Date ►►► July 31, 2007
A Time to Win - and a Time to be Crushed Like Jimmah Cattah
Heh. Well, at least we got one vote. Though it was a second-place afterthought...
Worse, through a mixup in our comprehension of the rules, we didn't even get to nominate a Nouncil post. I thought, since I couldn't nominate a Sachi post as the Big Lizards contribution, that meant I could pick her for our non-Council ("Nouncil") nominee. No dice! Instead, the Watcher just picked yet another nomination (I think he gets to make about 48 nominations in the Nouncil category) -- which got more votes than my feeble Big Lizards Council nomination.
Thanks. Kick me while I'm down. What are you... French?
All right, my actual nominee (Sachi had nothing to do with it) was Democrats Snub Vets for Freedom: Look What You Made Me Do!, by Sachi at Big Lizards. But this was the one that got away, so it doesn't count. Ya follow? Never mind.
The actual for-real winners were...
- Little Noted But Long Remembered, by Right Wing Nuthouse.
By an amazing coincidence, this was our first choice among the Council nominees. RWNH blasts off from the July 20th 38th anniversary of the first Moon landing; Rick Moran makes a good case that this may be the only important event from the latter part of the 20th century to be remembered (for all practical purposes) forever.
Our other vote in this cat was Max Boot to Kissinger -- “Iraq Isn't Vietnam, Henry”, by ‘Okie’ on the Lam. The title pretty much explains it on a nutshell.
We fared unwell in this category. First, there was that whole blow-up about the Sachi post. Then to add insult to injun country, our second place came in second place, while our first place was roundly ignored by everybody but ourselves!
The winner in the Nouncil category was:
- ON THE FRONTLINE / Cpl. JOHN MATTHEW BISHOP: In the Shadows of Fallen Comrades, by the Atlanta Journal Constitution -- or as my worthy conspirator Brad Linaweaver, who used to work there, calls it, the Atlanta Urinal Constipation.
Frankly, I question this as a nomination; I don't think it's really a blog if it's run by a mainstream newspaper. Skipping lightly over this question of jurisdiction, I found the piece interesting but not thought-provoking; nothing said by its author, a Marine Corps corporal in Iraq, was particularly original or startling. Oh well.
Instead, we voted for:
The first was a hysterically funny piece (well, I laughed) by my old blog-boss, Captain Ed, about a union picket line -- that had actually outsourced its picketers. You must read it to believe it.
The second was a short piece full of pith and vinegar, in which Surber notes an amazing connection between a conservative group and a watchdog group. Again, read it and laugh out loud. (What can I say? I was giddy the day I voted.)
Per usual, you can find the full list of every nomination that got even 1/3 of a vote -- like Big Lizards -- by clicking here.
Date ►►► July 30, 2007
CAIR's Congressman Ellison Praises Key Elements of Counterinsurgency Strategy
This is fascinating... Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN, no ADA rating yet), CAIR's puppet in Congress, recently went to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province in Iraq. There he met with a pair of sheikhs. (CAIR is the Council on American Islamic Relations, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and longtime supporter of Hamas and praiser of al-Qaeda.) [Fixed a small mistake here; thanks, CDQuarles!]
"They were very upset and concerned that al-Qaeda is misrepresenting Islam," Ellison told reporters on a conference call Monday from Germany, on his way back to the U.S. "And they were talking to me about what I can possibly do to work with them to give a clearer, more accurate picture of what Islam is all about."
The sheikhs are evidently members of the Anbar Salvation Council (or at least support the council's goals and tactics), and they begged Ellison to go back to the United States and tell the American people that Iraqi Sunnis have allied with American soldiers and Marines to fight against al-Qaeda, and that al-Qaeda does not speak for the Sunnis in Anbar province.
Ellison also met with Gen. David Petraeus and MG Walter Gaskin and claims, at least, to be very impressed, both with the generals and the strategy itself. Given what we know about Keith Ellison, this is simply extraordinary:
The group met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, "we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market." [Keith Ellison applauds our joint patrols with Iraqis.]
There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials. [Ellison admits that the "surge" (counterinsurgency strategy) is working, reducing violence.]
"The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership," he said. "So they're not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they're doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives." [Ellison endorses the core element of counterinsurgency: working with local forces to protect the population, allowing normalcy to spread; this will starve the insurgents of recruits.]
Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with "as-salama aleikum," meaning peace be upon you.
"And they would respond back with smiles and waves," Ellison said. "I don't want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good."
Partnering between American military forces and Iraqi security forces is an essential component of our new counterinsurgency strategy -- and is fundamentally at odds with the current semi-withdrawal plans being pushed by the Left. Democrats demand (via amendments to legislation) that we cease patrolling with the Iraqis, retreat into some big American Fortress of Solitude, and only sally forth to fight al-Qaeda, as if the latter is going to mass up and challenge America to a North-Africa-style tank battle, rather than operate by stealth, infiltration, and suicide car bombings, as they always have.
Does Ellison realize his praise of the Joint Security Stations (JSSs) puts him on the side of conservative Republicans against Democrats and RINOs? Is he deliberately breaking with Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), who supports the traditional Democratic defeatist line? Or has Ellison simply not been following the debate all this time and inadvertently stumbled into apostasy?
It makes no difference: There are three possibilities going forward, each of which cuts in favor of war supporters:
- Ellison returns to D.C. and continues to praise our joint operations with the Iraqi Army and National Police, thus serving as a lonely bastion of sanity in the House, to match Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%-D, 17%-R) in the Senate.
In this case, Ellison becomes a fracture point in the otherwise monolithic defeat-mongering among Democratic members of the House.
- Ellison returns to D.C., talks to his masters at CAIR (and his secondary boss, Nancy Pelosi), and suddenly discovers that he actually hates the idea of Americans patrolling and allying with Sunni anti-al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq.
If he tries this, his own previous quotation can be thrown back in his face; we can ask him, "When CAIR says frog, do you jump?" Are your constituents in Minnesota -- or Waziristan?
- Ellison decides not to return to D.C. but to turn around and head back to Iraq, join the Anbar Salvation Council, and fight al-Qaeda.
Well... in that case, more power to him. Presumably, whoever replaced him in Congress would not be a CAIR congressman (at least not quite so directly!)
We shall watch Ellison's future progress with great interest. Let us hope he continues to grow in office.
Miracle On Sand
I recently rewatched the movie Miracle for the first time since I saw it in the theater. I remain convinced that without that "miracle" win against the Soviet Union hockey team in the 1980 Olympics -- the so-called "miracle on ice" -- Amercans might never have elected Ronald Reagan president.
My reasoning is subtle but not, I hope, specious: What Reagan sold more than anything else was hope -- hope that the evil empire could be not just contained but destroyed, hope that the economy could be not just suspended above the brink but driven forward full-throttle. Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford before him, and Richard Nixon before that, and every president back to Harry Truman, offered nothing better than limbo... the vague promise that things wouldn't get worse, or at least not much worse. But Reagan offered realistic hope that they would improve and improve tremendously.
But what you cannot believe you will not buy. If Americans did not first believe in hope, they would not have invested in a presidential candidate who peddled it. (Today's Democrats believe in nothing, nihil, as in nihilism; to "Pinky" Reid, hope is a four-letter word.)
What made us believe in hope in November 1980? What broke the charm of the inevitability of American decline? Remember where we were in that year and the preceding eight (in case you forgot, the movie helpfully reminds viewers in the opening collage): the loss in Vietnam, Watergate, the resignation of a president, oil embargos, the fall of Saigon, inflation, stagflation, soaring interest rates that killed business, strikes, the perception that Japanese automobile imports would destroy the American automobile industry, just as Soviet sports teams destroyed American Olympic hopes, serial killers, the Iranian hostage crisis (in which we appeared so helpless)... the dirge sounded relentlessly.
I remember being politically adrift (I was at UCLA at the time), certain I was an American but unsure whether that meant anything anymore. I don't think I was unique.
I was no hockey fan; I'm still not. But I watched that game out of stubborn hatred of Communists; and I was so stunned when we won it that I just sat still and quiet before of the TV screen for perhaps a half an hour, just absorbing and digesting what that meant.
It meant we interrupted our march into the dustbin of history; suddenly we felt brash, strong, American again. Many have remarked that the US-USSR game was the first time they ever heard the chant "USA! USA!" I watched the Olympic gold-medal game that followed (the first and last such I have ever watched), and I felt an elation that another part of me thought was absurd: I didn't even like hockey!
Later that year, when I moved up to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC, I took a new outlook with me. I became profoundly disliked by the leftie students there; but my persona prior to that match would not have aroused any political enmity, because I was politically a tabula rasa. I was never a liberal; I have never considered myself a conservative; but in 1980, I went from being "an American" to being American.
It didn't extend to voting for Reagan, alas; my greatest political regret is that I decided he was the greatest president of the 20th century -- only after my last chance to vote for him in 1984. But I knew I despised Carter in a way I had not before (I had merely been apathetic about him). I did not vote for him either; I wrote in candidates in both elections.
I believe this change to be true of others: That victory introduced many cynical Americans to the audacity of hope, to swipe a book title from a far lesser man than either Ronald Reagan or Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team. Without it, would we have elected the "hope-filled man" as president? I don't think we would have. The "what's the use" drug would have suppressed our traditional American response to travail.
Why am I telling you this? It should be obvious: I desperately hope for a "miracle on ice" effect in Iraq because of yesterday's win in the Asian Cup, beating Saudi Arabia, of all countries. I don't anticipate a Kumbaya moment, where Shia, Sunni, Kurds, and Turkomen come together in a cluster-hug. But I expect, at the very least, an embrace with the final inadvertent gift of Pandora, after all the evils had escaped her box... Hope remained, and she kept it tight and safe.
I want Hope to begin to creep across Mesopotamia; not the wicked hope of empire or caliphate, not the vile hope of slaughtering those whose God is a different shade of doctrine from one's own, but the deep hope that Iraq can pass through this dark night of the soul to emerge reborn on the flip side. The hope that it can shake off the dead, skeletal hands of enmity, resentment, vengeance, and fourteen centuries of arrested moral development and burst forth, fully formed, from Bush' brow as a modern country in at least the periphery of the Functioning Core.
I believe in miracles -- the kind that human beings make for themselves, with perhaps a touch of the divine, God or Muse, behind them. Talking oneself into hope and courage is 90% of the trick; I hope the Iraqis will allow themselves to believe in a miracle on sand.
Date ►►► July 29, 2007
We rarely do this on Big Lizards, but never say never: In a previous post, with the improbably long title of FBI DIRECTOR SAYS GONZALES LIED! Oh, wait, no he didn't... but we wish he had, we questioned the claim that FBI Director Robert Mueller had "contradicted" Attorney General Gonzales on the issue of which NSA program exactly had sparked a conflict between then-White House Counsel Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft (rather, his assistant, James Comey).
Gonzales claimed that the contretemps was not, in fact, over the NSA al-Qaeda international phone call intercept program -- which Congress today refers to as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, TSP -- but rather a different NSA program entirely.
Democrats, with their usual delicacy and gravitas regarding classified information, demanded that Gonzales reveal the secret, classified NSA surveillance he claims was the actual subject of discussion, if not the TSP; and when the AG rejected the invitation to blow yet another vital national-security program, five Democrats demanded the White House appoint a special counsel to prosecute Gonzales for perjury.
The denouncers were...
...Four very liberal Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI -- no rating as yet; he replaced "Republican" Lincoln Chafee) -- plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%).
Another Democrat -- whoops, my mistake -- a lone Republican on the J-Com, Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), rallied support for Gonzales and the president, railing, "Do you expect us to believe that?"
(I'm certain I would have responded, "No; I expect you, per usual, to strut like a delusional rooster who thinks he's a peacock because he shoved a feather duster up his arse," and would promptly have gotten myself jugged.)
But every so often, the universe gives evidence that it is not cold and unfeeling... that it has, in fact, a jolly good sense of humor. Because the very next day (that would be today), Power Line reported the following:
Today the [New York] Times confirms that Gonzales told the truth. The legal dispute that broke out in 2004 was about the NSA's "data mining" project, in which databases of telephone records were reviewed for patterns suggestive of terrorist cells:
A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.
It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.
What's comical about the Times' reporting is that the paper can't bring itself to acknowledge that this means Gonzales has been vindicated...
So it wasn't the TSP after all (whether Arlen Specter believes it or no), it was the phone-record data-mining program... which is, in point of fact, "a different NSA program entirely."
This simply annihilates the Democratic case for frog marching Gonzales out of office to be indicted for perjury; he wriggles off the perjury hook by the unconvincing technicality that he was actually telling, you know, the truth. Or as Hindrocket puts it, "what's generally referred to as 'truth'." Ergo, consider this post nothing more than a gigantic moving finger pointing at John Hinderaker.
But of course, the Democrats have a ready-made response, for which they needn't even look very hard. They will surely argue some variation on the following:
One certainly cannot accuse the Left of half measures. I can't wait until the obsessed baby boomer Democrats are supplanted by the "yeah, right, whatever" generation.
Date ►►► July 28, 2007
British Withdrawal From Basra: Is They Is, or Is They Ain't?
The British are beginning to withdraw from patrolling and policing Basra province, starting with the capital city of Basra; the question is whether the Shia there are or are not ready for self rule.
First of all, this clearly is more fallout from what the lads at Power Line call "the Browning of Britain," the replacement of Tony Blair by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown, like the rest of the Labour Party, has never been as gung-ho about the Iraq war as was Blair; so it was inevitable that with the passing of the Blair-era (the Blaira?), Britain would begin easing out of Iraq.
But that's not necessarily bad. After all, neither we nor the Brits ever intended 2003 to presage the colonization of Iraq -- no matter what the Democratic rabble thought (or hoped). What would be bad, however, is if it turns out the Brits are leaving too soon, based upon political rather than military calculation. And on that question, there is no consensus:
As American troop levels are peaking in Baghdad, British force levels are heading in the opposite direction as the troops prepare to withdraw completely from the city center of Basra, 300 miles to the south.
The British intend to pull back to an airport headquarters miles out of town, a symbolic move widely taken by Iraqis as the beginning of the end of the British military presence in southern Iraq....
Skepticism is widespread in Basra, as in Baghdad, about whether Iraqi forces are ready to take over. Both the British and Americans will have to assuage the fears of Iraqis that they are being abandoned to gunmen and religious extremists. And both are likely to face intensified attacks from propaganda-conscious enemies trying to claim credit for driving out the Westerners.
Basra is much more culturally monochrome than, say, Baghdad, where our counterinsurgency is centered; the former is almost entirely Shiite. This means there is little of either the specifically sectarian violence (Iraq Shia killing Iraq Sunni for supposed collaboration with al-Qaeda) or of al-Qaeda style mass-casualty bomb attacks. But they have their own problems, summed up by one British civilian official:
“Basra is a totally different environment from what the Americans are facing,” said a British official in Basra. “The problem here is gangsterism, not violent sectarianism. And a foreign military is not the right tool for closing down a mafia.”
Iraqis expressed the same view, saying that militia leaders in Basra typically act more like bandits and extortionists, lining their pockets rather than instituting a Taliban-style religious state. But an unchecked "mafia" can be just as deadly:
“Right now the militias are busy concentrating on getting the British Army out of Iraq,” he said. “After that is done they will turn on the people and try to control them in a very difficult way.” ["He" is "Riyadh, a 22-year-old Iraqi and Basra native who is an interpreter for the British."]
“They will kill people who don’t do what they want,” he added. “There will be no punishment by courts; they kill people on the streets.”
But he acknowledged that if British troops stayed they would be sucked into further deadly confrontations with militias using civilians as cover, leading to inevitable innocent casualties and more hostility.
“If they leave, the militias will eventually fall apart,” he said. “There will be no reason to join them because they will not be fighting the British Army.”
This is what the British hope, but cannot guarantee, will happen.
And that's what makes the withdrawal from Basra so interesting, anent the Iraqi security forces: "Is they is, or is they ain't" ready to take over?
This will be an excellent, if scary, test of the Iraqi National Police and the local police; I do not expect them to pass with the proverbial flying colors; but at least we'll learn whether they're headed in the right direction and what areas still need improvement. The question is, can the Iraqi police, likely infiltrated by Shiite militias, clean up the corruption caused by those same militias?
If so, that would be an incredibly hopeful sign. If they can make at least some progress, that would be encouraging; but if they gleefully join in the looting of the oil-rich province, then that would be a flashing neon warning sign that the Iraqis are not yet ready for prime time.
So keep watching the skies...
Date ►►► July 26, 2007
Korean Hostages Threatened by Taliban; America Blamed
According to Robert Koehler of the Marmot's Hole, the Korean press is all set to blame America if the Taliban makes good its threat to kill the 23 (now 22) Korean Christian-evangelists currently held hostage.
The Korean press reasons thus: Kabul is reluctant to negotiate with the Taliban only because of pressure from the West... i.e, the United States and our "lapdog," Great Britian. Since Afghanistan relies upon foreign aid, the press concludes, Afghan President Hamid Karzai dares not offend America or our allies. So it's all America's fault.
But Koehler points out that if Karzai is reluctant to listen to South Korea's plea, it's not necessarily because of the United States: South Korea is simply short stacked, due to the insignificant contribution it has made in the Afganistan war:
Of course, what Yonhap doesn’t say is that, perhaps, Kabul is ignoring the Taliban’s demands because a) it doesn’t want to turn kidnapping into a lucrative business, and more to the point b) Korea’s contribution to the fight against the Taliban has been next to nil, and its 200 non-combat troops will be withdrawn by the end of the year anyway. Kabul has absolutely no reason whatsoever to free enemies of the state who, upon their release, will go about attacking schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, killing Afghan civilians and attacking both its troops and the troops of allied states, all to rescue a bunch of highly irresponsible individuals who should have never been in the country in the first place and were probably engaged in activities [Christian evangelism] even the Karzai government deems illegal. When Kabul freed five Taliban terrorists to save an Italian journalist earlier this year, it didn’t do it out of the kindness of either Karzai’s or Bush’s heart -- it did it because Italy threatened to pull out its 2,000 troops. Influence is earned, and Seoul -- so sorry -- hasn’t earned any.
So what is Korea to do? Koehler suggests that instead of blaming the US, Korea should offer to provide more troops, real combat or police troops, to Afghanistan.
If South Korea wants to have some influence, it must earn it. Yes, such an act could anger the Taliban, and they might very well retaliate by killing all the hostages. But they've said they're going to kill them anyway -- and evidently have already killed one. Even without Korea offering new troops, the fate of the hostages seems grim.
But if Korea were to respond to the kidnapping and threat with force instead of appeasement, at least they could show the Taliban (and the world) that Korea is a force to be reckoned with. After all, there are still more than 150 Korean evengelists still living in Afghanistan. If South Korea wants to avoid future kidnapping, they had better start showing some spine now.
Dafydd adds: Sure, the South Koreans may be weenies. But what about the Japanese? They're being whupped by weenies!
FBI DIRECTOR SAYS GONZALES LIED! Oh, wait, no he didn't... but we wish he had
Here is the shock headline from AP: "FBI Director Contradicts Gonzales"... the perfect "gotcha" by the elite media against the Bush administration, the smoking gun that could bring down the president -- just the way the Washington Post brought down Richard Nixon.
And this is the entirety of AP's explanation of the staggering charge... which, if true, could lead to Gonzales' indictment, firing, disgrace, and possibly prison time for perjury and contempt of Congress -- all of which four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee plus the Democratic Majority Leader devoutly believe Gonzales (and Bush, Cheney, and Karl Rove) deserves:
The head of the FBI contradicted Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' sworn testimony and Senate Democrats requested a perjury investigation Thursday in a fresh barrage against the truthfulness of President Bush's embattled longtime friend and aide.
Wow, now there's specificity! Upon close examination, however, it appears that this is not a report... it's their own conclusion; AP concludes that Mueller's testimony and Gonzales' testimony are in conflict... and rather than report that "Gonzales Contradicts FBI Director," they decide to report it the way they did.
The New York Times is more forthcoming:
The dispute over the truthfulness of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales reached a new intensity today as the F.B.I. Director, Robert S. Mueller 3d, contradicted Mr. Gonzales’s sworn testimony before a Senate committee.
Mr. Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee that the Bush administration’s secret eavesdropping program was the main topic at an encounter in the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on March 10, 2004, contrary to what Mr. Gonzales told a Senate panel on Tuesday....
In his testimony before the Senate panel on Tuesday, Mr. Gonzales said the subject in the hospital room was “intelligence activities” under debate in the administration, but not the secret eavesdropping program.
But Mr. Mueller contradicted that version of events today, several hours after four Senate Democrats called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Gonzales perjured himself before Congress.
Even the Times dances around the real question; the reader really has to dig to find out the trivial nature of the supposed contradiction: The real question is -- exactly which "secret eavesdropping program" was the "main topic" of a four year old conversation?
The particular program that the Times means, and what they think Mueller meant, is the NSA-al Qaeda international telephone intercept... the one which the Times itself deliberately blew in December 2005. For future reference, we shall refer to this particular program, per la Casa Blanca, as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP.
After two years of the Justice Department's routinely certifying the legality of the TSP -- and, according to Gonzales, other intelligence programs that have not yet been leaked -- then-Attorney General John Ashcroft suddenly fell ill. While he was in the hospital undergoing gall-bladder surgery, his assistant, James Comey, was in charge.
At that moment, the annual request for continued Justice Department legal certification came from the White House... and Comey, without waiting for Ashcroft himself to come back to work (there was no particular urgency about the request), took it upon himself to refuse, on behalf of the Department of Justice, to certify that some NSA covert-surveillance program was legal. Comey did not supply any reason for the abrupt denial.
Then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales worried that this may have reflected Comey's own discomfort with the program or programs, rather than the attorney general's. So Gonzales, who understood that Ashcroft was out of surgery and recovering, hied himself off to the hospital to ask him whether Comey spoke for the AG or just for himself.
Here is where it gets murky: current Attorney General Gonzales explicitly said that the main topic of his conversation with Ashcroft was not the TSP but a different, similar NSA program. He says there was no "internal dissent" about the TSP.
But along comes FBI Director Robert Mueller:
Mr. Mueller was testifying at an F.B.I. oversight hearing when he was questioned by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas.
“Did you have an understanding that the conversation was on T.S.P.?” the Congresswoman asked, using the shorthand for terrorist surveillance program.
“I had an understanding the discussion was on an N.S.A. program, yes,” Mr. Mueller replied, using the abbreviation for the National Security Agency. A moment later, he added that the discussion was on the warrantless eavesdropping program “that has been much discussed, yes.”
The conflict in accounts could be significant, because Mr. Gonzales’s critics have accused him of trying to convey the false impression that the N.S.A. program had spawned no serious dissension within the Bush administration.
Let's drill down a bit here...
- Did Mueller testify that the discussion was about TSP? No, he never said TSP; he said "an N.S.A. program" which had been "much discussed."
- So Mueller testified that the conversation was about a much-discussed NSA program? Actually, not even that much; he testified that that was his "understanding."
- What is the difference? Very simple -- yet evidently too tricky for either AP or the Times to get into explicitly: Robert Mueller was not present during that hospital discussion. His "understanding" was formed ex-post facto by subsequent conversations with other people.
Mueller arrived later, after the discussion was over and Gonzales was gone; he talked to Attorney General Ashcroft. Somehow, he gained the impression that the main topic of conversation was about the TSP. But he did not gain that impression from hearing the conversation himself but from talking to Ashcroft.
- Oh, now I get it... so Mueller testified that Ashcroft told him that was the subject of the conversation? No; nobody has reported that Mueller so testified... not even the Times. Only that his conversation with Ashcroft left him with the impression that the "main topic" was the TSP.
- Well what exactly does the Times say about what Mueller said was the source of his understanding? They don't say.
You don't say! So on the basis of the gut feeling about the topic of a conversation that the feeler did not in fact witness, four very liberal Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI -- no rating as yet; he replaced "Republican" Lincoln Chafee) -- plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), have demanded a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate Alberto Gonzales for -- perjury!
There are many possible ways to square the two testimonies (before two different committees) without resorting to the absurd claim of perjury:
- Mueller may have been told by Ashcroft a different program; but since it didn't mean anything to Mueller, and since more than four years have passed -- during which the TSP received extraordinary attention in the elite media -- Mueller's memory may have been contaminated without him even knowing it.
This is actually a very common phenomenon that we have all experienced: As I believe Isaac Asimov said once, We all tend to remember things, not the way they happened, but the way they should have happened. It's precisely the reason we sequester juries and certain witnesses in court trials: To avoid their memories being tainted by exposure to news and discussion.
But there are other possibilities as well:
- Ashcroft -- knowing he was in an unsecured location where the walls could have ears, likely did not actually name the still secret program. He could have said merely "a secret NSA surveillance program"... and Mueller may have leapt to a conclusion.
- There could have been multiple topics covered in the conversation; Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft may honestly differ about which of several topics was "the main topic" of the discussion.
- There may still be confusion, even now, over what, exactly, Mueller meant by his testimony.
On that last point, consider this earlier AP version which (sourcing trouble alert!) NewsMax.com reprints:
"Did you have an understanding that that the conversation was on TSP?" asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. TSP stands for terrorist surveillance program.
"I had an understanding the discussion was on a NSA program, yes," Mueller answered.
Jackson asked again: "We use 'TSP,' we use 'warrantless wiretapping,' so would I be comfortable in saying that those were the items that were part of the discussion?"
"The discussion was on a national NSA program that has been much discussed, yes," Mueller responded.
So if we assume (a) that NewsMax did not literally fabricate this quotation, and (b) that AP actually knew what it was talking about, and (c) that AP was not subtlely trying to undermine the Democratic attack on Gonzales, then we must conclude that Mueller did not, in fact, "[add] that the discussion was on the warrantless eavesdropping program 'that has been much discussed, yes.'"
All that the earlier AP piece claims is that Mueller testified that the discussion was on "A national NSA program that has been much discussed." The indefinite article, not the definite... or as Richard Dreyfus says in the movie Jaws, "you caught a shark, not the shark."
In any case, "discussed" by whom? Nobody asked Mueller, he did not volunteer what he meant, and AP is silent; we don't know whether he meant "much discussed" by the elite media -- or (for example) "much discussed" in various congressional committees. In other words, even the phrase "much discussed" is ambigous.
If the Senate Judiciary Committee were really interested in finding out whether there is even a contradiction between Mueller and Gonzales, then before screaming for a special prosecutor, they could subpoena Mueller and point-blank ask him -- in secret testimony, away from cameras -- whether he means that his "understanding" was that the main topic was the TSP; and also exactly what gave him that impression. Then subpoena private citizen John Ashcroft and ask him what he remembers it being about.
Finally, according to earlier accounts (I would love a link to this), Gonzales actually offered to tell the Senate J-Com exactly what program he remembers the discussion being about... but Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT, 95%) actually turned Gonzales down. He demanded that the attorney general reveal the program to the committee in open session with TV cameras rolling.
That is, "Leaky" Leahy demanded that Gonzales "blow" a hitherto undisclosed classified anti-terrorist program.
If Democrats really wanted to get to the bottom of this, they could subpoena Mueller, Ashcroft, and accept Gonzales' offer to reveal exactly what program he thought the discussion was about. Then they could ask Ashcroft whether, with prompting, Gonzales might be right... and ask Mueller whether, after having his memory jogged, Gonzales may be accurate and truthful.
Then, if everyone but Gonzales says it was about the TSP, you might have a basis for a referral; but even then, I would be skeptical, since perjury requires the intent to deceive... and this could be an honest misremembering by Gonzales, Mueller, or Ashcroft.
But the J-Com Dems chose not to take this route; they didn't want clarity, they wanted a headline. Thus, on the basis of impressions and feelings, four ultra-liberal Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee plus the Majority Leader -- each of whom is on record as hating Bush and all that Bush has done in response to 9/11 -- demand that a new "Patrick Fitzgerald" be appointed to prosecute Gonzales and attempt to put him in prison and ruin his life.
This is the politics of personal destruction... Democrat style.
Date ►►► July 25, 2007
A Constitutional Crisis - Which We'll Get to Sometime Next Fall...
The House Judiciary Committee hath spake: The refusal by the White House to allow aides and former aides (current Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers) to testify under oath before the committee about every piece of confidential advice, legal opinion, and memo ever given the president -- so that the committee can go fishing and try to find something legally or politically damaging that they can use in 2008 -- is a constitutional crisis of such monumental proportions that the only recourse Congress has is to try to put Bolton and Miers in prison.
It's a crushing blow to constitutional government, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. There is no other remedy available; the national conscience requires a showdown, the destruction of the careers of two former high officials, and the loss of their liberty.
The nation is in urgent peril... Congress must have that information. And they'll get around to doing something about it just as soon as they get back from their August recess, or maybe a month or so later:
The House Judiciary Committee, in a straight party-line vote, approved a contempt resolution against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, setting up a constitutional battle between the Bush administration and Congress over executive privilege.
After several hours of skirmishing over whether to send a contempt resolution to the House floor, the committee voted by a 22-17 margin to approve the measure.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders will now have to decide if and when to hold a vote by the full House on the resolution.
Update - Pelosi's office just released a statement on the issue. Pelosi signaled that the House will not take up the resolution until September.
After all, going home and campaigning is an important constitutional duty, too, you know....
I think the White House has properly characterized this effort:
"This is something that the drafters of this particular referral know has very little chance of going anywhere," White House spokesman Tony Snow said just after Wednesday's vote.
He likened the Democrat-driven investigation into the firings to "throwing mud against the wall and hoping something's going to stick."
But hey: Democrats... throwing mud... some marriages are simply made in hog heaven.
Date ►►► July 24, 2007
World Moslems: Jihad Is Like So Ten Minutes Ago
Pew Research, which has been polling the world about its hatred of America for decades, has detected a fascinating trend: Since 2002, Moslem support for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and suicide bombings has plumeted -- by more than 40% in some countries. At the same time, their sense of personal and national well-being has risen dramatically; the two measurements are not completely unconnected.
2002 is likely when support for radical, militant Islam hit its peak worldwide: The 9/11 attacks had just percolated down to the level of the individual Achmed in the street, making the Moslem street believe that bin Laden was the "strong horse." Then the Taliban was crushed, enraging the street at the unfairness of life and frightening them about the march of the crusaders. And we had not yet done anything to raise Moslems up out of tyranny and poverty. It's easy to picture half the ummah marching towards Mecca chanting "solidarity forever!"
But then the hated tyrant Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the United States -- Crusaders and Zionists! -- liberating 27.5 million Moslems. Following four years of brutal fighting in Iraq, during which we never cut and ran -- and during which we also helped Moslems create what is currently the only Arab-Moslem democracy in the world -- the "street" has evidently decided that savagery, butchery, mayhem, and indiscriminate killing of innocents is not so grand a plan as they used to think. Not to mention the many Moslems who got a first-hand look at what life under a "caliphate" would be like; I suspect that had a lot to do with the change in attitude, both about the tactics and goals of terrorists and about who is actually the "strong horse" and who the lame pig.
It's a sea change, and it's still accelerating:
Muslims around the world increasingly reject suicide bombings and other violence against civilians in defense of Islam, according to a new international poll dealing with how the world's population judges their lives, countries and national institutions.
A wide ranging survey of international attitudes in 47 countries by the Pew Research Center also reported that in many of the countries where support for suicide attacks has declined, there has also has been decreasing support for al-Qaida leader Osama bin-Laden.
The 95-page survey found that surging economic growth in many developing countries has encouraged people in these countries to express satisfaction with their personal lives, family income and national conditions, said Andrew Kohut, the center's director.
"It's a pro-globalization set of findings," Kohut said.
Another way to put it uses the language of Thomas P.M. Barnett: Moslems in the Middle East, in Pakistan, and in other countries are starting to glimpse what life in the Functioning Core is like -- and to contrast it with the 7th-century life in the Non-Integrating Gap offered by al-Qaeda and the Shiite Twelvers.
In a shocking and wholly unanticipated development, it turns out that there is only one region where support for suicide attacks on innocent civilians has not dropped at all... the Palestinian territory:
But support for suicide bombings is widespread among Palestinians, the report said, with 41 percent saying such attacks are often justified while another 29 percent say they can sometimes be justified. It found that only six percent of Palestinians—the smallest in any Muslim public surveyed—say such attacks are never justified.
Some more findings of the Pew poll:
- In Jordan, Moslems who think of bin Laden as a "world leader" dropped from 56% in 2002 to 20% in 2007.
- Jordanian Moslem support for suicide bombings dropped from 43% to 23%.
- In Lebanon, support for suicide bombings dropped from 79% to 34%.
- In Pakistan, it fell from 33% to 9%.
- In fact, "the report said support for such bombings and terror tactics has dropped since 2002 in seven of the eight countries where data were available."
It is absolutely imperative that we build on this dramatic change, rather than insist (as some still do) that we are at war with the entire ummah ("Moslemdom"). As Moslem countries have more and deeper contact with the West, as they see up close and personally what living in a Taliban or Iranian regime looks like... and yes, as they look at the example of now-democratic Iraq, right in the heart of the Middle East, they are coming to the same conclusion: There is no future in "jihad." The future is to be found, not by fighting modernity, but by embracing it.
And by its very nature, modernity is moderate.
Thus, most Moslems are moderating, which is precisely the predicted effect of edging from Gap to Core: The more a person has invested in society, the less willing he is to support violent revolution and mindless human sacrifice. (We see the same dynamic at play in domestic crime, especially within street gangs.)
Within a decade or so, we may not need to ask where all the Moslem Methodists are, for they will be living all around us. As to whether or not they will be strong enough to break the cycle of martyrdom, that I cannot guess. But with so much at stake, how can we afford not to seize such birds when they knock on the bush?
One of the reasons I'm not entirely thrilled with the current bunch of presidential candidates... wait, a detour: Many animal-nouns have associated words for collections of that animal; for example, a gaggle of geese, an exhaltation of larks, a bay of hounds, a bale of turtles, and a murder of crows. Since most politicians are more or less barnyard animals, it makes sense that they have their own collection term. I propose "a corruption of politicians" and a "smarm of candidates."
One of the reasons I'm not entirely thrilled with the current smarm of presidential candidates is that none of them seems to be able to articulate a coherent theme... a single "big issue" that can spawn a whole series of positions that all relate to a central principle. You can have more than one; Reagan had two: The destruction of the Evil Empire, which drove every element of his foreign policy, and the primacy of the individual taxpayer in running his own life, which informed most of his domestic ideas. But without at least one, it's very hard to answer the fundamental question of electoral politics: What makes you different from the other guys?
We live in dangerous times. I believe that our candidates need to focus like a laser beam on national security, but not just in the form of mass invasions of enemy countries (though that is clearly one element that should never be taken off the table). I want to see national security taken seriously enough by some candidate for president that it drives both his foreign and domestic programs. (Naturally, no Democrat would care for principle-based governance; so consider that I speak only to the GOP candidates.)
Let me give you an example of what I mean: One of the big four -- Rudy, Fred, Mitt, or John -- should distinguish himself from the smarm by developing and repeatedly enunciating a coherent, long-term energy policy geared towards replacing foreign oil importation with domestic production as much as possible, as a necessary component of national security. And that should be a major and oft-explained component of his presidential campaign.
The connection is clear; anyone can understand it: The only reason that either Sunni "al-Qaeda" terrorist groups or Shiite "Twelver" terrorists have the resources to threaten the world is that oil-rich countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia (and Venezuela) keep shoveling mountains of petrodollars at them. How long would Hezbollah last if Iran were not able to pay for it? How many radical mosques would we have in the United States if Saudi Arabia didn't have enough money to finance them?
Obviously, then, we can drastically cut the threat to American national security by reducing the price of oil. High oil prices mean the oil producers have money to burn... and they burn it by giving it to Salafists, Wahhabis, and Shiite death squads. But low oil prices means that members of OPEC do not have anywhere near the money they need to fund global hirabah ("unholy war").
All right, so how do we reduce the price of oil? This is Econ. 101 stuff: Price is controlled by demand drawing upon supply. When demand is high and supply low, prices rise; but if either demand drops or supply rises, prices fall.
We cannot significantly reduce demand for oil, so we concentrate on the supply side. And the best -- and most readily apparent -- method of increasing the world supply of oil is to drill more. If we were to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the California coast, and of course in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northeast corner of Alaska, we could reduce our own need to buy foreign oil so dramatically, it would likely drop the price of oil for everyone else, too.
And even though it's difficult to reduce world demand while China and India grow exponentially, we could still reduce our own demand by expedited building of scores of high-tech, safe nuclear power plants (Integral Fast or Pebble Bed designs). Why not? It's a good thing with or without the unifying theme.
OPEC would be in a tizzy. Terrorist butchers would find their paychecks slim and sporatic. And the economic side benefits here in America would include reduced prices and shrinking inflation for all... which would probably also mean the Federal Reserve loosening money, allowing more economic expansion. We increase our national security and improve our economy all in one swell foop.
So where is the GOP candidate willing to step forward and forcefully make this case? Where is the Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani who will seize this strongest of all electoral themes and beat Hillary and Barack over the head with it?
I even have his slogan: "Defund al-Qaeda by drilling in ANWR!"
Over the next few weeks, I'll post a few more examples of how a principled theme of "boosting national security" can lead to a surprising number of foreign and domestic policies, each of which are good ideas in themselves; but together, they will make our country, and everyone who lives here, safer, more prosperous, and more secure.
Hillary Clinton has her "theme song;" let's us have our campaign theme. There, I'm done.
Date ►►► July 23, 2007
Blundering Herd of RINOs: Endangered Species?
A couple of weeks ago, we published a post titled "Two More RINOs Join the Blundering Herd." In it, we noted a fascinating phenomenon: Every Republican senator who called for us to declare defeat and withdraw from Iraq or Afghanistan was a member of a very select group... GOP senators whose "partisanship" score was 75% or less.
In other words, all of the supposed "GOP collapse" of support for the war comes from the most liberal wing of the Republican Party -- from Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%) to Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%) and Pete Domenici (NM, 75%). And toting them all up, there simply are not enough of them to overturn a presidential veto of retreat and defeat.
I don't believe this point has sufficiently sunk in; at least, no other new analyst or blogger that I have seen has remarked upon it. But this is the single most important fact in the low-speed "civil war" between Left and Right in the United States Congress, with the fate of the War on Global Hirabah hanging in the balance: The anti-war crowd simply hasn't the votes in the Senate (or likely the House, either), until and unless President Bush begins losing actual conservatives... not just RINOs.
Once these sunshine patriots realize they're playing a dead hand, I suspect it will be harder and harder to lure them into alliance with the radical Democrats, especially if they begin drawing more conservative primary challenges. It doesn't affect the equation that a conservative who bumps a RINO off the ticket might well lose to the Democrat in the general election. Either way, the RINO is out looking for honest work.
So please, gentle readers, do your best to spread this word: There are not enough RINOs to override the president's veto of withdrawal or defunding legislation. So the rest of the GOP had better brace up and find a spine somewhere... or else there will be sufficient anti-war votes in the next Congress.
Democrats Snub Vets for Freedom: Look What You Made Me Do!
During Democrats' slumber party last week, thirty some young veterans gathered on the Hill. They were members of a group called Vets for Freedom, which comprises Afghanistan- and Iraq-war veterans. The vets' aim was to appeal to senators to support the war: They hoped to let them know that a majority of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan want to finish the job and give Petraeus' strategy a chance to work.
Alas, Democratic leaders were so busy chanting "Bring the troops home" that they couldn't be bothered with actual vets, the very people about whom they so passionately claim to care. The MSM tried to ignore the Vets too; but it became impossible to completely freeze them out when the President of the United States spent a long hour talking with them. (Hat tip Power Line)
Thus it became necessary to crush VFF. When a pro-war group like them becomes visible, the anti-war crowd must pull out all the stops to discredit them. Besides, there was also the fine motive of retaliation driving the Left onward: When anti-war "veterans" groups, such as An Appeal to Redress, started demanding American defeat, they were ripped to shreds by milbloggers. So it's "only fair" that left wing bloggers take a club to the VFF like a fur hunter to a baby seal.
The anti-GOP-war crowd seems to be especialy ticked off by VFF's claim to non-partisanship. This criticism by the Center for Media Democracy, a leading anti-VFF group, is typical:
Who and what is behind the organization Vets for Freedom, a lobby group for staying the Administration's course in the war in Iraq? Contributors to our investigative website SourceWatch are wondering exactly that.... Its supposedly non-partisan patriotic agenda is looking rather suspect. Will it become to the 2006 Congressional elections what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were in 2004? A Republican front for waging ad hominem attacks, this time on politicians like John Murtha who are calling for an end to the US occupation?
In fact the CMD has dedicated an entire section of its webzine SourceWatch to discrediting the VFF, alleging they were a "front organization" for the Republican Party. But in the process of trying to prove rampant partisanship, the CMD accidentally makes the case instead that Democrats simply don't support our troops.
Let us take a little journey into the strange world of left-liberal conspiracy mongering...
(Please follow the "slither on" for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey says.)
The SourceWatch article on VFF begins by referring to them as "a Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants."
Let us first clarify what being a "Republican front group" means: It means that your primary goal is to advance a the GOP's political agenda. Merely receiving most of your support from Republicans is not proof of GOP partisanship; nor does it make you a front group if more Republicans happen to agree with your agenda than do Democrats. Political-party partisanship means that your agenda is the advancement of one party, rather than an independent goal, such as ending legal abortion or rolling back gun prohibition.
Why is this important? Because the CMD calls Vets for Freedom a front group; but the only evidence they produce is that more Republicans than Democrats are aligned with these soldiers and Marines... which the CMD wants you to believe is the same thing.
It's not. For one example, the National Rifle Association usually supports Republicans; but that's just because more Republicans than Democrats support gun rights. But they will support a pro-gun Democrat over anti-gun Republican... so they're not just a Republican front group.
VFF's sole agenda is the full-hearted completion of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; for that reason, they strongly support Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%-D, 17%-R), even though he is not a Republican. Bearing that definition in mind, let us examine some of the criticism the Center for Media Democracy hurls against VFF.
Claim: members of VFF are "neocon lobbyists"
The CMD's SourceWatch article on Vets for Freedom states that some members of VFF are "affiliated" with neocon Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol; by this, they mean that some VFF members sold pro-war articles to Kristol's Weekly Standard, rather than to Time, Vanity Fair, or the Nation:
Non-partisan, bi-partisan or neocon lobbyists?
VFF member Alex Gallo, a West Point graduate who served in 2004 as an infantry officer in Samarrah, Iraq, wrote a pro-war in Iraq article that was published July 18, 2007, by the National Review Online owned by neoconservative Bill Kristol, "the No. 1 cheerleader for the Iraq war." [What the heck? Bill Kristol "owns" NRO? I've never heard that before; NRO is edited by Kathryn Jean "K-Lo" Lopez and supported by donations. Kristol doesn't even write for them, having his own competing conservative magazine.]
Gallo is currently a "masters in public-policy candidate" at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he is "course assistant" for Kristol's "Can America be Governed?" In 2006, Kristol assisted VFF-AF in its pro-war in Iraq campaign support of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)....
In 2006, former White House spokesman Taylor Gross's public relations firm the Herald Group helped VFF co-founder Wade Zirkle and "fellow Iraq veteran David Bellavia approach mainstream newspapers to offer dispatches from the two as war correspondents embedded with the military. The two eventually got press credentials through the neoconservative Weekly Standard, whose editor, Bill Kristol, became an informal adviser to the group and helped put it in touch with" Republican strategist Dan Senor, who was "on retainer to help with fundraising.
The truth: What do we learn from this? That Kristol -- who supports the war -- publishes writers who support the war. Shocking! It does not make VFF "lobbyists" (who are they supposed to have lobbied -- private citizen Dan Senor, private citizen Taylor Gross, or private citizen Bill Kristol?)
Typically, the word "lobbyist" means a paid advocate for somebody else's position; VFF members talked to congressmen on behalf of their own beliefs, not anybody else's. And of course, nobody paid them to do so. We already have a phrase for such nefarious activity, and it's not "lobbying": It's "petitioning Congress."
Claim: VFF is a "right-wing" organization
By similar reasoning, the CMD leaps upon the fact that right-wing bloggers, magazines, and one supposedly conservative newspaper (the Wall Street Journal), but no left wingers, reported VFF's call for a rally on the Hill on July 17th:
On July 13, 2007, Hegseth issued a second urgent call to action, which was reposted on a number of right-wing-leaning blogs, as well as by the conservative [promoted from "neoconservative?"] online publication The Weekly Standard, in which he asked "every Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who believes in supporting the mission -- and defeating America's enemies -- to converge on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, July 17. It's time the fighters in this war tell their representatives -- face to face -- that now is no time to betray the mission."
The truth: Anti-war left-wing bloggers and editors evidence no interest in promoting VFF's pro-war effort; surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. I'm certain that if Kos or Juan Cole or the New York Times had offered to help spread the word, VFF would not have refused.
Instead of rooting around for some hidden conspiracy behind the VFF swarm on Capitol Hill, the Center for Media Democracy should ask one simple question: Why did only one mainstream news organization -- the Wall Street Journal -- cover the events in Washington D.C.? If it's newsworthy when An Appeal for Redress talks to members of Congress on behalf of retreat, defeat, and surrender, why isn't it equally important when a pro-war group of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan talk to Congress on behalf of victory?
What is the CMD proving? Only that when it comes to actually supporting our troops -- which includes supporting the mission that they believe is so urgent -- Democrats, RINOs, and other liberals are deserters under fire.
Claim: VFF was only interested in meeting Republican lawmakers
SourceWatch describes Vets for Freedom's meetings with various senators in the Capitol in a way that makes it sound as if VFF were only interested in meeting with Republicans -- with the Left's favorite whipping boy, Joe Lieberman, being the only exception:
Hegseth wrote in his July 16, 2007, update that VFF "will also have a group meeting with Senate leaders to discuss Iraq war policy. In addition, be on the lookout for our afternoon press conference, which will take place just off the Senate floor."
On July 16, 2007, VFF issued a press release stating that it would hold its press conference at 3:00pm on July 17, 2007, in the Mansfield Room (S-207) at The Capitol with "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), other senators."
This was confirmed in part by a local South Carolina TV news report that stated Senator Lindsey Graham "will join Vets for Freedom and a bipartisian group of senators who support the new strategy in Iraq." It should be noted that the only non-Republican named is Sen. Lieberman.
The truth: So why weren't there any Democrats present at the press conference? SourceWatch leaves us with the impression that VFF only invited "Republicans."
But this is complete nonsense, and the authors of the SouceWatch article clearly know that. The CMD knows very well that VFF did not go to the Hill just to talk to Republicans; rather, their request to meet with Speaker of the House Nancy Perosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) for five minutes each was summarily rejected. Neither would any other Democratic or even squishy Republican lawmaker agree to meet with them.
But wait... how do we know that SourceWatch was aware of this? Couldn't it have been an honest mistake? Hardly: SourceWatch itself confirms this fact, without evidently noticing that it completely undermines their narrative:
VFF's "mission", Aoife McCarthy reported in The Politico, was "to reassure the GOP lawmakers supporting President Bush's war strategy as they endure a pummeling at home in TV ads and automated telephone calls from anti-war groups. And maybe, the veterans hoped, they could change the minds of other lawmakers...
"The only senators who would meet with the pro-surge veterans were those who already shared their view. The real targets -- war opponents or wobbly supporters -- sent a first wave of senior aides to shield themselves from the pitch," McCarthy wrote.
Neither Democratic leaders nor RINOs have the least interested in what actual veterans of the very wars in question have to say. This is what makes VFF a "Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants"... at least according to SourceWatch.
Claim: VFF has questionable funding sources
From the begining, the Center for Media Democracy has claimed that VFF's funding comes from questionable sources. As of June, 2006, CMD had found nothing more than the following (from the CMD link above):
- The VFF has a "rather fancy website."
- At one time, but no longer, the VFF's privacy notice on its website stated "We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations."
- "The organization contests and condemns the views of Democratic Congressman John Murtha, the Democrat calling for the United States to pull troops from Iraq."
- "Virtually no information is available about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom"
One year later, their investigation has not progressed much (from the SourceWatch link):
A disclaimer on the bottom of each VFF web page states "Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization. Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes."
Originally, the organization's precise tax status (501c3, 501c4, 527 committee) was not stated and virtually no information was available on the Vets for Freedom website about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom, making it difficult to evaluate the degree to which the organization might have been part of a war propaganda campaign interacting with the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, the American Legion and/or other ideologically-driven public relations and lobbying efforts that have exploited for political purposes the issues of US war veterans and their families, such as Move America Forward and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. [Not that SourceWatch, or their parent organization the Center for Media Democracy, would ever engage in propaganda by inuendo...!]
The truth: In other words, CMD has no information whatsoever indicating that VFF is funded by the Republican Party, or is a front for Richard Melon Scaife, or is even owned by that well-known proprietor of National Review Online, Bill Kristol.
But perhaps the very absence of evidence is sinister evidence of presence: After all, if VFF didn't have something to hide, why would they go to such extraordinary lengths to cover up all that evidence?
So what do we have here? CMD cannot prove that VFF is a "front group" of the GOP. They cannot demonstrate that VFF is partisan. They cannot even find anything funny about the funding.
CMD set out to discredit these war veterans, presumably on the grounds that nobody who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan could possibly support those wars (they're all loser high-school dropouts stuk in Irak anyway). Instead, they proved the very point which we pro-war, right-leaning bloggers have been making for years: That Republicans care about the troops... and Democrats don't.
Bravo, CMD; kudos, SourceWatch... keep up the good work!
Date ►►► July 20, 2007
Catastrophic Loss for Big Lizards! Film at 11:00...
Well, not really that bad; just wanted to grab your attention.
The weakly, er, weekly results for Big Lizards and a gaggle of lesser included blogs on the Watcher's Council are in, and here's the let down. I mean low down:
This week's weenie -- dang! I mean winner -- is:
- Harry Potter and Ostrich Syndrome, by Bookworm Room.
I suppose I can claim partial
vindictiveness vindication on this post, as this was our choice for numbness -- number one. Mrs. Bookworm ruination -- ruminates on the muscular, essentially conservative world destruction view of a number of resent R-E-C-E-N-T fantasy and science friction moanies and works of litter. Atcher. Literature!
Oh hell; just rend it for yourself. (No, I don't know what she has against the definite article.)
In the number two slot, we voted thus:
- Pangloss, by Done With Mirrors.
Dr. Pangloss was (according to Answers.com) the "irrepressible professor of ‘métaphysico-théologo-cosmolo-nigologie’, used by Voltaire to mock the philosophy of Optimism in Candide."
(The aptly named Commie plagiarist Lillian Hellman, the George Galloway of her day, also allegedly co-wrote a musical version of Candide... or perhaps stole it from a better writer -- they are legion, including her fellow-traveler co-writers Dorothy Parker, James Agee, and Leonard Bernstein -- stole it, as she did the life story of Muriel Gardiner, whose dangerous adventures smuggling cash to anti-Fascists in Nazi Germany Hellman "expropriated" to herself, in her second "memoir," Pentimento. And I bloody well bet Dash wrote most of of her plays. But who the hell cares about Lillian Hellman anymore? Whoever she was.)
Callimachus -- oh, sorry, we're back to our second-vote post, Pangloss -- uses the name to good effect to mock the devil-may-care attitude liberals seem to have towards terrorism (you know, that Bush bumper-sticker thing). It's a great post, worth your time reading. Pangloss came in tied with two other blogs (as Michael Medved would say) or internets (as Bush would say), but that was only after Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse spent all day Thursday beachcombing along Lake Michigan, clad only in a pair of Magritte-blue Speedos, listening to Insane Clown Posse on his iPod... and completely forgot to vote. Without the 2/3 vote penalty, Moran would have had second place all to himself, leaving our Callimachus forlornly wandering the stacks at the library of Alexandria.
We seem to have calmed down now from our rage against the machine that voted against Big Lizards. It's time to live and let evil. Everything is back to norble.
The winner among the great unwished is:
- Myths and Realities of the George Bush Presidency, by TCS Daily.
This is another one of those "damning Bush with gossamer-faint praise" thingies that have become so popular among the Council lately. Read it and see for yourself.
We got skunked in this category. Our two votes were for:
- Staunch Republicans for Ted Kennedy, by John Hinderaker at Power Line;
- Keith Ellison and the "Reichstag", by FrontPage Magazine.
The first (our own nominee) told the absurdist tale of "reporter" Jennifer Hunter of the Chicago Sun-Times, who got punked by fellow liberal Democrat Jim Ronca. She latched onto him at a meeting of the American Trial Lawyers Association (newly reminted the American Association for Justice); the ATLA/AAJ had just held a forum to which presidential candidates were invited, so long as they were Democrats or erstwhile candidates named Howard Dean. Ronca was in the audience; Hunter was hunting for a story.
Ronca told Hunter he was a Republican and gushed to her that he was now convinced that the Democrats were aces, and he would not only vote for one but would even send them money! Breathlessly, Hunter rushed the copy to the Sun-Times, taking the first four grafs to gloat that even "staunch Republicans" like Jim Ronca were switching to the Democrats. Alas for Hunter's credibility, five minutes of checking with the FEC website demonstrated that Ronca was a Democrat, not a Republican, who had donated many times to Democrats (including Ted Kennedy) and only twice to Republicans... one of whom was Sen. Arlen Specter (RINO-PA, 43%), so doesn't count.
We were the only ones to vote for this post. They're blind, blind I tells yer.
The second post above is a Robert Spencer piece (yeah, the book guy) about Keith Ellison (surpise) and his recent comment comparing 9/11 to the Reichstag fire (double surprise), which many people believe was actually started by the Nazis themselves so they could blame it on the Communists. (I've seen recent evidence that suggests otherwise; but at the very least, the Nazis seized upon the fortuitous event to solidify dictatorial power in Hitler's hands. My personal theory is that it was set by Lillian Hellman.) Spencer slaps CAIR's congressman around a bit and musses his hair. A nice read.
Last resorts. I mean full results...
Dubai Ports Weird
Matt Drudge linked a story with a fairly cryptic one-liner that I simply couldn't resist: "White House Backed Dubai Ports Deal In Exchange For Intel." The "story" turned out to be the "Inside the Ring" column by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times; Gertz discussed a passage in a book by Rowan Scarborough, the crux of which is that there was a deeper, secret reason why President George W. Bush approved the deal for Dubai Ports World -- a shipping company owned by the United Arab Emirates -- to take over cargo operations at major American ports.
During the insane donnybrook that erupted on both right and left about that deal, many covert motives were suggested by its most energetic opponents: that Bush had sold out to al-Qaeda, that he had been duped by the jihadist UAE, that liberal cells at Treasury and DHS had tricked the political appointees, and in general that the deal would be terrible for American security (some used the phrase "outsourcing port-security operations," but that argument was so specious that it was quickly dropped).
But now, if we can believe Scarborough, there really was a covert reason; but it wasn't what anybody (including myself) imagined: Evidently, in exchange for okaying the deal, DPW was going to allow us to plant CIA agents in DPW-run ports all around the world... including those in some of our most dangerous enemies and challenging allies in the Middle East, in Asia, and even in South America:
Former Inside the Ring co-author Rowan Scarborough has written a new book revealing a key reason the Bush administration pressed hard for the 2006 deal for the United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World to take over management of several U.S. ports.
According to Mr. Scarborough, the administration wanted the deal to go through because the UAE government had agreed to let the United States post agents inside its global port network who could report on world shipping.
Dubai Ports currently runs port facilities at key U.S. intelligence targets, including Venezuela, China, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.
"Dubai Ports, in essence, was going to become an agent of CIA," Mr. Scarborough said in an interview. "The arrangement is helping us detect whether any kind of terror contraband was being moved around."
(The book Gertz refers to is Sabotage: America's Enemies Within the CIA, by Rowan Scarborough.)
Let's assume for the moment that Scarborough's claim is true; after all, if we assume it's false, then this entire blogpost is as worthless and useless as the rest of Big Lizards. But if so, three points of interest immediately become apparent:
- Clearly, President Bush could not have publicly announced such an offer; he could, however, have privately briefed Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence.
Did he? Did any members of the Intelligence committees oppose the deal? I cannot find any that I clearly remember voicing an opposing view; former senator and Intel-committee member Jon Corzine (D-NJ), a deal opponent, had already left the Senate by the time the controversy erupted in February 2006 and would not have received any classified briefing).
In any event, there is no way most opponents could have known about the alleged offer.
- Equally clearly, Bush had a very strong reason to push for the deal, even if he could not, for obvious reasons, enunciate it. He was not simply being "PC" or "multi-culti," not trying to appease the Arabs, and not being bribed or tricked.
Folks may differ on whether the offer was substantial enough to overcome whatever danger they see by replacing British management of cargo ops with UAE management of cargo ops (given that only the management hats would change, while the actual cargo handlers would have remained American longshoremen). But if one believes Scarborough, it's no longer possible to say there was "no good reason" for the deal, or that Bush got "rolled" by the UAE.
- Finally, Bush has probably been trying to find a way to get those embeds anyway... but whether he has or has not, those "key intelligence targets" will go crazy trying to find them.
Especially Oogo; I'm convinced that as soon as he hears about this claim, he'll begin raiding the management offices at DPW's cargo terminal at Puerto Cabello -- the largest seaport in Venezuela, whence the country's vast oil production flows out of Venezuela and into the world market. If Chavez acts true to the racing form, he will seize personnel and use fairly violent means to find the "spies," "assassins," and "saboteurs" he just knows are lurking within.
I hope their cover is deep and wide; and if they're not really there, then I hope DPW gets so angry it simply pulls out, bringing Venezuela's oil industry to a standstill. My, but we live in interesting times!
Date ►►► July 19, 2007
A Vietnam Reeducation
Near as I can make it out from this video clip, here is what Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%) said on C-Span today:
Let me just say to the first part of your question with respect to Boat People and killing... everybody predicted a massive bloodbath in Vietnam. There was not a massive bloodbath in Vietman. There were reeducation camps, and they weren’t [garbled]. Nobody likes that kind of outcome, but I’ve met a lot of people today who were in those education camps who are thriving in the Vietnam of today.
There you go, no bloodbath in Vietnam (no word about Cambodia, land of the Magic-Hat People), just education camps... sort of like combination job-training and day-care centers.
The clip ends rather abruptly, so perhaps Kerry went on to bring up Cambodia and how the killing fields there utterly undercut his own demand that we pull out from Iraq just as precipitously as we did from that Southeast Asian country that didn't have a bloodbath. Anything's possible... but I doubt it.
Today, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates (George W. Bush, 2001) dismissed Val's deceitful federal lawsuit accusing Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, former Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs Lewis Libby, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage of "conspiring to leak her identity in 2003," which she claims "violated her privacy rights and was illegal retribution for her husband's criticism of the administration," as AP puts it.
Naturally. Armitage, a virulent opponent of the Iraq invasion and protege of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell (another outspoken opponent), was seeking "retribution" against Lyin' Joe Wilson for defaming the Bush administration -- over the Iraq invasion that Armitage despised!
We all know there is one and only one reason that Armitage was added to the lawsuit: because he is the only person known actually to have leaked her name to the press; and it would look pretty stupid -- even for a Democrat -- to file a lawsuit against three people who Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald did not claim leaked her name, but not against the one person who Fitzgerald did say leaked her name.
The judge dismissed the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, but he seems to have also leaned towards the administration's argument on constitutionality:
While Bates did not address the constitutional questions, he seemed to side with administration officials who said they were acting within their job duties. Plame had argued that what they did was illegal and outside the scope of their government jobs.
"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory, " Bates wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials."
What I find particularly amusing in the AP story is the second paragraph below:
Plame's identity was revealed in a syndicated newspaper column in 2003, shortly after Wilson began criticizing the administration's march to war in Iraq. Plame believes the leak was retribution and that it violated their constitutional rights.
Armitage and Rove were the sources for that article, which touched off a lengthy leak investigation. Nobody was charged with leaking but Libby was convicted of lying and obstruction the investigation. Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year prison term before the former aide served any time.
This, of course, is carefully written to make it appear as if Karl Rove were one of the original leakers, perhaps working in concert with Armitage -- which should provoke derisive laughter in anyone who knows anything about the chilly relationship between the opposing camps of the Bush administration.
But in fact, what Novak testified is that Rove was only a "source" in the sense that he said something that Novak interpreted as corroboration that "Wilson's wife" was employed by the CIA... after Novak had already been told by Armitage. In fact, Novak brought up the question to Rove, mentioning the exact department where Plame worked; Rove answered somewhat ambiguously, I think, and perhaps in unintentional surprise that Novak knew:
Novak said Plame's status was confirmed later in a conversation with Rove.
Novak said he asked Rove several questions about Wilson's mission to Niger, and near the end of the conversation, "I commented that I heard she was a -- I had been told she was an employee of the counterproliferation division of the CIA. He said, " 'Oh, you know about that, too.' I took that as a clear affirmation."
Well, evidently Special Counsel Fitzgerald didn't take it as enough of a "clear affirmation" to charge Rove with anything... not even with perjury, a la Libby, which many predicted would happen when Rove belatedly remembered the exchange and testified two subsequent times to the grand jury. And even if clear, was it even intentional? Or was Rove simply surprised that Novak knew everything, perhaps blurting out "you know about that too?"
That level of disconnect from the leak does not suit the elite media's purposes, however; so Rove becomes one of the primary leakers, arm in arm with Armitage.
Somehow, the Democrats and their aiders and abettors in the media convinced themselves -- sometime back in 1999, I believe -- that the Bush administration is the most corrupt presidency in American history. For nine years now, these "Truthers" have searched desperately, and at times hysterically, for the "smoking gun" that will retroactively prove true all their paranoid conspiracy fancies.
No matter how many times the football is yanked away, I suspect the crusade will continue long past 2009; and Valerie Plame will remain its golden calf.
The Johnson Juncture
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 85%) remains medically unable to participate in congressional floor action, unable to vote, unable to represent the voters in South Dakota. He is up for reelection in 2008.
What are the Democrats to do?
Although we hear now and again that the senator is "improving" or "getting better," that he was discharged from the hospital, that he's doing some work, and even that he "co-sponsored" a bill... I don't believe anyone outside his staff, other Democratic politicians, and his immediate family has seen him... at least not so far as I have heard. And while I don't want to sound like a vulture, the simple fact is that we're not just talking about "Tim Johnson" the man; we're also talking about Sen. Tim Johnson, one of only two representatives that South Dakota has in the United States Senate.
It's been more than seven months since his cerebral incident; his recovery was supposed to take "several months," but it's been that much and more... and he still cannot even vote. There have been 253 roll-call votes in the Senate this session; I clicked randomly on about fifteen of them, spread throughout the session, and Johnson was listed as "not voting" in every one. I believe he has not voted even a single time since his illness.
Events may force themselves upon state Democratic Party leaders. At some point -- certainly as campaign season opens in earnest in a few months -- I would expect he would have to be actually seen campaigning. Not to put too fine a point on it, I doubt the voters of South Dakota will reelect a senator who is still too ill to campaign.
Which means Johnson and his campaign staff have a decision to make: They must decide a cut-off date by which he is either well enough to proceed with reelection... or else he should announce he is not running. If they wait another seven months to next February to decide, the eventual Democratic candidate (presumably Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, 65%, South Dakota's only House representative) could be royally hosed, having no time to raise money, campaign, or introduce herself and her campaign themes to the state. (Yes, I know it's a statewide office; but voters know her as a sophomore congresswoman, not a senator. It's different.)
This is also important to the Republicans. If Sen. Johnson will not be running, then regardless of who the GOP nominates -- Gov. Mike Rounds, if they can get him; or Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Senate Majority Leader David Knudson, or State Rep. Joel Dykstra, if Rounds chooses not to run -- South Dakota will become a very vulnerable Democratic seat. If it's going to be vulnerable, then the National Republican Senatorial Committee had better prepare to recruit hard and spend a lot of money there.
But if Johnson is going to be well enough to run, his 70% popularity (especially with the sympathy vote) might make him invulnerable... and that would definitely change the NRSC's roadmap.
Here is what Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball says about this race:
South Dakota is also something of a wild card, with Senator Tim Johnson not expected back on the Hill until September following his well-publicized health problems. There has been no announcement about whether Johnson will run again, and such an announcement is unlikely to come before he resumes his regular duties in the fall. On the Democratic side, the state's at-large Representative, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, appears to have the primary field to herself if Johnson retires, since former Senator Tom Daschle has shown no signs of making another bid. For Republicans, things are much more uncertain, with the current Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and state senate Majority Leader all considering running, but waiting for more information about Johnson's condition and whether he will seek reelection.
Johnson is "expected" to be back in the Senate in the fall; but he was originally expected to be back much sooner. So if December rolls around and he's still not ready... what then?
Date ►►► July 18, 2007
Back in August 1989, New Destines VIII published an article of mine titled "Those Greyout Blues." I discussed a program then being pursued by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency... sort of a Department of Defense "skunk works" funding source. The program was called the Pilot's Associate; and the idea was to develop a plane that could take off, fly, engage in combat ops, drop bombs and shoot missiles, then return and land -- all on its own initiative, without a pilot.
I don't know what became of that program; clearly, we don't have any such aircraft. But we have the next best thing: the grim Reaper, which can do all of the above while being piloted remotely from halfway around the world:
The airplane is the size of a jet fighter, powered by a turboprop engine, able to fly at 300 mph and reach 50,000 feet. It's outfitted with infrared, laser and radar targeting, and with a ton and a half of guided bombs and missiles.
The Reaper is loaded, but there's no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada.
The arrival of these outsized U.S. "hunter-killer" drones, in aviation history's first robot attack squadron, will be a watershed moment even in an Iraq that has seen too many innovative ways to hunt and kill.
Of course, the Predator -- our current drone -- already does this, though it carries a much smaller payload than does the Reaper. So what's all the excitement about? The excitement is that the Reaper program indicates that the Air Force finally "gets it": While the Predator seemed a one-shot, a fluke, the Reaper indicates a serious, long-term, future commitment to remotely piloted drones (RPDs)... which will change the very character of future warfare.
First, let's define the problem...
We have long been able to design and build military aircraft that can take far more punishment than the pilot inside. For a simple example, we already push the limits of the human skeleton and internal-organ integrity with modern fighters, which can execute 9-G turns. During such a maneuver, a pilot who normally weighs 170 lbs instead weighs over 1,500 lbs; he can barely breathe, and his heart simply cannot pump blood that has suddenly grown as heavy as lead "up" to the brain, through arteries that are simultaneously being crushed into significantly smaller diameters.
Anti-G suits help, as does a particular maneuver described as trying to overcome constipation by main force. As the subjective centrifugal force builds, the anti-G suit inflates around the thighs and abdomenal areas, squeezing them hard and forcing the blood brainwards, where it is most urgently needed... because once the blood "falls" from the brain back into the body, the pilot loses consciousness -- which most aviation experts consider a suboptimal condition in which to drive an airplane.
Modern fighter pilots have developed a technique for aerial combat maneuvers: They pull turns so tightly that they lose just enough blood to lose color vision and for vision to "tunnel down" to a small-radius circle, inside which they can still see the instrument panel; this condition is called "greyout." The pilot holds the Gs at that point; if he pulls harder, there is a good chance he will go from greyout to blackout... and that's probably lights out, as the plane can go ballistic and tumble before the pilot recovers consciousness.
But suppose pilots were able to take a sustained G-force of 20 Gs, 50 Gs, without having to experience greyout, let alone unconsciousness -- without any impairment of their flying ability at all. Imagine how maneuverable such aircraft would be -- and what an advantage over enemy pilots stuck in clunky Su-37s!
Well, that's exactly what the Reaper promises... by taking the pilot out of the aircraft entirely and letting him (or her) fly the plane from a few miles or thousands of miles away. (I believe that female pilots would be allowed to fly a Reaper in combat, as they would not themselves actually be in the combat zone.) Suppose the connection between pilot and RPD could not be jammed or interfered with, or at least that it was extremely hard to do. And suppose that, if something went wrong and the plane did lose contact with the remote pilot, it had enough AI capability either to finish the mission -- or at least turn around, come back to home base, and land itself.
Make no mistake: Planes like the Reaper, and perhaps future versions that don't even need to be remotely piloted, are the future of military aviation; and this innovation will swiftly spread to warships at sea and armor on the ground.
That last possibility has been discussed in military circles (and even among wargamers!) for decades. So-called "Ogre" tanks that are completely solid, containing no humans and having either a very small profile (hard to hit) -- or alternatively, being as much as a kilometer in size and armed with numerous tiny "Ogrelets" it can deploy as it rolls ponderously along... unstoppable by anything short of a strategic nuclear missile.
Small-sized Ogres could drive into a river, roll up unseen and underwater, only to suddenly emerge already firing on the enemy. But an RPD could also be so tiny it's overlooked... a miniscule RPD shaped like an insect that can crawl and fly, all controlled by a human operator somewhere else. The next "fly on the wall" AQI leader Ayyub Masri sees could contain a camera and microphone and be broadcasting his most secret plans directly to Gen. Petraeus.
(Imagine the paranoia that would produce, were we to let the existence of such RPDs leak to the New York Times... even if we didn't really have them! I envision Masri interrupting a vital AQI strategy session to run around like a madman, trying to squash a real fly with his sandal because he's afraid it's really a spycam. I wonder how long he would last in his leadership position if he declared "jihad" on flying insects?)
RPDs can also be bird-sized, flying overhead as "forward observers," directing equally smart artillery shells, missiles, and bombs onto the enemy's head. At the extreme, RPDs could be turned into "smart bullets," flying around corners and through conduits to kill the enemy. (Again science fiction was there first -- for example, the 1984 Tom Selleck movie Runaway.)
The Reaper's first combat deployment is expected in Afghanistan, and senior Air Force officers estimate it will land in Iraq sometime between this fall and next spring. They look forward to it.
"With more Reapers, I could send manned airplanes home," [Lt. Gen. Gary] North said.
The core idea is this: Human beings cannot take too much acceleration; they cannot be folded into a tiny space; they require air instead of water to breathe; and they can be killed by poison gas, by radiation, by impact, and by intense heat. But we can design machines that are not subject to those same limitations... so long as they don't need to waste precious resources protecting human cargo.
We can already make war machines tremendously more effective than our current stockpile; the only thing holding us back is the need to accomodate the (relatively) fragile human body. So if we remove that soft body, then we have no restrictions other than the physical limits of materials science, remote telemetry, and artificial intelligence. Imagine the scene in one of the Terminator movies where we see the actual battle in the future... then subtract the trite yawner of a science-fiction theme that the machines will seize control and attack us.
The future is nigh, moreso than ever before; and if we believe Alvin Toffler, it will be even more "nigh" next year, changing ever faster, accelerating along an exponential curve, until we all begin to experience "future shock."
But for now, I will bet money that those who live perpetually in the 7th century will be considerably more subject to future shock than those who have at least kept up for the last fourteen hundred years.
Date ►►► July 17, 2007
NIE Assessment of Threats Inexplicably Fails to Include Democrats - Updated
Source update: See below.
Warning: The just-released NIE from the Directorate of National Intelligence, coupled with the Democratic response to it, may lead to a serious and traumatic case of mental whiplash (quick, somebody call John Edwards!)
Here is one of the central findings of the NIE:
We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.
Translation: Since AQI is the only element associated with the broader al-Qaeda that is actually fighting hirabah against the West on a daily basis, broader al-Qaeda will try to team up with AQI (now contained with the "Islamic State of Iraq" group) to carry attacks to the American homeland. Success by AQI feeds success by the umbrella organization; defeat of AQI is defeat of al-Qaeda.
But here is the Democratic response to this section of the report:
Mr. Reid said the report underlines the urgent need to change course in Iraq, an argument also made by Representative Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who heads the House Armed Services Committee. “We must responsibly redeploy our troops out of Iraq,” Mr. Skelton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This will allow us to concentrate our efforts on Afghanistan and the Al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11.”
Equally important to the threat is the effectiveness of our response to the threat. How are we doing? Here is what the NIE says:
We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.
The Democrats interpret this passage thus:
But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said the report shows that the Bush administration’s national security strategy “has failed in its most basic responsibility,” to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his confederates and to eliminate the threat posed by their terrorist network.
Yeah, I remember that codicil to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force: that the only real goal of the War Against Global Hirabah is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, personally. Not even Ayman Zawahiri -- al-Qaeda's actual operational leader -- counts as anything other than one of "his [OBL's] confederates"... or in Gilligan's Island terms, one of "and the rest."
Bin Laden is the top man, and we should focus all of our resources, manpower, and effort on coming up with a plan to, as military strategist Phil Donahue put it, "just go right in there and get him."
Then we can all just go home and back to sleep.
Republicans appear to have a different interpretation of the NIE:
Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican minority leader, said that the new intelligence estimate confirms that the administration’s policies have weakened terrorist capabilities. “Retreat is not a new way forward when the safety and security of future generations of Americans are at stake,” he said in a statement.
What is most remarkable about the part of the NIE made public is the studied indifference to figuring out who is really behind the world's Islamic terrorism; while most serious analysts have had the revelation that all roads lead to Teheran (passing through Damascus), the unclassified portion of the NIE only mentions Iran in a single sentence -- and only as it relates to Hezbollah, which is openly the terrorist arm of the ayatollah:
We assess Lebanese Hizballah, which has conducted anti-US attacks outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland over the next three years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.
I hope the classified section is less circumspect.
I read not a single word about Iran's support for ostensibly Sunni Hamas, or their support for both Iraqi Sunni terrorists (foreign and domestic) and also Shiite death squads, such as the Mahdi Militia that used to be controlled by Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr.
And not even a nod towards the new evidence of a strong connection between Iran and al-Qaeda terrorists, as elucidated by Michael Ledeen at NRO (hat tip to Scott Johnson at Power Line). Ledeen quotes the president, who stands virtually alone among Republican or Democratic politicians in perceiving the true global nature of this struggle:
At his press conference last week, President Bush -- echoing the public assessments from his military underlings in Iraq -- gave a clear picture of the war. Remarkably, not a single political leader or pundit saw fit to notice the dimensions of the war he described:
The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that’s unfolding across the region...The same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers.
The same Hezbollah terrorists who are waging war against the forces of democracy in Lebanon are training extremists to do the same against coalition forces in Iraq.
The same Syrian regime that provides support and sanctuary for Islamic jihad and Hamas has refused to close its airport in Damascus to suicide bombers headed to Iraq.
...the war against extremists and radicals is not only evident in Iraq, but it’s evident in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan.
(I heard on Brit Hume yesterday that the president intends to use executive orders to put heavy sanctions on companies and organizations controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard; and that Bush plans to declare Iran's Qods Force a "terrorist organization," which will trigger a whole raft of new sanctions and prohibitions... which I hope will make it even easier to seize and hold (or kill outright) any Qods Force member caught outside Iran -- say in Waziristan, the Horn of Africa, or even the United States. But I cannot find written verification of this story; can any commenter help me out here? Thanks.)
If I must sum up the NIE in a single sentence, it would be this: The situation is improving, we're making much headway, but al-Qaeda, its affilliates, and other terrorist groups are still dangerous, toxic, and relentless... so keep fighting the good fight.
How the Democrats can translate this to "Nothing to see here, let's all just declare defeat and go home," is beyond my comprehension or forgiveness. 20 years from now, if we're still here -- and I firmly expect us to be -- there will be a lot of once-powerful Democratic "leaders" hiding in the dark and silent places, desperately hoping to be forgotten... because the alternative -- to be remembered -- is too painful.
Date ►►► July 16, 2007
...By Definition, Also Still "Lesser"
It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that Fatah -- the political party of Palestinian "president" Mahmoud Abbas -- is a terrorist organization. The dead giveaway is when a political party boasts a "military wing" (in this case, the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade) that commits terrorist acts with the sanction of the party leadership.
So why on earth does President George W. Bush treat Abbas and Fatah as if they were serious partners in the "Roadmap to Peace?" Why does he babble about today being "a moment of clarity for all Palestinians?" And what does he mean by saying "and now comes a moment of choice?"
Believe it or not, there is a realistic and rational reason why that sort of fancification may be a very good policy for the United States to follow. Let me explain...
I said before that we know Fatah is a terrorist organization because it has a military wing, al-Aqsa, that commits acts of terrorism sanctioned by Fatah.
But this brings up an intriguing comparison to another conflict: Both the two major Shiite political parties in Iraq also have (or used to have) military wings: The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- recently renamed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the largest political party in Iraq -- certainly used to operate the Badr Brigades, which were pro-Iranian terrorists during the Iran-Iraq war; while the Islamic Dawa Party has a historical connection to the Mahdi Militia and its onetime leader, Muqtada Sadr.
And thereby hangs our tale: When the SCIRI changed to the SIIC, that signalled a significant change in their attitude. They have made serious efforts to rein in the Badr Brigades/Organization, successfully enough that it's been a long time since we've even heard from them.
Similarly, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, once a close ally of Sadr, has by and large severed ties with Sadr and the militia he once headed (I consider his leadership dead since his failed attempt to return to Iraq and subsequent flight back to Iran).
Not completely; and Maliki still tries, now and again, to prevent Coalition soldiers from aggressively searching the Shiite slums of Baghdad. But in many very visible ways, Maliki has surrendered to the American demands that we be allowed to go anywhere, anytime, without warning -- and in concert with Iraqi army units (including those from Sunni areas) -- and that is why Sadr has fled Iraq: He knows he can no longer rely on his one-time ally.
This is why I added the caveat above that both parties "have (or used to have) military wings." Though both once did, and both once functioned as official terrorist parties (particularly in assassinating thousands of Sunnis suspected of collaborating with al-Qaeda), today they are clearly disassociating themselves from the militants: Badr is more or less defunct, while the Mahdi Militia has lost its Iraqi partonage and relies more and more on Iran. The separation is not perfect, it's not complete -- but it's unquestionably underway.
Similarly, as we saw in Anbar, Diyala, and Baghdad provinces, some Sunni terrorist-supporting tribes have likewise turned on their erstwhile allies, to the extent of actually going to war against them.
So what does all this have to do with Fatah? Simply this: The central point upon which the Bush administration hangs their policy of engagement with Fatah is that they are the lesser of two evils. As many sententiously point out, the lesser of two evils is still evil; but on the other hand, by definition, it's also still lesser.
Why does the president believe Fatah is the LOTE? Because the mere fact that they pay lip service to moderation indicates they understand the rest of the world does not support the idea of nakedly announcing the imminent destruction of Israel and driving the Jews into the sea. And even though Fatah's actions often belie their words, that still puts them one better than Hamas, which flatly and openly advocates the final solution to the Jewish problem.
If you like dueling aphorisms, here's one: Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. In the present instance, the mere recognition of the importance of international opinion as a check on overt aggression more than makes up for the clandestine nature of Fatah's continued attacks -- especially since everyone knows what they're really doing; they're not fooling anyone.
Another analogy: A man who commits murder by stealth at least acknowledges that what he is doing is evil by the rule of society, and he acknowledges that those rules are important enough for him to hide his activies.
But a man who simply walks up and brazenly murders his enemy without the least concern for society's reaction thereby tells us that he believes he is beyond good and evil as enunciated by society. He tells us that he doesn't give a fig what anybody thinks; he's just going to do whatever the hell he wants. That man is both more evil and more dangerous in my opinion, because he recognizes no behavioral limit whatsoever. Think of bin Laden boasting to the world about 9/11.
And our experience with Iraqi terrorist supporters indicates that when people recognize that something they are doing is shameful enough that they must hide it... then there is always the possibility that at some point, when concealment becomes impossible, they will stop doing it altogether.
Of course, there are several factors that make it much less likely that Fatah will ever reform the way the parties in Iraq have done (thus much less likely that the Bush "Roadmap to Peace" will actually work):
- First and foremost, we're talking about Palestinians. Palestinian culture is uniquely violent, irrational, and fanatical; no other culture even comes close in terms of the perpetual war of all against all. (Some other countries have brief spasms of staggering chaos; but the Palestinian Authority's entire existence is one long, violent spasm.)
- The Iraqis required a seminal event to wise up to their self-inflicted terrorist wounds: The invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party. There has been no such seminal event in Arafatistan.
- The current terrorism in Iraq is now widely see among Iraqis as being the result of two outside forces: Iran and al-Qaeda. Thus, opposition to terrorism joins synergetically with nationalism. Palestinian terrorism, though financed by various outside sources, is quite locally driven by groups such as Hamas, al-Aqsa, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and so forth.
- Iraq has existed as an independent and sovereign state since the early 1930s; they have experience with running a country: first a monarchy, then a republic, then a one-party dictatorship, and now a parliamentary republic again. By contrast, the Palestinians have never had to face the reality of running a country; like Blanche Dubois, they have always depended upon the kindness (or protection money) of strangers. Thus, like teenagers who have never had to work for a living, they make absurdist demands and enunciate grandiose schemes that they will implement as soon as they think they have the power.
These are all serious problems... but except for the first, each is surmountable and could change, and change rapidly, under the right circumstances:
- A "seminal event" could occur if a new Israeli government actually fights back seriously against Hamas and al-Aqsa, inflicting such a devastating defeat on them that their worldview is shattered. While picking up the broken pieces, they may decide to leave some lying on the floor, including governance by terrorism.
- Iran could begin to "cash in" its investment in the Palestinian terrorist groups by trying too overtly to seize control of Gaza and the West Bank. This could cause a huge reaction by more nationalistic Palestinians.
Countries giving aid to the Palestinian government(s) could follow the American lead and make that aid conditional upon behavioral change. While one can argue (as I do) that we don't go far enough along those lines, we certainly go farther than does, e.g., Saudi Arabia or even the EU; if countries start witholding funds from the PA, and if the latter turns to Iran or Syria for the missing funds, this could accelerate (3) above.
It's also unlikely that the Iranian pockets are infinitely deep; they have their own economic and political troubles. Eventually, the squeeze will force the PA either to start accepting their own responsibilities for running a sovereign nation... or they will collapse. Either would be an improvement over today.
Not much one can do about (1), but it's not clear whether this quality is implicate in Palestinian culture (in the David Bohm-ian sense of "enfolded") or grew from political necessity, given the circumstances.
In any event, Fatah seems much further along the "nation-building" curve than Hamas; and it makes a lot of sense to support the former at the expense of the latter. Too, even if it doesn't work, supporting one party and not the other in a dispute will inevitably fuel the civil war between the two of them, weakening both. Even though this may be a serendipitous side effect, rather than one of the prime reasons for the policy, I would still find it hard to believe that nobody on the Bush team has thought of it.
The alternative would be to label all Palestinian parties as terrorists and refuse to differentiate between them, thus ensuring their continued existence in perpetuity... or until the Millennium comes, and they are all somehow magically "wiped out" or ethnically cleansed from the region (by whom?). As I find that possibility even more remote than the chance that Fatah will moderate its behavior to more or less match it's public (non-Arabic) discourse, I think the Bush approach can be a useful, if rather minor, adjunct of a rational American foreign policy.
(Yes, Virginia: Sometimes lying is a better foreign policy than telling the strict truth at all times. That's why we have diplomats in the first place.)
I do agree the president seems to attach all too much importance to it; and there is little evidence that he has the realistic viewpoint I enunciate above. Still, whether through clever statecraft well-hidden behind Bush's poker face, or though inadvertently stumbling on the right policy for the wrong reason, I emphatically believe the Bush approach will work better, over the long term, both for us and for the Israelis, than would the approach advocated by many conservatives: adamant, angry confrontation with all Palestinian parties, without exception, all the time.
Date ►►► July 15, 2007
Qvis Cvstodiet Ipsos Cvstodes
All right, to jump right to Chevy Chase, Big Lizards carried off another $73,000 prize for winning the Watcher's Council vote last week:
- High Noonan, by Big Lizards.
This was our takedown of that harpy, Peggy Noonan -- most recently seen saying that "everyone" (read: Peggy Noonan) was "tired" of George W. Bush (read: frustrated that he won't listen to her advice) and just desperately wishing for a new president, whether Republican or Democrat (read: Noonan's open to voting for a Democrat, if the price is right).
Since we can't vote for our own posts, of course, I didn't; I voted thus:
- Hillary's Grand, Failed Cover-Up, by Cheat Seeking Missiles;
- Independence Day, by Done With Mirrors.
The first, as you have probably gathered, elucidates the hypocrisy of Shrillery geshreying the commutation of Scooter Libby's jail term -- considering the hundreds of full-on pardons that Billery sold for library-fund donations, even to felons who bilked seniors, the poor, and ordinary Americans out of millions of dollars... then fled the country to avoid prosecution.
In the second, Callimachus begins with this quotation from William Hickling Prescott's History of the Conquest of Peru; speaking of the Incan empire, Prescott wrote:
Where there is no free agency, there can be no morality. Where there is no temptation, there can be little claim to virtue. Where the routine is rigorously proscribed by law, the law, and not the man, must have the credit of the conduct.
Callimachus goes on to link the two seemingly disparate qualities of freedom and morality -- following in Ayn Rand's footsteps. It was short, pithy... I liked it.
Alas, only one other person did, for a second-choice vote (I wonder who it was?)
We didn't fare so well with the non-Council ("Nouncil") nominees; the winner was...
- Interview With Todd Bensman, by View From a Height.
This is just what it says it is: Bensman is the author of the newspaper series "Breaching America;" per the description at View From a Height, "The series followed an illegal immigrant and asylum-seeker from his homeland across the US-Mexican border, to his release by US authorities to join his family in the States. His homeland: Iraq."
One of the nominees we voted for did fairly well but didn't win; the other just lay there like a kippered herring:
- Anti-American July 4th, by Zombietime;
- Unhinged Anti-War Zealot Shoots Airman, Kills Self, by Michelle Malkin.
The first is a beautiful piece of photojournalism showing how San Francisco and the Propaganda III Art Show and Cattle Auction decided to "celebrate" Independence Day.
The second vote was for our nominee in the Nouncil category, and I freely admit I nominated this short Michelle Malkin post because I hoped it would get spread around to readers outside Malkin's usual circle.
Michelle highlighted a story about USAF Senior Airman Jonathan Schrieken, who was shot in New Jersey on July 4th by an anti-war fanatic... evidently because the attacker hated the military (according to a note left by the gunman, who slew himself after attempting -- and failing -- to kill Schrieken).
I find it amazing that the elite media thinks it unnewsworthy that an anti-war lefty would shoot an airman simply because he was in the Air Force, but there you have it.
However, the other members of the Council must also have found it unnewsworthy, as not a single person voted for this post -- or perhaps even read it -- other than myself.
As per, read all about it at the Watcher of Webelos' own site.
Date ►►► July 13, 2007
Who Can It Be Now?
In the article about the prosecution resting in the Jose Padilla trial, I tripped over this line in the lede:
For a star defendant whose name is known around the world, Jose Padilla has become almost a bit player in his terrorism support trial -- and some observers say the federal government may not have proved its case against him.
"Some observers?" Who might that mean?
Five grafs later, I had my answer:
"Although everyone has been referring to this case as the Padilla trial, the government's case against Padilla has been pretty thin," said David O. Markus, a Miami defense attorney who has frequently written about the case on his legal blog. "I'm sure the government lawyers are sweating quite a bit right now."
So there we have it: Whenever the elite media casts doubt on a legal case in the war against global hirabah ("unholy war"), declaring that "some observers" say the case is weak, they mean "some defense attorneys who run legal blogs."
Now we know.
Warner, Lugar Draft Bill to Oust President, Declare Congress Commander in Chief
[Correction added; see below.]
Republican Senators John Warner (VA, 64%) and Richard Lugar (IN, 64%) have introduced a bill into the Senate that would remove the president as Commander in Chief of the military, requiring him to report to Congress instead and implement battle plans at their direction:
Two prominent Senate Republicans have drafted legislation that would require President Bush to come up with a plan by mid-October to dramatically narrow the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.
The legislation, which represents a sharp challenge to Bush, was put forward Friday by Sens. John Warner and Richard Lugar, and it came as the Pentagon acknowledged that a decreasing number of Iraqi army battalions are able to operate independently of U.S. troops [because they have been decimated in both men and materials by valiant combat with al-Qaeda and Shiite militias -- as explained deep in the story]....
The legislation would direct Bush to present the new strategy to Congress by Oct. 16 and suggests it be ready for implementation by Dec. 31. [Regardless of what Gen. David Petraeus reports in September, one presumes.]
The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.
Fortunately, Warner and Lugar explained in great detail why legislation requiring the president to draft a battle plan at the pleasure of Congress -- a plan that would mandate a return to the strategy of 2005-2006 (which was working so well) -- would actually lead to victory in Iraq:
"Given continuing high levels of violence in Iraq and few manifestations of political compromise among Iraq's factions, the optimal outcome in Iraq of a unified, pluralist, democratic government that is able to police itself, protect its borders, and achieve economic development is not likely to be achieved in the near future," the Warner-Lugar proposal said....
The Warner-Lugar proposal states that "American military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq must adjust to the reality that sectarian factionalism is not likely to abate anytime soon and probably cannot be controlled from the top."
Accordingly, Warner and Lugar say Bush must draft a plan for U.S. troops that would keep them from "policing the civil strife or sectarian violence in Iraq" and focus them instead on protecting Iraq's borders, targeting terrorists and defending U.S. assets.
In short, the "surge," not quite a month old, has failed miserably, so we must retreat, surrender, and declare defeat. Well a day! That's certainly compelling... who could argue with that?
But let no one accuse either gentleman of being an "armchair general." Sen. Warner served in the United States Navy during World War II for a solid year, rising to the rank of PO3. He joined the Marines later during the Korean War, then stuck it out for ten years in the reserves, eventually skyrocketing to the rank of captain. Sen. Lugar's career was even more illustrious: After graduating college, he served for three years in the peacetime Navy. Lugar was also an Eagle Scout. He has 34 honorary doctorate degrees.
[Corrected previous paragraph to add Warner's Marine Corps experience. - The Mgt.]
Legal experts, speaking on condition of anonymity because they have not been consulted, do not appear in the article, and in fact know absolutely nothing about the Warner-Lugar proposal, expressed skepticism that it was even constitutional for the United States Congress to order the President of the United States to craft and implement a specific battle plan.
But what do they know? To paraphrase Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and, well, nearly every other Democrat and RINO Republican... all three branches of government are coequal; but some are more coequal than others.
We shall watch Congress's future antics with great interest.
(One more point needs elucidation, giving me the opportunity to play "sea lawyer" again -- a chance I rarely pass up! But I'll save it for the "slither on.")
Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; I never graduated law school; I never attended law school; I never applied to law school; I know absolutely nothing about the law, probably less than the butcher at the Armenian meat market down the street opposite Ralphs Fresh Fare. But I enjoy playing lawyer on this blog. Try and stop me!
The AP article also contains this:
The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.
Curiously, however, the actual operational language in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq Resolution of 2002 mentions neither Saddam Hussein nor weapons of mass destruction. It says:
SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
(a) Authorization.--The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to --
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
A dizzying array of "whereases" lurk at the beginning, some of which do discuss WMDs; but there are also numerous whereases that talk about the danger of terrorists from al-Qaeda and other groups operating in Iraq; for example:
Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;
Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;
This seems, at least prima facie, to justify continued combat in Iraq even after Saddam Hussein is deposed in order to prevent al-Qaeda and "other international terrorist organizations" from remaining in Iraq. And then there is also this:
Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),'' that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region,'' and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688'';
UNSC Resolution 688 "condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population" and "demands that Iraq... immediately end this repression" and "ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected"-- which seems a pretty open-ended call to create a democratic state in Iraq and not allow any group -- including the majority Shia -- to impose theocratic, dictatorial rule.
While I don't want to get too far out on a limb or express an opinion before the many lawyers (and sea lawyers!) in Congress have spoken, it sure seems as if the 2002 AUMF authorizes rather more than simply removing Saddam Hussein and bringing in international inspectors to look for WMD.
Date ►►► July 12, 2007
Iraq Preliminary Benchmark Assessment: Pretty Good, Could Be Better
Elite media reporting: not so good, vast room for improvement.
The White House has released its first, preliminary assessment of Iraq's progress during the counterinsurgency, Operation Phantom Thunder; and considering how short a time the operations have been fully manned and actually under way (only since June 15th), Iraq has already made quite remarkable progress. (The report can also be downloaded in HTML, rather than pdf.)
Nevertheless, there are areas -- mostly political -- that are lagging. This is exactly what we would expect: The purpose of the new strategy is to give Baghdad "breathing room" to enact the necessary legislation: oil and natural gas revenue sharing; initiating local elections; un-de-Baathification (letting former Baathists who do not have blood on their hands back into government and society); removing police units from sectarian, even militia control; and stopping political interference with military operations. Obviously, political gains will all come towards the end, after security has been reestablished. That's the whole point of the security operation.
By Big Lizards' independent count, seven of the 18 benchmarks are making satisfactory progress, five are not, and the last six are indeterminate for one of several reasons. Let's start with the good news...
Overall, of the 18 benchmarks established by Congress, Iraq has made clear, unambiguous, satisfactory progress on seven (39%):
- (i) Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional review;
- (iv) Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions;
- (viii) Establishing supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan;
- (ix) Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations;
- (xii) Ensuring that, as Prime Minister Maliki was quoted by President Bush as saying, “the Baghdad Security Plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation;”
- (xiv) Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad;
- (xvi) Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
They have made clearly unsatisfactory progress on five benchmarks (28%):
- (ii) Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Ba’athification reform;
- (iii) Enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources to the people of Iraq without regard to the sect or ethnicity of recipients, and enacting and implementing legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shi’a Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner;
- (x) Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decisions in consultation with U.S. Commanders without political intervention to include the authority to pursue all extremists including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias;
- (xv) Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently;
- (xviii) Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the ISF.
Mixed or inappropriate measures
The remaining six benchmarks (33%) either show mixed results, or else facts on the ground indicate that they are not appropriate metrics at this time:
- (v) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections.
This is a multi-part benchmark; the first part -- establishing the electoral commission -- is proceeding satisfactorally, but establishing the law for local elections has not yet happened. Thus, parts 3 and 4 cannot yet be implemented, as they await the law.
- (vi) Enacting and implementing legislation addressing amnesty [of those who fought against the Coalition or against the new Iraqi government].
The White House and Pentagon believe that the conditions on the ground are not yet ripe for a general amnesty; it's more important to continue to turn more and more Sunnis against al-Qaeda and Shia against the miltias. Once the fighting is over, then it may be time to talk about a general amnesty; but not while the war still rages.
- (vii) Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the constitution of Iraq.
Again, the Pentagon, the State Department, and even the U.N. do not believe this is the right time to enage in DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration):
Assessment: The prerequisites for a successful militia disarmament program are not present. In fact, international experts, including the U.N., have expressed reservations to advancing this proposal at the present time. The U.N. DDR Advisory Mission to Baghdad Report (April 25 - May 2, 2007) stated, “The Iraq environment makes it most unlikely that traditional DDR can take place, and planning should take this into account.” Likewise, a State Department internal review has shown that the timing is not right for a full-scale DDR program in Iraq. Given the absence of the necessary conditions for DDR, the absence of legislation on militia disarmament has had no effect. The current plan and strategy calls for the passage of such legislation when the necessary conditions are present.
It is silly to count as "unsatisfactory" a benchmark that was premature to begin with; such an assessment does not adequately convey what is actually happening.
- (xi) Ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.
In this case, much progress has been made; but because we have set such a high standard, they had to say "unsatisfactory."
However, simply saying progress has not been satisfactory gives entirely the wrong impression. As the report says:
Assessment: The Government of Iraq has not at this time made satisfactory progress in ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law; however, there has been significant progress in achieving increased even-handedness through the use of coalition partnering and embedded-transition teams with Iraqi Security Force units. The presence of Coalition Forces in JSSs and Combat Outposts (COPs) has had a positive effect on ensuring a more even-handed approach, and Iraqi officials continue to communicate the importance that all terrorist organizations be targeted, regardless of their affiliation or ethnic background. ISF performance has generally been adequate, particularly when partnered with Coalition Forces.
This is another mixed benchmark: They're making progress, but the standard for measuring the benchmark was set much too optimistically. Simply saying they're not making satisfactory progress masks the extraordinary progress they have made, especially considering the starting point last year.
- (xiii) Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security.
Another two parter: The level of sectarian violence in Iraq is down substantially; but there are still too many local security units infiltrated by Shiite or Sunni militias.
- (xvii) Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.
This benchmark has subtlely mixed results: Iraq has made satisfactory progress in allocating the $10 billion; but infrastructure is not yet present for them to spend it.
Elite media disinformation campaign
The final score is thus 39% positive, 28% negative, and 33% mixed or inappropriate measures. This is actually a remarkably good score, considering conditions in 2006.
But that's not what the drive-by media wanted to see. It's not even what their double-secret sources told them: They predicted that the assessment would be "gloomy," would show a lack of progress, and would be more fodder for the Democrats' psalm of surrender.
Thus, they reacted as one would expect from people whose overriding interest is saving the world -- meaning "saving the world from George Bush and the Republicans" -- not reporting facts: They simply ignored the differences between their expectation and the reality... and reported the expectation.
Thus, virtually every news source, from AP to the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times, and even the Fox News report, falsely claims that there were eight satisfactory benchmarks, eight unsatisfactory ones, and only two mixed -- instead of the seven sats, five unsats, and six mixed one gets from a realistic assessment of the assessment.
I suspect many media sources simply played follow-the-leader without doing their own independent count (as we do above); but the ringleaders knew exactly what they were doing... they were lying.
What is the point of this falsehood? Simple: If the score is 39% to 28%, then clearly the report is overall positive. But if instead it's 44% to 44%, then it's at best disappointing, and perhaps overall negative, if the media decide (as most do) that a tie goes to the cut-and-runner.
As usual, the LA Times is the most aggressive, heading their story "Iraq's failure on benchmarks is fodder for Democrats." The others have more neutral headlines, through they emphasize the negative in the story itself. For example, here is the lede from the WaPo piece:
Iraqi progress on political and military goals sought by Congress has been mixed during the past several months, with slow advances toward some of the targets and paralysis or even reverses in other areas, the White House said today in a much-anticipated assessment.
What, nothing is actually going well? Did we read the same report? (Answer: No; Big Lizards read the report... the Post reread their stories from yesterday, before the report was released.)
AP summarizes (or caricatures) the report thus:
The report said that despite progress on some fronts by the government of Nouri al-Maliki, "the security situation in Iraq remains complex and extremely challenging," the "economic picture is uneven" and political reconciliation is lagging.
Considering this is a preliminary report compiled less than a month after Operation Phantom Thunder began, it's hardly surprising that security would still be "complex and extremely challenging." (All three vague charges could also apply to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even Israel!)
Even the New York Times, which makes a faint effort to be even-handed, betrays its bias. They allow a number of hard-core Democratic leftists to negatively characterize the preliminary assessment -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, 90%), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sen. John Kerry (D-Harvard, 95%) -- but did not ask the opinion of even a single Republican on Capitol Hill.
They also trot out a shopworn Democratic talking point:
Asked why he was resistant to the idea of a change of course in Iraq, which has found wide support among Americans in recent polls, Mr. Bush said he was not surprised that there was deep concern. “I believe we can succeed,” he said, “and I believe we are making security progress that will enable the political track to succeed as well.”
Mr. Bush has said repeatedly that he is willing to be flexible on Iraq strategy and tactics, but that he will be guided by his military commanders, not by opinion surveys.
But what they fail to quote is the long section after the first part of Bush's answer in which he argues that he did change course, disputing the fundamental premise of the Democratic position (and their elite-media water carriers):
I went to the country and said, I have made this decision. I said, What was happening on the ground is unsatisfactory in Iraq.
In consultation with a lot of folks, I came to the conclusion that we needed to send more troops into Iraq, not less, in order to provide stability, in order to be able to enhance the security of the people there.
And David asked for a certain number of troops. David Petraeus asked for a certain number. General Petraeus asked for a certain number of troops. And he just got them a couple of weeks ago....
Since the reinforcements arrived, things have changed.
For example, I would remind you that Anbar province was considered lost. Maybe some of you reported that last fall.
And yet today, because of what we call bottom-up reconciliation, Anbar province has changed dramatically.
The same thing is now beginning to happen in Diyala province.
There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where violence is down. There are still car bombs, most of which have the Al Qaida signature on them.
But they're declining, you know. So there's some measurable progress.
So the Times is still up to its old tricks; but even they were forced to admit much progress, according to the report that yesterday they predicted would report virtually no progress at all.
Their wannabe namesake, the LA Times, has the most absurd take: They imagine that the very idea of measuring benchmarks was a "costly blunder", leading to fury among unnamed administration or military "officials":
The Bush administration's decision to set benchmarks for measuring the progress of the Iraq mission is now seen by some U.S. officials as a costly blunder that has only aided the White House's critics in Congress and its foes in Iraq.
When they began publicizing the benchmarks a year ago, administration officials saw them as realistic goals that would prod the Iraqi government toward reconciliation, while helping sustain political support for the effort at home. The yardsticks include steps vital to Iraq's stability: passage of a law to divide oil revenue among the key communities, reforms to allow more members of Saddam Hussein's party back into the government, and elections to divide power in the provinces.
Yet now, with the major goals still out of reach, the administration is playing down their importance. Administration officials instead are emphasizing other goals -- some of which are less ambitious but have been attained....
In private, many officials were more scathing in their critique, saying that defining the goals in such a way galvanized resistance in Iraq and gave war critics a way to argue that the U.S. mission was falling short.
"You better believe it was a mistake," said a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity when criticizing administration policy. "In any armed conflict, trying to predict the future is folly. You are setting up some degree of failure."
So all in all, if I had to give Iraq a letter grade on the benchmarks established by the administration, I would have to allocate a B-. It would be a C+, except that three of the six "mixed or inappropriate" benchmarks shouldn't be counted at all. Thus, the proper percent is 7 satisfactory assessments out of 15 valid benchmarks, or 47% positive, compared to 5 out of 15 (33%) negative, which is signficantly more positive than negative.
But grading the elite media's coverage, I have to give them a D+... they didn't so much report on what was actually in the interim report, as repeat and justify what they expected and predicted would be there; they warped their coverage to justify what they wrote earlier, rather than just reporting straight.
So a B- for Iraq and a D+ for the media; looks like both have shown improvement!
Date ►►► July 11, 2007
"Victory Is Silence"
Driving home from my épée lesson today, I was listening to the second hour of Hugh Hewitt's show. He was only taking callers who were current active-duty military who had either been in Afghanistan or Iraq; but he made one exception. That exception was such an exceptional call, I simply must share (before Dean Barnett does, I hope!)
The caller's name was Bruce, and he was a civilian. His son is active duty in Iraq right this minute, and Hugh let him on to speak on behalf of the son. What follows is not verbatim quotation; I don't have a transcript, of course, because it was just broadcast less than an hour ago. But the substance is pretty accurate, as any subsequent transcript will prove.
"Your son is currently in Iraq, right?" asks Hugh; "how's he doing?"
"He's going out of his mind with boredom... because he's stationed in Ramadi, and he hasn't heard a shot fired in combat for the last six weeks."
Bruce went on to explain that Ramadi is so peaceful, the residents and Coalition members are rebuilding all the damage caused by years of al-Qaeda infestation. Then he returned to the lack of gunfire in what used to be al-Qaeda central... and Bruce said the following:
"This is what I want to tell all those people in Washington. This is what Victory is; Victory is silence."
He said he had just heard CNN journalist Michael Ware on some news show say that Ramadi was the home base of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Bruce wished Ware would just go there and see for himself what it was really like. But that's unlikely, even though Ware is based in Baghdad. And it wouldn't have much effect on the debate in D.C. anyway: There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.
The Democrats (and some renegade Republicans) hear nothing; nothing penetrates, nothing rattles round their skulls like dried-out knucklebones. But in Ramadi, there is Nothing to hear; and that is exactly what we're looking for: Not a signing ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri, but just simple peace, quiet, and Nothing.
Victory is silence.
Bush Muzzled Sturgeon General - Thank God!
The newest attempt by Democrats to gin up a scandal against President Bush -- one that actually might stick, not another "fired U.S. attorneys" or "commuted Libby to keep him quiet" fizzle -- is working its way through the elite media like a kidney stone through the... oh, let's not go there. The president stands accused of "muzzling" his surgeon general:
President Bush's most recent surgeon general accused the administration Tuesday of muzzling him for political reasons on hot-button health issues such as emergency contraception and abstinence-only education.
Dr. Richard Carmona, the nation's 17th surgeon general, told lawmakers that all surgeons general have had to deal with politics but none more so than he.
Yes... Carmona, uniquely among all sturgeon generals in American history (the office dates back to 1871), has had to report to civilians. Well... actually, no. Ever since the reorganization of the office, the SG has reported to the Assistant Secretary for Health, who reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who reports to the president. Dr. Carmona evidently found this rather intolerable:
"The reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas," said Carmona, who served from 2002 to 2006.
This is despicable! How dare Bush demote the surgeon general to such a lowly position, folding his office into the Department of Health and Human Services, taking away his budget, and making him report to a lowly assistant secretary. The nerve! Carmona and his new friend, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA, 95%), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, heap abuse on Bush's head for treating "the nation's doctor" so outrageously.
But wait... is it really fair to blame Bush and Bush alone for the reorganization? After all, Congress had a hand in this too: It could only have happened with congressional legislation. And, although the Republicans did control Congress at the time of the reorganization, they had only a razor-thin one-seat advantage in the Senate and an eight-seat majority in the House (well, seven-seat, actually, since there was an independent who caucused with the Democrats)... so the reorganization almost certainly was bipartisan.
Thus, we had a narrowly divided Congress, bipartisan reform, and a newly minted Republican president without much experience handling Congress. And besides, it happened in 1953, when the future Dr. Carmona was four years old, and the future President Bush was seven. So it hardly seems fair to blame President Bush exclusively, does it?
Carmona took his complaints to the excessively non-partisan Rep. Waxman, who dealt with them in his usual manner, rising above all partisan bickering to take the high road:
Carmona testified Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Also appearing were Drs. C. Everett Koop, who served as surgeon general from 1981-1889, and David Satcher, who served from 1998-2001.
"Political interference with the work of the surgeon general appears to have reached a new level in this administration," said committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
It is fortunate that the Democrats are now in charge of Congress, so that we no longer have "political interference in the work of the surgeon general":
His testimony comes two days before the Senate confirmation hearings of his designated successor, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr. Two members of the Senate health committee have already declared their opposition to Dr. Holsinger’s nomination because of a 1991 report he wrote that concluded that homosexual sex was unnatural and unhealthy. Dr. Carmona’s testimony may further complicate Dr. Holsinger’s nomination.
So how, exactly, was Dr. Carmona muzzled? First of all, you have to understand that the office of the surgeon general has frequently been occupied by certifiable kooks:
- C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan's surgeon general and groomer of the nation's goofiest beard.
Koop compared cigarettes to heroin and cocaine -- and cigs got the worst of it; Koop believed that third graders should get sex education (to ward off AIDS), and that instruction later in grade school should include lessons in how to put on a condom.
- Minnie Joycelyn Elders, Bill Clinton's first surgeon general, often called "the Dr. Ruth of Health and Human Services."
(For some odd reason, I find this appointment appropriate to the appointer.)
Elders seemed obsessed with sex and went Koop one further in her outré sex-education ideas: In addition to condom usage, she also thought public schools should teach children how to masturbate (to ward off AIDS), evidently on the assumption that they might otherwise never learn. I never found out whether the class included a lab, and whether it was co-ed (seems like that would make it easier to pass).
She also was quoted as saying, "We must stop this love affair with the fetus."
- David Satcher, Bill Clinton's second surgeon general, who also served as Asssistant Secretary of Health, thus reporting to himself. (I wonder if he gave himself good evaluations?)
Continuing the sexual theme of the Clinton presidency, Dr. Satcher issued a "call to action" (one of a series -- collect the whole set!) on the subject of AIDS... thereby perpetuating the myth that AIDS is the most urgent medical crisis in America, despite the fact that it was not even in the top 15 causes of death in the United States at the time. (I suppose AIDS is sexier than heart disease and cancer.)
When Satcher's term expired in 2002, Bush -- rather busy with other matters and recognizing the low repute to which the office had fallen -- made another one of his "hands across the aisle" Democratic appointments. He gets in trouble every time he does this (cf. Secretary of Transportation Norman "Baseball" Mineta). I have no hard evidence that Carmona is a Democrat; but a romp through his Wikipedia entry certainly raises the possibility:
- Carmona is of Puerto Rican descent;
- He was raised in Harlem (Spanish Harlem, one presumes);
- After serving in combat in Vietnam, he returned to New York City and attended CUNY in the Bronx in the 1970s;
- He went to medical school at UC San Francisco, which is a highly regarded med school but politically about the same as UC Berkeley;
- And according to a local Arizona television station, KVOA, he plans to run for office. My educated guess is that he'll be running as a Democrat.
And then, there are his big-government, nanny-state positions... you know, the ones that Bush tried to "muzzle." Between Wikipedia and the more detailed New York Times article, we can piece many of them together:
- He strongly supports federally funded embryonic stem-cell research;
- He is dismissive of abstinence education (there's that persistent sex leitmotif again... what is it with ribaldry and surgeon generals?)
- He's a global-warming doomsayer, evidently utterly unfamiliar with any of the scientific dissent on that subject (which is true of most global-warming doomsayers: Most insist that there is no contrary scientific evidence, implicly dismissing all dissenting scientists as quacks, no matter what their credentials);
- Oh, and he also wants to ban all importation, sale, use, and possession of tobacco in the United States.
Carmona completely buys into the "secondhand smoke" studies of the last few years, many of which were conducted under a bizarre, sub-scientific confidence interval in order to produce the findings the anti-smoking zealots desired; in scientific circles, this is called "torturing the data until they confess." (I speak as a life-long non-smoker who detests cigarettes and is allergic to cigarette smoke.) Presumably, Carmona's prohibitionism would extend to cigars and pipes (which I also do not smoke).
The specific example of muzzling concering stem-cell research illuminates the very Democratic psyche of Dr. Carmona. From the Times story:
When stem cells became a focus of debate, Dr. Carmona said he proposed that his office offer guidance “so that we can have, if you will, informed consent.”
“I was told to stand down and not speak about it,” he said. “It was removed from my speeches.”
The Bush administration rejected the advice of many top scientists on this subject, including that of the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Elias Zerhouni.
This is a perfect example of the narcissism of many scientists: Carmona's "guidance" was rejected, as was Zerhouni's "advice," because the fundamental issue was not scientific. It was ethical.
The question was not primarily whether there was great promise (as yet unrealized) in embryonic stem cell research; nearly every scientist agrees that there is, bearing in mind that promise means "potential." The question is whether it's morally right for the federal government to use taxpayer money to create embryos, just in order to kill them and extract stem cells.
What would Dr. Carmona's medical "guidance" be on that issue? Will he assure us, as a doctor, that zygotes have no souls?
Of course, Carmona himself, despite accepting many dubious scientific claims (the deadly effects of secondhand smoke, the glorious effects of sex education, and the world-shattering effects of globaloney) exhibits selective outrage about the scientific standards of others. From the AP story:
Another report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.
"I was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it." Carmona said. "I said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are."
He refused to identify the officials who sought the changes. ["The lurkers support me in e-mail!"]
Carmona said he believed the surgeon general should show leadership on health issues. But his speeches were edited by political appointees, and he was told not to talk about certain issues. For example, he supported comprehensive sex education that would include abstinence in the curriculum, rather than focusing solely on abstinence.
"However, there was already a policy in place that didn't want to hear the science [the policy didn't want to hear science?], but wanted to quote, unquote preach abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect," Carmona said.
And always, always, always he declines to identify in public any of the Bush administration officials he accuses of forcing "science" to take a back seat to politics. But he will happily denounce them in secret to Waxman and his committee, he says.
So what do we have here? We have another in a long list of surgeon generals who wants to use the office as his own, public bully pulpit, beating his own dead horse of a different color -- no matter what the president may have decided (based upon scientific and medical advice to the president more apposite than that of the senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Health).
And when he persists, his great-grandboss tells him to follow the lead of his boss and grandboss. Instead, he runs off to Henry Waxman's House Committee on Perpetual Scandalmongering, dragging along two other wacky predecessors, who all agree that President Bush is "politicizing" the never-before considered political sub-agency under the Department of Health and Human Services... all of whose top officials (including the surgeon general) are, and have always been, political appointees.
Worlds of If...
Apropos our post below about erstwhile Defense Minister of Japan, Fumio Kyuma -- who was forced to cut his (career) stomach for saying, in essence, that the cost of America not dropping the two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 could have been far worse than the cost Japan actually bore -- we offer up the following cautionary tale, as Rod Serling might have said...
Back in 1998, the History Book Club ran a contest: Members could submit essays about alternate histories, or alternate-history essays.
Friend Lee decided to take a poke at it; and as luck (for us today) would have it, he picked that very subject. (Either that, or the whole contest was about the a-bombs, and there was no luck about it, and this entire lousy intro is a murder of crow droppings. What do I care? I get paid the same either way.)
In any event, here it is, straight from the tremulous hand of Friend Lee... who is reputed to be the first mainstream Caucasian-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, ever to post on Big Lizards. I mean, that's a storybook, man.
So without frittering away any more of your valueless time, here is Friend Lee's contribution to the worlds of "if." Oh, one more thing: You have to remember that this essay is written from the point of view of a world where we never did drop the bombs... a world that looks very, very different from our own. Herewith...
Computer modeling of alternate World War II scenarios, which began in the academic world, has begun to generate considerable controversy in popular opinion. In one much-discussed simulation, Harry S. Truman made the immense, irrevocable decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan. To the relief of a war-weary world, this hastened Japan's surrender. But relief swiftly gave way to doubt and fear -- doubt about whether the use of such weapons had been justified, and, when the U.S. nuclear monopoly ended, fear that America had created the instrument of her own eventual demise. The simulation, however, produced a surprising result: the grim warning of the destroyed cities, together with stockpiled nuclear weapons as a strategic deterrent, ensured that the leaders of a multi-polar nuclear world, in future international crises, never pushed brinksmanship across the final threshold. A sort of "cold war" ensued, but catastrophe was averted. Deterrence worked.
Readers are doubtless aware that this scenario is also the basis for a popular board game simulating the politics of an imaginary twentieth century. What actually happened, of course, bore no resemblance to a "cold war".
First you must remember that in 1945, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was gravely ill but did not die. At Yalta and Potsdam, FDR's condition left him no match for Stalin, and he continued to deteriorate. Vice President Truman was obliged to make some difficult decisions, but whether to use the atomic bomb was not one of them. The military did not inform Truman of the successful Trinity test, because the extent of FDR’s infirmity was concealed by the President’s staff. By default, use of the bomb against Japan was never authorized.
More than 2.5 million American, Russian, and Japanese lives were lost in an invasion that many theoreticians now argue should never have happened. In the think-tank scenario, Operation Downfall (the plan for the invasion of Japan) is a minor footnote.
The divergence between history and the simulation widens. As we know, Japan was partitioned after the Allied victory. The Soviets demanded sovereignty over the Kurils, Sakhalin, and Hokkaido; the northern third of Honshu and an enclave in Tokyo comprised the Soviet Occupation Zone. The remainder of Japan was under U.S. occupation. Before FDR’s death in late 1946, the ailing President bowed to the Russian and Chinese demand that Hirohito stand trial as a war criminal. When the Emperor was sentenced to hang, MacArthur refused to recognize the war crimes tribunal’s authority. A newly-sworn President Truman relieved MacArthur of his duties.
There is a photograph which haunts the memory of every historian. An angry crowd is outside the building where the tribunal was convened. A young man waves a sheaf of political pamphlets. Many hands reach for the proffered tracts. His face is unmistakable; he is Yukio Mishima.
In the simulation, Mishima has an important place in twentieth-century literature, but in a prosperous, non-partitioned, postwar Japan, his politics are completely marginalized. In history, Mishima’s Emperor-worship, his fanatical hatred of Russia, and his willingness to threaten nuclear war to regain lost territory became dominant themes in South Japanese politics. The forever-demonized image of Mishima is inescapably linked to that day thirty years ago when everything changed forever, the day that the Hokkaido crisis exploded in a nuclear exchange involving Japan, Russia, China, America, Britain, and France. Today we remember over two billion dead.
The theorists have created a scenario in which the destruction of two cities allows the world to be spared. The public is obsessed with this alternate history because it does not approach the horror of the truth.
Date ►►► July 10, 2007
Is "Treasonous" Really Milder Than "Nativist?"
A quick drive-by...
Hugh Hewitt never tires of telling us that it was the supporters of the immigration bill who tore the GOP apart by their inflammatory rhetoric. But how is one supposed to respond to anti-bill rhetoric like this? Here is Arizona State Representative Russell Pearce, speaking on last Saturday's Beltway Boys:
KONDRACKE: OK, did you -- I saw you quoted somewhere as saying that Jon Kyl and John McCain, the former prisoner of war and war hero, were traitors. Did you mean that to the country or how did you mean that?
PEARCE: Well, that was taken out of context. What I talked about and have no regrets for is the bill that was run through Congress was treasonous. Actually, it was the sellout of America. It was amnesty to law breakers. It ignored the damages of the crime. It allowed gang bangers to stay here. It allowed convicted felons to stay here. It allowed terrorists to stay here.
In fact, the bill explicitly excluded all three of those categories from consideration for provisional Z-visas. Someone could argue that the prohibition wasn't strong enough; but to say the bill "allowed" them to stay is a flat, vicious lie.
However, I'm more interested in the fact that, according to Rep. Pearce, I am a traitor to my country, because I supported treason against the United States of America. I see no other way to read that, and the distinction he purports to draw is nonsense on stilts: By definition, anyone who supports treason is a traitor.
I agree that many of the bill's supporters had ham-fisted tongues. But it's time that the bill's opponents acknowledge that the rhetoric of many on their own side was at least as vile, as vicious, as truth-impaired, and as divisive within the party as anything said by supporters.
For heaven's sake, crying "treason!" is at least as egregious as calling someone a "nativist;" and there were plenty others, including other public office-holders, who did exactly that.
Neither side had a monopoly on speaking the inexcusable, and neither side was an innocent victim. Until bill opponents admit that, we cannot "move on" and try to heal the wounds.
300 (and Counting...)
(No, nothing to do with Spartans. Far from.)
I can't stand being shown up by anyone. But by Michael Medved, of all people... oy!
I started writing this post Friday, but the press of other business (specifically, loafing) caused me to leave it to languish in the "unpublished" bit bucket. But then today, in the first moments of his show, Medved brings the story up and undercuts all my thunder.
Well, if he surpasses us in celerity, perhaps we can at least outclass in wit.
With Congress's approval rating sinking even faster than that of President Bush (Mr. 30% being overseen by Messrs. 25%), it's amusing to note that the only major piece of legislation they have managed to pass is an increase in the minimum wage... and that came as a rider to a bill that caved to Bush on Iraq war funding.
But of course, it's not that the Democrats have been slacking off; they've been beavering away at vital business of the people:
"They've launched over 300 investigations, had over 350 requests for documents and interviews and they have had over 600 oversight hearings in just about 100 days," [Administration spokesman Scott] Stanzel said.
Democrats were dubious of the figures but did not offer their own.
"His numbers are as faulty as the intelligence they used to make their case for war," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. [Jim Manley is the spokesman for the forceful and muscular Reid; don't giggle.]
Ooh, snap! Of course, it's undercut a bit by the fact that the Democrats don't even know how many investigations they have initiated.
Let's have some fun with numbers. In their first 100 days of operation, the Democrats have averaged:
- Launching three new investigations a day, every day;
- Making 3.5 requests for documents and interviews per day, every day;
- Holding six "oversight hearings" per day. Every day.
Assuming Congress works a generous 8 hours a day (heh), that's one new investigation initiated every two hours 40 minutes, another subpoena filed every two hours 17 minutes, and an "oversight hearing" exploding every hour-twenty... all day, every day.
Thank God Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) are fulfilling the traditional Democratic role of looking out for the little guy!
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.
But even more amusing than the rash of rash investigations is how the 110th Congress characterizes the 107th - 109th Congresses:
"In the last six years, all they've had is a rubber-stamp Congress. Since January, Democrats have demanded accountability, a change of course and transparency," Manley said.
Let's see; as we recall, the last three "rubber-stamp Congresses" enacted the top Bush priorities of:
- Partial privatization of Social Security;
- MediCare reform;
- The Dubai Ports World deal;
- The confirmation of Justice Harriet Miers;
- Passing the "Byrd rule" to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees;
- Immigration reform;
- Tort reform;
- Spending restraint;
- Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coasts, and in ANWR;
- Cutting the red tape that prevents the building of new, modern nuclear power plants;
- And making permanent the Bush tax cuts.
A stunning record of achievement! (For the irony impaired... this is irony.)
They also sent to the president the McCain Detainee Amendment, which ties the hands of CIA and military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. The president loved that so much, he issued one of his infamous signing statements.
It appears that if Congress gives Bush even a few of his priorities -- then rejects the rest -- that constitutes a rubber stamp for the president. Does that mean that the post Gingrich revolution 104th Congress was a rubber stamp for President Clinton because it gave him the Telecommunications Act of 1996, welfare reform, and a line-item veto (struck down by the courts), each of which Clinton eagerly signed?
Personally, I'm pleased with the 110th Congress: I would much rather they twitted their time away "investigating" the Bush administration than spend it more destructively, such as raising taxes or trying to surrender. In fact, if Bush could persuade them to extend their annual summer recess and clambake through November 2008, I would be as happy as a doornail!
This week's winners in the Watcher's Council votes are enumerated below...
For the Council
- Guess Where Your President Was Wednesday Morning... Insh'allah, by JoshuaPundit.
My votes for this category were ignored, as usual. I cast my votes thus:
- Cage Match: Assimilation vs. Multiculturalism, by Right Wing Nuthouse.
This was a fascinating look at a social scientist, Robert Putnam, who had a large, well-performed study indicating that "diversity" was terrible for trust, community, and neighborhood cohesiveness... but he is sitting on the results because he is afraid either that right-wingers will use them to promote (wait for it) assimilation of immigrants... or that left-wingers will use the results to cast Putnam out of the group of the "anointed," as Thomas Sowell calls them.
- Quote of the Day: Islamophobia Edition, by Cheat Seeking Missiles.
This piece is about all the various "phobias" that radical hirabis and irhabis seem to exude. Some examples:
- "Someone touched my Koran phobia;"
- "Daughter has a boyfriend phobia;"
- "Young women dressed up phobia."
It's funny, but it also makes a serious point: That the sane seem obliged to cater to the psychotic whims of the insane; and that the Europeans especially increasingly buy into this insanity.
For the Nouncil
- Bless the Beasts and Children, by Michael Yon.
Another masterpiece of "non-fiction short story" (with a tip of the hat to Truman Capote) from Yon, this time contrasting the hope of Iraqi and American forces fighting side by side with the despair of horror by al-Qaeda, and what it looks like when they decide to tree a town.
It was good, but I didn't vote for it; hey, one Michael Yon is much like another, eh? Rather, I cast my broad upon the waterbed with these two pieces:
- Understanding Current Operations in Iraq, Small Wars Journal.
Also my nominee. A tour de force recounting of what we're doing in Iraq -- and more important, why we're doing it -- by some fellow named David Kilcullen. Who's he? Oh, yeah: "Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser, Multi-National Force - Iraq." In other words, Kilcullen is the guy that Gen. David Petraeus turns to when the general wants some advice on counterinsurgency operations.
- Guess Who Likes Earmarks?, by Captain's Quarters.
A typically great post by my old blogboss, Captain Ed; he finds that one of the most prolific earmarker in the House is... oh, it's too hysterical; I can't squish Cap's punchline!
Watcher in the weeds
As always, here you can see the full run of submissions (Islams?) that received at least one vote from one person, sometime, somewhere, somehow.
Date ►►► July 9, 2007
Funny Looking Cousin of 'Lay Low, Sweet Sadrite'
Bill Roggio reports: Muqtada Sadr has left the building. In fact, he has emigrated from Iraq (again) for Iran (again).
Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Shia Mahdi Army and the Sadrist bloc in parliament, has left Iraq and is in Iran, military sources told Reuters. An anonymous U.S. military intelligence official and a military officer stationed in Iraq told The Fourth Rail the Reuter's report is accurate, but would not say when they believe Sadr left Iraq. Sadr's flight from Iraq and return to Iran comes as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki issued an unusually strong statement calling for Sadr's Mahdi Army to disarm, and Iraqi security forces continue to battle his Mahdi Army in southern Iraq.
When I heard about him returning to Iraq last May, I knew he would never wield the same influence he used to over the Mahdi Militia: These thugs have no discipline; without the pack leader's constant presence, he cannot keep the dogs in line.
Rumor had it that, despite the plummeting attendance at Sadr's last two "demonstrations," he was organizing yet another. According to Roggio, it didn't quite materialize:
Sadr held two rallies, both of which had poor showings, and had to cancel a July 5 march to Samarra to protest the attack on the Shia holy site of the al Askaria mosque. Sadr's spokesman claimed the Iraqi government wouldn't provide security, but based on the past poor showing of his demonstrations, there are questions that Sadr may have harmed his image with another poor showing.
Remember what happened last protest? I summarized the noisome nabob's predicament thus:
We have a terrorist group that used to have six members in the Iraqi cabinet itself... but now they're gone.
The terrorist leader issues a call for a colossal rally... but only 15,000 show up; and that number includes many who wouldn't have come, had they known the leader himself would not be present at his own rally.
And the reason the terrorist leader didn't dare attend the rally is that he's currently hiding inside Iraq's greatest enemy, Iran, because he's so afraid he'll be seized if he returns to his "home" country.
Sadr realized his boneheaded mistake, so came back to reclaim his power; but per Roggio, it was too little, too late, too bad:
Since his return, Sadr has attempted to position himself as a moderate, nationalist leader, but with little success. He has flirted with the Anbar Awakening movement, and negotiated with Sunni political parties. His Sadrist bloc withdrew from Prime Minister Maliki's government, and abandoned its six cabinet level positions. The Sadrist bloc's 30 members have also boycotted parliament.
Let's run through the episodes so far in the Sadr serial:
- At Muqtada's order, the Sadrites pull out of the government; the government didn't fall;
- Sadr tries to make himself middleman between the Anbar Salvation Council and the Maliki government; everyone just stares at him, as at a ring-tailed piglet trotting on stage at the ballet, squealing for attention;
- Participation at his rallies, demonstrations, protests, disturbances, annoyances, irritations, rashes, and general smirks shrinks from 400,000 to 55,000 to 15,000, to, well, zero;
- He flees to Iran, then returns, only to find his lieutenants squabbling over his earthly remains as if he were already dead. So he toddles back off to Iran. Smooth move, ExLax.
What does all this remind me of? Oh yes, an old English nursery rhyme:
With twenty thousand men;
The King of France came down the hill,
And ne’er went up again.
Like the grand Dixie Chicks concert and revival-tent tour, the venue was just a wee sma' bit too big; and Muqtada Sadr -- the Prince of mince -- had to cancel his appearance. Well, Mr. S., I could have told you so. In fact, I did!
Groups like the Mahdi Militia or the Badr Brigades Organization have no natural hegemony; they rule by violence and intimidation. Like the Mafia, once gone, they're forgotten...
[W]hile the death squads are hiding out and laying low, the Iraqi Army and National Police -- and the local police, who are probably even more accepted in these neighborhoods -- will move in and establish themselves as the hegemonic authority. The longer they stay unopposed by the extremists, the more Iraqis come to perceive the elected government as having "fitness to rule," which is the actual definition of hegemony.
I believe this serial has come to its end. There was no climax; it just faded away. In a few months, everyone will be asking "Muqtada Who?" This time, perhaps Sadr will finally read the handwriting on the Babylonian wall and just stay in Iran. At least until they get tired of his odious presence and kick him out as well.
Date ►►► July 8, 2007
In a comment on a previous post, commenter Terrye said the following:
I know I am an Independent and I voted a straight Republican ticket in 06 while real true blue Republican conservatives like Noonan were telling people to stay home and let the Democrats win.
This started me thinking. This post began as a comment; but like Topsy, it "just grew," and I decided to promote it to the rank of blogpost. So here goes...
First, a whiff of heresy to start the day: Peggy Noonan is not a "true blue Republican conservative;" she is instead a "Reagan conservative," and thereby hangs a tale...
I cannot tell what her political position was BR (before Reagan), but I wouldn't be surprised if she grew up much more liberal than she became later. Regardless, she glommed onto Reagan during his 1980 campaign (or perhaps a little earlier) and hasn't let go since.
Now, many Republicans will argue that conservatism is entirely defined by WWRD ("what would Reagan do?") The problem is that Ronald Reagan -- who was himself eclectic -- chose to define his presidency on only two big (urgent) ideas:
- Economic policy reform: lower taxes and lower interest rates, though he never carried through to privatizing "entitlement" programs such as Social Security and MediCare, and he never quite understood the importance of small business -- especially independent (non government-subsidized) technological innovation;
- Confronting Communism around the globe.
Strangely, his eagerness to engage in "foreign adventures" to hit Communism never seemed to spill over into a general theory of active military and diplomatic engagement on behalf of other urgent foreign-policy goals. For example, after Libya committed the Berlin disco bombing, Reagan decided a response was necessary; but his response was limited to a single bombing raid. He made no attempt to get at the root cause -- in Libya, Arabic nationalism rather than extreme Islam -- and resolve it.
Qaddafi pulled in his horns, but not for long; and his subsequent attacks on America (such as the Lockerbie bombing) were more subtle than the Berlin attack had been. He also waited until Reagan was nearly out of office: Because Reagan had set in place no anti-pan-Arabist policy that would survive his own presidency -- he thought Libya a nuisance, not a new anti-American front -- Qaddafi simply outwaited him.
Reagan treated pan-Arabism, and the pan-Islamism of Iran, as annoying distractions to the "real" problem of stopping Communism, rather than as separate, distinct, and very serious threats to America in their own ways. Destroying the Soviet Union was vital, and Reagan was both prophet and general (like Mohammed!) on that front. But he was AWOL on the Arab/Moslem threat.
Today, there is a strong strain of conservatism that loyally plays follow the leader down that same blind trail; they typically oppose the Iraq war as the very sort of "foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues" that George Washington warned against in his farewell address.
That was good policy... in the 18th century. But that was then, this is now: 2007 is not 1796, and the world is far too interconnected and integrated today to retreat behind the walls of "Fortress America" and let the rest of the world rot. (See the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, for further information.)
Such Reagan conservatives were willing to go along with the first stage of the Iraq war, invasion followed by the swift collapse of Hussein and the Baathists; but when the war evolved to the counterinsurgency, reconstruction, and diplomacy of today, they lost interest.
For some reason I cannot ken, many "Reagan conservatives" are allergic to an activist foreign policy -- except insofar as it applies to Russia, Red China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and now Venezuela (anyone detect a pattern here?) In particular, they deride any response anywhere that goes beyond "killing people and breaking things," as if America were a blundering ogre whose only weapon is a massive tree trunk in one hand.
Thus, many -- most definitely including Noonan -- hated the post-war attrition strategy, and now they hate the counterinsurgency strategy... or even the fact that we have a post-war strategy at all. Their preferred plan would have been to smash Iraq flat, bounce the rubble, and then toddle off with a quiet glow of satisfaction at a job well done. Putting the rubble back together again makes the job seem overdone, in their minds, like trying to put the firecracker back together after exploding it.
They deride swamp-draining as "nation-building," which appears to be a term of opprobrium: Either they believe building something is inherently inferior to tearing it down, or they believe our enemies do not deserve (e.g.) the Marshall Plan or the rebuilding of Japan, or else they judge America to be utterly incompetent at doing so... which is a harsh and ahistorical judgment to make, considering our mixed but not at all catastrophic record of achievement at reconstructing the conquered in our own image.
Curiously, this reticence does not carry over to the remnants of the former Soviet Union; we are expected to make them capitalist democratic republics. I believe this to be an example of taking a prophet's action (or inaction), which may have been driven entirely by personal, secular, human considerations, and imbuing it with almost religious significance: We visit the house where George Washington once slept the night; we avoid broccoli because the prophet always hated it.
Reagan never took seriously any foreign policy threat beyond world Communism... so who are we mortals to run where the great man feared to tread? Remember, Khomeini took over Iraq the year before Reagan was elected; yet in Reagan's entire eight years in office, he never did a thing about the rise of the regional superpower and its terrorist arm Hezbollah -- not even when they attacked us and killed 241 Marines and 58 French paratroopers in Beirut in 1983.
For many Reagan conservatives, Reagan himself becomes not merely the greatest president of the twentieth century, which most of us would agree he was, but a Mohammed-like figure who both defines and limits modern American conservatism: Just as many extreme Moslems will not do anything unless the prophet did it first, it seems that a typical Reagan conservative like Peggy Noonan is suspicious of any action that goes beyond what Reagan did -- and what she imagines he would do today, were he only still alive.
Thus, at core, Peggy Noonan is angry at George W. Bush for not allowing the Salafist and Shiite fever swamp to fester, as "the prophet" did: To move beyond the divine master is to become apostate.
Because Bush has actively tried to dismantle the irhabi hirabah infrastructure by a combination of war, diplomacy, and reconstruction or "nation building," which the entire region desperately needs, Noonan feels he has abandoned Reaganism and become just like George H.W. Bush, the first man to jilt her at the ideological altar. (Unlike Jeanne Kirkpatrick -- whom Noonan wishes she were -- Noonan is more of a "feeler" than a "thinker.")
Bush-41 personally betrayed her: She wrote his "read my lips, no new taxes" speech. I think Noonan, like many Reagan conservatives, was always chary of Bush jr., breathlessly waiting for him to "betray the legacy," just as his father did. Thus, at the first sign of deviancy -- whether it's nation-building, immigration reform, or a more robust integration with the outside world, working with other countries rather than dictating to them (as Reagan conservatives falsely remember Reagan doing) -- Noonan, et al, instantly cried "havoc" and let slip the dogs of Reagan orthodoxy.
I have never had much respect for Noonan as a thinker; now I despise her as a spineless defeatist. I fully expect her eventually to find a home in Pat Buchanan/Bill O'Reilly socially conservative populism (as Buckley appears to be doing), thus completing the dawn-to-dusk cycle from naif to Reagan acolyte (Noonan's high) to aging Mother Superior of the First Church of Fundamentalist Reaganism.
She will end her days as an embittered Maureen Dowd of the Right, endlessly railing against the modern and clinging to her narrowing tunnel-vision of Reaganism as if it were poor King Charles' head.
Date ►►► July 7, 2007
Two More RINOs Join the Blundering Herd
Today, Sens. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee joined the chorus of Republicans gibbering that the "surge" is obviously failing:
"It should be clear to the president that there needs to be a new strategy," said [sic] Alexander told The Los Angeles Times. "Our policy in Iraq is drifting."
Gregg, who up to now had belonged to the camp of hardliners on Iraq, said in an interview with the same newspaper that attempts to put down the Iraqi insurgency with higher numbers of US troops "don't seem to be making a lot of progress."
It is vital to have "a clear blueprint for how we were going to draw down," he said. [That is, a clear policy to surrender quickly, before we accidentally win the war.]
Judd Gregg has an ACU rating of 72%, exactly the same as Lamar Alexander. Gregg and Alexander fit the pattern: So far, every GOP senator who has come out against the war or "the surge" has had a partisanship score of 75% or less.
The House of Representatives is too large for me to deal with now; but you would need at lesat 56 Republican defections, assuming every Democrat in the House votes for surrender. Let's just stick to the Senate for now -- as overriding a veto requires overriding it in both bodies.
So how many potential defections are there, if all the RINO senators -- who today swear they will not support timetables for withdrawal or a cutoff of troops -- change their minds and betray the country anyway? Are we in danger of Congress overriding a Bush veto of withrawal-timetable-defunding legislation?
How many GOP senators are there with partisanship scores of 75% or below? There are 18:
- Dick Shelby (AL, 74%)
- Ted Stevens (AK, 64%)
- Lisa Murkowski (AK, 71%)
- John McCain (AZ, 65%)
- Dick Lugar (IN, 64%)
- Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%)
- Susan Collins (ME, 48%)
- Norm Coleman (MN, 68%)
- Thad Cochrane (MS, 67%)
- Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%)
- Judd Gregg (NH, 72%)
- Pete Domenici (NM, 75%)
- George Voinovich (OH, 56%)
- Gordon Smith (OR, 72%)
- Arlen Specter (PA, 43%)
- Lamar Alexander (TN, 72%)
- Bob Bennett (UT, 72%)
- John Warner (VA, 64%)
No other Republican comes close to these scores: Above 75%, the next nearest Republican is Kit Bond (MO, 80%), followed by Lindsay Graham (SC, 83%), and then several senators at 88%.
In the list above, those senators who are up for reelection in 2008 (class II) are in blue font; those who have already "come out," that I recall (made anti-war, anti-counterinsurgency, defeatist comments) are in boldface.
Also, we must assume that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D/17%R) -- who believes in the war so strongly that he actually left the Democratic Party over the issue -- will continue to support the war effort; so he will always be a vote against withdrawal, timetables, and defunding the troops -- so too with John McCain, despite his RINO status.
Now that John Barrasso (R-WY) has been appointed to take the seat of deceased Sen. Craig Thomas (96%), there are again 49 Republicans. Overriding a veto takes 67 votes, so 34 votes against overriding will sustain the president's veto: Thus, we can lose as many as 16 Republican defectors and still sustain (counting Lieberman as one extra "GOP" vote on this issue).
Counting the RINOs above who are up for reelection in 2008 combined with those who have already "come out," I get a total of 14 possible defections... which would be close, but not catastrophic enough to override a presidential veto. And that is assuming that every, single Republican RINO up for reelection next year votes for withrawal or defunding... which I actually consider pretty unlikely.
(In case anyone is interested, the Democrats have only six DINOs in the Senate: Mark Pryor (AR, 75%), Bill Nelson (FL, 60%), Mary Landrieu (LA, 65%), Max Baucus (MT, 70%), Ben Nelson (NE, 35%), Jay Rockefeller (WV, 60%); they do much better at herding cats than we. Even so, several of these senators might be persuaded to vote against surrender, especially the four of them up for reelection in states that went for Bush in 2004 [blue font].)
So we need to keep vigilant; and those readers in states that have wavering GOP senators need to keep their senators' noses to the fire about the counterinsurgency. But I do not think that the defeatists will be able to cram surrender down our military's throat.
At least not until the next Congress; and by then, I believe the war will be won, and the only thing left to do for Democrats and their "defeatocrat" allies in the Republican Party will be to claim credit for the victory: "We killed al-Qaeda and Iran -- vote Democrat in 2010!"
Date ►►► July 6, 2007
WHO Killed Them?
In this otherwise pleasant article about us killing 100 Taliban in Afghanistan today, I stumble across this jarring sentence:
Both a U.N. and the AP count of civilian deaths this year show that U.S. and NATO forces have caused more civilian deaths this year than Taliban fighters have.
I beg to differ. When NATO drops bombs on Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters who are shooting at NATO or Afghan troops, and some civilians are killed -- who would you say "caused" those civilians to die: NATO or the insurgents?
The answer is the insurgents... because absent their incessant attacks, murders, and random use of explosives, we wouldn't be shooting at them in the first place; and the civilians wouldn't have died.
It's a very simple syllogism: Suppose a gunman takes a bunch of kids hostage and forces them to act as human shields, while he starts shooting at another group of children who are trapped in his line of fire. The police, who have no option, must return fire, wounding the shooter and also four of his human child shields.
It's entirely possible that the gunman, who might be a lousy shot, only managed to kill three kids before he was brought down. Thus, AP could argue (trying to keep a straight face) that "the police caused more deaths of children in this incident than the sniper did."
Which is technically true... but of course, without the sniper opening fire on his child victims, the police wouldn't have shot any kids at all! He, not the police, is the actual "cause" of the deaths.
This is precisely why we have here in California (and probably in every other state) the "felony murder rule," which states that if a death occurs during the commission of a dangerous felony, then each and every participant in the felony can be found guilty of murder... even if the victim was accidentally killed by a cop or some other person. Or for that matter, even if, e.g., an old man is so terrfied by the robbery that he has a heart attack and dies.
In other words, if an armed robber holds up a liquor store, and the owner gets into a shootout with him, and the owner's daughter is killed in the crossfire -- then the robber can be found guilty of murdering her, even if the bullet that killed her came from the gun of the store owner.
The reason should be obvious: If that SOB hadn't tried to rob the liquor store in the first place, the owner would not have gotten into a gunfight and the girl would be alive.
Evidently, this is a foreign concept to AP; for it doesn't appear to have occurred to them that when terrorists surround themselves with human shields, then they are just as responsibile (morally and legally) for those deaths as they are for the people they themselves kill directly.
Therefore, it is logically impossible to say that "U.S. and NATO forces have caused more civilian deaths this year than Taliban fighters have," when every last one of the deaths "caused" by American and NATO forces occurred as a direct result of an unlawful Taliban or al-Qaeda attack. (In addition, our side goes out of its way to avoid killing civilians; the irhabi (terrorists) deliberately target innocents -- Moslem innocents -- in direct defiance of Islamic law.)
AP should be ashamed of itself -- assuming that anyone who works in the elite media is capable of feeling shame.
Winning Does Not Equal Losing, Ms. Phillips
Yesterday, Power Line posted this gloomy view by Melanie Phillips on the war against global hirabah (unholy war). I like Melanie and read her blog regularly; I think she is very insightful. But like Mark Steyn and Robert Spencer, her world view is far too pessimistic -- every silver lining has a dark cloud before it. Phillips was talking about the recent BBC's attempt to legitimize Hamas at the wake of their reporter, Alan Johnston's release:
And this Hamas coup is in turn but one part of a broader strategy. Hamas is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. All over the world, the Brotherhood is behind the pincer movement of jihad through terrorism and jihad through cultural capture. And manipulation is the name of the game it plays. It creates terrorist or insurrectionary pressure; it then poses as the ‘honest broker’ peacemaker; it thus turns its victims into its supplicants and can then turn the ratchet still further. It played this game in France, when the French government implored the Brotherhood imams to restore order in the wake of the Muslim riots in the banlieues (riots that it said were ‘nothing to do with Islam’). It has played it over Alan Johnston. And it is playing it in Britain and the US, where its proxies have been pushing hard for ‘engagement’ with the Brotherhood as an antidote to al Qaeda -- and where, with the British and American political elite now in such moral, intellectual and political disarray, it is now succeeding.
We are losing.
This is absurd: We are not "losing." On the contrary, I even venture to say that we are quite clearly winning by any objective metric.
For one thing, look at the pathetic terror attempts by those “doctors” in the United Kingdom. With all their neurosurgery brainpower, all they could come up with was a couple car bombs and a crash. And failed attempts at that!
Blowing up cars used to be al-Qaeda’s specialty. If they cannot even do that, it tells you how depleted their personnel resources must be. The MSM often deride our military as having a hard time recruiting young people (which is not true, by the way). But I wonder how well al-Qaeda’s recruitment office could possibly be doing with the slogan, “Be all you can be -- blow yourself up for a lost cause!”
Compared to this, the UK’s intelligence office is doing a remarkable job. Whatever Melanie has to say, even she must admit the swift arrest of dozens of terrorists by the UK police was quite impressive.
It is no coincidence that no terrorist attack has succeeded in the United States since 2001. The greatest strategic asset terrorists rely upon is the element of surprise; that is the only thing they have going for them. But once we're on our guard, we can roll up their operations pretty swiftly.
This is true throughout the West. A few days after the March, 2004 Madrid train bombing in Spain, Spanish authorities moved quickly to foil successive attempts by the same terrorist cell, which would have caused a lot more damage than the initial train attack. No terrorist attacks have succeeded in Spain since then; just as none has succeeded in Great Britain since the 7/7 terrorist bombing of 2005 and quite a few have been thwarted.
Once the element of surprise is gone, terrorists cannot succeed in the Western world. All they can achieve today is blowing up the only place where they still have local support: their own home turf, the ummah. But the strategy of "fouling your own nest" cannot continue indefinitely: If you keep blowing up your friends and neighbors, your popularity may suffer.
Consider Iraq, where more and more Sunni tribal leaders and tribesmen are turning against al-Qaeda.
The same thing is happening to Taliban in Afghanistan. Remember the "spring offensive" which they so loudly announced back in January? Have you heard what came of it? Well, it fizzled. But the NATO "winter-spring-summer offensive" has not let up from last December through today; we have already killed more than 2,000 Taliban fighters just since January, compared to a scant 3,000 for all of 2006.
The Taliban never had a chance to regroup and attack; they're too busy running, hiding, and dying. Before they realized it, spring came and went; now it's summer, and the Taliban's position is worse than ever.
As Strategy page reported few days ago, the Taliban, which used to be an actual fighting force -- deploying armies and armor in the field -- now resorts to suicide bombings, rapidly causing them to lose what feeble local support they still had:
June 25, 2007: The Taliban has admitted defeat, in their own unique way. In recent media interviews, Taliban spokesmen announced a shift in emphasis to suicide bombings. The Taliban also admitted that the Americans had infiltrated their high command, which led to the death or capture of several senior Taliban officials, and the capture of many lower ranking ones as well. There have also been some prominent defections recently, which the Taliban spokesmen did not want to talk about. [Emphasis added.]
Also, according to the Asia Times, Pakistan is now cooperating with us more than ever before: Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf will now allow NATO itself to enter Pakistan in hot pursuit of al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents (hat tip to Power Line Forum poster RogerS):
Since last September, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan have been pressing Islamabad for the right to conduct extensive hot-pursuit operations into Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases.
According to Asia Times Online contacts, NATO and its US backers have gotten their wish: coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be.
Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf is expected to make an important announcement on extremism during an address to the nation in the next day or two....
[T]he US was even prepared to withdraw its support of Musharraf, who seized power in 1999, but after a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney to Pakistan, the general remains in favor. Cheney’s office is believed to run the United States’ Pakistan policy.
The reasons are probably twofold: the US needs Pakistan’s support should it attack Iran (covert operations into Iran are reportedly already taking place from Pakistan), and the US is concerned over the revival of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan
I am not saying we should let our guard down; we must remain vigilant. But Melanie Phillips notwithstanding, there is good reason be optimistic.
We should have confidence in the moral and physical superiority of Western culture over the hirabah waged against the world. The irhabis (terrorists) will not win... because when it comes to fighting, killing, and conquest, we are the greatest culture that has ever existed.
ACLU Left "Standing" Out in the Cold (and a Game of Pin the Party on the Judge!)
In a wonderful ruling today out of the Sixth Circus, the ACLU's gaggle of the perpeturally aggrieved was told to pack up their federal lawsuit against the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program; the appellate court held that none of them has standing -- meaning none could show that he, personally, was surveilled by the NSA.
The case, American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency, was appealed by the Bush administration after federal Motown Judge Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor ruled in August that the program was unconstitutional and must immediately be ended; she magnanimously agreed to stay her ruling pending appeal... provided that appeal commenced in one week.
In October, the Sixth Circuit panel issued its own (unanimous) stay. And then today, it announced the 2-1 decision voiding the suit. (In an irritating but understandable act of judicial restraint, the court, once having found a lack of standing, did not reach the merits of the case.)
So it's time now to play -- pin the party on the judge! See if you can guess which president appointed which judge...
We have district-court Judge Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor and appellate court Judge Ronald Lee Gilman ruling for the ACLU; and appellate court Judges Alice M. Batchelder and Julia Smith Gibbons ruling against the ACLU.
I'm sure you're already way ahead of me, so here is the answer:
- Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor: appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979;
- Ronald Lee Gilman: appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997;
- Alice M. Batchelder: appointed to the district-court bench by Ronald Reagan in 1985, elevated to the appellate court by George H.W. Bush in 1991;
- Julia Smith Gibbons: appointed to the district-court bench by Ronald Reagan in 1983, elevated to the appellate court by George W. Bush in 2001.
So for anyone who is still unclear about the monumental importance of presidential judicial nominations...
This isn't the end of the issue; there are other suits, and no circus court has yet ruled on the merits of this case or any of the others:
A number of other challenges to the program have been consolidated before a federal judge in San Francisco, and the federal appeals court in California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, will hear an appeal from one of the judge’s preliminary rulings next month.
Some plaintiffs in that case contend that they can prove standing even under the Sixth Circuit majority’s analysis. Those plaintiffs, an Islamic charity and two of its lawyers, say they have seen a classified document confirming that their communications were actually intercepted.
I'm not sure any of these plaintiffs will be found to have standing, even those who claim they've "seen" evidence, unless they can produce that evidence in court (which -- reading between the lines -- it appears they cannot). Regardless, I still have confidence that when the Supreme Court finally rules on those merits, they will find that the president and Commander in Chief has plenary authority to order survillance of enemy combatants.
Unless, of course, flibbertgibbit Justice Anthony Kennedy has another bad robe day.
News Flash: Another RINO Has It Both Ways!
So yet another Republican who is much more liberal than the mainstream of the GOP conference, Pete Domenici (R-NM, 75%), has broken ranks with the president and come out against the Iraq war... though he cautions he won't vote to end it, either.
Domenici joins such Republican conservative stalwarts as Dick Lugar (IN, 64%), George Voinovich (OH, 56%), Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%), Susan Collins (ME, 48%), Arlen Specter (PA, 43%), Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), Norm Coleman (MN, 68%), and John Warner (VA, 64%). Remember, the percentages above represent how many times the senator voted with the American Conservative Union.
To the elite media, a senator like Pete Domenici represents a "GOP stalwart":
In another setback to President Bush's increasingly unpopular war strategy, GOP stalwart Sen. Pete Domenici said he wants to see an end to combat operations and U.S. troops heading home from Iraq by spring.
The longtime New Mexico senator is the latest of several party loyalists and former war supporters to abandon Bush on Iraq in the past 10 days. They have urged a change sooner rather than later and further isolated the GOP president in his attempt to defend the unpopular war.
Here is the deep reasoning behind Domenici's content-free announcement:
"I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops," Domenici said. "But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home...." [Something like, say, a counterinsurgency strategy?]
"I have carefully studied the Iraq situation and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward," he said.... ["Measurable progress" would be, say, enacting an oil-revenue sharing bill? Alas that they're making no progress on that front...]
The senator said the situation in Iraq is getting worse. [Yes, the news clearly indicates the "surge" (I'll bet Domenici calls it that) has failed.] He said he now supports a bipartisan bill that embraces the findings of the independent Iraq Study Group. [Which, queerly enough, include initiating a "surge" (the ISG's term) to secure Baghdad and other vital areas (p. 50 of the pdf). Go figure!]
Hard as it is to fathom, Sen. Domenici doesn't appear to have read Big Lizards at all.
This is what passes for "carefully stud[ying] the Iraq situation" in RINOland: a misinterpretation of a misreading mistakenly missing the mission, followed by an indecisive and ineffective independence from individual initiative in the year 2007 Anno Domenici.
"I don't have a clue what's going on, but I know what I must do about it: nothing! And I'll do it good and hard, too."
Wake me when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) or one of the "Big Four" Republican presidential candidates calls for retreat and withdrawal to nearby Okinawa. Or heck, even when Pete Domenici does.
Date ►►► July 5, 2007
Comments and Trackbacks Should be Working Again...
...Now that we've rebuilt the blog.
If you tried unsuccessfully to leave a comment in the last day or so, please try again!
Date ►►► July 3, 2007
Even in the "West," Myths Live Free and Die Hard
Today, the Defense Minister of Japan, Fumio Kyuma, was forced to resign following remarks he made about World War II. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier defended Kyuma for his remarks; but when various factions in the Diet began to complain, including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party -- elections coming up, you know -- Abe dumped him like a dead rodent.
All right, big deal; PMs and presidents dump cabinet members all the time for various reasons. But what I find remarkable is what exactly Kyuma said that got him canned... and let me recap a bit of history for those of us educated in government-run schools.
By the end of the war in 1945, both America and Japan had suffered horrific casualties during the fierce jungle combat, the firebombings, and through starvation and disease in Japan. But the Japanese continued to resist until a few days after the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (These were swiftly followed by the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, which may also have played a role.)
Americans were in no mood for a negotiated settlement or a stalemate; we had just crushed the Nazis, and we had lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers. This was the country that had bombed Pearl Harbor us in a dirty, underhanded sneak attack: There is no way we would have accepted anything short of unconditional surrender. And even if we had, Tojo would have considered anything less than that a "victory" for his side... and he would have built up his forces and launched more attacks in a few months.
Thus, Americans believed -- and not without good reason -- that anything but unconditional was unacceptable. We would have invaded the Japanese "mainland" (the four central islands); the Japanese would have resisted to the last man or child; and casualties would have been staggering, even by the standards of World War II.
In addition, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, and the likelihood that they would enter the war, invade Japan, and force a partition à la Germany, terrified the Japanese far more than the prospect of American conquest. And now at last, we come to the dreadful words that Defense Minister Kyuma said that eventually ended his political life today:
In a public appearance on Saturday -- the unofficial start of the campaign for the upcoming election -- Mr. Kyuma said that dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 “ended the war,” adding, “I think that it couldn’t be helped.”
Otherwise, Mr. Kyuma said, the war would have dragged on and the Soviet Union would have ended up occupying northern Japan.
And that's it! Sachi has read the transcript in Japanese, and she reports that he said nothing more or worse in the original language than is translated here by the Times. But few scholars, even including Japanese, would object to either of these two claims... so why did such a hue and cry erupt over them?
Here is the sad answer:
The comments by Mr. Kyuma, who himself represents Nagasaki in Japan’s lower house, caused widespread anger by apparently treating lightly Japan’s status as the only country ever targeted by nuclear arms.
Although the debate over the use of nuclear arms is not the taboo it once was, Japan’s self-image as a special victim of World War II remains deeply rooted, even as revisionist politicians like Mr. Abe have tried to minimize Japan’s militarist past.
There you have it: Many Japanese consider themselves the real victims of World War II. On the Left -- the bitter, anti-war, pacifist, anti-nuclear, Japanese Left -- they imagine themselves victims of the atomic age. And on the Right -- the militarist, xenophobic, neoimperialist, Japanese Right -- they're still furious that we wouldn't allow them to have an empire like the British and Soviets had. As much as the Japanese Left and Right hate each other (and they do, and not at all cordially), like Sunni and Shia, they can always cast aside their petty differences for the greater cause: burning hatred of America.
Kyuma ran smack into the circular saw of "America derangement syndrome" in Japan; while neither extreme Right nor extreme Left can agree on either prescription or diagnosis of Japan's ills, they both emphatically agree that America is somehow the culprit. Thus, anything that any politician says that justifies the atomic bombings that ended the war -- even as innocuous as what Fumio Kyuma opined -- will cause activists on both sides the aisle to rise up and demand he cut his stomach.
Add to that ire the fact that neither extreme is ever happy with the LDP, who are relentlessly moderate: Each imagines that in elections against a crippled LDP, the extremes can make major gains (and both are probably correct). Thus, anything to damage the ruling coalition is a dream come true for the Communists and the Fascists who still duke it out in the peanut gallery of Japanese politics.
With close elections looming, the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party (especially Prime Minister Abe) decided that cowardice was the better part of valor: Rather than educate the Japanese population about their own militarist history (which the current government is in the process of denying anyway), they kow-towed to base tribalism and ran Kyuma off the reservation.
Anything to avoid shattering myths of moral and military superiority that, like a bonsai tree, have taken many decades to grow, twist, and shape into a form that raises Japanese self-esteem... and avoids dealing with the ugly reality.
Kyuma's words were a mirror; and as the good book* says, "when a monkey looks in, no acolyte looks out."
* The Principia Discordia, or How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her When I Found Her, by Malaclypse the Younger and Lord Omar Kayyam Ravenhurst.
Big Lizards Crushed by Massive Penalty!
Due to the intervention of a number of scurrilous, squirrelly liberals and assorted yahoos, the proprietors of Big Lizards -- "never first, but always final" -- were victimized into forgetting to vote in the last Watcher's Council, ah, vote. Look what you made us do!
As a result, we were assessed the maximum penalty allowed under the rules: a 2/3 vote reduction, which dropped us from third (yecch) to fourth (yecch yecch).
(Repeated request sent to the White House produced no executive clemency; they claimed they were busy with another case.)
Anxious to adhere to the terms of our parole, herewith are the winners of the last Watcher's Council dohickey...
For the Council:
- A Stunningly Dishonest Piece of Advocacy Writing About the Supreme Court, by Bookworm Room.
In this piece, Bookworm -- a lawyer -- disses Jeffrey Toobin (or Tubesteak, as I usually misremember his name). Now this is a fine and good thing all by itself; but it's even better when there is a reason to diss the Tubesteak. In the present instance, it's his perfidious pandering to liberal lawyer lackeys who want to connive in a captious conspiracy of Catholics on the Court.
Our own nomination was Dividing and Conquering, or Dancing With the Devil? If you'll recall (or as you can see, right where you are sitting now, by clicking the link), we asked whether dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood -- an organization that condones some terrorism but which has a number of members who reject all terrorism -- might not be the strategic equivalent of our alliance with the Anbar Salvation Council against al-Qaeda.
For the Nouncil:
- The Rupture, by Seraphic Secret.
Seraphic notes the divergence between the West Bank (alias Judea and Samaria) and Gaza (alias Gaza), which mostly boils down to the Muslim Brotherhood (there they go again!) being really active in the latter but not in the former, and the Hashemites being really active in the former but not in the latter. S.S. anticipates a violent "rupture" between the two "Palestines."
We nominated Iraq Report: al Qaeda Strikes at the Seams, by The Fourth Rail (Bill Roggio), about Operation Phantom Thunder in Iraq (not to be confused with the Phantom Lettuce, the first installment of the second Star Wars trilogy).
For reasons which would have been obvious, had any of you actually read the beginning of this post (slackers!), we cannot list or discuss the posts we voted for. But you can read all the toothsome posts that everybody else voted for right here!
Date ►►► July 2, 2007
Media Breakthrough: Finally Admits We're In Proxy War With Iran
I believe we're starting to see the first cracks in the media dike.
This New York Times story about the announcement by Multinational Force - Iraq today, directly tying Iran to the January attack on American troops in Karbala, is remarkable... Not for the accusation itself, which every reader of this blog or any other in the dextrosphere already knows about; but for the simple, straightforward way it is reported -- without evasion, defeat-mongering, or snideness:
In effect, American officials are charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American forces for years, though officials today sought to confine their comments to the specific incidents covered in their briefing.
When the Karbala attack was carried out on January 20 this year, American and Iraqi officials said that it appeared to be meticulously planned. The attackers carried forged identity cards and wore American-style uniforms.
One American died at the start of the raid, but the rest of the American soldiers were abducted before they were killed.
Some officials speculated at the time that the aim of the raid might have been to capture a group of American soldiers who could have been exchanged for Iranian officials that American forces detained in Iraq on suspicion of supporting Shiite militants there.
But while Americans officials wondered about an indirect Iranian role in the Karbala raid, until today they stopped short of making a case that the Quds Force may have been directly involved in planning the attack.
Even the headline is non-evasive: "U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack."
The story is not written with the certainty that the elite media reserves for discussions of the guilt of Republicans charged but not yet convicted of crimes; but it's still a couple of parsecs away from the usual reportage, where this story would be titled "Iranians Refute 'Wild Accusations' of Complicity in Attack." A month ago, this story would have begun and ended with a large number of quotations from unnamed "Middle-East experts," who would mock the American claims as the pathetic flopping of a landed fish; and would abruptly shift on paragraph four to a lengthy recitation of every American soldier or Iraqi civilian who had died, been wounded, been frightened, or had a sprained nose in the previous 24 hours... what I call the Generic Litany of Defeat.
Rather, the Times reports neutrally, giving the evidence a fair shake; they devote a couple of paragraphs to the pro-forma Iranian denial, but again report it with verbal neutrality... and the paper even interrupts the Iranian pish-toshing to lob another accusation:
Previously, Iranian officials have said that the United States is fabricating evidence to back up its accusation that Iran is sending bombs and weapons into Iraq. Some critics have cast doubt on the American military statements about the penetrator bombs, saying the evidence linking them to Iran was circumstantial and inferential.
In remarks that were reported over the weekend, Iran’s defense minister, Mohammad Najar, denied American claims of Iran’s “military interference” in Iraq. “We have many times announced that we are ready to cooperate with the Iraqi government so to restore security and stability to that country,” Mr. Najar was quoted as saying in a July 1 report by the Iranian student news agency, ISNA. It did not make clear which remarks he was responding to. Today’s assertions by the American military spokesman, which were presented at a news briefing here, marked the first time that the United States has charged that Iranian officials have helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and have had advance knowledge of specific attacks that have led to the death of American soldiers.
I believe we're near a tipping point, though I'm not sure which side of we're on yet. Here is the other coverage of this American charge against Iran that I've found...
U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said the Quds Force, part of Iran's elite Republican Guards, was seeking to build an Iraqi version of Hezbollah to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces - and had brought in Hezbollah operatives to help train and organize militants.
U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said the Quds Force, part of Iran's elite Republican Guards, was seeking to build an Iraqi version of Hezbollah to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces - and had brought in Hezbollah operatives to help train and organize militants.
"Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a Baghdad news conference. He said it would be "hard to imagine" that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not know about the activity.
The AP story still includes the Litany; but this time, readers must read all the way to the end to find it. And when they do, they also discover this buried nugget:
An American soldier was killed Monday by an explosion in Salahuddin province, a center for Sunni insurgents northwest of Baghdad. The U.S. military also reported the deaths of five U.S. service members killed in fighting a day earlier, in attacks in Baghdad and western Anbar province.
But violence appeared sharply down in Baghdad and other parts of the country, amid an intensified U.S. security sweep aimed at uprooting Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias in the capital and areas to the northeast and south.
Bergner said the Qods Force was involved in a brazen attack in the city of Kerbala in January when gunmen disguised as Americans made their way into a government compound and killed one U.S. soldier and seized four others whom they later killed.
Washington has long accused the Qods Force of arming and training Shi'ite militants who attack U.S. and Iraqi soldiers but previously it said it was not clear whether these actions were carried out with the full knowledge of Iran's leadership....
"Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity," Bergner told a news conference. "We also understand that senior Iraqi leaders have expressed their concerns to the Iranian government about the activities."
Reuters includes the Litany, but it's short and shoved to the very bottom of the story.
The briefing by U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner laid out what he described as an extensive program coordinated by Iran's elite Quds Force, the militant wing of the Revolutionary Guard, to provide armor-piercing weapons, funnel up to $3 million a month to extremist groups and train Shiite militiamen in three camps near Tehran.
While U.S. officials have repeatedly alleged that sophisticated Iranian-made weapons are killing Americans in Iraq, and that the Quds force is complicit in the violence, today's briefing offered the most specific accusations to date of direct Iranian involvement in specific attacks against U.S. forces.
The general also drew a new link with Hezbollah, saying an operative arrested in March had spent the previous 10 months worked [sic] with the Quds force to train Iraqis after years of commanding a Hezbollah special operations group.
The Post does not include either the Litany or even any specific denials from Iran.
Could the elite media finally have concluded that the state of permanent denial of global terrorist threats, coupled with nakedly partisan assaults on the president, the military, and all Republicans and cheerleading for the Democrats, are the major culprits in the catastrophic drop in readership of American newspapers? If so, it would see they have also finally concluded that their own survival as media institutions is more important that solidarity with the leaders of the Democratic Party -- the Harry "Pinky" Reids and Nancy Pelosis of Congress, the Democratic presidential candidates, and most important... the screaming meemies in the sinister side of the blogosphere.
Elements of the bigfoot media at last admit that:
- Iran is fighting a proxy war against America in Iraq;
- That Iran and Hezbollah are intimately connected in a mini-Axis of Middle-East Evil;
- And that there has been a tremendous reduction in civilian deaths as we have shifted from chasing terrorists to protecting the Iraqi population per counterintelligence strategy.
Can an admission be long coming that the Iraq war is also an intense battle in the war against al-Qaeda?
COINs and Moles and Stuff; a Round-Up
Let's start with the good news (sorry, no bad news this time; so this can't be mainstream News!) Baghdad pacification proceeds apace, and we now firmly control half of the city that all agree is the linchpin of Iraq (or, with the recent executions, perhaps the lynchpin):
In the face of stiffening insurgent resistance, U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad, the American commander overseeing operations said Friday.
Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that progress in securing the capital has been steady and that while he could use more U.S. troops he believes he has enough -- with the recent arrival of reinforcements -- to complete his mission....
Fil said American and Iraqi security forces now control 48% to 49% of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad. That is up from 19% in April, he said. Two weeks ago his boss, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said about 40% of the city was under control.
Fil defined "control" as "where we have our security forces there and we're denying that space to enemy forces." [In Col. David Galula's lexicon, these would be "white" areas.]
U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting clearing operations in 36% of the capital's neighborhoods ["pink" areas] -- about the same percentage as in April, he said. In neighborhoods that are neither under control nor in the process of being cleared ["red" areas -- now down to 15% of Baghdad], coalition forces are "disrupting" insurgent forces, Fil said.
And it's not just Sunni areas we're holding, clearing, or disrupting: We have commenced moving heavily into Sadr City, much to the public chagrin (and temper tantrum) of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned a U.S. raid Saturday in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City slum - a politically sensitive district for him - in which American troops searching for Iranian-linked militants sparked a firefight that left 26 Iraqis dead.
The U.S. military said all those killed in the fighting were gunmen, some of them firing from behind civilian cars. But residents said eight civilians were killed in their homes and angrily accused American troops of firing wildly during the pre-dawn assault.
It's odd that we're always "firing wildly;" and yet in these gunfights, there typically are major enemy casualties -- and hardly any Americans shot.
Al-Maliki last year banned military operations in Sadr City without his approval after complaints from his Shiite political allies. The ban frustrated U.S. commanders pushing for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, blamed for sectarian killings.
Al-Maliki later agreed that no area of the capital was off-limits, after President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq as part of the Baghdad security operation.
And now he's whining again. Fiddle-de-dee! I suspect it's more for internal theater than any real objection to our raids: Muqtada Sadr, still nominal head of the Mahdi Militia, represents a rival Shiite power source; it's hard to imagine Maliki's loyalty to his old friend would slop over into carrying water for the renegade, virtually illiterate "cleric"... who himself is carrying water (or perhaps Uranium) for the Iranian mullahs.
Maliki's faux anger reminds me of Groucho Marx ("Otis P. Driftwood") in a Night at the Opera. He's having lunch with a floozy he picked up, when he sees rich patron of the opera Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Claypool) -- with whom he was supposed to lunch -- waiting in annoyance at the next table. The waiter brings the check for the meal that Driftwood and his girl du jour just ate, and he picks it up...
Then Groucho promptly switches tables and begins sweet-talking Mrs. Claypool. I strongly suspect that after declaring our raid to be an outrage, Maliki too will quietly switch tables and suggest a few more Sadr-City oases to hit. (Another movie quote, this time from Casablanca, that is apropos: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!")
The U.S. military said it conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City, killing 26 "terrorists" who attacked U.S. troops with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. But Iraqi officials said all the dead were civilians.
Of course... technically, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri are also "civilians;" they're certainly not in anybody's official army, navy, or air force. So let's say both sides are right: We killed 26 civilian terrorist combatants -- sorry, make that "terrorists," scare-quotes and all.
But what's all this in service of? Where are we really going with this counterinsurgency? Who better to instruct us but retired Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen. Who is David Kilcullen, some might ask? Well, Wikipedia is usually fairly reliable for simple biographical details of newsmakers:
David Kilcullen, Ph.D. (born 1967) is a leading contemporary practitioner and theorist of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. A former Australian Army officer, he left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005 and is now a senior civil servant, seconded to the United States State Department. He is currently serving as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser, Multi-National Force - Iraq, a civilian position on the personal staff of American General David Howell Petraeus.
Currently based at the US State Department, Dr Kilcullen, 39, has a doctorate in political anthropology, focusing on the effects of guerrilla warfare on non-state political systems in traditional societies. (His thesis was on the political power-diffusion effects of successful and failed counter-insurgency operations in Indonesia.) He has served in several counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare campaigns in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, as well as in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. While based at the U.S. State Department he has served as Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and has worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and South-East Asia. He has also written several very influential papers on the insurgency in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
(He also advises Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which I find surprisingly unsurprising.)
He wrote one of the most fascinating explications of the general purpose behind a counterinsurgency strategy ("COIN") and how it differs from ordinary warfare. Here is the most important point from Kilcullen's important summation of the important purpose and method of the urgently important counterinsurgency in Iraq:
When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain -- as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.
The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.
Kilcullen notes that this isn't due to kind-heartedness; rather, the purpose of the strategy is fourfold:
- To separate the terrorist enemy from his most potent weapons: the Iraqi people;
- "The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed." That is, we know where to find the population, but we cannot distinguish the insurgents from the citizens who just want to live, work, and trade. We cannot kill all the enemy; that's impossible. But we can protect the population and drive out the insurgency. So we do what we can and not what we can't.
By cutting the insurgents off from their captive populations, we "asphyxiate" them:[The enemy] has either to come out of the woodwork, fight us and be destroyed, or stay quiet and accept permanent marginalization from his former population base.
Finally, we know who the population is but not who the insurgents are:[W]e know who the population is that we need to protect, we know where they live, and we can protect them without unbearable disruption to their lives. And more to the point, we can help them protect themselves, with our forces and ISF in overwatch.
(I know, I know, some of the differences between these points are subtle; don't worry, I don't get them either.)
So if our goal is to protect the population, rather than kill some target number of terrorist insurgents, is it working? Are we protecting the population better than we have been in the past?
We certainly don't know for sure yet; the actual COIN operations have barely begun (they started in earnest about two weeks ago). But even so, already civilian casualties are dropping like a stone; here's Power Line's John Hinderaker, my favorite blogger from my favorite blog:
Iraqi government figures suggest that civilian casualties nationwide were down something like 36% in June, for the lowest total this year. I don't know how reliable these numbers are, but the trend clearly seems to be positive. American military commanders said it is too soon to credit the "surge," since the full complement of troops has only been in place for a couple of weeks and operations are ongoing. Again, though, the cause and effect relationship appears pretty clear.
But it's not just the government; even the elite media agree. The website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count keeps track of all media reports of civilian deaths and woundings in Iraq; it's certainly not influenced by the governments of either Iraq or the United States, and it's a completely different count than the one from the Iraqi government.
Yet it shows virtually the same result:
The civilian death toll shows that in May of 2007, there were 1,782 civilian deaths in Iraq reported by the MSM. In April, it was 1,521, and in March, 2,762.
But last month, June of 2007, the elite media reported only 1,146 civilian deaths: that's a drop of 36% from last month (just as the government figures showed by a different count), a 60% drop from this year's high (February, 2,864 deaths), and the lowest rate of civilian deaths since last July.
So to put it on a nutshell...
- We now control 50% of Baghdad;
- We're moving hot and heavy in both Sunni and Shiite enclaves;
- Our purpose is less to kill insurgents than to protect the population from the terrorists' wicked depredations;
- And in point of fact, there is hard (albeit early) evidence that we're succeeding at just that.
And that is the very definition of -- good news!
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