Friday, May 28, 2004

Judy Miller? Sure, But Don't Forget Tom Friedman

Judy Miller of course merits a special place in the Whores for War Hall of Infamy, but no less deserving is the Times' Man in the Middle East - Tom Friedman.

Max Blumenthal reminds us today that Friedman's sellout was even "more egregious - and more influential" than Miller's. He also reveals that Friedman's rationale for war was at once naive, credulous and tinged with racial overtones.

Thanks, Max. We shouldn't forget who took a stand when it counted and who sold out, and Mr. Friedman, his recent epiphany notwithstanding, deserves to be remembered for stepping so conspicuously out of character to support a war so plainly contrary to the policies he's long espoused.

Why Do We Believe That George Bush Is A Man Of Conviction?

Melinda Henneberger has a very good column in this week's edition of Newsweek, entitled "Is Iraq A Just War?" Henneberger concludes that the Iraq war is not a just war, but declines to indict the Deserter for cynically launching us into an unjust war:

I am not among those critics who believe that our president sent soldiers into Iraq to grab their oil, or to finish what his father started, or even to help him win re-election this November. On the contrary, I look at Bush and see a man who firmly believes he did the right thing. But as both admirers and critics have often noted, it would be out of character for him to feel otherwise.
I cannot subscribe to this theory that George Bush was firm in his conviction that the U.S. must depose Saddam, that he was possessed of a messianic fervor to rid the world of the Iraq threat, or that he was convinced he was "doing right."

There were certainly many in his Administration that fit this description of a "true believer" in the cause of war on Iraq, and we know who they are: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and Libby. And we know how they reacted in the aftermath of September 11th. Woodward's book, as well as accounts provided by Richard Clarke and others, recount how the neocons (particularly Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) seemed to assume that a move against Iraq would be part of the immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, even though there was no reason to believe that Iraq was involved. The "true believers" vociferously opposed efforts by the Administration to go to the U.N. to enlist broader support for the war, fearing that a resounding rebuff would impede the drive to war. The "true believers", particularly Cheney, were unequivocal in their claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. However, none of these reactions, attitudes or beliefs can be ascribed to George Bush. George Bush's actions and statements in the aftermath of September 11th and through the end of 2002 reveal a picture of a man more cautious than hellbent, a man riding a war tiger lashed by the neocons rather than a man doing the lashing.

The scene at the White House on September 12, 2001 is very illuminating. Rumsfeld had already decided that Iraq was the target, lamenting that there weren't "enough good targets" in Afghanistan (it's true; you can't make this stuff up). "I realized," former counterterror chief Richard Clarke recalls of the September 12th meeting, "that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq." None of the accounts of the September 12th meeting indicate that the presence or absence of evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11 was considered important, even though strikes against Iraq were a prominent option and seemingly the primary option in the opinion of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Rather, Bush waited until after the meeting, outside of the presence of the neocons, to raise with Clarke the question of whether Iraq may have been involved in the 9/11 attacks. The true believers, like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, had already deemed evidence irrelevant. Bush however, according to Clarke's account, seemed almost desperate to establish a Saddam connection, and he raised it with Clarke after the neocons had departed because any suggestion that a valid Iraqi connection was a necessary pretext for war against Iraq would have branded him a heretic in the Church of the Neocons.

The debate within the administration regarding whether to seek U.N. support for the war on Iraq has been widely reported, and the vehement opposition of the administration's neocons to Colin Powell's efforts to broaden support for the Iraq war has been well documented. This is one battle (perhaps the only one in the Iraq theatre) that Powell won, however, as Bush sanctioned Powell's attempt to build an international coalition. Powell's inability to form that coalition, burdened as it was by just skepticism in the international community about the neocons intentions and the grandstanding of Jacques Chirac, has inarguably rendered the Iraq war a diplomatic defeat for the U.S. and a catastrophe for American leadership in the world. Bush's willingness to permit Powell to make an attempt, however, signals that he was not a "true believer." This is not to say that Bush envisioned a U.N. rebuff as a means of avoiding war, but rather that Bush was willing to suffer a bump on the road to war in exchange for the political cover provided by the apparent diplomatic attempt at the U.N.

On the subject of Iraqi WMDs, Bush, although willing to insinuate the worst about Saddam's capabilities, was careful to avoid unequivocal claims of Iraqi WMD capabilities. Careful, that is, until Cheney stated in an August 26, 2002 speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville that "[t]here is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." This claim, so conspicuously at odds with the administration's reluctance to date to make such an unequivocal claim, was made by Cheney without Bush's prior knowledge or approval according to Woodward. Bush immediately began emulating Cheney's misguided certainty. Again, the picture is one of Bush following, not leading the way.

No, George Bush is not a "true believer", nor was he motivated by anything beyond base political calculations in his decision to go to war with Iraq. He made a deal with the neocons for their support prior to nailing down the Republican nomination. The selection of neocon insider Dick Cheney as Bush's running mate was one of the quid pro quos obtained by the neocons for their pledge of support. The other quid pro quo was that George Bush would do what it took to get rid of Saddam Hussein and secure Iraq as a base for U.S./Israeli hegemony in the middle east. Bush fully realized the political risks inherent in this course of action but, as any presidential aspirant knows, you first take care of getting into the White House, then you worry about what you'll do when you get there. Bush's sensitivity to the political risks attending a headlong rush into war with Iraq explains his relative footdragging in the war dash, but his political sensitivities also told him that if he crossed the neocons they'd terminate his presidency, just as they had the presidency of his father.

So George W. Bush played ball with the neocons, held up his end of the bargain, and committed the U.S. to a war that was doomed to failure from the start for lack of international support and the inevitability of a lengthy and bitter occupation. Worst of all, from Bush's political perspective, the Iraq war has not proved a political asset. Perhaps had he dragged his feet a little more the war would not have started until months later, and the full consequences of the failure to find WMDs, the realities of the occupation and the hopelessness of our situation in Iraq would not yet be apparent to the electorate. But that would have run the risk that Hans Blix and the U.N. weapons inspectors, already close to certifying Saddam's full cooperation in March 2003, would have derailed the war effort altogether by reporting that Iraq was WMD-free. So Dubya finds himself today in roughly the same position as his father was in May of 1992: fallen from the heights of popularity provided by a swift military victory and watching helplessly as the aftermath of war overwhelms his presidency.

Like father, like son. If only, for the sake of our country, George the First would have taken his son aside in January or February or March of 2003 and whispered in his hear, speaking of the Iraq war option, "wouldn't be prudent."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Era Of Unaccountability

Sports Illustrated reports today that the University of Colorado has reinstated its football coach, Gary Barnett, following a suspension for cosmic loutishness. When questioned by the press regarding allegations by a former female kicker on the team that she had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of various of her male teammates, Barnett launched into an embarrassing non sequitur about this woman's deficiencies as a football player. That incident, coupled with various other accounts of Barnett's willingness to overlook other allegations of sexual misconduct by his players, resulted in his suspension last February.

Under Barnett, the Colorado football program has been rocked with nine separate sexual assault allegations (none of which resulted in charges) and allegations that recruits to Colorado's football program have been plied with sex, drugs and alcohol provided or arranged for by Colorado football players. A commission appointed by the University's Board of Regents concluded last week that the recruiting abuses had in fact occurred, but found no evidence that Barnett or other Colorado officials "knowingly sanctioned" such practices. Barnett and other Colorado officials were criticized in the report for lax oversight and a failure to promptly respond to reports of recruiting violations and abuses. The commission recommended greater oversight of the athletic program by the University.

Meanwhile, three of the women that accused Colorado football players of sexual misconduct have filed federal suits alleging that the University was responsible for a hostile environment that created conditions that led to the assaults. Man, if I'm the attorney for the plaintiffs the videotape of Barnett's dismissive response to press inquiries regarding the rape allegations is exhibit 1A in support of the charge that Barnett and the University created a hostile environment. Exhibit 1B is the University's decision to retain Barnett after its own commission found that Barnett had not been duly diligent in overseeing recruiting practices.

University President Betsy Hoffman announced a "sweeping overhaul" of the administration of the athletic program, but decided that neither Barnett, Athletic Director Richard Tharp nor any other official in the scandal-ridden Colorado athletics department would lose their job. How does one effect a "sweeping overhaul" without replacing any of the parties that presided over failure?

No doubt the neanderthals will seize on the fact that none of the nine sexual assault allegations were prosecuted and that the commission found "no evidence" that any official had knowingly sanctioned the recruiting abuses. But we should be careful not to take the evidentiary standard used in deciding whether society will deprive one accused of a crime of his liberty and apply that standard to decisions regarding the continued employment of manifestly poor administrators. That's like saying George Bush should retain the Presidency as long as he hasn't been convicted of a crime. But neither Bush nor Barnett have any right to their positions; they serve with the leave of their employers and if they serve poorly they should be canned.

I'm not arguing that Gary Barnett is guilty of a crime and should go to prison; I'm arguing that he and Tharp headed a football program that has been out of control for years, and his actions and public statements lend credence to the inference that the football program's problems stem in part from his apparent belief that the only thing that matters is how well one plays football. This isn't about evidentiary standards, it's about the University of Colorado either deciding to preserve its reputation or give animal house behavior in its athletic program a wink and nod. The University's decision to hold no one accountable for the documented failures of its athletic program sends the message that if you can kick the ball through the uprights then you're entitled to be free from sexual assault, but if your kicks are wide...well, stop whining about getting raped and get your ass back on the practice field.

Are we living in the era of unaccountability? In both the Univ. of Colorado scandal and the Abu Ghraib scandal we see administrators who unmistakably conveyed to their subordinates their indifference to certain conventions and then profess shock when these conventions are disregarded by subordinates. They then engage in an absurd minuet of formally assuming responsibility while deflecting accountability.

I'm not naive about the way the world works. We all know that niceties like recruiting regulations will take a backseat to winning football games as long as the television guys are willing to pay millions to broadcast bowl games and Universities are getting their cut. And we all know that the Deserter and Rummy and Ashcroft really don't give a damn if innocent Iraqis are beaten, tortured or murdered. But that doesn't change the fact that when these guys fuck up, we must hold them accountable lest they keep fucking up. Just like Rummy and the neocons continue to do. Failure begets failure, and that's what we'll continue to get until someone in the Deserter's administration stands up and says unequivocally and emphatically:

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Man Who Should Be President

We have fucked up in the past, and we'll fuck up again. But I don't think we've ever fucked up like we did in November 2000.

The Man Who Should Have Been President spoke today, and spoke with a candor that is perhaps easy for one out of office but nonetheless welcome for its forthrightness.

"We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.

"Condoleeza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately.

"George Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special word about George Tenet, because he is a personal friend and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation, but I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately."
Where are the calls in Congress for the heads of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith? And after all of the intelligence and foreign policy failures, why do Tenet and Rice still have the President's ear?

There was a poignancy to Gore's closing remarks. I was no Gore fan in 2000, and admit with some pain to having voted for Nader. But Al Gore speaks for me now, and I think he should know that.

"In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president.

"I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability...

"So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands.

"I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."
Godspeed, Mr. Gore.

The Time Machine

Let's go back in time, to one year ago, to the last week of May 2003, and see how even then Goldstein was subversively plotting the demise of the Bush Administration. The following is a thread from an e-mail forum that includes many old friends of Goldstein; some wingnuts, some rational. Sen. Robert Byrd graciously consented to be a guest forum participant for the week.

Sen. Robert Byrd: What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the United States. Ravaged by years of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us. Iraq's threatening, death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and string. Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range. Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well-trained troops. Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMDs. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons and the occasional buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission, and they continue to be at grave risk. But the Bush team's extensive hype of WMDs in Iraq as justification for a pre-emptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled? Was the world?

Hawkish Lib: The real problem now is that Junior has bumbled a problem that didn't need to be dealt with now, leaving much more serious problems to fester. Today's NYT has a piece on Iran, which despite my and the administration's hopes, appears to be unable to act responsibly, and of course we've been snookered yet again by an Assad. On top of that, Al Qaeda appears to be thriving in Pakistan. Still, all is well in Junior's world--the maximum marginal tax rate is about to decrease.

Paleo Conservative: Well, I agree that Bush overplayed this notion that Iraq was a direct threat to the U.S. Saddam's Iraq was however a clear indirect threat to the U.S by having the capability to manufacture and sell WMDs on the black market. The fact that we have not found WMDs is irrelevant: what happened to stockpiles of nerve gas that Saddam used on the Iranians and the Kurds? The U.N. inspectors were unable to verify that these weapons were destroyed, and Saddam was completely uncooperative. One positive aspect of the aftermath of the Iraq war is that the rest of the rogue countries around the world know what Al Qaeda has discovered: that we will aggressively and ferociously defend ourselves from threats of terrorism. This is the real and lasting benefit of the Iraq war.

Auntie War: You're confusing our wars. Al Qaeda learned in Afghanistan that we will aggressively and ferociously defend ourselves from threats of terrorism. In Iraq, the world learned that we will lie, bully, even denigrate our allies to pursue a vendetta. Our seat-of-the-pants post-war strategy belies the claim that we were focused on establishing democracy in Iraq, just as the lack of WMDs validates the CIA's pre-war assessments that Bush ignored.

Paleo Conservative: Our-seat-of-the-pants post-war strategy? Don't you think that it is a little unreasonable to expect that the U.S. could create a Jeffersonian democracy in two months in land that has been ruled by potentates for the past 6000 years? The CIA certainlhy never said that there were not WMDs in Iraq, they probably said that they could not locate them. I ask you again: what happened to the stockpiles of nerve gas that Saddam used on the Kurds and the Iranians? And we didn't bully our allies: our allies supported the overthrow of the murderous Saddam. Call France and Germany what you may, but they certainly are not allies.

Auntie War: Of course it's unreasonable to expect a quick and effective democracy in Iraq, but that's what Bush promised. He claimed that he had a strategy that would ensure a democracy but would not require us to occupy Iraq for more than a few months...The point is that it has become clear that this administration has no plan...As for the WMDs, the point is that the inspectors couldn't find them and the CIA had no evidence less than 10 years old that they existed, yet they were a principal pretext for the war...I didn't say that we bullied our allies, but it fits. We led Tony Blair by the nose, our other allies were bribed or threatened to become "willing." Everyone else, including our treaty partners that resisted attempts to bully them, was denigrated.

Goldstein: There is no mystery as to what the CIA was telling George. The CIA told George that they had absolutely no intelligence to back-up George's claims that Iraq continued to stockpile massive amounts of WMDs. Moreover, the CIA informed George that historically reliable Iraqi expats were claiming that Iraq had destroyed their chemical and biological weapons. The claims of the expats were consistent with observations made by UN weapons inspectors between 1991 and 1998. Finally, in October 2002, Tenet informed George that Saddam was unlikely to attack us unless we attacked first. Why was George so adamant that Iraq was a credible threat when all available CIA intelligence indicated otherwise? Is the new doctrine of pre-emption based upon an assumption that all nations possess WMDs and are threats until proven otherwise? On what was George basing his outrageous claims, if not CIA intelligence? Why did U.S. and British intelligence analysts go to the press to report that they were being pressured to concoct WMD intelligence and al-Qaeda connections?
As you'll no doubt note in future episodes of The Time Machine, Goldstein always gets the last word. House rules.

Masters Of War

It really can't be said any better than Bob Dylan said it more than 40 years ago.

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly.

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion'
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins.

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand over your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

Doublethink, Doubletalk, Double the Trouble

The New York Times reports this morning that a report dated May 5, 2004 prepared by the U.S. military's Criminal Investigation Command describes a "widespread pattern of abuse involving more military units than previously known" and contains a summary of the status of investigations of approximately three dozen cases of reported abuse.

However, the Deserter claimed in his speech Monday evening that the abuses in U.S. prisons in Iraq were committed "by a few American troops who disregarded our country and disregarded our values."

This claim by the Deserter is very telling. He stood behind a podium Monday evening at the Army War College and described a policy that, at least in tone, differed substantially from the policy ruinously pursued by the Pentagon for the last year. The salient question raised by the speech was whether it represented an actual change in U.S. policy or was merely a campaign speech designed to stanch the hemorrhage of support for the war with soothing words, however irreconcilable with our actions in Iraq. The Deserter's characterization of the abuse scandal provides the answer.

Can we change course in Iraq without facing up to the detainee abuse scandal and numerous strategic blunders in our Iraq policy? Are we facing up to the scandal if the President continues to claim (or more frighteningly, believe), in the face of official military reports to the contrary, that the detainee abuse scandal was an aberration, the work of "a few American troops"? This kind of willful flight from reality can only compound our troubles in Iraq.

I have hoped (perhaps against hope) that Rove might have finally said "enough is enough" and decided to leash the neocon dogs at the Pentagon, in belated acknowledgment of the disastrous political consequences of their Iraq misadventure. But it seems more apparent with each passing day that the neocons cannot fuck-up enough to cause Rove or the Deserter to break free. There is no amount of stupidity, corruption, deceit or negligence that will rouse Rove or the Deserter from their thrall. The neocons remain firmly in control. The Chalabi flap? I'll believe we've regurgitated Chalabi when his INC mafia has been uprooted from the Iraqi bureaucracy. I'll believe reports of a Chalabi/neocon schism when Chalabi is actually prosecuted for the espionage the U.S. has alleged. Until then, I have to assume that this is all just another incredibly byzantine plot by the neocons to bolster Chalabi's "street cred" in Iraq and blunt rising criticism in the U.S. of a policy that relied so heavily on a con-man, embezzler and Iranian spy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Iraqis Not Fooled By Bush Blather

From the Associated Press:

Iraq's U.S.-appointed leaders expressed disappointment Tuesday with the American blueprint for post-occupation Iraq, saying they must have greater control over their country's own security forces.

Many Iraqis also were unimpressed by President Bush's vow to tear down the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where U.S. guards are accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners. The problem is not the building, some said, but the training of U.S. troops.

The U.S. plan for post-occupation Iraq, outlined in a draft resolution submitted to the United Nations on Monday, hands over power to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.

But it does not address how much control the government would have over Iraqi security forces, which remain overseen by U.S.-led international troops.

"We found it less than our expectations," council president Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer told reporters after a gathering to discuss the resolution.

Council member Ahmad Chalabi went further, saying the draft resolution "will fail the test for Iraqi sovereignty."
As Calpundit astutely notes, the Iraqi people will not be fooled by the Deserter's speech at the Army War College. "The real danger is that it sets up Americans for disappointment, not Iraqis. The Iraqis will shrug their shoulders and continue to agitate for American withdrawl, and Americans will be left wondering why the Iraqis continue to be so ungrateful even though we've turned over full sovereignty to them just like we said we would. Of such things is American self-delusion born."

Bush Reads!

His manner of reading a speech leaves the distinct impression that he doesn't understand a word of what he's reading.

Herewith my take on the Presidential Address: it was a total crock. The sentiments were nice, but they were phony. We have no intention of turning over genuine sovereignty on June 30, 2004. As for the Deserter's claim that the occupation is over on June 30, 2004 merely because an Iraqi government is established, it's ridiculous. Show me a single history book, scholarly account or press account that refers to the occupation of Japan ending in 1946 with the establishment of a new Japanese government. You won't find one. The occupation ended in Japan in 1952, when we signed treaties with Japan that provided a legal basis for the contention that our troops remained in Japan at the sufferance of the Japanese government.

Conspicuously, the draft U.N. resolution recently submitted to the security council members by the U.S. makes no mention of our commitment to withdraw troops from Iraq if requested by the new Iraqi government, despite recent assurances from Powell and Bremer that we would do just that.

The true objective of the Deserter's administration is not democracy in Iraq, but the installation of a U.S. puppet government. We could have had elections in Iraq months ago, as the Adminisration proposed at one point last year, but the Administration backed off when it became apparent that the political vacuum assumed to exist in Iraq (a necessary precondition to the foisting of Chalabi upon the Iraqi electorate) did not in fact exist - the vaccum had been occupied by Sistani and the Shiites. When it became clear to the neocons that Chalabi couldn't win an election we tragically postponed elections, for the avowed reason that "Iraq wasn't ready yet." The first elections in post-war Japan were held on April 10, 1946, less than 8 months after MacArthur arrived in Japan to oversee the occupation, despite the fact that the necessary societal and institutional underpinnings of democracy were more damaged in the aftermath of WWII than in Iraq today.

The clearest indication that the Deserter had no real interest in a pluralistic, democratic Iraq came when the Administration cavalierly announced at one point last year that elections would be accelerated even though a draft constitution would not yet be available. This step was taken to assuage concerns about the burgeoning insurgency and the difficulties encountered in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution and, not inconsequentially, to provide some political cover to the Deserter. Holding elections in Iraq prior to drafting of the new Iraqi constitution (and worse, as a means of distracting attention from the difficulties encountered in finding a consensus in Iraq for a draft constitution) stands democratic nation-building precepts on their head, a fact that seemed not to concern the Bush Administration in the least. The ABCs of adopting a constitution were explained to the Deserter by an unnamed White House staffer in a meeting among the Deserter, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bremer last year, a partial transcript of which follows:

Bremer: The council isn't making much progress on a constitution. The Shiite clerics have the council stymied.

Rumsfeld: Screw the constitution. Let's just go ahead and have the elections. If we don't like the result, we can always claim the election was corrupted by Baathists.

President: I agree that...I mean, I think it makes sense...right Don?

Vice-President: Democracy will reign in Iraq whenever we say it does.

Staffer: The benefits of expedited elections would certainly be a P.R. coup, but we don't want to forget that we want a constitutional democracy in Iraq.

(Cheney and Rumsfeld roll their eyes, astounded that anyone takes this "democracy in Iraq" thing seriously)

President (dicing his pretzel): That's right. Democracy. The Iraqinanian people want to have a consti...constitu... a democracy, they're a democracy loving people, they...

Staffer: Well, I don't want to suggest that expedited elections are not a good thing, given the circumstances, but it complicates the adoption of a constitution.

Rumsfeld: Nonsense. We need an elected body to ratify the constitution anyway. We'll have elections, then we'll draft the constitution and ratify it. I mean, the Iraqis will do it.

Vice-President: Complicate? How?

Staffer: Well, typically you have a constitution drafted, or propogated as they say, prior to the establishment of an elected body.

Rumsfeld: You're like the goddamn generals - hidebound sons of bitches - we're flanking the constitution and heading straight for the elections!

Vice-President: How did we do it in Japan after The Big One?

Staffer: A constitution was drafted and propogated, then elections were held a number of months later, and the constitution ratified. That way, you don't run the risk that the constitution becomes a political football rather than a broad statement of general principles that enjoy virtually unanimous support. If we have elections first, we run the risk that the drafting of the constitution becomes co-opted by a political body, the elected Iraqi congress, and it becomes much more difficult to get a constitution drafted. For instance, it's difficult for any drafter to object to protecting the rights of the minority, but if...

President: Minority?! It's majority rule around here, bub. This is the U.S. of f*ckin- A, buddy. We don't need any of that rights of the minority sh*t in the Iraqi constitution, do we Dick? We...

Vice-President: George, please, I'm trying to have a conversation here.

Staffer: Majority rule, sir. Absolutely, yes sir. I'm just saying that the constitution grants certain rights to the minority that the majority can't limit or abolish. And from a strictly conceptual viewpoint, the primacy of the constitution in large part rests upon its predating, and providing the framework for, the elected government.

President (arching a brow and grinning slyly): Heh, heh, Pre-dating - that's what we use to call it in Bones when we'd bang 'em before taking 'em out for dinner. Hey, did I ever tell you guys why it's called 'Skull and Bones'?

Vice-President: George, please. Look, [Staffer] is right. The governing council finished the constitution this afternoon. The draft won't be circulated to anyone other than the governing council. The governing council will keep the draft strictly confidential.

Bremer: Actually, Mr. Vice President, little progress has been made on...

Vice-President: (shouting) Bremer! (proceeding in avuncular fashion) Paul, I have a report here from Feith's operation that states that the constitution has been drafted, isn't that right Secretary Rumsfeld?

Rumsfeld: That's right, Mr. Vice President. Paul, you're not suggesting that the intel from Feith is faulty, are you?

Bremer: No, of course not, Mr. Secretary.

Vice-President: Good, then it's done. Someone wake up George. Where's Rove? Have him get started on a Dr. Seuss version of this for sleeping beauty here.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Safire Is A Big, Brown, Steaming Pile

"In time of war," Winston Churchill said, "the truth is so precious it must be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

Judging by today's editorial pages, the Deserter has deployed his praetorian guard of liars in advance of tonight's "Desperation Address." It is highly doubtful, however, that these liars are guarding a truth somewhere in the Deserter's catastrophic Iraq policy. But Bill Safire and Doug Feith are undeterred, and they seek today in the pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to shield the Deserter's mendacity with their phalanx of lies as assiduously as if they were defending truth in a time of war.

Let us begin with neocon stooge emeritus William Safire, the fossilized and senescent sage of the New York Times op-ed page. Mr. Safire, although occasionally an engaging writer, wouldn't know the truth if it were jammed up his ass like a plunger up the ass of an Iraqi detainee. Today's column from Bill is a cornucopia of lies and disinformation.

Safire begins by parroting Chalabi's absurd contention that he's the subject of a CIA frame-up and, for good measure, throws in the State Department for a share of the blame for tarring this great Iraqi patriot and American ally. Safire knows that the CIA and State have held a dim view of Chalabi for years, but their opposition couldn't prevent the neocon cabal at the Pentagon from installing Chalabi in a dominant position on the IGC, from larding the new Iraqi bureaucracy with his cronies, and from installing his nephew as head of the body organizing the Iraqi tribunal that will try Saddam. Chalabi has been squired by the Defense cabal, and only the withdrawal or attenuation of their support explains Chalabi's current problems. George Tenet didn't close the spigot last week on the flow of U.S. tax dollars to Chalabi's I.N.C - the Pentagon did. Colin Powell didn't level an accusation of espionage against Chalabi - the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency did. Safire knows these inconvenient facts, but they don't fit the narrative constructed by the neocon "Chalabi deadenders," and so Bill chucks the truth for lies.

Safire then contrasts the Pentagon's alleged desire for a democratic Iraq with the preference of the "Arabists" in the State Department for a "Sunni strongman." Let me say that anyone who believes that Rummy, Wolfy et al give a crap about democracy in Iraq is a fool; Chalabi is nothing if not the Pentagon's favorite nominee for Iraqi strongman, which is why the Pentagon permits Chalabi to retain possession of Saddam's secret police files. Even if one is willing to grant the Pentagon altruistic motives in Iraq and brand the "Arabists" as anti-democratic, it is absurd for Safire to suggest that State is slandering Chalabi in furtherance of a policy that would install a "strongman"; the preferences of the "Arabists" at State have no sway in the Bush administration. Colin Powell is no "Arabist" in any sense of the word, and it is Powell's aversion to Chalabi, which is shared by the entire foreign policy apparatus in Washington outside of the neocons, that explains State's position regarding Chalabi. Safire's insinuation that the State Dept. opposes democracy in Iraq is execrable.

Safire then gives us this chestnut: "Gleeful C.I.A. operatives who accompanied the raid spread rumors that the troublesome Iraqi was a spy for Iran and a blackmailer of recipients of oil largess. True? Who knows?" Classic Safire. He reposes complete credulity in the neocon's purported (and ultimately discredited) evidence of Iraqi WMDs and Al Qaeda ties, but dismisses the mountain of credible evidence of Chalabi's espionage with an insouciant "who knows?"

Safire is a disgrace, a hack, and a dutiful servant of the neocon design for endless war. His continued representation in the New York Times' editorial page is an embarrassment to the Grey Lady. If it is any consolation, however, it is more apparent with every column that Bill will soon be consigned to the Abe Rosenthal wing of the Home for Shrill and Radical Geezers, where he can begin penning his screeds for the shameless Wall Street Journal editorial page.

As for Doug Feith's column in the WSJ, what really needs to be said? Doug Feith as champion of the Geneva Conventions? Puh-leeze. Let me suggest to anyone who believes that Doug Feith upheld the Geneva Conventions that they google on "Feith" and "Geneva Conventions" and take a look at the first half-dozen or so sites that result. Then reread Feith's shitty little op-ed in Bartley's Wasteland. It should be good for a laugh.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

An Entire Town In Gaza Is Being Destroyed By Israeli Tanks

This is collective punishment in Rafah

I was going to write this morning about Abu Ghraib and the exploding Iraqi detainee abuse scandal, where the evidence is leading inexorably up the command chain.

I was going to write this morning about the coruscating stupidity of the neocons, who bet OUR house on a notorious Iraqi expatriate con man and lost everything.

But what the fuck is happening in Rafah? International relief organizations and the BBC are reporting the destruction of scores of residential structures in Rafah, nearly 2000 homeless, and a spreading humanitarian crisis. There is no resistance in Rafah that justifies the brutality of the IDF tactics in Rafah. There is no sense to a policy of filling-in tunnels in Rafah allegedly used for weapons smuggling when Israel proposes to vacate the region within months. This is just shoveling sand against the tide. The Israelis can leave Gaza, but as long as Israel occupies Palestinian territories in the West Bank those tunnels in Rafah will return.

Where are the people of conscience in this country? It is our financial and military support of Israel and the political pusillanimity of our leaders that permit Ariel Sharon to slake his bloodlust. Where is the American equivalent of Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid, who said the following of the Rafah incursion: "The demolition of houses in Rafah must stop. It is not humane, not Jewish, and causes us grave damage in the world." Where is the American journalist that will speak out against the Rafah atrocity, like Gideon Levy in Haaretz, who said "[t]he virtual imprisonment of the Palestinian people, the prevention of medical care, the mass arrests, the assassinations, the needless killing, the bombing of residential neighborhoods - the prime minister, the defense minister, the IDF chief of staff and other top officers all bear responsibility for such acts."

These are Israeli policies, but to the extent they are made possible by unstinting U.S. support they are ours as well. We have an obligation to speak, to act, to inform Israel that the United States will not be party to the devastation of Rafah. We could stop the slaughter tomorrow. Our failure to do so is no less damaging to American prestige and influence in the world, and the security of our citizens at home, than the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

A "Democratically Minded" Dictator? What Has Daniel Pipes Been Smoking?

Can a dictator be "democratically minded," as Daniel Pipes suggests? The Deserter is living proof that a democratically elected President can be totalitarian, but is the converse true? And who might fill the role of the "democratically minded" dictator of which Pipes speaks? Might his initials be A.C.?

This history suggests that the coalition's grand aspirations for Iraq will not succeed. However constructive its intentions to build democracy, the coalition cannot win the confidence of Muslim Iraq nor win acceptance as its overlord. Even spending $18 billion in one year on economic development does not improve matters. I therefore counsel the occupying forces quickly to leave Iraqi cities and then, when feasible, to leave Iraq as a whole. They should seek out what I have been calling for since a year ago: a democratically minded Iraqi strongman, someone who will work with the coalition forces, provide decent government, and move eventually toward a more open political system. Daniel Pipes, April 14th

Even if the administration had avoided these mistakes and made all moves correctly, it is still possible Iraq would be very messy. But this concession points to an intellectual mistake made prior to the occupation: an underestimation in general of the difficulty of implanting democracy in alien soil, and an overestimation in particular of the sophistication of what is fundamentally still a tribal society and one devastated by decades of tyranny... [The war] was broadly supported by the Right as a war of national interest. The primary purpose of the war was always to protect U.S. national security, by removing a destabilizing and radical influence in the strategically crucial Persian Gulf and eliminating a potential threat to the United States....Success in post-war Iraq therefore is necessary primarily to serve U.S. interests, secondarily to assist Iraqis. National Review, May 3rd edition

Our goal has been to build a united, pluralistic, democratic Iraq in which the factions negotiate their differences the way we do in the West...It is a noble goal. It would be a great achievement for the Middle East. But, from the perspective of one year, it may be, in the short run, a bridge too far. It may happen in the future, when Iraq has had time to develop the habits of democracy and rebuild civil society, razed to the ground by Hussein. Charles Krauthammer, April 16

The old bait and switch. No WMDs? No AQ ties? Then it is democracy we are fighting for, democracy for Iraqis. The wingnuts swallowed this transparent lie whole.

I urged the wingnuts to be skeptical of our stated intentions, given that we had a record of propping-up brutal, authoritarian despots in the middle east.

I cautioned that the very same people who today claim to champion democracy for Iraqis - Dickless, Rummy, Condi, et al - are the very same people who supported Saddam in the '80's and looked the other way while Saddam slaughtered Shiites in the aftermath of Gulf War I. Still, the wingnuts were credulous.

I asked the wingnuts what we would do if a democratic Iraq turned out to be an anti-American Iraq? How strong would our commitment to democracy be then? Well, the charade is over, courtesy of Messrs. Pipes, Kristol and Krauthammer. It turns out our commitment to democracy in Iraq is rather tenuous. It was a useful 'pub talking point, but now that the Iraqis and the U.N. and the world are asking to see real action, now that it has been conclusively demonstrated that the expatriate con-man and embezzler Chalabi is perceived by Iraqis to be, well, a con-man and an embezzler, the neocons have lost faith in a democratic Iraq.

Having failed to foist Chalabi on the Iraqi people, the neocons decided that perhaps democracy in Iraq wasn't such a good idea after all. The same guys who've been wrong about everything have now decided they were wrong about democracy in Iraq. Funny how this epiphany coincided with the political demise in Iraq of Chalabi, a man simultaneously a stooge of the neocons and one for whom the neocons have stooged. New neocon estimates for the advent of democracy range from "someday" to "never."

So here we are again, getting ready to prop-up another Shah. The same failed policy we've pursued in Iran and Saudi Arabia and throughout the middle east for the last 50 years. The same failed policy that has fed Islamic rage against the U.S. since the CIA overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran in 1953.


Where was Chalabi getting the classified information that he passed to the Iranians? And if we've known for years that Chalabi was playing both sides of the street, why was he made privy to classified information that, if compromised, could have cost the lives of U.S. soldiers?

Who gave Chalabi access to this information? Who were the only people who could have authorized the sharing of such classified information with Chalabi?

Will Chalabi be prosecuted for espionage? Will neocons in the defense department be prosecuted for recklessly sharing classified information with a man who was known to be passing secrets to the Iranians?

Isn't this treason?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Doubling Down

I stated in my prior post of this morning that the neocons had no Plan "B", no fallback should the Chalabi option fail. Well, there is a Plan "B", but it has nothing to do with averting the looming catastrophe in Iraq.

Plan "B" focuses on targeting Syria. The neocons have been alleging that Syria is now the foremost sponsor of terror in the world, now that Saddam is gone. But the CIA and various Admin officials have acknowledged that Syria is hostile to AQ and was not only supplying the U.S. with AQ intelligence, but gave the U.S. permission to conduct intelligence gathering missions on AQ in Syria, near the Turkish border! Why have we rejected Syrian assistance in eliminating AQ?

The neocons tell us that although Syria is hostile to AQ, they are supporters of Hezbollah. They have incredibly suggested that Hezbollah is the "A team" of global terror, and Al Qaeda is in reality the "B team." But the only attack by Hezbollah on the U.S. was the barracks bombing in Lebanon in the early '80's. Hezbollah has not been implicated in either WTC attack. Hezbollah didn't have terror cells throughout the U.S., like Al Qaeda. Hezbollah isn't behind the efforts to foment civil war in Iraq. AQ is guilty of all of those anti-U.S. acts.

Is Syria harboring Hezbollah? Hardly. Syria maintains an uneasy truce with Hezbollah. Bashar Assad, like most mideast potentates, perceives Hezbollah and other radical islamic groups to be antagonistic and potential competitors for power. Assad would no doubt confront Hezbollah but for the fact that Hezbollah enjoys widespread popular support in Syria, as it does through much of the Islamic middle east, and Assad's control over Syria is tenuous at best. But when Syria made it plain to Hezbollah that troublemaking by Hezbollah during the Iraq war was not in Syria's interest, the U.S., far from cultivating Syria's assistance, bitch-slapped Assad. Seymour Hersh quoted a Pentagon official as stating that the Syrians were responsible for keeping Hezbollah quiet during the war in Iraq. This was, the official said, "a signal to us, and we're throwing it away. The Syrians are trying to communicate, and we're not listening."

We are not listening because our true objective is not to stop global terror, but to use it as a pretext for our designs on Syria, just as we used it as a pretext for our designs on Iraq. The neocons want us to believe that Bashar Assad is a Hezbollah buddy, but we know that not to be true. Bashar Assad, like Saddam and the Saudis, has more to fear from radical islam than to gain. Rummy and the neocons demand that Syria disarm Hezbollah, knowing full well that Syria is incapable of disarming Hezbollah, knowing full well that Bashar Assad's control of Syria is tenuous at best, knowing full well that Hezbollah's primary power base is in Lebanon, not Syria. We want Syria, not because of its sponsorship of global terror, but because Syria is the next easiest step in a plan that ultimately envisions domination of Iraq, Syria and Iran (step 3) by the U.S. and its mideast client, Israel.

And that is the neocon Plan "B". If the Chalabi option failed in Iraq, as is undeniably has, the plan was to double-down, divert the attention of the credulous from the Iraqi failure and start all over again with another bloody charade in Syria, and in the process rally the electorate around our cretinous commander-in-chief in the run-up to the presidential election.

(There was actually a brief and desperate Plan "1A", hastily and ineptly improvised by the neocons in March in the hopes that the Chalabi option could be salvaged. The key was to cleave the Shiite block headed by Sistani, who plainly held the upper hand as the insurgency grew and demonstrated the futility of the Chalabi plan. So we precipitated a crisis with Sadr by shutting down his paper. Sadr revolted, as they knew he would, and Sistani called for calm, as the neocons expected he would. The neocon expectation was that the moderate Shiites would start thinking that maybe Sistani had been co-opted by the Great Satan; that Sistani was perhaps just a stooge for the U.S. Weaken Sistani, bolster Chalabi. The consequences have been tragic and lethal. And what was this cleaving of the Shiite block intended to accomplish? Democracy in Iraq? No. The sole purpose was to plant Chalabi's his fat ass in Spiderhole Man's old palaces.)

And that is where the neocons find themselves today - a spectacularly failed policy in Iraq and no hope of stabilizing the situation in time to bolster the Deserter's election prospects. Ah, but there is always the Syria card to play.

Whither Chalabi?

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz explains that the decision to cut-off Ahmed Chalabi’s monthly $340,000 stipend “was made in light of the process of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people.” Wolfowitz testified to a U.S. Senate committee that in light of the impending June 30th transfer of sovereignty (itself a fraud) continued funding to Chalabi would have been "inappropriate."

Inappropriate indeed. This may be as close to truth as Wolfowitz ever gets. In addition to being a war criminal, he is a monumental liar, a man whose pronouncements can generally be relied upon to be antipodal to the truth. Even where a Wolfowitz utterance unexpectedly lurches in the direction of the truth, it is merely a feint, a stratagem to clothe a latent lie in a veneer of truth.

Wolfowitz’s Senate testimony suggested that the “inappropriateness” of continued funding derived from the potential that overt U.S. favoritism toward Chalabi might undermine the legitimacy of the June 30th transfer. But the truncation of Chalabi’s nifty allowance has nothing to do with concerns regarding the perceived legitimacy of June 30th turnover. Chalabi has received his monthly stipend, courtesy of Uncle Sam, for the duration of our occupation of Iraq, from the formation of the Iraq Governing Council, through the failed U.S efforts to craft an Iraqi puppet government, through Brahimi’s efforts to broker a carefully calibrated coalition of Iraqi factions to take the reigns on June 30th. The damage done to these efforts by the neocon Chalabi fetish long predated the decision to rescind the faustian bargain with Chalabi and his personal fiefdom, the grandiloquently monikered Iraqi National Congress. And so we find ourselves six weeks from the June 30th relay, and we’re holding the baton without so much as another runner on the track.

Where is the neocon’s Plan B? Where is the fallback position held in abeyance for the contingency of a Chalabi meltdown? There was none, for reasons I’ll get to later today. And that absence of any lifeboats on the listing USS Chalabi reveals the neocon grand design in Iraq for what it is and always has been: a criminally reckless gamble of American lives, treasure and reputation on a million-to-one longshot. Tens of thousands of lives, coalition and Iraqi, were foolishly wagered and this nag broke down barely out of the gates.

Spain, Mexico, What's the Difference?

The following is a transcript of a telephone conversation between President Bush and Jose Maria Aznar, at the time Prime Minister of Spain, on the evening of March 11, 2004. Only hours before approximately 200 people were killed in a subway bombing in Madrid.

"Mr. President, it's Prime Minister Aznar of Spain on the phone."

Bush: "Hosay, how you doin' fella? Hey, that was some real bullsh*t on them trains there in Manila..."

Aznar: "Madrid, Mr. President..."

"Whatever. Look, you can't let those Baathist bastards get away with this, you gotta..."

"Basque, Mr. President, we believe it may have been Basque separatists."

"Yeah, yeah, Baathists, we got a bunch of them over there in Eye-raq. Nasty f*ckers. Look, Hosay, you gotta hit them bastards hard, and I mean hard. America will stand with ya, Hosay, and with all the Mexican people."

"Mexican people, Mr. President?"

"You pick a country yet?"

"Mr. President?"

"A country, Hosay, a country...damn, follow the bouncin' taco here Hosay."

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Mr. President."

"Dammit, Hosay, this is no time for one of those siestas! You gotta pick a country down there and ratf*ck it til you hear a mullah holler!"

"Mr. President, I..."

"How 'bout Syria? I'll tell ya, Syria would spin my sombrero, fella. I'd make those bastards sorry for messin' with the Mexican people. How 'bout Eye-ran? You can't go wrong with Eye-ran, Hosay."

"Mr. President, we are investigating potential ties to Al Qaeda but..."

"Hosay, I got a closet full of Al Qaeda ties. Cheney here can getcha all the Al Qaeda ties you want. You gotta move now, Hosay, clean up the whole enchilada. Ratf*ck those bastards til their turbins pop!"

"Mr. President, our evidence suggests..."

"Evidence?! Look, Hosay, evidence is for pussies. You think I needed evidence to rip a new one for Saddam? F*ck no. But if you gotta have evidence my amigos over in Brittany can getcha all the evidence you need, comprende? Now what about Eye-ran?

"Mr. President, my country doesn't have the military resources that your country has. We couldn't..."

"Goddammit, Hosay, we got plenty of Mexicans over here, we got Mexicans comin' out the ol' sh*t chute. Most of 'em already got switchblades - hell, we'll outfit 'em with some good ol' American firepower and ship 'em right back to ya. They'll be right back 'cross the Rio Grandee in 24 hours."

"Rio Grandee, Mr. President?"

"You gotta start gettin' your people ready for war, Hosay. You got a tax cut ready to go? And one more thing, Hosay, lose the "Maria." Goddamn, you think those Izlams would be crappin' in their camel saddles if my name was George Sally Bush?"

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Stop The Slaughter

At least 42 are dead in western Iraq after a U.S. helicopter attack on a wedding party. At least 24 are dead in Gaza after an Israeli helicopter attack on a peaceful protest in Gaza.

Where is our shame? Where is our outrage? The U.S. and Israel will both undoubtedly claim tragic error - but helicopter attacks on crowds of civilians? My God, how can we tolerate this? We slaughter 42 people in Iraq so that they can free? Israel slaughters 24 people in Gaza so that they can withdraw from occupied territories? There is no ideal we can invoke that elevates these attacks above the basest savagery, no higher good to which we can appeal for justification, no altruistic motive that can dignify these reckless acts, no consolation or refuge to be had in the rationalization that a noble endeavor was vitiated by human frailty. Would it really make any difference if we suddenly discovered stockpiles of sarin artillery shells tomorrow?

How do supporters of this war react to this? Do they react with condign horror? Shake their heads and say "war is hell"? Perhaps they shrug their shoulders and mutter "shit happens."

It must be apparent now that there is no objective that justifies this kind of madness. If we in the U.S. joined voices and shouted "STOP" the administration would have to listen. If we fail to do this, then we must stand in the dock of history with Bush and Sharon, Rumsfeld and Cheney, Wolfowitz and Feith, the neocon cabal in Washington, and the fanatics in the Gaza settlements.

The U.S. must stop the slaughter in Iraq now, and must immediately end its complicity in Sharon's butchery.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Slow To Forgive, Slow To Forget

"However one may try to justify it, it was a tragic defeat for America. Not in the military terms of the battlefield, but a defeat for our political authority and moral influence abroad and for our sense of mission and cohesion at home. A defeat not because our initial purposes were unworthy or our intentions anything less than honorable, but because - in frustration and false pride and our innocence of the art of extrication - we were forced to the employment of excessively brutal means to achieve an equivocal objective against a poor, small, backward country. That is something the world will be slow to forgive, and we should be slow to forget."
George Ball, Under Secretary of State, 1961-1966

There's Room in President Goldstein's Administration For These Guys

In today's Washington Post, James Steinberg and Michael O'Hanlon have an op-ed piece entitled "Set A Date To Pull Out." Their policy sounds a lot like President Goldstein's policy.

The danger is not that we will cut and run but that the Iraqis will insist that we get out, leaving behind a security vacuum that could ignite civil war and wider regional strife.

How can we avoid such a disaster? First, we must make clear that our military presence in Iraq is designed to permit the Iraqis to freely choose their own future -- even if it is not fully to our liking. We should indicate not just that we will leave if asked but that we will ourselves plan to end the deployment of coalition forces following the election of an Iraqi government and the adoption of a new constitution next year. We should make clear that we (as part of a wider international coalition) would be prepared to stay beyond that time -- but only at the request of the new Iraqi government, and as part of a new, U.N.-sponsored mandate on terms that are acceptable to the new Iraqi government and to us.
This of course makes eminent good sense. But it would mean giving up on the 14 permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, as well as the Mosul-to-Haifa pipeline, and all the other neocon pipedreams of U.S./Iraeli hegemony in the middle east. So it won't happen unless we - all together now - GET THE DESERTER OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE!

Monday, May 17, 2004

"We Are Back to the Army of 1968"

Pretty stunning stuff from Josh Marshall's buddy in Iraq. The following is an excerpt, but I urge everyone to read the entire post at I'm sure Josh's buddy has a political point of view, but I don't detect a political agenda in his report. This seems to be a guy who is deeply anguished by the insidious impact of the chaos in Iraq on an institution for which he bears genuine affection.

About the Army - Man, it hurts my heart to write this about an institution I dearly love but this army is completely dysfunctional, angry and is near losing its honor. We are back to the Army of 1968. I knew we were finished when I had a soldier point his Squad Automatic Weapons at me and my bodyguard detail for driving down the street when he decided he would cross the street in the middle of rush hour traffic (which was moving at about 70 MPH) ... He made it clear to any and all that he was preparing to shoot drivers who did not stop for his jaunt because speeding cars are "threats."

I also once had a soldier from a squad of Florida National Guard reservists raise weapons and kick the door panel of a clearly marked CPA security vehicle (big American flag in the windshield of a $150,000 armored Land Cruiser) because they wanted us to back away from them so they could change a tire ... as far as they were concerned WE (non-soldiers) were equally the enemy as any Iraqi.

Unlike the wars of the past 20 years where the Army encouraged (needed) soldiers, NGOs, allies and civil organizations to work together to resolve matters and return to normal society, the US Forces only trust themselves here and that means they set their own limits and tolerances. Abu Ghuraib are good examples of that limit. I told a Journalist the other day that these kids here are being told that they are chasing Al Qaeda in the War on Terrorism so they think everyone at Abu Ghuraib had something to do with 9/11. So they were encouraged to make them pay. These kids thought they were going to be honored for hunting terrorists.

Refuting the Stupid Arguments of Your Wingnut Friends, Part III

Today we hear from Eddie from Birmingham.
Goldstein, you ankle-grabbing pinko, why don't you take your America-hating b.s. and peddle it at Kerry rallies. They'd love your defeatism and Bush-hatred over there. But real Americans have no use for it. Why don't you and Kerry stop your whining for a minute and tell us what YOU would do about Iraq? Take a stand and stop bitching.
Thanks for writing, Eddie. You've asked a fair question. What would I do about Iraq if I were President? Well, I've got a three-point Iraq policy. First, choose a date by which we can complete an orderly withdrawal of substantially all of our troops in Iraq and inform the world of that intention. Second, beg the forgiveness of the U.N., our European allies and the rest of the world for the boorish, criminally reckless and monstrously immoral policies of my predecessor and do what we should have done in the first place: enlist the world's help in Iraq and give them a stake in the outcome by ceding political control of Iraq to the U.N. pending elections in Iraq. Third, prosecute vigorously and to the fullest extent of the law the Deserter, Dick, Donny et al for their crimes.

That third step is really the most important part of my Iraq policy, Eddie. You see, Eddie, far more important than what happens in Iraq is what happens here, in our country, to our democracy. This country will be stronger and more secure once we vindicate the principle that lies and fear-mongering will not again gull a peace-loving people into a fraudulent war. With that vindication we will be stronger and more secure even if Iraq descends into chaos. Conversely, we can build a functioning democracy in Iraq, a truly pluralistic society, and we will nonetheless be weaker and less secure if the Deserter is permitted to escape punishment for deceiving us into war and shaming this country. What happens in Iraq is a relative triviality. What's truly important is that we demonstrate to ourselves and the world that we will not tolerate the perversion and bastardization of American ideals in the name of empire and oligarchy. If we can do that, then something redemptive may yet come of this shameful chapter in the history of our nation.

Refuting the Stupid Arguments of Your Wingnut Friends, Part II... a continuing series.

Cindy from Sacramento writes:
Dear Goldstein,

Luv your blog. I'm a senior in high school in Sacramento, CA. We've been discussing the war in Iraq in civics class lately, and I keep hearing the argument from my pro-war friends that EVERYBODY thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, not just President Bush. I guess President Clinton thought so too, and most of our representatives in Congress. If this is true, why are you so hard on the President? I think he's doing his best.
Thanks for writing, Cindy.

There are two very simple and straightforward responses to the "everybody thought so" argument. First, there were indeed many people who thought Saddam Hussein harbored stockpiles of WMDs, but only the "President" and his advisers felt certain enough to launch a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. As you know, they were tragically mistaken.

But there is a second, even more compelling response to the "everybody thought so" dodge. You see, Cindy, it didn't matter what anybody thought prior to March 7, 2003, because on that date we learned something very important about what we thought we knew about WMDs in Iraq. We learned that every piece of intelligence we had about Iraqi WMDs was WRONG.

On March 7, 2003 Hans Blix, the head U.N. weapons inspector, reported to the United Nations that that UNSCOM inspectors, provided with full and unimpeded access to all suspected Iraqi WMD sites, conducting unannounced inspections and armed with intelligence from the CIA indicating where these alleged arms could be found, reported that no WMDs had been found - none at all. CIA director George Tenet testified to Congress before the war that the CIA had provided the best U.S. intelligence to UNSCOM on over 100 sites where U.S. intelligence indicated WMDs may be found, including approximately 20 different sites the CIA referred to as "high probability" sites. UNSCOM searched these sites for WMDs, and as of March 7, 2003 UNSCOM had determined that not one of these sites contained WMDS or any evidence of WMDs.

Cindy, as of March 7, 2003 any prior assessment of the likely existence of Iraqi WMD caches or the reliability of U.S. intelligence regarding WMDs had to be radically revised. It was incumbent upon anyone who previously had been certain that Iraq had WMDs to honestly revisit that assessment, and desist from starting a war until that assessment had accounted for the vast gulf between the UNSCOM findings and U.S. intelligence. But the President didn't do this, Cindy. He accelerated our rush to war and invaded Iraq just 12 days later, even though he knew that he didn't know what he thought he'd known.

This was a terrible, terrible thing the President did, Cindy, and he will rot in hell for all eternity for it. So remember to tell your friends, Cindy, that Mr. Tenet gave Mr. Blix every bit of U.S. intelligence regarding Iraqi WMDs, and Mr. Blix checked it out and it was all wrong, and Mr. Blix told the President of that on March 7, 2003.

Cindy, I'm sure the President tries very hard. But he's the biggest piece of walking slime ever to occupy the Oval Office.

Say Hi! to your civics class, Cindy, and congratulations on your impending graduation!

Quick! Break Out The Gasmasks!

The wingnuts haven't been so gleeful since "Mission Accomplished" Day.

It's being reported that an artillery shell containing Sarin gas was discovered by U.S. troops on a roadside somewhere in Iraq. This "weapon of mass destruction" detonated, but didn't do much mass destruction. Two U.S. soldiers were treated for exposure to the sarin gas and released. Damn, if this were John Kerry who'd been exposed to the gas the wingnuts wouldn't even give him a purple heart for it, and yet they're screaming vindication on WMDs! Pathetic.

This isn't even news. A similar shell containing traces of mustard gas was discovered in Baghdad 10 days ago, as reported by Knight Ridder Newspapers.
The shell was from a “very old stockpile,” and for that reason experts didn't consider it evidence that former dictator Saddam Hussein was hiding illegal stockpiles of chemical weapons, said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the matter is classified.
These kinds of reports have been popping up periodically ever since we invaded Iraq.


Of Car Bombs and Bombing Karbala

Juan Cole despairs.
US aircraft bombed Karbala overnight.

I can't believe I just wrote the words above. I would not be writing them if Bush had any idea whatsoever what he was doing in Iraq. Bombing Karbala. It must be being seen by Shiites as like a sci-fi Terminator sort of Yazid.

Every time I think things cannot get worse, they do.
We should all despair with him. The mass media give us the bodycount in Karbala, but deem our methods unworthy of reporting. News from Karbala has been drowned out by the suicide car bombing that killed the head of the Iraqi Governing Council. The murder of Abdel-Zahraa Othman certainly bodes ill for the immediate future in Iraq, but I still contend that the future of Iraq is a trifle as compared to the ongoing battle for the soul of this nation, and in this battle our decision to bomb Karbala is another crushing defeat.

I have a feeling that things will continue to get worse at least until November, and if we fail to extirpate the Deserter and his neocon cancer in November, then for years to come.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Deja Vu

How could Rummy and his minions mistake this bunch of Iraqi schleppers for guys that could knock down skyscrapers with nothing more than box-cutters and religious zealotry?

I posed this question yesterday after reading Sy Hersh's New Yorker article detailing the transposition by the Pentagon of a covert program of high-duress interrogation techniques from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons. How could the Pentagon justify using interrogation techniques designed for hardened terrorists against Iraqis only vaguely suspected of association with an amorphous popular insurgency? I'm sure my wingnut friends will take issue with my characterization of the Iraqi detainees, but what else are we to make of the fact that 70% to 90% of Iraqis detained have already been released? What are we to make of the multiplying accounts of Iraqis detained without charges, physically abused during interrogations, and then released without any explanation as to why they were initially detained or ultimately released? And what of Hersh's CIA source, who described the Iraqi detainees as "cabdrivers, brothers-in-law, and people pulled off the streets"?

I have two theories as to how and why everyday Iraqis arrested for suspicious behavior at Baghdad checkpoints were accorded the same treatment as Al Qaeda operatives and Afghani nationals captured in the Khyber pass with AK-47s slung over their shoulders. Let me start with the more charitable of the two theories. It's late, so you'll get the abridged version.

Let's grant the Deserter, Dick and Donny the benefit of a doubt and ascribe to them sincere motives - they genuinely perceived a monolithic threat in the form of radical Islam. They choose an altogether peripheral front in this contest against radical Islam - Iraq - as the place to make their stand. They encounter a level of resistance and popular opposition that stuns them because radical Islam would seem such an abstraction to the vast majority of the indigen.

It begins to slowly dawn on them that notwithstanding an empathy between radical Islam and the popular resistance in Iraq, the real motivator for the insurgency is plain old nationalism. No matter, they've already publicly identified the war as one against radical Islam, and in fact radical Islam has begun providing a measure of support to the insurgency in materiel and manpower. It's now plain that the cost of battling the insurgency far exceeds any strategic value that may reasonably have been imputed to Iraq, but being a superpower and having invested so much in the venture, the credibility of our power is now at stake, and this credibility becomes the strategic asset that justifies the fight. Not only that, but the domestic political consequences of "defeat", real or perceived, would be catastrophic.

But the insurgency is so diffuse and mutable that it's impossible to directly and effectively confront it, and so the objective becomes to disrupt it at the roots. And this is where the brutal interrogations, fueled by desperation among the political types back home, enters the picture. Yes, they may be simple, everyday Iraqis, but they are in the final analysis the source of the insurgency's power. They know who the hardcore insurgents are, and they can provide valuable intelligence that will permit us to accomplish that which we cannot accomplish by conventional military means. The intelligence is everything.

Does this sound at all familiar? Substitute "communism" for "radical Islam" in the preceding paragraph. Substitute "strategic bombing" for "interrogation" in the preceding paragraph. And yes, substitute Vietnam for Iraq. Now read it again and see if it sounds familiar.

That's the charitable theory. The less charitable theory simply states that the same guy who shook hands with Saddam and brokered the sale to Saddam of U.S. chemical weapons in the '80s now sits in the Pentagon. The less charitable theory merely notes that the same guy who was Secretary of Defense in Gulf War I and urged Bush pere to let Saddam fly his choppers in violation of the cease-fire in order to facilitate a brutal suppression of the shiite uprising in southern Iraq now sits at the right hand of the Deserter, a hearbeat away from the Presidency.

The less charitable theory posits that the Deserter, Dick and Donny didn't give a crap about freedom and democracy in Iraq and never did, and this whole war was really about U.S. and Israeli hegemony in the mideast, 14 U.S. military bases in Iraq, an oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa, and a "clean break" by Israel from negotiations with the Palestinians based on territorial concessions for peace.

Take your pick - theory number one or theory number two. Either way, the criminally reckless and arrogant bastards in the Oval and at Five Sides have to go.

Our Glorious Leader

Inspiring, isn't he?

Refuting the Stupid Arguments of Your Wingnut Friends, Part I

I sometimes receive messages from people who have wingnut friends and acquaintances asking me how to respond to certain standard wingnut arguments. For instance, Jeff from Mineola writes:
Dear Goldstein,

Although I am sane, many of my friends are wingnuts, and I mean BIGTIME chickenhawk supporters of Bush's Folly. You and I know we'll never find any WMDs in Iraq, but my wingnut friends always say "hey, we're still looking and we could still find them - it's early!" Well, I have to concede that it's possible we'll find them, isn't it? How do I counter this argument?

Thanks for writing, Jeff. This is a very popular wingnut syllogism because it places the burden on the thinking person to establish a negative, i.e., that stockpiles of WMDs do not exist Iraq. Let me suggest the following gambit, Jeff. Let me know how it works.

I would suggest pausing for a moment after the wingnut challenge and stroking your chin (or affecting whatever mannerism you prefer that signifies that you are seriously contemplating their challenge). Then begin your response with an apparent concession to their specious argument - "well, I suppose those stockpiles could be hidden somewhere in Iraq; I mean it's possible, I suppose." Then continue as follows:
"But you'd have to believe that the same country that couldn't hide a fighter jet in the desert without leaving a fintail sticking out of the sand has somehow managed to conceal vast caches of WMDs without leaving so much as a trace element of any of these highly unstable and volatile chemical and biological agents, substances for which we can test for the minutest presence. Furthermore, thousands of scientists, soldiers and everyday Iraqis who would have been involved in researching, developing, producing, maintaining, transporting and concealing these alleged caches of WMDs would have to be engaged in the most airtight and cohesive cover-up of all time - a coverup they've now maintained for more than a year! Remember, not one Iraqi can point us to these alleged stockpiles or any evidence that the stockpiles even exist, despite intensive interrogation, rewards, bribes, psychological pressure and intimidation. My god, we bought-off half of the Iraqi generals to disappear when we approached Baghdad during the invasion, and now you want me to believe that thousands of everyday Iraqis are concealing information about the location of WMDs, resisting every reward, bribe, blandishment and inducement we can offer. To what end? Out of loyalty to Spiderhole Man? What is it that these people hope to accomplish?

I would continue in this vein until your wingnut friend's cheeks turn rosy with humiliation.

Remember, Jeff, the wingnuts have an inherent advantage in any debate regarding the merits and justifications of this war because they can eschew logical and reasoned argument (if indeed they possess such faculty at all) and thereby render themselves impervious to your arguements. You, on the other hand, are handicapped by logic and reason and therefore reflexively greet their arguments, no matter how stupid, with an open mind. But remember this, Jeff, whenever you encounter a wingnut argument with some meretricious appeal: there are no WMDs, we've never given a crap about freedom and democracy for Iraqis, and the Iraqis want us out. Everything else is just prattle.

Get Zarqawi On The Phone

Fred Kaplan makes the case in his Friday, May 14th Slate article that the Deserter bears some responsibility for the prison abuse scandal and Zarqawi's murder of Nick Berg.

Kaplan recalls Jim Miklaszewski's March 2nd report regarding the National Security Council's spiking of three different proposals by the military to strike at Zarqawi and his operation in Iraq. "Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam," according to Miklaszewski. (You really have to wonder why this story didn't get more play in March).

There's been something very suspicious about this Berg story from the very beginning. You have the Berg family claiming that Nick told them he was being held by U.S. military authorities, and that they have written confirmation of this from the State Dept. The State Dept. concedes that they did in fact confirm this to the Berg family, but states that the confirmation was "incorrect," attributing the error to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Is anyone aware of whether the CPA confirms or denies the State Dept. claim that it was the source of the "incorrect" claim that Nick was held by U.S. military authorities?

The CPA confirms that the FBI visited Nick Berg on three different occasions, but claims Berg was never in U.S. military custody. Is it plausible that the CPA and U.S. military are permitting Iraqi police in Mosul to make decisions regarding the detention of U.S. citizens in Iraqi prisons? Meanwhile, the Iraqi Mosul police chief denies that Iraqi police arrested Berg and claims to have no knowledge of the matter.

After nearly two weeks in custody, Nick Berg is released on April 5th, one day after his family filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government contending that their son is being held illegally by the U.S. military.

Ashcroft has claimed that FBI agents and CPA representatives offerred Berg safe passage by air out of Iraq, but that Berg declined the offer. "He also refused government offers to advise his family and friends of his status," according to the FBI. So the story from the FBI and Justice Dept. is that Berg in effect said "no thanks, I'd rather find my own way to Jordan to catch a flight to the States rather than accept your offer of a flight directly out of Iraq, and oh, by the way, don't let my parents know I'm safe." Hmmm. This despite the fact that it was common knowledge that in the few days preceding Berg's scheduled date of departure from Iraq the main road to Jordan had been the site of more than a dozen kidnappings of foreigners.

Suddenly, Nick disappears on April 9th. His body is found on a bridge a month later, and then this horrific video appears showing Berg, still clothed in orange prison garb, seated before our friend Zarqawi, still on the loose thanks to the NSC's beneficence. You know the rest. The video appears at the very moment the beseiged administration is realizing that the Abu Ghraib scandal is beyond its control. Like clockwork, administration lackeys on the Hill like Jim Inhofe, right-wing screamers on talk radio and cable news, and wingnuts across the nation are seizing on the Berg atrocity to divert attention from, and in some cases justify, the Abu Ghraib abuses. How convenient.

There are many questions regarding Berg that need to be answered by our government, some of which are set forth here.

Go ahead wingnuts, call me paranoid, call me a conspiracy theorist, call me crazy. But let's compare the evidence underlying my paranoid fantasy against the gossamer threads of your Vince Foster fantasy, and let's see who's crazy.

Media Watch

Man, Hersh's article is getting major play at the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN and the Wall Street Journal.

ABC News expands upon reporting done by Joe Conason earlier this week on the efforts of Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith to eliminate procedures that would have checked interrogation abuses.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Well, Hell, They Look Like Osama

I just read Sy Hersh's article. In typical Hersh fashion, he's found the sources with an axe to grind, in this case CIA operatives who are pretty pissed-off after three years of getting pushed around and dissed by Rummy and the neocons.

The kicker in the article arrives just past the halfway point. By this time, readers like myself who already have seen enough to strongly suspect Pentagon culpability are likely to be a bit uneasy. Hersh devotes the first 3000 words of his article portraying Rummy, Cambone, Miller et al as a bunch of hardchargers who cut through the bureaucratic bullshit to teach some genuinely bad guys in Afghanistan and Iraq the meaning of hardball. What they were doing wasn't pretty, but the people on the receiving end were arguably closely aligned with Osama, Mullah Omar or Saddam (or at least hardcore Baathists). The program was shadowy and plainly outside the channels of accountability, but how else to interdict imminent threats? The picture is one of Rummy, like the Godfather, being "strong for his family" - in this case, you and me and the rest of the stateside contingent.

Then, in the space of about five short paragraphs, the picture shifts to Iraq in late summer and early fall of 2003 and the nascent insurgency. The decision is made by Cambone, with Rumsfeld's and Myer's knowledge and encouragement, to implement this ultra-covert, no-rules, "kick ass and ask questions later" program of interrogation and intelligence gathering in Iraqi prisons as a means of disrupting the insurgency.

Soon, mysterious, non-CIA interrogators are roaming Abu Ghraib, some in military garb, some plainclothed, but all operating outside of the usual chain of command at Abu Ghraib under Gen. Karpinski. Worse, they're enlisting the aid of relative yahoos in the MP brigade to help "condition" the detainees for interrogation. The whole scene apparently became too much for the CIA guys.

By fall, according to the former intelligence official, the senior leadership of the C.I.A. had had enough. “They said, ‘No way. We signed up for the core program in Afghanistan—pre-approved for operations against high-value terrorist targets—and now you want to use it for cabdrivers, brothers-in-law, and people pulled off the streets’”—the sort of prisoners who populate the Iraqi jails. “The C.I.A.’s legal people objected,” and the agency ended its [special-access program] involvement in Abu Ghraib, the former official said.

Here is where the scales should fall from the eyes of the wingnuts. The crux of the problem is that we were giving the Al Qaeda treatment to a bunch of Iraqi Joe's for whom it had been enough just trying to steer clear of Saddam and his sadistic offspring for much of their lives. People who'd never been on an airplane much less hijacked one. People, kind of like the chickenhawks, who sputtered and spouted about those assholes in a foreign land half a world away but were no more likely to join Al Qaeda than the chickenhawks are to fight their own war. People who happened to be at the wrong checkpoint in or around Baghdad at the wrong time and ended up in the custody of an occupying power that couldn't tell an insurgent from a merchant. But to Crummy and Rambone, they were all Osama wannabees.

And this is where Hersh's article basically leaves off. How could Rummy and his minions mistake this bunch of Iraqi schleppers for guys that could knock down skyscrapers with nothing more than box-cutters and religious zealotry?

We'll get to that tomorrow.

How's It Feel, Mr. Secretary?

“This is Cambone’s deal, but Rumsfeld and Myers approved the program.”

Talk about probing investigative journalism.

Sy Hersh continues to jam a journalistic plunger up Rumsfeld's ass. You can get the highlights at Calpundit, or read the whole article at the New Yorker.

It All Depends On Who's Doing the Torturing

This is not to say that either the conduct of war, or the prevailing attitude towards it, has become less bloodthirsty or more chivalrous...reprisals against prisoners which extend even to torture and murder are looked upon as normal, and, when they are committed by one's own side and not by the enemy, meritorious.

A wingnut acquaintance of mine recently sent me an e-mail with a recap of his son's little league baseball game and the following views regarding Abu Ghraib, the Geneva Conventions and his perception of the reaction of Americans to the Pentagon's flouting of international law.
Our head coach is a former AAA pro pitcher and is way too intense. We lost miserably in our last game with a variety of mental and physical errors, and it was a source of great anguish to our head coach as he dislikes the opposing coach. Finally, he turned to the assistant coaches in dismay and said, "This is so humiliating I'd rather they strip us naked and make us play twister".

What the Northeast liberal establishment doesn't appreciate is that he meant it. Despite all the fancy quoting of miltary regs and Geneva convention rules, most Americans don't care.

We hope Military Intelligence uses strong tactics.

We feel the Geneva Convention should have been renounced long ago. We lost young men to the Japanese, in Korea, in Vietnam and in the mideast while we were abiding by rules they ignore. Be done with it.

We believe Rumsfeld should ignore Abu Ghraib rather than grovel to the leftist media. Do you think Ike or the Secdef wasted their time on the atrocities of WWII? I certainly hope they left them to the internal affairs division of the military while they concentrated on other matters, such as, killing the enemy.

As for the concern that we now appear no different than the opposition, or that the publication of these photos weakens our stature in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi's -let them fret. The rest of America doesn't need any help determining whose moral compass is pointing North. If the Iraqis can't figure it out, it is not because of cultural differences, it is because they are wrong. Zarqawi only punctuated what we already knew.

Please feel free now to accuse me of dragging down America and its institutions as you march out of the room with Bluto and the rest of the Delta brothers.

Forget the german shepherds, the beatings and dead detainees - it's just a game of naked twister.

He is unfortunately representative of the other wingnuts I know. But as the polls confirm, he knows little of how Americans really feel about the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Someone Get Him a Parachute

The Deserter is at 42% and falling, and he can take little solace in the "dead heat" with Kerry reflected in the Newsweek poll. As is always the case when a sitting President runs for reelection, this election is a referendum on the incumbent, and those who haven't decided for the Deserter by now will break decisively for the challenger. Approval ratings in the low 40's won't get it done.

Colin Agonistes

I've been tough on Colin. I've resented the political cover he's given the Deserter and his neocon thugs. I'm sure he worked very hard at the CIA in January 2003 to emend the scatalogical catalogue of lies contained in Scooter Libby's first draft of the infamous U.N. speech, but the bottom line is that he went to the U.N. with what he knew was a very dubious case for Iraqi WMDs.

If I don't miss my mark, however, Colin is attempting to clothe Jerry Bremer's casual "we'll leave if they want us to" remark with the dignity and force of U.S. policy, transforming a seemingly off-the-cuff remark into a fait accompli, thereby cutting-off the ring on the Deserter, Dick and Donny and cornering them on the ropes. After years of public humiliation at the hands of the neocons, Colin is getting his revenge. After years of arguing that he could do more on the inside to curb the imperial impulses of the neocon cabal than he could by resigning, we are finally seeing the dividends of Colin's patience.

This is the culmination of a remarkable series of statements and interviews by Colin over the last month. The article by Wil S. Hylton in the most recent edition of GQ was really quite extraordinary, limning a portrait of the Old Soldier that achieved a certain poignancy. Colin may have been less than heroic during this shameful chapter in our history, but he still stands as a colossus compared to the witless bravado of the Austin Idiot, the unalloyed evil of Dick Cheney, the arrogance and incompetence of Rumsfeld and the amoral striving of Condi Rice.

Like Ted Kennedy and Bob Byrd, Colin is entitled to amnesty for past transgressions for the simple reason that he has spoken the truth in a time when the scarcity of that resource has rendered it more precious than ever.