Saturday, June 05, 2004
Thoughts on the Tenet Resignation
Could be a rather light blogging weekend for me. Had a local power outage yesterday, and have no child care lined up until Monday. Life intervenes.
I have been following the coverage of George Tenet's resignation and the rather curious way Bush announced it. Kevin Drum linked to a Mark Kleiman post that contained this speculation:
Tenet wanted to use the fact that the neocons in OSD and the VP's shop and their buddy Chalabi had managed to blow a major cryptographic secret to persuade the President to carry out a purge of the people who have been giving him such bad advice, and quit when he lost that argument.That may have played a role in Tenet's decision, but I'm thinking there was something else that pushed him over the edge. Once he learned that Bush was lawyering-up (to use that delightful Andy Sipowitz term from NYPD), that told him that Bush was involved in a gross breach of national security, either as a perpetrator, or as part of an organized cover-up.
With that knowledge, Mr. Tenet could no longer serve as Mr. Bush's Director of Central Intelligence.
That may be a naive assessment on my part. Time will tell.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Acquire, Identify, Engage:
Musgrave Must Go!
There are some members of Congress who are personally so vile and whose politics are so repulsive, that they require our full attention. Representative Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado) is one such individual.
Legal Fiction gets to the heart of what a nauseating politician Ms. Musgrave is and why she must be defeated. Read Culture War a-Comin', then visit the site of her opponent, Stan Matsunaka, and make a donation that will make a difference.
(Apologies to Mark Lewis, whose outstanding blog I really miss)
Jesse Taylor Cracks the Plame Case
"Hey, Ahmed, can you just call these folks and tell them that this lady is a CIA agent? Yes, I'm drunk. Yes, it's Sunday. No, Laura's not going to find out."
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
The Scalia Principle
& the hypocrisy of the conservative judiciary
It's only a Principle as long as it doesn't get in the way of their political agenda. Publius sees Justice Scalia for the hypocrite that he is:
That's why I care very little about what Scalia says when he starts blasting activists (and his fellow Justices) for abandoning the Constitution at his little speeches across the country. It's all well and good to be bound by your legal philosophy when the issue is whether some school in Indiana can post the Ten Commandments. But there was more at stake in Bush v. Gore. The real test of a governing philosophy -- the true way to determine whether you really believe in the rule of law -- is when you are forced (by the law) to make a choice that you very much do not want to make.
Like a Shakespearian figure, Scalia was faced with the ultimate dilemma. He could be true to his legal philosophy, or he could be true to his politics. And when that once-in-a-century existential moment came, Scalia caved. He chose politics over the rule of law. He abandoned his narrative in the really important case -- which is the sort of case where the narrative should have had the greatest force.
So when you hear conservatives blasting activist judges, and particularly when you hear Scalia doing so, remind them of Bush v. Gore. Remind them that their pretty narrative is just politics. Obviously, this isn't true for any conservatives who spoke out against Bush v. Gore -- but good luck finding them. To get respect, you have to practice what you preach.
Squeezing the Turnip:
Trying to get blood
Andrew Exum, a former Army captain with the 10th Mountain Division, writing in the New York Times (registration required) had this to say about DOD's recent personnel management decisions:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld continues to claim that the military, as now structured, can meet the needs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is simply wrong, as the Pentagon's actions make clear. In addition to stop-loss, the military is now activating significant portions of the Individual Ready Reserve as part of what it is calling an "involuntary mobilization."I couldn't agree more. Thanks to Today in Iraq for the link.
The individual reserve consists of troops who are no longer expected to participate even in regular training; the idea is that they are to be called up only in a catastrophic national emergency. Most are veterans recently released from active duty; others are college students on scholarship and cadets at the service academies.
So several of my former soldiers now in the individual reserve -- who have left the Army, begun new careers and have not even been serving in reserve or National Guard units -- have now been told to expect orders to return to active duty in the near future.
Stop-loss and the activation of the inactive reserve show how politics has taken priority over readiness. The Pentagon uses these policies to meet its needs in Iraq because they are expedient and ask nothing of the civilian populace on the eve of a national election. This allows us to put off what is sure to be a difficult debate: whether our volunteer military is adequate to meet our foreign policy commitments. Meanwhile, in the absence of this debate, the men and women of our armed forces languish.
Last weekend, veterans of World War II were honored on the Mall in Washington for their sacrifices. Our government should begin treating the veterans of the global war on terrorism with a similar degree of respect, not as election-year fodder.
A Little More Blue in the House:
Herseth Wins in South Dakota
Congratulations to Stephanie Herseth! With all precincts reporting, looks like she is the winner of the special election for the vacant South Dakota Congressional seat by almost 3,000 votes.
Take a moment to celebrate another wonderful Democratic victory, then go to Paul Babbitt's site and make a donation so the Dems can pick up another seat in the House.
Give Tom DeLay bad dreams. You'll be glad you did.
Never Let a Warm Body Go:
Army Extends Stop-Loss
From AP this morning:
The Army will prevent soldiers in units set to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan from leaving the service at the end of their terms, a top general said Wednesday.I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that this will cost Bush some military votes come November, especially among spouses.
The announcement, an expansion of an Army program called "stop-loss," means that thousands of soldiers who had expected to retire or otherwise leave the military will have to stay on for the duration of their deployment to those combat zones.
Leaving the military is a career choice that soldiers think about quite a bit before making the decision. Getting jacked around like this is really painful for the soldiers and their families. This takes an existing morale problem an exacerbates it.
The Saudi Riddle, Part III:
For those of you who don't have time to trudge through the comments and trackback sections of every blog you read, I'll mention that Billmon posted a reply to The Saudi Riddle, on this site which was a response to his original posting of A Saudi Riddle.
I had asked a friend of mine, who has worked conterterrorism with DOD for a couple of decades, what he thought of Billmon's question of why Al Qaeda is hitting foriegn workers in Saudi Arabia instead of doing some real damage to the Saudi oil infrastructure. The Saudi Riddle contained his reply. He suggested that there were sufficient world-wide oil reserves to contain the crisis at an economic level (Gas at the pump might rise to $3.00 in the U.S.). Rather, he said, the impact would be more psycholigical than economic.
I expressed some doubts about that, since China's growing appetite for fuel products is starting to concern economists.
Here is the text of Billmon's reply:
Your friend may know something about counterinsurgency, but he doesn't seem very well informed about the oil markets. China is a net importer of oil - and a rapidly growing one. Russia is already pumping flat out, as are the other major OPEC and non-OPEC exporters, including Norway and the UK. Bringing new fields (i.e. Caspian basin, Prudhoe Bay) on line would take years.In balance, I think Billmon has the better read on the economic impact, based on his more thorough understanding of spare petrolium capacity in the world.
Hence, right now Saudia Arabia is the ONLY source of spare capacity in the world today. Cripple the Saudi oil infrastructure, even for a few months, and $3 gas is going to look ridiculously cheap. A world depression? Maybe not. A painful global recession (and/or a return to the inflationary '70s)? Almost certainly.
And Billmon is certainly right that my friend knows more about conterterrorism than he does about economics. But we can't all be experts in everything, can we?
Since my friend doesn't read Rain Storm (he says he gets enough left-wing propaganda from his wife, bless her heart), I suspect the discussion will end here unless other knowledgeable readers would like keep it alive.
The Kerry-Intern Affair:
first person account of an ugly rumor
Mark Kleiman picked up on Alexandra Polier's intriguing account of learning that she had slimed by right-wing gossip mongers:
...the depth of depravity displayed by those who hyped this scandal and then refused -- still refuse -- to retract makes the behavior of the ordinary criminals and drug dealers whose conduct I study professionally seem rather innocent by comparison.Read Ms. Polier's own story here.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
There's a Rat in the Pentagon
and he wears civilian clothes
Buried down in the 11th paragraph of the New York Times article on the Chalabi espionage case is what I consider the real story:
The F.B.I. has opened an espionage investigation seeking to determine exactly what information Mr. Chalabi turned over to the Iranians as well as who told Mr. Chalabi that the Iranian code had been broken, government officials said. The inquiry, still in an early phase, is focused on a very small number of people who were close to Mr. Chalabi and also had access to the highly restricted information about the Iran code.As I wrote in The Noose is Tightening Around Someone at the Pentagon on May 20,
Some of the people the F.B.I. expects to interview are civilians at the Pentagon who were among Mr. Chalabi's strongest supporters and served as his main point of contact with the government, the officials said. So far, no one has been accused of any wrongdoing.
I found it interesting that the Times article did not name names. That's a little surprising since the neocons with whom Chalabi dealt make up a fairly small, if disproportionately influential, circle in the Pentagon.They are still not naming names. Keep and eye on both Josh Marshall's and Laura Rozen's blogs. Their sources are good.
An investigation here, an investigation there, pretty soon you're talking felony indictments. It's time that some of the power junkies and ideology freaks in this administration start making plans to do some prison time. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.
UPDATE 6-2-04 Digby has a name for your consideration.
The Lives of Their Children
Laura Rozen picked up on Jeffrey Goldberg's insightful piece in The New Yorker on the Israeli settlers in Gaza and the West Bank, and calls it "one of the richest and bleakest pieces from Israel I've seen."
Goldberg captures the true depths of fanaticism of these people who are willing quite literally to sacrifice the lives of their children for what they believe is an obligation to inhabit the land God decreed should belong to the Jewish people. He then speaks with leaders of Hamas who share if not exceed the same depth of fanaticism, the same willingness to literally sacrifice the lives of their children for this cause.Goldberg says of the settlers:
They still see themselves as Sharon once saw them -- as the avant-garde of Zionism, heirs to the pioneers of the early twentieth century who restored the Jews to Palestine. But, should they somehow prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state, they may well be the vanguard of Israel's demise as a Jewish democracy.I don't know the answer to the Palestinian-Israeli dilemma. But I know that religious fanaticism and violence are a lethal combination with long-term consequences. Until both sides are willing to resolve the conflict without killing each other, they leave no future for their children, whatsoever.
If the conflict isn't about their children's future, what is it about?
Let America Be America Again
New slogan for the Kerry Campaign, and I like it. Nathan Newman calls it brilliant:
This is a brilliant slogan for the Kerry campaign.Here are the words:
This Langston Hughes poem evoked is leftwing patriotism, a concise statement that leaders who betray the ideals of the country are not patriots but subverters of the nation.
America never was America to me,Jesse Taylor adds:
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!
It evokes a historical liberal dissatisfaction with nationalistic conservatism without being a call for radical change, or at least radical change outside of the American mainstream.I think some radical change within the American mainstream is exactly what America needs right now.
Memorial Day Follow-up:
Pray for the Living
Know anybody who has returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, or will be coming home sometime in the future?
Sini at Jusiper has a terrific posting -- advice to returning soldiers from an old Army Chaplain who served in Viet Nam:
Colonel McClure, now an Army chaplain, is here to warn the hundreds of soldiers before him who had returned five days earlier from Iraq, their uniforms still mildewed from the months away, that whatever they think right now, coming home may not be as easy as it seems. After the first embraces with cameras clicking, the homecoming parties, life may get complicated in unimagined ways.Go read it all.
You may find yourself driving your tiny Honda too fast down the center of a Kansas highway, the way you did with your Humvee in Iraq, he tells them. You may get claustrophobic at Wal-Mart, or shaky when a car backfires or a bright light flashes. While you crave sex, your wife may crave conversation. And you will surely get 'dumb question No. 3' from those who never set a boot in Iraq: Did you shoot anyone over there?
Colonel McClure, who did two combat tours in Vietnam, shares his own crass retort: 'I don't know. I never went to look.' But as laughter seeps through the rows, he turns sensitive again. Never answer the shooting question, he advises, because it will only prompt another: How did it feel?
Monday, May 31, 2004
War Taking Its Toll
on Guard, Reserves and Small Towns
Two more articles of note to finish out my Memorial Day blogging.
The first notes that the death rate among members of the National Guard and Army Reserve serving in Iraq is going up.
American troops in Iraq died in May at a rate of more than two per day, pushing the combined death count for April and May beyond 200, according to Pentagon figures.I helped train the soldiers in those brigades from Washington (the 81st Mech Infantry Brigade) and North Carolina (30th Mech Infantry Brigade). While that was a few years ago, National Guard soldiers tend to stay with the same organization for many years. So I'm certain that some of the soldiers that I trained are now in Iraq.
For the National Guard and Reserve, whose part-time soldiers make up at least one-third of the 135,000 American troops in Iraq, the trend in casualties during May was especially troubling.
At least 22 citizen soldiers died, nearly one-third of all U.S. losses in May. As a percentage of the month's death toll, that is about double what it had been in most previous months of the war. It also shows that the Guard and Reserve are bearing an increasing combat load.
Three states -- Arkansas, North Carolina and Washington -- now have an Army National Guard combat brigade in Iraq. In the next rotation of troops that will begin late this summer, there will be at least three others, and probably a fourth, plus a National Guard division headquarters.
There is some irony in so many National Guard units being deployed to Iraq. During the mobilization for Desert Storm, some units that were in the plans for deployment were never sent. The 48th Mech Infantry Brigade of the Georgia National Guard was supposed to round out MG Barry McCaffrey's 24th Infantry Division. Instead, a training brigade from Ft. Benning was sent with the 24th ID, and the 48th spent the war at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, attempting to demonstrate sufficient proficiency to be deployed into the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations.
That raised such a political firestorm -- Congress wanted to know why we had National Guard combat units if they could not be deployed for combat -- that the Army restructured the training and resourcing of certain National Guard brigades. They became known as Enhanced Brigades (or just E-Brigades, for short). Now those brigades are being sent into the combat zone.
The second article, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says that small towns across America are supplying more than their share of troops for the war, and are experiencing a disproportionate number of casualties, as well.
Tens of thousands of small-town American men and women are disproportionately, and some say unfairly, shouldering the nation's war in Iraq.If the casualty rates for the Reserve Component soldiers continue to rise, it will hit small town America even harder. Most of the members of those National Guard brigades come from small towns.
So far, 46 percent of the 798 Americans killed in the war as of May 26 have come from small towns outside of metropolitan areas, according to an analysis by the Post-Dispatch of military and U.S. Census statistics.
For the analysis, "small towns" were defined as those of less than 40,000 people located at least 25 miles away from a "populated place" of 100,000 or more, based on 2000 U.S. census data. That excludes suburban towns.
Those same kinds of small towns and the rest of rural America represent about 27 percent of the nation's population.
Meanwhile, servicemen and women from the nation's 25 largest cities, which combined make up nearly 12 percent of the U.S. population, are so far about 9 percent of those killed in the war, military and census data show.
Moreover, a disparity exists in which communities are paying the greatest sacrifice in the war. The small communities of Orangeburg, S.C., and Kingman, Ariz., for instance, have recorded as many or more war deaths than the cities of Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Washington, Boston, Milwaukee, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Memphis, Baltimore, Cleveland, San Jose or Kansas City.
Tiny towns like Albion, Ill., pop. 1,933, Philip, S.D., pop. 885, and Hume, Mo., pop. 337, have lost more servicemen to the war than the cities of San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis or Cincinnati.
The reason small towns are carrying this burden, according to the military and those who study it, is the changes in the makeup of the armed forces that have occurred since the suspension of the draft in 1973.
The historic traditions and the new economic realities of small-town America have combined to cause men and women from those areas to disproportionately join the military, they say. They have enlisted to continue a family history of military service, flee small-town life or, most often, escape economically depressed communities that offer little future, residents and experts say.
The gap between urban, suburban and rural America's participation in the war has drawn the concern of some, including politicians, military historians and the families of some of those who have been killed in the war. They argue that the inequality in economic and educational opportunities between small-town Americans and others has created an unfair, two-tiered system that is a de facto draft for many Americans.
True, some say, today's young men and women aren't being ordered into the military by the government as they were during World War II and the Vietnam War.
"On the other hand, part of that volunteering is a form of economic conscription," said David R. Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland. "They're not being selected by the Selective Service System; they are being selected by the economy."
Thus, in many small towns across America, where unemployment rates run consistently higher than the national average and median household incomes fall below the norm, high school graduates with limited options are pulled in by military economic packages that far outstrip anything that they could earn locally.
Whether because of "economic conscription" or the families who depend on the Guard or Reserve check each month to make it through the tough economic times, America's amall towns will have plenty of friends and family to remember on future Memorial Days.
The Saudi Riddle
Billmon had a very thoughtful post a couple of days ago called The Saudi Riddle, written in response to the Al Queda operation in Khobar. He asks why Al Qaeda is attacking foriegners instead of doing some serious damage by taking out big and vulnerable pieces of the Saudi oil infrastructure.
Knocking Saudi Arabia out of the oil producing business for two years would bring the global economy to its knees - and probably bring about the fall of the House of Saud. In other words, it would be an enormous victory for Al Qaeda, the kind that would make the current fiasco in Iraq look like a paper cut. And there's not much the United States could do about it, even if it invaded and occupied the Saudi oil fields. Iraq has already demonstrated the futility of trying to guard something as inherently vulnerable and sprawling as an oil infrastructure against a determined saboteur movement.I thought Billmon raised some interesting questions. So I passed them on to an old comrade of mine. He has worked as a counterterrorism analyst for many years and knows more than I do about the Middle East. He recently returned from Iraq, so I was curious as to what his take on these questions might be. Here's what he had to say:
So why is Al Qaeda still fooling around with these attacks on foreign workers? Is it because they don't want to alienate Saudi popular opinion by destroying the goose that lays the petroleum eggs? Are they hoping to inherit the oil infrastructure intact once they take power? Do they have a implicit deal with the royal family (or some faction within it) to limit their attacks to the infidel devils and leave the valuable stuff alone?
I could see the House of Saud offering such a deal (and trusting that the clueless Americans will never find out about it), but what motive would Al Qaeda have for abiding by it?
I don't have any obvious answers to this riddle - or at least, none that aren't wearing silly tinfoil hats. But think about it the next time you fill up your tank, because it's probably the only thing standing between you and a $6 gallon of gas.
He raises some interesting questions and concerns. However, consider this:Seems like the biggest difference in perspectives is about 3 dollars a gallon at the pump -- not an insignificant figure for most of us. I also wonder about the Japanese getting their oil from China, since the dramatic rise in China's consumption of fuel products is becoming a source of concern among many economists.
(1) Al Qaeda has announced its primary targets in their 1998(?) manifesto: United States (and allies) (since Desert Storm), Russia (because of Chechnya and way-back-when Afghanistan), Israel (because of Palestine), and India (because of Kashmir); all others are secondary targets
(2) US, UK and Russia have their own reserves and production capability ... yes, if SA is attacked gas may go up to $3.00/gallon ... go figure ... but the impact would most likely not spiral into another world depression. The EU would buy from the Russians and Central Asians, the Japanese from the Chinese, and America's anthropocentrists would finally get their way and drill under our remaining wilderness. The remaining members of the GCC, Nigeria and Venezuela would all make money. Perhaps the most intersting consequence would be the change in political dynamics within OPEC and the Arab League.
(3) It appears that Al Qaeda does better affecting western psyche than the psyche of those in the greater Middle East. If you read the Middle Eastern and Central Asian press (both independent and government sponsored), there is no love for these guys. Such an attack would more likely affect us on a social-psychological (remember those days?) rather than economic level; but, no more than closing the Iraqi oil fields in 1991.
Memorial Day Must-Reads
I tend to assume that most people who read the blogs visit Atrios and Billmon at least once a day.
But just in case you missed these (holiday weekends being what they are), allow me to point the way.
There is no connection between them, except that one is about the defense of freedom, and the other is about what freedom in America should be but is not. I wish I could write with the sort of clarity that both of these contain.
Atrios has posted a letter to the editor called On the Consequences of Hate. I would love to see it get the mass distribution it deserves.
The other is Memorial Day by Billmon. He captures the essense of why most war-time veterans never discuss their combat experiences, except occasionally with other veterans. It serves as a good reminder of why we, as a nation, have a holiday to remember those who never came back.
There is an old army tradition. When veterans gather, they often raise their glasses and offer a toast to absent companions. I have a few. I'll be doing that tonight.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
Religion and Homophobia
Where's the Love?
Professor Kim points to two articles that I think are definately worth reading. The first, Openly Gay and Muslim, is written by Johann Hari:
He is describing a day eighteen years ago when he picked up his parents at Heathrow airport. He was 21 years old, and they were returning from their annual holiday to Turkey. Ali knew he was gay -- he had always known -- but his sexuality wasn’t flickering across his mind that that summer day, as he stood waiting in the arrivals lounge. He saw them waddling towards him with their suitcases and a strange woman. He waved. He had bought his mother a bunch of flowers. His parents had brought something for him too: a wife.The second article is by Keith Boykin writing in the Village Voice on the Black Church's hostility to gay rights:
"Then one night I came home and finally told her I couldn’t ever love her," he says. "There was a phenomenal amount of family and community pressure for us to not get divorced. Getting permission took another three months. Finally my parents gave in, but on one condition: that I take her back to her parents in Turkey and explain why."
It was potentially a death-wish: go to a very conservative part of Turkey, and tell a group of religious men that you are divorcing their daughter because you’re gay. Ali went. "My one saving grace in their eyes was that I hadn’t ‘defiled’ her. Because of that, I survived." He lived -- but the day he returned, his parents explained that he was no longer their son. They told him bluntly that they never wanted to see him again, not even on their deathbeds.
While the black church embraces single mothers, drug addicts, and ex-cons, it does not embrace black homosexuals largely because they haven’t organized to make their presence felt. Instead, black gays and lesbians have been shamed and silenced into a kind of "don't ask, don’t tell" relationship with the church.Both pieces are insightful and well worth the couple of minutes it takes to read them.