Thursday, December 28, 2006

Stupid pundits

Democratic victory in November aaside, we are not out of thh woods yet. The Daily Howler is one of the best sites going when it comes to media criticism. Daily Howler: The Post's Gene Robinson just couldn't wait to mention Obama's middle name

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford

If it were not for a few inconvenient run-ins with history, Gerald Ford would have had a nice little career as a hail fellow well met and a career congressmen. He might have eked out another decade or two in the Republican leadership, then retired to do what he pretty-much did as a retired president.

But as a reliable Republican from Michigan, he was named to sit on the Warren Commission and investigated John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

And ten years later, Richard Nixon appointed him to the Vice Presidency.

And eight months after that, he became President. And a month after that, he pardoned Nixon for any crimes Nixon may have committed as President.

Then South Vietnam fell. Then he pardoned the draft evaders. Then Ronald Reagan almost won the nomination in 1976 and Jimmy Carter sent Gerald Ford off gently into that good night, where he played a lot of golf with Bob Hope, but nobody ever called to ask him any serious policy questions ever again.

For many of us who lived through those times, there is a great temptation to stereotype Ford as a bumbling, possibly corrupt and complicit party hack.

The Report of the Warren Commission is suspect at best. And, like the Warren Report, Nixon’s pardon left so much unresolved. It taught a generation of politicians – including Ronald Reagan, Caspar Weinberger, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George H. W. Bush, and others, that it was virtually impossible to be run out of the White House by scandal. Iran Contragate is rooted in Nixon’s pardon.

In retrospect, though – in fairness to Ford – he was dealt an all-but-unplayable hand, and played it with a political competence the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania does not seem to have.

When Ford took office, the fate of South Vietnam was unresolved. The Arab oil embargo had driven gas prices up. Inflation was gathering steam. Ugliest of all, Watergate colored everything early in Ford’s tenure. Far from alleviating the crisis, Nixon’s resignation threatened to keep Watergate center stage – and congress and the White House – paralyzed for years to come.

So Ford did what he had to do. He pardoned Nixon.

He must have known it was political suicide, but he bit the bullet, and signed the pardon. His popularity dropped 20 points overnight. The Republicans lost more than 40 seats in the 1974 midterm elections.

But the country could now begin to deal with the aftermath of Vietnam, the energy crisis, inflation, and societal issues such as equal rights, as well as the post-hippie Baby Boom finally coming of age.

Gerald Ford wasn’t the brightest bulb on the string (although he was a Yale Law School graduate). He was, to use a phrase Nixon used in describing George H.W. Bush (for whom Nixon is said to have had little regard), “the kind of man you appoint to a committee…”

But in the wake of Watergate, with Constitutional checks and balances stretched to the breaking point – and congress and the White House reeling and vulnerable – Ford managed to consign the scandal to history – and to get the country focused on the people’s business again.

He leaves us a passel of enigmas as he leaves the stage.

Who knows what he knew about the Kennedy assassination? Who knows what direction a protracted criminal investigation of Richard Nixon might have taken the country?

Who knows whether he did us a great service or set the stage for everything that has happened since?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Latina Lista: Privatized Immigrant Detention Facilities for Families Revealed to be Modern-Day Concentration Camps

Here Comes The Draft?

This is an unhappy but necessary next step. The country has to be ready for what happens when Iraq blows. Ventura County Star: News

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Attorney argues FCC rules on profanity unfair -

Frickin' Fox. Home to Homer Simpson and that culture warrior Bill O'Reilley. Part crude, part prude, in court arguing about their right to drop f'bombs on us.Attorney argues FCC rules on profanity unfair -

Not winning. Not losing.

Make no mistake about it. Not winning and not losing – the current administration meme/spin on Iraq – means losing. And repeating and perpetuating the “not winning, not losing” theme only delays the inevitable coming-to-terms with what the fools who launched this unnecessary war have done to the people of this country, the people of Iraq, and the United States military.

For the people of this country, there is the under-reported fact that this war hasn’t simply cost almost 3000 lives, It has cost – and continues to cost – real money. Every man, woman and child is paying for Iraq – and will continue to pay for decades to come.

The people of Iraq pay even more. Upwards of 600,000 have been killed, according to a recent survey published in the British Medical Journal Lancet.

And for the American military, not winning and not losing means they can not advance or retreat. They are bogged down, plain and simple – the same way the Soviet Union was bogged down in Afghanistan, and the same way the United States was bogged down in Vietnam.

For the troops, not winning and not losing must mean days and weeks of mind-numbing monotony, punctuated by moments of action, adrenal surge, shock and frustration – all of it colored by a sense of alienation from everyone and everything that is not military back here in the States.

Not winning and not losing must fog the mission up plenty good. It has to reduce daily life to a spirit sapping, Groundhog Day tedium. The objective becomes getting home in one piece.

And not winning, not losing offers the even more ominous prospect of extended tours of duty in Iraq, followed by second and third tours – even for National Guard and Army Reserve units.

For example, the Pentagon and the Administration are now talking about a “surge” in troop levels – committing more men and women to the war. Those new troops will have to be old troops – a combination of units that have been to Iraq before and extended tours of duty for troops already in country.

Not winning and not losing is Catch 22 revisited. Selfless people who have done more than their share are being asked to sustain their spirits and fight as passionately as ever while the ground shifts beneath them. Absurdity reigns. We’re not winning. We’re not losing. But our men and women are dying.

Nothing says not winning and not losing quite like a video floating around the Internet these days.

In the video, a handful of GI’s lead a group of street corner Iraqi kids in a chant:

“Fuck Iraq! Fuck Iraq! Fuck Iraq!”

Not winning and not losing? Or not facing the facts?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


"I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies....' Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."
- Richard Perle, former chair of the Defense Policy Board, and one of the key advocates of the invasion of Iraq. (Source: Vanity Fair)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Planning Redux

Another example of why we need to begin mega-planning for what might happen when we pull out of Iraq. This one from life for the poorest in post-Katrina Louisiana. Now is the time to plan for thhe worst and hope for the best - to get our act together on a wide variety of issues.

December 14, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Sunrise and Sunset

Baton Rouge, La.

They look for all the world like internment camps. The long rows of identical white trailers sit on flat, grim, barren expanses of land that are enclosed by metal fences. Armed guards are stationed at the entrances around the clock.

More than a year after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of the poorest victims from New Orleans are still living in these trailer parks run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They have ironic names, like Mount Olive Gardens and Renaissance Village. A more accurate name would be Camp Depression, after the state of mind of most of the residents.

The “parks” are nothing more than vast, dusty, gravel-strewn lots filled with trailers that were designed to be hitched to cars for brief vacations or weekend getaways. The trailers, about 200 square feet each, were never meant to serve as homes for entire families. But in these FEMA parks, it’s common for families of five or six, or even more, to be jammed into one trailer.

I stood outside a trailer at the Mount Olive encampment on Monday afternoon, talking with Geraldine Craig and her 21-year-old daughter, Danielle Craig. The women, who have been unable to find jobs, seemed baffled and depleted by their long ordeal. As we talked, Danielle’s 2-year-old son, Javonta, scampered around in the dust and gravel.

Danielle’s daughter, Miracle, was 5 months old when Katrina struck. The baby was ill and receiving oxygen when it became clear that the family had to evacuate. “The doctors were taking care of her and she couldn’t hardly breathe,” Danielle said. “After we left we ended up in a shelter, and I said that my baby needed oxygen but they told us we had to wait.

“They finally sent us to a medical building and they put her on oxygen for about two hours, but the doctor said there was nothing wrong with her.”

Like so many thousands of others left destitute and all but despondent by Katrina, the family moved on — to Texas, back to Louisiana, eventually to Baton Rouge. It was too much for Miracle, who never got the proper medical treatment. She died last March. Her heart disease wasn’t accurately diagnosed until an autopsy was performed.

“I felt like it was my fault,” said Danielle. “I’m still depressed.”

When I asked if she’d been treated for depression, she shook her head.

“That baby was one of the many victims of the storm who were never officially counted as such,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of the Children’s Health Fund, which has been providing medical and mental health services to children in the FEMA parks.

Dr. Redlener, a professor at Columbia University and the author of “Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do,” said he was outraged that so many thousands of the poorest victims of Hurricane Katrina are still stuck in limbo — unable to find jobs or permanent housing, denied adequate medical and educational services and with no idea when, or if, they will be able to return to New Orleans.

“The recovery of this catastrophe in the gulf has been as badly mangled by the government as the initial response,” he said. “Fifteen months have gone by and you still have these thousands of people who in essence are either American refugees living in other states who have no idea what’s going to happen to them, or they are living in these trailer camps, or in isolated trailers on their old property, which has been destroyed. They’re just waiting for something to happen. And the wait is interminable.”

Geraldine Craig said: “We just recently went down to New Orleans and they got nothing going yet, not in our neighborhood. So we’re going to be here for a while.”

The residents of Mount Olive Gardens and the even larger trailer camp at Renaissance Village in nearby Baker, La., face challenges that seem almost insurmountable. Even minimum-wage jobs are very difficult to find and difficult to get to because there is little public transportation. Many of the residents are elderly, or disabled, or illiterate. Some are mentally handicapped.

These are encampments of profound stress and sadness.

As I was telling Geraldine and Danielle Craig goodbye, and wishing them the best for the coming holidays, Danielle shyly handed me a photograph of her daughter. At the top was written, “Miracle Breyonne Craig.” At the bottom: “Sunrise: 3-19-05. Sunset: 3-10-06.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Newsweek reports:

Three years and nine months after the U.S.-led Coalition began its war against Saddam Hussein, researchers have quietly recorded another grim milestone in the cost of the conflict. American military casualties have now exceeded 25,000. Almost 3,000 U.S. soldiers are dead; 22,000 are injured. Some 245 other Coalition soldiers--mostly Brits--have also died, as well as at least 50,000 Iraqi civilians. Glenn Kutler, a researcher for the non-partisan, has analyzed the patterns behind the numbers--and says he sees a conflict of gruesome logic and distinct phases.

The Saudis weigh in

Seems like somebody tore Cheney a new one when he was in Saudi Arabia last month. The Saudis. The wide-bottomed,soft-handed,oil-rich, perfumed fucking Saudis.

Wasn't Bin Lauden's beef with us primarily the fact that Bush senior had put American forces into Saudi Arabia after the war? Didn't he attack the World Trade Center in part because American military was on the ground so close to Mecca?

Now the Saudis are threatening to support the Sunnis in Iraq if America pulls out. They'll send money. Lots of money. Who knows - maybe even money you paid at the pump when gas was up there around $3.50 a gallon.

They won't fight themselves. Like the Republicans who fobbed this insane war off on the world, they'll pay other people to fight and die.

This threat to support the Sunnis provides political support for those lunatics who don't want to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group - especially the recommendations pertaining to withdrawing American troops.

"If we leave," they can now say, "the Sunnis will slaughter the Shiites. We have to stay now."

The impetus for changing direcction in Iraq is all sound and fury - no substance as long as our idiot leaders worry about the Saudis.

Screw them all.

More troops?

Army, Marine Corps To Ask for More Troops
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006; A01

The Army and Marine Corps are planning to ask incoming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Congress to approve permanent increases in personnel, as senior officials in both services assert that the nation's global military strategy has outstripped their resources.

In addition, the Army will press hard for "full access" to the 346,000-strong Army National Guard and the 196,000-strong Army Reserves by asking Gates to take the politically sensitive step of easing the Pentagon restrictions on the frequency and duration of involuntary call-ups for reservists, according to two senior Army officials.

The push for more ground troops comes as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have sharply decreased the readiness of Army and Marine Corps units rotating back to the United States, compromising the ability of U.S. ground forces to respond to other potential conflicts around the world.

"The Army has configured itself to sustain the effort in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, in Afghanistan. Beyond that, you've got some problems," said one of the senior Army officials. "Right now, the strategy exceeds the capability of the Army and Marines." This official and others interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the matter.

The Army, which has 507,000 active-duty soldiers, wants Congress to fund a permanent "end strength," or manpower, of at least 512,000 soldiers, the Army officials said. The Army wants the additional soldiers to be paid for not through wartime supplemental spending bills but in the defense budget, which now covers only 482,000 soldiers.

The Marine Corps, with 180,000 active-duty Marines, seeks to grow by several thousand, including the likely addition of three new infantry battalions. "We need to be bigger. The question is how big do we need to be and how do we get there," a senior Marine Corps official said.

At least two-thirds of Army units in the United States today are rated as not ready to deploy -- lacking in manpower, training and, most critically, equipment -- according to senior U.S. officials and the Iraq Study Group report. The two ground services estimate that they will need $18 billion a year to repair, replace and upgrade destroyed and worn-out equipment.

If another crisis were to erupt requiring a large number of U.S. ground troops, the Army's plan would be to freeze its forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and divert to the new conflict the U.S.-based combat brigade that is first in line to deploy.

Beyond that, however, the Army would have to cobble together war-depleted units to form complete ones to dispatch to the new conflict -- at the risk of lost time, unit cohesion and preparedness, senior Army officials said. Moreover, the number of Army and Marine combat units available for an emergency would be limited to about half that of four years ago, experts said, unless the difficult decision to pull forces out of Iraq were made.

"We are concerned about gross readiness . . . and ending equipment and personnel shortfalls," said a senior Marine Corps official. The official added that Marine readiness has dropped and that the Corps is unable to fulfill many planned missions for the fight against terrorism.

Senior Pentagon officials stress that the U.S. military has ample air and naval power that could respond immediately to possible contingencies in North Korea, Iran or the Taiwan Strait.

"If you had to go fight another war someplace that somebody sprung upon us, you would keep the people who are currently employed doing what they're doing, and you would use the vast part of the U.S. armed forces that is at home station, to include the enormous strength of our Air Force and our Navy, against the new threat," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing last month.

But if the conflict were to require a significant number of ground troops -- as in some scenarios such as the disintegration of Pakistan -- Army and Marine Corps officials made clear that they would have to scramble to provide them. "Is it the way we'd want to do it? No. Would it be ugly as hell? Yes," said one of the senior Army officials. "But," he added, "we could get it done."

According to Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, the Army and Marine Corps today cannot sustain even a modest increase of 20,000 troops in Iraq. U.S. commanders for Afghanistan have asked for more troops but have not received them, noted the Iraq Study Group report, which called it "critical" for the United States to provide more military support for Afghanistan.

"We are facing more operational risk than we have for many, many years," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee. He called it "shocking and scandalous" that two-thirds of Army units are rated "non-deployable." He said the country has not faced such a readiness crisis since the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

The U.S. military has more than 140,000 troops in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan, including 17 of the Army's 36 available active-duty combat brigades. When Army and Marine Corps combat units return from the war zone, they immediately lose large numbers of experienced troops and leaders who either leave the force, go to school or other assignments, or switch to different units.

The depletion of returning units is so severe that the Marines refer to this phase as the "post-deployment death spiral." Army officials describe it as a process of breaking apart units and rebuilding them "just in time" to deploy again.

Training time for active-duty Army and Marine combat units is only half what it should be because they are spending about the same amount of time in war zones as at home -- in contrast to the desired ratio of spending twice as much time at home as on deployment. And the training tends to focus on counterinsurgency skills for Iraq and Afghanistan, causing an erosion in conventional land-warfare capabilities, which could be required for North Korea or Iran, officials say.

If a conflict with North Korea or Iran were to break out and demand a medium to large ground force, the Army would be forced to respond with whatever it had available.

The U.S. military today could cobble together two or three divisions in an emergency -- compared with as many as six in 2001 -- not enough to carry out major operations such as overthrowing the Iranian government. "That's the kind of extreme scenario that could cripple us," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution.

Unable to count on a significant troop withdrawal from Iraq, the Army seeks to ease the manpower strain by accelerating plans to have 70 active-duty and National Guard combat brigades available for rotations by 2011. Next year, for example, the Army intends to bring two brigades on a training mission back into rotation. It is investing $36 billion in Guard equipment in anticipation of heavier use of the Guard.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Time to start planning

While Washington in all its pomp and punditry postures for or against various reports and suggestions about what the Bush Administration ought to do about its war in Iraq, time is wasting.

Because, no matter which strategy or non-strategy George W. Bush goes with, failure is inevitable. Iraq is going to blow.

There is no cohesive entity capable of establishing or sustaining a government. There are only factions. Factions that lack motivation for hanging together. Factions that are hanging, bombing, shooting, beheading and drill-killing one another.

There is no end in sight – military or political. There is not even a glimmer of a beginning of an end.

There is, however, a small window in time during which sober, far-sighted people (if there are any such people in Washington) can get out ahead of the next stage of the problem.

Iraq is going to blow. When we withdraw our troops, the entire region is going to be dragged into the war. The war will involve nations and religious sects, and political factions and terrorists – everyone.

It is not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. The entire, horrible, unnecessary thing will almost certainly come to pass.

Realists in Washington (if there are any) must assume that to be the case – and begin to prepare the country accordingly now. It’s a matter of organizing and mobilizing; of preparing the people for something even larger and more resource consuming than Iraq is.

The realists can begin by preparing the people to expect and accept some form of draft. When the going gets tough, an all-volunteer military won’t be able to staff up. The current strategy of supplementing regular units with National Guard units won’t work forever either.

Some argue otherwise. Some still think a draft is unnecessary. They are either myopic or suffering from an acute case of, “Not-my-kid” syndrome.

OK. Fine. But at the very least, let’s plan for the worst case and hope for the best. Implementing a draft will take months – if not years. Let’s plan now. Let’s have the machinery well-oiled and ready, and not get caught flat-footed when Iraq blows.

The realists can also start shoring up our economic and energy resource deficiencies.

For example, the Bush Administration and Congress are funding our folly in Iraq with borrowed money. When Iraq blows, it will almost-certainly affect the global economy. We will want to be on the best possible footing, with our debt under control and a healthy domestic economy based on good jobs in the manufacturing sector – not just the service sector.

And as for energy, we’re not going to explore and drill our way out of this mess. We need plans and contingencies for rationing oil. And we need technologies and industries that will wean us off oil. Not because it’s green and the right thing to do (although it’s green and the right thing to do). Because when Iraq blows, there are going to be major changes in the amount of oil we have and the price we’ll pay for it.

When Iraq blows, a Prius is going to look like a Hummer at the pumps.

Time is wasting. We’ve got military, economic and energy problems to overcome. There are contingencies to develop. There is a people to mobilize.

It’s Christmastime in Washington. The beautiful, powerful, and influential are busy hobnobbing with the lunatics and lame ducks. One can only hope that somehow, somewhere, somebody gets each them all a big box of foresight (ribbon and bow optional) for the holidays this year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sad Sack, Chritmas and Iraq

The recently-released Iraq Study Group report may or may not mark a change of direction for the United States. For the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan this Holiday season, the report does not change a thing.

Sad Sack’s grandsons and granddaughters, they remain at war half way around the world. It’s Christmas (or insert the holiday of your choice). Our troops are waiting for the politicians who sent them there to figure out how to bring them home.

Sad Sack was a World War Two cartoon character – a citizen soldier – a draftee dogface who reflected all things GI back to the troops, and to people reading the funny pages back home.

Chow. Training films. Latrine duty. Combat. Sad Sack endured it all with a certain Buster Keaton-esque nobility. Especially the risk and indignity born of bad policies and half-witted decisions made by higher ups.

Sad Sack lived on as a comic strip and comic book character after the war. The character and the attitude were there throughout Vietnam.

“There it is,” we used to say when we witnessed some especially egregious example of government and political numbskullery.

Henry Kissenger spent months debating the shape of the table before the Paris peace talks got serious. There it is.

It’s 110 degrees outside and they’re serving liver in the mess hall. There it is.

But the essence of Sad Sackhood has been lost on the general public in this war. We have an all-volunteer military now. We no longer share the GI experience or perspective. Our war-weary media doesn’t show us much of every day life at the front.

We should, however, understand how it feels to be an American soldier at war at this time of year. We should take time. We should stop shopping and just sit there and think about them.

I’d suggest this:

1. Go find two songs: “White Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
2. Find some way to play them back-to-back a few times.
3. Sit there. Listen. Picture yourself Sad Sacking it over there.

There are GI’s over there who are on their third or fourth tours. They have families back here who are on their third or fourth tours too. The Iraq Study Group report says maybe 2008…

Friedman on ISG

Set a Date and Buy Some Leverage

The brutally honest Baker-Hamilton assessment of the Iraq morass implies that we need to leave Iraq if the factions there don’t get their act together, but it also urges a last-ditch effort to enlist the help of Syria and Iran to salvage something decent. Both are good suggestions, but they will only have a chance of being effective if we go one notch further and set a fixed date — now — for America to leave Iraq.

The only hope of moving the factions inside Iraq, not to mention Syria and Iran, toward reconciliation is if we have leverage over them, which we now lack. The currency of Middle East politics is pain. And right now, all the pain is being inflicted on us and on Iraqi civilians. Only if we tell all the players that we are leaving might we create a different balance of pain and therefore some hope for a diplomatic deal. Trying to do diplomacy without the threat of pain is like trying to play baseball without a bat.

Yes, yes, I know, the conventional wisdom is that if the U.S. sets a date to leave Iraq the whole Middle East will explode in a Shiite-Sunni war. Maybe, but maybe not.

Let’s play this out. What happens if we set a date to leave? The war in Iraq will get worse, but for how long? Right now our troops are providing a floor under the civil war that allows some parties to behave outrageously or make impossible demands — because they know that we won’t let things spin totally out of control. Would they behave more cautiously if they knew they had to pay retail for their madness? I’d like to find out.

Moreover, while our presence in Iraq helps control the situation, it also aggravates it. For many Sunnis, and a growing number of Shiites, we’ve become “occupiers” to be resisted. Our leaving will both unleash violence and eliminate violence.

As for the neighbors, well, right now Iran, Syria and some other Arab states look at Iraq and clearly believe that the controlled chaos there is their friend. For Arab autocrats, chaos is their friend because a burning Iraq on Al Jazeera sends a message to their own people: “This is what happens to those who try democracy.” And for Iran and Syria, anything that frustrates the U.S. in Iraq and keeps America bleeding weakens its ability to confront Tehran.

The minute we leave, chaos in Iraq is not their friend anymore. First of all, if there is a full-fledged civil war, Syria, a largely Sunni country, will have to support the Iraqi Sunnis. Shiite Iran will have to support the Iraqi Shiites. That would mean Iran and Syria, now allies, will be on opposite sides of the Iraqi civil war. That will leave them with the choice of either indirectly fighting each other or working to settle the war.

Moreover, right now we are “Mr. Big” in Iraq, soaking up all the popular anger. But the minute we’re gone, Iran becomes “Mr. Big” and the age-old tensions between Iraqi Arab Shiites and Iranian Persian Shiites will surface. Iran and Moktada al-Sadr will be at each other’s throats.

Also, as long as our troops are in Iraq, we are pinned down and an easy target for Iran to hit, should we ever want to strike its nuclear facilities. Once we are out, we will have much more room to maneuver. I’m not saying we should attack Iran, but I am saying Iran will be much more worried that we will.

As for the Arab states, they’ve done little to promote peace in Iraq. They’ve basically said to America: “You can’t leave and we won’t help.” O.K., we’re leaving. You still don’t want to help? The only thing the Arab regimes fear more than democracy is fragmentation.

As I’ve written before, our real choices in Iraq are 10 months or 10 years. Either we commit the resources to entirely rebuild the place over a decade, for which there is little support, or we tell everyone that we will be out within 10 months, or sooner, and we’ll deal with the consequences from afar. We need to start the timer — today, now.

As long as we’re in Iraq, Iraq implodes, and we absorb a lot of the pain. The minute we leave, Iraq explodes — or at least no one can be sure it won’t — and that is a real threat to the Iraqi factions and neighbors. Even facing that reality might not knock enough sense into them to compromise, but at least then they’ll have their medieval religious war without us.

Only that threat will give us leverage. Yes, it would be a sad end to our involvement there. But everything Iraq’s leaders have done so far suggests that a united, democratic and pluralistic Iraq is their second choice. Tribal politics is still their first choice. We can’t go on having our first-choice kids dying for their second choice.

Krugman on ISG

They Told You So

Shortly after U.S. forces marched into Baghdad in 2003, The Weekly Standard published a jeering article titled, “The Cassandra Chronicles: The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers.” Among those the article mocked was a “war novelist” named James Webb, who is now the senator-elect from Virginia.

The article’s title was more revealing than its authors knew. People forget the nature of Cassandra’s curse: although nobody would believe her, all her prophecies came true.

And so it was with those who warned against invading Iraq. At best, they were ignored. A recent article in The Washington Post ruefully conceded that the paper’s account of the debate in the House of Representatives over the resolution authorizing the Iraq war — a resolution opposed by a majority of the Democrats — gave no coverage at all to those antiwar arguments that now seem prescient.

At worst, those who were skeptical about the case for war had their patriotism and/or their sanity questioned. The New Republic now says that it “deeply regrets its early support for this war.” Does it also deeply regret accusing those who opposed rushing into war of “abject pacifism?”

Now, only a few neocon dead-enders still believe that this war was anything but a vast exercise in folly. And those who braved political pressure and ridicule to oppose what Al Gore has rightly called “the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States” deserve some credit.

Unlike The Weekly Standard, which singled out those it thought had been proved wrong, I’d like to offer some praise to those who got it right. Here’s a partial honor roll:

Former President George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, explaining in 1998 why they didn’t go on to Baghdad in 1991: “Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”

Representative Ike Skelton, September 2002: “I have no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq’s forces and remove Saddam. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it.”

Al Gore, September 2002: “I am deeply concerned that the course of action that we are presently embarking upon with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.”

Barack Obama, now a United States senator, September 2002: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

Representative John Spratt, October 2002: “The outcome after the conflict is actually going to be the hardest part, and it is far less certain.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker-elect, October 2002: “When we go in, the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited.”

Senator Russ Feingold, October 2002: “I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time. ... When the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration’s motives.”

Howard Dean, then a candidate for president and now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, February 2003: “I firmly believe that the president is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time. ... Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.”

We should honor these people for their wisdom and courage. We should also ask why anyone who didn’t raise questions about the war — or, at any rate, anyone who acted as a cheerleader for this march of folly — should be taken seriously when he or she talks about matters of national security.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Welcome to Pottersville: PAUL KRUGMAN: Two More Years

An accurate assesssment of the politics of Bush's Iraq: Welcome to Pottersville: PAUL KRUGMAN: Two More Years