- multiple millions of jobs, in fact. Plus, even the latest job growth is behind that needed just to keep up with population growth.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Zinni, Clancy and Lugar

I've already blogged about General Anthony Zinni on several occasions. So I have little to add to his latest entry into the news cycle, except to note: (a) the coauthor of Battle Ready is a registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000 and worked for the administation from 2001 to 2003; (b) Zinni coauthored his book with popular writer Tom Clancy, who now also argues against the war in Iraq; and (c) Zinni was former chief of the Central Command, so he should have some credibility on this issue.

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) also received a lot of attention for his commencement remarks at Tufts University, Saturday May 22. If you read the speech on his website , someone has put the key "quote-worthy" points in italics and/or boldface. Much of it is clear criticism of US foreign policy (and the implementation of the "war on terror") under the Bush administration.

Lugar strongly implies that the US has been over-valuing military solutions at the expense of diplomatic and economic tools:
To win the war against terrorism, the United States must assign U.S. economic and diplomatic capabilities the same strategic priority that we assign to military capabilities. There are no shortcuts to victory.
Lugar sounds like a peacenik.

Or a retired foreign service officer:
We have yet to alter the status of foreign affairs as the neglected sibling of national security policy. The Defense Budget is more than 13 times larger than the Foreign Affairs Budget. As a percentage of gross domestic product, foreign affairs programs are still about 40 percent below their average levels of the 1980s.
The neocons, of course, are much more worried about the impoverished defense budget.

Lugar says that this over-valuing the military at the expense of diplomacy has very serious implications:
The September 11 attacks may have jarred the United States out of its complacency toward foreign threats. But our ability and will to exert U.S. leadership outside the confines of military action have been eroded by inattention, budget incrementalism, and an increasing partisanship that afflicts foreign policy decision-making. As a result, we are conducting diplomacy without sufficient funding and sometimes without public support in an era when we are depending on diplomats to build alliances, reconstruct nations, and explain the United States worldwide.
That should wake some people up in the White House. Heck it sounds like it could readily fit within a Kerry speech.

Lugar is not fond of renewed American unilateralism. He sees great danger in such an approach:
Unless the United States commits itself to a sustained program of repairing and building alliances, expanding trade, pursuing resolutions to regional conflicts, supporting democracy and development worldwide, and controlling weapons of mass destruction, we are likely to experience acts of catastrophic terrorism that would undermine our economy, damage our society, and kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.

The United States, as a nation, simply has not made this commitment
This quote appears above the speech in italics and then in bold within the body of the address.

I guess he really means it.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now a bipartisan "who's who" of critics of Bush foreign policy. These Republicans have made news recently: Lugar (IN), Hagel (NE), and Voinovich (OH). Chafee, of course, voted against the war, and recently pointed out "there's never been any connection between Osama bin Laden and Iraq. They're very, very different issues. And Afghanistan is [interrupted] a long way from Iraq."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Culture Update

OK, Sunday afternoon the family went to see "Shrek 2" Confession: I drifted off a couple of times, which is a very common problem for me at kid movies. This time, however, I had taken a muscle relaxer Saturday night for some back pain and was thus having trouble staying awake for a perfectly defensible reason. I generally enjoyed the flick. Puss in Boots stole all his scenes.

Sunday, night I watched the family, er, "The Sopranos." Spoiler alert: in case you missed it, Adriana (the snitch) entered "Long Term Parking." Permanently.

What I really want to see, however, is "Fahrenheit 9/11," the latest film by Michael Moore. Last weekend, it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and it is supposed to be terrific. From CNN:
With Moore's customary blend of humor and horror, "Fahrenheit 9/11" accuses the Bush camp of stealing the 2000 election, overlooking terrorism warnings before September 11 and fanning fears of more attacks to secure Americans' support for the Iraq war.
That sounds about right.

And certainly as factual as last night's TV offering:
terrorists know that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we must understand that, as well. The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an unprecedented terrorist victory, and a cause for killers to rejoice. It would also embolden the terrorists, leading to more bombings, more beheadings, and more murders of the innocent around the world.
Note that I predicted Bush would say that. Now I feel justified for not watching.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Latest spin: Iraq is about terrorism

I caught a few minutes of today's press briefing with Scott McClellan. At one point, in response to a reporter's question about whether the administration was trying to point out the good news from Iraq, McClellan said about three times that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism.

To anyone watching the briefing, it was a pretty obvious talking point -- and I'm guessing the White House wants the press to pick up on it.

Indeed, I expect this to be a major point of tonight's address from the Army War College in Carlisle, PA.

Then again, it was already the title of a presidential speech as recently as September 7, 2003: "A CENTRAL FRONT IN THE WAR ON TERROR." I wonder if the White House web site used all caps for emphasis?

It's not really true, so let's see if screaming helps emphasize the point.

Why isn't it true? Because most of the attackers in Iraq are insurgents or guerillas, not terrorists. They are primarily engaged in a war against an occupying army, not primarily targeting innocent civilians. Neighboring leaders and some US legal scholars say it is a perfectly legal resistance campaign.

I wish the US hadn't gone and I certainly don't want to see US soldiers die, but it is completely misleading to say that this is a central front in the war on terror. A few terrorists might have relocated to Iraq after the war started, and some innocent civilians have died, but the elephant in the room is the US Army.

In any event, the transcript of today's press briefing isn't yet available, but I did find a Bloomberg piece that shows how the administration is running with this idea today:
Bush wants to keep Americans informed about progress in Iraq, spokesman Scott McClellan said, calling the plan's success ``critical to winning the war on terrorism.''
Also, the Vice President used the phrase at a campaign event on Friday:
In Iraq, thugs and assassins are desperately trying to shake our will, and they have made Iraq a central front in the war on terror.
Cheney also used the phrase in a commencement address to the Coast Guard last week: "Iraq has become a central front in the war on terror."

Actually, using Google News, I found the Vice President using this phrase often recently -- at other campaign functions and other commencement addresses. And of course, at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Siemens Campus.

The neocons agree with this framing, since Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz used it May 6, 2004, in Philly before the World Affairs Council.

The target audiences are interesting too. Cheney used the phrase in front of fire and emergency services workers, May 5. Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed said it in April, in Nevada.

Swing voters and swing states, eh? That's really what tonight's presidential address is all about.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Meet the Press

Nearly two weeks ago, I was interviewed by journalist Shelley Emling, who used to cover New York (including the United Nations) for Cox News Service and has been working as a freelance journalist in the UK for some months now. Ms. Emling and I have spoken on the phone, but for the past year or so, she has contacted me exclusively by email. We have communicated numerous times and she quite often quotes me in her stories about the UN, Iraq, US-British relations, etc.

Most recently, Emling wanted me to talk about whether the news about Abu Ghraib prison could strain US-UK relations. Read her piece, published the other day in USA Today, and you get the impression that Blair's position is endangered by the war in Iraq, which I think is probably true, and that US-UK relations could be threatened if Blair falls. This is also possible, but I think there are some important caveats to note.

However, I do not think the caveats are explained in the article. Here's what Emling quoted me saying:
"[Tony] Blair and [George W.] Bush are in the same mess," says Rodger Payne, an expert on Iraq and international relations at the University of Louisville. "If one or the other one of them loses his job because of events in Iraq, then it is possible that the successor government would have strained relations with the counterpart across the Atlantic."

If Blair was toppled, Payne says, a new Labor government might start reversing British policies toward Iraq. "British withdrawal, which seems unlikely but at least plausible, could seriously strain relations with Washington," he says. Britain has 7,500 troops stationed in Iraq.
In case you are wondering the point of this post, yes, I said all those things.


I am going to reproduce my original email in total so as to compare what I said with what she actually wrote. Indeed, I'll put the part she quoted in bold:
I do not think the current [prison scandal] will strain relations all that much in the short term. Bush and Blair, however, are in the same mess. If one or the other one of them loses his job because of events in Iraq, then it is possible that the successor government would have strained relations with the counterpart across the Atlantic.
Well, she quoted me accurately, but Emling left out the caveat from first sentence -- perhaps because I made a typo and left out the reference to her specific question.

In any case, this particular edit largely changes the punch line she implies in her article.

This next part is key:
For example, if Blair is toppled (and some are now suggesting that this is possible), a new Labour government might start reversing some UK policies towards Iraq. British withdrawal, which seems unlikely but at least plausible, could seriously strain relations with Washington - under a Bush presidency, at least.

Then again, if Kerry topples Bush even as Blair survives and wins re-election, I do not think US-UK relations will be stressed. Kerry is not talking about withdrawal, so any strategy short of that might actually meet with Blair's approval. Blair would invite a greater UN, European,or NATO role, for instance.
Notice what happened?

I argued that British policy reversals would hurt relations with the US under a Bush presidency. The context would perhaps be significantly different if Kerry is President. Bill Clinton and Blair got along great and Clinton, Blair and Kerry all want much greater UN involvement in Iraq. Thus, British withdrawal might mean very little if the point is to internationalize the situation on the ground.

I don't really fault Emling for leaving this out, but did want to clarify the issue in my own part of the blogosphere.

Plus (I probably shouldn't be saying this, but google makes everyone a snoop), I recently learned that Emling is married to Scott Norvell, who is European Bureau Chief of Fox News. I just linked to an interview with Norvell, which has two parts.

Search him out on the web, and one quickly discovers his relatively conservative take on the world. I'm pretty sure his blog is Tonguetied.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Kyoto Update: Russia to Ratify

Reuters just posted this story a few hours ago:
Russia Friday secured a deal with the European Union on terms for its entry into the World Trade Organization and immediately rewarded the bloc by promising to back a worldwide environmental pact.
This is essentially what I predicted would happen back in October, though Anders Åslund did better. He even had the details of the swap correct in mid-April. Åslund said then that the deal would occur either April 22 or May 21 -- and he noted that gas prices would figure into the specific pact:
An EU statement after the signature of the deal said Russia had agreed to gradually raise domestic gas prices for industrial users to pave the way for WTO membership -- rising by a third or even a half by 2006 and doubling by 2010.

Putin, of course, gave himself some wiggle room on Kyoto, in case there's a delay in Russia's entry to the WTO:
"This cannot but have a positive effect on our position on the Kyoto protocol. We will speed up Russia's moves toward ratifying the protocol. ... We clearly set out our position on Kyoto long ago. We are for the Kyoto process and we support it."

"I cannot say how things will be 100 percent, because ratification is not an issue for the president but for parliament, but we will speed up this process," said Putin, who toughly controls the Russian legislature.
Still, it looks like this is a done deal and this means Kyoto will soon be international law -- and the US will be a notable outlier.

Hopefully, Kerry will find some time to talk about energy and climate change this summer. Bush is vulnerable on the environment.

Prison break

AFP has an revealing story today on Yahoo! News, "US forces release hundreds of prisoners from Abu Ghraib."
Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were being released from the infamous Abu Ghraib jail, some accusing their US captors of maltreatment, as an abuse scandal continues to dog coalition forces.

Some 13 buses filled with Iraqis left the gates of the notorious prison Friday, where thousands of political prisoners were executed under president Saddam Hussein, as part of a scheduled release of 472 prisoners.
Wow, nearly 500 Iraqi prisoners released all at once.

I'm sure this will be widely noted, but I wanted to save a reference demonstrating just how wrong Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) was when he declared he was "more outraged by the outrage" than by the abuses:
"You know, they're not there for traffic violations," he said. "If they're in cell block 1A or 1B, these prisoners -- they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."
I guess he was wrong -- or none of these nearly 500 prisoners were in cell block 1A or 1B.

Anyone following this story knows that some soldiers and at least one General have said the abuse was "normal" and that the military is investigating many homicides.

I saw David Gergen on CNN this morning and he pointed out (a) that the conventional wisdom among national security and foreign policy types is now quite pessimistic; and (b) that no one in the Bush administration seems willing to take responsibility for anything that's gone wrong.

We're a democracy, so voters can take care of that last problem this November.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Oh, those Straussians

Journalist Robert Dreyfuss wrote yesterday that the apparent recent divide between the United States and Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress is a ruse. Let's use this post as a chance to celebrate the con in neocon, eh?

To review, the US started the week by cutting off funding to Chalabi's group (to the tune of $340,000 per month). That's some stipend, eh?

Today, US forces have raided Chalabi's house in Baghdad (though one report said it was his office) and carted off boxes full of files. Here's what he said in response:
Hours after the raid, Chalabi repudiated the American occupation authority and declared himself a leader of the new Iraq.

"My relationship with the Coalition Provisional Authority doesn't exist."
That sounds like a complete fissure in the relationship.

That would be huge, because just three months ago Chalabi was so connected to the Pentagon that he was willing for the INC to take the fall for the faked intelligence. Then again, strong evidence suggests that the INC was responsible for much of the bad WMD intelligence.

But, Dreyfuss says it is a trick -- and quotes a neocon, Michael Rubin, formerly in the Pentagon, now at AEI, who says so:
"By telegraphing that he is not the favorite son of America, the administration will bolster him, showing he is his own man."
Here's Dreyfuss's final paragraph:
In other words, it’s all a big con game. The still-neocon-dominated Pentagon—which this week stopped funding Chalabi’s INC —is playing its last card, hoping that it can boost Chalabi’s sagging fortunes by pretending to sever ties with him. That, the neocons hope, will allow Chalabi to strengthen his ties to Sistani, the king-making mullah who, they hope, holds Iraq’s fate in his wrinkled hands.
My guess is that some politicos at the Pentagon spent some recent time watching "House of Games," "The Sting," "Matchstick Men" and other flicks about confidence games and, as I said, decided to emphasize the con in neocon.

How can you blame them? I love this genre, and would probably toss in "A Big Hand for the Little Lady."

Moreover, the time may be right. As one of my old debate coaches used to say, "When it's fourth-and-long, and you're behind late in the game...throw deep."

For more info about the neocons and the INC, check out Laura Rozen's new piece in the American Prospect. I know people are interested in this stuff since I get several hits every week for my early February blog entry highlighting the known links among neocon Michael Ledeen, Iran-contra figure (and con man) Manucher Ghorbanifar, and the Niger-uranium story. Rozen mentions these figures in passing, along with the DoD's Doug Feith (who may yet be punished for leaking a widely repudiated memo about alleged Iraq-al Qaeda links).

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Safire's Satire, Part II

Last Monday (May 10), Abu Aardvark commented on William Safire's defense of Donald Rumsfeld:
When I went to the New York Times front page this morning, I swear to god I thought I saw this under the op-ed heading: "Satire: Rumsfeld Should Stay." Only when I followed the link did I realize that of course this was William Safire, not an amusing Satire. But, oddly, the effect is much the same.
Today's Safire column, "Sarin? What Sarin?", is awful.

I blogged about the Sarin Monday, so I'll try to make some new points as I dissect Safire's latest:
You never saw such a rush to dismiss this as not news. U.N. weapons inspectors whose reputations rest on denial of Saddam's W.M.D. pooh-poohed the report. "It doesn't strike me as a big deal," said David Kay.
David Kay, of course, was not merely a "UN weapons inspector." He headed the Iraq Survey Group for the Bush administration.

"Sarin Bomb Is Likely a Leftover From the 80's" was USA Today's Page 10 brushoff; maybe the terrorists didn't know their shell was loaded with sarin. Besides, say our lionized apostles of defeat, a poison-gas bomb does not a "stockpile" make. Even the Defense Department, on the defensive, strained not to appear alarmist, saying confirmation was needed for the field tests.
Safire's point: "Confirmation? Ha! Why should we need facts?"

Many field tests in Iraq have identified the presence of chemical weapons and to-date, none have found any upon further examination.
In this rush to misjudgment, we can see an example of the "Four Noes" that have become the defeatists' platform.

The first "no" is no stockpiles of W.M.D., used to justify the war, were found. With the qualifier "so far" left out, the absence of evidence is taken to be evidence of absence. In weeks or years to come — when the pendulum has swung, and it becomes newsworthy to show how cut-and-runners in 2004 were mistaken — logic suggests we will see a rash of articles and blockbuster books to that end.
The tide on WMD didn't turn until Kay said "we were all wrong." No stockpiles have been found and the US didn't even bother guarding many of the mostly highly suspect sites.
These may well reveal the successful concealment of W.M.D., as well as prewar shipments thereof to Syria and plans for production and missile delivery, by Saddam's Special Republican Guard and fedayeen, as part of his planned guerrilla war — the grandmother of all battles. The present story line of "Saddam was stupid, fooled by his generals" would then be replaced by "Saddam was shrewder than we thought."
Is Safire wish-casting? What is very clear is that there was no vast infrastructure of WMD programs and no readily deployable arsenal. The nuclear program was dead. No one denies Iraq had chemical weapons in the 1980s and that scientists could again make them. What is the appropriate level of threat justifying preventive war?
This will be especially true for bacteriological weapons, which are small and easier to hide. In a sovereign and free Iraq, when germ-warfare scientists are fearful of being tried as prewar criminals, their impetus will be to sing — and point to caches of anthrax and other mass killers.
A vial is easy to hide. A lab with equipment, not so easy.
Defeatism's second "no" is no connection was made between Saddam and Al Qaeda or any of its terrorist affiliates. This is asserted as revealed truth with great fervor, despite an extensive listing of communications and meetings between Iraqi officials and terrorists submitted to Congress months ago.
The DoD disavowed the list. As did the CIA. This is the biggest red herring among all the red herrings.
Most damning is the rise to terror's top rank of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who escaped Afghanistan to receive medical treatment in Baghdad. He joined Ansar al-Islam, a Qaeda offshoot whose presence in Iraq to murder Kurds at Saddam's behest was noted in this space in the weeks after 9/11. His activity in Iraq was cited by President Bush six months before our invasion. Osama's disciple Zarqawi is now thought to be the televised beheader of a captive American.
News reports suggest that the administration had several opportunities to kill Zarqawi before making the case to attack Iraq -- but didn't, apparently because it would have weakened their case for war. The terrorist was apparently hiding in Kurdish territory before the war and was certainly no tool of Saddam Hussein.

Moreover, Zarqawi is Jordanian and apparently has a prosthetic leg. The CNN linquist says the speaker on the video was not Jordanian and many viewers say the killer did not have a prosthetic leg.
The third "no" is no human-rights high ground can be claimed by us regarding Saddam's torture chambers because we mistreated Iraqi prisoners. This equates sleep deprivation with life deprivation, illegal individual humiliation with official mass murder. We flagellate ourselves for mistreatment by a few of our guards, who will be punished; he delightedly oversaw the shoveling of 300,000 innocent Iraqis into unmarked graves. Iraqis know the difference.
Outrageous. The DoD is investigating 5, 10 or 12 homicides (depending upon which source can be believed), along with rape and other abuses. This is not sleep deprivation. Did Safire hear Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC)?
The fourth "no" is no Arab nation is culturally ready for political freedom and our attempt to impose democracy in Iraq is arrogant Wilsonian idealism.
Imposing democracy is very, very difficult anywhere. Start ticking off successes and then compare the precursor conditions to Iraq. Still optimistic?

What evidence suggests that the best way to democratize a nation is via preventive war? What route was employed for South Africa? Nicaragua? Eastern Europe?

I have a blog read by maybe 75 people on an average day. Safire gets the NYT op-ed page.

Update: Matt Yglesias says this is Safire's "time warp."

Demagogue was on it today too.

Baseball fever

Congratulations to my friend Neal Traven for landing a short piece in USA TODAY "OPS on-base plus slugging valuable and easy statistic." If your inner stat geek wants to understand "OPS" then check out this short explanation.

Since I'm talking baseball, let me note that on any given evening, I'm highly likely to tune into a game on TV. Sometimes, the only game being broadcast on cable involves the Atlanta Braves. After all, they are "America's team" according to TBS.

Last night, the only game on our local cable was Atlanta's.

So, had yesterday been an ordinary Tuesday night, I would have watched at least some of last night's Atlanta-Arizona Diamondbacks games and would have seen Randy Johnson throw one of baseball's 17 perfect games. In about 125 years of history, that's one every 7.5 years. I've never seen one, despite watching a lot of baseball in my lifetime. A lot.

This time, I was at a going away party for a friend, he had election returns on his TV (Kucinich 2% vs. uncommitted 9%), and I missed the perfect game.

Sigh. To recap the bad news: the friend is gone for six weeks, I missed the perfecto, and my anti-war candidate finished behind just about everyone (I think he beat LaRouche).

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Primary message to Kerry

Today is Kentucky's primary. John Kerry has already secured the Democratic nomination for president, of course, but I nonetheless took my vote seriously.

A week ago, the local newspaper pointed out that Clinton won the 1992 primary after he was assured his party's nomination, but 28% of voters went for "uncommitted" -- apparently to signal some dissatisfaction with his candidacy and/or campaign.

So, what message did I want to send with my vote?

A. Vote for Kerry, signaling to the world that "the party is united" and I'm very satisfied with the candidate.

B. Vote for someone else, signaling to the Kerry people that his campaign needs to work harder to secure my interest. This is hard to do since it's difficult to imagine a scenario whereby I wouldn't vote for John Kerry. I've defended him on this blog and will not vote for Nader.

C. Vote for "uncommitted" on the off-chance that all hell breaks out in Boston (and around the country) this summer and the Democratic convention becomes an open one.

I rejected "A" because the party has plenty of time to be unified after the primaries and the convention love fest. I also rejected option "C" because the odds are very much against an open convention and a vote for a particular candidate could send some strong signals.

Like what? Here are the choices that were on the ballot today:
A vote for John Edwards could signal that I liked his "two Americas" campaign rhetoric -- and just might want to see his name in the Veep slot. My spouse apparently bought into some part of this logic.

A vote for Wesley Clark would signal that I'm really concerned about national security issues and might want Kerry to think about Clark as Veep.

A vote for Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich would signal that Kerry is moving too far to the right and needs to reconnect with the Democratic base.

A vote for Lyndon LaRouche would suggest I'm a wacko -- and I'm afraid a vote for Al Sharpton might suggest that I'm a cynical Republican.

A vote for Joe Lieberman would signal that I'm 100% DLC.
I picked the third choice and voted for Kucinich. He's still campaigning and is the clear anti-war candidate, so I'm hoping some of my fellow Kentuckians vote similarly to amplify my message.

I'm not saying Kerry has to say that the US is coming home in January 2005, but he does have to stop implying that he will "stay the course." We don't need Brand X when we already own the "leading brand."

Monday, May 17, 2004

Sarin attack?

The BBC has the latest news about the "nerve gas bomb" that "exploded" in Iraq a few days ago.

I put "nerve gas bomb" in quotation marks because it was a binary shell containing two components of Sarin. The agents were designed to combine in flight. Absent the combination, the individual agents are relatively harmless.

I put "exploded" in quotation marks because the conventional explosive agents rigged to the device detonated, but the Sarin elements did not disperse. Two soldiers were treated for minor exposure.

While this could signal something important -- whether the presence of WMD in Iraq or the escation of war by the insurgents -- the BBC quotes a coalition official who does not think it amounts to much:
However, a senior coalition source has told the BBC the round does not signal the discovery of weapons of mass destruction or the escalation of insurgent activity.

He said the round dated back to the Iran-Iraq war and coalition officials were not sure whether the fighters even knew what it contained.
Iraq used Sarin against Iran during their war in the 1980s, and had the capability to produce large quantites as the UN discovered after the war. But the arsenal and production facilities were apparently destroyed in the 1990s under UN oversight.

As one talking military head said on MSNBC earlier today, explosives from WW II are still occasionally found across Europe. This may not mean much of anything.

If the insurgents have some more of these old warheads, however, the US has now told them what they have. Thus, I suppose it is possible that they might figure out a way to launch and activate the Sarin.

Let's hope not.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Minor game

OK, it's a slow Saturday in the blogosphere...

Thursday night, I went to a AAA baseball game between the Louisville Bats and the Toledo Mud Hens. My university had organized a group trip, so the tickets were cheap and even the Provost was in attendance.

I sat next to one of my recently graduated master's students and we were sandwiched between two philosophy professors and their partners and friends. Our row kept the beer guys fairly busy, so we didn't sit around and talk about Habermas or anything -- even though one of the philosophy profs is a genuine expert on the German social theorist.

We were also entertained by a very exciting baseball game. Toledo hit several early homers and had a 9-1 lead by the fourth inning. They couldn't hold it and the home team closed to 9-8 by the 8th. It was one of those warm/humid pre-rain games, which is very conducive to homers and scoring. No, really, it is.

Anyway, by the bottom of the 9th inning the Bats trailed 11-8 again as the Mud Hens scored 2 insurance runs in the top half of the final frame. Thus, the stage was set for a dramatic last inning comeback.

And the home fans who stuck around for more than 3 hours were rewarded (the philosophy profs were long gone by the 9th). With 2 outs and 2 men on base, Bats leadoff hitter Jermaine Clark hit a 3 run homer to tie the score. The very next batter, shortstop Felipe Lopez, hit another homer and the home team won 12-11!

A couple of interesting notes: The Mud Hens had a centerfielder named, get this Bull Durham fans, Nook Logan! Logan had a homer among 3 hits in the game, and stole a base. From his past stats, he doesn't look like a future major league star.

Also, Joe Vitiello hit 2 homers for the visitors. Vitiello has long been a favorite of mine. I'm a KC Royals fan and Vitiello used to be a top prospect in the organization. He won a AAA batting title in 1994 for the Omaha Royals (he hit .344 and slugged .526...and he walked in 15% of his plate appearances), but has only about 750 at bats in the majors over the last decade. He's hanging on, hoping for another chance and I hope he gets it.

Finally, the Bats had two real major leaguers in their lineup, both on DL rehab assignments: catcher Jason LaRue and outfielder Austin Kearns. I look for the latter to be a star player, if he can stay healthy, and he hit a homer and stole a base in the game.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Memo: King Richard to Lord Hastings

"Off with his head!" Or that's how Shakespeare put it.

What can I say about the tragic death of Nick Berg? The beheading was horrible and I certainly hope that the terrorists are brought to justice.

Of course, I'd like to see more discussion of the relatively common use of beheadings. This is from the February 2004 State Department Country Report on Human Rights:
The Government punished criminals according to its interpretation of Shari'a. Punishments included imprisonment, flogging, amputation, and execution by beheading. At year's end authorities acknowledged 32 executions, lower than the 43 in the previous year. Executions were for killings, narcotics-related offenses, rape, and armed robbery. The authorities punished repeated thievery and other repeated offenses by amputation of the right hand and left foot.
Can you guess the country?

It is Saudi Arabia, of course. According to Amnesty International's latest (2003) country report, Saudi Arabia has executed more than 1000 people in the last decade. Meanwhile, over 30 nations have banned the death penalty during the 1990s, bringing the number to over 105.

So what does the US think of Saudi Arabia? As I've blogged before, there's an interesting relationship between Bush and the Saudis.

President George W. Bush in 2002 on his relationship with Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudia Arabia:
I was honored to welcome Crown Prince Abdallah to my ranch, a place that is very special for me, and a place where I welcome special guests to our country. The Crown Prince and I had a very cordial meeting that confirmed the strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America.

Our partnership is important to both our nations. of the really positive things out of this meeting was the fact that the Crown Prince and I established a strong personal bond. We spent a lot of time alone, discussing our respective visions, talking about our families. I was most interested in learning about how he thought about things. I'm convinced that the stronger our personal bond is, the more likely it is relations between our country will be strong...

It's a strong and important friendship, and he knows that and I know that...
On May 16, 2003, the President added simply:
Saudi Arabia is our friend...
Is the White House outraged when the Saudis behead someone?

You can find similar photos here.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

International Response to Abu Ghraib

Yesterday, members of Congress were invited to see the still-secret photos and videos from Abu Ghraib. What did they see? Pretty clearly, as Taguba and others have emphasized, they saw prisoners who were not treated with the respect due under the Geneva Conventions:
They saw Iraqi women forced to bare their breasts, forced homosexual sex, sex between U.S. troops, hooded Iraqi prisoners forced to masturbate in front of their captors, another forced to sodomize himself.

They also reported viewing pictures of dead bodies, badly wounded soldiers and untrained soldiers stitching up injured detainees. A couple of Congress members were struck by pictures they said showed a detainee forced to smash his head against a wall at Abu Ghraib until his skull appeared to split.
In all, there were about 1000 new photos and around 300 showed abuse or sexual activity. In the words of Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN), the photos were "worse and more graphic" than those seen to-date.

I've taken these quotes from the Toronto Star, because I'm trying to gauge the international response to the prison abuse. Of course, I'll let experts like Abu Aardvark handle the Arab reaction (though the Aardvark has been thoroughly disgusted and has not found it easy to discuss this particular episode). I will note the reaction from Turkey:
"Ordinary Turks were appalled at the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners and later by the murder of the American businessman," said Omer Madra, founder of Open Radio, an Istanbul station. "But they are not surprised. The Turkish population is aware of a certain double standard . . . that while the U.S. preaches democracy and human rights, it does not always practice them."
Having one's foreign policy perceived as complete hypocrisy is never good -- especially if the current main justification for war is democratic transformation of the Middle East.

Indeed, that's a good reason for right-leaning politicians and analysts to stop comparing American behavior to the criminal acts of al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein. As Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said, "The American people need to realize we are talking about rape and murder charges here. We are not just talking about people giving a humiliating experience."

What are America's long-time friends and allies in Europe saying? Here's something widely quoted from Portugal's leader (a member of the "coalition of the willing."):
Portuguese Prime Minister José Durão Barroso, whose country's contribution to the occupation consists of 128 police officers, said: "You cannot, in the name of the struggle against terrorism and for the sake of freedom, contravene the very values and principles on which that struggle is based."
Not good. As Bush officials might say, they could be losing their will.

The news is worse from the unwilling....who, um, had no "will" to lose:
The brutality has "confirmed everyone's worst fears, and confirmed feelings, in France and Germany especially, that they were right to stay out of this mess," said William Drozdiak, director of the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Center in Brussels, Belgium. "More and more Europeans are openly expressing their fear of getting too involved with the U.S.... ," he said. "They are questioning whether a security relationship with the U.S. is becoming a negative instead of a positive."
The implications for policy are obvious. And bad. Potentially, very bad.

NATO is not going into Iraq anytime soon. The US better not want anything in particular from the UN for awhile. For example, this is yet another reason that the Bush Doctrine is dead:
Imagine that, in the next few months, Iran continues to defy UN inspectors and to build nuclear weapons, something that virtually all of the partners in the Atlantic alliance say it would be essential to stop, and, in response, the Bush administration proposes leading a military action aimed at seizing the Iranian nuclear installations.

Perhaps some would agree, but it seems virtually axiomatic that in the wake of the Iraqi fiasco it would be vastly more difficult to persuade most of them, as they were persuaded in the Gulf in 1991, Bosnia in 1995, Kosovo in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001.

"Even countries that supported the U.S. without a UN resolution in Iraq would find it difficult to do so again without a UN mandate," said Jiri Pehe, a Czech political commentator and the director of New York University in Prague. "If a new war should take place it would be subjected to much closer scrutiny."
Not that the Doctrine had much life anyway.

The Germans, in particular, are now more convinced than ever that they were right and the US/UK were wrong:
To be sure, the prisoner scandal has produced no public gloating, not even in countries like Germany that opposed the Iraq war vociferously from the beginning. Still, the Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has, literally, turned itself into the poster boy of opposition to the Iraq war, using the phrase "Power for Peace" as its campaign slogan for the elections for the European Parliament next month. The slogan expresses what the rising crescendo of bad news from Iraq has led the Germans to believe, namely that all of the German government's warnings about the war have proved true: that it was unnecessary in the first place, that it would be difficult to win the peace, and - most relevant to the Abu Ghraib matter - that it would cause Arab public opinion to be inflamed against the West. The conservative opposition parties in Germany, many of whose leaders supported the war and criticized Schröder for not supporting it, are on the defensive.

"It will be much more difficult for any party in Germany to go on a course of clear-cut support for any American position in the future," said Berthold Kohler, a commentator for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Any American policy that would ask for the support of Europe in another crisis would have to be very good, very strong and based on provable arguments."
I guess we already knew that.

Update: Reuters had a story this morning, "France Raises Alarm Over Iraq Chaos." Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told Le Monde newspaper: "What strikes me is the spiral of horror, of blood, of inhumanity that one sees on all fronts, from Falluja to Gaza and in the terrible pictures of the assassination of the unfortunate American hostage."

His warning:
"The fully sovereign government which emerges from the 2005 elections should be able to decide what becomes of this force, and if need be, its departure," he [Barnier] said.

French officials see the chaos in Iraq strengthening their hand in the Security Council negotiations over the future of Iraq and as a justification of their stance against the war, which they said flouted international law.

Barnier said the difficulties of the U.S.-led coalition only demonstrated the importance of adhering to international law, respecting human rights and seeing armed force as a last resort.

"This is all the more reason to reaffirm (those principles) as guides in these moments of trouble and doubt," he said.
So the French are still with the Germans.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Investigative Reporting?

Almost all the news about the Iraqi prison abuses (especially Abu Ghraib) has flowed from official investigations and/or the photos taken by the American soldiers/guards.

How about some investigative reporting? If any reporters are reading this blog, I recommend you look into the case of Abu Abbas.

Yesterday, I recalled that the Palestinian terrorist responsible for the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985 -- and the death of American Leon Klinghoffer -- died in an Iraqi prison earlier this year.

So I checked. Abu Abbas, the New York Times reported on March 10, 2004, died "apparently as a result of natural causes."

However, Abbas was only 55 years old, had not complained of ill health in recent letters to his friends, and the Palestinian Liberation Front (he renounced terror in 1993, but was a member of this group) accuses his American military captives of assassination. Abbas's family also raised serious questions at the time of his death . His widow, for example, wondered if he was tortured.

Using google, I could not find out whether Abu Abbas was held at Abu Ghraib. However, the recent reports that the military is investigating 10 or 12 possible homicides among the 25 deaths in Iraqi prisons apparently does not include his case. All the deaths being investigated are from 2003 or before, while Abbas died in March 2004.

There are some interesting obvious questions.

First, would his status as an alleged terrorist have fit the criteria for more rigorous interrogation methods? If so, were they used -- and what were they? Who had to approve them?

Second, consider the date of his death -- Monday, March 8, 2004, according to the news reports. This is weeks after the investigation began and the photos had already surfaced. Indeed, Taguba presented his report on March 12. Were interrogators changing their tactics in response to internal review? Was Abbas interrogated vigorously because his captives knew that all hell was about to break loose?

I do not know the answer to these questions, but if I were an investigative reporter, I'd be asking.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The "Other" Superpower

On Valentine's Day weekend, 2003, an estimated 10 million people around the world protested against the Iraq War. Remember, the war didn't actually begin until March 19, so this was pretty amazing. After those remarkable protests, Patrick Tyler of the New York Times wrote that "there still may be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion."

James F. Moore, of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School has written an interesting piece on "The Second Superpower." I'm grateful to Jude at iddybud for providing the link, though Moore's use of Tyler's phrase has received some critical scrutiny. Apparently, I'm late to the discussion of Moore's idea since the paper (available also in pdf) received 50,000 (!) downloads in five days.

In any case, I will plow forward: Moore argues that the "second superpower" is emerging from global civil society.
There is an emerging second superpower, but it is not a nation. Instead, it is a new form of international player, constituted by the “will of the people” in a global social movement. The beautiful but deeply agitated face of this second superpower is the worldwide peace campaign, but the body of the movement is made up of millions of people concerned with a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights. This movement has a surprisingly agile and muscular body of citizen activists who identify their interests with world society as a whole—and who recognize that at a fundamental level we are all one. These are people who are attempting to take into account the needs and dreams of all 6.3 billion people in the world—and not just the members of one or another nation. Consider the members of Amnesty International who write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and the millions of Americans who are participating in email actions against the war in Iraq. Or the physicians who contribute their time to Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Since my book (coauthored with Nayef Samhat) is partly about the development of "participation" norms in international institutions that increasingly require the inclusion of these social actors, I found Moore's argument quite interesting. Among his suggestions for promoting the "second superpower," Moore quite explicitly calls for greater participation by individuals and non-governmental organizations in international institutions.

As you might guess from his affiliation, Moore is especially interested in the way the internet connects these socially concerned people together. He also seems to be interested, as I am, in the potential for truly deliberative democracy.
where deliberation in the first superpower is done primarily by a few elected or appointed officials, deliberation in the second superpower is done by each individual—making sense of events, communicating with others, and deciding whether and how to join in community actions.
The article recognizes the limits of traditional mass media -- and of course acknowledges the limited power the second superpower has to check the first. After all, the US went to war despite the public protests of millions of people around the world. Opinion polls clearly showed the war was unpopular everywhere.

In many ways, the ongoing controversy about the Iraqi prisoners reflects the "second superpower" in action. Global civil society, using perhaps the internet or other media, is able to publicize and scrutinize government action. This participation, coupled with transparency (recall, there was no critique until people could review the evidence), sets the stage for debate in the public sphere.

The outcome of the public debate is yet to be determined, but it seems obvious that the discussion can have meaningful effects on the practice of politics. Whether Don Rumsfeld is fired, or not, I think we can all be fairly certain that prisoners taken by the US military in Iraq (and likely elsewhere) are going to be treated differently from this point forward. And people are going to be watching to assure that result.

The strength of deliberative democracy is public accountability.

And, of course, in a related development, George W. Bush's approval ratings are down to 46% (his all-time low). This Gallup polling data reveals that losers Jimmy Carter and George Bush were at 43 and 42% respectively at this point in 1980 and 1992, while re-elected winners Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were at 54 and 55% job approval.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Conservative Revolt Hits the Front Page

Dana Milbank and Jonathan Weisman have a story on the Washington Post webpage today called "Conservatives Restive About Bush Policies."

The article includes a lot of quotes from prominent conservatives and neoconservatives criticizing the Bush agenda -- especially on domestic policy. One theme recurs. This White House makes policy based on politics (i.e., winning partisan battles, especially elections) rather than ideas or ideology.
Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, said policy ideas typically bubble up from experts deep inside federal agencies, who put together working groups, draft white papers, sell their wares in the marketplace of ideas and hope White House officials act on their suggestions. In this case, ideas are hatched in the White House, for political or ideological reasons, then are thrust on the bureaucracy, "not for analysis, but for sale," Bartlett said.
Recent columns by George Will and Robert Kagan are cited, as well as disgruntled past members of the administration such as former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and John DiIulio, Jr. (who headed the faith-based initiatives program).

Richard W. Rahn, described in the piece as "a prominent Republican economist" asserts that Bush II is more like Bush I than Ronald Reagan. In short, like his father, George W. Bush lacks the "vision thing."
Rahn said he has grown concerned over what he sees as "a lack of vision and policy consistency" in the Bush administration. "I mean, we knew where [President Ronald] Reagan was heading; at times there were deviations from the path, but we knew what it was all about," he said. In contrast, he said, now "there doesn't seem to be a clear policy vision."
Part of the problem may be that Karl Rove serves as both top political "hack" and top policy "wonk." The guy in charge of maintaining presidential popularity and winning re-election probably should not be the same person coming up with ideas for policy.

If I were in John Kerry's campaign, I think I'd try to work some of these ideas and quotes into my new ads -- alongside some conservative criticisms of the foreign policy problems as well.

Update: The Mahablog puts this story into a wider context -- with lots of useful links to other related media stories.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Generals against the war

Some active military leaders are starting to speak out against the war -- joining retired critics like General Odom.

Most, of course, are speaking anonymously to reporters -- and prefer to critique the way it is being fought, rather than its rationale or objectives. Still, it is damning stuff.

Some, impressively, are willing to speak on the record:
Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."

Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an interview Friday.

"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."
The original article, from Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post is filled with quotes about the battle that is not going well for the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

The off-the-record remarks are even more skeptical about the US likelihood of prevailing in the war -- even militarily:
A senior general at the Pentagon said he believes the United States is already on the road to defeat. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he said. "The American people may not stand for it -- and they should not."

Asked who was to blame, this general pointed directly at Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. "I do not believe we had a clearly defined war strategy, end state and exit strategy before we commenced our invasion," he said. "Had someone like Colin Powell been the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], he would not have agreed to send troops without a clear exit strategy. The current OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] refused to listen or adhere to military advice."

...One Pentagon consultant said that officials with whom he works on Iraq policy continue to put on a happy face publicly, but privately are grim about the situation in Baghdad. When it comes to discussions of the administration's Iraq policy, he said, "It's 'Dead Man Walking.' "

The worried generals and colonels are simply beginning to say what experts outside the military have been saying for weeks.

...a senior military intelligence officer experienced in Middle Eastern affairs said he thinks the administration needs to rethink its approach to Iraq and to the region. "The idea that Iraq can be miraculously and quickly turned into a shining example of democracy that will 'transform' the Middle East requires way too much fairy dust and cultural arrogance to believe," he said.
The article is filled with quotes from military leaders saying (anonymously) that Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, and General Myers should be fired. A few Democratic politicians call for this quite publicly.

I wonder how many generals would like to fire the commander-in-chief?

Wolfowitz is quoted as saying that the anonymous sources should have been willing to tell him of their views face-to-face.

So why the need to speak off the record to a reporter?
Like several other officers interviewed for this report, this general spoke only on the condition that his name not be used. One reason for this is that some of these officers deal frequently with the senior Pentagon civilian officials they are criticizing, and some remain dependent on top officials to approve their current efforts and future promotions. Also, some say they believe that Rumsfeld and other top civilians punish public dissent. Senior officers frequently cite what they believe was the vindictive treatment of then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki after he said early in 2003 that the administration was underestimating the number of U.S. troops that would be required to occupy postwar Iraq.
A few leaders are quoted on-the-record saying that the US can win and that the war is going OK, considering the handover date and the prison scandal.

This may be the bottom line Bush position:
In addition to trimming the U.S. troop presence, a young Army general said, the United States also should curtail its ambitions in Iraq. "That strategic objective, of a free, democratic, de-Baathified Iraq, is grandiose and unattainable," he said. "It's just a matter of time before we revise downward . . . and abandon these ridiculous objectives."

Instead, he predicted that if the Bush administration wins reelection, it simply will settle for a stable Iraq, probably run by former Iraqi generals. This is more or less, he said, what the Marines Corps did in Fallujah -- which he described as a glimpse of future U.S. policy.
This anonymous general is angry though:
"Like a lot of senior Army guys, I'm quite angry" with Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush administration, the young general said. He listed two reasons. "One is, I think they are going to break the Army." But what really incites him, he said, is, "I don't think they care."
This is obviously a story to watch.

Update: Mark A.R. Kleiman posts a followup to the story. Congressional Republicans are sliming a conservative Democrat for saying some of the very same things that General Odom and the other military leaders quoted in the Washington Post story say.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Turning point?

The media is trying to discern how the images from Iraq are going to effect the prosecution of the war, the President's re-election campaign, and the larger war on terror.

Apparently, the images are going to get worse -- presuming that additional photos and videos documenting torture and rape are revealed.
They show "acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman," embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress.
He used the word "radioactive" to describe these images.

The British press (and some bloggers) are reporting that the fault lies not with a few soldiers, but with a problematic interrogation policy.

The media stories are starting to point to analogies from Vietnam -- as I did yesterday.
"There's such a big question mark there, it's unlike anything we've seen before," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

"The public is very critical of (Bush's) management of Iraq. They don't think he has a clear plan for bringing it to a successful conclusion, but a thin majority of the public has been hanging in with that it was the right decision to go to war," Kohut said. "This could be the event which makes people say 'Oh, we did make a mistake.'"

Political scientist James Thurber of American University likened the Iraq images to the infamous Vietnam pictures of a naked young girl fleeing a napalm attack and a Viet Cong prisoner being executed on a Saigon street.

Referring to the new pictures, Thurber said, "That's what we're going to remember about Iraq. It's just not going to go away. That may have a lasting and negative effect on his campaign. It certainly does right now and I think you'll see it in the polls immediately."
I vividly remember these images from Vietnam:

I suspect everyone who lived through that era recollects the horror.

The people representing my country have let me down -- and I'm not just talking about the soldiers in the Iraq prison photos.

Update: Jacob at Volokh has a post from May 10 called "The Tipping Point" that includes quotes from a lot of material I've been referencing this past week. Numerous political analysts ordinarily sympathetic to the "war on terror" are quite pessimistic about the latest developments in Iraq.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Walter Cronkite Broadcast

Walter Cronkite's broadcast from February 27, 1968 is famous among students of mass media because of his willingness to break the journalistic acceptance of Vietnam.

Here's what Cronkite said on that night's newscast:
For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate...

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
It was strong stuff. Remember, most Americans got their news in those days from one of the three major network TV broadcasts.

Cronkite was a true opinion leader. Tens of millions of people depended upon him to tell them what to think about -- and maybe what to think.

Greg Mitchell, writing in Editor & Publisher wonders who will be the Walter Cronkite of 2004. To date, he writes, no major newspaper has called for American withdrawal from Iraq.

Mitchell points to the "Nightline" appearance by General Odom this week. I missed it, but blogged about his interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.

If a Republican General can come out against the war so forcefully, and call for a hastened withdrawal, surely a newspaper could.

Doesn't this further prove that the notion of the "liberal media" is a myth?

Update: Atrios links to the Editor & Publisher piece.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Republican EPA Administrator Jumps Ship

This seems to be "Republicans attack Bush" week on this blog.

A environmentalist friend of mine sent me this link to the Bush Greenwatch website.

Here's the scoop, again from a new book, Politics, Pollution and Pandas: An Environmental Memoir (Island Press, December 2003):
Russell Train, a lifelong Republican who played a key role in forging environmental policy under Presidents Nixon and Ford, charges in his recently published memoirs that the current
Republican Administration not only lacks leadership on crucial environmental issues, it fails to grasp the "long-term
implications" of its bias toward the energy industry...

Now chairman emeritus of WWF [World Wildlife Fund], Train also offers his insights on the current lack of U.S. leadership on environmental issues, going so far as to say that President Bush "is not playing square with the American people" by "blatantly ignoring" solid scientific research, particularly on man's contribution to climate change.

Train writes that he does not blame the EPA or other federal agencies, because "it has been clear from the beginning of the George W. Bush Administration that it is the White House that is calling the tune. Moreover, it seems that the tune is being called not by program staff in the White House, but by political operatives. I find it unacceptable that the current U.S. political leadership should demonstrate such disregard for and disinterest in values that are among the most crucial concerns of humanity today."
Train was Undersecretary of the Interior under Nixon and later the second Administrator of the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (1973-1977).

This is nearly as damning as the Democratic critique.

Update: Thanks to Tom Street at Bad Attitudes, I can send everyone to Mother Jones for an interview with Train.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Another Republican/General Jumps Ship

I'm starting a good collection of these now...

Thanks to a link from Parapundit (in an interesting post), I found this Arnaud de Borchgrave column in the Washington Times, which details the remarks of General William E. Odom.

Odom is described by de Borchgrave as "a Republican who once headed the National Security Agency and also served as a deputy national security adviser."

Odom apparently called plans for democratizing Iraq a "pipedream" and this conclusion is quoted
Remove U.S. forces "from that shattered country as rapidly as possible."

Gen. Odom says bluntly, "we have failed," and "the issue is how high a price we're going to pay — less by getting out sooner, or more by getting out later."
Strong stuff.

And there's more. The General thinks that the current situation could explode, as Iraq could become a new launching point for global terror attacks:
At best, Iraq will emerge from the current geopolitical earthquake as "a highly illiberal democracy, inspired by Islamic culture, extremely hostile to the West and probably quite willing to fund terrorist organizations," Gen. Odom explained. If that wasn't enough to erode support for the war, he added, "The ability of Islamist militants to use Iraq as a beachhead for attacks against American interests elsewhere may increase."
The situation in Iraq, Odom claims has further radicalized Saudi Arabia and Egypt (just what we needed, eh?).

Odom's solution sounds an awful lot like hallway chatter from my left-leaning colleagues in the social sciences:
The retired four-star's proposed solution is for the U.N. and the European allies to take charge of political and security arrangements. This formal request from the U.S., says Gen. Odom, should be accompanied by a unilateral declaration that U.S. forces are leaving even if no one else agrees to come in.
Apparently, we can look forward to more comments of this type.

The article reports that a "company-size bevy of retired U.S. generals and admirals were in constant touch this week with a volunteer drafter putting the final touches to a 'tough condemnation' of Bush administration Middle Eastern policy."

This follows the letter signed by 52 former British diplomats criticizing Iraq/Middle East policy.

A slightly larger (60) collection of former American diplomats have signed a similar letter criticizing the Bush administration.

And of course, I've blogged about an array of military leaders (in uniform or out):General Anthony Zinni, Reagan's Navy Secretary James Webb, Bush Sr. National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft, and (Democrat) General Wesley Clark.

These military guys join Republican critics: Nixon lawyer John Dean, Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, and terror/NSC guy Richard Clarke.

Plus, there's former head of the Iraq Survey Group, David Kay.

Maybe someone should alert John Kerry.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Senator Pat Roberts at K-State

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is both a Republican and a graduate of Kansas State University. He's also been serving as the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Those data points make me a likely opponent on many grounds -- my readers know that I'm quite skeptical about the way the "establishment" viewed the Iraq intelligence, I'm anti-Republican, in general, and I'm a former grad of the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU!).

Yesterday, however, Senator Roberts gave an interesting talk at K-State that bears some scrutiny.

Of course, Roberts includes a lot of political boilerplate in this speech that is not worth examining. He says that Bush finally stood up to the terrorists (who wouldn't, after 9/11?), that America is a global custodian of freedom (elected by? and where have new democracies emerged from the Bush Doctrine?), and that the choice is currently between appeasement and action (that's a knee slapper, actually).

So why am I referencing this speech?

First, consider what he said about the pre-war Iraq WMD intelligence:
The problem is, the information was wrong.
Some Bush supporters, of course, refuse even to acknowledge this basic fact.

Roberts says the French, UN, Russians, Germans, Democrats, Congress, and White House were all fooled prior to the war in Iraq. Everyone thought Iraq had WMD.

So why was everyone so wrong? Roberts said:
While I cannot say too much about the report’s findings in this forum because it is still a highly classified document, I can tell you that our report does not paint a flattering picture of the performance of our Intelligence Community as they developed their pre-war assessments.

...It is my view this was clearly an intelligence failure as opposed to alleged manipulation....We need to get the full story of denial, deception and status, but it is unlikely that we are going to find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as was predicted by U.S. intelligence.
The declassified version is supposed to come out in June. Apparently, the Committee compared intelligence reports with political statements to see if anyone was over the line. I'm looking forward to that.

Roberts goes through and lists a number of intelligence reforms recommended by Congress that have already been implemented since 9/11 (12 of 19). Still, he is upset that no one within the intelligence community has been held accountable for the failings. And he calls for additional administrative changes that might affect intell analysis.

Still, nothing exciting.

Here's his solid shot at the neocons:
However, with all of this talk about preemption, I do have a word of caution and warning. Whether or not the United States views itself as an empire, it is obvious that for many foreigners and international critics, we look, walk and talk like one and they have responded accordingly.

An empire that displays weakness and is not taken seriously is in serious trouble. However, being perceived as capricious or imperious is also dangerous. The problem has often occurred when an imperial power insists on imposing a particular vision on the world.

It seems to me that in fighting the global war against terrorism, we need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts – a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy – by force if necessary.

Again, the United States must be willing to use force, unilaterally if necessary to protect our security and that of our allies. But, it is also time for some hard headed assessment of American interests.
Now that's newsworthy.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Inspiring Fear

I'm behind, as usual, on reading the print media that comes into my home, so I only yesterday read Jason Vest's piece on the intelligence community in the April American Prospect .

A lot of it was familiar, but I wanted to save this bit of reporting:
At least one confidant of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz's was unabashed about the real agenda. At a friendly March 2003 brunch with several journalists, Wolfowitz's adjunct minced no words: "Everyone knows this isn't about weapons of mass destruction but about regime change." Everyone inside the Beltway, perhaps. But, as a senior intelligence official generally sympathetic to the administration told me late last year, after September 11, it was easier to build a case for war around weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda. "You certainly could have made strong cases that regime change was a logical part of the war on terrorism, given Baghdad's historic terror ties," he said. "But that didn't have enough resonance. You needed something that inspired fear."
Too bad the quote wasn't on the record.

Vest also helps explain the muddle that is the intelligence organization:
As it stands now, the person many think of only as the CIA director has, in fact, two roles: director of the Central Intelligence Agency and director of central intelligence. In theory, the director of central intelligence has ultimate authority over every U.S. intelligence agency, including the three with the largest budgets -- the National Security Agency (NSA, signals intelligence), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO, the spy-satellite maintainers), and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA, the eyes in the sky). Budget control over those three agencies, however, lies not with the director of central intelligence but with the Pentagon -- whose own intelligence agencies, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the individual armed services' agencies, exist primarily to gather tactical intelligence for military operations.
Who would organize information-gathering and analysis in such a manner?