Date ►►► December 31, 2007
More Ancient Watchers...
Watcher Council cold --
Watcher Council in the pot
Nine days old!
Another hoary, old Watcher's Council post excavated from the Cretaceous period (i.e., last week).
Once again, I'm convinced the only reason we won was a really killer title...
- "The Courage to Do Nothing", by Big Lizards.
This is my paeon to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK, 100%), and his plea that instead of flying off in all five directions to combat "anthropogenic global warming," we simply have to courage to do nothing -- and wait until we have some actual idea what the heck we should do... if anything.
The posts we bet on didn't do particularly well... but we still like 'em:
- More on the Teacher Accused of Insulting Religion in His Class, by Bookworm Room;
- I Bet Not, by Done With Mirrors.
I always enjoy Bookworm's posts, even when, as usual, they're ludicrously wrong. But on those vanishingly rare occasions when she happens, by merest chance, to be right, they're wonderful! (There, how's that for a backhanded compliment?) This time, Bookworm discusses an AP history teacher in San Juan Capistrano (about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego and very near Richard Nixon's "western White House" at San Clemente) who is, as she puts it, "accused of using his AP history classroom to indoctrinate his students in anti-Christian attitudes."
She has papers. Very worth a read.
Our second-place vote went to a post about a computer bug in Trondheim, a city in Norway. Parking tickets were erroneously issued for, ah, somewhat startling amounts:
In some cases, it attempted to drain their bank accounts of up to $148,000, which of course they didn't have. They discovered the overdraft when they went to buy food or Christmas presents and found their accounts frozen.
The post is extraordinarily short, which played a major role in our voting for it. If brevity is the soul of wit, Callimachus at Done With Mirrors is certainly more than half-way there!
The posts we voted for didn't do any better in the Nouncil category. The winner (sigh) was:
- A Stand-up President, by The Ornery American.
I have no idea why this post won (rather, tied for first place, then got the nod from the Watcher). All right, Orson Scott Card is a semi-big name in science fictiondom; and yes, I understand that he was attempting to stick up for George W. Bush. But for Pete's sake, he spends the first half of the post running down Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush... what's up with that?
Perhaps readers were so numbfounded by the sight of a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America who wasn't a shrieking leftist, that they panicked and cast their votes upon the water...
We voted for posts that were rather less ambiguous:
- Manic Misinterpretations of Climate Change Capitulation by US in Bali, by NewsBusters.org;
- Mearsheimer, Walt, and "Cold Feet", by Sandbox.
Our number-one vote was in fact for the post we nominated, a companion piece to our winning entry (subtle, aren't we?). Newsbusters was the first site we saw (courtesy of a commenter on Big Lizards named Seaberry) that debunked the meme that started to spread through the dextrosphere that the Bush administration had "caved" on globaloney at the meeting in Bali.
In fact, all we agreed to do was -- to discuss what we might do in the future. We calmly vetoed all hard goals and timetables. That is probably the best that could be done, given the -- er -- climate of the international "community" on the subject.
The Sandbox piece is self-explanatory, assuming you know who Professors Mearsheimer and Walt are. And if you don't -- well, even more reason to read about these blowhards who use high-falutin high-larity to mask their own rather thuggish Jew hatred.
I know you're sick of reading this, but if you look here, you can see the full list of posts that actually received votes. (The others would just as soon remain anonymous -- as we did the one time we were shut out!)
Date ►►► December 30, 2007
The Best Years of Their Lives: Hollywood and Franklin's War
This JoshuaPundit piece, which we linked on an earlier Watcher's Council post, raises an interesting question: Why were Americans so much more supportive of World War II -- demonstrating what I would call a "frenzy of patriotism" -- than they are of the current War Against Global Hirabah (WAGH)?
Certainly the WAGH is even more "existential" than the so-called good war: On December 7th, 1941, Japan bombed a fairly remote territory being used as a forward operating naval base in the northern Pacific. When that famous headline appeared -- "Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor" -- I suspect the vast majority of Americans had no idea where Pearl Harbor even was. Or Oahu, for that matter; how many even knew that was an island in Hawaii?
By contrast, every American who wasn't a subliterate troglodyte knew what the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon were. Do you know anybody who didn't (and who was over five years old)?
During the war, many Americans may have fretted that the Japanese and Germans would attack the American heartland; but they never did. By contrast, the 9/11 attacks, which killed more Americans than died at Pearl, struck at three of the four chambers of America's heart: the financial center in Manhattan, the central fortress of the American military, and the political center of the White House or Congress (we don't know the intended target of Flight 93). Had that third prong of the attack succeeded, the devastation could have rivaled the sacking and burning of Washington D.C. during the War of 1812. (The only chamber they missed was some social and entertainment center, such as Disneyland in Anaheim, California.)
Finally, even had we lost World War II, the suffering caused to America would probably be less devastating than it would be if we were to lose the WAGH: Hitler wanted to control America, but he didn't want to kill us all and burn America to the ground.
So why are Americans not particularly anxious to do everything they can to win this war, as they were during World War II? Why do so many Americans urge appeasement, surrender, and even nakedly support the enemy during wartime?
Freedom Fighter's answer was that President Franklin Roosevelt was simply a much better leader than Bush; but I believe that is simply unsupportable. As much as people like to extoll FDR as a leader comparable to Washington and Lincoln, the plain fact is that he just wasn't.
He was likeable; but sheer likeability is not the same as leadership... Bill Clinton was eminently likeable, even lovable; but that didn't make him a leader.
Mere likeability doesn't explain the willingness of Americans to sacrifice virtually every traditionally American verity: the ability to travel freely (rationing of gas and tire-rubber), to eat what we want to eat (food rationing), to be free of massive government intrusion into our lives (the militarization of the country), and even the most essential freedoms of speech, the press, and assembly (censorship, wholesale violation of habeas corpus at Manzanar, even direct control of media outlets by the government).
FDR was certainly not a great leader in terms of policymaking; his response to the Great Depression that brought him to power was an exercise in futility. The unemployment rate spiked to 25% in 1933, then remained mired in the low-20s over the next two years. Until 1940 and the wartime boost in industrial output, unemployment never dropped below 14%, more than five times the unemployment rate of in 1929 (3.2%). Most of the time, it was at 17% or more; that's a lot of Americans out of work and standing in breadlines.
The stellar book by Amity Shlaes, the Forgotten Man, demonstrates quite unequivocably that FDR's economic policies were disastrous and almost certainly prolonged the Great Depression years longer than necessary.
Made it run,
Made it race against time;
Once I built a railroad, now it's done...
Brother, can you spare a dime?
Roosevelt's wartime leadership was hardly any better. Starting with Pearl Harbor, the Army and Navy under Roosevelt made an avalanche of stupid mistakes. It was only because of the even more colossal mistakes by Adolf Hitler, such as holding his Panzer divisions back and allowing the Brits and free French to evacuated more than 300,000 soldiers from Dunkirk, that we were able to stay in the war until our superior industrial capacity could finally put us back in the driver's seat in 1943-1944.
And then the pinnacle of poor leadership occurred in February 1945, when Roosevelt made the colossal mistake of going to Yalta personally, despite his serious illness, to preside over what turned into the enslavement of half of Europe, handed over lock, stock, and manacles to Roosevelt's great friend, Josef Stalin.
Roosevelt didn't simply honor our Soviet allies... he deified them. One need only watch Mission to Moskow, the FDR-ordered Warner Brothers hagiography of Stalin, to see what I mean... but more on this amazing movie later.
And of course, it's hardly the mark of leadership to allow Stalin's spies to riddle the American administration from top to bottom.
So if it wasn't Roosevelt's putative "leadership" that brought virtually Americans on board during World War II, then what did cause that "frenzy of patriotism," and why isn't it happening today? In a single word, the answer is Hollywood.
World War II was America's first "movie war." While there were newsreels made (often staged) during "the Great War," and even some fiction movies, film was still in its infancy in 1917. But by the late 1930s, movies had supplanted radio (which had, in its day, supplanted vaudeville); film was the dominant American art form and primary entertainment medium in the country. Everybody went to see every film that came out; it was a shared American gestalt that we've only recreated since then for rare, exceptional TV shows, such as the Tonight Show during the decades when Johnny Carson was hosting... and even rarer historical events: the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963; the moon landing on July 20th, 1969; the days right after 9/11.
World War II married the power of the great American medium to the ideological fervor of its creators: The struggle gave leftist Hollywood both an enemy it could truly hate -- Fascism -- and an ally it could truly love, the Soviet Union (at least, after that embarassing little interlude from 1939 to 1940).
Both partners in the nuptials were necessary to produce that frenzy of patriotism. Had we decided to join Germany in its war against the ComIntern, instead of the other way around, we would never have seen the tidal wave of patriotic movies that flooded theaters in the 1940s. But Roosevelt hated Hitler and loved Stalin, so our decision was foreordained (and to be fair, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were certainly the most immediate dangers to the United States).
Counting B-movies and featurettes, I'm sure there were more than a thousand World War II-related movies and shorts produced during the war... and every, single film made about the war during the war was completely and unabashedly on the side of the United States and our allies, and against our enemies.
It is probably the only time in American history that the Brahmins of art and intellectualism were 100% behind the actions of a presidential administration during wartime. Gone was the world-weary cynicism, the smirking and winking, the nihilist anarchy we generally associate with the leftist intellegencia. Peer pressure, ideology, personal economic benefit, and the Vision of the Anointed crashed together in a perfect storm of patriotic production.
Every movie, every radio broadcast, stage production, article in a national magazine, pronunciamento from the White House, and congressional floor speech (from either side the aisle) sent Joe Dokes the same message: If you don't jump aboard the military bandwagon, you're a slug and a creep and fair game to be stomped by your erstwhile friends.
Look, there were anti-war movies before WWII -- though like All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and the Road to Glory (1936), most of these pacifist flicks were about non-American forces. And there were anti-war movies made after WWII, including From Here to Eternity (1953), Paths of Glory (1957), and Catch-22 (1970). But from 1942 through 1945, and probably for a number of years after we won, no movie about the war could be produced unless it took America's side.
America's side and the side of Hollywood's favorite American ally: In 1943, FDR personally ordered the very-conservative Jack Warner to produce Mission to Moscow. This flick, astonishing to see today, is a two-hour journey by Roosevelt's ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1936-1938, Joseph Davies, from credulous naïveté to full-blown Stalin worship. You will never believe it until you actually see it; and even then, your mind may boggle at what your eyes and ears tell you. You may think it was somehow faked by Karl Rove; but I assure you, it is absolutely real. And Mission to Moscow is more typical than anyone cares to remember: Song of Russia (1944) also extolled Stalinism; while in Tender Comrade (1943), Ginger Rogers learns the joy of American-grown Communism.
In any event, during the war, more than a hundred million Americans watched scores of movies telling them that their patriotic duty was to sacrifice their time, money, and freedom "for the duration"... movies that had become the bedrock of the shared American community were all pulling in the same direction, like a twenty-mule team.
It's hardly a shock that Americans patriotically supported World War II like no other before or since: They received the word from on high, delivered by the holy bishops of Hollywood, from Jimmy Stewart to Irene Dunne, to Spencer Tracy, Esther Williams, John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Humphry Bogart, Jane Wyman, Errol Flynn, Ann Miller, Henry Fonda, Betty Grable, Gary Cooper, Marlene Deitrich, Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Van Johnson, Hedy Lamarr, and on and on. If the Almighty could be half as persuasive as the American cinema in full cry, He would be a happy deity.
Not to mention the songs, of course... from Vera Lynn to Dinah Shore to Sophie Tucker to the Andrews Sisters (I won't bother listing any guys, you know who they are). In every jukebox in America and on every radio broadcast, citizens back home could expect to hear "The Last Time I Saw Paris," or "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B," or "Der Fuhrer's Face," or any of a thousand other pro-war, anti-Nazi songs.
It was not government leadership that drove patriotic support for the war; it was the vise-like grip on popular media by the pro-war Left. There were also pro-war novels, plays, production numbers, paintings, and pin-up girls. You couldn't hardly swing a dead Kraut without hitting some elitist member of the Communist Party or fellow traveler -- from Ernest Hemingway, to Dashiell Hammett, to Lillian Hellman, to Dalton Trumbo, to Paul Robeson, to Pete Seeger, to Eleanor Roosevelt -- manipulating some aspect of the mass media to promote victory over the "right-wing" hordes in World War II.
And of course, the right-wingers in the arts (John Wayne, Adolph Menjou, Jimmy Stewart, et al) were bright enough to keep their mouths shut about any disagreements they had with the way FDR ran the country -- or even the war itself -- and just pull along with everyone else... a talent that the Left has sorely lacked (when the president is Republican) since "the big one."
The distinction between then and now is manifest... and maddening. For years, Hollywood simply ignored the WAGH, as if it were all just a crashing bore. And now, finally, they're releasing some war-related product. But what do we get?
- Paradise Now (released on October 28th, 2005);
- Jarhead (November 4th, 2005);
- Syriana (November 23rd, 2005);
- Day Night/Day Night (May 7th, 2007);
- In the Valley of Elah (September 14, 2007);
- The Kingdom (September 28th, 2007);
- Rendition (October 19th, 2007);
- Lions for Lambs (November 9th, 2007);
- Redacted (November 16th, 2007).
Can anyone find a single moment in any of these movies that takes America's side in the war on global hirabah? Can anyone think of a single serious movie -- with the possible exception of a Mighty Heart (June 22nd, 2007) -- that was released after the 9/11 attacks that unambiguously takes America's side in this war? (Even considering comedies, I can only think of one: Team America, October 15th, 2004.)
In music, there are some Country-Western songs that are pro-America or anti-terrorist, from Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" to Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" to Chely Wright's "the Bumper of My S.U.V.," probably lots of others. But the saturation is nowhere near as overwhelming as it was in the 1940s; I can't offhand think of a single rock song that fits the category.
And of course, the nattering nabobs of the elite "news" media keep up a steady tom-tom beat of negativism: We're losing, we've already lost, even if we win we've lost our soul; America is on the verge of collapse, we're going to hell in a hambone; say... did George W. Bush bring down those buildings by controlled demolition?
The huge gulf between the movies, music, arts, and literature of World War II and the same sources today explains the difference in patriotic fervor quite nicely... and much more believably than the supposed "leadership" of FDR, or the concomitant "leaderlessness" of George Bush. There is no need to look any deeper for an explanation than the hurricane of bleeding hearts and artists, and what they tell today's media-driven culture, about commerce and conquest, freedom and sharia, the modernity of the West and the Mediaeval pinings of radical Islamists -- and the steel-cage death match they're fighting between them for control of tomorrow.
Date ►►► December 28, 2007
Bullets for Ballots: Benazir Bhutto and the Future-Past Imperfect of Pakistan
A roundup of more or less random thoughts on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. First, of course we've all read yesterday's horrible faux pas by Mike Huckabee -- the man who would be Bill Clinton:
With about 150 supporters crowded around a podium set up on the tarmac of Orlando Executive airport (and about 20 Ron Paul supporters waving signs outside) Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of “Right Now” by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing “our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan.”
He (rather, his campaign) quickly issued a statement saying he misspoke (quelle surprise!); he meant to say "concern and sympathies." But how on earth could he manage to misspeak and offer an apology to a radicalizing Islamic nation for the assassination of a beloved (if hapless) once and future leader? What use does Huckabee think the Islamists will make from that blundering soundbite?
This sort of gaffe, coupled with fatuously calling Bhutto a "profile in courage," when she was in fact a profile in power struggle (and the Taliban's first patron in 1996), is exactly why we should demand that the President of the United States have a better foreign-policy understanding than this century's "former governor of Arkansas" has ever demonstrated.
It's not enough to quip, "I may not be the expert that some people are on foreign policy, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night." I suppose it's a clever play on a commercial (that I've never seen). But the killing itself should tell us that complete naiveté when it comes to foreign affairs is no joke in the midst of an existential war with those preaching global hirabah -- en route to a global caliphate.
The Democrats are no better, of course; they responded to the assassination by blaming Pervez Musharaff and demanding his instant resignation (to be replaced by whom -- Nawaz Sharif, the protégé of former "strongman," General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq?) Here's Joe Biden:
"This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders -- I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.
And Bill Richardson:
A leader has died, but democracy must live. The United States government cannot stand by and allow Pakistan's return to democracy to be derailed or delayed by violence.
We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. [Formed how, exactly? Which angels in the forms of kings will fly down from the sky and put together this coalition of wise men?] Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. [Such a boycott of Pakistan will surely cripple the Islamist movement there!] Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible. [Put into place by...?]
It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go."
This is as irresponsible and reckless as "Huckabee’s Sunday School Foreign Policy" is credulous. If Musharaff resigned tomorrow, what would happen? Would the parties in Pakistan simply come together in calm reflection and decide to rule the country wisely and for the good of the people? Who are the Democrats kidding (besides themselves)?
Assassination has been a commonplace in Pakistan politics ever since the country was created amidst a convulsion of Islamist terrorism. It has been truly democratic in the past; but without a dictator like Musharaff at the helm at this moment, the other powers would begin killing each other off like the last act of Hamlet.
In the long run, President George W. Bush is right: There must be a restoration of democracy in Pakistan with free and fair elections. But that cannot happen in the poisoned atmosphere of intimidation, violence, corruption, and murder brought by the Islamist parties -- such as Jamaat-e-Islami, ally of the Muslim Brotherhood and proponent of sharia law for Pakistan -- and their sometime allies, such as Nawaz Sharif, who partnered with Jamaat-e-Islami to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad coalition in 1988 that brought him to power two years later. (Of course, intimidation, violence, corruption, and murder are also practiced by opponents of the Islamist parties, including Musharaff himself; but that fact doesn't sweeten the democracy pot any.)
Pakistan is in the same situation as Germany in 1933 or the Palestinian Authority in 2006: When parties campaign by bullets instead of ballots -- Nazis and Communists, Hamas and Fatah -- then there is no such thing as a "free and fair election;" there is only victor and vanquished. This is simply war extended to the voting booth.
The Musharaff government insists that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were responsible for the assassination of Bhutto. This has to rank up there with the least surprising news of 2007; they had repeatedly threatened to slay her if she returned to Pakistan, and they already tried to kill her once by a huge suicide attack in Karachi in October.
But of course, many Bhutto supporters accuse Musharaff instead... so they rampaged through the streets killing 23 other innocent people, to show the wickedness of politics by murder:
On Friday, Bhutto's supporters ransacked banks, waged shootouts with police and burned trains and stations in a spasm of violence less than two weeks before parliamentary elections.
Soldiers patrolled the streets of the southern cities of Hyderabad and Karachi, witnesses said. At least 23 people were killed in unrest, said Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram, home secretary for Sindh province.
Are these the people who are going to form "a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties?"
While it's naturally tragic that Benazir Bhutto was slain the way she was, I'm quite certain that it would have been a dreadful thing for her to re-assume power in Pakistan. Mark Steyn says Bhutto represented yesterday's Pakistan and would have been doomed to fail -- and drag Pakistan with down with her -- had she returned as prime minister in today's Pakistan:
The State Department geniuses thought they had it all figured out. They'd arranged a shotgun marriage between the Bhutto and Sharif factions as a "united" "democratic" "movement" and were pushing Musharraf to reach a deal with them. That's what diplomats do: They find guys in suits and get 'em round a table. But none of those representatives represents the rapidly evolving reality of Pakistan. Miss Bhutto could never have been a viable leader of a post-Musharraf settlement, and the delusion that she could have been sent her to her death. Earlier this year, I had an argument with an old (infidel) boyfriend of Benazir's, who swatted my concerns aside with the sweeping claim that "the whole of the western world" was behind her. On the streets of Islamabad, that and a dime'll get you a cup of coffee.
Bhutto was, as Steyn sarcastically put it, "everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be": Female, secular, and socialist. But her previous governments (1988-1990, 1993-1996) were marred by corruption and socialism.
Both times, she and her party, the Pakistan People's Party, were dismissed from power by corruption charges, which have been substantially confirmed by subsequent investigations by Pakistan, France, Switzerland, and Poland; though one government report -- produced in 2005 at Pervez Musharaff's orders, while he was courting Bhutto to return to Pakistan -- claims the charges were mere fabrications. Musharaff granted Bhutto amnesty in 2007 when she agreed to return.
But she and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari (who spent eight years in prison for corruption), appear to have assets in Swiss bank accounts and in real property held in Great Britain and elsewhere totaling nearly $1.5 billion... money which cannot be easily accounted for legitimately. They were both convicted of money laundering in Switzerland in 2003; and both France and Poland have conducted investigations that found corruption by Bhutto and Zardari in those countries.
Her party, the PPP, was founded in 1967 by Bhutto's father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto -- who was eventually executed for corruption (or judicially assassinated by General Zia, take your pick). It is linked to the Socialist International, and its credo is "Islam is our faith; democracy is our politics; socialism is our economy; all power to the people."
Honestly, I cannot see how Benazir Bhutto, for all that our own State Department has loved her since she was in power (and may have "loved her to death" yesterday), could have represented anything but a Pakistani "Fulgencio Batista," who would likely have ruled so incompetently and corruptly, that she would have opened the door for the tiny minority of Islamists in Pakistan to seize power... just as Batista opened the door to Fidel Castro's Stalinists. I have believed for a couple of years now that the return of Bhutto to power in Pakistan would have been utter catastrophe: What the country needs now is stability, which can only come from the defeat of al-Qaeda and the Taliban... not the turmoil of another controversial reign by Benazir Bhutto.
Sad as it is to say, and I am aware of how monstrous this may sound, the assassination of Bhutto by the terrorists may have averted a much worse fate for the nation of Pakistan -- and for us as well, considering the nuclear arsenal that would have been laid in the hands of Ayman Zawahiri and Mohammed Omar.
Max Boot has a more sanguine view of Bhutto. He also says (and I agree with this part) that Pakistan is mostly secular, and the Islamists are only a small percent of the nation:
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Islamic factions are not popular with the people of Pakistan as a whole; they are polling only 4% at the moment, about what Ron Paul is getting in polls of Republican voters. Their support has never exceeded 12% in any election, and that only because Musharraf hobbled the mainstream parties from competing. Now their backing has cratered because of their failure to deliver on their good governance pledges in Northwest Frontier Province which they have been running since 2002.
There is a vast “silent majority” in Pakistan that abhors the militants and has come to detest military rule. They are waiting for a leader. Bhutto, for all her imperfections, could have been that leader. She won’t be now. Alas. But let us hope that she will at least become a martyr for the cause of Islamic democracy, and that her death will inspire others to carry on her brave struggle.
Yet I think that Boot, in the passion of the moment, has failed seriously to consider how severely another corrupt socialist government would have set back the cause of democracy in South-Central Asia; it's just the sort of thing that leads to revolutions -- whether in Russia, Cuba, Iran, the PA, or Pakistan.
All human life has value, but sometimes that value is a negative number. Even occasionally when the person in question is affable, likeable, charming, secular, socialist, and pretty... "everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be."
Date ►►► December 26, 2007
Another "Anti-Endorsement" of Mitt... This Time By a McCainiac Paper
Is this becoming a disgusting, new trend?
The Manchester Union Leader, generally considered a fairly conservative newspaper which has been openly campaigning for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) since the mating season began, endorsed him in the ordinary way on December 2nd:
On Jan. 8, New Hampshire Republicans will make one of the most important choices for their party and nation in the history of our presidential primary. Their choice ought to be John McCain.
We don't agree with him on every issue. We disagree with him strongly on campaign finance reform. What is most compelling about McCain, however, is that his record, his character, and his courage show him to be the most trustworthy, competent, and conservative of all those seeking the nomination. Simply put, McCain can be trusted to make informed decisions based on the best interests of his country, come hell or high water.
The Union Leader is an odd duck. Although McCain shocked the George W. Bush campaign by winning the New Hampshire primary in 2000, McCain did so without the help of the newspaper, which did not endorse him. Nor did they endorse Bush, either: In 2000, the Union Leader endorsed the powerhouse candidate Steve Forbes, who went on to win a solid 13% of the vote and send two whole New Hampshire delegates to the convention, out of 17. (Bush already had a solid majority before the convention, of course.)
Then again, the Union Leader hasn't a particularly good track record for picking the eventual nominee. Here are all their GOP endorsements over the past three decades:
- 2000: Steve Forbes (while attacking John McCain as the most liberal Republican in the race); Bush was nominated.
- 1996: Pat Buchanan; Bob Dole was nominated.
- 1992: Pat Buchanan; George H.W. Bush was nominated.
- 1988: Pete DuPont; George H.W. Bush was nominated.
- 1984: Ronald Reagan -- but this doesn't really count, since he had no credible GOP opposition;
- 1980: Ronald Reagan -- who actually won the nomination, the only time in the last thirty years that the Union Leader "hit" in a contested GOP primary;
- 1976: Ronald Reagan; sitting president Gerald R. Ford was nominated.
I can understand them endorsing candidates that did not go on to win the nomination, even if they did win New Hampshire. And I can even understand doing a 180 on a particular candidate (would that, perhaps, be considered a "flip flop" by the Union Leader?) Candidates change, the field changes, and the editors can simply change their minds (or change their editors).
But the paper was not content with the perfect credible and acceptable endorsement of McCain early this month. After watching the very liberal Concord Monitor make an "anti-endorsement" of Mitt Romney, the Union Leader decided to jump on the slimewagon today and do the same:
In this primary, the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes. That is why Granite Staters who have listened attentively are now returning to John McCain. They might not agree with McCain on everything, as we don't, but like us, they judge him to be a man of integrity and conviction, a man who won't sell them out, who won't break his promises, and who won't lie to get elected.
Voters can see that John McCain is trustworthy. Mitt Romney has spent a year trying to convince Granite Staters that he is as well. It looks like they aren't buying it. And for good reason.
I wonder what the paper will do if Romney ends up being the nominee... write an editorial urging voters to elect Hillary Clinton?
But after slamming Romney for not being "trustworthy" and implying that he would "lie to get elected," the Union Leader levels an outrageous and "demonstrably false" charge against him:
Last week Romney was reduced to debating what the meaning of "saw" is. It was only the latest in a string of demonstrably false claims -- he'd been a hunter "pretty much" all his life, he'd had the NRA's endorsement, he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. -- that call into question the veracity of his justifications for switching sides on immigration, abortion, taxes and his affection for Ronald Reagan.
I don't think even liberal Democrats have accused Romney of saying that he, himself marched with Martin Luther King.
Romney said that he saw his father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, march with King. Romney might have meant that he was aware his father did; and some have questioned whether George Romney ever personally marched with King, though everyone agrees that George Romney was a civil-rights leader and led his own marches supporting King and King's cause.
So does this minor, little false accusation -- part of the paper's campaign to get John McCain nominated for president -- "call into question the veracity of" the Manchester Union Leader's editorial attack on Mitt Romney? I think it certainly calls into question the paper's claim to dispassionate analysis, as opposed to over-the-top emotional bleating.
Alas, the "anti-endorsement" -- where a newspaper, radio station, or television station singles out one despised candidate and urges, "For the love of God, anybody but him!" -- appears to be the vile, new fashion in American electoral politics.
I hope it doesn't work. I hope that the Union Leader is slapped down (as they often are), and Mitt Romney wins the primary and the nomination. If for no other reason, I wouldn't want to think that such a smarmy and false attack on a candidate by a partisan newspaper was instrumental in killing that candidate's campaign. Such power would create a craven new world of media hegemony.
Date ►►► December 25, 2007
Merry - Unny Ufts!
Date ►►► December 24, 2007
Yes, "Romney... Must Be Stopped" Crosses the Line, Too
It has become tradition -- goodness only knows for how many decades or centuries -- for newspapers to believe they have a sacred duty to tell us whom to vote for; to endorse various candidates for public office... as if they knew any better than the average Jorge in the street.
We put up with it because it's amusing, it's fun, and it doesn't cause much harm. But Saturday, a paper turned that tradition on its head by telling us whom not to vote for: The Concord Monitor of New Hampshire cast an "anti-endorsement," singling out Mitt Romney and virtually pleading with voters to reject him, specifically:
If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides - spending cuts and lower taxes - plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.
Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped.
To be sure, the paper is a liberal one; their previous editorials include:
An attack on Rudy Giuliani for promoting the "short, emphatic and deceitful" canard that the election of Ronald Reagan had anything at all to do with the Iranian revolutionaries releasing our hostages:Yes, the hostages, most of whom worked at the American Embassy, were released less than an hour after Reagan took office.... But it was Carter's negotiations, which included an agreement to release $8 billion in seized Iran assets, that clinched the deal -- that plus the invasion of Iran by Iraq.
- An earlier attack on Mitt Romney for his "speech on religion:"
The founders, Romney said, banned the establishment of any state religion, but "they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust."
Wrong again. The founders wanted a nation in which non-believers as well as believers were equal. They believed in freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion.
And an editorial on illegal immigration in which they did indeed say -- as the Romney campaign characterized the paper's position after Saturday's anti-endorsement -- that it was a good idea to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants:The public does appear soundly opposed to granting driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, though for reasons of public safety if nothing else it's a good idea. But polls also suggest that a large majority of Americans prefer providing a path to citizenship, however tortuous, for the illegal immigrants who are already here.
Right or wrong on the merits (I support a version of the last), these are liberal, not conservative positions. But even were a conservative newspaper (say, the Washington Times) to opine that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton "most surely must be stopped," I would say a line was crossed that ought not have been.
Maybe it's just my subjective reaction; but to me, there is a Grand Canyon sized chasm between a newspaper, radio, or television editorial positively saying that Mr. Fry Me would make the best president... and that same source negatively saying that Mr. Fritter My Wig is a dishonest louse, and we don't care who you vote for so long as it en't him.
I see nothing particularly wrong with ordinary people saying "anybody but Hillary" or "I won't vote for Romney," though it can be dangerous if that becomes such an absolute obsession that they vote against their own interests. Individuals are individuals; they haven't the imprimatur and nihil obstat of the fourth estate. But when a powerful news source singles out one candidate for such vilification, it becomes a dangerous demagogue, a bully who simultaneously vilifies anyone who supports the pariah.
But what was the Concord Monitor's beef with Romney in the first place? Their excuse is so flimsy, it cannot possibly be the reason:
If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core.
As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, he boasted that he would be a stronger advocate of gay rights than his opponent, Ted Kennedy. These days, he makes a point of his opposition to gay marriage and adoption.
There was a time that he said he wanted to make contraception more available - and a time that he vetoed a bill to sell it over-the-counter.
The old Romney assured voters he was pro-choice on abortion. "You will not see me wavering on that," he said in 1994, and he cited the tragedy of a relative's botched illegal abortion as the reason to keep abortions safe and legal. These days, he describes himself as pro-life.
There was a time that he supported stem-cell research and cited his own wife's multiple sclerosis in explaining his thinking; such research, he reasoned, could help families like his. These days, he largely opposes it. As a candidate for governor, Romney dismissed an anti-tax pledge as a gimmick. In this race, he was the first to sign.
People can change, and intransigence is not necessarily a virtue. But Romney has yet to explain this particular set of turnarounds in a way that convinces voters they are based on anything other than his own ambition.
Note two points: Each of these changes is in the same direction, from Left to Right; and they occurred here and there over the space of years, not all on the same day. In other words, the Concord Monitor says that Romney "most surely must be stopped" because he grew more conservative as he grew older and more experienced.
While this echoes the refrain from some conservative Republicans, who are suspicious of anyone who wasn't "right from the beginning," the reality is that most people move rightwards as they gain more experience in life... and in particular as they gain more personal experience with what Milton Friedman -- summoning up the image of the "invisible hand" of the market that guides sellers to buyers -- calls the "invisible foot" of government, which sticks out to trip us up.
Those who have made such a journey famously include Ronald Reagan himself, of course, as well as Irving Kristol, Whittaker Chambers, Robert A. Heinlein, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, David Horowitz, former California Gov. Jerry Brown (he's still a liberal but far less so than thirty years ago), the lads at Power Line, and half the founding staff of the National Review. There's even a word for such a person: The original meaning of the neologism "neo-conservative" was a liberal who became a conservative -- generally because of Reagan (a.k.a. "Reagan Democrats").
(People occasionally go the opposite way, but it's atypical and usually based upon some perceived personal slight by the GOP establishment -- as with David Brock and with Mike and Arianna Huffington.)
Hitting the hysteria button over such a commonplace conversion puts the lie to the Monitor explanation: That cannot be the reason, because it would apply equally to McCain and Huckabee -- who the Monitor likes (or at least more or less tolerates) -- as to Giuliani and Romney, who they despise with a passion.
I don't know what the real reason is, but I can take an educated guess. The Monitor makes it clear they want Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) to be the Republican nominee; failing that, they can live with Mike Huckabee. The common factor binding those two together is the perception that each would split the Republican base asunder far more than either Romney or Giuliani would: Conservatives (other than some evangelicals) don't seem to care much that Romney is a Mormon, and only the most ardent pro-life activists refuse to accept Giuliani's assurance that he will appoint federal judges in the mold of Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Alito.
But both McCain and Huckabee are violently opposed by a huge chunk, if not a majority, of conservatives of various factions: For the most part, judicial-restraint conservatives, anti-illegal-immigration conservatives, and anti-campaign-finance-restriction conservatives oppose McCain; and fiscal conservatives, national-security conservatives, anti-illegal-immigration conservatives, and business conservatives oppose Huckabee. Thus, both candidates praised by the Monitor would make it more likely, in my view, that the Democrat would win the election.
Both candidates may attract significant numbers of independents; so if either does manage to eke out a win, he will be beholden not to traditional conservatives (or the hated "religous right") but to a centrist coalition of Democrats, Independents, and "moderate" (liberal) Republicans instead.
So the Monitor wants the next president to be Barack Obama; failing him, Joe Biden; failing both, Hillary Clinton. But if a Republican must win, they want the president to govern as a liberal-to-moderate Republican... like a Lincoln Chafee or a Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME, 45%), unlike the way either Romney or Giuliani would likely govern.
And evidently -- or so it seems to me -- the Monitor believes that the biggest threat to McCain or Huckabee getting the nod is... Mitt Romney. Hence "Mitt Romney... most surely must be stopped."
What a vile, calculating attack this is. And how shameful that the newspaper of the capital of New Hampshire would would stoop to such a Carvillean tactic.
Date ►►► December 21, 2007
I've spent a few posts blasting Mike Huckabee for various infelicities and absurdities that have bubbled forth from his campaign; it's only fair that I go after Mitt Romney as well for his increasingly irritating (verging towards disturbing) tendency to take a kernal of truth and stretch it like taffy to make a political point -- a process I'm dubbing Mitthausen's Syndrome.
- He called himself an avid hunter, while later having to concede he had only hunted twice;
- While explaining the above, he said he frequently shot rodents in the woods with a pistol, clearly implying that he owned guns when he did not;
- He recently claimed that during his 2002 gubernatorial election, he had been "endorsed" by the NRA -- when what he meant was that an NRA phone back supported his campaign, but he never received any formal endorsement.
The exaggerations are all minor; and the points they support are themselves reasonably accurate; but they open the candidate to distracting accusations and force him on the defensive.
The most recent example, of course, is that during his excellent "religion speech" earlier this month, he said (it seemed) that he had personally watched as his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, jr.:
"These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...'
The Romney campaign subsequently clarified that, while Mitt Romney may never have personally witnesses such a march -- if it happened, it would have occurred while he was in class in high school -- that George Romney did, in fact, march with King through Grosse Pointe, a suburb of Detroit, in 1963.
However, an ultra-liberal (and likely very anti-Romney) newspaper, the Boston Phoenix, claims that King never marched through Grosse Pointe:
Asked about the specifics of George Romney’s march with MLK, Mitt Romney’s campaign told the Phoenix that it took place in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. That jibes with the description proffered by David S. Broder in a Washington Post column written days after Mitt’s College Station speech.
Broder, in that column, references a 1967 book he co-authored on the Republican Party, which included a chapter on George Romney. It includes a one-line statement that the senior Romney “has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit.”
But that account is incorrect. King never marched in Grosse Pointe, according to the Grosse Pointe Historical Society, and had not appeared in the town at all at the time the Broder book was published. “I’m quite certain of that,” says Suzy Berschback, curator of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society. (Border was not immediately available for comment.)
Berschback also believes that George Romney never appeared at a protest, march, or rally in Grosse Pointe. “We’re a small town,” she says. “Governors don’t come here very often, except for fundraisers.”
In fact, King’s only appearance in Grosse Pointe, according to Berschback, took place after Broder’s book was published.
That was for a March 14 speech he delivered at Grosse Pointe High School, just three weeks before King was assassinated. But there was no march, and George Romney was not there.
Contrariwise, Mike Allen at the Politico quotes a couple of witnesses, both residents of Grosse Pointe in 1963, who insist they clearly remember King marching there -- and Gov. George Romney "joining him in shirtsleeves":
Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights -- right past the window.
With the cape still around her neck, Basore went outside and joined the parade.
“They were hand in hand,” recalled Basore, a former high-school English teacher. “They led the march. We all swung our hands, and they held their hands up above everybody else’s....”
The campaign posted citations quoting one author as writing that “George Romney made a surprise appearance in his shirt sleeves and joined the parade leaders....”
Another witness, Ashby Richardson, 64, of Massachusetts gave the campaign a similar account.
“I’m just appalled that the news picks this stuff up and say it didn’t happen,” Richardson, now a data-collection consultant, said by phone. “The press is being disingenuous in terms of reporting what actually happened. I remember it vividly. I was only 15 or 20 feet from where both of them were.”
At this point, pending further data, I have to conclude that the argument is inconclusive: I seriously mistrust such recollections of "my brush with greatness," but I also seriously mistrust the Boston Phoenix to do a fair job of researching a King march in Detroit that might have included an impromptu swing through Grosse Pointe.
However, Romney does now admit he did not literally witness his father marching with King, whether or not such a march actually occurred.
Now, this is not a "lie" in the ordinary sense of the word; even the Phoenix admits that George Romney had a strong pro-civil-rights record, leading his own 10,000-person civil-rights march through Detroit; it's virtually certain that George Romney would frequently have praised King in Mitt's presence. This, plus George's status as governor Michigan at the time, could easily give rise to a false memory of actually witnessing the two marching together... especially if they did so march, and if young Mitt heard all about it that night over the dinner table.
Still, it was unquestionably an exaggeration -- an instance of Mitthausen's Syndrome -- for Mitt Romney to say he saw his father march with King; he should have done some research first to make sure his memory wasn't playing him false.
Now, it is possible to read Romney's words somewhat more charitably -- that he "saw," as in knew that, his father marched, rather than that he personally stood there and witnessed it with his own eyes. Romney himself offered that explanation... which we all know, in PR terms, sucks rocks as a defense against the charge of being a serial exaggerater.
The basic point Romney was getting at in his speech was to refute the paralogical claim that, since the Romneys were devout Mormons, and since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had a racist policy at the time not to ordain blacks, that therefore the Romneys themselves must also have been racists; and indeed, George Romney's record (as well as Mitt's own) clearly refute that liberal canard.
Still, having worked so long on that speech, he should certainly have "bullet-proofed" a claim that he used as a central argument against the vile and false racism charge. As we all know -- including Mitt Romney, I must presume -- those on the Right simply cannot get away with exaggerations, evasions, circumlocutions, or fibs, no matter how trivial, the way those on the Left can.
Because of animus from the left-leaning press, we anti-liberals must scrutinize every word before we speak or write... because the nattering nabobs of negativism will certainly do so afterwards. Romney could simply have said "My father marched with Martin Luther King" or "my father led a march for civil rights" and left out the confusing bit about personally observing him.
Mitthausen's Syndrome is not an ethical failing, as was Bill Clinton's penchant for literally lying -- saying the opposite of what really happened, shifting blame from himself to innocent others, and bearing false witness against honest accusers; but it is a communications failure. This bothers me because the inability to communicate is the biggest failing of the Bush administration, starting during the campaign with Bush's failure to disclose his DUI arrest
I demand a president who can talk to the American people and persuade them to stick to the high road, the difficult road, the necessary road -- in economics (privatization of "entitlement" programs), immigration policy (reforming legal immigration to make it rational, just, and predictable), and especially in matters pertaining to the war against global hirabah.
My biggest objection to Mike Huckabee's strange ramblings is that they demonstrate disordered thought processes. Romney isn't that bad, but his serial exaggerations do demonstrate too great a willingness to "put a head" on a good story to make it just a little better. That is a quality highly prized in a raconteur -- but which can come back to bite a presidential candidate in the end.
Date ►►► December 20, 2007
Today's Huckalunacy: Back to the Future? No, Forward to the Past!
Some evangelicals, such as Lee Harris at TCS (Technology, Commerce, Society) Daily, passionately believe that conservatives (and even non-conservatives such as myself) who say bad things about Mike Huckabee's campaign for the presidency, are simply haters who despise religious people. We spend our time nitpicking every word that Huckabee utters, find absurd conspiracies (such as the "floating cross" in his Christmas TV ad that was actually a reflection off his bookshelves), and even fabricate supposed faux pas out of thin air. We are the polar opposites of those believers who see Jesus in a tortilla and the Virgin Mary in a rock formation.
Not so! In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about Huckabee until I began to hear his own words. I have assumed from the git go that he is no more or less religious than that other evangelical, born-again Christian who currently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And everything I have attacked about Huckabee's campaign has been based upon his own words, either spoken, or in the case of his Foreign Affairs article on his deep, surethoughted foreign policy, written after careful pondering and the hiring of a skillful ghostwriter... thus all, one presumes, the considered position of Gov. Mike Huckabee himself.
So I feel no guilt for bringing to your eyes what I just heard with my own ears, on just about the most friendly venue Huckabee can possibly get: the Michael Medved show, a one-on-one conversation with a pal who has pulled out all the stops to turn his show into a virtual daily campaign spot for Gov. Huckabee.
Today, Medved began by asking Huckabee about the section of his article where he says he wants to build up the military much more rapidly than President Bush is doing. As a reminder, this is what Huckabee wrote, or at least put his name to; I include annotations from myself:
The Bush administration plans to increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps by about 92,000 troops over the next five years. We can and must do this in two to three years. [Considering that the president has just barely met his own expansion rate, how exactly does Huckabee plan to double it? Care to tell us?] I recognize the challenges of increasing our enlistments without lowering standards and of expanding training facilities and personnel, and that is one of the reasons why we must increase our military budget. [How would increasing our DoD budget cause recruits to magically appear -- and to magically get 4-5 years of training in 2-3 years?] Right now, we spend about 3.9 percent of our GDP on defense, compared with about six percent in 1986, under President Ronald Reagan. [At the peak of the Cold War.] We need to return to that six percent level. [So he wants to add another $240 billion per year to the DoD budget... if he has a plan for getting Congress to vote this -- without a staggering tax increase -- does he care to share?] And we must stop using active-duty forces for nation building and return to our policy of using other government agencies to build schools, hospitals, roads, sewage treatment plants, water filtration systems, electrical facilities, and legal and banking systems. [That would be a great idea, if we could recreate the Foreign Office of the British Empire; but when has America done such a thing in the middle of a war? The Marshall Plan came after Germany was utterly razed.] We must marshal the goodwill, ingenuity, and power of our governmental and nongovernmental organizations in coordinating and implementing these essential nonmilitary functions.
If I ever have to undertake a large invasion, I will follow the Powell Doctrine and use overwhelming force. [A force that took months and months to settle in the friendly country of Kuwait -- which had just been invaded by Iraq, thus was willing to allow us to do so. Which country in the Middle East would have been willing to make itself a target over a six-month period prior to launching our own invasion of Iraq?] The notion of an occupation with a "light footprint," which was our model for Iraq, is a contradiction in terms. [Oddly, though, it seemed to work -- as even Gov. Huckabee admits a couple of sentences later.] Liberating a country and occupying it are two different missions. Our invasion of Iraq went well militarily, but the occupation has destroyed the country politically, economically, and socially. [Destroyed it? It appears to be doing significantly better by many measures than it was under Saddam Hussein.] In the former Yugoslavia, we sent 20 peacekeeping soldiers for every thousand civilians. [And say, that's worked out well, hasn't it!] In Iraq, an equivalent ratio would have meant sending a force of 450,000 U.S. troops. [Great leaping horny toads. And where were we to get the extra 200,000+ troops? Can Huckabee the Great conjure 20 divisions out of his hat?] Unlike President George W. Bush, who marginalized General Eric Shinseki, the former army chief of staff, when he recommended sending several hundred thousand troops to Iraq, I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice. [Before or after he publicly smeared you with his "advice" at a Congressional hearing?] Our generals must be independent advisers, always free to speak without fear of retribution or dismissal. [Where "our generals" includes Eric Shinseki, but not, evidently, Tommy Franks.]
Look at that -- lots of attacks on Huckabee's ideas, yet not a single reference to "knuckle-dragging evanvgelicals" or "protofascist Christian theocrats!"
But Gov. Huckabee's military naïveté is perfectly encapsulated by a pithy, sententious aphorism he just delivered on the show, which is what spurred me to write this post. Here is what he said -- transcript from my own memory (but as you'll see, it would be hard to get this wrong):
Donald Rumsfeld famously said, "You don't go to war with the Army you'd like; you go to war with the Army you have." But I say, you don't go to war with the Army you have... you go to war with the Army you need. And you don't go to war until you have the Army you need!
(Actually, what Rumsfeld said was "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." But Huckabee's paraphrase is near enough to the meaning.)
Think about that for a moment. How many things are wrong with that sentiment?
How do you calculate "the Army you need?"
Huckabee would use the Powell Doctrine -- where we essentially refight World War II in every military conflict we undertake. The Gulf War was a classic force-on-force confrontation not that different from Patton's North Africa campaign or the Battle of the Bulge. But wars in the future will not much resemble those of the 20th century; and if we're still trying to fight campaigns against agile, assymetrical insurgents with the bigfooted approach of a Colin Powell -- well, look at our Iraq tactics of 2005-2006 and how effective they were.
And for how many years could we have supported that size of a force in Iraq, by the way?
How long do you wait to go to war, trying to raise the Army you think you need under the Powell Doctrine?
When Colin Powell fought the Gulf War, he had the advantage of the Reagan Army build-up already under his belt. I understand that Huckabee wants to build up our armed forces; but he's still only talking about another 92,000 troops -- in three years. But he now says we should have used 450,000 soldiers in Iraq, which is more than 200,000 more than we used. So should we have waited six years to attack Iraq?
What kind of WMD would Saddam Hussein have had by now, had we done nothing for the last six years?
- Where exactly would Huckabee have staged an Allied Expeditionary Force of near half a million? Turkey? Kuwait? Iran? Has the governor even thought this through? Which Moslem country was going to allow us to build up such a massive force of crusading Christians on its territory, in the era of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda?
Perhaps Huckabee is covertly saying he wouldn't have invaded Iraq at all; that like President Clinton, he would have been content with occasional bombing runs to "keep Saddam Hussein in his box." And when the sanctions regime collapsed under the weight of the UN's Oil for Fraud bribery scheme, we would have grimly watched -- while building our mighty, Cold-War sized Army -- as Hussein rebuilt his entire arsenal of chemical and biological weaponry.
(Which, by the way, he might have used against neighboring civilian populations or even his own people, rather than against our soldiers... and the civilian death toll could have been much, much higher... even as high as the ludicrous Lancet guesstimate of 655,000 deaths, or the even more risible Opinion Research claim of 1.2 million.)
If that is what Huckabee is saying, I wish he would just straightforwardly make that case, so we could confront his arguments... instead of advocating policies that would force us down that road, willy nilly, in future.
And what if our goal to add another 20-30 divisions were delayed indefinitely by a Congress unwilling to increase the military budget by 65%? How long do we wait before going to war... not just in Iraq, but anywhere?
Years? Decades? Never? But even Huckabee admits that "our invasion of Iraq went well militarily."
It seems he would preferentially never invade anywhere at all if he couldn't get enough troops to do it more or less like Operation Overlord on D-Day. This is like the king who had the largest army in Europe -- but would never fight for fear of "breaking" it.
Pace, Lee Harris, but this is why so many Republicans don't think much of "President" Mike Huckabee. Those of us who are not captive to the identity-politics of evangelism realize that electing yet another naïve Arkansas governor with no foreign policy experience to the White House is probably a bad idea during an existential war against global hirabah. Heck, the first was bad enough during the American vacation from history!
Date ►►► December 19, 2007
And One More for the Road
On the final day of the first session of the 110th Congress, before the Democrats got out of town, they managed to squeeze in one more humiliation at the brawny hands of George W. Bush:
Congress on Wednesday gave final approval to a plan that will spare millions of middle-class taxpayers higher tax bills for 2007. The White House welcomed the development and said President Bush would sign the bill.
The tax reprieve postpones for one year only an expansion of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to prevent very wealthy investors from using deductions and tax shelters to avoid paying income tax altogether. The alternative tax has ensnared a growing number of middle-class Americans in recent years because the 1969 law was not indexed to inflation....
House Democrats angrily approved the bill after giving in to demands by Congressional Republicans and Mr. Bush that the tax cut not be offset by raising other taxes. Democrats started the year by pledging to make up for the $50 billion tax fix with cuts in spending or increases in taxes elsewhere.
Cave City, here they come...
But listen to this amazingly maudlin whine and cheese party from the Reality-Based Community:
The Democrats repeatedly tried to get Senate Republicans to back a plan that would have imposed new taxes, particularly on wealthy hedge fund managers, but the Republicans refused. Because the lawmakers did not offset relief from the alternative tax, the national debt will increase by $50 billion.
“The only reason this bill is not paid for is because Republicans almost in lock step in both bodies have prevented us,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, in one of several furious speeches by Democrats on the House floor.
“We are forced today to recognize that we don’t have the votes to pursue the pay-as-you-go principle that we adopted in a bipartisan fashion,” Mr. Hoyer said. “I regret this day and this bill.”
I reckon this never occurred to any of those lapsed members of Taxaholics Anonymous. They should be reading Big Lizards.
Date ►►► December 18, 2007
Grumpy Old Watchmen
This is the grumpy edition of the Watcher's Council vote... peevish, short, curt, crotchety, cranky, off the meds, fizzywigged... the reedy, rambling threnody of an alter kaker. Forewarmed is four-armed.
The winner this time was JoshuaPundit -- for making yet another invalid comparison, again to George Bush's disadvantage. (Does Freedom Fighter agree with Democrats that Bush is The Worst President In All of American History? I don't know for sure, but I have my suspicions.)
- Pearl Harbor... And 9/11, by JoshuaPundit.
This time, he posits the following question:
66 years ago on this day, December 7th, Japanese pilots bombed Pearl Harbor in a sneak attack.... The next day, December 8th,President Roosevelt went before Congress and asked them to declare war.... Less than 4 years later, Germany, Japan and Italy were in ruins, their militaries destroyed, their capacity for evil extinguished....
Sixty years after that grim December morning in Hawaii, there was another sneak attack on American soil.... It's been over six years since that happened, and we have yet to defeat these enemies who pose no less of a threat to our civilization and our freedom.
Why is that?
Well for one reason, because we were not attacked by any specific country. We were attacked by an amorphous, transnational terrorist group with no chain of command, no fixed membership, and not even a completely consistent ideology. Nevertheless, we have fared remarkably well: We utterly routed al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and we're well on the way to doing the same in their next base, Iraq.
(They've returned to an old base, Sudan, and to a traditional one, Pakistan; and there are AQ affiliates, allies, wannabes, groupies, and hangers on deeply infested in scores of countries around the globe, all plotting our death and the death of Israel. Merry Christmas!)
There has been no successful attack on American soil or territory since 9/11, and we have shattered major cells from the ME to the Horn of Africa to Canada to Minnesota. But there isn't going to be a signing ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri because, at its core, our enemy is really not this or that particular group; it is a meme, a wicked, nihilist ideology that seeks only destruction, ruin, and human sacrifice. We are fighting Moloch, and Moloch is everywhere.
But for some reason, Freedom Fighter choose not to compare the War Against Global Hirabah to the more obvious conflict: the Cold War. How long did it take us to defeat the Evil Empire? Well, we first invaded in the 1920s and it didn't fall until 1992... so it took us about 70 years.
But of course, we weren't just fighting the Soviets; we were fighting Communism -- which included also Red China, North Korea, North Vietnam (later just Vietnam), Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Berkeley, Harvard, and many other satellite countries. Most of these still exist; does that make the entire Cold War worthless, the fall of the USSR a pyrrhic victory, and Ronald Reagan a fool?
Of course not. We won the Cold War because the influence of Communism collapsed from its peak in the early 1970s and has never recovered to that point. Victory is not complete so long as Communists states still exist in various places; but it is a victory nonetheless, because our future is no longer clouded by Lenin's long shadow.
And that is the same sort of war and "victory" we look for in the WAGH: When our future is no longer clouded by the grasping dead hands of Salafist Sunni and Shiite Twelvers, then we will have won.
We do not fight WWII-style wars anymore for reasons amply discussed in Thomas P.M. Barnett's book the Pentagon's New Map. That is not a reflection on President Bush, any more than it was a reflection on Ronald Reagan that we didn't leave the Soviet Union "in ruins, their militaries destroyed, their capacity for evil extinguished."
We live in a different world than that of six decades ago. So it goes.
Freedom Fighter is not the only person I know who pines for the good old days, when our enemies were clearly defined and had the decency to clump together into a single country (or in the instant case, a pair of discrete countries), and when we could fight massive tank battles in the sands of North Africa and hop from island to island, closing in on our foe. I think to some extent we all do... but some more than others.
But to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to war against the enemies you have. We weren't attacked by a country; we were attacked by a transnational group that affiliates, to some extent, with a number of countries. We took out two of the most dangerous affiliates -- the Taliban's Afghanistan and Hussein's Iraq. But we cannot possibly launch a war simultaneously against Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan (with nukes), Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and a half-dozen 'Stans. I'm puzzled that anyone would think we could.
I think this is another manifestation of American Omnipotence Syndrome... sort of the flip side of the Democratic version, where liberals demand to know why Bush "allowed" Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans -- instead of turning on his big wind-sucking machine and vacuuming it all up.
We voted for a pair of posts that did not fare all that well. Our number one achieved "middle of the pack" status, but number 2 was skunked by everyone else:
- What the NIE on Iran's Nuclear Weapons Development Doesn't Say, by The Glittering Eye;
- Another Sign: Islam Is a Human Rights Violation, by Rhymes With Right.
In the first, the author (I don't know who writes the Glittering Eye) points out all the cold facts about Iran that the new and not very improved National Intelligence Estimate did not change; they remain the same, and just as dangerous as before.
The second falls into the category of posts that note how much of the violence and depravity of Islamic radicals in fact comes straight from the tenets of Islam itself. The difference between a Moslem militant and moderate is not so much what they believe... but what they intend to do about what they believe.
We did much better in the Nouncil category, though neither of our choices won; but our number one and two came in a clean second and third, respectively. First, the winner:
- Men of Valor: Part IV, by Michael Yon.
Another Michael Yon piece. I suppose a lot of people love this stuff; Sachi does. But I must confess, it all seems the same to me... and purely descriptive, no real analysis. Not even the level of strategic thinking that one gets from, e.g., Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail (and all around the milblogosphere). Oh well; vox populi, vox Dei.
Now to our much more interesting choices...!
- What Happens After the Surge, by Pajamas Media (Omar Fadhil of Iraq the Model);
- What Iran's "Victory" Means, by ShrinkWrapped.
The first is an amazing, fascinating insider account of what is happening in Iraq, and where it's likely to go after the "surge" ends (after we transition out the extra troops we transitioned in). It's written by Omar Fadhil... one of the famous brothers who started and still contributes to Iraq the Model, the greatest blog every to come out of the Arab Middle East. (In fact, Omar is still the mainstay of the blog.)
In the second, the anonymous psychiatrist and psychoanalyst of ShrinkWrapped (hence the name -- cute, eh?) tries to fathom Iran and what it will do in response to the fawning NIE that the nits from the State Department just handed to the president (and the media). He has some very interesting insights, well worth reading.
I Saw 17 Posts Come Sailing In
...And you too can see them here!
Lame Duck Crushes Christmas Turkeys
I started this post last Thursday; but then I decided to hold it until I saw whether the predictions by the Washington Post and the New York Times would hold. They came through today... so here's the hodgepodge result combining the ancient past (Thursday the 13th of December) and the distant present (Tuesday the 18th). You'll take it, and you'll like it, by God and my right arm!
President George W. Bush -- dubbed irrelevant by congressional Democrats after they won a massive 15-seat majority in the House and an even more massive 2-seat majority in the Senate in 2006 -- has just won his 2,337th confrontation with the hapless Democrats this year. This time, it was on the Democrats' tax and spend and tax bill:
House Democratic leaders yesterday [that is, last Wednesday the 12th] agreed to meet President Bush's bottom-line spending limit on a sprawling, half-trillion-dollar domestic spending bill, dropping their demands for as much as $22 billion in additional spending but vowing to shift funds from the president's priorities to theirs.
The final legislation, still under negotiation, will be shorn of funding for the war in Iraq when it reaches the House floor, possibly on Friday. But Democratic leadership aides concede that the Senate will probably add those funds. A proposal to strip the bill of spending provisions for lawmakers' home districts was shelved after a bipartisan revolt, but Democrats say the number and size of those earmarks will be scaled back....
The agreement signaled that congressional Democrats are ready to give in to many of the White House's demands as they try to finish the session before they break for Christmas -- a political victory for the president, who has refused to compromise on the spending measures.
That bill was passed, but not last Friday as expected; the Democrats had to put out some intramural brush fires first. They passed the same legislation today... minus the Iraq-war funding, as the Post predicted:
Lawmakers then voted 206-201 to add $31 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, but the bill includes no money for the war in Iraq. The Senate, as early as today, is expected to add $40 billion for Iraq. The bill would then return a final time to the House.
But here is my favorite part of the Los Angeles Times story... where Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 90%) complains about being whipsawed by the president:
"In the face of an intransigent president and his allies in Congress, this legislation is the best we can do for the American people," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).
Thank God for intransigence!
Strangely, President Bush has more clout today, with a Democratic congress, than he did in 2004-2006 with a Republican one. But there is actually a very good explanation for that oddity.
When the Republicans were running Congress, Bush was constrained against using his most potent weapon, the veto: Bush, far more than congressional Republicans, follows Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment -- "Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans" -- and it would be a terrible insult for a Republican president to veto legislation approved by a GOP Congress.
This was unfortunate and politically catastrophic, because spending under the 109th Congress, and the 108th before them, rose out of control -- though not as fast as if the Democratic proposals had been adopted instead. I believe this was even more the cause of the 2006 defeat than the Iraq war, probably second only to the hot e-mails to pages by former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.
A threat by a Republican president to veto Republican legislation would have produced a miracle of financial rectitude: As much as Bush did not want to humiliate them, they were even more anxious not to be humiliated. Thus, the mere threat could possibly have reined in the spending... and possibly even saved the GOP majority.
In another example of how the power of the veto can win friends and influence members of Congress, Senate Democrats -- desperate to get out of town before Christmas to do some campaigning, fundraising, and heavy partying -- gave away the store on the energy bill:
The legislation still includes a landmark increase in fuel-economy standards for vehicles and a huge boost for alternative fuels. But a $13 billion tax increase on oil companies and a requirement that utilities nationwide produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources were left on the floor to secure Republican votes for the package.
The tax measure and the renewable electricity mandate were included in an energy bill that easily passed the House of Representatives last week. But industry lobbyists focused their attention on Republican members of the Senate and on the White House, which repeatedly threatened to veto the bill if the offending sections were not removed. Earlier in the week, Senate leaders agreed to drop the renewable electricity section.
And on Thursday, after a failed effort to cut off debate on the bill, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, announced that he would reluctantly remove the tax provisions as well, clearing the way for passage by a vote of 86 to 8.
That same bill was also passed by a wide margin (314-100) in the House today, having already been passed by the Senate; and it goes now to the president's desk. (The reason that both majorities are veto proof, of course, is that Bush himself approved the compromise.)
The only disappointment was that the Democrats managed to strip all support for new nuclear power plants from the energy bill:
Nearly half of House Republicans, meanwhile, condemned the legislation as a " No Energy Bill," because it lacked expanded access to new oil and gas exploration and failed to include incentives for development of coal or nuclear energy.
"For all the conventional energy sources that fuel this great nation, this is basically a no-energy bill," said ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
But even there, Bush beat them like naughty children... because support for the nuclear industry has instead been inserted into the House omnibus spending bill just passed:
But they were not the only ones unhappy with the final product. In their struggle to meet White House demands while preserving some of their priorities, Democratic leaders made changes to their initial spending bills that seemed to anger everyone. Environmentalists were annoyed by a provision allowing the Energy Department to guarantee loans to energy companies for the development of liquid coal and nuclear projects that otherwise could not receive bank financing.
"This is the mother of all gift cards to the nuclear and coal industry," said Anna Aurilio, Washington director of Environment America.
Last, but not least in the least, the Democrats have finally caved on the awful expansion of SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. SCHIP was originally intended, when enacted in 1997, to offer health insurance to impoverished children; and it was sunsetted to expire in ten years... which means in less than two weeks.
But rather than simply reauthorize it, the Democrats boldly chose to vastly expand it (from $25 billion to $60 billion over the next five years) -- and also to extend the program to middle middle- and upper middle-income kids who already have private insurance, but would likely switch to the cheaper government-subsidized plan; and even to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Plan to upper middle-income adults. This would have been a "great leap forward" to government-run health care, and it will certainly be the cornerstone of a Hillary Clinton campaign, should she win the nomination.
Bush vetoed the legislation; the veto was overridden in the Senate, but the House failed by 13 votes, even though 44 Republicans joined with the Democrats. In response, the Democrats made some cosmetic changes and repassed essentially the same bill (only Yog Sothoth, the Lurker at the Threshold, knows what they were thinking).
But when Bush vetoed the bill for a second time (couldn't see that coming!), House and Senate Democratic leaders chose not to try to override: They knew it would fail by an identical margin, since it was essentially the same bill. Instead, they have dropped their planned expansion and accepted a 15-month extension of the current program:
But Democrats fell just short of a veto override [the first time], and as the end of the session [and Christmas] approaches, they have agreed to an 15 month extension of the existing program, with extra money added only to cover state budget shortfalls, according to House and Senate aides. If the deal holds, the Senate would vote first on the program's extension, followed by the House.
Even with this long-term extension, Democrats aren't letting go of SCHIP as a political issue. They are planning a Jan. 23 veto override vote -- just days before President Bush gives his final State of the Union address.
The Democrats may get a shock on January 23rd. The two primary purposes for Democrats to vote for the SCHIP expansion were first, to push us towards government-run health care, and second, to embarass the president and conservative Republicans by making them appear to vote against healthy kids. Thus, it makes perfect sense to them to try to override the second veto in January ("just days before President Bush gives his final State of the Union address"!)
Contrariwise, the primary reason that many Republicans voted with the Democrats to override the veto was the fear of being painted as anti-child if they allowed SCHIP to die. I doubt that most thought the expansion was a good idea, even while they voted for it.
But in January, when the Democrats try to override again, GOP members of Congress will have no incentive to join them... because a deal will already have been struck to ensure that poor kids continue to get health insurance past the next election.
Contrariwise, Republicans will have every reason to oppose a purely symbolic vote whose only purpose is to embarass their fellow Republicans, whose support will be needed in November. I suspect this veto-override attempt will attract a lot fewer Republicans than the last one did, when the future of the SCHIP program itself was on the line; and it will be the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are humbled: The vote in January will be purely a vote to expand SCHIP, not to continue it; the veto override may well get no Republican votes at all.
So first the Democrats caved two or three hundred times on Iraq; then they caved on the huge spending increases they wanted; now they cave on the draconian tax increases they wanted to slap onto the "excess profits" of the oil industry; and they're just about to fully cave on their latest foray into government-run health care. Bush just ran the table.
As the title says, the "lame duck" president crushed the Democratic Congress so anxious to get the hell out of Dodge in time to raise money, run for reelection, and party like it's (still) 1999 (generally, Democrats manage to combine all three into a single event). The power of the presidency -- and the genius of the Founding Fathers' demand for a strong executive -- is thus reaffirmed.
Date ►►► December 17, 2007
Huckasmears of Yesteryear...
I'm almost tempted to start a whole new catagory just for bizarre, liberal conspiracy theories that Mike Huckabee buys into; we'll see.
I've been reading Huckabee's article in Foreign Affairs from the January/February 2008 issue. I'm stunned by how many liberal shibboleths the governor would easily pass. (As I type this, Hugh Hewitt is on the same topic.)
Although the article is current, in fact each of these nutroot smears were originally delivered by Huckabee back in September, when he gave a condensed version of this article as a speech at a conference organized by the magazine; so he's been passing these canards for some time. (In that same speech, by the way, he said he was the only candidate with a Theology degree... which, of course, he does not actually have.)
Let's take a look at a couple.
President Bush took "retribution" against Gen. Eric Shinseki
Here's one that no one has mentioned so far:
In the former Yugoslavia, we sent 20 peacekeeping soldiers for every thousand civilians. In Iraq, an equivalent ratio would have meant sending a force of 450,000 U.S. troops. Unlike President George W. Bush, who marginalized General Eric Shinseki, the former army chief of staff, when he recommended sending several hundred thousand troops to Iraq, I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice. Our generals must be independent advisers, always free to speak without fear of retribution or dismissal.
Mike Huckabee thinks that Gen. Eric Shinseki was dismissed? This is straight out the Democratic talking points. In fact, Shinseki was sworn in for his fixed, 4-year term as Army Chief of Staff in 1999, and he left office in 2003 -- four years later. Huckabee tries to weasel a bit by saying Bush "marginalized" Shinseki; but rejecting a general's advice is not marginalizing him.
Some Democrats make a big deal out of the fact that the Washington Post had an article in April, 2002, claiming that the Bush admininistration had just announced Shinseki's successor... Jack Keane. This, claim Democrats and liberals (such as Mike Huckabee), "undercut" Shinseki and turned him into a "lame duck," or "marginalized" him, as Huckabee says... and all as an act of "retribution" for Shinseki saying that we would need "several hundred thousand" troops to win in Iraq.
There are a two major problems with this Huckasmear:
- Eric Shinseki's successor as Army Chief of Staff was not Jack Keane; it was Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker;
- The Post published its article in April, 2002... but Shinseki made his comment about needing "several hundred thousand troops" in congressional testimony in February 2003, ten months after the supposed "retribution." (I've heard of preemptive war, but preemptive retribution?)
Here is a clip from CNN, where Wolf Blitzer does a little fact-checking on Paul Begala, who appears to be Huckabee's main source:
BLITZER: As promised yesterday, we want to do a follow-up now on something Paul Begala said in an exchange with Torie Clarke yesterday in our strategy session. Paul charged that General Eric Shinseki was effectively relieved of duty as Army chief of staff for testifying under oath that the U.S. needed lots more troops to secure Iraq.
We promised to check the facts on that. And here's what we've come up with. This is what we know. General Shinseki served out his full four-year term as the Army chief of staff. But the defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld tapped a successor for Shinseki back in April of 2002, more than a year before his retirement.
That person didn't wind up taking the job, but such an early announcement was indeed embarrassing to Shinseki, and some say it wound up undercutting his clout inside the Pentagon.
Here's a critical point on the timing. The Pentagon was planning for Shinseki's retirement nearly a year before the general testified that several hundred thousand soldiers might be need in post-war Iraq. That testimony got a very quick response from the secretary, that would be Donald Rumsfeld, who charged that Shinseki's assessment was flat out wrong.
Rumsfeld says that suggestions, though, that Shinseki was fired are a myth. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who's done a lot of reporting on this story, says that Shinseki was certainly ostracized and criticized for his testimony about troop levels in Iraq. But Jamie says Shinseki was not fired. He wound up retiring after serving his full four-year term.
This show aired on March 21, 2006... a year and eight months ago. Yet Mike Huckabee still believes, today, that the "arrogant" President Bush, probably acting from his "bunker mentality," took "retribution" on Gen. Shinseki by "marginaliz[ing]" or "dismiss[ing]" him for saying we would need more troops than Rumsfeld was planning at the time. Gov. Huckabee is way behind even the MSM on correcting a Democrat smear of George W. Bush.
Bush "let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora" by outsourcing the battle to the Afghans
Just one more; the rest must wait for another day, another Huckapost:
When we let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora, a region along the Afghan-Pakistani border, in December 2001, we played Brer Fox to his Brer Rabbit.
This is another Democratic talking point against Bush; it was first reported in 2002, starting with the Washington Post, I believe, and then all over the elite media. Every so often, the meme bubbles up again: A 2004 document surfaces that allegedly charges a prisoner with "assist[ing] in the escape of Usama Bin Laden from Tora Bora;" Fox News reports that some Afghan warlord claims he was the one who helped Bin Laden escape Tora Bora, and so forth.
But the fact is that no Army document has ever been presented, and nobody in charge of that battle has ever come forward to say, that we knew then or know today whether Osama bin Laden was personally present at Tora Bora. Jed Babbin did what none of these other news agencies did: He actually interviewed those involved and asked them:
I asked [Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, deputy commander of CENTCOM during the Afghan conflict] to bottom line it: Had the Bush administration concluded that OBL was present in Tora Bora? Was it the gravest error of the war to not commit enough U.S. ground troops? "Rifle" DeLong said, "Somebody could have made that statement, but it sure as hell wasn't the people who fought the war." No one in the military chain of command -- or in the Pentagon in any position of authority -- has reached this phantom "conclusion" that we blew it at Tora Bora....
After the north fell and then Kabul, "...we got word that Osama bin Laden with his leadership -- what was left of it -- could possibly be up in the Tora Bora mountains. We also got word the same day that he could be in Egypt." Reports poured in, some appeared reliable, that OBL could also be in Dubai or in Pakistan. Franks and DeLong concluded, based on the preponderance of the intelligence that OBL was in Tora Bora. U.S. forces couldn't invade Egypt, Pakistan, or Dubai, but they could take a shot at Tora Bora where a substantial number of al Qaeda -- with or without bin Laden -- were hiding. Once again, the Afghanis were integrated with the American and Coalition forces. Nobody "outsourced" the job to them.
Babbin's piece was published on November 1st, 2004. Considering this Huckasmear along with the one above, and his statement that "If I ever have to undertake a large invasion, I will follow the Powell Doctrine and use overwhelming force," and his unattainable demand that we must raise our Defense budget up to what it was during Reagan's term, during the Cold War (that is, add $240 billion annually to bring it up to 6% of the GDP)... I have to wonder whether Huckabee is simply living in the past. Did he stop following the War on Global Hirabah in 2003, or has he read or learned anything more recent than that? (What next... will he demand we bring back the Crusader program?)
And who is is actual advisor on this? We already know he would have believed Eric Shinseki over Tommy Franks; does he also pine for advice from Madeleine Albright, Paul Begala, and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%)?
The more I read about him -- in his own words! -- the more I believe that Huckabee is the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time. If I may quote Friend Lee (notwithstanding Huckabee apologist Michael Medved), "it can't be hush-a-bye time soon enough for Mike Huckabee."
Date ►►► December 16, 2007
Another Day, Another Huckasmear
Can't Huckabee open his yap without spewing offense?
The liberal Republican from Arkansas (on every issue, it seems, but abortion) has once again managed to say something absurdly offensive; but this time, it's truly of Kerryesque proportions. Ironically, the Huckster committed today's offensive gaffe while defending himself from yesterday's offensive gaffe: describing President Bush's foreign policy as an "arrogant bunker mentality" that is "counterproductive at home and abroad;" demanding that America do a 180 to finally become "generous in helping others;" and comparing the United States to a maladjusted high-school boy who nobody likes because he's a bully. (Paul Mirengoff at Power Line did a magnificent job of skewering yesterday's gaffe... but I've got the jump on the lads with today's!)
So after Mitt Romney tore into Mike Huckabee about this adolescent attack on the Bush administration, with the implication that a Huckabee foreign policy would more or less resemble Barack Obama's, the Huckaschmuck shoehorned himself onto CNN and gamely (or rather, lamely) tried to defend himself by saying "I didn’t say the president was arrogant; I said that the policies have been arrogant."
Oh. Well, that makes all the difference.
Then the CNN host -- unnamed in the Times story -- asked him about a piece by Rich Lowry of the National Review where Lowry compared Huckabee to Howard Dean. And here (at last!) is today's Kerryesque offensive gaffe:
Mr. Huckabee suggested that such criticism came from people whose concerns were not those of ordinary voters.
“I’m connecting to the people they don’t know,” Mr. Huckabee said, people “who are out there waiting tables and driving cabs.” He alone among the candidates, he said, had “actually had to work for a living.”
The obvious intent here is to smear his opponents by painting them as being either so upper-class and elite that they never had to work a day in their lives; they just sat around and clipped coupons. Or else they were so lazy that they just loafed, until some mysterious magic wand smacked them on the noggin, and they found themselves running for president.
By contrast, Mike Huckabee has been out in the real world, "waiting tables and driving cabs," honestly "work[ing] for a living." And he's the only one!
(This parallels the emblematic quote by John Forbes Kerry:
You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.)
"He alone among the candidates, he said, had 'actually had to work for a living.'” Take a moment to ponder the breathtaking stupidity of that claim. Recall that he earlier claimed -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he was the only man in the race "with a degree in theology." (It seems he has been lying about having a masters degree in theology for years; it's still in his InfoPlease biography as a former governor.) Talk about your "arrogant bunker mentality..."
So let's run through the curriculum vitae of a few of Gov. Huckabee's rivals, starting with the Mormon he loves to hate...
Williard Mitt Romney
After graduating from high school and briefly attending Stanford, Romney went on mission in France. For 30 months, he traveled around France with several other LDS missionaries, trying to convert French Catholics and Protestants. But perhaps Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee doesn't consider missionary work to be working for a living. So let's skip ahead.
After France, Romney returned to university, this time Brigham Young U., then on to Harvard, where he earned both a JD and an MBA simultaneously. After which, he went to work for the Boston Consulting Group. Three years later, in 1978 (Romney was 31 at this time), he became a vice president of Bain & Company, Inc., also of Boston. In 1984, at the age of 37, he left Bain & Company to co-found a spin-off, Bain Capital, where he stayed for the next 14 years.
In 1990, he was asked to simultaneously return to Bain & Company as CEO, which was headed for financial collapse; he saved the company.
Then in 1998, he left both Bains to rescue the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics bid... which he did over the next four years. He turned a $379 million shortfall into a $100 million profit -- and he donated his $825,000 salary to charity during that time.
So evidently, we can conclude that to Mike Huckabee, working as a manager and an executive doesn't count as "work[ing] for a living."
Huckabee knows that Romney was governor of Massachusetts, so clearly he doesn't consider working as an elected public official to be "work[ing] for a living," either.
But maybe the problem is that Huckabee is simply envious of those born well-to-do, and he doesn't consider the work of rich people to really constitute "work." After all, Romney's father George worked his way up to CEO of American Motors by the time Romney was seven.
Maybe Huckabee meant he was the only presidential candidate who "had to work for a living," as in, couldn't rely upon an eventual inheritance and was forced to scratch for his own seed, to "root, hog, or die."
(This begs the question, though; doesn't it say something important about a person's character if he doesn't need to work for a living -- but he does anyway?)
So let's "move on" to another rival...
Rudolph William Louis "Rudy" Giuliani
Unlike Romney, Giuliani was born to "working class" parents who were both first-generation Americans. Giuliani's father Harold was convicted of assault and robbery and did a stretch in Sing Sing; after getting out, he became a Mafia enforcer for his brother-in-law, the loan shark. This is not a mob position generally regarded as wildly lucrative.
Despite this background, Giuliani managed to graduate from Manhattan College in Riverdale, a Roman Catholic college for boys in the Bronx, and then from the law school at New York University School of Law. He graduated with a JD in 1968, at the age of 24. After clerking for a federal judge, Giuliani joined the US Attorney's Office in 1970.
From 1975-1977, he worked as a Justice Department lawyer, prosecuting corruption cases; then he entered private practice during the Carter years. When Reagan was elected, Giuliani returned to the Justice Department as an Associate Attorney General, where he supervised the Department of Corrections, the DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
In 1983, Giuliani was named U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. There he stayed until 1990, when he moved to private practice after losing the 1989 mayoral race; he was elected Mayor of New York City in 1993.
So I reckon we can also add "attorney" and "prosecutor" to the professions that do not constitute "work" to Mike Huckabee. Let's see who's next...
Freddie "Fred" Dalton Thompson
After graduating high school, Thompson worked for a year or so at the post office, moonlighting at a bicycle assembly plant. He graduated from college in 1964 -- the first of his family ever to attend university -- and got his JD degree from Vanderbilt on scholarship in 1967.
We already know that Huckabee doesn't consider being an attorney "work[ing] for a living;" so we'll skip over all that.
Thompson began his acting career in 1983, playing himself, oddly enough, in the film adaptation of a book about a famous wrongful-termination trial; Thompson had represented Marie Ragghianti... who had been fired for refusing to let out inmates, even after they had bribed aides to her boss, Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton of Tennessee.
Since the 1985 release of Marie, Thompson has acted in 29 movies and 150 television episodes, mostly on various incarnations of Law & Order.
All right... so "salaried actor and entertainer" is yet another in the rapidly expanding list of occupations which Mike Huckabee rejects as "work[ing] for a living." And that brings us to...
John Sidney McCain III
McCain was born to a career naval officer -- named John Sidney McCain, jr., oddly enough -- in 1936, five years after McCain, jr. was commissioned. (Most likely, McCain's father was a lieutenant at the time.) McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone.
Like most Navy brats, McCain moved around a lot during his early years. He believes he attended about 20 different schools before entering Annapolis. He graduated and was commissioned in 1958, at age 22.
McCain was trained at NAS Pensacola (naturally), becoming a Naval Aviator in 1960. He flew carriers until 1962, then served a shore tour at NAS Meridian (Mississippi) as flight instructor. He returned to carrier duty in 1966.
He began Vietnam ops in 1967, as part of Operation Rolling Thunder. Later that year, Lt.Com. McCain was almost killed in the infamous USS Forrestal fire: McCain's plane was the one struck by the misfired missile from another plane, while he was readying for takeoff; he managed to blow the canopy and climb forward, across the nose to the refueling probe, jump to the burning deck, and escape with his life. The fire killed 132 sailors, injured 62 others, and destroyed 20 aircraft.
While the Forrestal was being repaired, McCain volunteered for the USS Oriskany, which ironically enough had just suffered its own devastating fire, losing 44 crew -- including 24 pilots. The Oriskany had also lost many pilots during flight ops, so they were desperate for more aviators.
Alas, on McCain's first mission off the Oriskany, his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi. After breaking both arms and a leg in the SA-2 missile strike, McCain ejected. On the ground, he was beaten by a mob, had his shoulder crushed by a rifle butt, and was bayonetted in the foot and the abdomen. He was later beaten again, this time by interrogators in a POW camp.
The next year, 1968, the solitary confinement and torture began (to this day, he cannot raise his arms above his shoulders). In 1969, McCain was transferred to the "Hanoi Hilton" (the Hoa Loa Prison). He remained a POW until 1973, spending five and a half years in captivity.
The next year was spent in physical therapy and other treatment, and he was restored to flight status in 1974. McCain remained in the United States Navy until his retirement in 1981 as a Captain, adding up to more than 22 years of active-duty military service, not counting the four years at the USNA.
Guess what else Mike Huckabee doesn't think constitutes "work[ing] for a living?"
So now we know what Huckabee thinks doesn't count as "work": Being a manager or executive at a company, being a prosecutor, supervising federal agencies, being an actor or entertainer, and being a career military officer and combat veteran. I leave it up to the readers to decide how many Americans this smears with the "elite" or "lazy" tag.
So what does count as work to him? He uses himself as the exemplar of work -- "He alone among the candidates, he said, had 'actually had to work for a living.'" Let's see what that work comprised...
Michael Dale Huckabee
Like Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee was born in Hope, Arkansas. His first job at age 14 was reading the news and weather at a local radio station.
For his next job at age 23, after graduating from Ouachita Baptist University and dropping out of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Huckabee worked for televangelist James Robison as a staffer. From then until 1991, he worked as the pastor of various churches around Arkansas, as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, and as "president" (whatever that means) of religious television channel KBSC (now KLFI).
Then in 1993, he took the oath as Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas. Apart from the CV above, I was unable to find any other jobs he claims to have worked -- not even on his own campaign web page. I admit I haven't read any of his books, so maybe he mentions some there.
But barring that, I think we can tentatively conclude that, while Mike Huckabee rejects business, the law, acting, and the military as professions where one might "work for a living," he evidently does count being a church pastor and running a religious television station.
Well... if he says so, who am I to disagree?
Date ►►► December 14, 2007
"The Courage to Do Nothing"
There are some things Man (according to the dominant paradigm) is not meant to know...
And here's a nice round-up of forbidden knowledge from the Republicans in the Senate, led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK, 100%), ranking member (and former chairman) of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW). Inhofe is a national treasure, one of the few Republicans not only willing to stand up against the greedy socialists at the UN (many Republicans do that), but also willing to put in the time to educate himself on the actual science involved.
This makes Inhofe a much more potent danger to the regime of so-called "anthropogenic (man-made) global climate change" than his colleagues. Hardly any other senator or representative, on either side the aisle, is willing to go so far as actually learning something about what he's talking about.
In the meanwhile, my brother sends me a link to another page of the Senate EPW Republican minority website, in which Inhofe finally nails the climatistas: He catches them confessing the real reason for all the hoopla about globaloney. This is a true "cognition" moment when all the pieces abruptly fall into place:
A global tax on carbon dioxide emissions was urged to help save the Earth from catastrophic man-made global warming at the United Nations climate conference. A panel of UN participants on Thursday urged the adoption of a tax that would represent “a global burden sharing system, fair, with solidarity, and legally binding to all nations....”
“A climate change response must have at its heart a redistribution of wealth and resources,” said Emma Brindal, a climate justice campaigner coordinator for Friends of the Earth.
Yes. Now you understand why I have consistently referred to the climatistas as "socialists": Because they are.
But back to the first report from EPW. Evidently, Man was not meant to know that...
An international team of scientists skeptical of man-made climate fears promoted by the UN and former Vice President Al Gore, descended on Bali this week to urge the world to "have the courage to do nothing" in response to UN demands.
Lord Christopher Monckton, a UK climate researcher, had a blunt message for UN climate conference participants on Monday.
"Climate change is a non-problem. The right answer to a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing," Monckton told participants.
"The UN conference is a complete waste of our time and your money and we should no longer pay the slightest attention to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,)" Monckton added.
A group called Frontiers of Freedom posts several pieces by Lord Monckton; Frontiers of Freedom appears to be a much-needed force on the right side of the "Sense vs. Nonsense" debate now going on among climate scientists around the world. The exaggerated reality of globaloney has started to sink in; and climatologists, atmospheric physicists and chemists, meteorologists, and such have begun to realize how much damage would be done not only to the field but to their own personal careers, were they to be caught in the lies of the high priests of anthropogenic global climate change.
Here is a clip from another of Monckton's pieces currently on the front page of FF.org:
As a contributor to the IPCC's 2007 report, I share the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. Yet I and many of my peers in the British House of Lords - through our hereditary element the most independent-minded of lawmakers - profoundly disagree on fundamental scientific grounds with both the IPCC and my co-laureate's alarmist movie An Inconvenient Truth, which won this year's Oscar for Best Sci-Fi Comedy Horror.
Two detailed investigations by Committees of the House confirm that the IPCC has deliberately, persistently and prodigiously exaggerated not only the effect of greenhouse gases on temperature but also the environmental consequences of warmer weather.
My contribution to the 2007 report illustrates the scientific problem. The report's first table of figures - inserted by the IPCC's bureaucrats after the scientists had finalized the draft, and without their consent - listed four contributions to sea-level rise. The bureaucrats had multiplied the effect of melting ice from the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets by 10.
Monckton goes on to note that the sea-level rise caused by melting ice sheets is actually expected to be 7 centimeters over 100 years... "not seven meters imminently, and that the Greenland ice sheet (which thickened by 50 cm between 1995 and 2005) might only melt after several millennia, probably by natural causes, just as it last did 850,000 years ago."
Had Monckton not corrected the record, a "seven meters" rise -- that's 22.965879265 feet, or rounding off, 23 feet -- would have become the new conventional "wisdom" on globaloney. It would have appeared in paper after paper, and nobody else would ever have gone back to the original source, realized the mistake the politicians (not the scientists) had made, and noted the error. Note that until Monckton did it, nobody else had.
Thus are great Nonsense discoveries made.
But here's that laundry list we promised of even more things Man was not meant to know, according to the IPCC:
- Dr. David Evans is a mathematician who does "carbon accounting" for the government of Australia: "We now have quite a lot of evidence that carbon emissions definitely don't cause global warming. We have the missing [human] signature [in the atmosphere], we have the IPCC models being wrong and we have the lack of a temperature going up the last 5 years." More from Dr. Evans.
- Evans also notes a peer-reviewed paper this month in the International Journal of Climatology of the Royal Meteorological Society, which finds that "Climate warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence." The authors are Prof. David H. Douglass (Univ. of Rochester), Prof. John R. Christy (Univ. of Alabama), Benjamin D. Pearson (graduate student), and Prof. S. Fred Singer (Univ. of Virginia).
- Dr Vincent Gray, a charter member of the UN IPCC Expert Reviewers Panel, writes in the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition website: "Over the years, as I have learned more about the data and procedures of the IPCC I have found increasing opposition by them to providing explanations, until I have been forced to the conclusion that for significant parts of the work of the IPCC, the data collection and scientific methods employed are unsound. Resistance to all efforts to try and discuss or rectify these problems has convinced me that normal scientific procedures are not only rejected by the IPCC, but that this practice is endemic, and was part of the organisation from the very beginning. I therefore consider that the IPCC is fundamentally corrupt. The only "reform" I could envisage, would be its abolition."
Some more peer-reviewed research recently published in refereed scientific journals that casts considerable doubt on the "consensus position" of the IPCC:
- "Phenomenological reconstructions of the solar signature in the Northern Hemisphere surface temperature records since 1600", by N. Scafetta and B. J. West, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. "Under this scenario the Sun might have contributed up to approximately 50%... of the observed global warming since 1900.
- "Quantifying the influence of anthropogenic surface processes and inhomogeneities on gridded global climate data," by Ross R. McKitrick and Patrick J. Michaels, to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (in press): "We conclude that the data contamination likely leads to an overstatement of actual trends over land. Using the regression model to filter the extraneous, nonclimatic effects reduces the estimated 1980-2002 global average temperature trend over land by about half."
- "A 2000-year global temperature reconstruction based on non-treering proxies," by Dr. Craig Loehle, Energy & Environment 18(7-8): 1049-1058: "There are reasons to believe that tree ring data may not properly capture long-term climate changes. In this study, eighteen 2000-year-long series were obtained that were not based on tree ring data.... The mean series shows the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) quite clearly, with the MWP being approximately 0.3°C warmer than 20th century values at these eighteen sites."
Many, many more links, quotes, and snarks at the EPW minority site. Our point is not to mock those pushing the "consensus position" -- well, all right, you caught me: Our point is not entirely to mock those pushing the "consensus position;" it's also important to note that the "consensus position" of the IPCC is really not a consensus.
In politics, "consensus" may mean 75%, or even 2/3rds. For example, it only takes a consensus of 50%+1 of the House and 2/3rds of the U.S. Senate to remove a president from office by impeachment.
But in science, the word "consensus" has a very different meaning. Rather than a majority or even supermajority, a scientific consensus means that every oft-cited scientist doing contemporary research in the field must agree. That means that if there are, say, 50 specialists considered "cutting edge" in some particular scientific field, to say you have the "consensus" of scientists in that field, all 50 would have to agree.
If just one of those 50 dissented, and was publishing research he said contradicted the proposed consensus position, that research would have to be answered. In science, it's not sufficient to say, "yeah, well he doesn't count": You need to produce peer-reviewed data showing that the dissenter is wrong, and explaining why he achieved the results he did, before you can move to a consensus.
Science does not advance by majority vote; it is, in fact, precisely the dissenters -- Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, Heisenberg -- who produce the truly new science. The vast majority of dissenters are inevitably going to be wrong; but the vast majority of scientific breakthroughs nevertheless come from dissenters. This apparent contradiction is essential to understanding the history of science.
The problem is that the UN's IPCC is not a scientific body; it is a political body, controlled by diplomats and politicians and operating under political rules -- but releasing its "findings" as if they were science. Other politicians then seize upon these political reports to claim that "the science" backs their demands for essentially socialist redistribution of wealth from rich, modern, capitalist countries ("polluters") to poor, anachronistic, socialist ones ("innocent victims").
This further allows socialists to pretend that socialism works: It "works" when capitalists are forced by some legal regime to contribute constant coerced infusions of cash to prevent these third-world economies from completely collapsing.
In politics, the major actors know how to deal with dissenters: They are marginalized (no matter how good the science they publish), labeled extremists, and banned from participating in conventions, councils, panels, and other fora. And this is precisely what the IPCC has consistently done to those scientists who do not lovingly embrace the putative "consensus position" on anthropogenic global climate change.
More and more scientists are becoming agitated and resentful of the tactic, and even those who for the most part support the "consensus position" are starting to speak out against the bullying tactics of the IPCC itself. Look for both primary dissent (disagreement with the "consensus position") and secondary dissent (anger at the thuggish treatment of primary dissenters) to rise and rise -- faster than the sea level! -- until it floods across the whole edifice of globaloney, washing it away like a tidal wave across a Bangladeshi beachfront bistro.
UPDATE: It appears that John Hinderaker and I have two thoughts with but a single mind between them...
Date ►►► December 13, 2007
The Men on the Wall
I recently had a conversation with a Japanese-American who calls himself "Asean-Peace." He is a regional director of an NGO on an island in the South Pacific, and I know him through online correspondence. We argued about maritime safety in Japanese waters and the dangers that face Japanese merchant and naval vessels in international waters. When I complained that the United States Navy often has to protect the Japanese because the Japanese ships cannot defend themselves (not even from pirates in Somalian waters), he said something profoundly disturbing.
But before I get to that, let me detour to a great work of literature; don't worry, it will all make sense in the end. Trust me.
One of my favorite novels is J.R.R. Tolkin's the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Overall, I was extremely pleased with Peter Jackson's movie adaptation. However, he disappointed me when he decided to cut a critically important chapter near the end of the trilogy: "The scouring of the Shire." A subsequent interview with Jackson, in which he referred to this chapter as an "anticlimax," led me to believe that Jackson never fully appreciated the importance of the return to the Shire and the final war. In fact, this chapter, not the destruction of the ring and the war against Sauron, is the true climax of the entire story.
The Lord of the Rings begins and ends in a land called the Shire ("shire" is a British word similar to county or parish); the Shire is where live the main characters of the novel, the "hobbits."
The Shire has been a peaceful place for generations. It is said that there once was a great war in which many hobbits fought and died; but that was so long ago that even ancient memories had long since forgotten it.
Except for a few hobbits who live in a city called Bree, hobbits don't venture out of the Shire. Occasionally, the Shire hobbits hear rumors of approaching war; but war always means "bad things happening in faraway places" to them... nothing to do with the Shire! The Shire is peaceful, and that is all that matters.
But what the hobbits don't realize is that their beloved Shire has been protected night and day by a group of raggedly dressed but impeccaby captained warriors called the Rangers. The Rangers -- led, in the story's era, by Strider, also called Aragorn -- have fought many, many battles over centuries to prevent evil forces from advancing into the Shire.
Hobbits occasionally see Rangers, but they think of them only as dangerous and unseemly folk to be avoided. The Rangers' bravery and blood are not only not appreciated, they are not even noticed.
Bear all that in mind; let's return to my online acquaintance from Japan.
Asean said that Japan is paying "a lot of money" to the U.S. for protection. What he meant was that Japan allows the United States to maintain military bases in Japan, mostly free of charge; and that Japan even pays some of the operating costs and the expenses of moving to new locations... for example, when we had to relocate our base from Okinawa to Guam because of protests by Japanese leftists.
Also, the Japanese government buys a lot of U.S. savings bonds, which (insisted Asean) keeps the American economy afloat. I was told by a number of Japanese that if Japanese taxpayers stopped supporting our economy, it would collapse. Frankly, I think that is a bloody bunch of... but I digress.
Since the US military is the only entity capable of policing the world, why shouldn't Japan totally rely upon them? That is how my online correspondent sees the situation: Japan pays enough to buy its protection, so what are Americans complaining about?
I told Asean that paying others to protect your own country is a sure way to lose face. He shrugged; most Japanese think merely losing respect is a cheap price to pay for never having to fight. Japan suffered so much from the last war -- in which Japan was the imperialist aggressor -- that many Japanese simply refuse to fight again, ever... no matter what the provocation. They won't to fight even to protect their own interests, land, or culture; they are content to outsource national defense in a way that Americans cannot even imagine.
Is this a position worthy of a once-proud nation of Samurai warriors? How can they face their ancestors, who would have fought bravely and died rather than surrender?
Aside from the craven and disgusting nature of this attitude, their strategy of self defense by proxy is doomed to fail. It has several problems:
Refusing to fight does not let you avoid war; rather, it invites war.
Why did radical Iranian students keep American hostages for 444 days, rather than the three or four days which they initially planned? Because then-President Jimmy Carter made it very clear that he would not initiate any military action against Iran to get the hostages back.
Why did Sadam Hussein openly defy UN resolution after UN resolution following the Gulf war? Because then-president Bill Clinton was utterly unwilling to fight an open war with Hussein.
And why did al-Qaeda launch the 9-11 attacks? Because Osama bin Laden passionately -- and wrongly -- believed that Americans would not fight. America is weak and corrupt, he said, and they will run if we are bold. The perception of weakness invites attack; the perception of strength deters attack.
Mercenaries are not loyal to you; they always have their own agenda.
Americans will protect Japan only when it is necessary for American defense. But if we have to choose between Japan and our own interests, the choice is clear.
- Americans cannot be everywhere; we're not omnipotent: It's impossible for the United States to fully protect Japan even if we wanted.
- Finally, the most likely reason outsourcing national defense will fail is the "men on the wall" syndrome: Just like the hobbits of the Shire, the Japanese have not fought a war for a long, long time. They have forgotten how to fight, and even that there is any need to fight.
Because Japan has let someone else do the fighting for them, they have forgotten that the war currently raging between Western civilization and radical Islam involves Japan, as well. They have forgotten the need for the men on the wall, as Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) puts it in the 1992 movie a Few Good Men. I think this is a good time to revisit that speech, the only honest scene in Rob Reiner's movie:
We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg?
I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives.
And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty; we use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said "thank you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.
Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are "entitled" to.
Since Tom Cruise -- and Rob Reiner -- are unable to answer Nicholson's point, they find a way to destroy him using a stupid pet trick. But the points still stands, right up there on the wall with the Marines; Reiner cannot cannot answer because there is no answer.
The reason Japanese are now bitterly complaining about American bases being in Japan, about having to pay the cost of relocation -- a relocation Japan itself demanded -- is that they have forgotten why Americans are there in the first place.
Who are these people spending our tax money and staying on our land for free? they demand to know. Well, it isn't "free": Americans are there to protect Japan, and the risk we incur is the price we pay for having our own bases in Asia. A fair deal, position for protection... remember? People who once thought the price was well worth it now decide they're paying too much.
This is only natural, because two whole generations of Japanese have never seen war. It doesn't exist to them, and they don't remember why those men were on top of that silly wall in the first place. (There's an old American expression: Never tear down a fence until you know why someone put it up.)
And that is the reason Peter Jackson is dead wrong, and "the scouring of the Shire" is so important: war finally comes to the Shire itself. The Rangers are long gone, Gandalf is elsewhere, and even the elves have left. There is nobody else to defend the Shire but the hobbits. If they want to take back their land, they must themselves fight against the occupiers. A couple of hobbits who had ventured out of the Shire and fought in alien lands, Merry and Pippin, lead the battle. They've seen war; they've learnt how to fight.
Maybe as more and more Japanese work closely in peacekeeping operations with Americans and other fighters -- even if the Japanese work in a non-combat capacity -- they will rediscover war, the common heritage of all humanity. Then they can return to Japan and explain to Japanese civilians about the wall, the men, and "punchlines" like honor, duty, and a code. (We even have a word for that already: Bushidō (武士道). Too bad Japanese youths have never heard of it.)
This is not just about Japan. Europe suffers from the same syndrome. In fact, it's even worse in Europe, since the war has already reached their lands. How many terrorist attacks and riots do they need before they finally wake up?
It is time for both Europe and Japan to scour their own shires.
Date ►►► December 12, 2007
Watch Your Head and Coat
Golly, we're getting later and later posting these thingies...
What if we fall a week behind? All those readers who go from Council member to Council member, reading all the results posts, will be utterly befuddled; it'll be like we're living in an odd time zone of last week.
(I swear, I didn't realize as I wrote those words -- we have already done just that! And last week's Watcher post, to boot! But I'm determined that last week's post will post before this week's; so hang on, let me quickly finish off t'other...)
Okay, that's done. Now we're back on track.
A certain lupine so-and-so has won again, the dirty dog. If GW at Wolf Howling wins again next week, he'll have done what we've never been able to do: a "three-peat."
- Of Islamist Foxes and British Chickens, by Wolf Howling.
We did like the post; voted it number 2. GW first notes the incredible level of radicalization among the UK's two million Moslems... and then he notes with astonishment that the British government has decided to appoint two Moslem associations that are, at the least, rather chummy with some terrorism-supporting, radical Moslem groups to -- I swear I'm not making this up -- to Great Britain's "Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board." Cushlamocree!
For our number 1, we turned to hardy perennial Rick Moran:
- If the Huck Wins, the Right Loses, by Right Wing Nut House.
I think the title is pretty self explanatory...
Didn't fare too well in the Nouncil category: Our number 1 tied for sixth place, while our number 2 got treated like -- er -- let's not go there. Suffice to say that we were the only ones to vote for it.
Instead, the winner was a piece by a blog whose very name probably got it a couple of votes:
- Teddy Muhammad, by Pierre Tristam's Middle East Issues Blog.
Tristam gives us a brief overview of the rise of radicalism in Sudan and how that led, inexorably, by way of distraction, to the arrest, imprisonment, and calls for the execution of British subject Gillian Gibbons... for the crime of allowing her Moslem students to name their teddy bear "Mohammed."
Here are our two votes; can we pick 'em, or what?
- Insurance Haters, Let's Get the Job Done!, by Classical Values;
- Arlington Schools Hire Race-Baiting Diversity Consultant, by OpenMarket.org
Eric of Classical Values begins with a rant against medical-insurance companies, then winds his way, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to a denunciation of Hillary Clinton. A quote makes all clear:
Well, much as I hate the insurance companies, (a fact I fully admit), there are much worse things. Socialized medicine would be far, far worse. Worse for the country, worse for the individual, but better for Hillary and her faux socialist supporters who imagine themselves to be Robin Hoods while robbing the insurance industry and enriching themselves out of their clients' lottery winnings.
And in our number 2 vote, Hans Bader vents about a race-hustling "affirmative action" champion "diversity consultant," Glenn Singleton, who, despite being personally slapped down by the United States Supreme Court, has nevertheless managed to get himself hired (at six-figure salaries) to school districts from Seattle, Washington to Arlington, Virginia.
Just the facts, ma'am
As ever, get yer red-hot list of vote getters here!
Yeah, I think Huck Crossed Way Over the Line
Michael Medved is frantically trying to spin another stupid thing that Gov. Mike Huckabee said. Again.
Medved seems to spend a lot of time on this; if I believed in campaign-finance reform, I'd suggest he be investigated for giving corporate in-kind contributions...
He's currently screaming about the AP article; yes, you know which one I mean:
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks in an upcoming article, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
The article, to be published in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, says Huckabee asked the question after saying he believes Mormonism is a religion but doesn't know much about it. His rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is a member of the Mormon church, which is known officially as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The authoritative Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, does not refer to Jesus and Satan as brothers. It speaks of Jesus as the son of God and of Satan as a fallen angel, which is a Biblical account.
Assuming this isn't just a flat lie -- and I would be pretty shocked if it were, given how easy it would be to debunk -- this is akin to asking, "Don't Christians believe you can commit any sin you like, and as long as you believe in Jesus, you're forgiven?" (Actually, that last is fairer, as -- unlike the LDS smear -- it has at least a few ordained adherents.)
The AP article claims that Huckabee asked the question out of the blue, after first saying that he thought Mormonism was a religion, not a cult. Medved, however, furiously pointed out that in reality, Huckabee asked the question out of the blue, after first saying that he thought Mormonism was a religion, not a cult. Ergo, per Medved, the AP article is a dirty lie.
I confess I didn't quite follow the point.
Medved also believes that the phrase "asks in an upcoming article" would make anyone believe that Huckabee wrote the article. Maybe it's just me, but that doesn't jump out at me either.
Honestly, it really sounds to me as if the Huckster simply decided to toss a vicious smear of Mormonism into his magazine interview (by which I don't mean to say Huckabee interviewed himself; pace, Michael Medved). As even Medved admits, the governor was not responding to any question about Mormon theology; he just eructated his rhetorical question as a complete non-sequitur, then turned to another topic.
Frankly, I think this is... well, not quite despicable, I suppose, but certainly very disturbing. Such an attack furthers Huckabee's campaign theme, that voters should elect him because he's "the Christian" in the race. Well, you know, Romney is a Mormon, Giuliani is a Catholic, and McCain is a warmonger; no Christians in that lot!
I'm more and more fascinated to learn how much of this alleged Huckasurge will actually translate into caucus-goers on January 3rd. If Huckabee sails into the caucuses with a 15-point lead over Romney, but then Romney wins because his incredible organization gets more people to the actual precincts... then wouldn't that be a huge boost to Mitt "the Comeback Kid" Romney?
Date ►►► December 11, 2007
Swatchers of Swine
Egads... I prepared all the scutwork for this post (putting in all the links) -- and then I went and forgot to finish and post it! So on the theory that twice done is half begun, here is last week's Watcher's Council post. A little late.
In both the Council and Nouncil categories, one of our posts won; in this instance, it was our second-place choice:
- Buchanan's New Book: “Prepare Ye for the End”, by Right Wing Nut House.
Rick Moran turns his mocking dialectic upon the ever darker Patrick J. Buchanan. I must admit, I very much enjoyed his autobiography, Right From the Beginning; his -- Buchanan's, I mean -- his conservatism was of the muscular, workingman's type... not the limp-wristed asceticism of a George Will, nor even the aristocratic, antidisestablishmentarian hauteur of a William F. Buckley, jr.
But Pat seems to have gotten himself into a slump. I covered the Reform Party's convention in Long Beach in 2000 -- well, one of them, anyway; I never could find John Hagelin's separate convention, even though I stood still in the street, cupped my ears, and listened intently for the "AAUUuuuuummmmm..."
I found Buchanan's, however; but the man seemed tired and distracted, just going through the motions. He didn't even blink or comment when several people in the front row stood and gave a Sieg heil type Nazi salute to Buchanan (and his black, female running mate, Ezola Foster). I badgered Bayh Buchanan (his sister and campaign mangler) until she finally admitted that Pat wouldn't even have been in the race were it not for the $12.5 million in matching funds the Reform Party had earned in 1996... but never again, of course, since Buchanan's run killed it off.
But if Moran's review of Buchanan's new book, Day of Reckoning, is accurate (and I have no reason to disbelieve it), then the man has finally sunk to quotidian armageddon-mongering for hoi polloi: Doom is Nigh!
This is a sad end to a fascinating and enigmatic man, falling from the heights of power -- White House advisor and speech-writer under both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan -- to the slough of irrelevance and apathy.
Our second choice was another nice piece by Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles:
- Still No Evidence 9/11 Nuts Rule, by Cheat Seeking Missiles;
Laer examines the Left Wing Nut House, which has nothing to do with Rick Moran, and in particular the 9/11 "Truthers" (Laer hates the term); he asks whether the disturbingly large number of Americans who believe this or that insane conspiracy theory about 9/11 bodes ill for our republic.
I think not. Whenever an event of such magnitude and momentum as the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and wherever Flight 93 was aimed (probably the White House) occurs, many people are going to be so overwhelmed by the almost cartoon-like reality that they will naturally retreat into the somewhat more understandable, if not comforting, surreality of a conspiracy theory.
In this category, our first-place vote took first place... a piece by Wolf Howling, which evidently encouraged the anonymous lupine author "GW" to join up with the Watcher's Pack:
The "McClellan" he refers to is, of course, retired Army Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the head of Coalition Forces Iraq (which today would be called Multinational Forces - Iraq, the position now held by Gen. David Petraeus). Sanchez flung himself into the arms of the defeatist Democrats, just as McClellan did in 1864; however, the former has not elected to make a run for the presidency.
It was a great post, and GW followed it up by another winner next week (isn't the tense of that sentence off somehow?)
Finally, we voted for a La Shawn Barber post in second place, but it was good enough to be a first-place vote in any other week:
- Another Victory for Colorblind Government Policy, by La Shawn Barber's Corner.
Barber has a personal stake in eliminating racist, "affirmative-action" policies enacted in the name of a "color-blind society" -- which is rather like the Weight-Loss Donut Shoppe. She recounts the sorry history of a couple of counties still desperately trying to find some way around the Constitution, so they can feel like good guys by stiffing white kids.
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All last week's winners and whiners can be found in this post.
Note that we're setting this post's date back one day, so we can maintain the fiction that we posted today's post yesterday. We'll post this week's post tomorrow, which will be today by the time you actually read it. (Don't be cross, it's quite simple.)
No She Didn't! Oh Yes She Did.
First we heard that Jeanne Assam -- a private, female security guard in Colorado Springs, Colorado and former Minneapolis police officer -- had shot and killed a Christian-hating gunman, who himself had already shot nine people at the Youth With a Mission missionary training center and the New Life Church, killing four of them.
(His name is known but will not be mentioned on this blog, as he does not deserve to be remembered. But his murdered victims do: They are Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, both slain at the Youth With a Mission center; and sisters Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16, who were shot at the New Life Church.)
Jeanne Assam (© Associated Press 2007)
Then came the stunning news that in fact the Christian-hater was not slain by Ms. Assam; he killed himself:
[The Christian hater], the man who police say shot and killed four people at two separate locations in Colorado on Sunday, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the coroner's office said Tuesday.
"The death of [the Christian hater] has been ruled a suicide," the El Paso County Coroner's Office said in a statement.
I'm sure that Democrats, always anxious to deny hero-hood to (a) believing Christians and (b) chicks who carry guns, will now crow that the "gun nuts" jumped the -- oh, all right, I won't -- leapt to a conclusion, and that in fact she didn't stop the killer after all. (I also anticipate an attack on the fact that she was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department in 1997 for lying during an investigation of her conduct during an incident in that city; more about that anon.)
But wait; before throwing Ms. Assam under the bus, let's read the next sentence in that same CNN story above:
"It should be noted that he was struck multiple times by the security officer, which put him down. He then fired a single round killing himself," the statement said.
Back when I was actively debating gun prohibitionists, I encountered this odd argument all the time: Whenever I presented evidence of a private citizen who used a gun to stop a crime without killing the perpetrator, the prohibitionists refused to accept it; it was as if anything less than justifiable homicide were "inconclusive;" it was cheating, somehow, to use such cases in debate.
(I guess the nutty, liberal idea was that the only purpose of a gun is to kill; so if it didn't kill, then it must have done nothing!)
But that's paralogical. In the vast majority of cases where armed police use their service weapons to stop a crime or arrest a criminal, no shots are fired. And in the majority of cases where shots are fired, the suspect is not killed. If we nevertheless believe that cops should be armed -- and I've yet to meet a gun prohibitionist who was willing to argue that guns don't help trained police officers -- then it's no argument against concealed-carry permits for private civilians that most of the time, even when they use their gun, even when they shoot the bad guy, they don't kill him.
And in this case, I think two points are now crystal clear from the autopsy of the perpetrator of this homicidal hate crime:
- Jeanne Assam is clearly a big fan of "gun control": She hit the killer with multiple shots yet didn't hit a single innocent person.
- The murderer didn't kill himself because he felt remorse; he knew the spree was over... because Assam had already taken him down. Were it not for Ms. Assam, a parishoner at the New Life Church, many more people would have been killed.
I have never heard of a case where a spree killer simply stopped killing and went home; in every case I've read about, they keep shooting or stabbing until somebody stops them. Well... Ms. Assam stopped him; she stopped him cold, knocking him to the ground with multiple gunshot wounds. In fact, although he died by shooting himself in the head, it's entirely possible that had he not done so, he might still have bled out from the wounds that Ms. Assam inflicted.
Either way, it's clear Jeanne Assam deserves to get both ears and the tail:
Assam said she found cover in the lobby after [the Christian hater] opened fire in the church parking lot and walked into the building. She said she waited for him to approach, identified herself as a security guard, and shot him -- "and that's pretty much it."
"I'm telling you right now, she's the hero, not me. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen," [Larry] Bourbonnais said. "She had no cover. He fired -- I heard him fire three. I heard her fire three. And she just began -- she kept yelling 'Surrender!' the whole time. And she just walked forward, like she's walking to her car in the parking lot, firing the whole time."
Bourbonnais said when he and Assam reached [the Christian hater], "he had slumped backwards, slid down on the floor, and expired."
Larry Bourbonnais is a Vietnam combat veteran who was slightly wounded by a bullet fragment in the New Life Church shooting.
And by the way... let's deal with the charge that Jeanne Assam was fired from the MPD a decade ago for lying during an investigation of her conduct: It appears to be true. But so far as I can tell, the conduct that was under investigation was that she evidently swore at a bus driver while trying to handle an "incident" that occurred on the bus. Pardon me if I don't gasp and faint at the possibility that a cop used an obscenity and then claimed she hadn't:
Also Tuesday, Minneapolis police Sgt. Jesse Garcia said Assam was fired from the Minneapolis force in 1997 for lying during an internal investigation. Sgt. John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said police were investigating a complaint that Assam swore at a bus driver while she was handling an incident on a city bus.
Returning to the CNN article, I do have one suggestion for Ms. Assam: I recommend that she rethink her association with the New Life Church... at least until it gets itself a new pastor who actually understands what "forgiveness" means -- and what it requires:
Brady Boyd, senior pastor of New Life Church, told reporters Tuesday he and his church had already forgiven [the Christian hater], even though he is still angry about what happened.
"But being angry and being unforgiving are two different things," Boyd said.
"I forgave him immediately. I can't imagine what caused him to do that. I'm sad for his parents, who are having to bury a young son. But forgiving him was an immediate response of our heart," the pastor said.
I can only assume he was also sad for the parents of Johnson, Crouse, and Stephanie and Rachael Works; I have to assume it, because he's not quoted as saying so. Evidently, he considers all five deaths -- four innocent people and a murder -- to have the same moral value. So did he also "forgive" Jeanne Assam on behalf of the killer?
There are two insurmountable obstacles to this "instant karma" granting of earthly absolution:
- How can anyone be forgiven who has never showed the slightest bit of remorse or repentence for the horrible, horrible thing he did?
Even Catholic priests cannot grant absolution to a person who has not truly repented of his sin, shown honest remorse, stopped committing the sin, and attempted to make restitution if possible. There is no evidence that this Christian-hating killer did any of the above, at least not by his own free will: He only stopped committing the sin because Jeanne Assam brought him down.
His suicide proves nothing; most spree killers, even before they begin their crimes, expect either to be killed by the cops or die by their own hands. They don't want to go to prison... they would rather enter eternal nothingness.
- But second and more disturbing to me -- who the hell gave Reverend Boyd the right to forgive the killer for what he did to somebody else?
The only mortal person who ever has jurisdiction to forgive a crime is the victim himself. No one else. To think otherwise is to accept the most pernicious doctrine of liberalism: That all personal accountability must be jettisoned in favor of collective guilt -- and collective forgiveness.
Let's put it in a context that even liberals should be able to understand: Imagine that a man forcibly rapes his next-door neighbor's daughter...and then the next day, the local minister announces to the world that he forgives the rapist. What do you think would be the reaction of the rape victim and her family?
Such "instant forgiveness" by a third party is grossly offensive to the victim, her family, her friends, and indeed the entire body of that church; and I would hope that most of them would have the guts to tell the minister that it was time for him to hit the road... the congregation needs a spiritual leader who was not morally befuddled.
This moral dynamic does not change when, instead of rape, the criminal commits the even more horrific crime of murder. In fact, murder is literally unforgiveable in this world: Because only the victim can forgive, and because the victim is no longer around, there is no human left who can grant such extraordinary dispensation. If there is a God, forgiveness must be left to Him... if He chooses.
How dare Boyd offer forgiveness on behalf of four people who are no longer capable of deciding for themselves whether the killer deserves it? This is worse than Bill Clinton apologizing for slavery: At least the president didn't presume to forgive the slavers on behalf of the slaves!
So hats off to Jeanne Assam; she did good, even great. But honestly, she deserves a better religious guide than the mealy mouthed, liberal, PC-worshipping Brady Boyd.
Read This Column!
I rarely do this. You know I rarely do this, and you know why: I'm far too enamored of the sound of my own typing to spend my time hyping someone else's griping.
But I have to say, just click here and read this splendid piece by Dennis Prager... and I don't say this just because I'm trying to suck up to the man (not just because).
Just a para or three, for the flavor:
It is not for this Jew to define a Christian. I only explain evangelical Christian opposition to Mormons calling themselves Christians to make the point that even as I understand their opposition to Mormons calling themselves Christian, I equally oppose voting for anyone based on his theology. Evangelicals have the right to proclaim Mormons as non-Christians, but they hurt themselves and their country if they measure a candidate's theology. They should concern themselves with a man's theology only when choosing a religious leader. When choosing a political leader, theology should not count.
The reason is -- and I have come to this conclusion after a lifetime of interaction with people of almost all faiths and writing about and studying religion -- theology does not appear to have much impact on people's values. Liberal Christians and Jews share virtually no theological beliefs yet think alike about virtually every important social value. So, too, conservative Christians and conservative Jews share virtually no theological beliefs, yet they think alike about virtually every important social value.
Meanwhile liberal and conservative Protestants are in agreement on theological matters -- both believe in the Trinity, in the Messiahship of Jesus, on Jesus being the Son of God, on salvation through faith rather than through works, and more -- yet they differ about virtually every social value. Obviously, shared theology doesn't create shared moral or social values.
It is, of course, a meditation on those evangelicals and others who call themselves Christian but don't appear to practice much Christian charity... on those men who wear their religion on their ballots, and who loudly proclaim they can never vote for Mitt Romney because Mormonism is "a cult." (What do they think Christianity started out as, during the days of imperial Rome?)
It's a fine, fine hymn which every him and her should hear.
Date ►►► December 10, 2007
Hoodwinkers and Their Codependents: In Search of Intelligent Intelligence on Iran
British intelligence evidently reads Big Lizards; the first paragraph of this Telegraph story says it all:
British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons programme, as a US intelligence report claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran.
In our first post (six days ago) on the subject of the New! Revised! National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!, we suggested the possibilty that the "new evidence" upon which the National Intelligence Council cobbled up its new NIE could have been part of a "disinformation campaign" by the Iranians:
[Washington Times reporters Jon Ward and Bill] Gertz's story offers some support for the central Timmerman allegation, in the form of a non-denial from intelligence officials:
Senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Iran nuclear estimate said it is "plausible, but not likely" that Iran's suspension is part of a "strategic deception" operation, because of continued Iranian government "denial and deception" efforts.
"We do not know if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons but assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," said one official involved in drafting the more-than-140-page document.
So even the officials involved in producing and briefing the NIE agree that it's at least "plausible" that the supposed suspension is a "deliberate disinformation campaign." As several commentators have said, it's a lot more dangerous to believe the program is suspended if it really isn't -- than to believe it hasn't been suspended when it really has.
Whether or not that "new evidence" was accurate or a ruse, it was uncritically seized upon by three principal authors of the 2007 Iran NIE -- Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- who already held a quasi-religious faith in diplomacy, not "saber rattling," to solve the Iranian nuclear-weapons crisis.
In our second post on the New! Possibly Fabricated! NIE, Of Course We Trust This Journal That Just Fell Into Our Hands..., we called your attention to a Los Angeles Times article (free registration required) that elucidated the provenance of that "new evidence". It came first from intercepted phone conversations among Iranian nuclear-weapons developers; and second, from a "journal," ostensibly kept by one of those weapons developers and stuffed full of what would be highly classified intelligence, that was handed to U.S. intelligence officers by a person about whom we have been told... exactly nothing.
Acting on nought but my own uninformed analysis, here is what I noted after discovering what new evidence Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill (and others in the CIA and State Department) found so persuasive:
To my admittedly untrained and non-authoritative mind, if I wanted to convince the CIA that I'd stopped my nuclear weapons program and persuade them to bang the gong for a massive incentive program for my country -- I think I would have various government officials discuss this terrible secret in a not-so-secure environment; and I think I would accidentally drop a journal where it would be sure to be found.
Spinning yarns for stretched ears and handing over a notebook that contains exactly what your audience wants to read is just about the best method of duping your foes. It's intelligence jujitsu.
Critical analysis is what we do at Big Lizards. We're not news reporters; we're secondary sources, reading "the first draft of history" (as Philip Graham called journalism) and using our brains to sort out what ought to be, perhaps, the second draft... after a good editor has gone through, making connections missed in the heat of a deadline -- and tossing out what "20-20 hindsight" shows is obvious nonsense. (Actually, hindsight is never better than 20-100; but it doesn't have as big an astigmatism as the twisted view of contemporaneous observation.)
And now, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, we have this satisfying confirmation that other analysts, ones with actual knowledge of the intelligence in question, have the same qualms:
A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defence chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons.
The source said British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation. "We are sceptical. We want to know what the basis of it is, where did it come from? Was it on the basis of the defector [former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari]? Was it on the basis of the intercept material? They say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They say black is white. They will say anything to throw us off.
"It's not as if the American intelligence agencies are regarded as brilliant performers in that region. They got badly burned over Iraq."
That last line is very disturbing; first, because it implies that British intelligence believes the CIA is simply swinging widly, like an out of control pendulum, between overestimating and underestimating WMD capabilities... and second, because British intelligence is probably right.
Under previous administrations (Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton), we slashed our committment to "humint," or human intelligence -- actual spies -- to a doleful level, preferring to rely almost exclusively on "sigint," signals intelligence: satellite photos, cell-phone intercepts, electromagnetic tracking of electrical-cable traffic, and so forth.
Sigint is great for showing movement of physical objects, how a country's emergency-alert electrical grid operates, and clandestinely surveilling conversations. Sigint will tell us the state and condition of the enemy's means to carry out its intentions; but it simply cannot tell us what those intentions are in the first place. Sigint cannot tell us what he intends to do next; we only learn what he says -- over phone lines he knows are probably compromised -- he's going to do next.
In order to have a good read on actual intentions, you need physical human beings, actually loyal to the United States (not just turned or bribed double-agents), infiltrating the enemy's institutions and getting right up inside his OODA loop. Preferably someone who has lived and worked in the target country for years, perhaps decades, and actually understands the culture, the de facto decision-making heirarchy (which may differ from the heirarchy on paper), the language in all its nuances; a person who can judge the actual intensity of the enemy's goals and plans... how determined are they really?
In other words, exactly what Great Britain -- and Israel -- have focused on obsessively for decades (centuries, in the UK's case). The Brits because they had to control a global empire... and the Israelis because the "Great Game" to them is literally existential: If Israel guesses wrong, it could be "wiped from the map," in the piquant phrasing of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Fingar, Van Diepen, Brill, and their posse are saying that our sigint tell us that Iran paused their nuclear weapons program (NWP) in 2003. The Brits and the Israelis are saying that their humint tells them that the Iranians are playing us like a Stradivarius.
I don't know about you, but we here at lizard central would like to see some further analysis on this point by the National Intelligence Council, leading to a resolution we can trust. It would be a tragedy if we bought Iranian disinformation and released the pressure on them -- only to see Ahmadinejad (or Hezbollah) with a nuke in two years.
Even some American spies share the British and Israeli concerns:
A US intelligence source has revealed that some American spies share the concerns of the British and the Israelis. "Many middle- ranking CIA veterans believe Iran is still committed to producing nuclear weapons and are concerned that the agency lost a number of its best sources in Iran in 2004," the official said.
Why 2004? Well, in January of that year, the Guardian Council in Iran went on a tear, banning nearly all well-known Reformist candidates from the Majlis (legislature) election. In the vote on February 20th and the runoff on May 7th, the Conservatives, led by Teheran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the year before he was elected President of Iran, won an absolute majority in the Majlis, ousting the Reformist Party of former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and others.
Evidently, nearly all of our sources in Iran were Iranian informers, not American spies; and they must have nearly all been Reformists (which makes sense). Thus when they were booted from power in 2004, American intelligence was blinded at the same time. This is one reason among many for infiltrating Americans into countries like Iran and North Korea, not relying solely upon defectors, traitors, and informers within the target countries; another reason is the inability to trust people who have proven themselves untrustworthy by betraying their own former allegiance.
(Rafsanjani later lost to Ahmadinejad for president; but he has since ascended to the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts, which will elect the next Supreme Leader -- possibly Rafsanjani himself -- when the current Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei dies or is retired.)
The Israelis and the British focus on placing Israelis and Brits into Iran, and they lose a lot of good men and women to assassination when they're discovered. We focus on bribing Iranians to rat out their country... and we focus on sigint. All three intelligence sources have their uses; but through short-sighted political daintiness and an aversion to dissembling on behalf of our country -- Democrats never seem to mind dissembling on behalf of their own careers -- we have cut ourselves off from the most useful and believable source of learning the intentions of our enemies: well-informed, long-term American spies.
These are desperate times, and they demand desperate measures. I don't believe the American public has any doubt that we need actual human spies infiltrating Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and every other country that is an avowed enemy of the United States... and I doubt there would be much objection from the voters if we also sent spies into China, Russia, the 'Stans, other Latin American countries, flakey Asian countries... oh heck, why not just everywhere we can?
The qualms are all on the part of elected officials -- Democratic elected officials and perhaps a few RINOs, those overly fastidious "senoritos" who jump on a chair, hike their skirts, and scream at the very thought of a ruthless American spy working his way up the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards for purposes of stealing intelligence and committing sabotage... and ready to kill to protect his secret identity.
If there ever was a time to allow the faint of heart to craft our intelligence policies, that time has long passed. Give us some stout-hearted men and women -- and prepare yourselves for many, many more black stars going up on the wall of heroes in the lobby of CIA headquarters at Langley.
America had a long and honorable tradition of infiltrating our own "unlawful combatants" into enemy territory; it's time to return to those days. In fact, it's long overdue.
Republicans "Stand Firm" on "Toning Down" Immigration Rhetoric?
Another case of dueling headlines that demonstrates how the elite media can slant a story merely by picking and choosing what aspect to highlight.
The New York Times: Republican Candidates Firm on Immigration.
The Associated Press: GOP Hopefuls Temper Anti-Immigrant Talk
Both articles actually say more or less the same thing, that Republican presidential candidates at the Univision debate held last night in Miami (in both Spanish and English via simultaneous translation) avoided the use of harsh rhetoric and name-calling -- but stood firm on the policy of interdicting illegal immigration into the United States. Nevertheless, the foci of the two stories are worlds apart.
The Times focused on making Republicans look like anti-Hispanic bullies and panderers:
In front of what will probably be their most pro-immigration audience, Republican candidates toned down their rhetoric but told Spanish-language television viewers in a debate on Sunday that they would take strong measures to close off the country’s borders to illegal immigration.
The candidates were forced into a difficult balancing act by the debate, broadcast on Univision, as they tried to offend neither the Hispanic audience nor the Republican base many of them have tried to appeal to by taking a hard line on illegal immigration. The topic has led to some of the fiercest rhetoric in past debates....
They sandwiched their remarks between gauzy paeans to legal immigration and the values of immigrants.
By contrast, AP takes a totally different tack. They emphasize the softened language and don't even mention the firmness against illegal immigration until the second graf:
The Republican presidential candidates sought to embrace Hispanics in a Spanish language debate Sunday, striving to mark common ground with a growing voter bloc while softening the anti-illegal immigration rhetoric that has marked their past encounters.
The candidates avoided the harsh exchanges and name-calling of their most recent debate, while still emphasizing the need for border security and an end to illegal immigration. The polite debate came less than four weeks before the first votes are cast in Iowa and amid a topsy-turvy race in which former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has bolted to the lead in the state.
AP goes on to quote a bushel of lauditory remarks the candidates made about Hispanics:
"Hispanic-Americans have already reached great heights in America. I saw that in my city. They pushed us to be better," Giuliani said. "They're coming here to be Americans and they're making us better by being here in America."
Added Romney: "This is the land of the brave and the home of the free, and Hispanics are brave and they are free, as are all the people of this great nation."
...And only then notes that all of the candidates (except Lonely Ron Paul) nevertheless stressed that they cannot support what they like to call "amnesty."
But in the Times version, we discover mean, bitter Republicans who hate Hispanics:
Mitt Romney, who was an outspoken critic of the proposed immigration law and who sent out a mailing on the subject last week with a chain-link fence on the cover, was forced to again defend himself for employing a lawn service that used illegal workers at his home in Massachusetts, where he was governor.
At the debate, Mr. Romney, who once said on Fox News that he would tell illegal immigrants to “go home,” used a different tone to describe his policy....
“When we have control of our borders, when we preserve the legality of immigration, we can then turn to the people who are here, we can have them get the tamperproof ID cards, and the people that come forward and sign up, they can pay taxes,” he said. The people who do not do that, he said, “should be expelled from the United States.”
Mr. Huckabee, who has voiced compassion for illegal immigrants and who has had to defend a proposal he supported as governor of Arkansas to offer taxpayer-financed scholarships to the children of illegal immigrants, recently issued a proposal that focuses on strict penalties for illegal immigration. At the debate he said the illegal immigrants should go “to the back, not the front of the line,” and said they should start the process by going back to their native countries.
Finally, both articles noted that Rudy Giuliani (and, per AP but not the Times, John McCain), in response to a question of what he would say to Oogo Chavez, quipped that he agreed with the suggestion by King Juan Carlos of Spain -- who told Chavez, "¿Porque no te callas?" ("why don't you shut up?").
But while AP article continued a bit longer, discussing a few other topics that the debate had touched upon, the Times ended its article on that snippy (but wholly justified) note, implying that the entire debate was about nothing but immigration, legal and il-.
So there you have it, a textbook case of how to write an article that changes the entire thrust of an event by selectively emphasizing one aspect or a different one. Bear this in mind the next time you crack open your local paper -- online or off-.
Date ►►► December 7, 2007
The Impasse in Congress: May We Make a Suggestion?
The august New York Times has a snarky article about the inability of Congress to enact, well, almost any legislation at all under the Democratic leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%). It seems it's all the Republicans' fault -- mostly in the Senate -- for "blocking" the "Democrats’ legislative agenda":
As if there was [sic; subjunctive case] any doubt that Congress was on the verge of devolving into a carnival atmosphere, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, on Thursday proposed doing cartwheels down the center aisle of the Senate chamber to draw attention to Republican efforts to block legislation.
Here, in the Cirque du Senate, there is trash-talking, whining and finger-pointing, bickering and, occasionally, brief flashes of serious disagreement on policy. [I confess I rather like the epithet "Cirque du Senate."]
But with the clock ticking swiftly toward the end of the year and a stack of stalled legislation piling up, little is getting done in the Senate these days. And tempers are starting to boil over.
The Times lists several major pieces of legislation that Reid and Pelosi just cannot seem to shepherd through the Congress:
- A bill to ease the "mortgage crisis" (if there really is one) caused by defaults on subprime housing loans;
- Reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax, so it doesn't "drill a hole in the wallets of 23 million Americans next year;"
- The energy bill;
- The corporate farm welfare bill.
- The federal budget, "which is needed to prevent a shutdown of the government;"
In addition, unpassed bills unmentioned by the Times include:
- The supplemental funding bill for our troops currently on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan;
- Extension of the USA PATRIOT Act;
- Extension of the soon-to-expire FISA reform act;
- The immigration and border-security bill;
- Some acceptable health-insurance bill;
- All of the mandatory appropriations bills, which are not the same thing as the budget bill (and Congress hasn't passed any of them);
- Earmark reform -- though to be fair, I don't believe this was ever really planned for passage by the Democrats;
- Not to mention fixes to such long-festering problems as the rapidly collapsing Social Security System, Medicare, and Medicaid, none of which has even been addressed by the 110th Congress.
Aside from that, however, the current Congress has been a bundle of legislative energy: They passed an increase in the minimum wage.
Democrats believe they have an explanation:
(Senate Democrats blame Republicans for blocking such bills.)
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, not yet rated), former Clinton apparatchik, goes even farther, suggesting the Democrats' real beef is with the Founding Fathers themselves:
The stalemate is creating sharp tension not only between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, but also between the Senate and the House, where Democrats have a larger majority and have been more successful in passing legislation only to see it blocked by Republican filibusters in the Senate.
“As an amateur student of constitutional history and as a member of Congress, I have come to the conclusion that the Senate was a historic mistake,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the No. 4 Democrat.
I'm sure James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington are deeply chagrined at not having performed up to Emanuel's high standards at that old constitutional convention in Philadelphia. But setting the incompetence of the Founders aside, Big Lizards has our own diagnosis, highlighted by this graf from the Times...
Mr. Reid, who turned 68 on Sunday and power-walks four miles a day, ultimately did not perform any gymnastics. But his fury over the inability to move the Democrats’ legislative agenda seemed to have deepened since Tuesday, when he accused President Bush of “pulling the strings on the 49 puppets he has here in the Senate.”
Well, there's yer problem right there!
The key difficulty lies in four little words above. The United States Senate currently comprises 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats, giving the Left a 51-49 majority -- the smallest possible. Yet what is Reid frustrated at being unable to enact? "The Democrats' legislative agenda."
The Times was truer than they thought when they used the phrase: Although the Democrats have only a small majority in the House and the slimmest possible in the Senate, they consistently act as if they have a supermajority: trying to cram odious, humiliating defeats down the GOP's throat, insulting and belittling them, trying to steamroll them into the ground, and in general, acting as if the minority is of no account whatsoever... as if Republicans didn't even exist.
You can't boot the minority in the rear, then expect them to help enact your "agenda." They're not dogs who can be cowed and buffaloed by bull-headed, mulish jackassery.
Over and over, the Democrat-controlled House passes "veto-bait" legislation that they know in advance will be utterly unacceptable to the Republicans in the Senate... who, unlike their House compadres, can do something about it; or failing that, utterly unacceptable to the president, who can also do something about it. (Clearly the former is what Emanuel was referring to by saying the Senate was "a historic mistake.")
But if Pelosi and her posse bulldoze their agenda through the House, knowing that it cannot possibly become law -- then it is the Democrats who are "obstructing" legislation, not the Republicans. The Democrats are just wasting their own time... and what is infinitely more insulting, wasting the time of the American people, as President Bush said in his recent press conference.
They're throwing away the opportunity to accomplish anything, to pass anything, to get anything at all done, just for the chance to grandstand, preen, and say "Oh what a good boy am I."
Shockingly enough, the current congressional approval rating on Real Clear Politics is 22.5%. Yet even as they set new lows in approval, Democratic egos soar, and they see themselves on a mission:
“What’s frustrating to me and, I think, most of the freshman members, if not all of them, is that partisan strategy seems to be more important than the policy considerations at stake,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky. “We all came here with mandates to change the country.”
Mr. Yarmuth said that he and many other House Democrats wanted their Senate colleagues to force Republicans to spend hours filibustering various bills, to illustrate for constituents why legislation is stalling.
Democrats blame Republican obstruction. “They are filibustering as if they are on steroids,” Mr. Reid said.
"Mandates to change the country." Into what -- France? Do Americans all agree on how to change the country? I certainly haven't seen any such consensus... but if there is a consensus on change in various areas, it sure doesn't favor the particular changes the Democrats want to enact: more spending, higher taxes, more illegal immigration, appeasement of Iran, and an American surrender in Iraq.
Not helping matters is the boorish way that Harry Reid belittles the Republicans. The line above about the GOP conference being "49 puppets" of the president is a perfect example: Not only is it something one would expect to flow from a Daily Kos "diary," not the mouth of the Majority Leader of the Senate -- it's absurd on its face. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%) is just a Bush puppet? John McCain (R-AZ, 65%)? Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) and Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%)? Dick Lugar (R-IA, 64%)? John Warner (R-VA, 64%)?
Worse, Reid managed to enrage a senator who is actually his ideological soulmate on a number of issues. For some odd reason, Arlen Specter didn't seem to appreciate being called a Bush sock-puppet:
That reference to the Republicans, in a speech on the Senate floor, prompted Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, to accuse Mr. Reid of violating a rule prohibiting senators from imputing “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.”
“It is my view that being called a puppet is in direct violation of that rule,” Mr. Specter said. He added: “I wonder if he is up to the job when he resorts to that kind of a statement, which only furthers the level of rancor.”
Specter, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and perhaps the third most powerful Republican in the Senate -- behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY, 84%) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (AZ, 92%) but ahead of Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (TE, 72%) -- almost nakedly says that Harry Reid is unfit to be Majority Leader of the United States Senate. I don't think I've ever seen the like.
But the more important conclusion is the obvious hatred for Republicans, and especially President George W. Bush, that almost visibly dribbles from Harry Reid's lips. His hatred and intolerance of the Other gives permission to the rest of the leadership and the back-benchers to voice the same bile... and it makes almost impossible the task of working together with Republicans to actually enact legislation.
Simply put, Democrats in Congress believe their life's mission is to save the world -- from Republicans. Not every Democrat, but most of them; and in at least one case, when Joe Lieberman refused to fake Bush Derangement Syndrome... Connecticut Democrats refused even to nominate him for reelection, forcing him to leave the party (and get elected anyway). And yes, I really did hear leftists refer to him as "Jew Lieberman" during the 2006 campaign; and I saw it printed on signs, as well. Along with Republican hatred, Jew hatred has become respectable, or at least fashionable, in many Democratic corners.
And they wonder why they have trouble passing "the Democrats' legislative agenda" through Congress. Well-a-day.
I suspect the obstructionism will continue -- the Democratic obstructionism. I don't see anything on the horizon that will change things... except, perhaps, the 2008 election.
Date ►►► December 6, 2007
Alternative Minimum Tax: May We Make a Suggestion?
The United States Senate appears to have hit an impasse on fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which lunges up out of its grave every year, skeletal hands clutching and grabbing, threatening to snatch thousands of extra dollars from average Americans' pockets:
A bill that would protect millions of middle-class taxpayers from being hit with a surprise tax increase over the next several months stalled in the Senate today, creating more confusion as filing season approaches.
The bill, intended to stop the alternative minimum tax from ensnaring more and more Americans, was supported by only 46 senators — 14 short of the 60 needed to shut off debate and move to a vote on the bill itself.
Anybody who has ever been gobsmacked by the AMT knows exactly what it is: It's an IRS punishment for falling into any one of number of obscure (but widespread) categories of taxpayer, including having too many children, living in a state with high state income taxes, or owning in whole or part an incorporated business, large or small -- such as a family farm or convenience store.
The AMT was first enacted in the Tax Reform Act of 1969, in a mean-spirited attempt to prevent rich people from taking advantage of the tax breaks that Congress itself had enacted or would enact in the future. "How dare you Bertie Woosters use completely legal means of sheltering your money from taxes!" exclaimed the 91st Congress, with its 57 to 43 Democratic majority in the Senate and its 243 to 192 (56% - 44%) Democratic majority in the House; "We'll just rescind your rights by setting an absolute minimum you must pay."
Under the AMT, if you fall into one of the dreaded categories, and if your income tax would otherwise be less than 26% of your adjusted gross income, then your tax is simply jacked up to 26% of the gross... and to hell with your legal right to declare expenses, exemptions, or deductions. (For some taxpayers, the magic number is an even bigger 28%.)
The AMT was originally touted as a way to sock it to millionaire "coupon-clippers," the "idle rich" who simply lived off of the interest from their investments (like Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA, 100%). But in a sneaky bit of legislative legerdemain, the Democratic 91st Congress accidentally forgot to index the AMT to inflation... so every year, more and more middle-income taxpayers find themselves subject to its significantly higher income-tax requirements:
For the 2006 tax year, nearly four million people were subject to the alternative minimum tax, including half of all taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 to $1 million, and 5 percent of taxpayers with incomes of $100,000 to $200,000. Without any change, the tax is expected to hit as many as 23 million taxpayers at an average cost of $2,000, reaching people with incomes as low as $30,000 to $50,000, depending on circumstances.
So what's gumming up the works? Easy to explain: The Democrats have made a solemn "pledge" of sorts, which they tout as demonstrating their fiscal restraint, not to cut taxes for one bloke unless they simultaneously raise taxes on some other bloke, by at least as much as the tax cut (a net raise is all right).
In other words, Democrats have pledged never to cut our taxes overall; every tax cut must be "paid for" by a corresponding tax increase. Democrats stand foursquare against greedy taxpayers stealing the government's money via tax cuts.
By contrast, Republicans have pledged not to raise taxes on anyone. Ergo, any plan acceptable to the Democrats is rejected by the GOP, and vice versa.
The current scheme -- which would "pay for" the AMT tax cut by raising taxes on private equity funds, hedge funds, and partnerships, which are generally used by evil rich white people -- was supported by 44 Democratic senators, plus Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman (CT, 75%) and Independent-Socialist Bernie Sanders (VT, not yet rated). 48 Republican senators voted against it (everyone but John McCain, AZ, 65%). All five of the presidential candidates who are senators of either party found occasion to be absent for the vote; and Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) voted against it, just to be able to bring it up again under the arcane and occult Senate rules.
But Big Lizards has a suggestion that will resolve this entire mess. No, really. It's a solution so simple and obvious, we're convinced it won't cross the mind of a single representative or senator...
Indexing the AMT is expected to drop federal revenues by $50 billion for FY 2008; the Democrats say they don't want to raise the budget deficit by that much (though they don't seem to mind raising it for other reasons, such as socialized medicine), but the GOP says those taxes were never meant to be collected in the first place and mustn''t simply be shifted onto someone else's shoulders.
So fine. Why not just cut $50 billion in spending from the anticipated $2.9 trillion federal budget? That's a trim of just 1.7%... which doesn't seem so terribly out of reach. Even if we exempt the $717.6 billion in spending related to the military, the war on global hirabah, veterans' affairs, and NASA, that still leaves cutting the remaining $2.18 trillion by only 2.3%. We can achieve that goal by cutting all other budgets by 2.3% across the board, or by mandating the cut by department and allowing each department head to pick his own victims.
Republicans should be happy, because we're not simply robbing small investors to pay people with a lot of kids who live in California. And I'm sure Democrats will be ecstatic over the spending cut, because, as they say, they're only thinking of is fiscal responsibility!
All right, problem solved. See how easy that is -- assuming one isn't a member of Congress?
A Bill of Rights for a More Modern Age
It has occurred to me that in view of the fact that the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, is a “living document,” that we should rewrite it with the more modern age in mind.
Since the framers couldn’t possibly have known about television, the Internet, hip hop, atomic weapons, terrorism and the rights of minorities and women (they were, after all, dead white men), obviously their views may be antique at best and dangerously anachronistic. After all, what could a bunch of slave-holding plutocrats know about rights?
First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
New version: Freedom from Religion: No one will be forced to endure anyone else’s expression of religion. Although everyone will be allowed to practice their religion, they cannot do so if it would offend anyone else’s religion. Nothing in this amendment shall be taken to pertain to the Islamic religion.
Freedom of Speech and the Press: Congress shall make no laws abridging the Freedom of Speech or the press unless said speech or press creates corruption in government, or makes it harder for an incumbent to be reelected, or makes it harder for progressive causes to move forward, or offends any minority or interest group. Furthermore said speech must be truthful, with truth to be determined by the person who is most likely to be offended by it. Furthermore, any act of expression, however otherwise lawful, is not protected if someone can claim that it would promote hatred. Other than that, say anything you want!
Freedom to Assemble, Petition: Because lobbyism tends to corrupt good government, the freedom to petition the government shall be limited to individuals, not organizations, and individuals shall also not be allowed to petition the government if they are part of some interest group. The freedom to associate with anyone you want shall not be abridged, unless you don’t choose to associate with members of other races or sexual orientation, in which case you will be forced to do so.
Well, thankfully we got through the First Amendment. It was a big one, and others should be easier to dispose of.
Of Course We Trust This Journal That Just Fell Into Our Hands...
The Los Angeles Times claims to have ferreted out the "new evidence" that completely flipped the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran -- that they were "determined" to develop a nuclear bomb -- into the 2007 NIE on Iran: that they had suspended their nuclear weapons program, NWP, in 2003, two years before the last NIE:
According to current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter, the information that surfaced this summer included intercepted conversations of Iranian officials discussing the country's nuclear weapons program, as well as a journal from an Iranian source that documented decisions to shut it down. [Well, those certainly sound authoritative...]
"When we first got some of this stuff, the fact that we got it was exciting," said a senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the subject. He said the information was obtained as part of a stepped-up effort targeting Iran that President Bush had ordered in 2005, but the problem with it "was digesting it to know what we had."
The information triggered a cascade of recalculations across the 16 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, the official said. Analysts at the CIA and elsewhere began to revisit classified reports that they had scrutinized repeatedly in recent years. As they did so, officials said, they saw details that added up to the new conclusion.
Bear in mind: At best, analyzing intelligence is like playing "connect the dots" -- without any numbers. You can draw any of a large number of "pictures" by connecting dots in different ways. What the National Intelligence Council (NIC) is saying is that in 2005, they connected the dots to draw a picture of Iranian intransigence to a "high degree of confidence." But now, they connect the same dots (plus a couple of others) to create a new picture of Iranian compliance... again with a "high degree of confidence."
I can see how that would be perfectly convincing -- to anyone already deeply invested in finding that Iran has complied, so it's time to reward them. Like, you know, "Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."
But the NIC also has another strong argument for the reversal; from the L.A. Times again:
Intelligence officials said that process of reevaluation was guided by lessons from the prewar intelligence on Iraq. In the months leading up to the war, the intelligence community in just 19 days put together an estimate that concluded that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. They didn't take the usual time to challenge their assumptions or sources, which later proved to be off-base.
Translation: We grossly underestimated Iraq's WMD stores in 1990; then we grossly overestimated them in 2002. Then we grossly underestimated Iran's nuclear ambitions prior to 2004. We assume we must then have grossly overestimated them in 2005.
So now, of course, it's time to grossly underestimate them again!
All of the "red teams" taking contrary positions and trying to defend them are meaningless, because the final decision was still made by Fingar to Van Diepen to Brill. As those three between them passed judgment on which pretty dot-connect pictures made sense and which did not, all argument, evidence, and debate was simply filtered through the reality-net of those who believe, in their souls, that George W. Bush is a greater threat to world peace than Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei; people who complain that we haven't offered enough incentives to Iran; career State Department weenies, at least one of whom (Brill) was so far out of the mainstream that Secretary of State Colin Powell fired him (Brill was rehired by the first Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte).
Which way did anyone think they were going to fall?
Even the former counselor of the State Department (and executive director of the 9/11 Commission) questions whether this NIE is just another wild overcorrection to the previous one:
Philip Zelikow, a former senior aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is an advocate of diplomacy with Iran, but he said the report understates the threat. The wording of the document "appears to be a reaction to the wording of past estimates," Zelikow said, calling it the latest example of a "pendulum of analytic momentum that swings between highlighting risks and understating risks."
The big complaint voiced by many "Persianists" within the intelligence and State apparatuses was that in 2002, the intelligence community allowed policy-makers to write the analysis. But it appears that an even worse situation has eventuated from the oversteer today: We now have unelected intelligence analysts creating policy. Without oversight, of course; they simply present the completed dot-picture to the president... and if he won't accept it, they will casually leak it to the Washington Post or the New York Times. They're quite familiar with that route.
The 2007 NIE clearly sinks deep into a policy-making role that is utterly foreign to the National Intelligence Council, and for which they have neither the expertise nor access to all available information (such as how other countries will react to an NIE that seems, naively, to be saying that everything's all right now, Iran is making nice, nothing to see here). (Hat tip to Power Line.)
As the New York Sun notes (link directly above):
The proper way to read this report is through the lens of the long struggle the professional intelligence community has been waging against the elected civilian administration in Washington. They have opposed President Bush on nearly every major policy decision. They were against the Iraqi National Congress. They were against elections in Iraq. They were against I. Lewis Libby. They are against a tough line on Iran.
One could call all this revenge of the bureaucrats. Vann Van Diepen, one of the estimate's main authors, has spent the last five years trying to get America to accept Iran's right to enrich uranium. Mr. Van Diepen no doubt reckons that in helping push the estimate through the system, he has succeeded in influencing the policy debate in Washington. The bureaucrats may even think they are stopping another war.
It's a dangerous game that may boomerang, making a war with Iran more likely. Our diplomats, after all, hoped to seal this month a deal to pass a third Security Council resolution against Iran. Already on Monday the Chinese delegation at Turtle Bay has started making noises about dropping their tepid support for such a document. Call it the Van Diepen Demarche, since the Chinese camarilla can boast that even America's intelligence estimate concludes the mullahs shuttered their nuclear weapons program more than four years ago.
So much for diplomatic pressure in the run up before the mullahs have their bomb. And so the options for preventing the Islamic Republic from going nuclear get progressively more narrow. What it means is that when the historians look back on this period, they will see that by sabotaging our diplomacy, our intelligence analysts have clarified the choice before the free world -- appeasement or war.
Getting back to the "new evidence," the New York Times goes into somewhat more detail about what, exactly, convinced our intrepid Three Persianeers that the Iranians gave up on their NWP in 2003:
The notes included conversations and deliberations in which some of the military officials complained bitterly about what they termed a decision by their superiors in late 2003 to shut down a complex engineering effort to design nuclear weapons, including a warhead that could fit atop Iranian missiles....
Ultimately, the notes and deliberations were corroborated by other intelligence, the officials said, including intercepted conversations among Iranian officials, collected in recent months. It is not clear if those conversations involved the same officers and others whose deliberations were recounted in the notes, or if they included their superiors.
To my admittedly untrained and non-authoritative mind, if I wanted to convince the CIA that I'd stopped my nuclear weapons program and persuade them to bang the gong for a massive incentive program for my country -- I think I would have various government officials discuss this terrible secret in a not-so-secure environment; and I think I would accidentally drop a journal where it would be sure to be found.
But then, what do I know? The intel community assures us that they're probably ("moderate confidence") not just being spun by the Iranians, despite the Iranians' well-known penchant for deception:
[American officials who briefed the media on the NIE] said that the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies had organized a “red team” to determine if the new information might have been part of an elaborate disinformation campaign mounted by Iran to derail the effort to impose sanctions against it.
In the end, American intelligence officials rejected that theory, though they were challenged to defend that conclusion in a meeting two weeks ago in the White House situation room, in which the notes and deliberations were described to the most senior members of President Bush’s national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney.
“It was a pretty vivid exchange,” said one participant in the conversation.
Oh. Well then. Who can argue with that?
Date ►►► December 5, 2007
Something to See Here: WSJ Dishes the Dirt on the NIE
The Wall Street Journal, following Big Lizards' lead, has weighed in on the questionable provenance of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear weapons program (NWP). (And if I have to mention it again, the Wall Street Journal will henceforth be the WSJ -- just to increase the alphabet soup aspect of this post. Maybe I can come up with a few more BL acronyms, while I'm at it.)
In today's editorial -- subscription (for actual money) required to read more than the first paragraph and part of the second -- they argue that the very fact that this NIE reverses the NIE of just two years ago itself casts doubt on the reliabilty of any NIE at all:
As recently as 2005, the consensus estimate of our spooks was that "Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons" and do so "despite its international obligations and international pressure." This was a "high confidence" judgment. The new NIE says Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 "in response to increasing international scrutiny." This too is a "high confidence" conclusion. One of the two conclusions is wrong, and casts considerable doubt on the entire process by which these "estimates" -- the consensus of 16 intelligence bureaucracies -- are conducted and accorded gospel status.
What monumental change occurred in the last two years to completely flip our thinking on whether Iran is currently pursuing an NWP? Is it really, as Bill Gertz and Jon Ward allege, the testimony of one supposed Iranian defector -- former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari -- who we have not even interviewed ourselves?
The WSJ (there! -- see?) also echoes another point of our previous post... the provenance of the NIE (where it came from):
Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
For a flavor of their political outlook, former Bush Administration antiproliferation official John Bolton recalls in his recent memoir that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage "described Brill's efforts in Vienna, or lack thereof, as 'bull -- .'" Mr. Brill was "retired" from the State Department by Colin Powell before being rehired, over considerable internal and public protest, as head of the National Counter-Proliferation Center by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
The Journal agrees with us that the only major "pressure" on Iran in 2003 was our invasion of Iraq, the deposing of Saddam Hussein, de-Baathification of Iraq, and the start of the insurgency... and particularly our response to it: American forces dug in and fought back, rather than the Bush-41/Clinton style of staying but a few weeks, then withdrawing -- while congratulating ourselves for a job well done -- and leaving a chaotic mess behind into which Iran could move. So shouldn't we see the suspension of Iran's NWP in respose to the Iraq war (if true) as a tremendous victory for the Bush policy?
But contrariwise, the NIE claims the turnabout was due to "international pressure," which I don't believe they ever actually specify. What international (non-American) pressure was put on Iran in 2003? We were still in the process of trying to persuade the Europeans to start dealing with Iran on the issue of their NWP. I suppose it's possible that the Iranian mullahs glanced back at Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia and started quaking in their Persian slippers; just as it's possible that I am actually Marie of Romania... but very unlikely.
The WSJ drops a bombshell; at least, I hadn't heard this before, and I tend to follow the news more carefully than I think do most non-bloggers:
In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale -- that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core.
The U.S. also knows that Iran has extensive technical information on how to fit a warhead atop a ballistic missile. And there is considerable evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has been developing the detonation devices needed to set off a nuclear explosion at the weapons testing facility in Parchin. Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one.
This new NIE will surely make it more difficult to gain international support for further sanctions against Iran and against companies doing business with Iran ("Nothing to see here, folks!")... which, perversely enough, may actually make it easier for Iran to produce an actual nuclear bomb -- which will make it much more likely that we attack Iran just prior to that point.
I wonder whether the appeasement camp within the State Department -- that which spawned Messrs. Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill -- has ever given serious consideration to its strategy and whether it will achieve the desired goal... or its opposite. Is this a rational war against Bush, based upon actual tussling over policy? Or merely because, as does Jonathon Chait, they hate the way he walks and talks?
Pay Attention to These Polls!
Remember earlier this month, when we warned you to Ignore This Poll? Well that's still good advice; the Zogby Interactive online poll isn't worth the paper it's not printed on.
But that's blogporridge in the pot, nine days old. As of right now, we instruct you to pay attention to these real polls, as collected by our friend and old blogmeister, Captain Ed Morrissey; they all show Queen Hillary hemorrhaging support like a New Orleans levee in a mild drizzle.
Rudy Giluliani is also losing steam, Mitt Romney and John McCain are staying about the same, and Mike Huckabee is shooting up. I suspect the last will drop again, and I don't expect him to win Iowa (turnout is much more important in a caucus state than popularity in polling); but no question, this race is tightening considerably.
If Hillary loses Iowa and New Hampshire, she's a goner. Her only real strength is the aura of inevitability; lose that, and all you have left is the grimace-inducing, anti-charismatic, lamp-hurling fishwife of a reasonably popular but inconsequential past president.
I again note for the record that I have predicted all along that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) will never be the Democratic nominee for president. I have never tried to weasel out of that prediction, and I'll stand or fall by it.
Date ►►► December 4, 2007
Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!
If you believe the Democrats, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear-weapons program shows that there never was anything to worry about in the first place, so we must immediately stop all this "saber rattling" (Hillary's term) and tough talk -- and get down to the business of offering Iran incentives for promising to refrain in future from doing things that threaten us (which in civilian criminal terms is usually called "extortion").
In reality, a close look at the NIE -- if it's true and accurate -- demonstrates four points:
- The Iranians absolutely had a nuclear-weapons program (NWP) that they built after extensive contact with Pakistan's proliferation-happy nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan; see the discussion below of the Bill Gertz story in today's Washington Times.
The Iranians suspended (not shut down) their NWP in late 2003 in direct response to President Bush's saber-rattling, and by my own conclusion, almost certainly in response to our invasion of next-door Iraq.
The suspension (if it really occurred) was in "fall 2003," which is not only after we invaded Iraq and overthrew the Baathist regime, but also around the time al-Qaeda was establishing itself in Iraq, the Iranians were arming Shiite militias in Iran, and we were fighting both sides. Thus, they knew not only that we had swiftly overthrown Saddam Hussein, but also that we were not backing down, as many had predicted, but were fighting back hard against both insurgencies. This was a marked departure from what both Iran and the Arab nations believed about American resolve.
Since our occupation of Iraq cannot possibly have made Teheran feel more secure, they must have suspended work on their NWP (if indeed they did) because they felt less secure; which can only mean they were worried that Bush might decide to invade or bomb the next target on the "axis of evil."
- Iran continues its uranium-enrichment program, still striving for weapons-grade fissile materiel;
- They can restart the NWP any time American and international pressure subsides... say, when either Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) is elected president.
In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "it's apparently true" that Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program in 2003.
"But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Barak told Army Radio. "There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."
In my opinion, if the NIE is true and accurate, the Iranians essentially suspended their NWP during the tenure of George W. Bush; but if any of the current Democratic candidates is elected in 2008 and carries through on the Democratic plan, to which all the candidates have agreed, to start making nice with Iran -- inviting them into Iraq to help "stabilize" the country, offering incentives instead of sanctions and threats of attack, backing away from the demand for an intrusive inspections regime -- then the mullahs will order Iran's NWP back into full operation.
As the NIE states, they have not dismantled the program, and they have continued to enrich uranium all this time: They retain the knowledge to restart. They're just waiting out the vigilant Bush administration, praying for a changing of the guard.
The reason I keep saying about the NIE "if it's true and accurate" is that Kenneth Timmerman believes that this NIE was, in fact, cooked up to drive policy... fabricated by the appeasement arm of the State Department. The article was carried on Newsmax, which ordinarily would make me skeptical; but Timmerman has been investigating Iran's nuclear and CBW weapons program since at least 1990, in his book Poison Gas Connection: Western Suppliers of Unconventional Weapons and Technologies to Iraq and Iran. More recently, he has published two books that explore Iran, its drive for nukes, and the CIA's near-complicity in allowing it to do so, plus one book that touches on the subject:
- The French Betrayal of America (2004);
- Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (2005);
- Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender (2007).
I have found Timmerman to be a very substantive critic of the appeasement approach by the CIA and its parent, the State Department, to resolving the Iranian NWP crisis: He certainly has a bias on this issue; but he has also proven himself a reliable reporter on this issue in the past. So I take his claims now -- primarily drawn from his current book Shadow Warriors -- very seriously:
A highly controversial, 150 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear programs was coordinated and written by former State Department political and intelligence analysts -- not by more seasoned members of the U.S. intelligence community, Newsmax has learned.
Its most dramatic conclusion -- that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure -- is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.
Newsmax sources in Tehran believe that Washington has fallen for "a deliberate disinformation campaign" cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers posing as senior diplomats in Europe.
Timmerman writes that the new NIE was pushed by the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Thomas Fingar, who appears to be a classical "Persianist," a neologism I just invented to parallel the well-known cadre of Arabists in the State Department, most of whom long ago "went native," and now seem to be beguiled by their erstwhile extremist targets in Arab countries. If Fingar fell for Iranian disinformation, it would be because he was predisposed to think the mullahs were serious in their diplomatic discussions -- and because, like far too many entrenched commisars in the Department of State, he was predisposed to think George W. Bush was a greater threat to national security than Iranian nuclear weapons.
Timmerman pegs Fingar as a career State Department intelligence analyst and a long-time Democratic critic of the Bush administration; Fingar helped Democrats coordinate their successful spiking of John Bolton's appointment as permanent representative to the United Nations. Fingar has consistently fired or threatened to fire other intelligence analysts at State or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence whenever those analysts conclude that Iran is a threat to the United States, that Iran is allied with Venezuela and Oogo Chavez, or that Chavez is allied with Fidel Castro's Cuba.
If true, this indicates that, far from being a disinterested analyst reporting "just the facts and [the] assessment of those facts and their reliability to policy-makers," Fingar and his proteges -- Kenneth Brill, director of the National Counterproliferation Center, and Vann H. Van Diepen, National Intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation -- started with the policy they were pushing and cobbled up an NIE that would support that policy.
This is an astonishing and deeply troubling charge. It's bad enough that anti-war, anti-Bush appeasers at the CIA and State have repeatedly leaked classified information in ways that will damage the administration. If they have now graduated to fabricating National Intelligence Estimates to the benefit of our most active enemy, then that drifts perilously close to the T-word that Big Lizards has been very reluctant to sling around. Such actions cross a very bright danger line... and demand action on the part of the president.
Timmerman references this article by the Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz; Gertz suggests that the likely source of the "new evidence" that caused the reversal of the 2005 assessment was former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari, who defected in February of this year. From Timmerman:
Asgari had detailed knowledge of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units operating in Iraq and Lebanon because he had trained some of them. He also knew some of the secrets of Iran's nuclear weapons program, because he had been a top procurement officer and a deputy minister of defense in charge of logistics. But Asgari never had responsibility for nuclear weapons development, and probably did not have access to information about the status of the secret programs being run by the Revolutionary Guards, Iranian sources tell Newsmax.
Gertz's story offers some support for the central Timmerman allegation, in the form of a non-denial from intelligence officials:
Senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Iran nuclear estimate said it is "plausible, but not likely" that Iran's suspension is part of a "strategic deception" operation, because of continued Iranian government "denial and deception" efforts.
"We do not know if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons but assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," said one official involved in drafting the more-than-140-page document.
So even the officials involved in producing and briefing the NIE agree that it's at least "plausible" that the supposed suspension is a "deliberate disinformation campaign." As several commentators have said, it's a lot more dangerous to believe the program is suspended if it really isn't -- than to believe it hasn't been suspended when it really has.
We desperately need to get to the bottom of this: What, exactly, is the new source of evidence that led Fingar to reverse the finding of intransigence of the earlier NIE... was is Asgari? If so, has the United States interviewed him? If not, why not?
If it turns out this NIE is purely political, a snow job by the Persianist wing of the State Department... then what is the president going to do to restore some sense of mission to the National Intelligence Council?
To Democrats, of course, this NIE "vindicates" what they have said all along... that we need to "walk softly and carry a big carrot":
"They should have stopped the saber rattling, should never have started it," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Bush "should seize this opportunity." But she also said it was clear that pressure on Iran has had an effect - a point disputed by rival Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware....
Bush said he did not know about the new findings until he was briefed last week - a point challenged by some.
"The president knew, even as he was saying 'World War III' and all that kind of stuff," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. "He knew. He knew, he had been briefed...."
"President Bush has lost all credibility with the American people," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "We were misled on Iraq, now it's Iran. We need to get to the truth so our foreign policy is not only tough but smart."
In fact, as Gertz notes, the new NIE is even more adamant than the 2005 estimate that Iran had (or still has) an NWP, which they have consistently denied and continue to deny to this day, and it emphasizes that Iran continues to enrich uranium at a speed unchecked by the supposed suspension of that program. In addition, even the current NIE says that it was pressure exerted by Bush and his European allies that drove Iran to suspend its NWP, the same pressure the Democrats now want to eliminate.
This is like a person who has blocked aortic arteries; he gets a bypass operation and feels much better. So much better that Democrats say this proves the operation was a wild overreaction!
Even if this estimate turns out to be true, it simply means that President Bush's response to Iran and his prosecution of the Iraq war worked. If the suspension claim is accurate, it means that Iran, like Libya, saw the writing on the Babylonian wall and decided to put everything on hold -- at least until a Democrat is elected president.
I don't exactly see how this helps Obama, Edwards, or Hillary. But on the other hand, if we're relying upon the GOP to do an effective job communicating this to the American voters... well, then we may be in trouble after all.
Date ►►► December 3, 2007
Japanese Ship Sails Dangerous Waters
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a naval officer in the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF). The conversation turned to the Japanese role on the war on global hirabah, as Dafydd calls it (the global war on terrorism, GWOT, as everyone else calls it).
You might not know that under Japan's pacifist constitution, the JMSDF is not legally allowed to engage in any aggressive war, regardless of its merits. However, as our ally, they are allowed (and obligated) to help our war effort in a limited, non-violent capacity. .. which they used to do by refueling American naval ships in the Indian Ocean, among other tasks.
But this effort was halted at the insistance of the opposition parties in the Japanese Diet (parliament); by refusing to support the anti-terrorism bill that fostered such cooperation, the opposition effectively made sure it would expire:
Japan's government ordered its ships supporting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to return home Thursday, after opposition lawmakers refused to support an extension of the mission, saying it violated the country's pacifist constitution....
It was an embarrassing retreat for Japan's new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who was a strong advocate of the six-year mission and had vowed to pass legislation that would let Japan take on at least a more limited role in fighting terrorism in the region.
The order also reflected the growing power of Japan's main opposition party, which made significant gains in elections in July and is pushing to scale back the country's role in international peacekeeping efforts that involve military operations.
Many Japanese do not understand the urgent need to protect their own country. They think the GWOT is something Americans are doing which does not affect Japan at all. Some members of the Diet argue that cooperating with the US will unnecessary endanger Japan; and the Japanese "mainstream media" openly criticize the JMSDF for becoming almost a part of the United States Navy.
But the fact is that Japanese commercial ships are routinely attacked on the high seas by terrorists and pirates. Yes, pirates -- in 2007. And we're not talking Captain Jack Sparrow here: A Japanese blogger (probably female, but bloggers in Japan rarely have "about me" pages on their blogs) called Usagi ni Kaze (兎に風) reminds us of an incident that occurred three years ago. The link is to an English translation; I have left it mostly uncorrected:
April 24, 2004. British Navy assigned to Persian Gulf in part of multinational forces noticed dubious 3 high-speed boat approaching to the Japanese tanker ”Takasuzu” that was piered to the oil-loading port near Basra. Apparently 3 small boats were the self-exploding terrorist attacking the tanker.
The British Norfolk operation log reported that oil-loading port terminal became a target of terrorists. One of the high-speed boats exploded about several hundred-meters off from Takasuzu tanker. The bullets were biting into body of the Tanker making a big hole, and iron-wraught door blew apart. Unfortunately 2 US Marine Corps and and 1 Coast Guard died. Terror was blocked but 3 lost lives.
I think she (or he) means the terrorists were shooting at the tanker before setting off the explosives on the small boat.
My Japanese officer acquaintance reports that Japanese combat ships are not allowed to patrol the area, not even to protect Japanese shipping. Even if a naval vessel happened to have been there, it's not likely they could have done much, because of their overly restrictive rules of engagement.
"Even if we are attacked, we can only fight back with the equivalent power," my acquaintance said. "That means if the terrorists use pistols, we cannot shoot back at them with machine guns. What happens if a boat filled with explosives approaches? Which weapon is the Japanese destroyer allowed to use? Who knows?" He sounded quite frustrated.
Usai ni Kaze and other Japanese bloggers point to this much more recent attack on a Japanese ship to show that the situation is not improving:
A Japanese chemical tanker with 23 Korean, Filipino and Myanmar crew on board has been hijacked off the coast of northern Somalia, a piracy watchdog and officials said Monday. The vessel, believed to be carrying oil products, sent out a distress message on Sunday which was picked up by a rescue centre in Norway and relayed to the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre here. "We tried to establish contact with the ship but we failed to get any response, so we than contacted coalition warships in the area," IMB spokesman Noel Choong told AFP. The coalition naval forces informed the IMB that the ship then entered Somali territorial waters, meaning no rescue could be initiated, he said.
Acccording to CNN Japan, two American destroyers, the Arleigh Burke and the Porter, chased after the pirates. As several Japanese bloggers have pointed out, the Japanese media barely even reported this attack; they're so quiet that the details of the attack are very sketchy.
The Somalian ocean is notoriously dangerous due to rampant piracy; it's the Tortuga of the twenty-first century. Last March, two U.S. Navy warships, the cruiser Cape St. George and the destroyer Gonzalez, exchanged gunfire with pirates off the coast of Somalia:
The battle started after the USS Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez, which were patrolling as part of a Dutch-led task force, spotted a 30-foot fishing boat towing smaller skiffs and prepared to board and inspect the vessels.
The suspected pirates were holding what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the navy said. When the suspects began shooting, naval gunners returned fire with mounted machine guns, killing one man and igniting a fire on the vessel.
(I have some personal knowledge of this incident; a current co-worker of mine (American) was aboard the Gonzalez during the firefight.)
The reason Japanese media is silent about these incidents is that they want to play down the real danger Japanese commercial ships face on the open ocean. They know that if Japanese realized how dangerous maritime activity had become, they would demand that the "Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force" become an actual blue-water navy... which would require the constitution be changed; Japan is an island nation that lives by the sea trade, and Japanese know how vital that is to their own livelihood.
For further evidence of Japan's need for a real navy, and the weakness caused by its lack, see also our series about South Korea, Japan, and the island of Takeshima:
Some concerned Japanese bloggers are very frustrated by the fact that the Japanese government, by law, currently keeps its ships defenseless against terrorists and pirates. "Don't forget," Usagi ni Kaze writes in another post, "three Americans have lost their lives protecting our ship." She (he) thinks it's disgraceful that Japanese purposely allowed the anti-terrorist resolution to lapse, thus forcing Japan to cease protecting the freedom of the seas -- or even its own shipping -- while still giving "plausible deniability" to ministers and members of the Diet who don't want to be seen as endangering Japanese merchant vessels.
Today's AP story addresses the growing problems in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, the follow up to the seized Japanese tanker incident:
The U.S.-led coalition working to secure sea lanes beset by pirates believe skiffs like the ones used in the attack on the Japanese ship must have come from elusive "mother ships...." [They mean a larger ship that launches the small skiffs and other boats that carry out the actual attack; the larger ship would be the "base" which must be destroyed to stop the pirates or terrorists.]
The International Maritime Bureau has recorded 31 attacks off Somalia this year but believe many more go unreported.
The 31 includes the seizure a month ago of a Japanese tanker carrying as much as 40,000 tons of highly explosive benzene in the Gulf of Aden.
Initially, American intelligence agents worried terrorists from Somalia's Islamic extremist insurgency could be involved and might try to crash the boat into an offshore oil platform or use it as a gigantic bomb in a Middle Eastern port.
When the Japanese vessel was towed back into Somali waters and ransom demanded, the coalition was relieved to realize it was just another pirate attack.
The more recent attack on a separate Japanese vessel occurred some 85 nautical miles from Somalia in the busy lanes used by boats entering the Suez Canal -- too far for the two small boats carrying pirates to have come from shore. Some attacks are even farther from land, as much as 250 nautical miles, Hasham said.
The pirates boarded the Japanese vessel before their skiffs were destroyed and remain aboard. The U.S. Navy has in the past persuaded pirates to abandon ships they have boarded and still hoped to do so in the case of the Japanese vessel -- though that might be complicated now that the pirates no longer have skiffs on which to leave.
No warship has located a mother ship yet, although that could be due to the continuos radio chatter they put out to warn pirates that they are patrolling the area in an effort to deter attacks. However, numerous ship captains have reported seeing the bigger pirate vessels.
Thanks to blogs and other media outlets, the Japanese people are slowly waking up. I am hopeful that the resolution will be re-approved, and that refueling in the Indian Ocean will resume; just as Democrats here in America will be forced, in the end, to approve funding for the Iraq war without an attached date for America to surrender to the terrorists. In America, sanity usually prevails; I am not so sure about Japan, though.
In any event, the pace at which the Japanese are navigating this water is agonizingly slow and nerve-wracking.
Venezuelan Strongman Throws Hissy Fit - the Rest of the Story
This is by way of an update to our previous post, Venezuelan Strongman Throws Hissy Fit.
As most of you know by now, in an amazing and joyous slap in the face of the pudgy premier, the voters of Venezuela appear to have actually turned down Oogo Chavez's bid to become El Presidente for Life... and the concomitant bid to consolodate all governmental power within his bloated fist:
Voters in this country narrowly defeated a proposed overhaul to the constitution in a contentious referendum over granting President Hugo Chávez sweeping new powers, the Election Commission announced early Monday.
An opposition group celebrated after the referendum. Venezuela had remained on edge since polls closed Sunday afternoon and the wait for results began. More Photos >
It was the first major electoral defeat in the nine years of his presidency. Voters rejected the 69 proposed amendments 51 to 49 percent.
I say "appears to have" because with Oogo, you never know for sure; he could do an about-face tomorrow, declare a recount, and pronounce that the recount showed he had really won... once the Election Commission (controlled by Chavez) and the Supreme Court (controlled by Chavez) rejected a few tens of thousands of "fraudulent" ballots cast by traitors and American dupes.
He has already threatened to cut off our oil supply if we "interfered" with the anti-constitutional election; and of course, interference is clearly "proven" by Chavez's loss. This is, however, a particularly feeble punishment, considering that oil is basically fungible: If Venezuela sells the U.S. less oil, instead selling to China, then other members of OPEC on the world oil market will (necessarily) be selling less to China by that same amount -- and will happily sell it to us to make up the difference.
Of course, we could simply bypass all the malarky by drilling for our own oil in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Santa Barbara, and yes, even in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); that would yield more oil per year than we currently get from Venezuela.
If only the Democrats would deign to let us use our own oil, rather than forcing us to buy from Wahabbis and Venezuelan communists. If you don't want to be paying $5 - $6 a gallon for gasoline -- then vote Republican.
Date ►►► December 2, 2007
Venezuelan Strongman Throws Hissy Fit
President Oogo Chavez of Venezuela has threatened to nationalize (that is, confiscate) the Venezuelan subsidiaries of two Spanish banks, Banco Santander SA (BS) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA).
BBVA purchased the Venezuelan Banco Provincial a decade ago; BS purchased nearly all of Banco de Venezuela in 1996 for about $350 billion. Both transactions occurred before Hugo Chavez was first elected president of Venezuela in 1998 -- but after he attempted to overthrow the government by coup d'état six years earlier.
So why is Chavez threatening to seize the Spanish banks? Let's allow him to tell it in his own words:
"Are we going to turn the page, are we going to forget? No!" Chavez told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a campaign rally ahead of a vote Sunday on changes to Venezuela's constitution.
"The only way this is going to be fixed is for the king of Spain to offer an apology for having attacked the Venezuelan head of state," Chavez said.
Otherwise, "I'll start thinking about what actions to take," he continued. "Spaniards bought some banks here, and it doesn't cost me anything to take those banks back and nationalize them again, and put them in the service of the Venezuelan people."
So... how exactly did King Juan Carlos of Spain "attack the Venezuelan head of state," as Chavez said, speaking about himself in the third person again? Why, King Juan told Chavez to "shut up" at a conference in Chile?
And why did he do that, other than the obvious (that Chavez is a pissant bully whose very forte is boorish behavior)? Because the thuggish Chavez called former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar a "Fascist."
I see the adults are once again running things in South America. Meanwhile, word from the electoral front is that voting is strangely light in areas known to be friendly to Oogo:
The referendum, which follows several weeks of street protests and frenetic campaigning around the 69 proposed amendments, appeared to unfold largely without irregularities and violence. Still, turnout in some areas was unexpectedly low, particularly in poor districts that are traditional bastions of loyalty for Mr. Chávez.
We don't know yet whether the Venezuelan people are going to vote today to allow Oogo to essentially remain president for life, without having to worry about future elections or recalls, and to give him a Castroite level of dictatorial power to "formally establish a socialist state". We can only hope the Venezuelan people have finally come to their senses; we should find out late today or early Monday.
Nobody knows how the tyrant-in-waiting will react if his referendum fails. Perhaps he can threaten to nationalize the entire electorate if they don't give him what he wants.
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