Friday, April 02, 2004

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NPR Continues to Spin
the dumping of Bob Edwards

The latest response from National Public Radio to the thousands of listeners who have protested the decision to kick Bob Edwards off of Morning Edition is a mass email from senior NPR vice-president Jay Kernis:
I have heard from many of you over the past few days about our decision to reassign Bob Edwards to a new role as senior correspondent for NPR News. By the responses we are receiving, it is clear many questions remain-we didn't do a very good job of explaining something so important. For that reason, we've compiled the most frequently asked questions and I've tried to answer them below. I am also hoping that you will join me in a live online web chat on Monday, April 5 at 1 PM (EDT), when I'll be talking with listeners about Morning Edition and any other part of our programming that you'd like to discuss. This will be the first of several opportunities to talk about these issues directly with us. For more information about how to join the discussion, go to www.npr.org/morningeditionchat
In essence, Kernis is saying that if he had just explained it better, dumping Bob would be okay. This is such shallow spin, it's a wonder that whoever wrote it still has a job.

I think everyone who cares about Bob Edwards should contact their local NPR station and ask them if they have publicly denounced NPR's decision to dumb Bob Edwards, and if not, why not. Make them take a stand. Then let them know how that stand will effect your future contributions.

And don't forget to email Jay Kernis: (jkernis@npr.org) and let him know that you don't need him to explain it better, you need him to admit that he made a very bad mistake.

One more thing. If you haven't signed the petition to Save Bob, do it now!


Thursday, April 01, 2004

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Good Money After Bad or
Charlie Mike (Complete the Mission)?

There was something of a sea-change in public opinion yesterday, following the news of the attack on the American contract workers in Fallujah. Billmon does a great job of capturing the sentiment on the part of the more virulent right:
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that if took, oh, maybe twenty nanoseconds for our conservative culture warriors to work themselves into a genocidal frenzy over today's atrocities in Fallujah. Actually, the big surprise is that it took them that long.
Suddenly, our little brown brothers -- last seen throwing imaginary rose petals at American tanks -- don't seem quite as worthy of their glorious liberation. Instead of echoing their war leader's ringing phrases -- of a freedom that is "God's gift to every man and woman who lives in this world," or an America that stands "with the Iraqi people, the brave Iraqi people" -- our stalwart crusaders for freedom are now consoling themselves with revenge fantasies:
"Bomb the shit out of them."
"Send in the firing squad and take them all out. Time to show them that we will not tolerate islamic militants!"
"Napalm the 'celebrants'. Then we could be treated to film of animated flaming *holes."
"Honestly, I say you drop a daisy-cutter on both Fallujah and Mecca. All this nonsense would end in 24 hours."
Liberals seem to cover the spectrum from the Veterans for Peace "Bring the Troops Home Now" position to the those who are resigned to the notion that "We broke it -- we have to fix it." And certainly the Fallujah atrocities have got some on the left trying to figure out what to do with the whole Iraqi mess the right has made. Democrats know that they can't go into the White House in January without a plan, and it better be a good one.

I'm not sure what the murders in Fallujah will mean in terms of the overall mission. Part of the reason for that is that the Bush administration is so truth challenged, it's really difficult to get any good information about how good or bad things really are. I hear stories from old friends who are there and the ones who have returned home, but it's just anecdotal -- not sufficient to paint the picture of a large and diverse nation in broad strokes.

Fallujah may have just been an isolated incident, at least in terms of the public participation in the atrocity. But clearly there are lots of people in Iraq who don't like the fact that their country was invaded and a year later continues to be occupied by an army made up primarily of the U.S. military. And they express their displeasure on a daily basis through the use of shootings, ambushes, and bombings.

At present, the U.S. military is committed to a policy of rooting out those responsible for violence, in the hope of creating an environment where the Iraqi people can enjoy the blessing of self-government, at least as long as that self-government doesn't run afoul of what the U.S. expects out of its new 51st state.

Publius at Legal Fiction makes the case that we have to stay and slug it out, no matter what the cost, because the alternative is just too unpleasant to accept:
The best move, by far, would have been staying the hell out of Iraq. Dick Clarke's book makes a very strong case for why it was such a horrible, tragic decision. And you won't find anyone who opposed invading Iraq more strongly than I did -- for a whole number of reasons, many of which are yet to come. But we no longer have the luxury of deciding whether to invade. We did invade. Circumstances have changed irrevocably. Given our current position on the chess board, our Nash equilibrium requires us to stay in, not to pull out or get weak-in-the-knees (though I find it distasteful to talk about willpower when it's not my ass in the Sunni Triangle crossfire). That's why Kucinich's argument that if-it's-wrong-to-go-in-it's-wrong-to-stay-in is just not correct. He failed to factor new circumstances into the equation.
Especially after reading Clarke's history of terrorism, there's just no doubt that pulling out or wavering would be the worst possible response -- for America and the people of Iraq. Saddam, as bad as he was, was a cork in the dam that prevented the ethnic hatred from flooding the country. We removed Saddam and stuck ourselves into the hole in the dam. And if we leave, civil war -- violent, horrible civil war and humanitarian disasters -- will follow. Terrorists will fill the vacuum. Radicals will be encouraged. Israel would be threatened. Pakistan would be destabilized (everyone should say a little prayer for Musharraf every night). Just imagine Lebanon or the Balkans and multiply it several-fold and I suspect you're getting close.
We're in and we can't leave until we can establish some permanent stability (even if it takes 50 years). Obviously, we can't do it alone. But we can't back out either. So, here's what I think needs to happen. Bush and Kerry need to get up this week and give a good speech, in which they promise to send in as many troops as necessary. Then, immediately following the speech, Bush needs to get his ass on the phone to the UN and offer them whatever they want. Give them the oil, the power, everything. Apologize -- lick their boots. Whatever is necessary. Give them anything and everything if it will convince them to make Iraq a long-term UN nation-building project.
If that won't work, it gets really tough. It's easy for me to sit here and say we should send more troops. But we may have to. If so, we should institute a draft (I'm going to have a post on the draft in the weeks to come) to make sure that the $2,000-a-plate donors feel the burden of war, just like our working classes do.
I usually agree with Publius, but I have some doubts this time. There is an expression among poker players. It describes a gambler who stays in the game, not because he has a good hand, but because so much of his money is already sitting in the pot. It's called throwing good money after bad. The smart gambler knows that you bet on the strength of your hand, not on the amount you've already thrown into the pot.

There is a danger in Iraq of staying because we've already invested so much money, political capital, and so many lives. If we continue to follow this logic, then just like the unwise gambler, we are throwing good money after bad. Only it's not just money -- it's lives.

In his book On Strategy: a critical analysis of the Vietnam War, Harry Summers observes:
In retrospect, our entire approach to the war would have been different if at the beginning we could have forseen the North Vietnamese tanks rumbling through the streets of Saigon on 1 May 1975.
If we consider possible outcomes for Iraq, it provides us with a way of weighing the costs and benefits of our possible courses of action. I'll suggest 5 possible outcomes for Iraq, with no particular time table for getting there. These could be 5, 10 or 20 years in our future.

Probably the best of the likey outcomes is that, with enough international support, both for security and development, Iraq might become a stable secular democracy, along the lines of Turkey. The various factions more or less get along, and have agreed to settle their differences through the ballot and the rule of law rather than through violence. This is certainly what the administration was hoping for when it decided to invade and overthrow Saddam.

The second outcome is that instead of a democracy, Iraq is ruled by a military dictator friendly to the U.S., a situation rather like the one that exists in Pakistan today. That leader will have to balance friendly relations with the U.S. against a populace that still harbors a good deal of mistrust and hostility toward the U.S. Personally, I view this outcome as fairly unlikely, given the elimination of much of the Baathist leadership, and the dissolution of the Iraqi armed forces. But, if possible, such a situation would serve to provide at least some stability to a fractious nation.

The third outcome would be a country rather like present-day Colombia. There would be a government which receives some financial and military support from the U.S., but the civil authority is constantly under attack from one faction or another. There are similarities that can be found in Fallujah today, where hardly anyone wants to be in the local governemt because of the threat of violence from the insurgents. The U.S. has pumped millions of dollars of support each year to fight the "drug war" in Colombia. But there is no evidence that this has improved the situation for the Colombian government or its citizens. And there is no end in sight for the on going conflict there.

The fourth scenario would be for the U.S. to remain engaged in a long-term war against the Iraqi insurgents. This would probably be more akin to the Russian adventure in Afghanistan than to the U.S. war in Vietnam, given the nature of war in a Muslim country to draw lots of jihadists into the conflict. The one big difference between Iraq and both Vietnam and Afghanistan is that (at least currently) no other nation is providing material support to the opposition the way the Russians did in Vietnam and the U.S. did in Afghanistan. But there were plenty of weapons and ammunition left over from Saddam's military and the insugensts got a lot of it. So for the time being, they don't need an outside source of arms and ammunition. The key question is how long will America be willing conduct such a war. Certainly the insurgents are hoping the American public doesn't have the stomach for a long, drawn out, bloody conflict.

The final scenario involves Iraq disintegrating into a 3-way civil war, much the same way Yugoslavia did once Tito was gone. As I wrote in Spiraling Out of Control back in mid-February, the U.S. intelligence community sees this as a very real possibility. If that happens, it would be very difficult for the U.S. or the U.N. to put Humpy Dumpty together again. Such a conflict would likely create more animocity and mistrust than exist today, and could take generations to heal. And whether the U.S. was allied with one side in the fight, or was just trying to bring the fighting to an end, it would be a very bad situation for the U.S. troops. A mission to try to stop factions from fighting is much more complicated and difficult than just defeating their armed forces. It is not a mission most commanders would want. The costs are high and success tenuous.

As a nation, we have to ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice for each of these outcomes, knowing that, while we may be able to influence which outcome we get, we never completely control it.

Given that the situation in Iraq could go any of those 5 ways, how much are we willing to bet on the hand we are currently holding? The stakes are not just money, but blood, lives and tears.

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Atrocities in Fallujah:
the bad dream just gets worse

I'm working on a post about what these incidents might mean for U.S. occupation policy in Iraq, and for the troops that will have to implement and enforce it. There are lots of echos where I sit, of Vietnam, the Balkans, and Mogadishu.

In the mean time, take a look at a couple of very thoughtful pieces on the subject. Billmon is at his knife-edge best with Strange Fruit. And Legal Fiction considers our options and doesn't much like any of them in We're All Occupation Hawks Now.

More from me soon.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004

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Not Under Oath. Not on the Record.
Not worth a damn!

I missed the fine print on the White House agreement with the 9/11 Commission. Bush and Cheney will not be under oath when the testify together.

Rodger Payne tells us why:
I suspect the White House has concerns about the Clinton precedent. The Special Prosecutor ended up going after Clinton for alleged lies under oath -- not for other specific crimes committed as President.
In any case, without taking such an oath, the current President and Vice President are freed to bend the truth and "forget" potentially important facts.
Think I'm being paranoid?
On March 22, 2004, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy story detailing how "some official accounts of Sept. 11 are incorrect, incomplete or in dispute."
Despite what the President said, he did not personally put the nation on higher alert that morning.
The President claimed to have seen a video of the first plane striking the World Trade Center even before he read to the classroom full of students that day -- but this was impossible. Despite his personal anecdote about seeing a "bad pilot," no tape was available until the night of 9/11.
Uncut videotape reveals that the President was not immediately pulled from the class when informed of the second attack. He remained in the room for at least 7 additional minutes. White House officials claim to have acted within seconds.
As for the Bush-Cheney tag team tap dance before the 9/11 Commission, Billmon tells us how it will go. Read it and cry for the Republic.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

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Making the Rules
so nobody gets caught

Josh Marshall quotes from this letter from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to the 9/11 Commission:
I would also like to take this occasion to offer an accommodation on another issue on which we have not yet reached an agreement - commission access to the president and vice president. I am authorized to advise you that the president and vice president have agreed to one joint private session with all 10 commissioners, with one commission staff member present to take notes of the session.
Josh wonders why it is necessary to have Bush and Cheney appear before the commission together, and says:
One can speculate about several reasons -- one in particular -- for making this stipulation. And, in addition to having no conceivable constitutional basis, none of them are flattering.
I'll be less subtle. The White House team has had a little trouble lately keeping their stories straight. Whoever is really calling the shots on this (dare we say Karl Rove) wants to make sure that the preznit (not the sharpest shovel in the shed to begin with) and his vice (who is known to say things that no one else will corroborate) don't end up spinning entirely different yarns to the commission. Because, of course, that would mean that at least one of them was lying. Under oath. On the record.


Monday, March 29, 2004

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Soldiers and Suicide:
the hidden cost of Mr. Bush's war

The Guardian reports on some very disturbing results of a Pentagon study on the low morale and high suicide rates of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The study revealed:Nearly 10 percent of all medical evacuees from Iraq are sent out for mental health problems, according to the commander of the U.S. military's main medical facility at Landstuhl, Germany.

Tragically, U.S. troops who have returned home and find themselves having trouble coping are reluctant to seek help at military facilities. Instead they are turning to the VA and veterans' organizations for help. Wayne Smith, an adviser to Vietnam Veterans of America, says as many as 4,500 troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have tried to seek counselling from veterans' centers rather than seek help through the regular military channels.

The longer this war drags on, the more our young men and women will be returning home needing lots of help putting their lives back together again. Veterans everywhere are hoping that we, as a society, do a better job of it than we did during and after our war in Vietnam.

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Release Date Conspiracy Theories
about Against All Enemies

Unable to refute the fact's in Richard Clarke's best-selling book, the Bush administration is saying the release date is politically motivated. As a result, we get this sort of blather from Faux News:
"These guys are trying to sell books. The timing of the release of this book clearly is involved in the presidential cycle," said Richard Fisher, a former deputy trade minister in the Bush administration.
Clarke claims the White House delayed the release of the book for months because it had to approve it's content for release. However, on Tuesday, McClellan said Clarke's publisher had timed the release for April all along.
For those not familiar with the workings of the intelligence community, let me point out something that has been mentioned in another context, but which played a tremendous role in when Clarke's book made it into print. Everyone with a security clearance at a given level signs a document agreeing to submit anything they write having to do with their work so that the government can make sure that no classified information inadvertently gets released. Even after someone leaves government service, the contract continues to be in force.

Clarke's book is a case in point. Once he had completed the final draft, he submitted it for approval. The government took its sweet time about scrubbing it, and once they had read it, they requested a few modifications which Clarke made.

But the timing of all this is important in understanding what validity there may be to the accusations noted above. Jimmy Breslin, writing in Newsday, lays out the time table of the writing, reviewing, and publishing steps. It's clear enough that even a Republican congressman should be able to grasp it: (thanks to The Sideshow)
It began with a sheet of paper passed around the Manhattan publishing world in June of 2003. It was an outline of a book proposal by Richard Clarke, who had been a national security adviser for presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush. The outline said that in the months before the World Trade Center attack this Bush had ignored the idea of any immediate threat from the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.
Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, bought the rights for $600,000. Clarke then started to write. He knew exactly what he wanted to say but he had trouble saying it. He had to write three drafts over the summer and into the fall. Then a fourth draft, finished in November, was readable.
Under his contract with his government, it was sent to the White House for a security clearance. The administration people read with sixth-grade speed. In January of 2004, they asked for some changes and Clarke made them. Then on Feb. 4, 2004, the book was given clearance.
The publisher worked as fast as possible to get the first printing of 300,000 out.
The book is out a day and there are furious attacks from the White House. They said the book was timed for the election. If they had read it faster it would be gone by now. Clarke had the whole place shrieking. How could they be so upset? All Clarke said was that Bush and his administration missed the World Trade Center attack. Clarke then said that Bush went into Iraq instead of Afghanistan, where bin Laden was, giving bin Laden the chance to settle into some rock garden and do his voice-overs. And our 20-year-olds get killed in Iraq, where they have no reason to be.
Seems perfectly clear to me.

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NPR Googles Rain Storm
Maybe they're getting a clue

Someone at NPR ran a Google search on "Save Bob Edwards" this morning. The search brought them to Rain Storm, as well as some other sites, including Save Bob Edwards.

We hope that the NPR management is beginning to take notice at the public outrage over the dumping of Bob Edwards from Morning Edition. That would be preferable to what they have been doing which has been more like a Karl Rove spin operation.

What we're waiting to see is if the Save Bob Edwards movement gets covered as straight news on NPR. It would be truly interesting to see how NPR covers it's own managerial faux pas. Stay tuned.

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Honorable Mention
check out Professor Kim's blog

Thanks to Kim Pearson for mentioning Rain Storm. Professor Kim may have the best blog going on issues of race, class, religion, gender and sexuality.

This will be a good site to watch as the 2004 Presidential race between two heterosexual white guys heats up. The election may very well turn on how many Americans who are not heterosexual white guys go to the polls in November. Check it out.


Sunday, March 28, 2004

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A Deal with the Devil?
Kerry to meet with Nader

Nobody is saying anything for sure, yet. But the AP is reporting that:
Ralph Nader said Sunday he will meet with John Kerry next month to discuss the effort to defeat President Bush in the November election.
While stressing that he is still a competitor in the race, the independent presidential hopeful said he views his candidacy as a "second front against Bush, however small."
Following a speech on the environment at Georgia State University, Nader stepped up his attacks on Bush, describing the Republican incumbent as "a giant corporation residing in the White House camouflaging as a human being."
At the same time, Nader prodded Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to push traditional Democratic values of helping working families. He said the Democrats in general need to be reminded of that.
If Nader were to throw his support to the Kerry campaign, it could provide a magin of victory in a few battleground states where the race is currently too close to call. According to recent Rasmussan polling, Nader is pulling 3 percent of the vote in Michigan 4 percent in Ohio and Minnisota, and 5 percent in Pennsylvania.

(Thanks to Josh Marshall)

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Bush Boosts Terrorism
like nobody else could

Richard Clarke, the former top counterterrorism guy in the White House, has made it very clear that, by invading Iraq, George "War on Terror" Bush has done more for the cause of America-hating radical Islamic terrorism than anyone on the planet.

Case in point is this session with Tim Russert on Meet the Press (courtesy of Billmon)
Russert: Why do you think the Iraq war has undermined the war on terrorism?
Clarke: Well, I think it's obvious, but there are three major reasons. Who are we fighting in the war on terrorism? We're fighting Islamic radicals and they are drawing people from the youth of the Islamic world into hating us. Now, after September 11, people in the Islamic world said, "Wait a minute. Maybe we've gone too far here. Maybe this Islamic movement, this radical movement, has to be suppressed," and we had a moment, we had a window of opportunity, where we could change the ideology in the Islamic world. Instead, we've inflamed the ideology. We've played right into the hands of al-Qaeda and others. We've done what Osama bin Laden said we would do.
Ninety percent of the Islamic people in Morocco, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, allied countries to the United States--90 percent in polls taken last month hate the United States. It's very hard when that's the game where 90 percent of the Arab people hate us. It's very hard for us to win the battle of ideas. We can arrest them. We can kill them. But as Don Rumsfeld said in the memo that leaked from the Pentagon, I'm afraid that they're generating more ideological radicals against us than we are arresting them and killing them. They're producing more faster than we are.
The president of Egypt said, "If you invade Iraq, you will create a hundred bin Ladens." He lives in the Arab world. He knows. It's turned out to be true. It is now much more difficult for us to win the battle of ideas as well as arresting and killing them, and we're going to face a second generation of al-Qaeda. We're going to catch bin Laden. I have no doubt about that. In the next few months, he'll be found dead or alive. But it's two years too late because during those two years, al-Qaeda has morphed into a hydra-headed organization, independent cells like the organization that did the attack in Madrid.
And that's the second reason. The attack in Madrid showed the vulnerabilities of the rails in Spain. We have all sorts of vulnerabilities in our country, chemical plants, railroads. We've done a very good job on passenger aircraft now, but there are all these other vulnerabilities that require enormous amount of money to reduce those vulnerabilities, and we're not doing that.
Russert: And three?
Clarke: And three is that we actually diverted military resources and intelligence resources from Afghanistan and from the hunt for bin Laden to the war in Iraq.
I know I'm supposed to feel safer because we invaded Iraq, but after a year of bloody, senseless war, somehow I'm just not there yet. Now I'm beginning to understand why.

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Will Blog for Lodging
Rain Storm meets Boston Sticker Shock

First, let me say thanks to those of you who have contributed to the Send the Rain Storm to Boston Fund. I truly appreciate your generosity.

My local sheriff even slipped me 10 bucks last week. I'm sure he thought it was worth it just to have me out of town for a week at the height of the tourist season.

I got a letter from the Democratic Party this week confirming that I would be welcome at the convention and suggesting hotel options. I had to read it twice to make sure I had the right party. Boston hotel rooms near the convention center are going for more than $200 per night.

Now I'm sure that these are some damn fine hotels. They will certainly surpass my simple needs for a firm bed, some water pressure in the shower, and a phone jack for the laptop.

Anyway, the Party recommends finding someone with which to share the room, so I'll be working on that, thus getting lodging costs down around a sort of manageable thousand bucks (including tax and gratuities, your mileage may vary).

I continue with my naked request for support for this endeavor. (I'm also hoping the word "naked" in that last sentence gets me a few more Google hits.) If you're so inclined and have some spare change, please use the Amazon or PayPal buttons in the column on the left and help Send the Rain Storm to Boston. And as always, we appreciate your support.


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