Saturday, November 08, 2003

Light posting today, but DailyKos has a follow up to a post that I initially linked to from Timshel. Fair Warning: this is a .pdf file.

Friday, November 07, 2003

I've posted a lot about Iraq, because I feel strongly about it being a defining issue of our day, i.e., does the United States become a fascist nation, or will we overcome the efforts of the neo-cons?

Iraq isn't the only interest I have. I try to stop by Al Giordano's web site more or less daily, even if he sometimes doesn't (and I don't mean that as disrespectful in any way--this guy is tremendous). Today I came across a recent post, notable if only for the title: Fact-Checking the Right-Wing Motherfuckers. Please read if you have a chance.

Of late, I've been a little derelict in keeping up with the news of the truly deep south. However, interesting things happen en centro y sudamerica. We should pay attention, especially those of us in Louisiana--New Orleans and Baton Rouge would benefit from economic improvement in the region. Or, we can ignore it to our peril.
More Positive News in Iraq

William S. Lind writes in about something I've been meaning to bark about as well: The Iraqification of the conflict. The concept is simple enough that even Rumsfeld can talk about it without sounding truly bizarre: replace US soldiers with Iraqi security forces (you'll have to scroll down/link to the next page--title is Defense Dept. Briefing with Sec. Rumsfeld & Gen. Myers). However, as Lind points out, you get exactly what you pay for in this instance.
Here's an excerpt:

A third indicator [of where the war is heading] comes from a widely-reported incident where an American battalion commander threatened an Iraqi under interrogation with his pistol and now faces criminal assault charges for doing so. The charges themselves are absurd, since the Iraqi was not injured and the information he provided prevented American soldiers from being ambushed. Here, the indicator comes from the identity of the Iraqi. Who was he? An Iraqi policeman....

Guerillas and, even more, Fourth Generation elements deal with state security forces primarily by taking them from within. They will also attack members of the state forces and their families, as part of punishing collaborators. But taking them from within is even more effective, because when we think the members of the state forces we create are working for us, we let them in positions where they can do real damage. Only too late do we discover where their real loyalty lies.

Even USAToday is capable of seeing what's going on:

The key problem is that Iraqi guerrillas simply have more and better sources than the coalition. U.S. military officers worry that the Iraqis who work for them, such as translators, cooks and drivers, include moles who routinely pass inside information back to insurgents. In at least two cases, Iraqis have been fired on the suspicion that they were spies.

A former senior director in the Iraqi intelligence service says the Americans are right to be anxious.

"The intelligence on the Americans is comprehensive and detailed," says the Iraqi, who insisted on not being identified and spoke to a reporter in a private home rather than at a restaurant or hotel to avoid being observed. He says Iraqi guerrilla forces get detailed reports on what is going on inside the palace grounds occupied by Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Bremer's staff and the Governing Council. Again on Tuesday, guerrillas fired mortar rounds into the "Green Zone," the heavily secured area of central Baghdad that includes Bremer's headquarters.

What did Cheney say back in March? Something like, "I believe we greated as liberators." Yeah, that's right.

And, to close with another excerpt from Lind:

As we create more and more Iraqi armed units, and try desperately to hand the war over to them, don't be surprised if they refuse to play our game. They will tell us what we want to hear to get paid, and then do what benefits them. Often, that will just be seeing and hearing nothing as the resistance forces go about their business. Sometimes, it will be shooting Americans in the back. It doesn't take many such shootings before we have to treat the Iraqi forces we have ourselves created with distrust, pushing even those who want to work with us into our enemies' arms.

One other indicator: a friend recently noted to me that the rapidly improving techniques we see from the Iraqi guerrillas bear a striking resemblance to those used by the Chechen guerrillas against the Russians. Might it be that we are not the only ones to have a coalition in Iraq?

How long do you think it will take before Bush forgets about "the Iraqi people?" He's already forgotten about bin Laden, and Hussein is beginning to recede from his dim-bulb, rudimentary mental processes. Weapons of Mass Destruction will be removed from the lexicon, leaving racism, pure and simple, as the ultimate justification for the war. Trent Lott would be proud.

A little busy this morning, but I wanted to note this show on PBS, which I glanced at last night. I had forgotten just how sinister Frank Lorenzo was, even if I have some vague, vague memories of the coffee, tea, or me airline marketing campaigns back in the day.

On another front, I saw Billmon take strong issue with the New York Times article I referenced on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. However, he doesn't dispute the basic facts of the piece, but instead raises general questions as to the credibility of one of the principals. But since this isn't a court of law, I'll still defend the item--to summarize, it argues that Hussein sent out an 11th hour request on a diplomatic back-channel, offering a number of concessions if the United States wouldn't invade. Whether the concessions were in good faith or not, the Administration should have given them more than a cursory glance--if, for no other reason, the fact that hostile invasion of a foreign country should ALWAYS be a LAST OPTION for ANY COUNTRY--period. Hell, even George Soros has figured that one out.

I find it surprising that so-called conservatives go giddy over the prospect of massive amounts of federal money being spent. Aren't these people supposedly for SMALLER government? A related note: The same so-called conservatives, who extol the virtues of free-market principles, suddenly adopt a Soviet-stye, apparatchik mentality when it comes to support of cost plus contracts for our military suppliers. Cost plus, for those who don't know, allows the supplier to SET THEIR OWN RATE OF PROFIT, which, back in the 80's, gave us $600 toilet seats, $800 ashtrays, and, my favorite, $150 wrenches, so priced because they were dual function, both tightening and loosening nuts.

Maybe we should be looking to see if some of those folks have a screw or two loose.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Over at SarcasticSoutherner, I came across the following paragraph, part of a longer post entitled The Gelding of the American Male:

Kim is right that this phenomenon has had profound effects. I think we see that in the reaction to the War in Iraq. We see more and more people whining for the troops to come home, because we've lost a couple hundred soldiers since May. Sure, each loss is tragic, but during Vietnam we frequently lost over 500 soldiers a week. The loss of a few soldiers is taken as evidence that we "don't have a plan." How about toughing it out until the job is done and killing all the terrorists we can find? That sounds like a plan to me, but I'm afraid that Americans increasingly disagree. Can anyone out there doubt that America is losing its manhood?

Normally, I'd add a comment, but Ryan doesn't offer that--so I'll post it here.

First, I went over to Kim Du Tiot's site. His thought processes are pretty standard for a guy who sounds like he doesn't get laid much. Frustration boils over to violence, or, in his case, fantasy violence. Then I took a look at Spoon's take--ok, so he's got a gripe or two, but mostly sees the piece as valid. More on this later.

So Ryan opines that the feminization of men is responsible for the reaction to the disaster in Iraq. Hmmn. My first respone is that it's pretty goddamned easy to toss off each casuality as "tragic" when you're several thousand miles away. Young men and women in Iraq who've seen their buddy's face half blown off or their leg shattered into a bloody mass of splinters might have a different take--think about it. One minute, a good friend is alive and well, the next, she/he is screaming in pain--if they're lucky. If your head is blown off by an RPG, it's not likely you'll be able make much noise.

The families of the dead and wounded might also have a different take. Losing a husband, wife, son, or daughter is pretty awful--regardless of the circumstances. If you are religious, you might want to look at 2 Samuel 18, verse 33. If not, maybe ask a trusted friend or relative, if you know someone who has lost a loved one. Yes, the pain is excruciating. No, dealing with the pain is NOT the feminization of the self.

Sure, we lost a lot more people in Vietnam. We lost a lot more in Korea, World War II, World War I, and the Spanish-American war as well. The point of war, however, is not to LOSE soldiers. Yes, it's a mean business, but the idea is to avoid casualties if possible. I'll add a link to Sun Tzu again. The point of war is to obtain an objective. Casualties are accepted as a cost of war, but not celebrated as central concept.

If I recall, the massive defense buildup, beginning with CARTER, by the way, and ACCELERATED under Reagan, was justified on the grounds that having such a large military would in itself deter any threat from potential aggressors. What was the line? Something like "by preparing for war, we can ensure the peace." Yeah, I think that was it. And, in the course of military development, we managed to add in things like lightweight body armor, night vision goggles, laser sighted rifles, and more. I believe this is done because, one, the military doesn't like to lose the investment made in a trained soldier, and, two, because, yes, there are some considerations made to simple human decency: Morale is a LOT higher in the ranks when troops are treated better than dogs.

Of course, we could just tell all the soldiers over there that they're damn luckier than the Vietnam/Korea/WWII generation. That'll really raise their spirit.

Sure, troop losses are small--not enough to affect operational logistics. But the fact is, operational logistics have been tossed out the window. Stan Goff, former Special Forces Seargent, is blunt in this regard:

Since the political decision in August to cut US casualties, the US has minimized operations and largely drawn the troops back inside the concertina wire. They were tangled up with pinprick strikes, and the slow, steady stream of US casualties was harming Bush politically. It still isn't working. Fixed installations need logistical support, and that means convoys, so the Iraqi resistance is schooling itself on the art of ambush.

Iraqis are also learning how to use mortars and rockets to great effect on the fixed positions.

This is at a time when we should have ALREADY won the hearts and minds of the people, or, to be honest, enough of the people so that the opposition was truly isolated. As it stands, the general population of Iraq seems to want to be left alone while US soldiers and the opposition/resistance play a deadly game of hide and seek.

In other words, the occupation isn't working. That's the major reason why support for the war is waning--as far as whiners, the only one I can think of offhand is Regis Philbin (see below), but I'm still not sure what he's whining about. I don't watch his show, and only saw him being cross promoted on Nightline.

Re: toughing this out till the job is done...what? The War on Terror suffered a SETBACK in Iraq. We should be going after bin Laden for chrissakes. The handful of Al Qaeda who've managed to smuggle themselves into Iraq are of no more significance than a couple of street hoods in a city dominated by organized crime. It's bin Laden we need to be chasing. By extension, we need to work with Muslim nations worldwide to minimize then eliminate forces like fundamentalist Wahabban Islam. Now, I'll admit, this is going to be a problem, given that the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia is the biggest promoter of this sect. Concurrent with this is the necessity of resolving the Palestinian/Israeli dispute in a manner fair to both sides. It's our responsibility, given our special relationship with the Israeli state. Once we DO this, we might actually find some allies amongst the nations of the Middle East--allies that can work with us to isolate the fundamentalists. Simultaneously, our police/FBI/CIA etc., need to work with the respective police forces abroad to collect evidence, then arrest, propagators of terrorism. This is not as difficult as it seems, provided you don't alienate the shit out of the rest of the world. Terrorists need money, weapons, documents (visas, passports, fraudulent identification, etc.), communication tools, transportation, and more. This stuff is not all that difficult to track--again, if you do this correctly. By correctly, I mean you use your BRAIN--gather intelligence, analyze it, and then act based on it. Faith-based military initiatives using Ahmad Chalabi as the primary intel source are senseless.

No, the opposition to the war is NOT the result of some secret scheme to rob males of our supply of testosterone. It is a carefully considered position based on real facts regarding war, terrorism, political objectives, and a host of other factors. Hell, at least one reason why I oppose this war is that I think it's simply goddamned stupid that we're wasting the lives of highly trained soldiers...whose training cost quite a bit of money. To draw an anology: Michael Vick broke his leg in a meaningless exhibition football game. You think Atlanta fans are happy about that? Do you think, if somehow they could go back, Vick would be in the lineup for a meaningless game? Atlanta went from a playoff team with Vick to the cellar in his absence.

And, to go full circle and return to Kim Du Toit and Spoon: It seems, in the end, that both writers try to argue that men are defined somehow by our innate violence and we men should take pride in being violent slobs. OK. To each their own, I say. If they want to take pride in being violent slobs, fine. I'll take pride in my ability to read and analyze, my skills in basketball and tennis, the fact that, if pressed, I can do some automotive work. Oh, and I'll also take some pride in my ability to draw and paint, cook edible food, write good letters (or so I'm told by my friends) and so on...

I even take pride in my ability to defend myself--although I prefer to not use my self-defense skills unless I have no alternative.

Finally, in conclusion: hey, in case Kim and Spoon, and anyone else who fantasizes about violence and being a slob hasn't noticed, there's a war in Iraq. Get off your goddamned candy asses and get in the ranks. Get in touch with your inner, violent slob on a day to day basis. If you don't get your face, arms, or legs blown away (body armor, which most but by no means all soldiers have tends to reduce torso trauma, meaning the head/face and appendages tend to be the most vulnerable areas of the body), then you may even have some fun stories to tell about killing people and how it helped you obtain self actualization.

But I seriously doubt you have the guts to go.

Elaine Cassel at Civil Liberties Watch reports on some frightening abuses of police power, courtesy of John Ashcroft. Maher Arar, one of the people Cassel's story covers, describes his ordeal here. I know Counterpunch might be a little too left for some people's tastes, so here are additional stories from The Washington Post.

The United States used to be the country that everyone looked to as a model of fairness and equality under the law. Now we're shipping people off to places like Syria to be tortured.

Plenty of folks will refer to 9/11 and say that vigilence is needed in a dangerous world. Sorry, but I don't buy that. More and more, it is becoming clear that Al Qaeda all but left a voice mail message regarding their horrific act in New York, but Team Bush was so busy vacationing that they wouldn't bother to do anything more significant than put Ashcroft on charter flights--which they did beginning in June of 2001. It would have been nice if they'd announced it to the public, along with the reason why.

Our police and FBI agents in the field were gathering quite a bit of evidence prior to September 2001 that indicated a major act was in the works. Intercepted Al Qaeda communications provided even more warnings, although many of these intercepts were not translated, much less interpreted, prior to the bombing. Massouai was already in jail.

No, additional draconian measures are NOT needed. Our existing laws will protect us, provided that our leadership isn't asleep at the wheel.

Speaking of asleep at the wheel. I do not wish to denigrate in any way the tragedy suffered by the 3,000 people on 9/11, but if we truly value human life, we should likewise feel upset and outraged over the fact that nearly 43,000 people lost their lives in automobile crashes last year. That's a 9/11 and more every month....
Found this at Atrios/Eschaton. Ouch, indeed.
Meanwhile, in The Gret Stet
Timshel links to an Advocate article that actually doesn't fawn all over Jindal, although his main page notes more trouble for Blanco. The Advocate and NOLA are picking up the torch for Bobby, reporting on a supposedly negative spot that Blanco is running on radio stations. The ad says that Jindal would be the third term of Foster, and once again charges that the Republican Party would like to suppress the vote. The two papers are giving Jindal's comments strong play, as did WAFB last evening.

I think Jindal got pretty lucky to pick up some endorsements from prominent African American individuals and groups, but he's still behind the eight ball, so to speak. Another article I linked to from Timshel's site makes it clear that African American voter turnout will be the key to the election--Jindal, yes, is receiving an unusually high level of African American support for a Republican, but I think in the end he'd prefer a low voter turnout--especially if his numbers among African Americans begin to fall, which I think will happen as Blanco hopefully uses a replenished war chest to blanket the airwaves over the next week and a half.

CrawlingWestward hit the nail on the head, though, with this comment:
All this is getting pretty boring, and I hope it ends soon. It's the news cycle from hell as Blanco and Jindal throw back claim after claim that everything is the other guys fault. I didn't start it. S/He did it first. Let's try to talk about something else for once.

Blanco could/should get on the air, stay on the air, and focus on positive messages until the election. She comes across as sincere in her television ads, and I'm sure the steady exposure would lift her numbers, which would force Jindal to go negative, reversing the present trend, which always seems to depressingly end with Jindal, seemingly above the fray, shaking his head and pretending to be disappointed by the negative campaign.
All right, last night I couldn't or didn't want to say anything about the post immediately below. This morning, upon further review, I'll bark a bit.

First, TalkingPointsMemo asserts this is a turf battle, with at least one party leaking information in the hopes that it will help restore a security clearance. OK, fine. It still doesn't detract from the central point, which is that we could have gotten a LOT of what we wanted, WITHOUT losing any lives in an invasion/occupation.

Second, the article claims that Iraq even offered to hold elections in two years. Yeah, and I'd believe Saddam Hussein would hold a free election soon after pigs grew wings and took to the sky. But that isn't the point. The point is that Hussein was desperate--desperate to the point of offering a LOT of things, including free reign for weapons inspectors, full support for US peace initiatives between Arabs and Israelis, oil concessions, and so on.
There was even an offer to turn over an individual in Iraqi custody who was wanted here for alleged involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing.

That said, our government has a right to be skeptical. This was a back channel, unofficial communication, and who knows how any of this would have ultimately been handled. I'm not so naiive as to think that Hussein was totally sincere in his various offers; however, I AM SAYING that IT IS FOOLISH for our leaders to shoot first and bargain later.

Any sane, normal, person would know that it's stupid to go to war if you don't have to. As Sun Tzu noted, the best general is NOT the one who wins the most battles, but the one who obtains the objective without resorting to battle. The chickenhawks in control apparently don't understand this simple concept. Maybe it's because, having never seen the horror of war (click on Pictures link or use drop down arrow for the same), their mind set is like that of children playing war games. Or, maybe they just don't give a damn. The fact is, they could have at least talked it over via this back channel one more time before launching an invasion that is backfiring as I write this.

In the end, it's the person at the top who will take the credit or the blame, Mr. Cheney. And that idiot kid you hired to run the place while you went into hiding isn't doing all that good of a job either....
OK--finally, they'll admit it. It WAS a war of convenience...

I'm sorry, but this is too sick to make a comment.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Oh, and a quick note regarding Sadr's edict that American Forces should be "treated like guests." Well, that has a nice ring. Cole says apparently the threats of arrest changed his approach towards the Coalition forces...

OK. But guest still isn't FAMILY, and I encourage folks to click on the link, which points to Riverbendblog, the real one, not the fake run by some old conservative guy from California, I think. But please take a look.

My point is simply this: guest has certain connotations--sure, it's better than enemy, but don't think Sadr is ready to offer much to his guests beyond a nice hot cup of tea, a chance to relax, and then a fond farewell to wherever the American "travellers" are heading.

But, duty calls. I might be posting more later this evening.
David Brooks puts his head up his...well, I'll just say he's doing something anatomically impossible...


Let's make this clear. The war was NOT about what a vicious, evil, horrible guy Saddam Hussein was/is/always will be till we find him and shoot him. If it was, we'd have to begin wars all over the planet if we want to save everyone who suffers under political repression. Between the former Soviet Republics, most of Asia, large swaths of Africa, Central and South America--hell, just about everywhere except Antarctica--there are egregious human rights violations. Hell, if Brooks is so upset about public decapitation, why doesn't he call out Saudi Arabia on this?

Plenty of web loggers have brought Brooks to task over his take no prisoners editorial, most more creative than me. But to add my .0002 cents worth: Brooks goes on to say that it's these goons, part of Saddam's security apparatus, who are spearheading the opposition. Apparently, they are able to somehow intimidate the population in spite of their loss of power. Hmmn. Somehow, their control over the population extends to the point where they've cowed the general Iraqi public to house and feed them, while not ratting them out to the Anglo-American forces.

Fortunately, according to David, most Iraqis will understand our benevolent intent, even when we are forced to engage in acts of brutality. Sorry about the gaping head wound, Mr. or Ms. Average Iraqi, but you can take comfort in knowing your gruesome death served a higher good.

I sure am glad that pundits like Brooks can assist this great nation in overcoming our aversion to ignoring the various Hague Conferences and Geneva Conventions regarding basic responsibilities of nations engaged in war...great job, David. I look forward to your column on the Thousand Year Reich.

Brooks also opines that most Iraqis are disgusted by the "scumminess" of the opposition, and, you know, I'm inclined to believe him. As I posted below, most Iraqis likely want nothing to do with the opposition and recognize the need for the occupation to continue. Guess what? It no longer MATTERS. Pandora's Box is open.

When I see/hear about polls that show 2/3rds of Iraqis disapprove of the resistance/accept the occupation, I think about what would happen in this country if ONE THIRD of the public hated the government to the point where at least some would engage in car/truck bombings, ambushes of patrols, shooting down airplanes and/or helicopters, and the like. If 1/3rd of the public was that dead set against the government, I don't think it COULD function, even with all its military might.

Also as noted below, Iraq is COMPLICATED. THAT'S WHY we shouldn't have invaded in the first place. There are plenty of folks there who are a LOT like yourself and myself, mostly just making it through the day, planning for the future (or trying to), seeking out partners/spouses, fretting over children, showing concern for seniors, and so on. But that doesn't mean they want to be JUST LIKE US, even as we've essentially offered them a $20 billion dollar bribe to lay low long enough to re-elect President Bush...

To go back to my metaphor regarding Iraq under occupation and an inner city/slum in the US: it is NOT an exact parallel, even as I'll remind folks that 25 years of war/sanctions have devastated Mesopotamia. However, to ask the Iraqi people I've described above to somehow become our "eyes and ears on the ground" is as ludicrous as asking a suburb dweller here in the States to become the eyes and ears of the cops patrolling our inner cities. Not a chance...

Final note: I think we'd have a better chance of revitalizing our inner cities with an infusion of investment, i.e., real dollars, than we will have of placating Iraq with a $20 billion dollar bribe. Which is probably why the Senate was so gutless that they wouldn't even put it to a roll call vote. Great job, Senators...with the exception of Robert Byrd, to whom I say great job without a Big Gulp-sized cup of sarcasm. Byrd, at least, hasn't shirked off responsibility, wrapped himself in the flag, and proceeded to curl up in a fetal position, thumb in mouth, like most of the other Senators...
It's Not a Bomb--It's a Device that Exploded

If I recall, some idiot French government official explained the bomb that destroyed Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior this way. Aside: Another great moment in French political discourse in the early 1990's concerned a legislator who was indicted in a bribery/soccer game-fixing scandal. After protesting his innocence for almost a year, he changed his plea to guilty just before trial, received a slap on the wrist, and later claimed to have "lied in good faith." Man, that's almost as good as Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling over at Enron.

But the real comparison is Team Bush. Whod've thought they'd adopt a French approach to parsing oratory. Josh Marshall held a contest recently to highlight the disengenous claims by Bush regarding his assertion that Iraq is an imminent threat. Actually, Bush is not taking the lead on this, but I'm tired of keeping up with the myriad spinners, either under his direct employ, or those who work on the private side. Besides, it's time Bush took command of the ship. Given that he's the Commander, for chrissakes, he needs to lead. And a good leader assumes responsibility.

So, regarding the latest word game: imminent threat, did he say it or not? Like Bill O'Rielly and the Peabody/Polk Award controversy, the administration and their helpers are trying to parse talking points--did Bush say the words? Did he? Well, did he? Find a transcript that has the exact phrase "imminent threat" uttered by the president...

(This is sort of like Clinton asking what the definition of "is" is...)

Marshall's contest, which I entered but likely won't win, is more than a simple exercise in gotcha journalism. By asking for reader submissions, he's found a SIGNIFICANT number of statements that, taken together, are as damning to the Bush presidency as the blue dress was to Clinton's.

I encourage folks to read the article from The Hill. Compare the statements Marshall cites with the spin points they're now hawking. It seems as if they are relying on the collective amnesia of the public to maintain a business-as-usual demeanor that seriously flies in the face of reality on the issue of Iraq.

The fact is, Clinton DID have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. The fact is, Bush DID seriously exaggerate the threat from Iraq. Which one has done more damage to the country?

Final note: A couple of weeks ago on CSPAN, I happened across a focus group session conducted by Pat Caddell, the bigtime Democratic pollster. What frightened me was that several folks are STILL mad at Clinton, apparently because of their embarrassment at having see sexual references on television/explain said references to their kids. Actually, I'll bet it's much more likely that they had to endure having their kids see overt references to oral sex on television . As a single adult with no children, I sometimes forget that parents often adopt very--uh, parental approaches to everything. Duh--after all, parenting IS a full time job, making working parents automatic double-shifters. But I'll admit to being a little troubled by this. Yeah, it can be uncomfortable when kids see/hear references to decidedly adult topics. But is that anymore uncomfortable than having hundreds of American soldiers, and thousands of Iraqis, die because of a foolish, wrongheaded, and ultimately destructive policy that has the additional effect of alienating the crap out of the world? Sorry, parents--there's really no comparison, no matter HOW embarrassed you might be.
What Do You Think?

From the Onion.
Maybe Put the Horse Before the Cart:

"Our capabilities were not what they should have been," Mr. Goss said in an hourlong interview. He said there had been "way too many gaps" in American intelligence gathering, including information about Iraq's conventional military power and any illicit weapons programs.

Congressional officials have long expressed concern that intelligence agencies do not have nearly enough officers who speak Arabic, Persian or Pashto, languages needed to gain access to information in Arab nations, Iran and Afghanistan.

In the interview, Mr. Goss offered a careful defense of the Bush administration's use of the prewar information, taking issue with Democrats who have said the administration exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq. He said he believed that the administration's warnings about Iraq's illicit weapons program had been prudent, even though American investigators in Iraq have not turned up any chemical or biological weapons or prohibited weapons materials. In general, he said, intelligence agencies "did the best they could with what they had" in concluding that Iraq had such weapons in its arsenal...

On the issue of language training for intelligence officers, a senior Republican Congressional official said a significant amount of money allocated by Congress for the foreign language training of C.I.A. officers, particularly in Arabic, Persian and Pashto, had been redirected by the agency for other purposes during the last fiscal year.

An agency official who spoke on condition of anonymity said he understood that some of the money had been spent on computer-driven document translation rather than on training for individual officers.

OK--a couple of comments here: First, if we don't have enough Arabic/Farsi (Persian)/Pashtun speakers, then it might be a good idea to get up to speed before invading--especially if further evidence from human intelligence or documents indicates, oh, I don't know, NO weapons of mass destruction. Doing the best you can with what you have is no more a justification for invasion than having a gas powered range is justification for calling in the fire department.

Besides, the CIA was VERY careful in their analysis of the situation. So careful, that Bush decided to bypass the agency and rely on dubious intelligence from Ahmad Chalabi (See link from a post below about "the mess" in Iraq). On the issue of document translation: numerous communications between Al Qaeda cells were intercepted prior to 9/11. Many were not transcribed. Those that were transcribed were not translated. Yes, by all means, INCREASE the number of agents who speak the local languages in the Middle East and Central Asia. But translating documents is high priority as well. That way, you can transcribe AND translate, thereby getting intel to folks high enough up the food chain to act on it.

Of course, instead, you can argue for a policy of go to war first, learn language and customs later--but I don't think it's a wise policy....
Send me your tired, your poor...

And we'll keep them tired, that's for sure...

"No American wants to do this job," he said. "If they hired Americans, it would take 10 of them to do the work done by five Czechs. This helps Wal-Mart keep its prices low."
Thanks, Billmon....


The first sentence of this post on DailyKos made me realize that there's a weird justification for the charge of "terrorism" in the Iraq war, although Josh Marshall neatly destroys the myth here. My own point of view is that tactics are neutral. The opposition uses their advantages, they attack the US where we are the weakest. But the fact that the methods are "terrorist" means nothing.

The fact that a large number of Iraqis are getting "fed up" with the resistance likewise has little meaning. The majority of Iraqis have probably been fed up for some time. Indeed, I'll even grant that most folks probably recognize the need for the continued occupation. But that unfortunately doesn't matter. ENOUGH Iraqis are engaged in, or in support of, resistance to occupation. Consider: Most folks living in slums are NOT drug dealers/addicts, prositiutes, common criminals, and the like. MOST folks living in slums are law-abiding citizens--indeed, they are likely to have strong feelings regarding lawlessness, since they live in its midst. But ENOUGH criminals are active in the slum to make, uh, me, for instance, avoid contact as much as possible.

In other words, Iraq is complicated. We STILL don't know exactly WHO we are fighting against--we surmise some foreign fighters--yes, there probably are some. After all, we're the BIGGEST foreign force in the country, and we've got other nations involved as well. I don't doubt there are Middle Easterners from other countries who've moved in. But these folks don't work in a vacuum. SOMEONE inside is helping out. And we don't know exactly who that someone is.

Forging democracy under these circumstances will make trying to stop the wildfires in California seem easy. In a sense, it is the ultimate faith-based initiative, because without unbelievably good fortune, it will fail miserably.

Note: C-SPAN is airing Fletcher's victory speech. I'm getting distracted, and also want to catch up at dailykos.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Caught in an evening/nightime cycle of posts lately. This afternoon, I took some leave from work, to rest from last night's excercise--it will make me healthier, if it doesn't kill me--and I ambled over to LSU to enjoy the late afternoon over coffee and a book. Managed to find a free copy of The Advocate at Coates Hall, and need to begin checking on this--don't know if this is a limited promotion, or if they're actually giving the paper away. If the latter, I'll make it over to campus a lot more often.

Two letters to the editor leaned towards a progressive point of view. Too bad the web site doesn't publish reader letters. One complained about Mike Foster's "dirty politics," imagine that, while the other letter was from a union certified electrician who is not real happy with the availibity of jobs in Bush's America. He additionally noted that "Right to Work" legislation cut deeply into his income when he actually had work.

Searched for on the website but couldn't find one article in the Metro Section that caught my eye: A construction crew unearthed what is likely a basement/trash pit of the Royal Hotel in St. Francisville. Looks like a treasure trove of ordinary objects circa mid 19th century. I love reading accounts of archeological research. It's like looking into a time capsule, as the sub-headline indicates. I wonder what future archeologists will think when they go digging through the landfills of our generation...

Spent more money than I had to, but the book I picked up is Michael Parenti's The Assassination of Julius Caesar. When I still had C-SPAN2, I stumbled upon an interview with the author. The interviewer, whose name slips me, lumped Parenti into a Left Wing Trinity of himself, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky, all who've now been interviewed by the network--apparently due in part to viewers' letters. Parenti seemed pleased enough.

Many years ago, an acquaintence who was on the LSU Ideas and Issues Committee did a tremendous favor to the campus by advocating for an appearence by Parenti at the University. Money--roughly $500, if I remember right--that would've been used for a keg party instead became an honoraria, and the talk was well attended. Parenti even attended a small party following the talk, held at my apartment, though it was evident he was not entirely at ease surrounded by very young students of dubious intellectual merit. Fortunately, there were several University professors on hand to provide interesting discussion.

Years later, I saw Parenti speak again at the University of Wisconsin campus. He signed a book of his that I'd purchased, Make Believe Media , but of course remembered little of his Baton Rouge talk. Still, my mention of this entitled me to the final question during the Q and A...Speaking of vague memories, I don't recall what question I asked.

But, NOVA is about to start, and I find myself somewhat addicted to it. Tonight is part 3 of The Elegant Universe. Maybe a little later I'll let my inner quantum self bark about anything and everything, but I'll hit the road for now....
Am trying to get some late night writing in--busy enough day at work, then exercise, then chores. Wanted to catch up on several websites, but I was distracted by Nightline. Once the link is up, I'll edit this post. Here are some items in from the broadcast:

Apparently, Regis Philbin is doing some serious hedging on the War--he won't tell you exactly what he thinks, but he's damn angry about something he read in the paper. God, I feel sick just linking to their site, but..ahh, they're with the ABC Family Network...I was looking for them under the general banner. So, as I thought, it was also cross promotion of the network on a news show. Interesting...ok, just a second. They're not listed at ABC Family after all. Still, they link to all things Disney--and both the, uh, stars, I guess, have shows on the network. But I digress.

Chris Bury makes mention of Bush's position on war itself--the we won't run away spin, but notes with a question mark his stance on those who've been killed or wounded. Bush is mostly silent on this topic, although he did visit Walter Reed hospital once, and the report tonight says he spoke privately with some families after a speech. His advisors do most of his talking on this, as they do on just about anything more controversial than coming out in favor of freedom.

Richard Hobbs uses a normal spin point regarding the Iraqi opposition, the Sunni Triangle canard. Look at a population density map, and you'll see that the triangle is the major urban center. He then all but admitted that our problem is a lack of intelligence on the ground. Under these circumstances, more soldiers would only increase the number of chances for casualties. And the new Iraqi army? Roughly 1200 men--I believe this is about a battalion or two in size-- have been trained. 39,000 to go, and we still have no real idea who is friendly and who isn't.

A final point regarding Hobbs is something else he said--I can't put it in quotes because this is not exact--but he stated the United States entered into this war not by necessity, but by choice.

That means Iraq was never a threat. WMD? I thought a few rusting barrels of chlorine or a vial or two of anthrax would be found. But no, nothing. The botulinum bacteria was a species found in dirt the world over. It doesn't even produce the severe toxin found in the "A" strain of botulinum. It's the toxin, by the way, that causes botulism poisoning--just like the toxins yeast produce cause the poisoning we call a nice alcohol buzz.

No nuclear weapons or precursors. No record of support for terrorism (I don't think worldnetdaily is a credible news source). Hell, if you think about it for a few minutes, you'd realize instantly that Hussein's Iraq was about the weakest of all states in the region. They couldn't even mount an effective offensive against Iraqi Kurdistan--we certainly would have gone to the aid of the Kurds had he tried--and we would have allies to help-- but I actually think the Kurds could have done the lion's share of the defense. Iraq controlled its Kurdish region in name only--mostly because the Turks don't like the idea of independent Kurdistan. None of the border states, with the exception of Kuwait, considered Iraq a military threat. Sure, Kuwait had a reason to fear Hussein, but he got his ass kicked the first time. Any move against Kuwait would have brought the weight of the world against him.

So Iraq became the test case for the agenda of the PNAC. Easy to invade, weak militarily, with a despot for head of state/head of government, a ready source of stable currency to keep the costs of occupation down, and a weary population. They got the last part right--sure, most folks are happy about Saddam being out of power. But that doesn't mean they want us in his place.

The aircraft carrier landing is officially a mistake now, given the seriousness of the situation.

The hawks tried to spin about the positive things going on in Iraq, but that didn't work. Now, they're asserting that the deaths and injuries, tragic though they are, do not hinder operations. But that isn't the point. The public did not buy into a "long, hard slog," so the question of casualties is NOT just a military concern. I believe the public went along with this war under the mistaken assumption that it would be like the first Gulf War, and the Bush Administration encouraged this giddy feeling. Now that the war is seen for what it is--an invasion and occupation of a country with enough folks who don't want us there to make it miserable for those who are assigned to occupy the place. Sounds a little like what the Israeli Army is experiencing in the Occupied Territories, except the Iraqis are far better armed and have far greater knowledge of the local terrain. This isn't good.

Monday, November 03, 2003

OK, a post today at CrawlingWestward notes a number of web logs with either a geographical base in Louisiana, or a writer with a background from the Gret Stet. NakedFurniture, Ken Wheaton, and SarcasticSoutherner. It seems Ken considers himself conservative, and indicates SarcasticSoutherner has a similar point of view. OK. It's not like I'm off in some dreamland where Louisiana voters have suddenly adopted a left perspective. And, funny enough, at times I'm fully able to see things from--uh, ok, maybe not conservative, but certainly libertarian point of view. Discussion is inherently healthy, and to that end, I will do my best to keep up to date with these web logs, and, I'll assume I can add them to my links--if I can find a few minutes to republish.

By the way, Ken: I tried the link to the subway chronicles, but got a 404 error. Has the url changed? Would be interested to read. I posted a comment at naked furniture that I'll summarize here--about once a year I get to visit NYC, and take the trains all the time. I'll admit I'm not riding during rush hour, nor am I catching a late night back to Brooklyn. But, I've taken the Number 4 to Yankee Stadium, the Number 7 to Flushing, as well as the N, the F, the A, etc.--hell, I even put a transit map up in my apartment as a poster. Sure, the trains are greasy, loud, and industrial not-in-a-good way. But, for my money, they're still the best way to get around the city. If I travel through JFK--and the JetBlue out of New Orleans is a pretty nice ride--I'll even catch the A into the city from Howard Beach. Seven day pass for $21...not bad....

Re: my post below, today has been, uh, busy enough to keep me from catching much in the way of news. I took a look at the links that Timshel provided before noon, and will try to catch up later today. I might write a lot about Iraq, but the governor's race is important and I want to stay infomred.

Unfortunately, I don't think a lot of folks are all that concerned about the election. I try to get a feel for the race by keeping my ears open at bars or coffeeshops, but there's nothing in the way of genuine discussion, it seems. Maybe it's different elsewhere in the State or elsewhere in the city (I live close to LSU and hang out on State or Chimes Street quite a bit), but the north side of campus doesn't seem excited.

I don't know if I like the implications of that. Shouldn't people actually care enough to vote, even if it is once again the lesser of two evils? The candidate who wins isn't less of an executive because only 20-25 percent of the electorate voted him in. Check out the situation in Washington, D.C.....
Troubleshooting Printers
It's sort of like hitting your head against the wall...
However, when you guess right, and it works, there is a corresponding sense of relief to counter the frustration.
The issue today was a Hewlett Packard LaserJet 5000 printer that would "print multiple copies but not complete multiple copies." The file(s) in question were all somewhat large, i.e., between 250-300 pages.

Watching the job run through the printer is akin to watching paint dry, but eventually an error flashed on the control panel that, in a rare occurrence for HP, actually made sense--the printer was dropping network packets--just enough to purge the job from the printer, but not enough to purge it from the server queue. I called over to the folks who run the stockroom and asked them to send someone over with a JetDirect box (which we use as a de facto external network card).

A half hour later I was still waiting, so I walked back over to my building--of course, the person to whom I made the request had "forgotten all about it." Grrr...but, you've got to be patient in these instances. Got the JetDirect Box, plugged it in, configured it--and it worked just fine...I can now officially stop banging my head against the wall.

I really don't know why HP has such a reputation for printers, unless it is that they've been selling low cost laser printers for such a long time that they are essentially an industry standard. In my experience, they are difficult to configure, they reset if you breathe on them wrong, and their internal network cards have a very limited lifespan. I'll give them a little more credit for their external JetDirect boxes, but if you don't have DHCP configured on your network, you've got to play the route add lottery from a windows command prompt--sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't...

My rule of thumb regarding printer fixes: one you get the damn thing to work, declare victory and get out. Finding out why it's working usually causes something to break...
Took a day off posting yesterday, although I read the article in the New York Times Magazine about the mess in Iraq--I'm now one of dozens in the web log arena to link to it.

Also added some comments on CrawlingWestward. I should probably post some of my comments here, but I still am better at reading web logs than posting to one. Also, as I've said several times, his site is the best place to obtain news and commentary about the Louisiana Governor's race. If anyone is reading this, please check the site out, and use the comments link to post remarks or opinions you might have. As noted before, I'm a firm believer that web logs have strong potential to put the free back in free press.

I should make sure to post CrawlingWestward's site at DailyKos, although, being a little lazy, I haven't yet registered to post comments there. Timshel has discretely noted his web log, but more folks also need to get into the act--otherwise, it's like web log lottery.

Aside: that's how I found CrawlingWestward in the first place.

More posts later, but things get busy...