Friday, August 13, 2004
Josh Marshall has a link to a Fred Kaplan piece in Slate which might be the first "mainstream" article that admits the essential conundrum of Iraq: Military victories there no longer matter in the whole scheme of things.
That's the problem Bush faces--and which Kerry will face as well should the voters finally realize what a total chump Bush is and toss him out on his ear. Iraq is now officially damned if we do, and damned if we don't. The only question will be how many deaths it will take--on all sides--before this sinks in.
Marshall likens Iraq to a Chinese finger puzzle. In my own mind, it's more like a hornet's nest which Bush, in his infinite wisdom, ordered his hired hands to beat on with a baseball bat. Either way, you've got a chaotic situation--between local, regional, and national claims on political power, I doubt ANYONE could exercise a degree of control. And I'm beginning to wonder just how much control Hussein genuinely exercised. Considering the rapidity with which the regime crumbled, you'd think that perhaps tactics other than invasion with far too few troops might have been in order. You know, like maybe a coup d'etat, which, to be honest, would have angered me almost as much as invasion (because I happen to think sovereignty of nations is a pretty good way of keeping the peace, and had been since 1648). However, at least you'd have the potential for some degree of civil order.
But I guess that wouldn't have made for good pictures come the US election.
Unfortunately for Bush, though, Iraq must now be swept under the rug, at least for a few more months. Unable or unwilling to realize the sinkhole his policies have landed in, maybe he's hoping for a bailout a la Harken or Arbusto Energy. Or perhaps he's thinking he can simply expropriate assets like the Texas Rangers did during his tenure as limited partner. But since that's not going to happen, the wingnut strategery is "bullshit about it and rely on the press to dutifully report the utterances of the president with reverence normally reserved for the godlike." And, you know what? Most of the mainstream press willingly goes along.
However, even if the press practices upperbrainfunctionicide, the reality on the ground in Iraq continues. The military seems to be aware of this, as another article Marshall points to makes note of: rather than embark on further bloodshed, possibly enflaming tensions even more amongst the Sh'ias, the military has backed off, wisely realizing that a tactical victory would be counterproductive under the circumstances.
Of course, there's always the option of--well, genocide. Kill Iraqi people indiscriminately until they're either all dead or until enough terror has been instilled to quell the resistance. However, such a tactic would not only be appalling from ANY sane point of view, it would put us in the position of being just like Saddam--or, actually, even worse. That said, I worry a bit that, should Bush be re-elected, that's EXACTLY what he'd try.
And he'd be doing it in our name.
South Knox Bubba has some pre-release excerpts from a soon to be wingnut best seller, Alabama Mail Room Veterans for Bush.
Linked to from Tom Burka.
"It's still hard to talk about, but I was there when Lt. Bush went down. I still have nightmares. He was opening this envelope with an urgent message to the base commander about potato rations for next week. The sharp edge of the envelope flap caught him right under the left thumbnail. Nasty f***ing paper cut, man. I'll never forget it. There was blood all over his in-box. He was really f***ed up.
But he was one tough hombre. Didn't even holler out for a medic. His first instinct was to get that potato ration memo over to base HQ. Complete disregard for his own personal safety. Not me, man. No f***ing way. We finally got him down and rushed him over to the infirmary. They patched him up, shot him full of morphine, and he was back on duty that afternoon.
Later when they offered him a Purple Heart, he said 'Naw, it was just a scratch. Give it to that fellow who stapled his thumb to that packing crate.' See, that right there is all you need to know about the difference between Lt. Bush and that coward Kerry who took a Purple Heart and a ticket home for a scratch and a Band-Aid."
Lt. Eugene Overholder, AANG
Read the rest of the excerpt here.
I almost forgot, but yesterday was 115th anniversary of the birthday of Zerna Addis Sharp, creator of the Dick and Jane series of children's primers. In honor of this, I'll offer my own contribution to the body of work:
See Dick. See Dick run for Veep. Run Dick run. See Dick lose. George lost too. See Bill, Antonin, Clarence, Sandra and Anthony sell their decrepit souls to Satan and give Dick and George the win.
See Dick's heart. It's a bad heart. Why is his heart bad? Because it's all shriveled up. Sometimes, it makes Dick gasp. Gasp, Dick, gasp.
See Dick clutch his chest. Clutch, Dick, clutch.
See Dick's nitro pills. He uses the nitro pills for his heart. Pop the pills, Dick, pop them. Dick feels better--but just a little better. Climbing stairs is hard.
See Dick lie. He lies all the time. He lies about John Kerry. He lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons program. He lies about his Energy Task force. Lie, Dick, lie. How do you know Dick's lying? Because his mouth is open, and he's speaking.
See Dick now. Dick is cross. He gets cross to Pat Leahy. Dick said "why don't you go fuck yourself." He said that to Pat Leahy. Dick was mad. His face was red. Maybe Dick needs a nitro pill.
See Dick's wife. Her name is Lynne. She's all shriveled up. Just like Dick's heart. Dick and Lynne are glad they say things like "fuck." They say that makes them "plainspoken." Lynne made fun of John Kerry. She said he used the word "sensitive." Dick used "sensitive" too. Dick used it a lot of times. But Lynne forgot. She said John Kerry was a weenie because of this. Maybe Lynne should "go fuck herself." Just like Dick told Pat Leahy.
See Dick in November. He and George have lost. Lose, Dick, lose. See Dick retire to private life. Dick will get REALLY good medical care. This will help him with his shriveled heart. But Dick will die one day.
See Dick go to hell. Go to hell, Dick, go to hell. See him pass through each circle of hell. It's too bad. All the circles of hell are too good for Dick. How can we punish him?
See Dick sit. He sits awaiting judgement. Sweat, Dick, sweat. Dick's judges are the innocent civilians his actions killed. Dick knows he did wrong. But what will history's verdict be?
Oil prices are hovering at around $45 dollars a barrel, the result of several factors--high demand worldwide, including in China, which also happens to be a major creditor of the United States these days, the ongoing possibility of sabotage in Iraq, thanks to Bush's foolhardy invasion, uncertainty in Venezuela, and an explosion at a BP refinery in Indiana.
In Venezuela at least, the higher prices should be to Hugo Chavez's benefit, as increased revenues will allow for continued funding of social programs which benefit the roughly eighty percent of the population that lives in abject poverty; on the other hand, China's demand for crude, combined with our own need for hard currency to finance Bush's hyper-Keynesian policies, could squeeze the US even more.
I guess if someone can actually afford the payments on a monstrous, ugly hulk of a vehicle like a Hummer, they can handle spending over a hundred bucks for a fill up. But what about the rest of us? And what happens when the bill comes due for the trillions in debt Bush racked up on his watch?
Thursday, August 12, 2004
I guess someone managed to get the tin-eared political team of Bush and Rove (the Boris and Natasha--or perhaps the twin Snidely Whiplashes of national politics) to listen for a few moments. CNN reports that "Turning the Corner," a phrase pulled from the Herbert Hoover book of campaign strategy (probably sitting unread on the Dauphin's small book shelf, next to well worn copies of The Pet Goat* and The Very Hungry Caterpillar). It seems as if "turning the corner" has entered the netherworld of Bush slogans, a la "Mission Accomplished:"
The Democratic National Committee released a statement, highlighting Bush's tinkered message, along with a new Web ad.
With the words "Oh, really?" on the screen, the ad compares the "turning the corner" line to "mission accomplished." That was the banner prominently displayed behind Bush on May 1, 2003, when he declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. The year that followed saw a rise in deaths and violence in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Lynne Cheney, she of "straight talk," managed to sound utterly oafish in her misinterpretation of the term "sensitive," which not only connotes the kind of TLC her husband is incapable of providing, but also means discriminating, judicious or acute. Lynne might be more familiar with antonyms--she and her Dick of a husband (more on him in a second) could be the picture next to definitions for dense, dull, imperceptive, obtuse, slow, or stupid. Lynne, you say you like straight talk? Why don't you go Cheney yourself.
Apparently, that's what the Kerry campaign suggested, albeit a bit more subtly, when they opined that the question was the political equivalent of setting a softball up on a tee (and swinging the bat for her).
Dick got in on this as well, warming up to the crowd the way a wino warms up to a bottle of Thunderbird. And as for the Dauphin himself? Well, like anyone who's managed to read almost two whole books, Georgie Dubya is feeling quite proud of himself. Like a man who refuses to admit he's lost, Bush came out with the following bon mots:
"I know what I'm doing when it comes to winning this war, and I'm not going to be sending mixed signals,"
"Saddam Hussein was a threat. And I want you to remember, he was a threat because he behaved like a threat."
"What is America trying to accomplish -- what we're going to accomplish is a free society in the heart of a -- in the heart of a part of the world where people are desperate for freedom."
"I was having dinner with Koizumi, who is the Prime Minister of Japan, and we were talking about how to keep the peace in North Korea. Think about what - - think about that for a second, the American President and the Prime Minister of Japan, former enemies, countries were former enemies. Maybe some of you here in the audience were fighting the Japanese in World War II. His dad was, and my dad was, and I bet a lot of other dads were, as well. And here we are now, sitting down at the same table, talking about peace with a former -- and you know why I was able to do so and other Presidents were able to do so -- is because after World War II, we believed so strongly in liberty that we worked with the Japanese to develop a society that was self-governing, that believed that -- based upon the principles of human dignity and human rights and human freedom."
However, these, um, examples of "oratory," (using the most generous definition of the term) were exceptions. CNN lets the cat out of the bag, as it were, noting that
In keeping with Bush's custom, most of the event was devoted to a speech by Bush and then to testimonials from people hand-picked by the White House extolling the virtues of his policies.
The queries put to Bush in the question-and-answer session were never hard-hitting, and were often not questions at all.
Samples questions on Wednesday:
Can I take a picture with you?
Can I introduce you to my wife and mother in law?
I want you to know that I'm praying for you.
If this is the best they've got--the political equivalent of cheap, off-brand deviled ham (if not Vienna Sausages), then expect Team Bush to start slinging mud with a howitzer--and continue to introduce "new, improved" versions of the same old tripe they've been hawking since 1999.
*--The Pet Goat isn't really a book on its own, but part of the instruction book "Reading Mastery" by McGraw-Hill.
Your Right Hand Thief has the link. Yesterday, I saw this via Atrios pointing to This Modern World (Bob Harris gets the credit).
Don't forget to check out the Los Angeles Times op-ed (subscription required, unfortunately, but it's not a paid subscription) that appeared with the photo.
Normally you penalize actions like Bush's. In his case, though, his "punishment" was a--ahem--liberal interpretation of the amount of time he actually served in the T.A.N.G., followed by a--ahem--liberal indulgence of him in various business misadventures, followed by a VERY liberal judgement of his qualifications for office, followed by his adventures in Constitution burning.
It might be too late to toss him in the penalty box, but internal exile at an undisclosed ranch in Crawford could be the next best thing.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
The title describes my morning, which was spent on the phone with Microsoft folks. Windows Server 2003 has compatibility problems with certain HP printer drivers--ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyway, it also describes my feelings towards John Kerry's announcement on Monday that he'd vote again for the Iraq War resolution--even if he KNEW about the WMD canard and apparently the chaos that's defined the "post war" period (as if there really was or is a "post war" period in Iraq).
USATODAY, of all papers, does Kerry a minor favor when it says he's "been consistent about his nuances, at least," and there's a certain part his statement that, in my reading of it, seeks to justification on political grounds. For the braindead of the world, which seems to encompass the entire US press corps, Kerry's attempt to paint radical stripes, streaks, and even full color on one George W. Bush has been actively ignored.
The idea behind Kerry's assertion, and presumably his Monday remark, is to suggest that Bush has veered so far to the right that he's no longer acceptable to those hugging either side of the center line. The Senator will then seek to capture this part of the vote--which, along with the Democratic faithful and the A.B.B.'ers, should push him over the top. It's probably a good strategy.
However, the 2002 resolution itself is problematic. While I'm sure there was enough weaseling and nuance to pass muster vis-a-vis the Constitution, something about vesting the power to declare war in a SINGLE individual just isn't right. Sure, it's been more than fifty years since Truman adopted this particular power, setting the precedent, but the passage of time doesn't mean I can no longer argue against this. The fact that Kerry apparently stands IN FAVOR of the executive personally being granted this is one reason why I've maintained the position that his election will not be a panacea, but first and foremost a way to stop the hemorrhaging that began when Team Bush decided the country needed a little bloodletting and proceeded to slice open the carotid artery on the body politic.
Alexander Cockburn latches on to this in his Counterpunch essay. He follows up from a previous piece that argues along the lines that four more years of Bush might well be the straw that breaks the back of the American empire. Alas, I'm not able to agree with this line of reasoning, for many reasons, both selfish and not.
But I WILL vent some spleen on Kerry's position regarding executive power. In fact, I spent my lunch break in friendly argument with a colleague about the nature of the modern presidency, and how "commander-in-chief" is interpreted in light of the last fifty or so years, as well as the historic considerations of the terminology.
Senator Robert Byrd, interviewed on the radio program Fresh Air, dismissed the notion that "commander in chief" implies an ability of the civilian executive to send the troops on missions of conquest. He argues, rightly in my view, that the term simply limits the ability of the military to act on its own (and notes the term came into common usage during the English Civil War in the 17th Century). To further this argument, I'll suggest that by vesting in CONGRESS the power to declare war, the framers of the Constitution considered this a check on the Executive Branch of Government. In passing the Iraq resolution, Congress engaged, in my opinion, in an unconstitutional act.
I'm guessing the various hotshot lawyers and august statesmen of the recent past have argued this--likely with the equivalent of a wink and a nudge, and a casual if not caustic dismissal of such procedural concerns. But it is precisely these concerns that we should pay attention to, as once ONE element of the Consitution is ignored for reasons of expediency, then the rest of the document becomes little more than a talking point (which is what Bush and his supporters are trying to do with laws like the Patriot Act).
And, call me old-fashioned, but I think the Constitution, as written, is perfectly adequate for these times. Going to war should ALWAYS be debated, as this is the mostly costly undertaking a government makes. Sure, considering the level to which Congress allowed itself to be cowed into a de facto war resolution, it can be argued that a genuine declaration of war would have been just as quickly ramrodded through Congress. But there's always the possibility that the legislature would take seriously the prospect of mobilizing the troops, and might have argued for more time. Bush, if anyone recalls, was in the throes of war fever and could hardly wait to don his flightsuit (well, he wasn't THAT eager--he was more than willing to wait until the coast--of California--was clear). He also has pretty much ignored the deaths of US personnel and has COMPLETELY ignored the death of Iraqis, except for bragging a bit here and there (the latter doesn't surprise me at all). Congresspeople, though, are a little closer to their constituents. The prospect of having to actually justify a war of aggression to someone who's lost a child would have to resonate a little more.
Neither Kerry nor Bush--nor any president--should be given the power to "send the troops" on a whim. Some people argue that things move too fast these days to delegate this to Congress. With all due respect: Bullshit. Congress can move quickly if required--and besides, the logistics of troop movements overseas, which takes months, negates any necessity to "move quickly," because this just can't happen. The executive branch of government should recognize both its power--which is quite considerable--and its limits, which are there BECAUSE the framers recognized the danger of concentrating too much power in too few hands.
That's not quite the conclusion I wanted to make, by the way, but it will have to do. I've gotta get back to work here.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Update Your Right Hand Thief provided attribution, source, and the actual quote I paraphrased below (re: Bush mouthpiece on Venezuela). Here it is:
"legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters" (Christopher Marquis, NYT, 4/16/02)
I haven't been following the happenings in Venezuela as much as I should be. So, it's good to see this essay by Richard Gott in Counterpunch. Gott argues that Hugo Chavez will decisively win the recall referendum set for August 15th.
While it seems long ago, considering the Middle East situation, Chavez and Venezuela were definitely on the Bushista radar screen back in April 2002, when elites in the country tried to overthrow his government. This prompted a number of curious reactions from the Bush administration--well, courious unless you realize that Bush (and, by extension, his supporters) gives not a shit for anything resembling genuine democracy. Damn, I've been reading around the blogosphere today, and forget where I saw this, but someone posted a quote from a Bush mouthpiece saying something to the effect that "majority support doesn't mean a government is legitimate." That as much as anything reveals Team Bush's contempt for the general public--something tells me their attitude towards US citizens isn't all that different.
While the Middle East will remain a major issue upon which the 2004 election is based, other regions in the world should not be discounted. In particular, should Bush win reelection, look for additional efforts to destabilize Venezuela. Chavez has embarked on a massive program of using oil revenue--which, ironically, has risen quite a bit thanks to Bush's foolish war in Iraq--to provide services for the poor. Access to education, health care (with the assistance of the best trained doctors in the region--Cubans), and so on are now provided either for free or with large subsidy. Once looked at as an eccentric, Chavez has now become a symbol of standing up to the worst tendencies of the United States and, as a result, has become very popular among peoples of the region. Unlike Jean Bertrand Aristide, he is too powerful to overthrow using minimal forces. In fact, the only thing he might have to fear at this point is assassintation--which, I'm certain, Team Bush would do in a heartbeat if they thought they could get away with it.
So, I'll breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like Hugo will ride out the storm--for now.
From IDS News in March of 2003: Rumsfeld still hopes for Shiite rebellion.
From today's New York Times:
Mr. Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric who fiercely opposes American-led military forces in Iraq, has inspired a band of fighters and militias in Najaf, the Shiite slum of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad, and other Shiite towns in Iraq to resist the occupation in an uprising that surged in April and erupted again in recent days.
Mr. Rumsfeld got his Shiite rebellion. Enjoy it, Donald.
The major league bloggers have posted about this already, so I'm sure anyone checking them out has seen the facts--to summarize, USA TODAY reports:
Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a 25-year-old Pakistani computer engineer, was nabbed in a July 13 raid in the eastern city of Lahore. He then led Pakistani authorities to a key al-Qaeda figure and cooperated secretly by sending e-mails to terrorists so investigators could trace their locations.
His arrest was first reported in American newspapers on Aug. 2 after it was disclosed to reporters by U.S. officials in Washington. Later, the Pakistan government also confirmed his capture but gave no other details.
Two senior Pakistani officials said the reports in "Western media" enabled other al-Qaeda suspects to get away.
"Let me say that this intelligence leak jeopardized our plan and some al-Qaeda suspects ran away," one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.
At this point, it appears that Condoleezza Rice was the one who revealed Khan's identity.
But the US media has, until today, been sitting on the sidelines. In fact, I searched around for information about this in the mainstream press yesterday, and found nothing. Billmon, Juan Cole, Atrios, and a number of others posted about this, but big media was for the most part silent. Perhaps they were busy lending credence to the anti-John Kerry organization Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (I'm not going to bother with finding a link for them). Nightline sure did, devoting the last night's program to asking in an exasperated tone whether or not we could finally get "beyond Vietnam."
The debate over Vietnam is relevant, yes, but the degree to which the facts have been obfuscated renders any meaningful discussion of the war almost impossible. But the issue here isn't Vietnam, but the degree to which the press is abrogating its responsibility as an independent voice. Sure, they've now FOLLOWED the lead of bloggers and the international media in reporting on the massive screw up perpetrated by the Bushoviks, but would they have done so if the lid HADN'T been lifted?
And imagine if, say, something like this occurred under Bill Clinton's watch. I can almost hear the dripping contempt that would emanate from the pie-holes of pundits like Robert Novak or George Will, and can visualize the shit-eating grin on the face of someone like George Stephanopolous as they'd contemplate whether or not "the president was fit for office." Where's the outrage about the incompetence of the Bush administration?
Throughout the last decade or so, the expression "three strikes and you're out" has been bandied about in regards to felons. In contrast, Bush has been playing home run derby with limitless strikes--he's whiffed on stem-cell research, the economy, 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "war on terror," the environment, education, relations with our allies, nuclear profileration, North Korea, Iran, Haiti--you name it. Yet the press keeps acting like they're pitching batting practice--and continue to ooh and ahh whenever the dauphin simply puts the bat on the ball, crowing about foul tips and weak grounders as if they were towering long drives. Bush is below the Mendoza Line. But the press keeps acting like he's the political equivalent of Barry Bonds.
Monday, August 09, 2004
Ian McGibboney fills us in on events other than Nixon's resignation that occurred on August 9th. You can also go to his main page for comments related to the original Dick (Nixon, that is. I guess Cheney is sort of a crude, shadowly ghost in comparison).
My sister, who combines artistic talent with keen political insight, alterted me to this from World o' Crap: Ann Coulter's Beauty Secrets revealed.
You'll have to click on the link to find out what it is exactly, but here's the post's concluding line
"It’s kind of like when you drop a piece of magnesium in water. Except for the shrieking."
I've been struck by casual attitude taken by the press in this country towards the 'temporary' expulsion of Al Jazeera from Iraq. However, some overseas media is noting this with ominous tones. Today's Guardian has this article.
I'm not sure what is worse--the fact that a government which we support is stifling freedom of the press, or the fact that no one in this country seems to care.
Link via Atrios and Kos, so you've probably already seen it, but... Majority Report Radio posts Dear Leader's take on sovereignty in regards to Native Americans (it's an audio file). While I couldn't hear it all that well, the laughter is apparently that of journalists.
The only question is whether they're laughing with him or at him. Normally, I wouldn't hesitate to say the latter, but this is the US press we're talking about.
Oh--and slightly off topic, but did you ever wonder what the dauphin might have been like when he really was little? Here's Democratic Underground's take.
How ironic that on the 30th anniversary of the end of the Nixon presidency, The New York Times has a story about the once Most Favored Individual to lead the New Iraq in the eyes of the Bush administration:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 8 - Ahmad Chalabi, the exile leader who returned to Iraq last year hoping to run the country with American support, was ordered arrested on counterfeiting charges, Iraqi officials said Sunday night.
In a sense, this is back to the future for Chalabi--he's out of the country (no word on how he got to Iran, although I expect he wasn't smuggled out in the trunk of a car), he's vowing his innocence, but it seems that he might once again be exiled. Team Bush, in the best diplomatese, gave him the heave ho:
"This is a matter for the Iraqi authorities to resolve, and they are taking steps to do so," said a White House spokeswoman, Suzy DeFrancis.
Translated, that's somewhat akin to telling him to go Cheney himself.
And, like father, like son: Salem Chalabi, or Chalabi, TNG, is also under indictment. But, as they say, the son always outdoes the father. The charge against him is murder, specifically his involvement in the killing of Haithem Fadhil, a director general of the Iraqi Finance Ministry. The younger Chalabi likewise shares his father's propensity to get the hell out when the going gets tough. Salem, though, is in London, not Iran. Perhaps the boy is a little soft.