Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cooper's Crossing

What was expected to be a day devoted to the question of who could ask Judy Miller what in the Libby trial turned out to be a fairly good day for the defense and one that--if there's any justice to be had in this world--lionizes Matt Cooper forever in the Comedy writer's Hall of Fame.

From Clarice Feldman who spent the day blogging the whole ridiculous affair:

The most amusing witness of the trial was up today, the charming Matt Cooper who with his sloppy notes, shoddy journalism and wry humor brought the old play “Front Page” to life before our eyes. He is the sort of person it would be fun to have dinner with , not the sort of person whose news story should be taken as a bit of serious journalism Cooper is one of the prosecution’s chief witnesses and surely by now even those who believed in the “Elliott Ness with a law degree” fluff about the prosecutor must be thinking more along the lines of “Get Smart”. In a brutally devastating but gentlemanly low key way the prosecution destroyed a key prosecution witness. The defense showed through an examination of the internal Time emails and documents that the story that brought Matt Cooper into this, “A War on Wilson?” was something concocted out of thin air.

Cooper’s notes showed he claimed as "confirmation" a minute’s long “off the record conversation”( something never to be considered confirmatory) in response to a question about Wilson’s wife playing a role in this Mission . Libby seems in fact—from Cooper’s own notes (haphazard and mistyped as they are) --to have said very much what he said he did: That he heard that too but didn’t even know if that was true.

...

This war as it turns out existed only in in Matt’s mind . Unless you consider efforts to respond to inquiries about Wilson's claims with the truth to be war or to be as Cooper does “dissing” or “disparaging” Wilson. It seems Libby engaged in perfectly appropriate conduct such as noting all the elements of Wilson's claim were false (Something the bi-partisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee confirmed):Wilson was not sent at the “behest of the vice president; he did not refute, but rather supported, the existing intelligence that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger; his report never made it to the vice president.

But beyond that, we saw how to meet a pressing deadline while on a summer weekend's jaunt at a country club, Matt took a noncommittal off the record response from Libby, pretended Rove’s statement about Plame had been confirmed by Libby and that he had a third confirmation from his colleague Dickerson who still claims that despite what Fleischer testified to the other day, Fleischer did not tell him about Plame but merely said that if he wanted to know who sent Wilson to Africa he should ask the CIA.

Even better, the quote in the article’s account of Libby’s response to Cooper is not in his notes, wasn’t even in his first draft of the story. It was a revision suggested by someone higher up the food chain at the magazine.It clearly fit better into an account which without factual basis claimed there was a “War on Wilson” Cooper, in defense of this shoddy journalism (the phrase “watching sausage being made” was muttered in the media room and not by the bloggers) reminded us that “The headline ends in a question mark."

I've been saying it since this circus...er, trial started last week but I think I'll take it a step further tonight: $10 to the first person who can coherently explain why we're all here!

I'm old

I spent about half my day driving all over God's country today. On the way back to the office I stopped in SLO for lunch, hoping I could take advantage of some local flavor and the fact that, though the city is only about the same size as my home and only half-as-large as the city I work in, it sports numerous hip joints, retail shops and restaurants. Well, mission only half-accomplished; I did find something I can't get in either Santa Maria or Lompoc but it hardly offered any local flair.

As I sat finishing my burger there at Applebee's--lots of burger but no Appletinis I'm afraid--I became aware of a conversation going on nearby between two gals, most likely of college age (in fact, most of the employees and a large number of customers fit that bill what with Cal Poly only a few miles away) trying to get their heads around the concept of Yugoslavia. Or rather, the former Yugoslavia.

It found my attention above the rest of the clatter of dishes and conversation when I kept hearing "Yugoslavia,"..."Bosnia,"..."Yugoslavia," over and over. Once I tuned in, the gist of it seemed of the conversation was an attempt for one to explain to the other just what Yugoslavia was.

Such seems simple to a guy like me, someone who was born in the middle of the Cold War, grew up aware of who and what the Soviet Union and it's Communist bloc neighbors were. These two were lost however.

Long story short, the whole episode--aside from the questions it prompted about what is taught in history classes in High Schools and college--left me with a distinct sense of age. The world I grew up in isn't anymore.

Watching these two young women trying to follow the contours of the world maps I grew up with was an eye-opener alright.

A Neo-Con Speaks

Author Francis Fukuyama, a neoconservative who originally backed the American invasion of Iraq and was a signatory to the Project for the New American Century's famous letter to Bill Clinton advocating regime change, opines about learnings from the US experience in Iraq thusly:

American military doctrine has emphasised the use of overwhelming force, applied suddenly and decisively, to defeat the enemy. But in a world where insurgents and militias deploy invisibly among civilian populations, overwhelming force is almost always counterproductive: it alienates precisely those people who have to make a break with the hardcore fighters and deny them the ability to operate freely. The kind of counterinsurgency campaign needed to defeat transnational militias and terrorists puts political goals ahead of military ones, and emphasises hearts and minds over shock and awe.

A second lesson that should have been drawn from the past five years is that preventive war cannot be the basis of a long-term US nonproliferation strategy. The Bush doctrine sought to use preventive war against Iraq as a means of raising the perceived cost to would-be proliferators of approaching the nuclear threshold. Unfortunately, the cost to the US itself was so high that it taught exactly the opposite lesson: the deterrent effect of American conventional power is low, and the likelihood of preventive war actually decreases if a country manages to cross that threshold.

A final lesson that should have been drawn from the Iraq war is that the current US government has demonstrated great incompetence in its day-to-day management of policy. One of the striking things about the performance of the Bush administration is how poorly it has followed through in accomplishing the ambitious objectives it set for itself. In Iraq, the administration has acted like a patient with attention-deficit disorder. The US succeeded in organising efficiently for key events such as the handover of sovereignty on June 30 2004, or the elections of January 30 2005. But it failed to train Iraqi forces, failed to appoint ambassadors, failed to perform due diligence on contractors and, above all, failed to hold accountable those officials most responsible for these and other multiple failures.

This lack of operational competence could in theory be fixed over time, but it has important short-term consequences for American grand strategy. Neoconservative theorists saw America exercising a benevolent hegemony over the world, using its enormous power wisely and decisively to fix problems such as terrorism, proliferation, rogue states, and human-rights abuses. But even if friends and allies were inclined to trust America's good intentions, it would be hard for them not to be dismayed at the actual execution of policy and the amount of broken china this particular bull left behind.


I find each of these lessons to be largely accurate and well-articulated. Moreover, I find that lesson one is in many regards a function of lesson three. And whatever good intentions were behind the project, they have been plowed asunder under the weight of mistake after bumbling mistake.

But Fukuyama goes on to apply his insights to the increasingly tenuous situation in Iran to delineate how America's Iraq adventure has effectively shackled its policy options:

The failure to absorb Iraq's lessons has been evident in the neoconservative discussion of how to deal with Iran's growing regional power, and its nuclear programme. Iran today constitutes a huge challenge for the US, as well as for America's friends in the Middle East. Unlike al-Qaida, Iran is a state, deeply rooted historically (unlike Iraq) and flush with resources as a result of energy price rises. It is ruled by a radical Islamist regime that - particularly since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election in June 2005 - has turned in a disturbingly intolerant and aggressive direction.

The US unintentionally abetted Iran's regional rise by invading Iraq, eliminating the Ba'athist regime as a counterweight, and empowering Shia parties close to Tehran. It seems reasonably clear that Iran wants nuclear weapons, despite protestations that its nuclear programme is only for civilian purposes; nuclear energy makes little sense for a country sitting on some of the world's largest oil reserves, but it makes sense as the basis for a weapons programme. It is completely rational for the Iranians to conclude that they will be safer with a bomb than without one.

And knowing that the US is tied down in Iraq (albeit a potential staging area for military operations in Iran) with crumbling domestic political support simply provides the Iranians with enhanced negotiating position.

Fukuyama's analysis is instructive and reinforces many of the concerns I have raised about President Bush's plan to surge troops in Iraq. The "new" strategy, at least on the surface, doesn't seem to have internalized any of Fukuyama's lessons. And absent political support of any kind, seems only likely to intensify our troubles in the region.

Judy Miller + broad questioning = mistrial?

TM suggests that based on the NY Times reporting of Ms. Miller's turn on the stand yesterday that such is possible:

The Times has coverage nearly as breathless as mine and uses the word "mistrial":
The day ended with an extraordinary argument by lawyers for both sides, as well as a lawyer for Ms. Miller, over whether Mr. Jeffress could ask her if she had other sources she spoke to about Ms. Wilson. The question, which was left unresolved by Judge Reggie M. Walton until Wednesday, threatened to derail the trial over the very constitutional issue that saw Ms. Miller go to jail in 2005.


Judge Walton seemed disinclined to allow questions about Ms. Miller’s other sources. “I appreciate that there is an interest the media has in not having questions asked that aren’t germane to this case,” he said. But if he does allow them, and she refuses to answer, she could be held in contempt once again and a mistrial could result.

Still wondering exactly why we're here to begin with...and of course my second thought is just how many heads would explode if that happened?

First inkling of Intelligence

It's fleeting but it might just be there. The title says it all: "Senators Also Said They Were Beginning To Realize That The Vote, While Nonbinding, Would Be An Important Statement On Congressional Sentiment Regarding The War."

The exhortation: Republican senators up for re-election are beginning to figure out that you can't win with just the supporters of victory in Iraq, but you surely can't win without them. Throwing in with Warner, McCain or any resolution that equivocates on the necessity of victory or implies contingent as opposed to enduring support for victory will not be forgotten by the GOP activists and contributors.

The Scope of the Argument

This is rather humorous--at least to my slightly-off, more cerebral sense of humor--coming to us as it did the same day as Bab's long-awaited much-celebrated first hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. That saw an unprecedented format that eschewed witnesses in favor of--wait for it--the "feelings" and opinions of committee members on the subject of Global Warming.

Anyway, from Malchow's 'synopsis':

— Listen, we’ve got global warming.
— Mmm.
— So will you sign on to this protocol?
— Nah. Gutting American industry doesn’t seem like a good idea to us.
— But the world is going to end in ten years.
— So how will not opening a few new car factories help? Especially if this protocol encourages our chief competitors to open their own new factories while we’re hamstrung here?
— Because it will. Sign here, please.
— I don’t think that’s good policy.
— Listen. Why do you hate science?
— I don’t hate s—
— You’re a crazy Christian, aren’t you?

How much primary research did he do on this, I wonder?

The Surge: Point Counter-Point

Loyal reader Paul Hogue posted an interesting comment relating to my entry from yesterday:

From Scripps-Howard columnist Ann McFeatters' Monday Jan 29 '07 column:When asked about the possibility that Iraq may refuse to be a U.S. ally, Cheney insisted that won't happen and retorted, “That we don't have the stomach for the fight. That's the biggest threat.”Cheney's statement is amazing. Americans have given the administration a virtual blank check for four years in Iraq. The price tag has included the loss of 3,000 sons and daughters, the disabling of thousands more, the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars and lost prestige around the globe.No stomach for the fight?That's right Ann...no stomach for the fight. Courtesy of folks like yourselves who've been telling us all for 3 years how hopeless and lost this fight is and eschewing any and all attempts at and calls for any sort of reasonable perspective about the larger picture.Thank you Professor Stoker for the historical perspective and to Sim for taking the opportunity to discuss it.

Thanks, Paul for your comment and your continued readership. You are most welcome with regard to the post. However, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to your comment by elaborating on Stoker's article and my position with regard to the surge debate:

Let's not lay all of the blame at the feet of a particularly unhelpful media. The Administration at least partially finds itself in this position because it did not do its due diligence in building the case for the war and making clear to the American public the realistic stakes and costs associated with its conduct. It was politically expedient to speak of kisses and candies and oil revenues paying for things at the same time that it didn't send enough troops, didn't take and hold territory and chose not to engage the Battle of Baghdad (which we are now preparing to fight some four years later, it would appear).

I also have some problem with the notion that we, as a nation, have no stomach for a fight which, in fact, has left 18,000 young men and women permanently scarred. That on top of the 3000 deaths. No small drop in the bucket.

But it is clear to me that there is a misalignment between the requirements needed to win this fight and the American public's appetite in meeting them. Some of the blame clearly rests with a media that after cheerleading during the run-up, immediately turned adversarial once the conflict began. Some of the blame rests with an American public which has a "microwave" mentality and probably didn't appreciate the downside risks. But most of the blame must rest with Bush and his team. Not only did they not build a solid foundation for public support, their incompetence in prematurely proclaiming victory (I shuddered during that aircraft carrier moment because I knew that another shoe was yet to fall) and in the nation-building phase have not inspired confidence as to the wisdom of the mission nor in the quality of its execution.

Now we find ourselves in the worst of all possible worlds: having victory within our grasp if only we had the intestinal fortitude to stay. But we don't have the cajones because political support has almost completely collapsed. At the end of the day, George W. Bush has only George W. Bush to blame. Although it pains me greatly to say it, the only viable strategy is to withdraw in some manner which provides the Iraqis with the best chance for success and to hope that our exit will relieve some pressure from the situation. The alternative is sending more of our kids into harm's way without sufficient backing at home and that should never be something we ponder.

Non-binding resolutions against the surge already have strong bipartisan support. Should they pass, this nation will find itself hamstrung in a way that it hasn't been since Vietnam. Imagine newspaper headlines in Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, London, Paris and Berlin. What credibility would American-style democracy have when an embattled president simply exercises fiat power to pursue a military adventure that many around the world believe is tied to crass concerns (Halliburton, Big Oil, PNAC, etc.)? Bush's Democracy Project, a worthwhile endeavor, is already on the rocks. The perceived hypocrisy of "defying" Congress would almost certainly doom it. What impact would this have on the anti-war movement? I think it is fair to say that the scattered protests would turn to a cacophony. What would become of our political culture? You can be sure that the polarization we have seen to-date is nothing compared to what we are about to see. What impact would this have on our troops on the ground? Not only would the insurgents and meddlers like Iran be emboldened by the decaying political support on the homefront, one can imagine that US soldiers might be operating in an environment in which funding for their activities would be held hostage by Paygo schemes, acrimonious tax battles, etc. What impact would this have on our foreign policy? Already viewed as a lame-duck, Bush would be further weakened in dealing with Iran and North Korea and would have little muscle to stand up to challengers like Russia and China who seek to take advantage of the power vacuum created by the US being pinned down in the Middle East.

A withdrawal from Iraq is certainly not a promising notion. Civil war, ethnic violence, the possible influx of terrorists and terrorist training camps, increased influence of Iran, a regional Sunni-Shi'ite struggle, etc are all things to consider. But many of these outcomes can be managed and influenced from afar. The question is whether a strategic retreat has the best potential to defuse the bigger bills that are to come due and to allow us greater freedom of action in addressing the myriad other foreign policy challenges that await. There are no easy answers. And while one can take solace in the fact that insurgencies typically fail, I wouldn't bet on this one failing given the dearth of political support on the homefront and the impending political paralysis that will likely ensue if the President plows forward. Buckle up. We're about to hit a serious pocket of turbulence.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Surge:Counter-surge

Pro: Major Michael McBride calling for perseverance, spirit and lethality.

Con: Herschel Smith wonders aloud if the Iraqi army is up to the challenge.

Meanwhile, on a side-note, this Richard Engle report from Iraq answers critics with statements straight from soldiers on the ground. "We support the troops," is an insult to these brave men.

Insurgencies and History

My own opinion on the troop surge has been made in previous posts. But to summarize on behalf of the lazy and uninspired (I am their Patron Saint, by the way), I question Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq because regardless of the military wisdom of such a move, he is sending them into battle lacking almost any political support whatsoever. The policy is not supported by our allies (such as they are), the Maliki government, most Iraqis, our enemies in the region, Congress (including members of the President's own party), the media, and perhaps most importantly, the American people. In my opinion, a complete dearth of political support likely dooms even the most well-thought out military strategy.

But Donald Stoker, a professor of strategy and policy for the U.S. Naval War College’s Monterey Program writes in Foreign Policy magazine that there may be more cause for optimism. Stoker takes a historical look at the performance of insurgencies and finds that they are generally prone to failure:

Myths about invincible guerrillas and insurgents are a direct result of America’s collective misunderstanding of its defeat in South Vietnam. This loss is generally credited to the brilliance and military virtues of the pajama-clad Vietcong. The Vietnamese may have been tough and persistent, but they were not brilliant. Rather, they were lucky—they faced an opponent with leaders unwilling to learn from their failures: the United States. When the Vietcong went toe-to-toe with U.S. forces in the 1968 Tet Offensive, they were decimated. When South Vietnam finally fell in 1975, it did so not to the Vietcong, but to regular units of the invading North Vietnamese Army. The Vietcong insurgency contributed greatly to the erosion of the American public’s will to fight, but so did the way that President Lyndon Johnson and the American military waged the war. It was North Vietnam’s will and American failure, not skillful use of an insurgency, that were the keys to Hanoi’s victory. Similar misunderstandings persist over the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan, the other supposed example of guerrilla invincibility. But it was not the mujahidin’s strength that forced the Soviets to leave; it was the Soviet Union’s own economic and political weakness at home. In fact, the regime the Soviets established in Afghanistan was so formidable that it managed to survive for three years after the Red Army left. Of course, history is not without genuine insurgent successes. Fidel Castro’s victory in Cuba is probably the best known, and there was the IRA’s partial triumph in 1922, as well as Algeria’s defeat of the French between 1954 and 1962. But the list of failed insurgencies is longer: Malayan Communists, Greek Communists, Filipino Huks, Nicaraguan Contras, Communists in El Salvador, Che Guevara in Bolivia, the Boers in South Africa (twice), Savimbi in Angola, and Sindero Luminoso in Peru, to name just a few. If the current U.S. administration maintains its will, establishes security in Baghdad, and succeeds in building a functioning government and army, there is no reason that the Iraqi insurgency cannot be similarly destroyed, or at least reduced to the level of terrorist thugs. Insurgencies generally fail if all they are able to do is fight an irregular war. Successful practitioners of the guerrilla art from Nathanael Greene in the American Revolution to Mao Zedong in the Chinese Civil War have insisted upon having a regular army for which their guerrilla forces served mainly as an adjunct. Insurgencies also have inherent weaknesses and disadvantages vis-à-vis an established state. They lack governmental authority, established training areas, and secure supply lines. The danger is that insurgents can create these things, if given the time to do so. And, once they have them, they are well on their way to establishing themselves as a functioning and powerful alternative to the government. If they reach this point, they can very well succeed.

Stoker's thesis and case studies are interesting and important reminders about the inherent flaws of insurgencies. In Iraq, the absence of a coherent and meaningful alternative political agenda should be a significant barrier to success for the insurgents in a long-term war of attrition. However, the American people and key influencers do not have the stomach to engage in such an ugly, drawn-out affair. As a consequence, the ledger becomes more balanced in favor of the insurgents. They are emboldened to believe that with enough time, they will prevail. Their mantra parallels that of the Vietnamese, who once remarked, "In a little while the Americans will be gone, but we will still be here." Time, as it turns out is a crucial ingredient. And with so many missteps to-date, there is precious little of it remaining, as Stoker admits:

That’s welcome news, because one thing is certain: time is running out. Combating an insurgency typically requires 8 to 11 years. But the administration has done such a poor job of managing U.S. public opinion, to say nothing of the war itself, that it has exhausted many of its reservoirs of support. One tragedy of the Iraq war may be that the administration’s new strategy came too late to avert a rare, decisive insurgent victory.

Cruel & Unusual Personified

After 254 days, Barbaro has finally been put out of his misery. And in my opinion, it was about time.

The horse gripped the national imagination when he rocketed to a stunning multi-furlong victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby. His margin of victory was the largest at that race in 60 years and a buzz started about a potential Triple Crown run. Barely a week and 200 yards later, the dream died when Barbaro shattered several bones in his right hind leg at the outset of the Preakness Derby. The video of the poor animal desperately trying to keep its balance while not using the damaged leg was heartbreaking and those who weren't previously engaged in the Barbaro story now found themselves deeply enmeshed. Throughout his recovery, there has been a fascinating outpouring of support from the public toward Barbaro and the bonds that have developed between even non-racing fans and the horse have taken on a unique life of their own.

For the last eight months, Barbaro has undergone multiple surgeries and endured a variety of complications and infections. His owners, trainers and doctors did everything possible to save the horse and maintain a semblance of quality of life. Despite some criticism, they maintained that their objectives were purely out of love for the horse and not driven by economics. And while I have no specific evidence to dispute those claims, I can't help but think that this poor animal should have been euthanized long ago. It seemed clear to me (as a non-veternarian) throughout the saga, that this story would ultimately have an unhappy ending and that the journey would be a painful one.

Were the Jacksons acting out of love for the horse or were they secretly thinking about stud fees? Were the doctors realistic or did they get caught up in the tidal wave of public interest in an attempt to draw attention to their work? We may never know the answer to these questions, but in the end, Barbaro's fate was probably sealed that day in Baltimore and his eight months of pain, agony, surgery, complications, slings, etc seem to me to be cruel and unecessary.

Hold your breath...

And wait for this kind of insight on this weekend's clash in Najaf from the Post and NY Times:

Early reports indicated there were both Sunni terrorists and Shia cultist involved in the fighting. "Governor Asaad Abu Gilel as saying that the militants, who included foreign fighters, had arrived in the city disguised as pilgrims in recent days and based themselves in the orchards, which he said had been bought three or four months ago by supporters of Saddam Hussain."

An American military intelligence informed us the early indications are that the Omar Brigade, al-Qaeda in Iraq's unit designated to slaughter Shia, was involved in the fighting. Al-Qaeda in Iraq would have a vested interest in causing mass casualties of Shia during the pilgrimage to Karbala for the festival of Ashura. Over 11,000 Iraqi Army and police have been deployed to Karbala to provide security for the event.

...

Based on the reporting and information from multiple media, U.S.and Iraqi sources, the likelihood is the enemy composition consisted of a mix of the Shia Army of Heaven cult and al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters from the Omar Brigade. Cooperation between Shia and Sunni insurgent groups is not a new development in Iraq, as Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and al_Qaeda cooperated during the Fallujah/Najaf uprisings in the spring and summer of 2004. Shia Iran has been supplying the Sunni insurgency, al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sunnah with weapons and bomb making materials, and is currently sheltering senior al-Qaeda leaders within its borders.

This kind of activity is precisely why the surge could work.

I tried not to Laugh

Courtesy of TPMCafe: Al Franken is leaving Air America to explore a run for Senate in Minnesota against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. Franken is set to announce his departure on his show later today; he's due to leave Air America on February 14. Coleman was narrowly elected in 2002, following the death of Paul Wellstone, with whom Franken was a personal friend.

It didn't work.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Stuck in the Mud

Will the 60's ever end?:

I was surprised to find that the crowd was comprised predominantly of middle-aged '60s throwbacks looking to recapture the glory days of the jarring folk music, campus occupations, and general social chaos that accompanied the Vietnam War. When the Raging Grannies showed up, it was hard to distinguish them from the rest of the crowd.

What a disappointment. Nothing against the old folks, but they simply can’t match the energy of a young crowd of college kids unencumbered by work responsibilities or age-related health problems. The whole rally was flat, dispirited, and even boring. I felt especially sorry for the speakers: it’s hard to rile up a crowd when so many attendees are afraid to stray too far from the porta-potties.

The languid mood was reflected in the pedestrian anti-war slogans. Speakers led the crowd in bland, rhythmless chants like “Troops! Home! Now!” and “Pull! Out! Now!,” thus showing an awkward reluctance to invoke words with more than one syllable. They couldn’t even muster the energy to launch into a refrain of the ‘ole “Hey, hey. Ho ho . . .” chant, a nice rhythmic incantation that is usually a staple of antiwar demonstrations.

Dominated by the '60s generation as it was, it was unsurprising to see a galaxy of signs and booths invoking the sacred cure-all of nearly every 1960s radical -- socialism. “Bush is the symptom, Capitalism is the disease, Socialism is the cure” blared one giant banner. “Defeat US Imperialism. Socialist revolution is the only solution” intoned a pennant by the League for the Revolutionary Party. “Defend China, North Korea, and Vietnam Against Imperialism and Capitalist Counter-Revolution!” was the motto of the Sparticist League. That last slogan I found to be one of the most offensive statements of the day -- right up there with one speaker’s invocation of Maureen Dowd as an authoritative social analyst.

It is sad that in thirty years, the U.S. Left hasn’t come up with a better idea than socialism.

And now on the other hand...

Things started to look up over the weekend in the Senate with this revelation from Republican Minority leader McConnell:

Senator Mitch McConnell's appearance on Face the Nation signaled clear victory for the victory Republicans. No resolution --not Biden's, Warner's or McCain's-- will advance without 60 votes for cloture. The Minority Leader also reminded the audience that General Petraeus made it clear he'd prefer no resolution. And after some nice words about Senator Warner. McConnell also announced he'd be voting against Warner's resolution.

The Pledge is nearing 30,000 signatures, and poll questions have been added on whether Senator Warner should step aside in '08 and on presidential preference among Pledge takers. The key for victory Republicans is to communicate with the Senate that they expect Republicans to support the troops, General Petraeus and victory, and that such support cannot be demonstrated by posturing through hair-splitting resolutions.

So happy days, no?

Well...no. Now the House, for the last two years the last bastion of conservatism in DC shows signs of following in the Senate Republicans footsteps. That is to say, they're contemplating resolutions of their own. At their peril, we might add:

...I strongly disagree with his "benchmarks" proposal, and I think that, like many senators, the House Republican leadership is seriously underestimating the anger in the party at the tactics they are employing on the war. They need to be defending the war, and the troops and General Petraeus, not searching for political cover.

Bill Kristol said it clearly yesterday: Congress has a role to play and the proper way to exercise it is via legislation. If they truly disagree with the President's plan, they have a responsibility to act, not posture in response.

Kate O'Bierne said it last week: Their convictions hold that he has endorsed a wholly unjustified escalation and will be leading troops on a futile mission. They want a role in the conduct of the war and with the need to win Senate confirmation of Gen. Petraeus the Constitution has given them one, but they have taken a pass.

I don't know how to say it any more strongly than this morning; this display of grandstanding, preening and politicking is simply disgusting, and transparently so.

I'm not ready to toss them all overboard because, well, it's all we got and the closest thing to conservative Government that we're going to have anytime soon. At the same time though, if I wanted Democratic policy in place, I'd vote for Democrats.

Show me something guys...stand up and fight or watch the rest of us sit down and sit out '08.

Oh Juan!

Of course he didn't get it. From yesterday's FNS panel discussion:

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Well, but you know, at the same time, doesn't the Congress have an obligation in a democracy to participate and to allow the will of the people in terms of midterm elections and the like to be reflected in terms of national policy?

KRISTOL: Yes. That's what legislation is for.

LIASSON: Cut off funding.

KRISTOL: Cut off funding. Pass laws.

WILLIAMS: The question here, then, is one that's political, and I think that's what we saw with General Petraeus this week, is that they feel look, this man's going out to fight a war and it would be anything but supportive to start nitpicking at him when you really want to take -- fire at the president.

HUME: What do you call a resolution?

WILLIAMS: No, we're talking about the president. We're talking about the president. They're willing to have a resolution...

HUME: Oh, I see. So Petraeus can have the troops, in their view -- it's OK for Petraeus to have the troops but not for the president?

WILLIAMS: No, it's OK to support Petraeus and to say very clearly that -- and this is a political calculation, Brit. I don't argue with that. It's a political calculation on the part of Democrats to say we want to be very clear with the American people, we're supporting the troops. But at the same time, they're opposed to this policy, and that's what they're saying.

In Juan's head it of course makes perfect sense to decry the mission while unanimously confirming--81 to 0--the man who helped design the strategy and who is charged with implementing it. Somehow the absurdity of it all is lost on the man.

Brit was right; it's Congress at it's least inspiring. If the Senate truly thinks the surge is as bad an idea as they continue saying it is, they have a responsibility to act in a meaningful way to stop it. To do anything else is to give their tacit approval to the man and the mission both and that is something they can't--or at least should never be allowed to--run away from later as many have done with their original votes on authorizing the President to act against Iraq.

It's political grandstanding in it's most pure form and it's disgusting.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Silent Vigil


Slick Six stands looking out over nearby Surf beach on the southern end of Vandenberg AFB in California. 21 years ago today, the Challenger explosion derailed NASA's planned expansion of the shuttle program to include West Coast launches, the first slated for 1988 from that very pad.

In nearby Lompoc construction was halted on new hotel rooms and other amenities that would have served the increased traffic expected to accompany the now-lost mission. The town struggled, but survived this blow to it's economy.

Over time, Slick Six has become the new home of the Delta IV rocket at Vandenberg. It stands now--long since renewed with purpose but also as a silent reminder. It reminds of the seven who perished that day and of the difficult days endured by NASA in the ensuing months.

I see it nearly everyday, driving Highway 1 to and from work, traveling between home and the base. It stands there large, with a constant watch over the Pacific with it's westward gaze. I can't help but wonder something else though nearly every time I see it.

"What if...?," it asks in a hushed tone. What if there had been no disaster? What if the launches had come as promised? What would it have meant for this city? What would it have meant for the space program?

An Everlasting Covenant

16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."
--Genesis 9:16

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Peeling away Plame

The coverage continues at JustOneMinute. This one looks like fun:

I understand that it may suit Mr. Lewis' story line, but I don't understand how one mention of less than 30 seconds with no apparent follow-up can be construed as "intensely interested in Ms. Wilson".

Of course, Mr. Lewis is a sly fox - what he wrote was "intensely interested in Ms. Wilson and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV", which literalists and Times editors can defend as correct - Libby and Cheney had an intense interest in Mr. Wilson and no discernible interest in his wife, at least per the account of Ms. Martin.

This is deceptive reporting, whether by incompetence or design.

It's almost ridiculous how easily out-of-their-depth even the most well-intentioned reporters can get on some subjects. In this case, even more so. You need a program to keep everybody straight...

Playing at Politics

Slapping down the Senate:

The Senate has unanimously confirmed General Petraeus to take command of U.S. forces in Iraq to implement the new mission in Baghdad with the help of additional forces. Rather than back a non-binding resolution of disaproval, why didn't the gutsy Senators, like Chuck Hagel, who are riding the surf of public opinion opposed to the troop surge and taking on a president with approval ratings at the freezing level vote aginst General Petraeus' confirmation? Their convictions hold that he has endorsed a wholly unjustified escalation and will be leading troops on a futile mission. They want a role in the conduct of the war and with the need to win Senate confirmation of Gen. Petraeus the Constitution has given them one, but they have taken a pass. Because Gen. Petraeus is an experienced, credentialed, credible advocate of the new strategy, Senators have no interest in tangling with him. When you're playing at being a military strategist you sure don't want to go up against the real thing, so better to have an unpopular commander-in-chief be the face of the new mission rather than the veteran general who will be in command.

Leave it to the professional writers to say it better than most of us. Regardless of who says it though, the absurdity of this position is just...well...absurd.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Running Scared

Republicans in the Senate are running scared, fast and hard in some cases away from Iraq. This, from the other day is especially galling.

Senator Warner to General Petraeus:

We're not a division here today of patriots who support the troops and those who are making statements and working on resolutions that could be translated as aiding and abetting the enemy. We're trying to exercise the fundamental responsibilities of our democracy and how this nation has two co-equal branches of the government, each bearing its own responsibilities.

I hope that this colloquy has not entrapped you into some responses that you might later regret. I wonder if you would just give me the assurance that you'll go back and examine the transcript as to what you replied with respect to certain of these questions and review it, because we want you to succeed.

. . . I'm very proud of this committee and I don't want an impression, certainly among the armed forces, that we're not all steadfast behind them.

"Leave the politics to us," indeed. Then, Sir, don't play politics with the soldiers. For whatever reason you've glommed onto the equivalent of the Democratic mantra of the last 2 years..."We support the troops!," only now you, like them, have turned on the mission.

The same day you want it made clear how much you support them, you sponsor a resolution which announces opposition to the plan--the commanding General of which--you unanimously confirmed on the same day as well. When that General was asked his opinion of the proposed resolutions floating around the Senate chambers in terms of their effects on morale in the combat zone, he gave you a direct answer. Too bad if you didn't like it.

Yes, we definitely ought to leave the politics to you. Because that, it seems, is all the 'upper' house is capable of.

You disagree with the mission, but you'll unanimously confirm the man who helped put the plan together and implement it while at the same time pompously pronouncing your support for the troops even while ignoring that same man's testimony as to your resolutions effects on said troops.

Politics, indeed.

Getting serious

It's the Rules of Engagement, stupid! It has been for a while now and will be for quite a while longer:

The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program, according to government and counterterrorism officials with direct knowledge of the effort.

For more than a year, U.S. forces in Iraq have secretly detained dozens of suspected Iranian agents, holding them for three to four days at a time. The "catch and release" policy was designed to avoid escalating tensions with Iran and yet intimidate its emissaries. U.S. forces collected DNA samples from some of the Iranians without their knowledge, subjected others to retina scans, and fingerprinted and photographed all of them before letting them go.

When Harry met Starbucks

After an early-morning appointment yesterday, I indulged with a quick stop at Starbucks on my way out of town. Once upon a time, Starbucks was a daily destination...a morning experience not to be missed.

Yesterday, it was like stepping into the movies. Sally was standing at the counter as I came in and I knew I was in for it before I moved into line behind her.

"...Yes, a pomegranate juice. I'd like a coffee...which is better?...okay, the Gold Coast...a Venti Gold Coast but I want it with a shot of espresso. Which would you recommend...?" On and on for four orders.

I lost my patience, backed out of line and wandered the store pretending to look at merchandise. Two more customers stepped in front of me and still she ordered.

By the time she was done, I was ten minutes later than I otherwise would have been but finally relieved. Though not quite satisfied.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why are we Here?

Prosecution witnesses have had some trouble keeping things straight in the first couple of days at the Libby trial. Several have in fact changed their stories to one degree or another:

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald didn't buy Libby's defense, ultimately deciding to indict Libby in November 2005. But now, at the long-awaited trial, some of Fitzgerald's witnesses are having memory problems of their own. Under cross examination by Libby's lawyers, two of Fitzgerald's first witnesses had to concede that they could not remember aspects, sometimes important aspects, of their roles in the Plame matter and that they gave conflicting accounts of events during interviews with the FBI, during appearances before Fitzgerald's grand jury, and at the trial itself.

Meanwhile, you've got testimony that fairly substantially rebukes the popularized memes of Administration pressuring the CIA in the run-up to Iraq and corroborating the SIC report where it determined that Joe Wilson got his job courtesy of Valerie:

"I mentioned it only in passing," Grenier testified. "I believe I said something to the effect that Ambassador Wilson's wife works there, and that is where the idea [for his taking the trip] came from."

"Why was it you felt that that was a piece of information that should be passed on to Mr. Libby?" asked Zeidenberg.

"The reason I said it was that I wanted to be as forthcoming as I possibly could," Grenier answered. "And to me it was an explanation as to why we had found this Ambassador Wilson and sent him off to Africa--I thought that was germane to the story."

"How was it in your mind germane to the story?"

"Because not only was she working in the Counterproliferation Division, she was working in the specific unit that had decided to sent Ambassador Wilson," Grenier answered. "There was some question of why-- and the reason of why was because his wife worked there."

From Byron's post: Beyond that, there are a lot of things said at the trial that don't get much coverage but which shed light on some major issues involving the Bush administration and the war. One such moment came with the testimony from CIA briefer Craig Schmall. Schmall recounted a time in which Libby mentioned being contacted by a reporter who said that he, the reporter, had a source in the CIA saying intelligence analysts were complaining of being pressured to come up with damning information in the run-up to the Iraq war. "[Libby] was annoyed that somebody at the Agency was talking to a reporter about this briefing," Schmall said. Schmall checked on it, and found nothing. "I talked to the manager who was present at the briefing," Schmall said. "I asked them if they felt pressured or bullied, and she said absolutely not, that they were actually happy to have the opportunity to talk to Vice President Cheney and Mr. Libby about their topics."

The Sim Strategy

The Sim strategy made public:


I have a friend who, in a phone conversation last weekend, said the unsayable. Come to think of it, this friend makes a specialty of saying the unsayable. That is one reason he is invaluable.

He said, “The Democrats have to win in 2008 — I mean, the whole enchilada: House, Senate, and presidency.” You ought to know that my friend is a staunch conservative Republican. “Why?” I said. “Why do they have to win?” He answered, “Because that’s the only way they will be fully onboard the War on Terror. They won’t fully support it otherwise, because they will always be trying to trip up the Republicans. If you want the Democrats onboard the War on Terror, they have to be in charge. Period.”

Sim simply stated that putting Democrats back at the table of power would require them to act more responsibly. So far at least, not so much.

This from Jay's friend however is almost too fatalistic for my tastes. It's like a joke we used to tell when I was in college. I've long since forgotten all but the punch line and it describes nicely the rotten choice argued for here:

You want death, or death by Bungie?

Inside Baghdad

Mohammed of Iraq the Model files an early report on the officially unofficial early stages of Operation Baghdad:

Apache attack helicopters are constantly hovering over Baghdad now. Tracking them from my home in this city I can often estimate where the action is taking place.

...

Today in Baghdad, American troops not only man checkpoints on main streets, but are also running daily patrols through the inner streets in residential blocs. Typically a patrolling unit will choose a number of homes to meet their occupants. It’s more like getting familiar with the locals than searching; the commander of the patrol talks to the head of the household and meets the members of the family. If one of them happens to know English the commander usually ask the translator to stay outside; most Iraqis prefer not to speak before other Iraqis when it comes to security concerns.

During such meetings the American officer introduces himself to the locals and explains to them the nature of his unit’s mission in the neighborhood. This is always followed questions on whether there were terrorists around and on the type of security issues in the area. The meetings sometimes end with taking a photograph with the head of the household; to memorialize the occasion and possibly for the unit’s records.

In our area the sounds of gunfire have hardly stopped the past few days. This morning I heard some explosions nearby, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on. The explosions intensify from time to time depending on the intensity and proximity of clashes. In general, the news reports we get in the city, and the information we hear from friends and relatives, indicate that most of the fighting is going on in Sleikh, Qaqhera, Azamaiya, al-Fadhl and Haifa street.

...

Although the major Baghdad plan isn’t officially launched yet, every day we see several joint operations against targets in and around the city. Still, according to the latest leaked reports, it seems as if the major implementations of the plan are going to wait until the beginning of next month,.

The government here says they are waiting for the buildup of participating troops to be completed, but I think it’s more likely that they are waiting for the Ashura ceremonies to end to allow pilgrims to travel between Baghdad and the shrines safely.

The waiting is proving to be more of a burden on the people of Baghdad than the operation itself would be. Patience is fading under the pressure of the increasing numbers of suicide attacks and the civilian deaths they cause. Baghdadis are desperately waiting for the operation to begin because they hope it can reduce the occurrence of these deadly attacks that distribute death equally among civilians.

However, and despite the spike in suicide bombings there’s a good sign. The numbers of unknown bodies that carry signs of torture have decreased significantly over the last two weeks, an official in the health ministry told al-Sabah:

[The source told al-Sabah that the number of unknown bodies that are collected by the security forces and brought to the morgue has drastically decreased…the number of bodies in the refrigerators is only 35 now and was as low as 11 on one day. Through daily presence near the morgue Al-Sabah noticed a significant decrease in the number of people searching for missing relarives]

Hadn't caught that report on CNN lately, how 'bout you?

Newt-O-Rama

Daniel Drezner wonders aloud about Newt Gingrich-as-potential-Presidential-candidate:

For the next nine months Gingrich intends to promote sweeping solutions to difficult issues of the day - particularly health care and national security - and then, like Lincoln in 1860, see if the call comes.

While such other GOP candidates as Senator John McCain, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani are hiring consultants and building donor networks, Gingrich has formed a tax-exempt advocacy group to raise money and promote his policies. He will wait until September - the eve of primary season - to announce whether he has the support to make it official.

Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.

However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail. Can someone who scores well in the blogger wonk demographic really develop mainstream appeal?

Intriguing indeed. At the risk of inviting oodles of hate-mail and right-wingnut diatribes (yeah right, that would mean people are reading), I've loved Newt since the Contract. It was brilliant then, it's still brilliant. He's brilliant.

I would take him in a heartbeat over the likes of Romney, Guiliani and of course McCain. But then again, I'd vote for either and both of my dogs before I voted for McCain...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

They should know better


A number of Senate Republicans have turned to jello on Iraq. They should know better.

From the Democrats, I understand it. It's what they do. But these folks should know better.

Though to his credit, Chuck did get off the nicest riff of the day:

"You want a safe job - go sell shoes!" Hagel told his colleagues.

His exhortation to colleagues, Democrat and Republican alike, is a breath of fresh air to some extent in that it's going to pin people down and make them accountable for their positions on Iraq. That is something that Congress--both houses for the most part--have escaped for most of the last 3 years.

What Chuck misses though is that this vote, as Hugh puts it so eloquently, dooms any and all of the Republican members foolish enough to sign on...to the point that it may in fact doom them to a semi-permanent minority status for the forseeable future.

Conservatives don't vote Republicans to the Senate so they can talk, act and ultimately vote like Democrats.

Running Down Plame

Er, actually a sort-of Plame rundown (yeah, that's what I meant!)...go visit JustOneMinute and marvel:

David Gregory, apparently a liar...

and changing stories...

James Joyner has thoughts on Grossman:

Marc Grossman, who came across as cool and cooperative in yesterday’s testimony, is bumbling and unhelpful today. Defense attorney Ted Wells asked him why, in two separate interviews with the FBI prior to his appearance before the grand jury, he told them that he had relayed information about Joe Wilson’s Niger trip by telephone but he is now telling the jury that it was in face-to-face meetings. He can not explain this.

Whoops.

Train-wreck waiting to happen. How exactly did this get to trial?

That man is too smart by half

Victor Davis Hanson chimes in on an apparently ill-advised Iraq criticism:

Noticed in the New York Times more of the old comparison of Iraq to Sicily, 415-413 B.C. But again, that might be a comparison that the writer would not like to make. Athens attacked not a dictator, but in Syracuse, the Greek world's largest democracy—sort of as if the United States in 2003 had suddenly invaded India. And despite Thucydides' own narrative of ample aid for the enterprise, the historian's own final assessment of the ill-planned expedition was that it nevertheless might have worked had those at home consistently offered their united support. And finally, Sicily did not wreck Athens, despite the horrendous losses of 40,000 and most of the fleet. Within months it was laying down new triremes, and lasted another 9 years, recreating an entirely new navy, inflicting terrible punishment on the Spartan fleet, unwisely refusing all peace-feelers over the next decade, all before being ruined at Aegospotami. Somehow a nation of 300 million losing 3,000 brave soldiers in an effort to depose a monstrous, mass-murdering dictator and foster democracy in his place, with a congressional vote of authorization, doesn't seem comparable to the Sicilian expedition-especially when the verdict is still out...

I've made that last point myself but of course since only about 10 people read this, it's not very well received, if at all. The fact that anyone would think making historical judgments--or in this instance comparisons--about Iraq while that history is till being made, boggles the mind.

Chin Blogging

Welcome to the party!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Figures

I've already read one review of the SOTU calling it President Bush's best (not to mention criticism of the canned variety as well). Well of course...that would be the year that I sit it out in favor of personal obligations to family and friends.

Meanwhile, Peter Robinson offers forceful commentary about what appears to have been a forceful statement of conservative principals in many ways and perhaps the best explanation of Iraq and the President's foreign policy in five years:

But listen to this: “A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy.” Or to this: “[We need to expand the econony] not with more government, but with more enterprise.” These were the most straightforward, compelling statement of the fundamental importance of free markets that this president has uttered in many months. On balancing the budget “without raising taxes,” on reducing earmarks, on reforming entitlements, on the need for school vouchers, and in presenting his plan to restore tax neutrality to health spending—in nearly every word of his domestic agenda, the president proved serious, compelling, and—a word I’d almost given up associating with him—conservative.

The section on the war on terror? The best statement of his case since his speech to the nation on September 20, 2001. Whereas a year ago the president spoke about Iraq in words he might almost have used a full year earlier, tonight he was specific to this moment. He explained how we reached this point, what we face now—and what he intends to do about it. “Whatever you voted for,” he said to his audience, “you did not vote for failure.” Superb.

The speech was straightforward, solidly delivered, and cogent—a case made in full, an argument. It would have represented a fine piece of work at any time. But at this moment, when the nation is disheartened, when the president’s political opponents appear positively giddy with his standing in the polls, and when some two-thirds of Congress appears to be clamoring for retreat from Iraq—at this moment the speech represented a really splendid act of courage.

Hard is not Hopeless

General David Petraeus in his Senate testimony today made the obvious point that I've made here and elsewhere far less eloquently. From his response to questioning from Senator Kennedy:

Sen. Edward Kennedy asked him why an extra 21,500 would make a significant difference. Petraeus replied that the important factor was how extra troops are used, not their numbers. Their main focus, he said, will be on securing the civilian population of the capital rather than killing insurgents..."

The Senator from Massachusetts makes a good stand-in for all who profess their lack of understanding on why and how the surge can--though not guaranteed to--work in Baghdad.

Aside from that obvious point, Petraeus also made it clear that from his view of things, the day is not lost:

"The situation in Iraq is dire. The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard. ... But hard is not hopeless," he said...

A point that, sadly, Congress doesn't get.

Nothing learned, nothing gained

Nothing new:

Parties do split, and the Congressional Republicans seem headed toward such a breakdown. The Congressional Republicans are putting forward positions that were not part of the party's agenda in the fall, and not part of the leadership elections that followed either. They are positions far removed from the party's core commitment to national security and an aggressive war against terror in Iraq and elsewhere.

What is it about minority status that rips the spine out of GOP members of Congress?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Again...Still?

Herschel Smith at The Captain's Journal observed yet another instance of our Government at war...with itself. Pointing out that the President in his announcing of the Baghdad surge, also intimated a significant change in strategy vis-a-vis Iran and Syria, he then highlighted numerous disappointing signs that other members of the Administration (officials and/or their bureaucracies) are hard at work continuing their fight against the President and his efforts:

The U.S. is at a strategic and unique point in history, with Iran and Syria among the top reasons that stability has not been brought to Iraq, Iran aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons, and both countries fomenting the spread of jihadism throughout the region. Decisions made at the highest levels of government over the coming months will have deep and lasting impacts on civilization for many generations to come. It is apparent that the general public does not comprehend the momentous and watershed events upon us, and it is equally apparent that this administration is not girded for the struggle.

...

Assessment and Commentary

Ostensibly, the administration has finally fully engaged in the war that Iran and Syria are conducting on the U.S. by proxy fighters. Or have they? Any threat by Iran to conduct conventional warfare against the U.S. is likely a hollow threat, and their biggest threat is still asymmetric warfare. They are conducting this with ease and without apology. As I have discussed in The Broader War: Redefining our Strategy for Iraq, Iraq is part of a regional problem and thus will require a regional solution. Iran is part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

Yet after issuing sanctions on Iran, some members of the EU want a more nuanced approach to support for nuclear programs from the IAEA to Iran, believing that this will once again engage Iran rather than "forcing them into a corner." Inside Iraq, a top Shi'ite politician, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, strongly criticized the U.S. detention of the Iranian agents, literally calling it an "attack on Iraq's sovereignty."

Kuwait has made known their desire that the U.S. engage in talks with Iran, and Iraq's foreign minister increased the pressure yet again on the U.S. by promising to Iran's foreign minister to free the detained Iranians. Iran has all but dismissed any potential hit on its nuclear facilities, telling the world not to take seriously the possibility that the U.S. will follow through with such plans.

In the most ham-handed diplomatic move since the beginning of the war, it seems that the administration cannot retreat fast enough from Bush's threats to Iran.

Sen. Joseph Biden, now Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman (and a Dem presidential contender), sent a letter to Bush after a question-and-answer confrontation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Biden said Rice had been evasive on whether Bush's statements meant that U.S. military personnel could cross into Iran or Syria in pursuit of insurgent support networks. He also asked whether the administration believes the president could order such action without first seeking explicit congressional approval--as Biden thinks he must.

But regardless of how far the President has authorized U.S. forces to go in search of rogue elements, the administration cannot even seem to muster the resolve to allow the Iranians to think that we will enter their territories. Continuing,

... administration officials (anonymous due to diplomatic sensitivities) concede that Bush's Iran language may have been overly aggressive, raising unwarranted fears about military strikes on Tehran. Instead, they say, Bush was trying to warn Iran to keep its operatives out of Iraq, and to reassure Gulf allies--including Saudi Arabia--that the United States would protect them against Iranian aggression. A senior administration official, not authorized to speak on the record, says the policy is part of the new Iraq offensive. "All this comes out of our very detailed, lengthy review of strategy from last fall," he says. Recent intel indicates the government of Iran, or elements in it, have stepped up interference in Iraqi political affairs and the supply of weapons to Iraqi Shiite insurgents, say several U.S. intel and national-security officials, anonymous when discussing sensitive material. "The reason you keep hearing about Iran is we keep finding their stuff there, " Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace said Friday. Two of the officials, however, indicated Bush had not signed a secret order--known as an intel 'finding' authorizing the CIA or other undercover units to launch covert operations to undermine the governments of Iran and Syria.

At a time when the world is watching for resolve, the President's handlers are denuding the story and handing him the worst foreign affairs blunder in recent memory. With a softer approach to counterinsurgent warfare in Iraq possible, along with a strangled story as soon as it leaves the President's lips, we are kicking the proverbial can down the road in the hope that we do not finally have to deal with it. But that can will only be kicked so far.

So at what point does this kind of counter-productive, "We know better than you," kind of backstabbing become not an annoyance but a hindrance to any hoped-for accomplishment and and, dare we say, start inching towards treasonous contempt for the authority of the Chief Executive at a time of war?

Ding Dong, the $%# - %^&#@* Witch is Dead!

God Bless Peyton Manning, his sore thumb and the Colts' defense...

This one was Manning at his best.

He was the first-round draft pick in 1998, considered a prototypical, can't-miss guy despite the fact that he could never win the big one in Tennessee, falling to archrival Florida three times when the Vols might have been good enough to win it all.

He was 0-2 in the playoffs against New England, and the storyline all week was what a break the Colts got to get the Patriots at home, and what a sensational feeling it would be to finally knock off the team that bedeviled them most.

Manning conceded during the week that he could hear the clock ticking as his career entered its prime, especially as the disappointments mounted.

His teammates protected him, saying the quarterback shouldn't shoulder all the burden for the franchise's inability to break through and make the Super Bowl.

But now Indy has finally done it, for the first time since owner Bob Irsay's midnight move from Baltimore back in 1984 found the Colts in the Midwest, adopted at first by a basketball-loving fan base, then embraced when Manning came into the fold.

The Patriots lost for the first time in six trips to the AFC championship game, as coach Bill Belichick found himself uncharacteristically unable to shut down Peyton and Co.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

That loud explosion...

What you heard was the sound of exploding heads at Daily Kos:

Once again the "independent Democrat" from Connecticut is burnishing his Republican credentials, this time by announcing that he will join in a filibuster against the Senate resolution opposing the escalation of troops in Iraq.

MS. BLOCK: Can you imagine a scenario where you would join in with a Republican filibuster to stop the resolution, if it comes to that?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I can because I think that it – this is this important.


Calling the resolution, "phony," Lieberman says:

I say to those who are opposed to what the president is now suggesting that they have a responsibility to do one thing: one is to come up with a better plan if they don’t like this one...

I'd suggest that BarinMD double-down and check out this report from yesterday:

Seeking to capitalize on Democratic discord, House Republicans declared their readiness to "rally" together on Iraq, hoping to bring some Democrats over to their side.

The generally unified Democratic position on Iraq has reached a crossroads: two sizable groups of congressmen are set to diverge on whether or not to call on the Bush administration to redeploy American troops from Iraq.

All that precint-walking, all those phone calls, all the elctioneering and all the anger...could it all be for nothing!?

Speaking into Reality

Clarice Feldman, frequent commenter at Just One Minute and co-blogger at American Thinker and legal expert in her own right, shares her thoughts about the jury selection process in the Libby trial this week. The prime observation is one that seems obvious to defenders of the Administration and their behavior. Seeing it stated as such though is troubling:

On January 16, Libby filed a motion asking that he be permitted to probe the extent of exposure jurors had to such coverage.

As previously noted by the defense, the pretrial publicity in this case has been significant and in many cases has included inaccurate and inflammatory statements and assertions that are unduly prejudicial to Mr. Libby. Therefore, in connection with the voir dire, the defense will need to ask certain venire members about their exposure to such publicity and probe whether that exposure has affected their ability to impartially judge the facts in this case. Such individualized voir dire is necessary to give the Court an adequate basis for determining whether the venire member will be able to render a verdict based on the evidence adduced at trial, and not incomplete facts and speculation circulating before trial. See United States v. Liddy, 509 F.2d 428, 434-35 (D.C. Cir. 1974). Attached to this pleading are a sample of instances of publicity.... [emphasis added]

The exhibits contained biased and inaccurate and inflammatory press coverage of the case, beginning with the Special Prosecutor's unfortunate and misleading press conference transcript (I have discussed this presser before and it is part of the complaint I filed with the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Integrity).

Sunny Day, a JustOneMinute Poster, has put the exhibits in html format for easier reading here, here, here, and here.

I have no record of an order being entered to permit what Libby requested, but based on my observations from the media room at the courthouse, the defense was allowed to ask jurors what they knew about the case and how they learned it, with particular attention to the coverage attached as exhibits to the pleading Libby filed.

As the defendant was a member of the Administration, and other officials including Vice President Cheney are expected to testify, counsel probed whether the potential jurors' views of the Administration would impair their ability to fairly judge the case.

That this pretrial publicity has had a pervasive, poisonous effect on public opinion of the defendant was obvious in the jury selection process yesterday. A majority of the potential jurors I saw had not only heard of the case but had adopted the false narrative of it: that Libby was being tried for disclosing the name of a an undercover CIA agent as vengeance for her husband's exposing Administration lies about Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium in Africa. That is to say, they had been reached by the press narrative that the administration lied, Wilson told the truth and Libby, uncaring of national security, "outed" her to pay back her husband for speaking truth to power.

Takes you back doesn't it? Back to the heady days when everyone was certain that the Bushies were punishing Joe by ruining Valerie's career for political reasons. Yes, those were the days!

Too bad it never happened that way except in the WaPo and NY Times.

UPDATE: And don't forget The Nation's David Corn.

Not surprising

A couple of Saturday unsurprises:

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled her intentions to begin a widely anticipated campaign for the White House on Saturday. The former first lady, intent on becoming the first female president, said on her web site message, “I’m in and I’m in to win.”

Glad to see we've cleared up that six-years worth of suspense.

Southern California assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian withdrew from the Oakland Raiders' coaching race Friday, just days after apparently emerging as the favorite to succeed Art Shell.

As any sane man would.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Crisis!

Big Orange is out to get us...thank God we have a Congress willing to stand up to the capitalist pig-dogs!

When Sucking wouldn't Suck

When ridiculousness like this doesn't apply to you because, well, you suck:

S.1 has been introduced in the Senate as "lobbying reform" -- which in this case means "First Amendment infringements." An amendment has been attached, which requires registration of bloggers with more than 500 readers, and who comment on policy issues. Violation would be a criminal offense.

I looked it up on the Library of Congress webpage (which is essentially unlinkable) and have attached section 220 in extended remarks, below. As the bill is reported, it appears to cover any "paid" grassroots lobbying, that reaches more than 500 people. But a blogger who receives contributions might be classed as a "paid" grassroots type. It looks like Congress wants to keep an eye on annoying people like Porkbusters. It may be significant that S.1 was introduced by Harry Reid, one of the Kings of Pork.

At Running the Gauntlet, the list of Senators on-board with this restriction includes, for the most part, most of the usual suspects. Looking at the Republican names sadly lends credence to the idea that the bill's intent is purely to stop criticism.

How so? Recall that over the summer Senator Trent Lott was actively and proudly crusading against earmark reform. He took not-so-kindly to criticism leveled at he and the Senate both from the likes of Porkbusters. And here is the new Minority Whip signing on with the likes of other free-speech quellers like Harry Reid.

That's the bad news. The 'good' news is that said restrictions apply 'only' to those fortunate enough to be read by 500 or more supporters.

So when you're putting up those killer numbers like we do, it's almost like the speech-police don't exist!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Made in Moronica

Direct from Moronica and not-nearly-at-all-ready-for-prime-time, dueling rants today in the local letters to the editor. Well, not really dueling...they both take a similar tack on the same subject.

It's more appropriate to say they are competing rants. Competing, that is, for for the odious distinction of being some of the least well-thought out and downright mindless criticisms to run in the local paper(s) for quite some time. First from Terry in Lompoc:

It is unfathomable to me that after the American people, the bipartisan study committee on Iraq, retired and current generals and even many Republicans have voiced their opinions in favor of a phased plan for a quick withdrawal from this pointless and costly war in Iraq, our president continues on his unilateral course to win in Iraq.

By not listening to any of these important and critical voices, he demonstrates once again that he cares only for himself and his delusions of victory in a war that has no purpose, and in a war that was begun under false pretenses and lies to the American people and their elected officials.

This dreadful war has only created chaos for the Iraqi people and has needlessly killed hundreds of thousands, including 3,000 of our kids, spouses and other loved ones.


Not only should Congress exercise its constitutional authority to hold the president accountable, it should begin the impeachment process to oust the most dangerous president this country has every had.


Meanwhile, from idyllic Nipomo we have more meme-spewing. Over-stating things, you say? That's part of what we do in Moronica:

How bad do things have to get before Congress does its job and impeaches an unelected war president?

It's clear he is not capable of change. He was put in Washington by and for the rich because they want it all. "Mistakes were made" suggests that Iraq is somebody else's fault. Mistakes are still being made and there is one stubborn fool responsible.

If ever there was a need to impeach a president, this is it, before he manages to force his nut version of Armageddon upon the world.

Americans are not the superior race, human beings are, so let's act like it and stop stealing from our weaker brothers.

If we trade fairly for resources instead of allowing corporate thugs to use our military to barge in and monopolize everything for billions they don't need, we can have more friends than enemies. We must replace the corporate decider with a president for the people, like voters did in Bolivia.

Remember the lessons of Disney's "Fantasia." What happened when Mickey got hold of the Wizard's wand of power? Wake up the wizards in Congress to take the wand from the hands of a fool.

Watch "Fantasia," believe, and impeachbush.org.

I personally lost count of the regurgitated talking points by the time I got to the end. And how 'bout that closing analogy!? Powerful stuff.

And yes, I've wondered for quite some time why there hasn't been a greater cry for Bolivian-style leftward lurches in the mainstream body politic.

Local evidence

Oil dipping significantly...gas and heating oil supplies actually up...what's the world coming to?

It must be true if both Unocal stations in town--the only two big-oil stations in town and where prices have exceeded $2.60 a gallon for weeks now--have dropped nearly 10-cents in a week. Hasn't stopped them from being over-priced relative to everybody else, but progress is progress.

The Good first Step

The Mahdi Army whines...

Mahdi Army fighters said Thursday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in pinpoint nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shiite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments.

The two commanders' account of a growing siege mentality inside the organization could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia was increasingly off balance and had ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.

Of all the Charlie Brown's in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest!


Aargh!...yes.

Or is it?

Filling in

It's my co-blogger and fan-in-mourning Sim who is better known for early-morning Hitch-fests. Given that he's in mourning and abstaining from all things blog related, I figured I'd take a stab at it.

Hitchens appeared on Hugh's show yesterday, drawn into a discussion about Iraq; most specifically about ever-present comparisons to Vietnam. The most vivid and thought provoking moments came at the end, when pressed on the question of culpability should we leave and Iraq fall into chaos:

HH: Christopher Hitchens, when we went to break, I posed to you this question. How is it possible for anti-war activists, as you were during Vietnam, to not be culpable for the Cambodian holocaust, and at the same time that those arguing for cut and run today would in fact be culpable for the chaos and the slaughter that would follow in Iraq, if their advice to cut and run was in fact followed?

CH: Right. Well, deep breath, then. The American enterprise in Indochina was, I think, foredoomed by one thing, namely its direct inheritance from French colonialism in that region. The French empire should never have been restored after 1945. I think if President Roosevelt had not died, it wouldn’t have been. The United States should not have tried to come to its rescue, and shouldn’t have tried to succeed it. It’s not America’s role to succeed Western colonialism. It’s its role to help those colonies to become emancipated. And we missed that chance, and having missed it, engaged in a war where terrifying and illegal methods of warfare, like carpet bombing, the use of chemical defoliant, like Agent Orange, and other terrible war crimes were committed. And part of the reason why Cambodia went to year zero was that it had been half bombed back into the Stone Age already. And I’m sorry that should be on the conscience of anyone who supported the war, which I did not. But thought I don’t try and evade the responsibility for what the other side eventually did, not just in Cambodia, but also in Vietnam, but there was never any chance of keeping Vietnam partitioned, and it shouldn’t have been tried. Now furthermore, no American interest was really involved there. We were told we were fighting against the Chinese takeover, whereas the best insurance against Maoism in Indochina is always Vietam. That’s been proved many times since then. So none of this applies in the case of Iraq, where we went to overthrow a hideous dictatorship that was a local aggressor, a sponsor of international terrorism, had used weapons of mass destruction inside and outside its own borders, was hated by its people, and was in thoroughgoing breach of all important United Nations resolutions. None of this, by the way, was the case with the government of Vietnam. Where furthermore, let’s not be shy about it, we do have a crucial interest, first in keeping the Gulf open, and its oil available, not just for us, but for everybody else, getting it pumped again, particularly important to pump Iraqi oil, because we need to undercut the monopolies of Saudi Arabia and Iran in the area. That’s a vital interest. Second, I don’t think that a single Democrat who doesn’t agree that we are in fact in some kind of war, however defined, with Islamic extremism, and not just in the Middle East either, but in Indonesia, and on the streets of European capitol cities, and that it is completely out of the question to concede a country of the importance of Iraq to these people. We cannot allow them to take over, first for humanitarian reasons, the country would be destroyed, and the people would be put to the sword, and second, because, well, for the advertised reasons. It’s just too strategically and economically important a country to let that happen.
HH: Now that part I understand.


CH: We’ve entered Iraq far too late, Saddam Hussein could have, should have been taken out in 1991, shouldn’t even probably have been allowed to stay there that long, Jimmy Carter should never have been allowed to endorse his invasion of Iran, we’re paying for the price of two generations worth of mistakes that for once, we’re there for a good reason.

HH: But Mr. Hitchens, the key that I didn’t hear answered is, once foreseeability of massacre attaches, regardless of how we ended up there…
CH: Yes…


HH: …as it did in Vietnam in 1972, doesn’t moral culpability attach to those who are indifferent to those foreseeable slaughters? And doesn’t that apply to the Cambodian holocaust?

CH: Well, I will not make this my own argument, but I’ll simply say that argument that I could anticipate being made, which is people would say well, how much worse could it get? All the things you’re afraid of are already happening, and partly because of the bungling of the occupation, and the bad planning of it. And that’s not a completely unfair point. There could come a point where everything we fear happens while we’re still there. And that is my personal fear. That’s what I wake up and go to sleep worrying about.

HH: Last question, because we’re almost out of time. Do you wake up and go to sleep ever worrying about your opposition to the Vietnam war and the holocaust that happened in Cambodia?

CH: Not to the first, no, because if it had been up to me, the war, which is what led to the bloodletting and the starvation and all the rest of it, would never have occurred in the first place. So for me, the Vietnam war was definitively over in 1954, when the French Army surrendered in Dien Bien Phu, and it was at that point that the United States should have recognized…

HH: And to the second?

CH: …Ho Chi Minh’s declaration of independence.

HH: And to the second?

CH: And to the second, well, this is what I would say now, what I hope I don’t hear Democrats saying in the case of Iraq. If since we didn’t ask for the war in the first place, don’t blame me if it all ends very badly, which it did in Vietnam, as it was absolutely bound to do. It wasn’t a just war, it wasn’t a necessary war, and it was fought with atrocious means.

HH: No culpability?


CH: None of these three things apply in the case of Iraq. It was a just intervention, and a necessary and overdue one, and on the whole, our forces have behaved with exemplary humanitarianism.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

***Sigh***

And without firing a shot. One lawyers' opinion:

Is there no principle subject to negotiation? Is there no course subject to reversal? For the Bush administration to argue for years that this program, as operated, was critical to our national security and fell within the president's Constitutional authority, to then turnaround and surrender presidential authority this way is disgraceful. The administration is repudiating all the arguments it has made in testimony, legal briefs, and public statements. This goes to the heart of the White House's credibility. How can it cast away such a fundamental position of principle and law like this?

It seems odd, given the President's attitude with regards to questions of Executive authority. I'm with Levin; I don't get it.

Update: Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy has a theory:

I'm not entirely sure I know what to make of Attorney General Gonzales's letter today about the NSA surveillance program, but I wonder if I'm quirky in reading it possibly to mean that DOJ found a judge who was willing to approve the entire TSP program under FISA.

...

The letter also says that as a result of this development, the President no longer needs to and will not reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program.The letter also says that as a result of this development, the President no longer needs to and will not reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

...

If this does involve a blanket order approving the entire program, it would seem to be a very clever move by DOJ. It would achieve four things, as I see it. First, it would make the TSP program very difficult to challenge. I gather no one would have standing to appeal the FISC order to the FISA Court of Review; even if the FISC order is unlawful, it's unclear as a procedural matter how it could be challenged. Second, it might moot the pending NSA litigation, or at least render any opinion in that case of very limited consequence. Third, it puts the Administration in the position of having obtained a court order, so that even if the order is unlawful it's "the judge's decision" rather than the Executive's. And fourth, it might help persuade the press to focus elsewhere; the press would be sure to present this as a concession to the Administration's critics (as the N.Y. Times did today), and the press is likely to be much less interested after they think the Administration has backed down.

Of course, whether this is true depends on whether the Administration obtained some kind of blanket order or plans to get orders on a case-by-case basis. And it's unclear when or if we'll know which occurred.

Another case of the Bush sucker-punch?: George W. Bush knows much more information about these topics than his domestic political opponents do. At the moment, they are betting a lot of their chips on one side of these questions.

True then, maybe true now. Who knows?

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