Friday, April 11, 2003

Why apologize?

Liberal Oasis makes the point: there's nothing for the anti-war side to apologize for because, so far, they have not been proven wrong.

Unintended consequence?

Yemenis hunt for USS Cole case suspects By AHMED AL-HAJ Associated Press SAN`A, Yemen - Yemeni authorities were hunting for 10 of the main suspects in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole after they escaped from prison Friday, officials said. The fugitives, including chief suspect Jamal al-Badawi, were jailed in the tightly guarded intelligence building in the port city of Aden since shortly after the destroyer was bombed, killing 17 American sailors. Officials close to the investigation said the men fled through a window they smashed inside the building. The officials said on condition of anonymity that prison officers gave the men permission to go to the prison courtyard for their daily morning break before they escaped. It was unclear whether the escapees received any assistance from people inside or outside the prison.
You don't suppose they might have gotten help from sympathetic guards upset over the fall of Bagdhad do you? Just a though.

All the kings horses...

Anyone besides me think that members of the intelligence community must be throwing fits at the sight of Iraqi looters walking out of government office buildings with carts full of computers?

Now the real fun begins

There's a new post up at the DailyKOS outlining the signs that Iraq may descend into civil war. We are already getting the first hints of this with the looting of hospitals and museums as well as the killing of returned dissidents. Now the real test of the grand experiment devised by the ivory-tower think tanks begins. Toppling a statue was the easy part.

Lord save us from the "chosen people"!

Matthew discusses the influence that Leo Strauss has on the neo-cons.
Strauss’s idea on this score, I think, is that a text (or maybe only a great text) has (or maybe should have) arguments that work on two different levels. One is the exoteric argument intended for mass consumption. The other, somehow hidden in the text, is an esoteric argument directed at the truly enlightened. It seems to me that there’s a certain similarity between this and the way Bush will put forth for public consumption a bunch of considerations about, say, WMDs, UN resolutions, and terrorism, while neocons writing in their small-circulation journals talk about bold visions for remaking the world.
This sounds eerily similar to the mystical traditions which devote themselves to finding hidden messages within sacred texts. This may be driven by a psychological belief that says: "I am better than the yahoos around me. God knows this. So he must be sending me messages that only my enlightened instincts can identify." Lord save us from the "chosen people"!

OJ won, therefore he was innocent

Seeing The Forest has an interesting post on the topic of "winning". It is a followup on a post by tendentiousthat was a followup on a post by Brooke. All well worth reading.

More on Democratic self-destruction

I've been thinking a little more about Digby's post after reading some of the comments attached to it. I hate to say this but I think Bill Clinton is partly to blame for the Democrat's problem. Remember his Sister Souljah moment? Remember tri-angulation? Bill Clinton made an art out of criticizing members of his own party when it was to his political advantage. There are rare moments when criticizing elements of your own party can have political benefit, but it takes someone with a really keen political instinct to recognize those moments. Even Clinton didn't always get it right (remember Lani Guinier?) However, his example was taken up by even less skilled Democrats. The result is a Democratic leadership dominated by people who often appear eager to take down their fellow Democrats.

Guilt tripping the GOP

Digby posts today on the differing public perception of left-wing vs. right-wing extremists. Namely, why is it that the left, as a whole, is painted as being of-a-kind with its most radical elements while the right, as a whole, is generally given a pass for the actions of its own extreme elements? Digby suggests that a major part of this is the right-wing dominated media publicizing examples of left-wing extremism much more often then it does right-wing extremism. I agree.
The problem for Democrats isn't our cultural nonconformists who embarrass and disconcert the bourgeoisie. Our problem is the GOP extremists who are now directing the government and buying up the media while dishonestly presenting themselves as moderate middle of the roaders. The Republicans have successfully convinced a lot of people that kooky gay guys "shocking" the straights or removing the word God from the pledge of allegiance are more of a threat to them than a series of expensive unilateral wars while bankrupting the government and discarding the safety net and all consumer protections. We have to recognize that the other side will demonize us no matter what we actually do so there is no margin in trying to tailor our image. The other side won't let that happen. We have to depend upon our ideas and our candidates making a better case. And we have to finally go after the other side with everything in our arsenal. Worrying about our own extremists instead of exposing theirs is playing into their hands.
The moderate left has, unfortunately, gotten into the habit of worrying more about its own public perception then taking the time to bring down the public perception of the moderate right. The left needs to start doing its own fair share of demonizing. It needs to continuously point out the presence of extremism on the right and ask the moderate elements of the GOP why they tolerate them. Make them feel a little uncomfortable for once. It's time to bring back a little old-fashioned guilt to the Grand Old Party.

The complaints of a worry-wart

Spoils of War By BOB HERBERT Follow the money. Former Secretary of State George Shultz is on the board of directors of the Bechtel Group, the largest contractor in the U.S. and one of the finalists in the competition to land a fat contract to help in the rebuilding of Iraq. He is also the chairman of the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a fiercely pro-war group with close ties to the White House. The committee, formed last year, made it clear from the beginning that it sought more than the ouster of Saddam's regime. It was committed, among other things, "to work beyond the liberation of Iraq to the reconstruction of its economy." War is a tragedy for some and a boon for others. I asked Mr. Shultz if the fact that he was an advocate of the war while sitting on the board of a company that would benefit from it left him concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest. "I don't know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it," he said. "But if there's work that's needed to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it. But nobody looks at it as something you benefit from."
I said yesterday that America has been turned into a protection racket. Herbert provides additional evidence for the proposition. The Bush administration has completed the program of turning America's armed forces into a mercenary force. It takes its orders from a small group of military-industrial advisors who are more interested in the lucrative reconstruction opportunities that war can produce then they are in protecting the lives and liberties of the American people. It's a brilliant business plan. First we send out the army to trash a place, preferably the weaker the opposition the better. Second, we send in the corporations to rebuild it. Third, this small group of advisors, who also happen to run those corporations, reap huge dividends from the operation. Finally, the administration pushes through tax cuts that allow them to keep even more of their booty. And the rest of us are left holding the bill, nursing the wounded, and living in ever greater fear of the inevitable backlash. But, of course, I am just an un-American cry-baby worry-wart so what do I know?

Thursday, April 10, 2003


U.S. Nuke Find Claim in Iraq Critiqued Thu Apr 10, 6:28 PM ET By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer VIENNA, Austria - American troops who suggested they uncovered evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iraq (news - web sites) unwittingly may have stumbled across known stocks of low-grade uranium, officials said Thursday. They said the U.S. troops may have broken U.N. seals meant to keep control of the radioactive material. ... But an expert familiar with U.N. nuclear inspections told The Associated Press that it was implausible to believe that U.S. forces had uncovered anything new at the site. Instead, the official said, the Marines apparently broke U.N. seals designed to ensure the materials aren't diverted for weapons use — or end up in the wrong hands. "What happened apparently was that they broke IAEA seals, which is very unfortunate because those seals are integral to ensuring that nuclear material doesn't get diverted," the expert said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Nag! Nag! Nag! That's all they know how to do is nag!

Long live the Pax Americana

Digby get's the neo-con religion
Ok. I’m a convert. I have been studying the neoconservative movement for some time and thought them to be little more than crass imperialists who couched their will to power in a delusion born of discarded leftist radicalism. But, after seeing the American flag draped over the statue of Saddam’s ugly mug, the cheering people getting their first “whiff ‘o freedom” I now know that all that talk of weapons of mass destruction and support for al Qaeda was just a clever ruse by the Bush administration to convince wimpy Americans to support the first in a series of wars against those who operate by means of terror and violence against the innocent. I now believe, like most Americans and good people everywhere, that it doesn’t matter if Saddam had WMD or supported terrorists. It was never about that. It has now been established that America boldly defied the cowardly Europeans and the perfidious United Nations and put its own blood and treasure on the line for purely altruistic reasons --- the liberation of a repressed people from a cruel and heartless dictator and all that talk of threats to ourselves were forced upon us by cynics who refuse to see that we are a country that operates solely out of humanitarian concern.
Yeah brother!

Thug Watch, Oregon Edition

The thoughtful debate on the war continues ... On April 2, Larson was reading "Great Expectations" after school in the high school commons when he was surrounded by a different group of students. They got in his face. "This time, their position was I hate America, and I should get out," Larson said. "One of them started strangling me. He had his hands pretty firmly around my neck. I couldn't breathe for a minute or so. Then he hit me with his belt, twice on the legs. "The only thing he said was, 'George Bush is your daddy,' which seemed delightfully random." Only one student, a friend of Larson's, tried to intervene. Two more groups of kids swung by to badger him before he escaped the commons, but no one else touched him. While all this happened 40 feet from the school office, no administrators were on the scene. ...

What to get for the truly patriotic American

For him: For her: Click here to see more. (The bad thing is I'm not completely sure that this is a joke)

Zooming for propaganda

Take a look at this picture. It is a slightly blurry wide shot of the public square just after the statue of Sadaam Hussein was toppled. Where are the "throngs" of cheering Iraqis? In a city of five million people you would think there would be more people there to celebrate this symbolic action. Instead, it looks to me like there are maybe 200-300 men close in around the statue, several tanks blocking each of the intersections, and larger crowds of cars and people being held back by said tanks. I am not saying that there aren't happy people in Baghdad right now. Indeed, I'm certain that the overwhelming majority of Baghdad residents are very happy to see Sadaam go. Many of them may still feel to intimidated to go out in the streets and celebrate. Either because of lingering fear of Sadaam's enforcers, or because the streets are full of looters and American soldiers with itchy trigger fingers. Hell, I wouldn't go outside in a situation like that! However, the picture above presents a somewhat less subdued image then is being pushed by the establishment media. I report, you decide. Kynn of Shock&Awe comments on this here. There is more on this here at the NYC IndyMedia Center.

The bad cop

Kynn, over at Shock & Awe explains why he/she is still opposed to this war. I concur with his/her explanation. As bad as Sadaam was, America has proven itself to be just as dangerous by unilaterally deciding that it has the right to decide who is and is not a bad man. Update: In the comment's to Kynn's post someone posted the following response:
I have a better analogy: Saddam is the father and the Iraqis are his children. He kills, tortures and brutalizes his children. He abuses them and starves them while he builds himself fine homes and drives nice cars. His children live in the doghouse out back. Yeah, you're right, Saddam should be left alone.
Kynn, of course, never said nothing should be done about the bad man. He/she just asserted that it should not be up to the cop to unilaterally decide who is and is not the bad man (as I said above) and carry out the sentence forthwith. We see here the fundamental disconnect between the pro-war and anti-war side. The pro-war side seems to think that, since we are against the US going out on its own and blowing away Sadaam (and a few thousand of his fellow countrymen, many innocent civilians) that we think we should just let Sadaam off scott-free. It's the process by which we have gotten to this point that matters regardless of how good the end result may be.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

America has become a protection racket

A good post by Digby on the question of what it means if we don't find WMD in Iraq. We can already see attempts by pro-war advocates to suggest that the benefits of toppling Sadaam are so good that it really doesn't matter if what used to be the primary justification for the invasion turns out to be wrong. I have maintained for quite some time that this might have been the right action taken by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. In other words, it is possible that invading Iraq and removing Sadaam will be beneficial for Iraq and the middle-east far into the future. But only if it is done with an intent that matches that desire. It is my belief that the Bushies don't really give one damn about the oppression of the Iraqi people. Nor were they really all that concerned about WMD. There primary purpose in engaging in this conflict was to provide demonstrable evidence to the rest of the world that we WILL attack anyone, anywhere, any time we like, so people better get used to this new reality and...behave. We see this already with the recent comments from the PNAC crew that other countries on their list (Syria, Iran, North Korea) should pay heed to the lessons of Iraq. This is a foreign policy in which America's primary role is that of a protection racket. People can go about there business, just so long as they don't do anything that we don't like. Then they better watch out! Look what we did to Sadaam! What is wrong with this philosophy? If people fear us won't they be less likely to attack us? Won't they be more likely to side with us and work with us? Perhaps, in the short run. But remember this: the people of Iraq came to fear Sadaam. Yet they were more than happy to cheer as his statute came tumbling down. Fear is a poor motivator.

Okay. After some complaints about the 400 character limit of backblog I've decided to switch to squawkbox. Let me know if there are any problems. (Unfortunately, all the interesting comments from before are lost in this switch.)

Condemned to repeat the past

IN MY OPINION 04/08/03 Richard L. Clinton Two old friends of mine -- a Jewish couple in their 80s, both retired university professors who fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and eventually became U.S. citizens -- made a stunning remark to me a few months ago: "You know, all our lives we have blamed our parents and our parents' generation for allowing Hitler to gain control. Now we're beginning to see how powerless they must have felt to stop what was happening all around them."
Oh, but it can't happen here!

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

children of darkness

Don't like the term "regime" being applied to the Bush administration. Max has some suggestions for alternatives.

Democrats need to be united on this point at least

Tapped wonders where the rest of the Democratic field is in the Kerry battle:
HOW ABOUT SOME BACKUP? Now would be a good time for all the Democratic presidential contenders to put out statements supporting John Kerry's comments calling for "regime change" in the U.S. Why? Not just for Kerry's sake, but for their own. The Republicans and their proxies in the conservative press aren't just looking to hurt Kerry; they're seeking to set a standard for criticizing George W. Bush that will make it unacceptable to criticize the incumbent for almost anything. That affects the other Dems, too. (And heck, if none of the other candidates think the U.S. needs a regime change of its own, why on earth are they running for president?) Tapped, incidentally, admires Kerry for standing up to this. We hope he sticks with it and doesn't back down -- and that other Democrats understand the need to defend their own.
I agree. In fact, I would like all the Democratic candidates to issue a joint press release supporting Kerry's right to criticize Bush, even in times of war, and to chastise the Republicans for trying to browbeat the opposition into silence. The precedence this would set would be fantastic for all Democrats and would set back the GOP campaign to make opposition to their policies defacto equivalent to treason. I have to say that, while I am a supporter of Dean, I am a little disappointed that he hasn't made a more concerted effort to defend Kerry against the Republican attacks. His response to it has been tepid at best. And, as far as I know, none of the other candidates have said word one about it.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Does God believe in you?

I'm about to do something unusual. I'm about to get personal in a way I have never done before, either on this blog or anywhere else. I've been wanting to do this for some time, but haven't yet had the opportunity. Forgive me if the following comes out rather muddled. It is my first attempt to put into words something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Kevin Drum brings up an interesting question about liberalism and "the perfectibility of mankind". He points to some conservative criticism which states that liberalism will always fail because it subscribes to the false notion that man can be perfected. This is in contrast to the belief of many on the right that man is hopelessly condemned to corruption and only an external saviour can redeem us. The best we can hope for is to hold off the darkness until that saviour comes. Kevin disagrees with this idea. He thinks that liberalism, at least for him, derives from the belief that, while mankind is hopelessly corruptible, it is the purpose of government to "force people to act like decent human beings even if they don't want to." (please note: this is my paraphrase of his comment. Please read them and judge for yourself.) I think there are as many different strains of political belief as there are people who spend the time analyzing the question. But I think that they can be categorized into similar strains and that, up to a point, the conservative critics are correct. There is a strain of liberalism that believes that mankind can be perfected through its own efforts alone. This belief is the counter-weight to the end-time conservatives who are simply ticking off the minutes until their saviour returns. The mistake the end-timers make is to assume that all liberals are of this stripe (as Kevin demonstrates). Liberals make the similar mistake of think that all conservatives are of the end-timer variety. I personally think both of these beliefs are crocked. Man is hopelessly flawed, yes, in that we are not God and thus we can never completely rise above our petty faults. However, man can save himself through the exercise of his own faculties, at least to the point where we can reject the appeal of the nihilists ("just give up dude") and the avaricious ("just give in dude"). After all, why would we be given the ability to think these things out if not to use those abilities to achieve something greater than ourselves? To think otherwise would be to suggest that God created us in order to make us suffer (i.e., it is a belief that suggests that we were condemned to hell from the beginning). I have always felt this to be true. It was only recently that I came upon a justification for this belief that goes beyond a simple feeling. It is an idea based in religion and it comes down to a simple question: why, if God has the ability to create us in an unflawed state, does he allow us to continue in the flawed state that we exist in today? Put even more simply: why does God allow evil to exist? Consider the alternative: if God were to intervene in the world and save us from ourselves, then would that not be an admission on God's part that we are incapable of helping ourselves as the end-timers suggest? God could make us perfect from the beginning. He could alter our consciousness at a moment in a way that would end all evil everywhere. Yet he does not. Why? Think back to the story of Job. God allows Satan to inflict a world of suffering on God's most faithful servant in response to Satan's assertion that Job is faithful only because he's got it so good. "Take away all the goodies and he will curse your name," says Satan. God lets him prove it. So Job loses it all. He suffers the worst sort of calamities. His fortune, his family, his health, his very mental state are all laid waste. He curses his condition. He curses the fates. He curses his companions who urge him to repent for the sins which must have been the cause of his condition. But he never curses God, Satan loses the bet, and Job is returned once more to the bosom of God's comfort. This story has always bothered me on many different levels. In its simple presentation it sounds like God takes a kind of sick delight in the punishment of his most faithful followers. But that is true only if you think that faith is simply of saying, "I believe" and being rewarded with prosperity and well being. This was Satan's assertion. By allowing his servant to go through hell, God was proving the point that faith has nothing to do with protestations of belief, prosperity or well being. It has everything to do with being closer to God, closer to the perfection of God, closer to that state in which our flaws no longer cause us pain and suffering. By not intervening, God was proving the point that Job alone was the only one who could save himself and the only way he could do so was to simply not curse the name of God. Job proved his faith in God. But, even more so, God proved his faith in Job. For, if God had intervened and saved Job from his suffering he would have proved Satan's point that mankind will always be an ungrateful rabble. Similarly, God does not intervene in the affairs of man. He does not save us from ourselves for the simple reason that he has faith that we can rise above our wretched condition and become closer to him without him having to force salvation upon us. In other words, only God can perfect us, but only if we allow him to do so. The problem I have with the "perfectibility left" is that they think man can do it on his own. It is a hubristic notion that man is perfectible through his efforts alone and hubris is one of the greatest roadblocks to a closer relationship with God. The problem I have with the "end-timer right" is that they think that man has nothing to do with it at all, that we are all worthless, and that the best we can do is beat down the darkness until the trumpet sounds and the worthy are raptured away. To a certain extent, the story of Job agrees with this notion. The problem, of course, is that few of us have the unbridled faith of a Job. Few of us have his strength. Therefore, I think it is through acts of kindness and charity and the creation of a better world that we help ourselves to achieve a state where we can better express our faith. After all, God is not increased by a single act of charity. It is only ourselves that are improved by these acts. Yet charity is a big requirement in many religions for achieving a closer relationship with God. Does that not therefore imply that improving our condition, and the condition of others, is one of the primary means God has given us to achieve a closer relationship with him? I reject both extremes. I believe that God created us flawed specifically to prove that even flawed beings can overcome their flaws and return to receive the perfection of God. It is only when we see beyond our flaws that we can receive that gift. This was, I think, the nature of his bet with Satan. I take great comfort in the idea of a God who believes in me enough to believe that I, that we, can do better. Some people ask the question, "Do you believe in God?". I ask the question, "Does God believe in you?"

Kerry is not the enemy

Christopher Curtis has a post up on the Dean2004 blog about the recent Kerry regime change brouhaha. He quotes from the Washington Times:
"Fine words, but apparently hollow words that shift with the political winds. Kerry has taken the role of an opportunist who won't allow principle to get in the way of telling some people what they want to hear in an effort to gain votes. And if Kerry were elected president, would the U.N. delegates trust a man who talks from both sides of his mouth?"'
I would caution any Dean support to take heart from the criticism of the Washington Times on this matter. They are a mouthpiece for the Republican party and, as such, they would love nothing more than to encourage a bitter fight between Deanizens and Kerryites. I'm not interested in attacking Kerry. I think he was wrong to vote for the authorization resolution and I won't hesitate to point this out. But I think his criticism of Bush and his subsequent defense of that criticism were right on the mark. I support Dean, but I will not hesitate to applaud Kerry's handling of this situation. Let's just hope that he will continue to stand up against the cockroaches and that other Democrats will follow him in following Dean's example. We don't want Dean to be the only fighter in the Democratic party.

Mourning in America

I Miss America Even Dick Nixon looks good to me now by Alan Bisbort - April 3, 2003 I miss Richard Nixon. What I mean is, I miss the days of Richard Nixon when, even while the Trickster and Spiro Agnew were abusing power, a loyal opposition resided in Washington, D.C. I miss the days when a loyal opposition was bipartisan, well-spoken and independent-minded, when it included people like Daniel Moynihan, who died this week, and Lowell Weicker, then a Republican Senator from this great state. I miss the time when the Republican Party had smart people in it, even if you disagreed with them, people like Mark Hatfield, Barry Goldwater, John Chaffee. I miss the time when even so-called "doves" like William Fulbright, Mike Mansfield, George McGovern and Morris Udall were admired by those who voted differently from them. I miss the checks and balances that were built into our Constitution and worked so well for this nation up until November 2000. I miss America. ...
Don't we all?

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Offering the hope of prosperity as well as the hope of security

Despite what the polls may suggest, I think there are a significant number of "pro-war" people who would be very open to a viable alternative candidate. They may "support the troops", but that doesn't mean they like the direction Bush is taking the country. Bush's main selling point is fear. It is what keeps him in power. If people aren't afraid then they will start asking some very uncomfortable questions (uncomfortable for Dubya). Whoever gets the Democratic nomination has to hit Bush hard on the promotion of fear. He has to make it clear that a real leader offers the hope of prosperity as well as the hope of security. Hmmm... That may make a good campaign slogan.