Thursday, February 27, 2003

Lies, Damn Lies, and George W. Bush

Ampersand has the dirt via the FAIR bulletin: the Bushies selectively quoted the testimony of an Iraqi defector, hyping the parts they liked and ignoring the parts they didn't (such as the part where he said that all of Iraq's WMD have been destroyed). Oh well, I guess they can be forgiven considering how much they want this war. It's hard not to be selective in your interpretations in situations like this. Even CBS news is guilty of it as well.

Sean-Paul comments on Bush's speech last night and the emerging dream of a post-Saddam democratic Iraq as a beacon of light to the middle-east.
Far be it for me to gloat, but that is exactly what the President is now saying: "Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater political participation, economic openness and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward political reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region." The President is not the only one taking this to the road. Rumsfeld gave a speech at the Hoover Institution discussing the difficulties of putting together a coalition to invade Afghanistan before 9/11 happened. On the basis of the evidence we supposeldy had before 9/11 he says: "[I]magine if the president of the United States had had that three or four, five, six, eight, 10 scraps of information possibly, and had gone to the country and the world and said, "We need to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban and stop the al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a terrorist training center and root out the al Qaeda terrorist network and other terrorist networks all across the globe, or we run the risk of suffering a September 11th-like attack." How many countries would have joined us in a coalition? Many? Any? Unlikely." He's right. It is an ineffective way to fight a sparse global network of terrorists. It simply won't work. Clinton already tried it. And look at the blame the Right has heaped on him for it. Rumsfeld follows that up with a discussion on the risks of not acting. Read it and you'll see a post-Iraq strategy emerging. The goal of being in Iraq is to compel nations in the region to act in our favor. It puts pressure on the Saudi's, the Iranians, and the Syrians because we are there, patrolling the neighborhood. This is why I support the proposed invasion of Iraq. It isn't the best strategy. But it is the best of a lot of bad choices. It is far from the solution, either. My only concern, and one that is emerging among the conservabloggers, is that this administration will do the same thing in Iraq it did in Afghanistan.
This is the argument that has won Bush the support of people like Thomas Friedman. And, as ideas go, it's not a bad one. Who wouldn't love to see a democratic Iraq being an inspiration for a wave of democratization throughout the middle-east? (Well, not the Saudi royal family and certainly not bin Laden). But, again, the problem always comes down to one if implementation. After all, communism was a "nice idea" (everyone working for everyone else in a worker's paradise) that sucked in reality. Can we trust in the abilities of our leaders to actually make this dream a reality? Can we trust them that this dream is what they really want and that they aren't using it as a gloss on their real motives? I don't trust Bush on either count. He is incompetent and he is corrupt and he will almost certainly screw this up like he has screwed up nearly everything else he has ever done. Given the choice, I'd rather live with Saddam.

Matthew Yglesias has a post up that attempts to explain why he thinks it is still necessary to go after Iraq even considering the fact that the Bush administration has pretty much bungled the lead-up to war.
With all this said, I agree with Ken Pollock that it probably would've been better if the administration hadn't started taking us down this road at all. Regime change needed to happen within the next few years, but perhaps we could have found a more opportune time. That said, if we back down now that's going to make it all-but-impossible to try this again in a couple of years. In addition, it'll make using pure deterrence against Saddam that much harder, since he'll see himself as having "deterred" a US invasion without even acquiring nuclear weapons. So having come this far, I think we still need to do it.
All of this is true. But I still can't get around the fact that it is Bush that is in charge of this effort and that he is such a monumental screwup that, in the balance, a world in which Saddam is allowed to continue to rule in Iraq is better than a world in which Dubya leads the charge to remove him from power. There is no option right now available to us that does not suck. The best we can hope for is to go with the one that sucks the least and, for me, that means no war on Iraq while Bush is in charge. (All of this, of course, with the caveat that external events might change my current thinking on this matter).

Atrios has a post up about an articlea woman wrote about her treatment by pro-war forces when she tried to hold up an anti-war sign during a recent visit to Atlanta.
I never chanted, raised my voice, confronted anyone or was disrespectful to those around me. I simply held my sign and stood my ground. The abuse came first from a small group of homemakers standing near me, their small children dressed in red, white and blue. "Go home! You don't belong here," they said. All around me folks began to speak up, and it wasn't long before a large group of people crossed the street with banners and flags and began aggressively yelling "Go USA!" Bob, a young man with a ball cap and a sign reading "Drop Bush, Not Bombs" came and stood with me for support. The really frightening stuff began when a television cameraman stopped and asked me why I was there. As soon as the crowd saw the camera pointed at me, they went wild. I was trying to express myself and they screamed at me and over my voice. A man stood behind me making obscene gestures as I spoke. The reporter tried three times, unsuccessfully, to get a picture without obscenity. One woman spat in my hair. The journalist gave up and moved on. The mob did not. Men and women violently screamed in my face and Bob's. It stopped just long enough for the president's motorcade to pass by and then erupted again. We were told to " Get the f--- out of the country," had obscene gestures pushed in our faces. An elderly man told me to "Go to hell!"
I would like to contrast this with what I observed during the Jan 19th march in Portland. Over 20,000 anti-war demonstrators marched through the streets of Portland. Along the way, the crowd passed an old man in an army uniform standing on a corner holding a sign saying simply, "support our troops". He never said a word to anyone and, for all the times I went back to check on him, I never saw anyone give him the least bit of grief. This is not to say that no one in the anti-war crowd ever harasses pro-war demonstrators. I just offer this little anecdote as a contrast to the story above. Take from it what you will.

IPS Releases Report on U.S. Arm-twisting Over Iraq War (Washington, DC, February 26, 2003). As U.S. officials intensify their arm-twisting offensive to gather support for a war on Iraq, the Institute for Policy Studies is releasing a new study today that examines the specific levers of U.S. military, economic, and political power. The study, entitled "Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?," looks at how this leverage applies to each current member of the UN Security Council. It also analyzes the power the U.S. government exerts over the broader group of countries that the Bush Administration has dubbed the "Coalition of the Willing." Although the Administration refuses to release a list of the members of this coalition, the authors compiled a list of 34 nations cited in press reports as supporters of the U.S. position on Iraq. Major findings:
  • Although the Bush Administration claims that the anonymous "Coalition of the Willing" is the basis of genuine multilateralism, the report shows that most were recruited through coercion, bullying, and bribery.
  • The pursuit of access to U.S. export markets is a powerful lever for influence over many countries, including Chile and Costa Rica, both of which are close to concluding free trade deals with the United States; African nations that want to maintain U.S. trade preferences; and Mexico, which depends on the U.S. market for about 80 percent of its export sales.
  • The populations of the countries in the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" make up only about 10 percent of the world's population. Opponents of the U.S. position currently include the leading economies of four continents (Germany, Brazil, China, and South Africa).
  • President Bush could make or break the chances of Eastern European members of the "Coalition of the Willing" that are eager to become members of NATO. In order for these nations to join the military alliance, Bush must ask the Senate for approval.
The authors of the 13-page study include: IPS UN and Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis, IPS Director John Cavanagh, and IPS Fellow Sarah Anderson. According to Bennis, "It's hardly a new phenomenon for the U.S. to use bribes and threats to get its way in the UN. What's new this time around is the breathtaking scale of those pressures -- because this time around, global public opinion has weighed in, and every government leaning Washington's way faces massive opposition at home."
Definitely worth a look.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Please read this story and tell me in what possible way this can be interepreted other then as proof that there is a bias against liberalism in the establishment media?
Commentary: The Surrender Of MSNBC Written by Rick Ellis, Wednesday, February 25th, 2003 While the official announcement wasn't a surprise to anyone working at the network, MSNBC officially canceled the primetime show "Donahue" on Tuesday, citing disappointing ratings. ... Although Donahue didn't know it at the time, his fate was sealed a number of weeks ago after NBC News executives received the results of a study commissioned to provide guidance on the future of the news channel. That report--shared with me by an NBC news insider--gives an excruciatingly painful assessment of the channel and its programming. Some of recommendations, such as dropping the "America's News Channel," have already been implemented. But the harshest criticism was leveled at Donahue, whom the authors of the study described as "a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace." The study went on to claim that Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war......He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." The report went on to outline a possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."
Did you read that? This memo specifically says that allowing a "liberal antiwar agenda" onto the airwaves is a bad thing. In other words, Donohue wasn't fired because his ratings were bad (Chris Mathews are as bad, if not worse). He was fired because the execs at MSNBC would be embarrased to have to defend anti-war rhetoric appearing on their network during a time of war. And this would be bad because...? Hell if I know.

Previously I pointed out an old article from 2000 about research that suggests that incompetence can lead to self-confidence because the incompetent are to incompetent to realize they aren't competent (got that)? Well, Max Sawicky found a quote that concisely covers the bases on this matter:
"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." -- Bertrand Russell
Thanks Max. Update: Dre in the comments adds this:
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. " -- Yeats

Josh Marshall has been posting teasers about an article he has unearthed that talks about one of the Democratic candidates playing "rough and tumble" with race politics.
Who is the mystery Democratic presidential candidate? The one tagged in the previous post as having his own history of rough-n-tumble race politics? Well, not to paraphrase a certain former senator from Wisconsin, but I have in my hand a copy of an old magazine article covering an earlier point in the candidate's political career. And here's one choice tidbit. It's a quote from a John Metcalf, one of the candidate's campaign workers at the time ... "[Candidate X] has gotten a lot smarter in the last couple of years," says Metcalf. "He learned to play dirty pool. Hell, there are a lot of ethnics out there who want to keep the n----rs on their side of the river. It's a racial issue. There are a lot of bigots in that district and someone has to represent them, let's face it." Let's be clear: that's not a quote from the candidate, but from one of his campaign workers. But the rest of the article paints a similar, if less inflammatory, picture of the style of politics in question. More soon.
I'm not a big fan of teasers whether it is on the evening news or on the web. If you have something to reveal then reveal it. If not then wait until you do. So, I plugged part of the quote Josh gave into google and found the article he is referring to. It was printed in the Cleveland magazine back in April 1972 and recently reprinted as part of their 30th anniversary retrospective. The mystery candidate is none other than Dennis Kucinich. Here's the link for the article, but it didn't come up for me. However, here is the link for the version of it in the google cache. Sorry to pull a Drudge on you Josh. :-) Update: Looks like Atrios beat me to beating the scoop. Ah well. :-)

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The lazy dog media:
War and the Press Watchdogs, Lapdogs and Sleeping Dogs by WILL POTTER Journalists like to think of themselves as watchdogs, nipping at the heels of the powerful and guarding democracy. Progressive critics see them as lapdogs for the political and corporate elite. More often reporters are just tired old dogs asleep on the porch. Take a recent Sunday morning adventure at NBC studios in Washington, D.C., where I joined a pack of these wet dogs taking shelter from a downpour in the NBC lobby. The NBC staff wheeled out a TV cart so reporters could watch "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert. Russert interviewed Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board (a Pentagon advisory panel charged with overseeing military preparedness), and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat who has emerged as one of the few strong congressional voices against war. It's a Sunday routine: At the end of the show, reporters gather outside the front door and beg the guests for a few soundbite scraps. Until then, they sprawl out on benches in the lobby, absent-mindedly watching the interviews. This is the state of American media, the free press: reporters and camera crews watching an interview on television as it takes place just down the hall. Journalists don't like the ridiculous setup, but they don't have much choice. They have to meet the demands of the corporate media conglomerates they work for, and to do that they have to play the game. Some read newspapers. One takes notes. Another reporter talks on a cell phone to his wife. "Yeah, they're just bickering right now No, I don't know how much longer it will be." They listen to Perle beat the drums of war. It leads to a discussion of democracy. He says that it would be good if Israel were surrounded by democracies. He says it would be good if Iraq were a democracy. "Democracies," Perle says to Russert, "do not engage in aggressive wars." The dogs awake. "What? Is this guy smoking crack?" one reporter nearly shouts. Everyone laughs and nods in agreement. The reporter expressed the frustration and outrage that millions of people around the world know, and what many journalists understand, but almost never articulate. As I watched the interview, I wondered if Russert was also thinking, "What is he smoking?" I hoped he would say, "Well, Mr. Perle, either the laundry list of foreign aggressions in U.S. history (covert actions like those in Guatemala in 1954, proxy aggressions like in Nicaragua in the 1980s, and overt aggressions including Vietnam and Panama) are make-believe, or the United States is not a democracy. Which is it?" Russert never questioned the core of Perle's arguments: his assumptions on democracy, power, and violence. He moved on to the next topic. His silence spoke volumes. The dogs go back to sleep.
The journalists we see on TV and read in the newspaper know it's all bullshit. But they don't dare say so if they want to keep their jobs. You can bet that the dogs will be angrier at Potter for revealing their behind-the-scenes behavior than they will be at those who put them through this daily humiliation.

A little preview of tomorrow's column from Gene Lyons:
Hypocrisy in a politician is universally held to be a very bad thing, religious hypocrisy worst of all. Alas, to Americans holding post-Enlightenment world-views, it has come down to this: either we must earnestly pray that George W. Bush is a cunning opportunist merely throwing hay to the great lowing herd of pious cattle who confuse the evening news with the Book of Revelation, or face the prospect that the United States has embarked upon a faith-based foreign policy as distant from reality as the ranting of Osama bin Laden. Many commentators have noticed that Bush has repeatedly cast the conflict with al Qaeda and Iraq in purely biblical terms--good against evil, "the forces of darkness" against the forces of light, etc. In a speech on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as Bruce Nolan's article in Sunday's Democrat-Gazette noted, Bush hinted that God was stage-managing the "war on terrorism" for divine purposes. "I believe there is a reason that history has matched this nation with this time," Bush said. According to Bob Woodward's book, "Bush at War" even in one-on-one interviews "[t]he President was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of God's Master Plan." This observation followed Bush's pronouncement that "[w]e will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great country and rid the world of evil." Conquering evil is bin Laden's plan too. Even fighting beside the "socialist infidel" Saddam Hussein, he hinted in a taped statement Feb. 11, was permissible "to establish the rule of God on earth." Quoting the Koran, he assured his followers that "'those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil.' So fight ye against the friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan." So have we really been transported back to the 12th century A.D. with Bush as Richard the Lionhearted and Osama/Saddam as Saladin, in a replay of the Third Holy Crusade? We'd better hope not, because although medieval prophets convinced Richard that recapturing Jerusalem from the Muslims would bring about the Second Coming and usher in the millenium, he dragged back to England defeated in 1192.
It's come to this folks. We are lead by a man who openly boasts about exporting death and violence to the rest of the world as if this were a good thing. And the media continues to see this as just more of Bush's pandering to the right-wing crowd.

Courtesy Mrs. Monsky of Table Talk, in reference to a comment about Lord Of The Rings:
The Committee to Reelect Bush in 2004 has released their new slogan, soon to be seen on T-shirts and bumper stickers throughout the red states: ALL WILL LOVE ME -- AND DESPAIR!

Onionitis breaks out in the mainstream press!
News flash! God gives the go-ahead for war White House keeps details classified in order to protect deity's privacy DIANE STINGLEY Special to The Observer President Bush has authorized Secretary of State Colin Powell to convene an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in order to present new and compelling evidence to win U.N. approval for war with Iraq: God says it's the right thing to do.

Sean-Paul has a new diagram up showing the current leanings of the UN Security Council members on a new Iraq resolution (the one the US wants). From where I read it, Bush is going to have a tough time getting the nine votes he needs to force France to make the decision whether to veto or not. If just one of Pakistan, Cameroon, or Guinea goes the other way his hopes in the UN are sunk. I guess this just proves that even minor parties like Cameroon and Guinea can have a major influence on world events.

This morning we are talking about the disintegration of Bush's credibility. But then, for many of us, Bush never had much credibility to destroy in the first place. We knew he was a liar of the first rank since well before the election debacle. But how about the greek tragedy that is the fall of Colin Powell? Powell, whether you agree with the assessment or not, was considered by many to be the most honest and trustworthy of all the people in Bush's administration. For two years he gave Bush the foreign policy cred he needed not to be immediately laughed off the world stage. Many people would think, "Well, Bush doesn't make any sense, but Powell is standing up there with him and I trust Powell so there must be something there after all." That all ended abruptly with Powell's presentation to the UN. Powell's reputation in the international community has been nearly destroyed by his failed Adalai moment. His presentation utterly failed to impress those who have expressed reservation about the U.S. course. Then it came out that the British intelligence report that Powell praised was based on a decade old plagiarized college thesis and his credibility began to sink like a rock. People began to question whether Powell had completely sold out his reputation for a campaign of lies and distortions. Well, now comes a column from Gilbert Cranberg, former editor of the Des Moines Register, that argues that Powell's report was not only a spin job but may have actually contained false information:
Powell's U.N. report apparently contains false information ... Powell's speech was accompanied by a number of graphics, including drawings said to be based on information provided by various sources. In each instance, the audience was dependent on Powell to describe the significance of the images. He also played the tapes, in Arabic, of two intercepted conversations, which the State Department translated. Powell referenced the conversations and commented on them. In the first cited conversation, between two Iraqi military officers discussing how to conceal from U.N. inspectors a certain "modified vehicle," Powell's account of the conversation squared with the State Department's translation. Powell's version of the second conversation, however, departed significantly from it. This conversation, about possibly forbidden ammunition, was reported by Powell to be between Republican Guard headquarters and an officer in the field. When Powell referred to this conversation, he quoted one of the parties as ostensibly saying, "And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there." The State Department's transcript of the actual conversation makes it evident that Powell had embellished the quote to make it appear much more incriminating. Instead of being a directive to "clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas and the abandoned areas," as Powell claimed, the transcript shows the message from headquarters was merely "to inspect (emphasis added) the scrap areas and the abandoned areas." The damaging admonition that Powell said he quoted, "Make sure there is nothing there" is not in the transcript and appears to be an invention. Asked to explain the discrepancy, the State Department's press and public affairs offices said I should study Powell's presentation posted on the department's Web site. Instead of clarifying or explaining the discrepancy, the posted material simply confirmed the disparity.
Here's how Powell's states it (official State Deparment link):
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me pause again and review the elements of this message. "They are inspecting the ammunition you have, yes?" "Yes. For the possibility there are forbidden ammo." "For the possibility there is, by chance, forbidden ammo?" "Yes. "And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there. Remember the first message: evacuate it." This is all part of a system of hiding things and moving things out of the way and making sure they have left nothing behind. You go a little further into this message and you see the specific instructions from headquarters: "After you have carried out what is contained in this message, destroy the message because I don't want anyone to see this message." "Okay." "Okay."
And here is how it is in the official state department transcript of the conversation (official State Department link):
Iraq: Failing to Disarm: Transcript of Iraqi Conversation -- Ammunition Lt. Col: Sir ... Col. Yes. Lt. Col: There is a directive of the [Republican] Guard Chief of Staff at the conference today ... Col. Yes. Lt. Col. They are inspecting the ammunition you have. Col. Yes. Lt. Col. for the possibility there are forbidden ammo. Col. Yes? Lt. Col. For the possibility there is by chance, forbidden ammo. Col. Yes. Lt. Col. And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas. [no "make sure there is nothing there"] Col. Yes. Lt. Col. After you have carried out what is contained in the message ... destroy the message. Col. Yes. Lt. Col. Because I don't want anyone to see this message. Col. Okay okay. Col. Thanks. Lt. Col. Goodbye.
What's amazing about this is that the evidence of Powell's distortion is right there in the official State Department transcript. Yet it took weeks for someone to notice this discrepency. Cranberg concludes:
Powell went out of his way to assure the Security Council of his report's integrity: "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions." Granted, Powell could not reveal the identities of spies and other hidden sources. Unnamed sources when cited by the government, however, may be no more credible than anonymous sources generally, and they ought to be regarded as especially suspect. Nevertheless, columnists at The New York Times and The Washington Post accepted everything Powell said without a smidgen of skepticism, calling it a "masterful indictment" (James Hoagland) "that would convince any jury" (William Safire). Nor am I aware that any news organization has called attention to the government's evident fabrication.
(Link to this story courtesy of the Daily Howler).

Yet more examples of thuggish diplomacy
U.S. officials using back channels to push for U.N. votes By DAFNA LINZER, Associated Press Published 3:22 p.m. PST Monday, February 24, 2003 ... "The order from the White House was to use 'all diplomatic means necessary,'" another U.S. diplomat said. "And that really means everything." The wording of the order is a twist on "all means necessary," - the diplomatic terminology that authorizes going to war. In the past three weeks, U.S. and Mexican officials said, on condition of anonymity, that Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and Kim Holmes, the assistant secretary of state for international organizations visited Mexico City. Mexican diplomats described the visits as hostile in tone and complained that Washington was demonstrating little concern for the constraints of the Mexican government whose people are overwhelmingly opposed to a war with Iraq. "They actually told us, 'Any country that doesn't go along with us will be paying a very heavy price,'" one Mexican diplomat said. Charles Barclay, spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said neither Grossman nor Holmes had traveled to Mexico. Even so, he said, "we've expressed our opinion to Mexico on how important this issue is and we hope for their support. Certainly there has been no arm twisting," Barclay said. Mexican diplomats stood by their account of the trip and the conversations.
So. Not only are we threatening our allies we are lying about those threats. Welcome to Pax Americana.

Sean-Paul has an interesting post up about a Strafor report that, if true, could throw the entire Bush war operation into chaos. The report says that Hussein has agreed to the French/German/Russian plan and has agreed to turn over the missiles that Blix has ordered destroyed. This is all good news. But there is also a report that Blair has "received the idea favorably". It may be that Blair has decided to grab his last chance to save himself from going over the cliff with Bush. If he does then Dubya will be in the most awkward of positions. There is the real danger that Bush will go ahead anyway just in order to preserve his manhood. In which case, the world needs to find a way to let Bush retreat while still saving face. Now THAT is what I call a diplomatic challenge!

It seems that lies are the theme of the day around the blogosphere. Here's an essay by P.M. Carpenter that discusses the woeful state of Bush's credibility. And what about the Democrats? When it was evident to many, even before the election, that Bush has a credibility problem, the Democrats acted like he could be trusted. Now they are finally starting to push the theme of Bush's "Credibility Gap". They are, as usual, a few years behind the curve. The gap was what Bush had two years ago. Right now it is more like an abyss.

David Warren has an interesting essay up on the question of telling the truth (courtesy Jane Galt). While the column is critical of the naivete of the anti-war protestors and perhaps more generous about the motives of the Bush administration than I would be (to say the least), I generally find myself in agreement with his main point.
Notwithstanding, the sheer complexity of the State's position requires a higher order of truth-telling than would be convenient in private affairs. It is more, not less necessary, in a free country, if the electors themselves are to confront realities instead of illusions. And the power of that State rests, ultimately, on its transparency and truth. The U.S. won the Cold War because, on balance, it told the truth, and on balance the Soviets told lies. It would have won it rather sooner telling something like the whole truth on all occasions. And likewise today, truth remains the ultimate weapon of free men, as lies are the weapons of tyrants. Truth is courage, lies are cowardice, and the victory is finally to the true.
Unfortunately, we are lead by people who believe that the truth is a commodity to be doled out only to close friends and business associates (and, even then, only if they can profit by it). Otherwise, they believe in holding back the truth until forced to do otherwise. Consider how much closer the world would be in (grudging) agreement with the U.S. on Iraq if the Bush administration had just been more willing to be honest in its presentation. Instead it has adopted the attitude of the dictator that believes that questioning is a form of rebellion and must therefore be squashed. Bush is both and idiot and a liar. He is an idiot because he is a liar. Very rarely have we seen a leader so adept at doing just the wrong thing at the wrong time to piss of so many who would otherwise be sympathetic to his cause. Bush had the entire world in his pocket on 9/12/2001. He has squandered that goodwill even more effectively then his daddy did after Gulf War I. And why? Because he can't be honest for the life of him. He can't tell the truth even when the truth is no great danger to him. That is why he is an idiot. It's the lies that have driven a wedge between this administration and the world it is allegedly trying to lead. It is the lies that will ultimately destroy it. The only question remaining is whether they will destroy the rest of us in the process.

Democrats say: "Oh! We're the opposition party! Why didn't someone tell us?"

Caught on Film: The Bush Credibility Gap The Photographic History of the Bush Administration Putting Its Mouth Where Its Money Isn’t There have been some worry warts in the Democratic ranks who think that attacking Bush's character will backfire because people think so highly of the guy. Well, maybe these people need to wonder why he got such a high character quotient in the first place. Could it be because no one attacked him on his character when such attacks were more than legitimate? Naaahhh! Still, all in all, it's nice to see the Democrats finally starting to take it to the man.

Just another thought on the suggestion that anti-war bloggers don't take the threat of terrorism seriously. I think the reason why this comment struck me so wrong is the same reason I find the Bushies approach to foreign policy so offensive: it insults the intelligence and maturity of the people who may have an honest disagreement with you, thus reducing the argument to one of schoolyard taunts instead of reasoned discourse. The Bush administration is attempting to assert that they are the arbiters of what is a "legitimate" response to Saddam Hussein by suggesting that a UN security counsel vote that goes against the US is, by definition, illegitimate. They, quite simply, do not have the right to make that kind of declaration. Similarly, pro-war bloggers do not have to right to assert that the only reason anti-war bloggers are anti-war is because they don't take the threat of Saddam Hussein seriously enough. Of course there are people on both sides who are stupid immature on these matters. But is it really necessary to resort to characterizing all opposing opinion as being sub-par in order to get your own point across? I do not claim to be pure on these matters. I'm sure I've made more then my share of disparaging comments about "the other side". But I have at least tried to make a point of asserting that the arguments of those who favor an invasion of Iraq are not all asinine. Indeed, I have said repeatedly that I could support such an action if presented in the right way and lead by people that I felt I could trust. And that is what really pisses me off about this whole situation. I feel that I have no choice but to oppose the Bush administrations drive for war because I am convinced that it will produce a far more dangerous world than we already live in. But, at the same time, I know that by opposing this action I probably set back by years, if not decades, the cause to resolve Iraq question once and for all. In other words, I am in the unenviable position of making an argument that does provide comfort to Saddam Hussein even if that is not the intent with which it is given. And I blame that awful fact entirely on the ineptitude, lies, and corruption of the present administration. Anyway, I hope that "the other side" can see that the choice to be opposed to this war is not an easy one for many of us. But it is a course that many of us see as being unavoidable precisely because we take the threat of terrorism so seriously. Interesting times indeed.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden responds to Kevin Drum's comment that his "sense from reading the anti-war left is that they don’t really take the danger of terrorism and unstable states seriously.” The comment was insulting to people who have an honest disagreement about the Bushies plans for war. Patrick rightly takes him to task for it. Having said that, I do NOT consider Kevin to be in the "anti-war = loony leftist" camp of thought. I think he is trying to express an honest impression based on his reading of anti-war blogs. But I would hope he can understand why so many might find his comment insulting since it seems to suggest that only those on the pro-war side take the threat of terrorism seriously. I don't think he really believes that.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Paul Krugman makes clear what is the moral of the Turkish situation: it is the most clear cut example yet of Bush's lack of credibility on the world stage since even our closest allies consider his word to be worthless. Krugman points to another example:
Consider the astonishing fact that Vicente Fox, president of Mexico, appears unwilling to cast his U.N. Security Council vote in America's favor. Given Mexico's close economic ties to the United States, and Mr. Fox's onetime personal relationship with Mr. Bush, Mexico should have been more or less automatically in America's column. But the Mexican president feels betrayed. He took the politically risky step of aligning himself closely with Mr. Bush — a boost to Republican efforts to woo Hispanic voters — in return for promised reforms that would legalize the status of undocumented immigrants. The administration never acted on those reforms, and Mr. Fox is in no mood to do Mr. Bush any more favors.
I've noticed this as well. I've also noticed the lack of comment on this in the national press. Prior to Bush becoming President there was no world leader closer to him then Fox. Bush used his relationship with Fox to demonstrate that he wasn't entirely clueless about world affairs (the fact that Mexico shares a big border with Texas had something to do with this of course). Yet even his good buddy Fox (and his soul brother Putin) have turned against him. The only world leader of any name that is still with Bush is Tony Blair, and that increasingly appears to be simply because Blair has gone so far over the cliff with Dubya that he realizes his only hope for survival is to stick it out and hope for the best. We can but hope that there is enough muscle and enough will in the rest of the world to stop this madman.

(Link courtesy Mathew Gross)
U.S. Officials Say U.N. Future At Stake in Vote Bush Message Is That a War Is Inevitable, Diplomats Say As it launches an all-out lobbying campaign to gain United Nations approval, the Bush administration has begun to characterize the decision facing the Security Council not as whether there will be war against Iraq, but whether council members are willing to irrevocably destroy the world body's legitimacy by failing to follow the U.S. lead, senior U.S. and diplomatic sources said.
You hear that boys and girls? It is now the unofficial policy of the United States that the legitimacy of any international body is dependent solely on whether it follows the U.S. lead or not. If it dares to contradict us, then it is, by Bush definition, illegitimate. Amazing isn't? Not only does he claim legitimacy that he does not have and never will have, he also claims the authority to define what legitimacy means for the rest of the world. We really are just peons in the minds of these people.
In meetings yesterday with senior officials in Moscow, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton told the Russian government that "we're going ahead," whether the council agrees or not, a senior administration official said. "The council's unity is at stake here." A senior diplomat from another council member said his government had heard a similar message and was told not to anguish over whether to vote for war. "You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not," the diplomat said U.S. officials told him. "That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not."
If this is indeed what the Bushies are doing then the other countries on the Security Council are obligated to vote against the resolution specifically in order to protect the integrity of the United Nations. If they cave then they will be essentially abdicating their role and allowing that the UN is nothing more than a rubber stamp for American adventurism. Bush needs to be taught that he cannot dictate to the world what will be done. And, if he tries, he should be soundly slapped. If they don't then they will be appeasing a dictator. The world awaits to see if the security council members will have spines more resiliant than those of the Democrats in congress after the 2000 election.

Apologies for the lack of updates. I plead both an increased work load, outrage overload, and the fact that I just don't feel like blogging unless I really have something to say. Just giving out links is kind of pointless when much more popular blogs usually beat me to it. When inspiration strikes again I will write again. See you then.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Courtesy the Wizard of Whimsy

Competence and self-confidence

Here's a prophetic article from back in 2000 that I just discovered:
Confident You Are Competent? Think Again New York Times Syndicate DIANE WHITE January 20, 2000 For me, this week's most fascinating story was deep inside Tuesday's New York Times, a piece by Erica Goode headlined, ``Among the Inept, Researchers Discover Ignorance Is Bliss.'' It seems that studies by psychologists have found that most incompetent people have no idea they're incompetent. On the contrary, the researchers found that the incompetent are ``usually supremely confident of their abilities, more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.'' ... The two psychologists think that inept people are often self-assured because they lack self-monitoring skills, which are the same skills required for competence. Subjects who scored in the lowest quartile in tests of logic, English grammar, and humor were also the mostly likely to ``grossly overestimate'' how well they performed. ``Not only do (incompetent people) reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices,'' wrote Dr. Kruger, ``but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.'' The inept, then, are in an impossible position. Is there any hope for them? Or don't they care? Dunning and Kruger found that a short course in logical reasoning helped some of the subjects assess their performance more realistically. But it appears a lot more work must be done. Stamping out incompetence, especially among people who won't admit they're incompetent, could be a Herculean task. One of the obstacles to encouraging realistic self-assessment is that, in most situations, honest feedback is nonexistent. As Goode puts it, ``Social norms prevent most people from blurting out, `You stink!''
This goes a long way toward explaining several things: 1) Bush's sense of his own competence despite all evidence to the contrary. He doesn't have the ability to understand that he isn't very good at what he does. 2) The hesitancy to point out to him just how incompetent he is, especially in the press. People who are insecure about their own competence will have an especially hard time questioning the competence of someone who is self-assured. 3) Why so many people like him despite his incompetence. Because self-confidence is a very attractive quality for many people, especially people who lack confidence in their own abilities. The insecure look to the secure to provide them security. Thus the competent may actually be more trusting of the incompetent because the incompetent are less likely to publicly question their own competence. (It's also why assholes never seem to have problems getting women.)

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Princess Bride fans will appreciate this. Picture courtesy suckful.

Arianna Huffington nails it as far as I'm concerned:
Boys, boys, you're all right. Sure, it's Daddy, oil, and imperialism, not to mention a messianic sense of righteous purpose, a deep-seated contempt for the peace movement, and, to be fair, the irrefutable fact that the world would be a better place without Saddam Hussein. But there's also an overarching mentality feeding the administration's collective delusions, and it can be found by looking to corporate America's bottom line. The dots leading from Wall Street to the West Wing situation room are the ones that need connecting. There's money to be made in post-war Iraq, and the sooner we get the pesky war over with, the sooner we (by which I mean George Bush's corporate cronies) can start making it. The nugget of truth that former Bush economic guru Lawrence Lindsey let slip last fall shortly before he was shoved out the oval office door says it all. Momentarily forgetting that he was talking to the press and not his buddies in the White House, he admitted: "The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy."
This is the key to Bush-think. No matter how much criticism they are receiving now, if they successfully prosecute the upcoming invasion they believe that all will be forgiven and they can continue on, business as usual. They have already gone beyond the point of no return in this strategy. The invasion must proceed if there is to be any hope that they can put the Iraq matter behind them. The fact that they could be creating a situation of chaos that could take years to settle down is ultimately unimportant to these people. What they care about is what the immediate image will be right after the fall of Saddam. If it looks good on TV, then they will consider their actions leading up to that point to have been justified. The sad thing is, given our current media market, they are probably right. Which is why it needs to be made clear, now, before the invasion, that an attack on Iraq is the wrong action at this time regardless of the initial outcome. We need to make it clear that flushing Saddam out is not sufficient cause for declaring victory and then going home. We need to hold their feet to the fire even more after their grand and glorious victory. They key to the future belongs to whomever gets to define what "victory" means.

Bush Wins Business Support for Growth Plan ... "The White House has a reputation of taking names and exacting punishment," said one housing lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I think this White House plays rougher [than predecessors], and I think they're proud of it."
Note the fact that this source wouldn't allow his name to be printed. Gee, I wonder why?

Now here's a nice change of pace story. I have never been that upset at the practice of movie theaters running one or two ads before movies. It's annoying, but not something I really get all het up about. However, in recent months the trend has become ridiculous. When my wife and I went to go see Two Towers in December the movie itself didn't start until 25 minutes after the billed show time. It was preceded by at least 6 commercials and at least 6 trailers. The audience was getting noticeably grouchy by the time we had seen our fifth MPAA label. Well, it appears someone is trying to do something about it.

Howard Fineman toys with a little bit of non-whoredom in an insightful column on Bush's reaction to the anti-war protests. I generally find Fineman's "journalism" to be wretch inducing because he focuses so much on appearance rather then substance and thus is easily fooled by Bush's "sweaty" form of politics. But I think he hits on a vital aspect of Bush's character in this piece: Dubya doesn't hate the opinions of others, he just doesn't think he has to care about them, and when they confront him directly he views their anger as validation of his own moral rectitude. Fineman relates an interesting anecdote on this matter (aside: Howard, of course, does not explain where he heard this story, so it is quite likely that it is another Rovian constructed story meant to inspire, but still...)
Bush wasn’t oblivious to social change. DKE was open to blacks and Jews, and the future president was aware of — and not afraid of — the thickening ethnic mix around him. Lanny Davis, a Yale friend (and Democratic political antagonist), tells a story that makes the point. A resident in their dorm was an immigrant from India. He wore weird outfits and was generally viewed as an exotic, even pathetic, character. One day in the dorm lounge, the outcast walked by a cluster that included Bush and some friends. “Why do they even let in somebody like that?” someone asked aloud. “It’s a waste of money trying to educate him.” Bush angrily turned on the questioner. “Don’t you ever say something like that in my presence again,” he snapped. “He’s got as much right to be here as you do.” It would be nice to say that Bush, his cross-cultural curiosity awakened, became fast friends with the fellow — that he plunged into the study of the history of India, its cultures and religions, that he traveled to the subcontinent to see it all for himself. Of course it didn’t happen; Bush entered the White House one of the least-traveled presidents in modern history. He wanted to be a gentleman, but that didn’t mean he really had to get to know the guy.
I suspect that Fineman understands as well as the rest of us that Bush is like this. The one thing I'm not to sure about is whether he thinks its just fine that he is.

John Judis has written a useful summation of Bush administration failures in this morning's LA Times.
This Road to Hell Is Paved With Bush's Bad Choices Misguided tax cuts hurt the economy, and diplomatic bungling resulted in our foreign policy crisis. By John B. Judis, John B. Judis is senior editor of the New Republic. With the Cold War's end, many Americans thought we could close our air raid shelters and take the trillions of dollars that had gone into the military and put them into making our lives better by turning toward the pursuit of happiness rather than the defense of our liberty. And some of that did happen in the last half of the 1990s, during the Clinton-era boom. But only three years into a new century, the United States finds itself plagued by rising unemployment, soaring budget deficits, constricted civil liberties, the threat of terrorist attack and the prospect of a war with, and occupation of, Iraq. We've gone from the best of times to the worst of times. The Bush administration tells us that it is entirely because of Al Qaeda and now Saddam Hussein that we face these difficulties, but the dark clouds that hang over our country are largely the result of Bush administration policies.
Judis makes several points to back up this assertion. Here's my take on them: 1) While the initial economic downturn may have been an inevitable letdown from the high-flying 90s, Bush's economic policies have been the perfect prescription for sustaining that downturn and making it long-term. 2) Bush's foreign policy has been a series of cart-before-the-horse train wrecks. (a) He pushed the idea of regime change in Iraq, quite possibly through invasion, before winning over allies to his position that Sadaam cannot be trusted. Thus giving everyone the justified suspicion that Bush has never been interested in a peaceful solution to the Iraqi problem. (b) Rather then use America's considerable influence to force both Israel and the Palestinians to the table to work out a mutually agreeable solution, Bush has instead bluntly sided with Israel to the point where few in the middle-east can ever trust America to be a neutral party in the conflict. (c) Those failings, combined with his de-prioritization of the hunt for al Qaeda, have produced an environment in which the threat from terrorism is even worse then it was before 9/11.

Mathew Yglesias makes an important point for all those who think that European opinion shouldn't matter:
Incidentally, if you're wondering why European public opinion matters, consider the fact that if the leaders of EU contries were under intense popular pressure to successfully invade Iraq that the Turkey could have been promised concessions on the issue of their accession to the EU in exchange for their cooperation in launching the invasion. Instead, we're going to have to go in under much more difficult circumstances that will probably put the lives of American servicemen at even greater risk than they would have been otherwise.
There are far to many people out there, especially in positions of power where their opinion can actually make a difference, who think that America is so powerful and so righteous in its cause that it really doesn't need the support of its allies to do what needs to be done. Mathew's example is a good one because it shows that working with our allies can make things a lot easier for the grunts in the field. Yes, maybe we can still get it all done on our own. But why should we put American lives at risk just to prove that we don't need to those stinkin' europeans?

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

The audacious courage of Mr Blair You cannot help but admire the Prime Minister's steadfast refusal to be intimidated by facts and figures Terry Jones Sunday September 22, 2002 The Observer I would like to pay a tribute to the courage of Tony Blair. During these dark days in the build-up to war against Iraq it is reassuring to find ourselves with a leader who demonstrates such fearlessness in the face of tremendous odds. Despite bitter opposition,Tony Blair has demonstrated that he will push ahead stalwartly with whatever the US intends to do. Even though the majority of his fellow countrymen are against the war (despite last week's propaganda campaign in the media), Mr Blair has shown not the slightest sign of wavering from his determination to do whatever Mr Bush wants. It is true that he has regrettably had to cave in over the question of debating the issue in Parliament, but he has fearlessly shown his contempt for the process by not allowing a vote. Mr Blair realises that he needs all the nerve he can command to resist demands for democratic discussion, if Mr Bush is to have any opportunity of dropping bombs on Iraq before the mid-term elections.

There's word out today that the White House is floating the idea of having Iraq pay for all the costs of Operation-Hide-Dubyas-Small-Dick. Hmmm... Getting the conquered foe to pay reparations. We all know how well that worked last time don't we?

The stupidity disease continues to spread.
Powell: Anti-War Nations 'Afraid' of Duty PARIS - Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) on Wednesday said countries like France that oppose swift military action against Iraq are afraid of upholding their responsibility to disarm Baghdad by force.
When Colin Powell drinks the kool-aid he gulps.

Digby blasts Friedman but good. He points out that he has no one to blame but himself for his frustration with the blunders of the Bush foreign policy team. After all, at one time, he actually praised their ham-handed bluster:
No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are." There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.
Looks like we are losing the Turks after all Tom. How about that? Idiot.

Tim Dunlop cites a Stratfor article that says that the United States has committed to many of its forces already to the middle-east for it to pull back now without major embarassment.
So we will not be going to war to liberate Iraq, or to stop weapons of mass destruction or even to get our hands on oil. We're going because of the phases of the moon, the temperature of the sun, and because we'd look a bit silly if we bought the troops back now. IF these reasons are what it all truly comes down to, then what bigger indictment could there be of the boys and girls who have 'planned' all this? This isn't foreign policy; it's astrology.
This is pretty much what I said earlier. We are going to war in order to hide the fact that Bush has a small dick.

Our "good friend" Turkey

A week ago the Bushies were outraged that Belgium, France, and Germany would endanger "our good friend" Turkey when they vetoed the initial request for support in case they were attacked during the invasion of Iraq. Now Turkey is asking for more money, the right to put their troops a hundred miles into Iraqi territory (with no oversight) and asking for all off this in writing since America can't be trusted to keep its word in backroom deals. The U.S. response to their "good friend"?
U.S. loses patience as ships near Turkey can't unload troops SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM Wednesday, February 19, 2003 ANKARA — The United States has threatened to review its strategic relationship with Turkey unless Ankara immediately approves the deployment of tens of thousands of American troops now waiting on ships near Turkish ports.
Proving once again what complete and utter failures the Bush administration is at this foreign policy thing. Why did anyone ever think they had a clue about how to do this?

Telling it like it is

Tim Dunlop makes a more reasoned case for what I talked about yesterday in my response to Friedman's "Tell The Truth" column. Proving once again that a calm voice works better in the long run then a rant. But then it is so hard to be calm in situations like this. I came early to the anti-war camp, despite my desire to see Saddam removed from power, because I was not as hopeful as others that Bush could actually produce a rational foreign policy for dealing with Iraq. I've known pretty much since before the election that Bush was a fraud and an amateur and I was not convinced, as others were, that his "dream team" of foreign policy advisors would compensate for his deficiencies. You can have the best players in the world, but if the coach is an idiot then they might as well be third-string, injury-list substitutes for all the good it will do you. So many like Friedman have been looking for the silver lining that is Bush's dark cloud. I gave up a long time ago. It's about time the rest of the world wake up to reality. It's the Bush stupid.

The "impending war" in Iraq may, at one time, have been about oil. It may, at one time, have even been about setting up some kind of beacon of Democracy. But now it is becoming more about defending Bush's manhood. If he doesn't attack Iraq everyone will laugh at him. He knows this. So he must attack, regardless of what everyone else thinks.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Everyone Wants So Much To Believe In Santa Bush

Tell the Truth By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN ... I don't have much applause in me for China, Russia — or the Bush team either. I feel lately as if there are no adults in this room (except Tony Blair). No, this is not a plague-on-all-your-houses column. I side with those who believe we need to confront Saddam — but we have to do it right, with allies and staying power, and the Bush team has bungled that. The Bush folks are big on attitude, weak on strategy and terrible at diplomacy. I covered the first gulf war, in 1990-91. What I remember most are the seven trips I took with Secretary of State James A. Baker III around the world to watch him build — face-to-face — the coalition and public support for that war, before a shot was fired. Going to someone else's country is a sign you respect his opinion. This Bush team has done no such hands-on spade work. Its members think diplomacy is a phone call. They don't like to travel. Seeing senior Bush officials abroad for any length of time has become like rare-bird sightings. It's probably because they spend so much time infighting in Washington over policy, they're each afraid that if they leave town their opponents will change the locks on their office doors.
Friedman goes on to criticize the administration for (1) allowing the Korea situation to blow up while trying to deal with Iraq, (2) stomping on international treaties without offering alternatives, and (3) making tenuous connections, at best, between Saddam and Osama bin Laden. As in...
I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and every time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don't take the country to war on the wings of a lie.
Which is precisely what I have been saying all along. The difference between myself and Friedman is that he is still willing to support the Bush efforts despite the lies while I insist that we should never go to war if lies are used to justify it. Bush has already lost the public relations battle. He blew it pretty much from the first day he took office. It is obvious from this column that Friedman is struggling mightily to stay on the side of the Bush administration. He is still clutching the tenuous promise that the removal of Saddam could produce a Democratic Iraq that could be a model for the middle-east. But this is a pipe-dream at best and a dream that will be even harder to fulfill than simply continuing the containment regime.
Tell people the truth. Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice — but it's a legitimate choice. It's because he is undermining the U.N., it's because if left alone he will seek weapons that will threaten all his neighbors, it's because you believe the people of Iraq deserve to be liberated from his tyranny, and it's because you intend to help Iraqis create a progressive state that could stimulate reform in the Arab/Muslim world, so that this region won't keep churning out angry young people who are attracted to radical Islam and are the real weapons of mass destruction.
The problem, my friend, is that this case will not sell because Americans do not want to invest that heavily in an idea with so little hope of becoming a reality. Furthermore, most people understand that it is a formula almost guaranteed to inflame hatred in the middle-east. I think even you understand that Tom. But you want so much to believe that Bush can do it that you are willing to give him the chance.
It is legitimate for Europeans to oppose such a war, but not simply by sticking a thumb in our eye and their heads in the sand. It's also legitimate for the Bush folks to focus the world on Saddam, but two years of their gratuitous bullying has made many people deaf to America's arguments. Too many people today no longer accept America's strength as a good thing. That is a bad thing.
And who is to blame for that? Bush and the people who have enabled him and his failed "diplomacy". People like Thomas Friedman, who want desperately to believe that Bush really could be the champion of a new kind of foreign policy. What they never understand is that Bush's entire foreign policy is as simple as this: do what I say and shut the fuck up.
Some of this we can't control. But some we can, which is why it's time for the Bush team to shape up — dial down the attitude, start selling this war on the truth, give us a budget that prepares the nation for a war abroad, not a party at home, and start doing everything possible to create a global context where we can confront Saddam without the world applauding for him.
To late Tom. Bush has burned so many bridges that even Colin Powell's reputation as the most trusted man in the world has been destroyed. It will take decades after this man leaves office to rebuild the kind of faith in America that existed when he took office, if it can be rebuilt at all. I do not envy the job Bush's successor will have. I just hope he (or she) will start in 2005 instead of 2009.

With Friends Like These...

U.S. Warns Turkey Against Blocking Iraq Plans By Ayla Jean Yackley and Nadim Ladki ANKARA, Turkey/BAGDDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. preparations for war with Iraq suffered a new setback Tuesday when Turkey dug in its heels in negotiations over its role as a launch pad for an invasion. ... White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) said the standoff with Turkey, which is demanding twice the $26 billion in economic aid offered by Washington to cushion its economy from the effects of a war, would end "one way or another rather soon." "We continue to work with Turkey as a friend. But it is decision time," Fleischer said in Washington.
You know, if I were the suspicious sort, I would wonder if maybe the Bush foreign policy people aren't out of their league.

Jake Sexton has an excellent post up about the latest attempt to win the pro-war argument: The Shame Offensive.
The Iraq war isn't about oil, it's not about weapons of mass destruction, it's not about UN resolutions. It might have been a few days ago, but it's not anymore. Now the war is about defeating a tyrant and saving a nation's people from oppression. The hawks on the side of peace and freedom, and the doves are on the side of fascism and suffering.
Jake has noticed something that I have become sick of (it's what inspired my rant earlier this morning): when the other side can't win the argument on the facts they attempt to win by misrepresenting the position of the opposition. You see, we're not protesting because we are concerned that our country is lead by a gung-ho cowboy who would rather bomb a country back to the stone-age than admit that he might be wrong about his mission to bring peace to the world, whether his help is wanted or not. No, that's not it. And we aren't protesting because we believe this current campaign is being driven more by interests in securing oil revenues for Bush buddies and establishing an American hegemony in the middle-east that would allow us to dictate to that region, and the rest of the world, how they should live their lives. No, that's not it either. And we aren't protesting because we are concerned that said attempt to impose our will on the hotbed that is the middle-east will produce a firestorm of terrorism that will make 9/11 seem small by comparison. No, none of that is why we are protesting. We are protesting because we "don't think Saddam is a threat to peace" or we are "objectively pro-Saddam" or we "think Saddam can be trusted". All positions which are, of course, nonsense and which couldn't be further from the truth. But then we don't get to decide what our real motives are. It is up to daddy Bush and his Bushketeers to diagnose our problem and then, quite rightly, round us up for being the enemies of America. For, after all, if we really DO believe that kind of nonsense then we MUST be a threat to the safety of ordinary, decent Americans. Right? By God we should be locked up! I never realized just how much of a threat we actually are! Two plus two equals five. How could I have been so wrong?

Julian Sanchez has an interesting post up on his blog where he comes to term with the terrible thought that his government might actually lie about matters that could lead to the death of thousands. Up until now he didn't consider that a viable line of thought. But recent events have begun to make him wonder. I have argued many times against conspiratorial thinking because it is just to easy to read nefarious meanings behind innocuous events (read "Foucault's Pendulum" for an excellent story about the dangers involved in going overboard on these matters). The human brain is very good at reading patterns in the noise. It's part of what helps us to survive. But it is also very easy to see patterns where none actually exist (like hearing satanic messages when playing rock music backwards). But, even given my innate skepticism of conspiracy theories, this does not mean that I naively assume that the people who are my leaders aren't capable of the worst sort of atrocities. I can believe this and accept it without a feeling of horror because (1) history is so full of examples of leaders who commit atrocities and (2) I don't have any arrogant notion that my leaders are somehow immune to this behavior simply because they are my leaders. Hermann Goering had an interesting perspective on this (link via snopes, who confirms the quotes authenticity):
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
Goering may have been a fat nazi fuck, but that does not mean he didn't know what he was talking about. As I suggested in my post below about Chris Matthews, people who think they are incapable of making the mistakes others have made in the past are, in fact, some of the most easily manipulated into doing just that. We want so much to believe that we are better than that that we are willing to dismiss all evidence to the contrary. So, just as the conspiracy kook might be to quick to read the worst into the actions of others. The "patriot" might be to willing to ignore the signs of evil that are around them. Not me. I've always been a cynic when it comes to human nature. I fully accept that my country can be just as capable of great evil as any other. So, when I see commentators on TV dismiss the (rarely broached) idea that the Bush administration might be deceiving us, I have to laugh at their naivete. And weep for our future.

Regarding the reaction of some to French intransigence, a poster on Table Talk (Mrs. Monsky) came up with a great analogy: "Bush is mad cause France is being that guy who tries to take away his car keys after a night out." And, like the drunk who insists that he is okay to drive, America is getting angry at the very people who are trying to keep us from getting ourselves killed (along with any passengers or pedestrians who get in the way).

Chris Mathews, Moralism, and The Music Man

From the recent Salon interview with Chris Mathews:
Some liberals still won't watch "Hardball," remembering the excesses of Matthews' impeachment shtick. In his new book, "What Liberal Media?" Nation press critic Eric Alterman insists Matthews is no better than Fox's O'Reilly, calling him "a showman rather than a journalist," though Matthews was a Washington correspondent for the San Francisco Examiner and then the Chronicle for 15 years. Like O'Reilly, Alterman notes, Matthews is never more apoplectic than when going after elitist liberals, especially Hillary Clinton, whom Matthews nicknamed "Evita." He once bragged to Ad Week, "You're never going to see Hillary Clinton on my show," because, he predicted, she wasn't man enough to face his hardball questions. But Hillary Clinton, at least, seems to have forgiven Matthews -- and he's sweetened on her, too. They sat down for an hour-long conversation late last year as part of the "Hardball College Tour," at State University of New York's Albany campus, and it was as flirtatious as a first date. In a long talk with Salon, Matthews admitted the New York senator has won him over with her hard work, but he says he still can't stand her husband. Still, with the Bush administration on the verge of war with Iraq, the "Hardball" host even admitted to second thoughts about his over-the-top crusade against Clinton, given the magnitude of the issues that threaten the nation today.
Matthews is a moralist. He saw in Clinton's behavior a manifestation of the decay of western civilization and it blinded him to all the faults of Clinton's enemies. He's also a member of the beltway cliche who, like David Broder, thought that Clinton came in and trashed their place. There are none so easy to manipulate as those who are so convinced of their own moral standing. It's how flim-flam artists like the salesman in "The Music Man" make their living: by playing to people's prejudices and sense of their own importance. George W. Bush is a master at it. The problem is that, once fooled, it becomes that much harder for a victim to come back because doing so requires admitting that you have been fooled. For Matthews to even come this close to admitting it is an indication of just how bad it has become.

Which is easier? War or Peace?

Earlier this morning I read a comment on a blog somewhere (sorry, lost track of where) that an invasion of Iraq and removal of Hussein has one advantage over a toughened inspections regime: the former would be over quicker than the latter, which means that the latter provides more opportunity for allies with weak knees to bag out of the inspection regime. But would the invasion solution really be any better in this respect? After all, there is more to winning in Iraq than just sweeping in and removing Hussein from power. Indeed, one main complaint against the U.S. position is that it doesn't address what happens afterward. There are many who suspect, with good reason, that once Hussein is out of there that America will lose interest and...well...bag out. This reminds me of a boast I sometimes hear coming from Bush supporters. They like to brag that Bush accomplished in Afghanistan in a matter of weeks what the entire Soviet military could not accomplish in over ten years. This is a dreadfully misinformed point of view. The Russians quickly "subdued" Afghanistan after the 1980 invasion and installed their puppet government. But, over the course of the next years, the Mujahadeen steadily wore them down until the Russians were forced to scurry back across the border. In other words, America's "success" in Afghanistan is, at this point, no better than Russia's "success" was by 1981. Winning the peace can be harder than winning the war. There are many who believe that fighting the war makes winning the peace just that much harder. I am, generally, among them. Is the chaos that will result from an attack on Iraq really that much easier to deal with than the situation we have right now? Or are we being driven by an ideology that prefers the chaos of war to the order of peace?

Profanity Alert!

Bush Says War Protesters Won't Deter Him By RON FOURNIER AP White House Correspondent February 18, 2003, 12:00 PM EST WASHINGTON -- President Bush declared on Tuesday that he wouldn't be deterred by global protests against war with Iraq, saying "I respectfully disagree" with those who doubt that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace.
pressure building...
He said such a war remains a final resort, but "the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned."
building... building...
Bush said that the size of the protests against a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq was irrelevant. "Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based up on a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security -- in this case -- security of the people."
tick... tick... tick...
"Democracy is a beautiful thing," Bush said, adding that "people are allowed to express their opinion." "Some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace," he added. "I respectfully disagree."
God Fucking Dammit! When will some people get it through their thick skulls that opposing the administrations present course for war IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO SUPPORTING SADAAM HUSSEIN! Of COURSE Hussein is a threat to peace. I have said as much at multiple times. I have said I could support a campaign to remove Hussein from power. But I will not be lead into supporting war by jingoistic lies and patriotic fear-mongering! It's the lies you idiot! Why is that so hard for you to understand? When you lie you create distrust. When you lie you turn people AWAY from your position, EVEN IF IT IS THE RIGHT ONE! If the current effort to unseat Hussein fails because of a collapse of the international community then Hussein will have won and Bush will be to blame for it. By lying Bush is endangering the effort to remove Hussein from power. Indeed, his lies may be providing aid and comfort to Sadaam. It is that which pisses me off more then anything.

*Sigh* It looks like Chirac has been taking diplomacy lessons from Donald Rumsfeld.
Chirac lashes out at 'new Europe' BRUSSELS, Belgium -- French President Jacques Chirac has attacked eastern European countries hoping to join the EU, saying they missed a great opportunity to "shut up" when they signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq. France has been a leading voice against Washington's press for war in Iraq to disarm President Saddam Hussein and is insisting weapons inspectors in the country be given more time. But 13 countries either set to join the EU or in membership talks have signed letters supporting the United States. Chirac said: "These countries have been not very well behaved and rather reckless of the danger of aligning themselves too rapidly with the American position." "It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet." "I felt they acted frivolously because entry into the European Union implies a minimum of understanding for the others," Chirac said. Chirac called the letters "infantile" and "dangerous," adding: "They missed a great opportunity to shut up."
While I agree with the French position on Iraq I am more then disappointed that Chirac would resort to this kind of rhetoric. Just because the pro-war side has to act like children does not mean we should emulate them. The countries that signed those letters have just as much right to express their opinion on this matter as anyone else. Chirac just set back the anti-war effort enormously by his stupid comments. The sad thing is that the media in the U.S. will trumpet this as an example of the immaturity of the French while completely ignoring the fact that Chirac's behavior is simply a mirror of that from the Bush administration officials. Where are the grownups in this debate?

I caught a little snippet of Blair this morning on TV expressing disappointment in "those who would seek to pull apart the alliances between America and Europe" (not an exact quote). I couldn't agree more Tony. The only problem is that we have a fundamental disagreement about exactly WHO is doing the "pulling apart". Just because so many in Europe (and American) disagree with your and George's proposed solution to the Iraq question does NOT meant that THEY are the ones pulling Europe and America apart. Being part of an alliance does not mean that everyone does what YOU think they should do. It means that everyone does what EVERYONE agrees should be done. It's callled a partnership, Tony. Look it up. Take your time. We can wait.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Some enterprising soul has put up a NoWarWiki.

Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been busy at work and haven't been inspired enough to write anything.

Friday, February 14, 2003

The Dow Likes Peace

Well, this is a pretty strong indicator. The stock market has been in the doldrums for weeks. It has falling several hundred points as the Bushies have pounded the war drums harder and harder. Even Alan Greenspan in his testimony suggested that all the war talk was holding back the U.S. economy. Blix delivered his report this morning and much of the UN seems to be siding with the idea of continued inspections and no war...for now. And the stock market goes through the roof! So, not only is Bush's foreign policy fucked, it is fucking with his economic policy as well. Unfortunately, we are the ones getting screwed.

Remember when we used to have a press that would dare to criticize those in charge?

They're all stupid

Sean-Paul has a copy of a letter he sent Chirac and Schroeder up on The Agonist. In it he acknowledges that Bush is a jerk. But he also urges France and Germany not to sacrifice the UN and NATO in response to Bush's arrogance. I posted the following in the comment section on the post:
It is a good letter Sean-Paul. I agree with you that France and Germany cannot dictate for America what America sees as being in its best interest for national security. But, and this is a big but, what if France and Germany believe that America is reading this situation totally wrong and that America's actions may actually be a national security threat to themselves? Are France and Germany supposed to sacrifice THEIR sense of their own national security and cede to America all authority in deciding what is best for the world? Alliances are a two way street. That is if those who are partners in the alliance view each others as equals. The problem is that Bush views Europe as the 52nd state (Canada being the 51st) and thus gives no respect to their concerns for their own interests. France and Germany should be concerned about what America is concerned about. But America should be equally concerned with what France and Germany are concerned about. That is what friendship is all about.


Steve Duin, a columnist for the Oregonian, has written a column that I think comes closest to correctly describing the attitude of the muddled middle as far as Iraq is concerned. I think it would be useful for both sides in this debate (pro and anti) to read what he has to say and consider how their comments are playing in Peoria.
Can we stick by our guns without drawing them? 02/13/03 As the United States moves inexorably toward another dead-of-night invasion, the president's certainty and our ambivalence about war with Iraq are equally disconcerting. The use of the first-person pronoun is purposeful. Most of us share a resolute skepticism about where to go from here. While a majority of Americans are tempted to give President Bush and Colin Powell the benefit of the doubt, we don't share their passion for war. As we listen to the most zealous arguments, nothing is more convincing than the suspicion that both the peaceniks and the radio-booth patriots have another agenda up their sleeve. We aren't uninvolved in the debate, just unpersuaded. We hate bullies like Saddam Hussein, but we're not sure he can't be corralled and contained like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. We despise the French cowards and apologists, but we're not invading France. We know the Iraqis need a fresh start, but we can't ignore the scent of oil in the neighborhood. We are sick and tired of trembling before a cowering psychopath in an Afghan cave. But while we believe Sept. 11 justifies the Bush administration's shift toward pre-emption, we think this week's propitious link between Iraq and al-Qaida means 9/11 has become a cynical part of the administration's PR campaign. Most of us, I think, are comfortable with the United States' unofficial designation as "world cop," whether we're walking the beat in Bosnia, Somalia or Iraq. We live in a global community and only the United States recognizes the moral imperative for community policing. But it's hard not to be unnerved by this country's long-running good-cop-bad-cop routine in the Middle East. In 1972, Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to President Nixon, was the bad cop. When Kissinger met with the Shah of Iran and agreed their interests were served by destabilizing the Ba'athist regime, both sides encouraged Kurdish rebels to step up hostilities in Iraq. The United States didn't want the rebellion to succeed, just distract the regime that would eventually spawn Saddam. And we forgot to tell the Kurds we would abandon them when it struck our fancy . . . which it did in 1975. After the Shah and Saddam made peace, the United States withdrew military support and Saddam had a green light to take his revenge on the Kurds. When he grew bored with the tools of conventional torture, he blanketed the rebels with chemical weapons and mustard gas. If we're seeking the moral high ground in Iraq, in other words, we're voyaging into uncharted territory. This may explain why the Iraqis share our ambivalence about their imminent "liberation." Offered the opportunity for this police action in 1991, the first President Bush said, "We've done the heavy lifting. We will not intervene." At a time when most Americans are more concerned about the sanctity of our borders, Bush's son is dead set on intervention on the far side of the globe. As unnerved as we are by that prospect, are we sure he's wrong? That's the troubled state of our ambivalence: Even as we lean toward one conclusion, we hear the siren's song of the opposing argument. Saddam is a monster who has gassed his own people and dodged the honest scrutiny necessary to determine if he's prepared to nuke ours. Only the United States is equipped to stare him down. Our resolve should mean something, even if the United Nations' doesn't. North Korea, after all, may be watching. Do we trust our president to examine all alternatives short of war? Can we eliminate Saddam without eviscerating Iraq? Is it possible for the world's one and lonely cop to stick by its guns without drawing them? The best columns, they say, are sparked by great conviction, sustained by a passionate argument and close with a final twist of the knife. This one may fail on all three counts because the essential war requires so much more.
I am ambivalent about war with Iraq, so I agree with most of what Duin has to say in this column. But I am not ambivalent about Bush's honesty. He has none. Therefore I come down reluctantly on the side of no

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Good News From The Front

Just a little something to lift your day. Here's a post from the bartcop forum, courtesy dedalus, that discusses what "real" people (i.e., people who don't spend so much time online bitching about Bush) feel about Dubya.
"Catching that Anti-Smirk Feeling--my father-in-law anecdote" I haven't had too much time to participate here recently, as my in-laws have been visiting. They're pretty apolitical people--I'm not sure I've had a political discussion of any weight with my father-in-law in the 20 years I've known him. But that's in part due to his own "political" skills. For years, he ran a small store in Chicago and headed up the merchant's association in his area. So he's quite skilled in getting along with everyone and tries to be really accomodating to people of all stripes. Well, while they were down here, I'd occasionally slip in a jab or three at the Smirk whenever CNN was on, just to see if I could get a response. I'd also add some supplemental info on whatever stories they were (not) covering. But he'd just sort of nod. Finally, on the last day, as we sat on the couch and W. was spouting some nonsense at some rally, my father-in-law says out of nowhere, "I hate that man." Now, I'm not sure I've heard him use the word "hate" in all the years I've known him. But then he started in on how not only has his own retirement portfolio gone south, but he doesn't think Bush has a single clue. He also said that whenever he visits his health club, he always tracks down the one guy who had been urging him to vote for Bush back in 2000. My FIL says he goes up to him every time and says, "What about your boy now?" And he then told me, the last time he did this, the friend flipped--he too now admits Smirk is a disaster. Anyhow, there's my little ray of hope for the day. The anti-Smirk feeling is catching on in all walks of life.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

An interesting article about what we've been doing to get the Turks on our side:
... A poll released Sunday showed that 94 percent of the Turks surveyed oppose a U.S. war against Iraq, Turkey's neighbor to the south, and only 2.5 percent say that Turkey should support the United States by offering military facilities and forces. With that level of opposition, analysts and politicians here said, the Turkish parliament, whose approval is constitutionally required before foreign troops can be based here, could vote against admitting U.S. troops or delay the vote. A rejection of a second U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq could complicate the vote for some Turkish lawmakers, who insist that any war have "international legitimacy." But many analysts said approval seems likely. ... Many analysts and politicians here agreed that because of the long and close military ties between the United States and Turkey, the military issues would likely be the easiest and quickest to resolve. More difficult, they said, are outstanding issues surrounding the size and guarantees of an economic package to compensate Turkey for what it will spend in any war and to protect it from losses that could result from a conflict. Previously, officials have said that the package of loans, grants and other aid could be as much as $14 billion. But several Turkish lawmakers and media accounts in recent days have said that the amount is inadequate, and that the price tag could balloon to as much as $25 billion. Even more important than the size of the package, officials here say, is how the U.S. will guarantee that it will deliver. Increasingly, lawmakers, other Turkish officials and opinion-shapers are demanding action by the U.S. Congress to guarantee that money promised by the Bush administration is actually given. The debate reflects distrust by Turks who say the United States promised economic relief during the 1991 Persian Gulf War but broke its word. According to Egemen Bagis, an adviser to Gul and a member of parliament, U.S. economic commitments "better be made public, better be very convincing, and better be before the 18th," when the vote is expected. ...
Great! We can't even be trusted to bribe them correctly!

(image courtesy riggs2002 over on the bartcop forum).

Part of what sunk Trent Lott was not just his pining for the Dixiecrats but the repeated revelation over the subsequent weeks of other examples of similar offensive comments. The other day Bill O'Reilly used the term "wetbacks" when referring to illegal mexican immigrants. It turns out it may not be the first time he has used that term (link courtesy JB Armstrong of MyDD).

William Saletan nails lying Colin's ass:
You can write the next paragraph yourself. Sixteen months ago, Powell wanted to isolate Bin Laden from other Muslims, so he said Bin Laden was lying about being involved in Iraq. Now Powell wants to justify war against Iraq, so he says Bin Laden is telling the truth. Same claim, same media outlet, same speaker, same U.S. official assessing the claim, same congressional venue, different U.S. agenda, different result. The punch line? Bin Laden was talking about hypocrisy.
And to think I once seriously considered voting for this man for President.

Further Evidence That Bush Endangers America

From Maureen Dowd:
In the past, Condi Rice has implored the networks not to broadcast the tapes outright, fearing he might be activating sleeper cells in code. But this time the administration flacked the tape. And Fox, the official Bush news agency, rushed the entire tape onto the air. So the Bushies no longer care if Osama sends a coded message to his thugs as long as he stays on message for the White House?
Pretty much Maureen. This administration will lie about Iraqi/Al Qaeda connections. It will allow alleged Al Qaeda terrorist camps to exist unobstructed for months. It will ignore all evidence to the contrary in order to get what it wants. Osama bin Laden is now an ally of the Bush government.