Saturday, March 27, 2004

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Hold the Salsa, Pass the Mayo:
Mormons and Masturbation

Some years ago, back in my Army days, I was in Salt Lake City attending a conference. A young officer from my unit was there too. We decided to go out and have some Mexican food for dinner, and found a place that came highly recommended in the local rag.

Boy were we disappointed. It turned out to be the blandest Mexican food either of us had ever had. The salsa was unbelievably wimpy, and the enchiladas tasted like they were made with mayonnaise instead of green chilies.

The next night, we tried another place with the same results: Mayo City! The salsa was like watered-down catsup with a few chunks of tomato thrown in. This caused us to ponder whether we'd been caught up in some kind of diabolical conspiracy, perpetrated by the Mormon church to keep the inhabitants from getting, you know, stimulated.

Now, General J.C. Christian confirms our worst fears. Read How the General Stays Pure.

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NPR Resorts to Mass Email
Defending Dumping Bob Edwards

So many people have emailed NPR Senior Vice-President Jay Kernis (jkernis@npr.org) that he is sending out mass emails to defend his decision to dump Bob Edwards off of Morning Edition, the NPR morning news show Edwards has hosted for 25 years.

Here's how Edwards talked about it to the Washington Post:
Edwards said he thought that Jay Kernis, NPR senior vice president for programming, had been "primarily" responsible for his ouster. Asked if he'd had any warning about the change, he said: "That's hard to say. Did [Kernis] express his feelings that he would prefer somebody else or that he didn't like my style? Yes." But Edwards said he never thought he would actually lose his job.
"I think it's a style thing," Edwards said. "I think he's tired of listening to me."
As of Saturday afternoon, nearly 2,000 NPR listeners had signed the on-line petition to Save Bob Edwards.

TORTURE JAY KERNIS. Send him lots of email at jkernis@npr.org. Tell him that his lame explaination for dumping Bob isn't good enough. And if you haven't already, SIGN THE PETITION.


Friday, March 26, 2004

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NPR must be Feeling the Heat
from the campaign to
Save Bob Edwards

In response to the hundreds of people who have sent emails expressing their displeasure at NPR's decision to dump Bob Edwards off of Morning Edition, NPR has sent a mass email with a statement from Mr. Edwards:
I am delighted that NPR and I have agreed on all of the details of my new duties as a senior correspondent. My new role will allow me to continue serving NPR listeners and will include profiling interesting and noteworthy people from all walks of life.
I plan to be here at NPR for the long haul. I am leaving a post that I have loved and have given my heart to. I now look forward to the new challenges ahead of me and continuing to be a significant part of NPR and the amazing program lineup.
Morning Edition will continue to be my first source for news. I encourage all of its listeners to stay with the program. It will continue to bring them the most in-depth and thoughtful journalism in broadcasting. I hope you continue to listen and support your public radio station.
One hopes that no D.C. firearms laws were broken as they were holding the gun to his head.

If you haven't already, go to SaveBobEdwards.com and sign the petition.

If you'd care to make a somewhat stronger statement, you can send email to NPR honchos Jay Kernis: jkernis@npr.org or Ken Stern: kstern@npr.org, although they would prefer you send it to the generic nprcomm@npr.org.

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More than a Mushroom
but Less than a Leader

Josh Marshall has the latest on the Bush administration's slime campaign against Richard Clarke, starting here. These people, from Condi Rice to Bill Frist are really some disgusting human beings.

A while back I wrote a piece suggesting that George W. Bush might actually be a nice guy who was just a mushroom: Karl Rove kept him in the dark and fed him nothing but horse shit.

I was wrong -- not about Rove, but about Bush. He is not a nice guy. Josh Marshall notes:
Bear in mind that top White House aides have told the press that the president personally initiated and is directing this campaign against Clarke. Not outside rabble-rousers, not nefarious aides operating on their own account, but the president himself. This is all his doing, according to his own staffers.
The President of the United States, with a war in Iraq that's going down hill fast, and an economy that can't find a manufacturing job anywhere in America, is busying himself by personally directing his party's attack against one former civil servant who decided it was time for somebody to tell the truth about the events leading up to September 11.

Bush is more than a mushroom, but he is definitely not a leader.

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Bush will give Kerry
a military force
in much worse shape than
the one he got from Clinton

When John Kerry is sworn in as President next January, he will inherit from George W. Bush a fiscal crisis brought on by big tax cuts and big spending, a deteriorating situation in Iraq (despite or because of the on-going American occupation), and an economy that continues to slide sideways without any meaningful job creation in the all-important manufacturing sector.

Kerry will also become commander-in-chief of a military facing serious personnel problems. They won't be obvious at first. But they are there today, festering just below the surface. Bush and Rumsfeld don't want to acknowledge them. And they don't have a clue about how to deal with them.

The problems are the slipping recruiting and retention numbers in the reserve components. Over the past few months there have been enough reports to indicate that by January, the seriousness of the recruiting and retention problems in the Reserves and National Guard will start to take a serious bite out of the military's ability to perform its mission.

Back in January, the head of the Army Reserve, Lieutenant General James Helmly discussed the issue and some of its causes:
The head of the Army Reserve said yesterday that the 205,000-soldier force must guard against a potential crisis in its ability to retain troops, saying serious problems are being "masked" temporarily because reservists are barred from leaving the military while their units are mobilized in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly said his staff is working on an overhaul of the reserve aimed in part at treating soldiers better and being more honest with them about how long they're likely to be deployed. Helmly said the reserve force bureaucracy bungled the mobilization of soldiers for the war in Iraq, and gave them a "pipe dream" instead of honest information about how long they might have to remain there.
This week military.com notes that recruiting is down within the National Guard, as soldiers and their families weighed their desire to serve against the probability of continued long-term mobilization and deployments:
Burdick's husband, Tom, has served in the Rhode Island National Guard for 22 years. In the first Gulf War, he spent six months in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait - but that was before the birth of the couple's triplets, Abigail, Joseph and Thomas Jr. Now, Patty Burdick wants her husband back home for good. And she's getting her wish: Tom Burdick will retire as soon as the Guard allows it.
The Burdicks are facing the same questions as many National Guard and reserve families: How do we deal with this new world of more frequent and much longer deployments? And do we want to deal with it all anymore?
More and more families are making the same choice as the Burdicks. Sandra Tancrede, a specialist with the Marine Reserves, said she loves the military and would choose to continue with it if not for her children. A single mother, she said staying in the reserves would be "a tough decision because of the deployment issue." She is leaning toward quitting.
Not only are National Guard units losing personnel they already have, they are finding it harder to attract new recruits.
Maj. Richard Kaley, a recruiter for the Rhode Island National Guard, reports that ever since October the stream of Rhode Islanders signing up for the Guard has slowed. "We're about 25 percent off for the first quarter," he told Nightline.
Almost everyone Nightline talked to agreed it was the announcement in September that guardsmen would serve a full year in Iraq that has affected both recruitment and re-enlistment.
Not since World War II have National Guard personnel been deployed for more than six months at a time. The one-year deployment to Iraq can, with training and mustering out, take a soldier away from his or her home, family and job for up to a year and a half. It is that burden that seems to be slowing recruitment, and once soldiers are given the option, threatens to cut the rate of re-enlistment.
For a Pentagon more reliant than any in history on the National Guard and reserves, these are very serious issues. At home, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, even after a difficult 2003, the hardest days may lie ahead.
For many in the reserve components, the sacrifice of being called up for a mobilization isn't just about leaving home and family behind. It can also mean a significant financial sacrifice, as well.
(T)he Air Force extended Master Sgt. Joel Gallihugh's tour of active duty. The Ypsilanti Township man could serve a total of two years in air base security, away from his wife and his job as a police lieutenant with the University of Detroit-Mercy's security forces.
And he figures it's costing him about $14,000 to $15,000 a year -- the pay difference between his civilian and military jobs. Gallihugh's employer does not supplement his pay.
That's a big chunk of change for the average reservist and his or her family. But that's not the worst of it. Reservists assume that when they return from their mobilization, their job will be there waiting for them. That's what the law says, and they have every right to expect it. But that's not the way it always happens. Phil Carter points to this disturbing story in Seattle Times about a National Guardsman in Washington who returned from Iraq partially disabled, but still able to perform his civilian job, and lost it anyway:
(Dana) Beaudine, 34, worked as a guard at the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle before he was called up, serving in Iraq as a corporal in an Oregon National Guard infantry unit.
Wounded in action, Beaudine also was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, an ailment that alarmed Securitas but which Army psychiatrists said does not prevent him from returning to work.
Today, Beaudine finds himself in the company of thousands of other citizen soldiers who -- despite federal law -- are struggling to get back or keep the jobs they left behind.
Nearly 3,200 job-related complaints have been filed with the U.S. Labor Department by returning Guard and Reserve soldiers since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
This is the kind of story that can have a chilling effect on recruiting and retention. It shouldn't happen. But it does. It's indicative of the impact on morale that results when the burden of the "war on terror" is carried by the military and their families, but is not shared by the rest of the American public.

A generation ago, Gen. Creighton Abrams removed a great deal of support capability from the active force and put it into the reserves, as a mechanism to prevent any future wars like Vietnam where the President chose to fight without the mobilization of the reserves -- and without popular support. This worked fine as long as America wasn't engaged in any long-term struggles. But beginning in the mid-1990s with the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, reserve units started getting called up to back fill for active units that were deployed from Germany to the Balkans. More units were called up to perform Homeland Security functions following 9-11.

Consequently, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, it was the second or third mobilization in 8 years for some units, especially those such as Military Police, Intelligence, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations, that make up a large portion of the Army Reserve.

The Iraq mission is much different than what was described by the civilians in the Pentagon before the war. They grossly underestimated the size of the force needed, the kind of long-term resistance U.S. forces would face, and how long the U.S. would need to maintain large-scale combat and support forces in Iraq. In short, the Reserves, like the active force, are being deployed in Iraq for a lot longer than they thought they would be.

Reserve Component forces frequently feel like second-class citizens. They are the last to get new equipment (often life-saving equipment like the new protective body armor), and pay and promotion issues often can't get resolved while they are deployed. This is creating an over-all lower morale among the reservists in Iraq than among the regular army troops who are there.

The vast majority of the men and women in the Reserve Component are happy to serve when their country needs them. But "needs" may be the operative word here. As the reality sinks in that the war in Iraq was a war of choice, not a war of necessity, it becomes harder for them to say that it is worth it to make the sacrifice to be away from their families and civilian careers. And given the opportunity, many are going to say, "Thank you very much. I did my duty. Somebody else can do it next time. I'm outta here."

As that happens over the next 12-18 months, the U.S. Military, already stretched too thin to respond to another regional crisis, will find itself with some serious shortages that can't be made up with either intensified recruiting or reviving the draft, because you can't replace seasoned officers and non-coms with raw recruits. And now that mobiliation of large portions of the Reserve Component has become common practice, fewer active duty personnel are likely to join the Guard or Reserves when they leave active duty.

The short term solution is to spend money to improve benefits for reservists, hoping that it might improve retention. The long term solution is to stop committing American troops to unnecessary wars.

When John Kerry takes office in January, he'll need a good plan for putting the military back together again.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

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Save Bob Edwards:
Sign the petition!

An alert reader named Mary (who, I have reason to believe, is an occasional guest commentator on NPR's Morning Edition) has pointed out that there is now a web site for signing a petition to NPR and expressing your displeasure at Bob's forced reassignment.

Stop by and add your name.

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Nothing Like a Little Truth
to shake up the polls

Richard Clarke's revelations about the Bush administration's shallow, inept, and outright hallucinogenic handling of the terrorism issue have had an impact on the polling numbers.

Rasmussen shows Kerry leading Bush, 47% to 44%. This is a near reversal of position from just a few days ago. Bush is getting lower marks for both the economy and for his handling of Iraq.

As I've noted before, national numbers don't really mean squat (just ask Al Gore). But the Wednesday Rasmussen numbers also show Kerry taking some key terrain, building a slight lead in a few battleground states with large electoral votes. Kerry is leading in Michigan by 4 points, Ohio by 4 points, and Florida by 3 points. All of these are within the survey's margin of error (4.5 - 5 points, depending on the state).

In Pennsylvania, Kerry leads by only a point. This is a tough state to call since Gore took it by 5 points in 2000, but Rick (man on dog) Santorum is one of their senators.

Getting out the old Electoral Vote Calculator, we get a sense of how the current numbers might play out in November. I start from the reset position of each state voting the way it did in 2000. Since Gore only took New Mexico by 400 votes, I'm going to assume that Karl Rove will figure out some way to buy 401 votes, and change NM from blue to red. Then because I've got no idea how Pennsylvania will vote, it goes red, too. Subtotal: Bush 304, Kerry 234.

But let's be fair. The economy is still in the toilet, especially in the industrial regions. And while workers in the rust belt are very patriotic, they're really tired of being lied to over and over again. Ohio goes for Kerry. Now it's Bush 284, Kerry 254.

I'm going to assume that voters in Florida are pissed. They got screwed in 2000, and then got blamed for it (sort of like blaming the victim of an assault). So Florida goes blue. Bush 257, Kerry 281.

But maybe I'm wrong about Florida. Kathy Harris may not be their Secretary of Stopping the Vote anymore, but they could still find some way to bugger the results. So Florida goes red, and we're back to Bush 284, Kerry 254.

Time for the smaller states to step up to the plate. One scary scenario is if Arizona and one of the 5-vote states, say either Nevada or West Virginia goes for Kerry. We're tied at 269. Election goes to the House. American Horror Show!

My point here is that national polling numbers, though they may be encouraging, can also be misleading. It's still going to be a very tough, precinct by precinct, fight in the battleground states where the election will be ultimately decided. The Bush slime machine will keep cranking out the lies and distortions, and they've got more than enough cash to keep the airwaves saturated with their evil propaganda.

Thursday is John Kerry day in the blogosphere. Go visit Atrios and give John Kerry some turkee.

Do it because you love America.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

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Bob Edwards booted from Morning Edition:
NPR says they're trying to find
a critical mix

The New York Times reported today that NPR is kicking Bob Edwards off of Morning Edition and making him a "senior correspondant."
Morning radio will soon lose one of its most familiar news anchors. Bob Edwards, who for nearly 25 years has greeted millions of weekday listeners with the distinctive and richly toned opener "This is `Morning Edition' from NPR News," is being replaced as host of that flagship morning program.
The decision was made by NPR management as part of an effort to update its programming.
This is part of the natural evolution of NPR, and finding the critical mix of new voices and familiar voices," said Ken Stern, executive vice president for the radio network, which broadcasts to more than 22 million listeners on 770 public radio stations. "This is not about individuals but about goals for the show itself. Bob is not leaving. He's going to be on the air for years to come, and that is the context that this needs to be understood in."
Mr. Edwards, 56, has accepted a new position as a senior correspondent for NPR, though he said contract negotiations were not yet complete. "I would prefer to remain the host of `Morning Edition,' certainly through its 25th anniversary in November," he said. "But apparently it's not my decision. It's my baby. I was there from the get-go. I never had any plans to do anything else."
You can express your opinion to Ken Stern at kstern@npr.org.

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American Veterans
and those who will be

Billmon catches Bush-Cheney 04 campaign spokesman (and former Dick Armey mouthpiece) Terry Holt in a moment of candor. Holt, was quoted in the WaPo saying: "John Kerry's campaign seems to be summed up this way: I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda, I want to be president."

As if a couple of tours in Vietnam could be reduced to "Yadda, yadda, yadda."

Billmon goes on to mention how the GOP has used the Vietnam War for political advantage since the Reagan administration, while systematically ignoring those veterans who served there. It's well worth the read.

Juan Cole notes that the Israeli assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin it likely to generate additional violent rage throughout the Middle East, including Iraq. He quotes an article by David Sands in the Moonie Times that says protestors in Mosul chanted that Iraq would avenge Yassin's killing. Sands also notes:
"The terrorist networks will use it as justification for more attacks," said Adnan al-Assadi, a member of the fundamentalist Shi'ite Dawa Party who serves on the council. "This could happen in Iraq because the Israelis are well protected in Israel and the Americans are more vulnerable here in Iraq."
Sands also quotes David Roth, the assistant executive director of Americans for Peace Now, an American-Jewish group that has opposed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's tough line against Palestinian militants:
"The problem with the planned killing of someone like Sheik Yassin is that it will very likely only lead to a surge of support for hard-line Islamist movements, not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but across the Arab world."
Not exactly what the U.S. troops in Iraq need right now. And of course, those soldiers and marines who survive the war in Iraq and do come home will be the next generation of veterans the GOP will patronize and ignore.


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

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Slime and Pretend
The White House response
to Richard Clarke

The Bush administration hit the air waves hard on Monday, trying their futile best to do damage control in the wake of Richard Clarke's revelations on 60 Minutes Sunday.

Is there something in the nature of pathological liars that makes it hard for them to get their stories straight?

On the one hand, they're saying that they were implementing everything Clarke was recommending, and more (what Kevin Drum calls "the mother of all counterterrorism plans" ) prior to 9/11, while on the other hand they're saying that the White House's main counterterrorism guy was "out of the loop" on key counterterrorism policy.

Here are the key graph's from Kevin:
Look, every bit of evidence indicates that the Bush foreign policy team didn't see foreign terrorism as a top priority before 9/11. What's more, it's hardly plausible that the administration's top counterterrorism guy was "out of the loop" on what was supposedly the administration's biggest counterterrorism initiative. And given his background and his known intensity toward fighting terrorism, it's also unlikely to the point of lunacy to think that if the Bushies had been planning a bigger and far more extensive anti-terrorism program than Clinton's — no more "swatting flies"! — that Clarke would have opposed it. He probably would have been dancing in the streets.
But the Bush apologists can't be happy with simply suggesting that maybe Clarke misinterpreted what he heard, and in any case 9/11 was a wakeup call for all of us, wasn't it? That would be too subtle, too honest, too nuanced for them. Instead, they have to open up the throttle all the way and insist against all evidence that in reality they were working on the mother of all counterterrorism plans before 9/11 but their chief counterterrorism guy wasn't in the loop.
It's really a pretty pathetic performance. The only thing they know how to do is attack and then attack even harder, and look where it gets them: a pile of federal investigations and stories that are spun so ludicrously that even their supporters are probably having trouble swallowing them. You'd think they'd learn eventually.
Difficult to say how all this is playing with Bush supporters who haven't completely surrendered their brains to the Clear Channel/Faux News mind control machine, but Mark Kleiman provides a clue:
Just checked in with one of my pro-war, pro-Bush national security expert friends. Here's what I learned:
1. Clarke is the real deal.
2. What he says is convincing.
3. What he says makes the Bush team look very bad.
4. What Cheney says about Clarke is a pack of lies.
My friend's parting comment: "Do I really still have to be for these guys?"
Best objective analysis of the Team Bush response to Clarke (including lots of good links) might be what my fellow army veteran Phil Carter has written at Intel Dump:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan still isn't rebutting any of the assertions made by Mr. Clarke -- he's merely trying to impeach his credibility. The White House has yet to make a defense of its actions on the merits. Even if we take the White House's salvo at face value -- that Mr. Clarke is political, is trying to sell his book, and is buddies with Sen. John Kerry -- we still have nothing from the White House to refute what Mr. Clarke is saying. The only credible White House charge is the one about why Mr. Clarke didn't speak up sooner. But maybe he did... he resigned in March 2003 from the White House, just as Operation Iraqi Freedom was being launched. What message do you think Mr. Clarke intended to send by his resignation?
Carter continues with a thought-provoking personal note:
I just picked up a copy of Against All Enemies at the local Barnes & Noble, where they graciously have it marked down 20% (plus 10% more for BN members). While in line, an elderly woman asked me if I had seen Mr. Clarke on 60 Minutes last night, and what I thought of it. (I was wearing an Army sweatshirt with Oakley sunglasses, and my military affiliation probably provoked the question.) I answered that I thought the book was worth reading, given Mr. Clarke's background and the gravity of his allegations. But afterwards, I couldn't get this encounter out of my head -- it really left an impression on me. Say what you will about the abstract nature of these issues and their complexity -- Mr. Clarke's allegations are serious enough to resonate with a little old lady from Santa Monica. If that's true, the American public may want more than soundbites and spin about security in this election cycle. We'll see.
Yes. Come November, we certainly will.

One more thing. Billmon's got the pattern down on the White House "out of the loop" charge. These guys display a staggering lack of creativity when they spin their fiction. Staggering.


Monday, March 22, 2004

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Strategic Objective
If you lead a nation into war,
you'd better have some idea where you're going...
and why

The term "quagmire" has been heard much of late to describe the on-going American military adventure in Iraq. At the same time, as U.S. troops are killed or wounded nearly every day, parallels to our experience in Vietnam are mentioned.

There is truth to this.

But it is not that the war in Iraq is similar to the war in Vietnam. That was a war, first against well-organized guerrillas who took their orders from and were supplied by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), then later against the regular troops of the NVA themselves.

In Iraq the U.S. faces determined holdovers from the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, and some dedicated jihadist as well.

What is similar is that in both cases, the strategic objectives were and are unclear. And it is that lack of clarity about what we are doing and why we are doing it that creates that sense of deja vu, and causes the term "quagmire" to come to mind.

Allow me a point of personal departure. About 20 years ago I was at Ft. Benning, GA, attending the Jumpmaster School. It is a course for experienced paratroopers who will be entrusted with the safety of soldiers and equipment during airborne operations. One night about a dozen of us were studying together at the quarters of one of the officers in the class.

It was a good mix of soldiers reflecting the composition of the Army: officers and NCOs; regular Army, Reserves, and National Guard; conventional and special operations. About a third of the group were Vietnam veterans. The senior class member was a Colonel who was about to take command of a brigade of the XVIII Airborne Corps. When we had finished our drills there was time to drink some beer and socialize.

At some point, the talk turned to Vietnam. Stories were told. Some of them were tragic. Some were heartbreaking. Toward the end, a big Master Sergeant, with tears in his eyes, asked the Colonel to explain how it all got so screwed up over there.

The Colonel said something about there being no easy answers, that it was a complex set of factors. Then, after a moment of reflection, the Colonel suggested that those who were interested might want to read a book called On Strategy by Colonel Harry Summers. He said it was the best analysis he had read about how things went wrong in Vietnam.

I did read On Strategy (subtitled a critical analysis of the Vietnam War). In a few short years it became required reading in army officer training at every level. Summers, who was a classmate of Colin Powell at the army's Command & General Staff course, took the basic principles of war that Clauswitz articulated nearly 150 years before in On War, and applied them the Vietnam War.

His observations had a profound impact on the military for nearly two decades. Unfortunately, and tragically, they have been disregarded by the current administration. It's doubtful Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ever read On Strategy. Certainly Condoleezza Rice hasn't. How the military actually works has never had much interest for her. And as we know, the Commander-in-Chief doesn't read much of anything, certainly not actual books.

One of Summers' salient points was that, during Vietnam, the U.S. lacked a clear, concise, attainable strategic objective. To drive this point home, Summers sites a 1974 survey done by Brigadier General Douglas Kinnard. Kinnard found that 70 percent of the Army generals who had commanded in Vietnam were uncertain of the U.S. objectives there.

The parallel with the war in Iraq is striking. Certainly the initial military objective, to defeat the Iraqi Army, was clear and attainable. The reasons behind that mission, however, remain quite murky. Certainly a number of key players in the Bush administration, and perhaps George W. Bush himself, came into office with the hidden agenda of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. With that agenda in place, yet hidden from the public view, they began to look for an excuse to do it. September 11 gave them a means to rally support behind the notion that Saddam's regime must be toppled, even though, under closer scrutiny, none of their rationalizations have measured up to the standard of what I would consider adequate for the loss of life of hundreds of American troops, and thousands of Iraqis.

During the past year, the notional rationales for the war have tumbled like falling dominos: there were no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al Qaeda, no link to September 11. Sure, Saddam was a brutal dictator. As we've noted before, brutal dictators are a dime a dozen.

Always lurking in the background, yet rarely articulated to the American people, were the two neocon objectives: Demonstrate American supremacy to the rest of the world, and plant the flag of Democracy (and free enterprise, spelled: Haliburton) in the heart of the Muslim world. Of course, no one ever asked the American people if they would be willing to sacrifice several hundred young men and women to attain those lofty goals.

What's really inexcusable is the failure identify the strategic objectives after Saddam's regime was overthrown. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al, seemed to be quite comfortable with a plan that said they'll probably welcome us a liberators, and if not, we'll figure something out.

One can't help but wonder if, some years from now, some military scholar does a survey of general officers who served in Iraq after the initial invasion, how many will be unable to articulate America's objectives there.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

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Richard Clarke on 60 Minutes:
akin to invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor

I'm going to assume that you've already read most of the really good quotes from Richard Clarke's appearance on 60 Minutes Sunday evening. If not, visit Talking Points Memo.

But this was my favorite:
What I said was, you know, invading Iraq or bombing Iraq after we're attacked by somebody else, it's akin to, what if Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor instead of going to war with Japan said, "Let's invade Mexico." It's very analagous.
(The full transcript of the 60 Minutes interview is available at Sadly No!)

Then there's Joe Lieberman. According to the AP
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Sunday he doesn't believe Clarke's charge that the Bush administration -- which defeated him and former Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 election -- was focused more on Iraq than al-Qaida during the days after the terror attacks.
"I see no basis for it," Lieberman said on Fox News Sunday. "I think we've got to be careful to speak facts and not rhetoric."
Note to Joe Lieberman: The reason that 98% of the Democrats never took your campaign seriously was because they want a candidate who will kick George Bush's butt in November, not cautiously pat him on the back and tell him what a great job he's been doing.

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The Light is Better Here:
"There are lots of good targets in Iraq"

There's an old comedy routine. A man walking down the street one evening finds another fellow searching for something under a street light.
"What are you looking for?" he asks.
"A very valuable ring that I lost," the other fellow replies.
"Where did you lose it?"
"Over there by the alley"
"Then why are you looking for it here?"
"The light is better here."
Former white house terrorism advisor Richard Clarke will be on 60 Minutes tonight. According to a CBS press release, this will be part of it:
The top counter-terrorism advisor, Clarke was briefing the highest government officials, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of 9/11. "Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq....We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the 9/11 attacks],'" he tells Stahl.
Clarke goes on to say:
"I find it outrageous that the President is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We'll never know."
Billmon gives a little perspective on Clarke:
Now maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I find this rather remarkable. Clarke is a SES man -- Senior Executive Service, the top tier of the career civil service -- and one who has served seven presidents, five of them Republicans. I can't recall any previous examples of a career executive of Clarke's rank and caliber going so publicly ballistic on a sitting president.
Rumsfeld, despite his calls for modernizing and streamlining the military, is old school. And he seems unable to make the leap from thinking in terms of states (nations) to non-state entities like al-Qaeda. In his recent Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, Rumsfeld says:
Today, in a world of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and states that sponsor the former and pursue the latter, defending freedom means we must confront dangers before it is too late.
But the problem of terrorism isn't so much one of states as of non-states. Matt Yglesias notes:
"States that sponsor the former and pursue the latter." States, as I keep saying, just aren't the issue here. The issue -- the thing that makes al-Qaeda so damned hard to beat -- is precisely that it doesn't depend on state sponsorship. The thing that makes WMD so scary is that it might not take a state to get your hands on this stuff, either. Certain biological weapons that, while ... useless as a battlefield implement, could still kill an awful lot of people, can be whipped up in some very small labs. A nuclear device couldn't be made without a large-scale endeavor, but a non-state enterprise could still get one (or some functioning nuclear material) via, perhaps, another non-state enterprise like these Russian crime syndicates.
Rogue states are bad -- don't get me wrong -- but in a fundamental sense the terrorism problem has nothing to do with them. The fact that Iran sponsors a regional terrorist enterprise (Hezbollah) and that Iraq and North Korea both did so in the past (and Iraq to a small extent continued up until Saddam's fall) is interesting, but not really relevant to the terrorism problem that the United States faces. Rumsfeld -- and Rice, and Bush -- don't get that.
In Crusade, Rick Atkinson's outstanding book on the 1991 war with Iraq, he notes a critique of the Iraqi generals, who, when facing the coming invasion by the technologically superior coalition forces, dug their tanks into static positions in the desert, rather than leaving them free to maneuver:
When generals don't know what to do, they do what they know.
The same could be said for the Bush administration.


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