Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Nick, How Could You? Part II

I find myself in very good company today. Nick Kristof's weaselly defense of the Deserter has elicited comment from many quarters of the blogosphere, and virtually all are asking the same question: what is wrong with calling a liar a liar?

Ben Tripp at Counterpunch: "O Nicholas, what a supplicant, mewling, lickspittle Polonius thou art, spineless and vile."

The Poor Man catalogues the Deserter's many prevarications and puts them in perspective:
These are all lies, told by the President himself. This doesn't include any distortions, half-truths, or exaggerations, or any lies told by senior figures in the administration. These lies are big and small. Together, these lies involve trillions of dollars and at least tens of thousands of deaths, and Nicholas Kristof is terribly concerned about sharp words and Michael Moore movies. It is indeed too bad that the "political cesspool" is becoming polarized, but I don't think that the solution to this is to shoot the messenger and agonize over ever-finer definitions of falsehood. It shouldn't be this difficult to get your priorities in order.
Roger Ailes weighs in: "Sure, Bush does stretch the truth and exaggerate, but those aren't lies when Bush says them. And besides, the lies were only about a war with Iraq."

And finally, Tristero, with sublime concision: "I'd be happy to stop calling Bush a liar when he stops lying."

Really, Nick, can't one preserve one's precious gentility and at the same time condemn the lies of a prolific liar?

Nick, How Could You?

When my daughter was seven her kitten ran away. A few weeks after the kitten's disappearance one of the other girls in the neighborhood told her that Len, a twelve year old boy down the street of less than sterling reputation, had stolen her kitten, and that she'd just seen the kitten tied to the back porch of Len's house. According to the informant, Len was feeding the kitten rat heads, and little rat head skulls could be seen strewn all about the back porch. My daughter insisted upon seeing the kitten immediately, and though the informant claimed prior commitments and declined to accompany her, my daughter ventured down the street to the alleged kitten-napper's house and stealthily proceeded to the back yard. There, she found a small back porch, but no kitten, no little kitty leash, and no rat skulls. My daughter, disappointed but unbowed, marched home and informed me that Len had stolen her kitten. My initial shock soon yielded to bemusement (a somewhat bittersweet bemusement, given my daughter's anguish) when I heard the story of the informant and her tale of the kidnapped kitten. When I rejected my daughter's demand that I confront Len's parents about his crime, my daughter insisted that she was going to inform Len's parents that Len had stolen her kitten. The following conversation ensued:

"But, sweetie, that wouldn't be true."

"It's true, my friend told me."

"But your friend said the kitty was tied to the porch, and it wasn't. That wasn't true."

"Len could have hidden the kitty in his house."

"That's true but what about the, ahem, rat heads?"

"Len could have cleaned those up."

"That's true, too, but didn't your friend say that she'd just come from Len's house and the rat heads were still there?"

At this point my daughter's defiant indignation melted to doubt, and her eyes began to well with tears. I sat her on my knee and she learned some of life's difficult lessons that day: that kitten's sometimes run away, that people sometimes lie, and that we all have to decide, every day, what to believe and what not to believe. But the task of deciding what was true, and what was not, was made easier by the fact that we learn who we can trust and who we cannot trust; who we can be certain is telling the truth, and who we should be careful to doubt, if not disbelieve.

I explained to my daughter that if she wanted to go to Len's house to tell Len's parents the story she'd been told by her friend, the tale of the kidnapped kitty, that I would go with her and we could ask Len's parents if they'd seen the kitty. But I told her that it would be a lie if she were to go to Len's parents and tell them that Len had kidnapped her kitten; that even though she couldn't be certain Len hadn't kidnapped the kitten, that she really didn't have a very good reason to believe he had.

I wonder if Nick Kristof has children?

Nick is a good guy, and his efforts to focus on suffering in this world even if it takes place in a country without large oil deposits is laudable. But Kristof takes an egregiously cheap shot at Michael Moore this morning when he faults Moore for calling the Deserter a liar, thereby positioning Moore as the "Sister Souljah" of the Iraq debate so that Nick can appear the model of probity and discretion. Here are the quotes:
Mr. Bush's central problem is not that he was lying about Iraq, but that he was overzealous and self-deluded.
Bob Woodward's latest book underscores that Mr. Bush actually believed that Saddam did have W.M.D. After one briefing, Mr. Bush turned to George Tenet and protested, "I've been told all this intelligence about having W.M.D., and this is the best we've got?"
In fact, of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies.
No, Nick, the central problem is that Bush lied. No, Nick, the conversation with Tenet doesn't demonstrate that Bush believed the WMD claim, but rather is evidence that Bush knew that the intelligence couldn't support his claims of certainty regarding Iraqi WMDs. No, Nick, the run-up to war was based on flat-out lies, the worst lies a President could tell the American people, perhaps the worst lie any human being can tell another. That's right - the Deserter made statements to the American people that he knew were not true, that he knew at the time he made them were not true, and he knew the American people would rely upon these lies in justifying the invasion of a country that had not attacked us, had not participated in any attack against us, nor threatened to attack us.

Here are but two of the Deserter's many lies:
Saddam Hussein is not disarming. This is a fact. It cannot be denied. March 6, 2003, evening press conference
The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. March 19, 2003, address to the nation announcing commencement of military operations against Iraq
The Deserter said "Hussein is not disarming." But in fact Hans Blix would report to the U.N. and the world the next day that Iraq was cooperating with the U.N. weapons inspectors in the disarmament process, that Al Samoud missiles were being destroyed - a step characterized by Blix in his report as a "substantial measure of disarmament" - and that Iraq was not impeding U.N. inspections; in sum, that though it could not yet be confirmed that Iraq was disarmed, Iraq was disarming. The Bush administration had been informed that these findings would be included in Blix's report. Condoleeza Rice had previously been informed by Hans Blix, and was again so informed by telephone on March 5, 2003, the day before the Deserter's press conference, that none of the intelligence provided by the U.S. or other intelligence agencies had led the inspectors to sites that contained WMDs. Rice was further aware that the CIA had "shared the best and most likely information" with Blix regarding 100 likely WMD sites in Iraq, including more than 33 sites that the CIA deemed "high priority," and that none of these sites had in fact produced WMDs or evidence of WMDs. In that same telephone conversation Rice conceded to Blix that the U.S. did not know where WMDs could be found. It is simply not credible that the Deserter was not aware of Blix's impending report, or the fact that the CIA had provided U.N. weapons inspectors with more than 100 likely WMD hiding places and none had panned out.

Even the most charitable interpretation of the Deserter's claims regarding Iraqi WMDs and Iraqi refusals to disarm cannot avoid the conclusion that he lied. For instance, one might argue that even though the Deserter had been aware that Iraq was in the process of destroying the Al Samoud missiles, his claim that Iraq was not disarming could still be construed as true if he reasonably believed that Iraq still harbored and concealed WMDs and therefore the destruction of the Al Samouds by Iraq was a mere feint at disarmament. However, the only basis the Deserter would have had for believing that Iraq was concealing WMDs was U.S. intelligence, and by March 7, 2003 all of the U.S. intelligence on likely WMD sites had been revealed as inaccurate and unreliable; the intelligence had been provided to Blix and his inspectors and had turned up more dry holes than Arbusto Oil, the Deserter's failed '70's era oil company. And yet the Deserter assured the nation on March 19, 2003, as bombs were falling on Baghdad, that Iraq threatened the world with "weapons of mass murder."

But what if the Deserter's belief that Iraq possessed WMDs, notwithstanding the impeachment of U.S. intelligence, were genuine and sincere? What if he truly believed it even though U.N. weapons inspectors, conducting unannounced site inspections, armed with the best U.S. intelligence, and unimpeded by Iraq, had failed to discover any WMDs? What if he truly believed it, even though he knew that the only sources who claimed to have direct knowledge of the whereabouts of these WMDs were extremely dubious characters produced by the slimy Ahmed Chalabi, sources that the CIA had already deemed less than reliable?

Then he should have said he "believed" Saddam had weapons, or that we "suspected" Saddam had weapons, but instead he asserted as fact that Saddam had such weapons. He should have said that he doubted Saddam's intentions to disarm, rather than claim, contrary to the facts contained in Blix's March 7th report to the U.N., that Saddam was not in the process of disarming.

He lied, Nick. These were "flat-out lies," Nick, as you would put it. He stated as fact that Saddam had WMDs, when the only basis for such a belief - U.S. intelligence - had been thoroughly impeached by the failure to find any WMD at more than 100 sites provided to the U.N. weapons inspectors by U.S. intelligence. He stated as fact that Saddam was not disarming - "this is a fact," he claimed - even though he was aware that Blix would the next day report to the U.N. that Saddam was disarming.

My daughter understood at seven years old that if you assert as fact that which you really don't have good reason to believe, it is a lie. While it is true that my daughter, even at seven, was more intelligent and had more integrity than our Commander In Chief will ever have, that fact does not absolve the Deserter of his obligation to tell us the truth before taking us to war.

He did not tell us the truth, Nick. You're right when you say he hyped and exaggerated, but you're wrong - dead wrong - when you argue that he did not lie. On March 6, 2003 and March 19, 2003 he asserted as fact that which he no longer had a reasonable basis for believing.

That's a lie, Nick. Whether it's kittens or chemical weapons, it's a lie.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

We're Not Pleased, George

We don't approve of you, George. We think your war was not worth it. We think you're a liar. We don't think we're safer today as a result of your rape of Iraq. We think your war has created more terrorists, not fewer. We think you've got us going in the wrong direction.

We're pretty pissed-off, George. We're gonna send you back to Crawford. You can clear brush, pick up your crayon and start working on your memoirs. You can think about what went wrong, why the 89% of us that had a favorable opinion of you in the days after 9/11 have dwindled to 39%. We were pullin' for you, George, and you betrayed us. That's the way we feel.

Refuting The Stupid Arguments Of Your Wingnut Friends, Part V

Yup, the wingnuts are still out there, and their arguments are stupider than ever.

This week we hear from Mike from Golden Valley, Minnesota. Mike took the time from his own wingnut blog to set ol' Goldstein straight, and by jingo, he deserves a response.

In my prior post, I lamented the loss of the America I remember, the country that didn't kick your ass unless you threw the first punch. Mike responded, "the first punch was thrown or are you just going to let them have that one." This is a common misconception among wingnuts, who tend to confuse Al Qaeda with Iraq. Mike, Iraq didn't throw any punches. If you have any evidence that Iraq was involved in 9/11, I suggest you contact the 9/11 commission. Their bipartisan report found no evidence of Iraqi collaboration in 9/11. Mike, you might spend a little less time pounding the brewskis while ice fishing up there in Minnesota and brush up on your current events.

I noted that the America I remember had the patience and persistence to keep the cold war cold, and kept its nukes holstered until those folks in Russia came to their senses. Mike asked "did the Soviets really come to their senses? Or was it because we made them?" If you'll recall Mike, we didn't knock down the wall, they did. We didn't "liberate" them, they liberated themselves, just like the Iraqis should have. If we made them dump communism, it was because of our patience and persistence, not because fools like you were duped into a war against the U.S.S.R. by an unscrupulous warmonger like the Deserter.

I made reference to the fact that there didn't seem to be many John Kennedy's or John Kerry's or similar men of privilege enlisting to fight in Iraq; that by contrast to World War II and the Vietnam war, the sons and daughters of our representatives in Congress are virtually absent from our fighting forces. The fact is, Mike, that blacks are fighting and dying in Iraq in numbers approximately twice their representation in the population as a whole. The fact is, Mike, that whereas privileged young men like George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, fought in large numbers in World War II and Vietnam, they're as scarce in Iraq as the Deserter at a National Guard base. Wouldn't a draft more fairly allocate the burdens of the war to all classes, most importantly those affluent segments of society that tend to wield disproportionate influence in our politics?

I didn't argue that today's enlisted men and women are ignorant or uneducated; they're ambitious and intelligent or they wouldn't seek opportunity in the armed forces. As for your observation that the average soldier is "smarter and more able" than their civilian counterpart, I must agree. Certainly most of our soldiers know the difference between Iraq and Al Qaeda, something you still seem confused about.

Mike left me with this admonition: "My advice to you is to do your own discovering instead of repeating the idioms of the ignorant." Thank you, Mike, your concern is appreciated. I know that we on the left can get a little strident at times, and so in the interest of fostering better understanding between the left and the right in this country, I'll follow the example of our esteemed Vice President, he of the many varied deferments from service in Vietnam, and offer you a little advice of my own:

Go fuck yourself.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Good For Iraq. Now, About America...

CNN and Dan Rather and the rest of Big Media are hailing the return to the Iraqis of their country. I'm very happy for the Iraqi people, attenuated though their sovereignty may be. It truly is a day of hope for those Iraqis that weren't killed during the invasion or the occupation.

I don't mean to rain on the parade, but when do we get our country back? You know, the country the whole world used to look up to.

The country that didn't kick your ass unless you threw the first punch.

The country whose patience and persistence kept the cold war cold, and kept its nukes holstered until those folks in Russia came to their senses.

The country that didn't treat the bill of rights like the tax code, looking for loopholes and exemptions.

The country that even under the shadow of nuclear threat kept its senses and refused to give in to fear and hatred.

The country that opposed totalitarianism and still found time to invent rock 'n roll, right the wrongs of a century of Jim Crow, plant the stars and stripes on the moon, keep the trust of its allies and dream of a Great Society.

The country that took pride in hosting the United Nations even though its members frequently confounded us.

The country that radiated such optimism, confidence and idealism that the citizens of our greatest enemy finally said "damn, they look like they're having a good time over there - screw The Wall, gimme a hit of that freedom stuff!"

The country whose faith in the justness of its cause bred a serene strength, not arrogance.

The country where torture was what the other guy did.

The country with an innate understanding that you don't install democracy like so much astroturf; you had to plant seeds, and that the seeds wouldn't grow in foreign soil until the weeds of hunger, fear and ignorance had been uprooted.

The country that wasn't ashamed to admit it had made a mistake in going to war, and that understood that being duly chastened was a good and healthy thing, not a sign of weakness or a "syndrome."

The country that wasn't content to avert its gaze from an Appalachia or racial discrimination, and understood that the measure of a society was its solicitude toward the poor and oppressed, not its low marginal tax rates.

The country where the media heroes were muckrakers, not blow-dried suckups to political whores.

The country that realized that being poor wasn't a character defect, because Grandma and Grandpa had been poor during the depression and, goddammit, there weren't any finer people.

The country that fought its wars with armies raised from every class, where the privileged enlisted or were drafted, and where the idea that wars should be fought primarily by Americans fleeing poverty or hopelessness or lack of opportunity at home would have been deemed, well, unamerican.

The country that didn't watch wars on television like voyeurs, but actually felt the clammy grip of war when Jimmy Smith down the street, the kid that used to cut our lawn, received his draft notice and the Smith's stayed at home and didn't come to the barbecue, their curtains drawn tight all week like shrouds.

Remember that country? When do we Americans get that country back? I don't want to be selfish, but couldn't we work on returning that country to ourselves before we unleash the Arsenal of Democracy on Syria or Iran?

The War Criminals

Sorry George, This Is Still America

The Supreme Court, in two rulings issued this morning, in effect said to the Deserter "sorry, mein Deserter, but this is still America," holding that suspected terror detainees have recourse to U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The Bush administration's shocking assertion that terror detainees, including American citizens, have no recourse to the courts has been roundly rejected.

The Bush administration's brief filed in connection with the Rasul case echoed the now notorious memo authored by Jay S. Bybee, former assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, arguing that Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution grants the President, as commander-in-chief, unfettered discretion with respect to the detention of suspected terrorists and their treatment while in detention. In many ways, this absurdly broad reading of the commander-in-chief powers granted to the President under the constitution was more shocking than the twisted ruminations in the Bybee memo on torture. It was shocking because the kind of bizarre reading of the commander-in-chief powers urged by Bybee and by the Bush administration in the Rasul brief would certainly form the basis of any attempt by a U.S. president to suspend our liberties during the pendency of an "emergency." The Bush administration attempted to take a constitutional provision plainly designed to establish civilian control over the military and use it as an instrument to permit the President to suspend the bill of rights.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the court has "made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

Touche, Sandy. This is, after all, still the United States of America, despite the best efforts of the Deserter and his flying monkeys to destroy our republic.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this afternoon. It was well attended, even though it was a matinee in the suburbs, and I noted before going into the movie that the 7:00 showing was already sold out. The crowd erupted in applause at the end of the movie. A cop was stationed in the back of the theatre (as they have been at many theatres, I am told).

I'm not going to review the movie. I urge everyone to see it and judge for themselves. I will restrict myself to relating the most powerful moment of the film: a series of scenes involving a Mrs. Lila Lipscomb of Flint, Michigan, whose son died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in early April 2003. Her daughter served in the military in the first Gulf war, and many family members (father, brothers, cousins) have served in the military. She was patriotic, hung a flag outside her home everyday, and encouraged her children to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the military, opportunities she and her husband were unable to provide in Flint.

Mrs. Lipscomb recounts for Michael Moore the morning she learned of her son's death. She is fairly composed, beginning to gently weep only as she approaches the end of her description of the worst phone call a parent can receive. This is a strong, proud woman, a fact that makes her description of her reaction to her son's death all the more compelling. This scene is perhaps the most disquieting and difficult scene to watch that I have ever seen in a movie. Her grief is palpable as she describes the phone ringing, a voice identifying the caller as a military representative, the inquiries intended to confirm that she is Lila Lipscomb, that she is the mother this point Mrs. Lipscomb recalls that she dropped the phone, her legs gave way, and she was reduced to crawling across the floor to grab a leg of the kitchen table in an attempt to hoist herself back to a sitting position.

There is another scene involving Mrs. Lipscomb later in the movie that is in some ways even more difficult to watch. I'm not up to writing about it now, so I'll cut straight to the point. These scenes have been widely criticized, and Michael Moore criticized for exploiting the grief of this poor woman. I hate it when television dwells on the grief stricken. It strikes me as supremely exploitative when the Today Show virtually sucks the grief out of a guest for the voyeuristic pleasure of its viewers. I'm revolted when I think of all of the caffiene-buzzed housewives sitting at home clucking their tongues and saying "isn't that terrible." It's exploitative because there is no point to it, no redeeming value, no purpose other than voyeurism. But I think Michael Moore had a very important purpose in these scenes, and that is to remind us that there is only one casus belli that could possibly justify visiting this kind of emotional devastation on a mother, only one cause sufficient to permit a society to ask a parent to make a sacrifice so great that it leaves them lost in an endless desert of grief, a blasted husk of a human being. And that cause ain't evangelical democracy.

My wingnut friends play a variation of the old "bop the mole" game when the subject of Iraq war justifications comes up. No WMDs? "No problem, it was the Al Qaeda connection." No AQ connection? "Well, we were bringing freedom and democracy to the great unwashed." They don't want our force-fed freedom? "Well, we're there goddammit and we can't cut and run, and how do you know there are no WMD anyway?" And then you start over again, bopping a war rationale mole only to have another pop out of an adjacent mole hole. I dare my wingnut friends to see this movie and ever play this game again, because, you see, there is no substitute for the WMD threat; having proffered a WMD threat, you can't bait and switch. You just can't do it. Either there was a threat or there wasn't. No more bop the mole. The next time someone starts that shit with me I'm giving them a Dick Cheney salutation, if you know what I mean.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that any of my wingnut friends who are parents would risk their child's life to experiment with democracy in Iraq. I don't believe they'd do it because some Iraqi bureaucrat met with one of bin Laden's deputies ten years ago and shared a cup of chai in the Khyber Pass. I just don't believe it, and it pains me to believe that they are so cynical and hypocritical that they would back this travesty in Iraq as long as it is someone else's kid being burned to death in a tank or atomized by an RPG.

I watched that horrible Nick Berg video. I don't know why, but I did, and I thought it would haunt me for weeks. It didn't, and maybe this is a terrible thing to admit, but I was pretty much over it in a few days. But right now I can't shake this image of this Flint housewife on the linoleum floor of her kitchen, clinging to the leg of her kitchen table, the receiver hanging from a phone mounted on her kitchen wall. I don't think I'm getting over this one for a while.

NOTE: Mrs. Goldstein tells me that Mrs. Lipscomb received the phone call in her bedroom, and pulled herself up by her bedroom desk. She's probably right; as I said, I found the scene very difficult to watch.

God Bless Al Gore

This is turning into Great Patriots day here at Enemy Of The People. First an encomium to that great patriot, The Rude Pundit. Then a paean to the rotund master of malice, Mr. Michael Moore.

And now, The Man Who Should Be President, Mr. Al Gore. Kerry's zombified, like the Manchurian Candidate, and Bubba's just starting to timidly nibble at the heels of the Deserter's criminal enterprise, ever so cautious lest he damage the political prospects of Lady MacBeth. Meanwhile, Al Gore is callin' out the evil bastards, speaking truth to power, and letting the political chips fall where they may. I know, Al's a political dead man, anyway (although I'd be the first to sign on to a draft Al Gore movement at this very moment), and so he can say what candidate Al would never say. So what. BFD. The truth is too goddamn precious today for supercilious dissections of the purity of a truthteller's motives. The republic is in grave danger, and Al Gore is manning the ramparts.

I'm attaching below the closing four paragraphs of Mr. Gore's speech yesterday at the American Constitution Society at Georgetown University. The whole text is here. Read it, and be reminded what's been lost and what's at stake.

In the end, for this administration, it is all about power. This lie about the invented connection between al-Qaida and Iraq was and is the key to justifying the current ongoing constitutional power grab by the president. So long as their big flamboyant lie remains an established fact in the public's mind, President Bush will be seen as justified in taking for himself the power to make war on his whim. He will be seen as justified in acting to selectively suspend civil liberties -- again on his personal discretion -- and he will continue to intimidate the press and thereby distort the political reality experienced by the American people during his bid for re-election.

War is lawful violence, but even in its midst we acknowledge the need for rules. We know that in our wars there have been descents from these standards, often the result of spontaneous anger arising out of the passion of battle. But we have never before, to my knowledge, had a situation in which the framework for this kind of violence has been created by the president, nor have we had a situation where these things were mandated by directives signed by the secretary of defense, as it is alleged, and supported by the national security advisor.

Always before, we could look to the chief executive as the point from which redress would come and law be upheld. That was one of the great prides of our country: humane leadership, faithful to the law. What we have now, however, is the result of decisions taken by a president and an administration for whom the best law is NO law, so long as law threatens to constrain their political will. And where the constraints of law cannot be prevented or eliminated, then they maneuver it to be weakened by evasion, by delay, by hair-splitting, by obstruction, and by failure to enforce on the part of those sworn to uphold the law.

In these circumstances, we need investigation of the facts under oath, and in the face of penalties for evasion and perjury. We need investigation by an aroused Congress whose bipartisan members know they stand before the judgment of history. We cannot depend upon a debased Department of Justice given over to the hands of zealots. "Congressional oversight" and "special prosecution" are words that should hang in the air. If our honor as a nation is to be restored, it is not by allowing the mighty to shield themselves by bringing the law to bear against their pawns: it is by bringing the law to bear against the mighty themselves. Our dignity and honor as a nation never came from our perfection as a society or as a people: it came from the belief that in the end, this was a country which would pursue justice as the compass pursues the pole: that although we might deviate, we would return and find our path. This is what we must now do.
Thanks, Al. I needed that.

Speaking of Rude...

...I'm going to see Fahrenheit 9/11 this afternoon. I've read about it, seen the trailer, and witnessed numerous risible big media attempts trash the film for not being "objective", as if the New York Times and Washington Post didn't publish filth from Safire and Krauthammer every day. Isn't Michael Moore entitled to a cinematic editorial?

Again, I haven't seen the movie yet, but somehow I think I'll come out feeling much like David Edelstein did:

In one scene, his camera homes in on a Flint, Mich., woman weeping over a son killed in Iraq, and the effect is vampirish. After the screening, a friend railed that Moore was exploiting a mother's grief. When I suggested that the scene made moral sense in the context of the director's universe, that the exploitation is justified if it saves the lives of other mothers' sons, my friend said, "When did you become a relativist?"

I'm troubled by that charge—and by the fact that we nearly came to blows by the end of the conversation. But when it comes to politics in a time of war, I think that relativism is, well, relative. Fahrenheit 9/11 must be viewed in the context of the Iraq occupation and the torrent of misleading claims that got us there. It must be viewed in the context of Rush Limbaugh repeating the charge that Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered in Fort Marcy Park, or laughing off the exposure of Valerie Plame when, had this been a Democratic administration, he'd be calling every day for the traitor's head. It must be viewed in the context of Ann Coulter calling for the execution of people who disagree with her. It must be viewed in the context of another new documentary, the superb The Hunting of the President, that documents—irrefutably—the lengths to which the right went to destroy Bill Clinton. Moore might be a demagogue, but never—not even during Watergate—has a U.S. administration left itself so open to this kind of savaging.

Along with many other polite liberals, I cringed last year when Moore launched into his charmless, pugilistic acceptance speech at the Academy Awards. Oh, how vulgar, I thought—couldn't he at least have been funny? A year later, I think I might have been too hard on the fat prick. Six months before her death in 1965, the great novelist Dawn Powell wrestled in her diary with the unseemliness of political speech during an "artistic" event: "Lewis Mumford gave jolt to the occasion and I realized I had gotten as chicken as the rest of America because what he said—we had no more right in Vietnam than Russia had in Cuba—was true but I did not think he should use his position to declaim this. Later I saw the only way to accomplish anything is by 'abusing' your power." Exactly. Fahrenheit 9/11 is not a documentary for the ages, it is an act of counterpropaganda that has a boorish, bullying force. It is, all in all, a legitimate abuse of power.

His Rudeness, A Great American

The air can get quite rarified in the blogosphere, and we all sometimes lapse into mediacentric navel-gazing, absurdly esoteric wonkishness and the minutae of partisan gamesmanship. It's easy to lose sight of the horror of what has been perpetrated in our names, to misplace the realization that our country bombed population centers in a nation that posed no threat to us, and knowingly killed more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians who were already suffering a Kafkaesque existence at the hands of the Marquis de Saddam.

It's even more difficult to confront daily the terrifying realization that men such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz have ascended to the highest offices in the land, in the United States of America for god's sake, and wield unimaginable power, seized by febrile delusions of godlike dominion over other human beings and in pursuit of nothing more than the aggrandizement of their own perverted empire.

It is simply impossible for us to indefinitely maintain condign outrage and indignation at the violation of our republic by scum like Bush and his flying monkeys, too exhausting and too psychically wearing, and so we retreat to the quotidian and in our most narcotized states expound on the upcoming presidential election as if it were a horse race rather than a battle for the very soul of our nation. And truly, it is a battle. Pick your poll - they all say essentially the same thing: this nation is on the cusp of retaining in power an administration that has traduced everything good and decent about our country. My god, how could this be?

But there is one among us who never loses sight of the danger, never flinches at the horror, never for a moment succumbs to bloggish solipsism. The one among us ever vigilant, ever possessed of a perspective on the events of our time that is unwavering and true: the Rude Pundit.

Here's to you, your Rudeness. You're keepin' it real. Don't let the bastards get you up.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Disgraceful Conduct, Indeed

On May 24, 2004, the Deserter characterized the conduct alleged in the burgeoning Abu Ghraib scandal as "disgraceful conduct by a few American troops." He made this statement in the midst of ongoing military investigations into the extent of the misconduct. As commander in chief, his comments threatened to prejudice these investigations, and were therefore manifestly inappropriate. It is now painfully apparent that the Deserter's comments were not only inappropriate but wrong as well.

According to the Washington Post, Company Commander Donald Reese, commander of the 372nd Military Police Company, is testifying that Col. Thomas Pappas, head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, was present when the coverup of the murder of a detainee was arranged. Reese testified that he heard Pappas say "I'm not going down for this alone."

Indeed, Col. Pappas is not going down for this alone. The administration that devoted a substantial part of its legal resources to justifying, rationalizing and ultimately authorizing the illegal abuse of Iraqi detainees is going down with him.

The Deserter's rash and false attribution of the Abu Ghraib misconduct to a "few troops", even as military investigations were ongoing, was plainly intended to scapegoat seven MPs and thereby limit the political damage to his administration. It was a disgrace.

How many more times will we permit this man to shame our nation?

The Return Of Sanity, Part II

The New York Times and Washington Post continue to show signs that they are recovering from Bushmania and are nearly ready to removed from credibility life support.

"Questions also remain about how the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere came about. The documents confirm that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved a number of harsh interrogation techniques for use in Guantanamo in December 2002, including hooding, requiring nudity, placing prisoners in stress positions and using dogs. After military lawyers objected that these violated international law, Mr. Rumsfeld suspended their use a month later. But all these techniques, as well as the restricted practices now approved for Guantanamo, appeared in an interrogation policy issued for Iraq by command of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez in September 2003. Nearly word for word, the harsh methods detailed in memos signed by Mr. Rumsfeld -- which even administration lawyers considered violations of the Geneva Conventions -- were then distributed to interrogators at Abu Ghraib. The procedures in turn could be read to cover much of what is seen in the photographs that have scandalized the world. How did this spread of improper and illegal practices occur? The Bush administration has yet to offer a convincing answer -- or hold anyone accountable for it." Washington Post, "A Partial Disclosure", June 24th editorial
"This partial view of the thinking of the administration on the prisoner issue did provide, once again, confirmation of how this president and his team consider themselves above the rules that bind ordinary mortals. From the start of his presidency, Mr. Bush has resisted scrutiny and regulation, taking the position that the public should recognize that his people are good people with good intentions, and trust them to do the right thing.

"The nation, of course, has always held to a different tradition that relies on the restraint of the rule of law rather than individual goodness. The debacle at Abu Ghraib shows how badly things can go when average Americans are let loose from those restraints, or allowed to believe that such restraints do not apply to them. The political and moral disasters of this administration, from the current dreadful state of American prestige abroad to the injustices perpetrated on innocent Americans erroneously suspected of terrorist ties, show that the same thing applies to the people at the top." New York Times, "The White House Papers", June 24th editorial

Leap Of Feith

"And now there's new intelligence, and this has come since our staff report has been written because, as you know, new intelligence is coming in steadily from the interrogations in Guantanamo and in Iraq and from captured documents. And some of these documents indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al-Qaeda. That still has to be confirmed." 9/11 Commission member John Lehman, on Meet The Press, June 20th
"The administration official said the CIA and U.S. Army obtained the lists of members of the Fedayeen shortly after the invasion of Iraq last year. Some, he said, had names "similar to" Ahmad Hikmat Shakir. But, he said, the CIA had concluded "a long time ago" that none were the al-Qaida associate." Newsday, June 22nd
Didn't Lehman have anyone on the 9/11 Commission staff run this by the CIA? Is the source for Lehman's assertion on Meet The Press so unimpeachable that he could have deemed it unnecessary to check with the nation's intelligence agencies?

The source, according to the Weekly Standard, is one of Dougie Feith's analysts. And who authored the Weekly Standard piece that reported this startling discovery? None other than Stephen F. Hayes, the ever credulous, resident conspiracy nut at the Weakly Slander, who has never seen an allegation of an Iraq-Al Qaeda conspiracy that he didn't believe.

Let's get one thing straight upfront. The 9/11 Commission staff report released last week did indeed confirm contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 1990's, but found that the contacts resulted in a rebuff of Al Qaeda by Iraq and that no "collaborative relationship" had been established. The wingnuts have ever since been engaged in an illiterate and dishonest attempt to argue that any contact is evidence of a "tie", as if my punching you in the face is evidence that we are allies. Mr. Hayes, alas, can find no refuge in such semantic silliness, because he has alleged far more than "ties." Mr. Hayes has unabashedly asserted on numerous occasions that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda, the very assertion definitively rejected by the 9/11 commission. If you don't believe me, read Mr. Hayes book "The Connection: How Al Qaeda's Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America." The title says it all, doesn't it?

Mr. Hayes recounts how one Christopher Carney, an analyst in neocon-man Doug Feith's infamous Office of Special Prevarications, was "poring over a list of officers in Saddam Hussein's much-feared security force, the Fedayeen Saddam." Carney ran across a reference to Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. Carney seemed to recall seeing a similar, though differently spelled name, in a report that suggested an Iraqi may have attended a Kuala Lumpur meeting of Al Qaeda operatives at which the 9/11 plans were discussed.

Mr. Hayes then embarks on a laughable exercise of inflating the hapless Shakir, a low-level factotum for Malaysian Airways, into a steely-eyed intelligence operative for Saddam Hussein. His evidence? When Shakir was detained by Jordanian intelligence while on his way from Qatar to Baghdad, the Iraqi "government" (embassy, perhaps?) sought to obtain Shakir's release. Hayes, before launching into his conspiracy reverie, makes this minor concession: "Some U.S. intelligence officials--primarily at the CIA--believed that Iraq's demand for Shakir's release was pro forma, no different from the requests governments regularly make on behalf of citizens detained by foreign governments." But Hayes won't be fooled by the CIA. No, Hayes cites the Iraqi government's "panicked reaction" as evidence that Shakir was a high-level Iraqi intelligence agent. Hayes' evidence of a "paniched reaction"? Some phone calls from Iraqi officials to Jordanian officials.

But Mr. Hayes is just getting rolling. "CIA officials who interviewed Shakir in Jordan reported that he was generally uncooperative. But even in refusing to talk, he provided some important information: The interrogators concluded that his evasive answers reflected counterinterrogation techniques so sophisticated that he had probably learned them from a government intelligence service." Wow, he was cleverly evasive - he must be an Iraqi James Bond! Can you imagine the much-maligned (and often justly) New York Times publishing such a lunatic leap by one of its reporters? O.K., Judith Miller aside.

Mr. Hayes leaves us with the admonition that the alleged "Shakir connection" is "far from conclusive; conceivably there were two Ahmed Hikmat Shakirs." In fact, the CIA had apparently concluded a long time ago that there are more than one Iraqi Fedayeen with the name Ahmed Hikmat Shakir or a similar name, and that none of them are Mr. Hayes' globe-trotting, cloaked and daggered, deep-cover intelligence agent.

My wingnut friends and the neocon-men will no doubt chirp that the CIA is not infallible. Indeed, it is not. But what do we have here, when you really look hard at it? You have this guy Carney, a fellow working for the same Pentagon operation that peddled all of Chalabi's lies, noting that a list of Fedayeen officers contains a name similar to the name of an Iraqi alleged to have attended a critical Al Qaeda meeting. That's it. There's nothing more than that. All of Hayes' "mideast by north mideast" travelogue is irrelevant to the question of whether the Shakir who attended the Kuala Lumpur meeting is one of the many Shakirs listed on our Fedayeen rosters. It's merely Hayes' speculation that the Shakir in Kuala Lumpur was a member of Iraqi intelligence, and the Fedayeen had nothing to do with Iraqi intelligence!

At this point I could lament the stunning lack of journalistic rigor by the Weakly Slander (and the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, as well, which was shaking this Shakir tree even before the Weakly Slander), but this kind of tendentious, "Keystone Cops" intelligence is fully in keeping with the intelligence produced by Feith's group that formed the basis for the entire Iraq misadventure. Again and again Feith's group, interpreting the same hard data interpreted by the CIA and DIA, found a brilliant, high-definition picture of Iraqi WMDs and Al Qaeda ties where the CIA and DIA found a fuzzy, shadowy picture with a distinct vertical hold problem. Again and again Feith's group filled in the gaps in U.S. intelligence with unqualified claims of Iraqi WMDs provided by Chalabi cronies, sources already deemed unreliable by the CIA and ultimately discredited on March 7, 2003 when Blix reported that none of the Chalabi intelligence had panned out.

Just think of it. A Feith functionary finds a name on a Fedayeen roster similar to the name of an alleged Al Qaeda operative, nothing more, and feeds it into the neocon echo chambers at the WSJ and the Weakly Slander. From there, this bit of non-intelligence finds its way to the ears of an exceedingly weakminded and credulous member of the 9/11 Commission, neocon dupe emeritus John Lehman, and he trumpets it on Meet The Press. And at that point some administration official, no doubt seeing the seeds of yet another humiliating retreat, another "yellowcake", another Kay Report, quietly informs Newsday that there's nothing to this Fedayeen-Al Qaeda claim, that the CIA checked it out a long time ago and there's nothing there.

These neocon-men are shameless. No collaborative relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda? No problem. No Atta meeting in Prague? No problem. Just take one part bullshit, one part cretinous 9/11 Commission member, put it in a Shakir, and voila: a Pentagon Pina Colada, chilled and ready for consumption by any slack-jawed, war-mongering dumbass already drunk on the Deserter's lies.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Whole Truth

I wanted to comment on the Administration's selective disclosure of documents relating to consideration of permissible interrogation techniques in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo, but Billmon and Froomkin are all over it.

The released documents relate primarily to administration deliberarations in the winter of 2002 and spring of 2003. They do nothing to dispel allegations that administration dismay at the surging Iraqi insurgency last fall prompted a ratcheting-up of interrogation techniques in Iraq, that Gen. Miller was dispatched from Guantanamo to Iraq for the purpose of implementing harsher interrogation techniques, that Asst. Sec. of Defense Stephen Cambone dispatched Miller for such purpose, and that Rumsfeld knew all about it.

The decision not to subpoena the complete administration file on interrogation techniques, a shameful decision by Orrin Hatch and his fellow republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is now absolutely unjustifiable in light of the administration's selective disclosure. We need the whole story, not just the parts the Deserter would like to tell us.

The Perjurer General

From NBC news:
The 9/11 commission is busy writing its final report, but is still investigating critical facts, including the conduct of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. NBC News has learned that the commission has interviewed two FBI officials who contradict sworn testimony by Ashcroft, about whether he brushed off terrorism warnings in the summer of 2001.
Ashcroft claimed that other Justice Dept.officials present at the meeting, including Dep. Atty. General Larry Thompson, would refute claims by former acting FBI Director Tom Pickard and other FBI officials that Aschroft had instructed FBI officials to stop raising the issue of terror threats inside the U.S. However, rather than refuting these claims, Thompson now says "I do not recall the conversation that interim director Pickard referred to." And that, of course, is precisely what one would say if one were worried about a perjury charge.

John Aschroft could have challenged Pickard's testimony before the 9/11 Commission by arguing that in the context of the particular conversation he only intended to defer the conversation of terror threats inside the U.S. He could have claimed, as Thompson now has, that he did not recall the conversation. Instead, our Attorney General demonstrated the same contempt for the 9/11 Commission that he has demonstrated for the Constitution, Congress and for the American people. He lied, and denied the conversation ever took place.

John Ashcroft is a contemptible little man who has resorted to trumpeting bogus terror threats in the belief that fearmongering will be politically advantageous to the administration of which he is a shameful member. His Justice Department has attempted to suppress domestic political opposition by subpoenaing people in violation of their first amendment rights, on the basis of nothing more than a desire to learn with whom they associate, and in the absence of any evidence that the targets of the subpoenas were engaged in illegal activities. For this reason alone John Aschroft should have been prosecuted. His perjury before the 9/11 Commission is just one more reason why this travesty of an Attorney General must be terminated and then prosecuted.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Newsflash For Fox News

The State Dept. terrorist report, the one that inaccurately reported a decline in terrorist activity in 2003 and has since been revised, excludes from the definition of terrorist activity attacks directed against coalition troops in Iraq.

Someone should tell this to Bush administration officials and their lapdogs at Fox News.

Latest Washington Post Poll: Bush A Failure In Fighting Terror

The latest Washington Post poll contains some very bad news for the Deserter, which is very good news for America.

Even as support for Bush's handling of the Iraq war collapsed, support for his overall handling of the "war on terrorism" had remained steady. As recently as April poll respondents gave the Deserter a 21 point lead over Kerry on the issue of who would better handle the terror issue. That lead is gone. The Post now has it Kerry 48%, Bush 47% on the issue of handling terror. On the issue of honesty and trustworthiness, the Post poll has Kerry in front by 52% to 39%.

Many of you may be saying "so what - Bush's overall approval ratings remain steady at about 47% and Kerry's lead among registered voters is still a slim 4%." This is true, but the precipitous decline in support for the Deserter's handling of terror is significant for at least four reasons.

First, terror is the big wildcard in the upcoming election. The significance of the terror issue relative to other issues - the economy, crime, etc. - could rise dramatically between now and election day, driven by events outside anyone's control, such as another major terrorist attack here in the U.S. His big lead over Kerry on the terror issue had promised the potential to swing a huge number of undecided voters to the Deserter if there occurred another spike in the significance of the terror issue among voters. Terror is no longer a potential "big swing" issue for the Deserter.

Second, the huge drop in the Deserter's poll numbers on the terror issue indicates that he is no longer able to manipulate or "spin" the terror issue effectively. On other issues, such as the economy and Iraq, the Deserter's poll numbers appeared to generally comport with reality: gradual increases in poll numbers for the Deserter's handling of the economy as the economy gradually improved, and generally declining poll numbers for his handling of Iraq as the situation there continued to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the Deserter's poll numbers on terror held remarkably high even as terror proliferated and Al Qaeda has been resurgent, suggesting that the Deserter could "spin" the issue to his advantage even in the face of bad news. There is now reason to believe that the Deserter's poll numbers on the terror issue will rise and fall based on his ability to actually stem terror rather than his skill in fearmongering and exploiting hatred of muslims.

Third, the terror poll numbers have closely tracked the "strong leader" poll numbers, where the Deserter also held a big lead over Kerry. Those poll numbers have now diverged, however, suggesting that although poll respondents still find the Deserter to be a "strong leader" (I know, it's incredible), they now have doubts whether more "strength" - more bombs, more torture, more invasions - is the solution to the terror problem. That's very bad news for the Bushies, because the Deserter has burned our bridges on alternative approaches to the terror issue; it's too late for The Great Unilateralist to resort to diplomacy and multilateralism. If you believe we can more effectively fight terror by realigning ourselves with the rest of the world, John Kerry is your man.

Fourth, and most significantly for all of us, a continued decline in support for the Deserter's terror policy should cause the neocons and their Oval Office stooge to hesitate before unleashing an "October suprise." The great danger inherent in a collapse in the Deserter's poll numbers was that he would seek to capitalize on support for his handling of the terror issue by invading Syria or fomenting a major terror attack on the U.S., either of which would tend to rally support for a President seen as effective in fighting terror. But if the President is viewed as ineffective in fighting terror, either of these stratagems could create a huge backlash. Just ask Jimmy Carter. A foreign threat will produce the "rally 'round the President" phenomenon only if the President is trusted to respond effectively. Although voters will generally give the President the benefit of a doubt in responding to a new threat, a judgment of failure with respect to an existing threat is punished severely. The hostages in Iran had languished for fully a year by the time the 1980 elections were held, and the judgment was that Carter had failed. Similarly, the "war on terror" will be more than three years old by October. If the Washington Post is correct, the Deserter's terror policy has been adjudged a failure - more people are willing to entrust the "war on terror" to an alleged flip-flopping northeastern liberal than are willing to back the incumbent President.

I've stated before my belief that the neocons and their stooge President would not hesitate to engulf the middle east in flames if that promised an electoral benefit. But although they may be amoral, they can read the polls, and the message from the latest Washington Post poll is clear: resort to an October surprise at your own risk, Mr. President. The days of exploiting fear and death for votes are coming to an end.

Friday, June 18, 2004

George Bush Is A Lying Sack Of Shit

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda." The Deserter, June 17, 2004

"I believe Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to strike them now." The Deserter, September 17, 2001
He stated his belief that Iraq was involved in 9/11 just days after the attack, without any evidence to support such belief and in the face of advice from his top anti-terror advisors that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. He then approved dissemination of this quote in Bob Woodward's book "Bush At War" in order to create the misimpression among the American people of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. And then, having introduced a poisonous lie into the public's consciousness, he steadfastly refused to correct this falsehood until long after the invasion and cynically exploited it to build support for his fraudulent war.

Of course Dick Cheney, abetted by neocon whore Bill Safire, has been flogging the "Atta in Prague" lie for years.

"[I]t's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack." Dickless Cheney, Meet The Press, December 9, 2001.
On September 8, 2002 Cheney claimed on Meet The Press that Atta "did apparently travel to Prague. . . . We have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer a few months before the attacks on the World Trade Center."

As recently as last September, this extraordinary exchange between Tim Russert and our dickless Vice-President took place:

RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

DICKLESS: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

Later in the interview Dickless made this statement with regard to Iraqi involvement in 9/11:
"With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know."
As my wingnut friends are certain to bleat, "he said he didn't know." The only problem is that the FBI and CIA had already concluded by the time of this interview that there was no credible evidence to support the "Atta in Prague" fantasy. The Washington Post's Dana Priest and Glen Kessler thoroughly exposed Dickless' disingenuity in a September 29, 2003 article.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Death At Abu Ghraib

An 42 year old inmate at Abu Ghraib has died. The U.S. military is investigating. But, as usual, everything they are doing stinks like a three day old fish.

The U.S. military will conduct an autopsy, following which the body will be turned over the International Committee of the Red Cross and then to the Iraqi interim government. We are already under suspicion in connection with more than three dozen detainee deaths in Iraq - why aren't we letting the ICRC conduct the autopsy? Our autopsy will inevitably be greeted with skepticism, whereas an ICRC autospy would be viewed as presumptively reliable. Why aren't we availing ourselves of this opportunity?

The U.S. military claims that the deceased had been detained since May because he was believed to be "an imperative threat for attacks against coalition forces." In this context, the word imperative means that the detainee was suspected of being able to control or direct attacks against coalition forces. However, the U.S. military revealed that although this man had been held for three weeks or more, and was suspected of having information regarding attacks on coalition forces, he had yet to be interrogated! Isn't it incumbent upon the military to interrogate promptly a detainee suspected of possessing knowledge of future attacks on coalition troops? Did our military really believe this detainee had knowledge of attacks planned on coalition forces, or is this reason for detention merely a catchall used to justify the indefinite detention of people indiscriminately rounded up at Iraqi checkpoints?

The administration appears intent on fostering suspicion of our motives and methods in Iraq and undermining the credibility of our military. This is either gross incompetence or, more likely, an inescapable consequence of a dishonest policy. The administration claims cooperation with investigations of abuse in Iraqi prisons but conspicuously fails to avail themselves of the ICRC's cooperation in matters such as the autopsy of the deceased Abu Ghraib detainee. The administration claims that detention policies at Abu Ghraib are being reformed but continues to detain Iraqis for suspected insurgency activities without even bothering to interrogate them for weeks or months.

The game plan is obvious: wait for the media and the public to lose interest and then go back to business as usual in the festering Iraqi prison system. No reform, no accountability, no cooperation with investigations. No truth, no honor, no concern for the daily damage done to America's reputation in the world.

Donald Rumsfeld and his Pentagon poltroons are war criminals. Every day they continue to serve in the highest echelons of our government is another day of shame for our nation.

The Further Adventures Of The Incredible Shrinking President!

No need to speculate any further. Among the Presidents of the last 35 years, the Deserter is at the bottom of the Oliphant Index. Yup, smaller than Jimmy. The winner, and new featherweight champion of the world, Geoooooorge Dubyaaaaaaaa Buuuuuuuuuushhhhhhhhhhh!

The Return Of Sanity

Why did we invade Iraq? Why do we remain? Why does the Bush administration continue to lie about the reasons for the war? The long somnolent editorial boards of our major American newspapers have been roused by the 9/11 Commission. There is no place to hide for the Deserter and the neocon taliban.

"No liberation dances. No WMD. No supplying of WMD to terrorists, including al-Qaida. No link to 9/11. Why was it we went to war in Iraq?" Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Question: If Iraq did not have atomic, biological or chemical weapons, and if it was not in cahoots with terror gangs such as al-Qaida, what is the nature of the threat it posed? Bush and other officials need to supply honest answers to that question." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different." New York Times

"On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney declared that Saddam Hussein "had long-established ties with Al Qaeda." A day later, President Bush pointed to Islamic militant Abu Musab Zarqawi, who may be hiding in Fallouja. "Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to Al Qaeda affiliates and Al Qaeda" in Iraq, he declared. It's hard to imagine that either Bush or Cheney had an inkling of what an interim staff report of the independent 9/11 commission would say Wednesday. There is "no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States," the new report states. In fact, prewar Iraq spurned Al Qaeda's overtures. Though Zarqawi may be directing attacks against Americans in Iraq, and Baghdad may now be Terror Central, it is a consequence of the war itself." Los Angeles Times

Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Iraq had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda -- a comment President Bush seconded the next day. The administration has conceded there's no "direct" link between Iraq and 9/11, but it has labored to create that impression. And, in addition to weapons of mass destruction, Iraq's connections to terrorism were part of the administration's case for war. By now that seems implausible. To the extent the administration persists in promoting either its claims of a terror connection or weapons of mass destruction, its integrity is called into question at a time when it's trying to restore its credibility with the American people and the world. Newark Star-Ledger

As long as the administration insists on the 9/11 connection, its solution to the Iraqi problem will be based on false assumptions. The 9/11 panel's report, based on the findings of U.S. intelligence and unencumbered by political considerations, should be the last word on the subject. Miami Herald

"The great virtue of the commission's reports, however, lies not with its depiction of particular intelligence failings but with its faith in transparency -- a refusal to fall for the authoritarian fallacy that certain unpleasant matters must be kept secret from the general populace." Boston Globe

"The Order To Shoot The Demonstrators..."

"Q: Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out?

A: Higher Command. We were told to be on the lookout for civilians because a lot of the Fedayeen and the Republican Guards had tossed away uniforms and put on civilian clothes and were mounting terrorist attacks on American soldiers. The intelligence reports that were given to us were basically known by every member of the chain of command. The rank structure that was implemented in Iraq by the chain of command was evident to every Marine in Iraq. The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials including intelligence communities within the military and the US government."
Cluster bombs in urban areas. Depleted uranium in populated areas. Attacks on unarmed civilians with 50 caliber machine guns. Massive civilian casualties.

It became more than Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey could tolerate. Sgt. Massey, a great American patriot, bears witness to the war on the Iraqi people, the war our government doesn't want us to know about, the war that took place while the Deserter was holding his "mission accomplished" circle jerk in the Pacific, the war that took place far from the media billeted at luxury hotels in the green zone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

We Know, We Know! Someone Tell Cheney and Safire!

The 9/11 Commission has concluded that there is "no credible evidence" that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda in any attack on the U.S., and further concluded that bin Laden was actually hostile to Saddam's exceedingly secular regime in Iraq, confirming the assessment of the CIA that was reported to the Deserter months before the invasion.

Reports of the 9/11 Commission's findings follow by just one day that latest fulminations of our homicidally delusional Vice-President. Coincidence, or could it be that Kean and Co. have finally tired of Cheney's brazen lies?

As for Bill Safire's fetish, the alleged Atta visit to Prague, the Commission stated that "[b]ased on the evidence available -- including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting -- we do not believe that such a meeting occurred." Sorry, Bill, you'll have to find another neocon fantasy to peddle.

Bleed 'Em Dry

Juan Cole links to a report by the Open Society Institute's Iraq Revenue Watch that discloses that the U.S.-controlled Program Review Board is planning a $2 billion fire sale of Iraq reconstruction projects between now and the June 30th transition to Iraqi "sovereignty."

Wouldn't one expect that the awarding of reconstruction contracts would be delayed until the new Iraqi government can approve them? Isn't is rather unseemly that a reconstruction contract gold-rush should take place in the weeks preceding the transition to an interim Iraqi government?

This country is already red-lining on the shame meter thanks to the administration's affiliation with Torture International, Inc., and now we're dumping a huge "sweetheart contract" fait accompli into the laps of Allawi and his cabinet, a government that comes into office already suspected by the Iraqi people of being U.S. stooges.

Isn't there anyone in the Bush administration with a shred of dignity or decency?

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Iraqis Reject U.S. Puppet

Newsweek is reporting that a recent Iraqi public opinion poll indicates that only 23% of Iraqis support new Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi; 61% of Iraqis oppose Allawi.

The poll also indicates 55% of Iraqis would would feel "more safe" if coalition forces left Iraq immediately. As recently as January only 28% of Iraqis felt that way. The poll also indicates rising support for Al-Sadr, declining support for the CPA and plummeting confidence in the coalition forces.

Most depressingly, a majority of Iraqis believe that the actions of the Abu Ghraib MPs are representative of all Americans.

There is no good news for the U.S. in the poll whatsoever. The Iraqi people want us out now, and the longer we stay the more support radicals like Al-Sadr are gaining.

The Cover-Up Is Collapsing

From the Telegraph in the U.K.:
The Telegraph understands that four confidential Red Cross documents implicating senior Pentagon civilians in the Abu Ghraib scandal have been passed to an American television network, which is preparing to make them public shortly.
The Telegraph article goes on to state that "According to lawyers familiar with the Red Cross reports, they will contradict previous testimony by senior Pentagon officials who have claimed that the abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison was an isolated incident."

"You Haven't Begun To See Evil"

"He said 'You haven't begun to see evil...' then trailed off. He said, 'horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.' "
Rick Pearlstein, quoting from Seymour Hersh's remarks last week at the University of Chicago.

Mr. Pearlstein's notes of Seymour Hersh's remarks are reported by Brad DeLong. Mr. DeLong's blog is essential reading. There are still many who wish to avert their eyes from what has been done in Iraq in our names, to ignore the crimes committed by the Deserter and his neocon henchman. We are indeed face to face with evil, and we mustn't blink. A painful reckoning is nigh, and then our national shame will end.

Labour Party Humiliation

It hasn't received much attention here in the U.S., but Tony Blair's Labour Party finished third in last week's U.K. local elections, finishing behind even the Liberal Party, the first time in memory that the ruling party in the U.K. has finished third in such elections. Ousted Labour party officeholders have blamed Labour's support of the Iraq war as the cause of their electoral misfortune.

The British people have spoken on the issue of Iraq. If polls here in the U.S. are any indication, we Americans will also repudiate the War criminals in our own country in November. Election day cannot come soon enough.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Refuting the Stupid Arguments of Your Wingnut Friends, Part IV

Yes, it's time for another episode. Adam from Muncie, Indiana writes today:

"Goldstein, don't you think you're overplaying this whole Abu Ghraib thing? I mean really, so what if some Iraqis were made to stand or march around, or didn't get to bed on time? I'm sure it wasn't pleasant but come on, it's not torture!"
Thanks for writing Adam. I've received similar messages from many patriotic Americans, and I'd like to respond.

Adam, Sec. Rumsfeld approved a list of permissible interrogation tactics for use at the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba ("Camp X-Ray"). It has been determined that a similar list of interrogation tactics were posted in the wing at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad where many of the widely reported abuses of Iraqi detainees took place. These tactics included various forms of physical duress (standing or marching for long periods of time, sitting in uncomfortable or stressful positions, etc.), exposure to extreme heat or cold, and "dietary manipulation." It is difficult to know precisely what took place, because these clinical descriptions of approved tactics could cover a wide range of inhumane treatment. For example, the three tactics I've just cited - physical duress, extreme heat/cold and "dietary manipulation" - were sufficient to produce one of the most infamous and sadistic incidents of torture in history: the Bataan Death March.

Thousands of Americans and Phillipino soldiers died on a six-day march through the suffocating heat and searing sun of the Phillipines, denied food, generally denied water, and driven by their Japanese captors to march to the point of utter exhaustion. Many died from the hellish conditions alone; others that collapsed, still alive, were shot or bayoneted by Japanese soldiers. Accounts of many survivors describe such agony produced by the heat, hunger and exhaustion that they found themselves tempted to fall by the way and accept their fate at the end of a bayonet rather than continue.

Adam, we do not yet know all that took place at Abu Ghraib, but we must keep in mind that the tactics approved by the Pentagon, however harmless they may sound in the clinical tones of Pentagonese, could have been used to produce treatment so hellish and inhumane as to shock the conscience. The military has acknowledged that it is investigating more than three dozen deaths of Iraqi detainees under suspicious circumstances. Needless to say, if even one Abu Ghraib detainee (none of whom were terrorists according to the Pentagon) died from physical duress, extreme heat or cold, and/or "dietary manipulation", it is a stain upon everything that America stands for.

Neocon Incompetence Through The Decades

John Patrick Diggins, in an op-ed piece in today's New York Times, supplies yet another reminder of how consistently wrong the neocons have been over the decades and across various foreign policy issues.

Mr. Diggins' recounts the dangerous policies espoused by the neocons during the Reagan administration, and offers reminders from George Schultz and Reagan himself of how the neocons could have screwed-up the ending of the cold war. One can go back even further, however, to the Ford administration to find the neocons already at work, preaching radical militarism as a solution to all of our problems.

Perle, Wolfowitz and other neocon artists were members of a "Team B" formed during the Ford administration to second-guess CIA assessments of the Soviet threat. "Team B" concluded that the CIA was vastly underestimating the size of the Soviet economy, the level of military spending and the Soviet capability to upgrade its missile systems. Information obtained following the end of the cold war conclusively established that the CIA in fact had overestimated Soviet capabilities in each instance. The CIA had been far off the mark, but Team B wasn't even in the right ballpark. Rather reminiscent of the neocon's assessment of the Iraqi threat, isn't it?

The neocons have only one policy: rampant U.S. militarism in service of a bullying foreign policy and an American empire. That was their policy in the Ford administration. That was their policy in the Reagan administration. That has been their policy in the Bush administration. The only difference now is that they finally have a president stupid enough to actually implement each of their maniacal proposals. Hence, the catastrophe in Iraq.

America's Gaza

The Left Coaster today provides a link to a June 9th Financial Times article about U.S. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor. It didn't have to be this way in Iraq, Col. Madgregor reminds us.

"We have people in special forces that know how to work with local populations. We could have adopted that particular model, opted for a very light presence, and focused our occupation largely on Baghdad, maintaining some mobile armoured reserves that could rapidly move in and crush any real resistance.

"But to conduct house-to-house searches, to conduct heavy-handed raids, to run checkpoints that were extremely humiliating, to arrest people in front of their families, put bags over their heads, handcuff them and treat them with extreme disregard for human dignity, was a serious mistake - and it was not necessary."
Isn't it obvious that we would have done things Col. Macgregor's way if our only intention had been to liberate Iraq? Isn't it equally obvious that we did things quite differently because the true intent of the White House and the Pentagon was to subjugate Iraq and maintain an indefinite occupation on the model of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza?

Pappas To Sanchez To Cambone To Rumsfeld To...

This morning the Washington Post reports that the Military Intelligence officer in charge of Abu Ghraib has told investigators that the use of unmuzzled dogs to terrorize detainees was approved by Col. Thomas Pappas, head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib. Pappas has informed investigators that the use of the dogs as approved by a two-star general. Two dog handlers have testified in sworn statements that military intelligence requested use the dogs in interrogations on multiple occasions. One of these statements is dated January 23, 2004, months before the Pentagon and White House claimed that the abuses were limited to "a few American troops."

The Washington Post report follows yesterday's report by the Wall Street Journal that a Pentagon memorandum corroborates that Rumsfeld personally authorized abusive interrogation tactics at Guantanamo in December 2002, tactics very similar to those subsequently employed at Abu Ghraib, and that after only one month certain of these tactics were banned following complaints from military officers regarding the severity of the tactics.

When did the Deserter become aware that the highest echelons of the military command at Abu Ghraib had been implicated? Was he aware of it prior to May 24, 2004 when he referred, in a speech to the nation, to "disgraceful conduct by a few American troops"? Didn't the President have an obligation to learn of the potential extent of the military's involvement in the Abu Ghraib abuses before falsely assuring the American people that no more than a "few American troops" were involved? Who advised the Deserter that he could make this claim in his speech? Was that person aware the investigations had already implicated the top military command at Abu Ghraib?

Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and Cambone must resign today. And then the entire nation will take care of Bush and Cheney on November 2, 2004.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Ray Charles

Ray Charles died today. He was a giant of American popular music. His rendition of "America the Beautiful" made me cry each time I heard it for months following 9/11. More recently I get angry when I listen to his rendition thinking of how this country has been shamed by our leaders.

He made his mark in R&B. He played jazz. He rocked. He sang the blues. He even did country. He no sooner explored a new genre than he redefined it. He was a protean musical figure of almost unimaginable breadth.

Goodbye, Ray.

The Incredible Shrinking President

Oliphant's latest cartoon shrinks the Deserter even further. Jimmy Carter was never so miniscule.

Meanwhile, Chip Bok also notes the puniness of our chief executive.

Further in the vein of the Diminishing Deserter is Ron Reagan's observation regarding the lack of heft in the Oval Office: "My father was a man - that's the difference between him and Bush. To paraphrase Jack Palance, my father crapped bigger ones than George Bush."

Well put, Ron.

NATO To Deserter: "Iraq Is Your Problem"

NATO's brushoff can't come as a surprise, even to one as dull-witted as the Deserter. After all, the Deserter has been telling our NATO allies to pound sand for two years. Remember "old Europe"? Remember "cheese-eaters" and "chocolate makers"?

The Deserter's desperate shift in Iraq policy in recent weeks, a virtual wholesale adoption of Kerry's Iraq policy, leaves voters with the question of which man is better able to implement that policy.

Which man is better able to enlist the support and aid of our allies in Iraq? One candidate has consistently emphasized the need for international support. The other candidate ridiculed our allies, bullied them, threatened U.S. reprisals for their ambivalence about our Iraq policy, and ultimately decided to go it alone.

Republicans, seemingly oblivious to the implications of their arguments, have been gleefully proclaiming the similarity of the Kerry and Bush Iraq policies. To the extent this policy is based on broadening international support, there is simply no rationale for voting for the man who is more mistrusted and despised by our allies than any president in our history.

For Whom The Polls Toll

They toll for thee, Deserter.

The L.A. Times poll has Kerry in front, 51% to 44%. The poll was conducted Saturday through Tuesday, yet there is no apparent bounce for the Deserter from the Gipper's passing, despite the best graverobbing efforts of the Bush/Cheney campaign.

Fret not, my republican friends. If Reagan's death doesn't give the Deserter's campaign a jolt, there's still two more former republican Presidents extant who could suffer a timely demise.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Dr. Mengele Would Be Proud

I have read the March 2003 "torture memo" requisitioned by Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II. Anyone familiar with Hannah Arendt's observations regarding the "banality of evil" will find this memo a most chilling document.

To begin with, the memo is a pernicious exercise insofar as it doesn't even attempt to argue that torture is permitted under applicable international law or U.S. law, but rather argues that the President can do whatever the hell he wants, international law be damned, and anyone else can violate international law and even U.S. anti-torture statutes as long as they are following the orders of their commander-in-chief. It's your basic "this is how you can violate the law and avoid prosecution" primer.

I'll dispense with any analysis of the "international law be damned" argument in the memo; it would be a mere cavil to invoke international law against torture in Iraq when the very invasion of Iraq flagrantly flouted international law.

The memo begins with an analysis of various international and U.S. anti-torture laws, including pertinent provisions of the Geneva Conventions. The typically sterile language of legal analysis is indeed unsettling in a discussion of torture, but it isn't until the third section of the memo, captioned "Legal doctrines under the Federal Criminal Law that could render specific conduct, otherwise unlawful, not unlawful," that the memo veers into a legal and moral twilight zone.

I'll spare you the analytical gymnastics, which even by legal standards are, forgive the pun, tortured. Briefly, the memo argues that the President is bound only by federal law, not by international law, and that even federal law does not proscribe the President's exercise of his powers as commander-in-chief. "Congress can no more interfere with the President's conduct of of the interrogation of enemy combatants than it can dictate strategy or tactical decisions on the battlefield," the memo states. The memo then finds that federal criminal law that prohibits torture is thwarted if the torture is committed upon the orders of the commander-in-chief.

This is the most startling aspect of the memorandum, that it plainly fails a fundamental test of legal argument: its reasoning ineluctably leads to absurd results, or as one my law school professors would say, a "parade of horribles." The more complex legal arguments are, the more abstract the fundamental legal underpinnings of the argument, the more necessary it is to run an example through the reasoning and see what comes out the other end. This exercise frequently reveals that ostensibly reasonable and even elegant briefs "prove too much" and thereby prove nothing at all. For instance, a legal brief that argues for exculpation of a murder given a particular set of facts is defective if it similarly exculpates all murders and therefore nullifies murder statutes.

This particular memorandum fails what I'll refer to as the "Mengele test": would notorious Nazi torture doctor Josef Mengele be guilty under U.S. law if his sadistic medical "experiments" had been undertaken pursuant to orders? The unmistakable answer in the torture memo is "no, as long as the orders originated with the commander-in-chief." I think most Americans would be startled to realize that the Nazis' "I was only following orders" defense is an effective defense here in the Land of Liberty, and yet that is precisely the conclusion of the torture memo.

The memo, or more precisely the requisitioning of the memo by the Bush administration, fails a second Mengele test, as well: it cloaks perfidy in the perverted practice of an honorable profession. Mengele tortured, no matter the ridiculous claims of medical experimentation. Similarly, this memorandum, for all of its citations of law and invocation of legal principles, seeks only to justify torture. Dr. Mengele would be proud.

This memo can't be pinned on six or seven naive kids plucked out of their homes and families and unceremoniously dumped into the grotesque Iraqi funhouse of violence and sadism. This memo can't be dismissed as the musings of a mid-level bureaucrat. This memo was prepared by a committee appointed by the general counsel to the Defense Department, a man who worked closely with neocon criminal Doug Feith to subvert protections against the U.S. torture of detainees, and the conclusions in the memorandum neatly rationalize the very interrogation abuses that came to pass at Abu Ghraib.

This memorandum is the scandal. This memorandum is what should send a shiver down the spine of every American. It's time to stop feeling smug about ourselves and realize that there is no system, no form of government, no constitution that guarantees against the defiling of a nation by its own leaders. There is only the dedication of the people to constitutional and democratic principles that can defend against the criminality of its leaders. And this is what is so scary. Because it is already apparent that a substantial portion of the American people are willing to throw all of our principles and freedoms into the fucking toilet the moment an unprincipled administration shouts "terrorism."

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Kerry Galluping Away With Race

The latest Gallup Poll has Kerry in front 50% to 44% among likely voters, and 49% to 43% when Nader is included. This lead is, as they say, statistically significant.

What is really significant, however, is that the Deserter has not yet suffered the consequences of any of the pending investigations: the Plame outing, Abu Ghraib, and the Chalabi espionage scandal. He has spent tens of millions of ad dollars spreading brazen lies about John Kerry and has little or nothing to show for it. Iraq shows no sign of stabilizing, and continued chaos means that there will inevitably be a clash between the new, interim Iraqi government and the U.S. military, a confrontation that will reveal the June 30th handoff as a fraud.

Don't forget, a desperate Deserter, urged on by Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neocon criminal gang, will not hesitate to fabricate "security threats," instigate war with Syria or send the entire middle-east up in flames if any of these options promise a political payoff. We must be vigilant.

Reagan, Goldwater And History

A wingnut friend has taken exception to my citing of Reagan's opposition to landmark Great Society legislation as an example of how Ronnie was on the wrong side of history.

Goldstein's supersciliousness on this subject is not unexpected. He still doesn't get it. Any lawyer or any citizen who cares one whit about the Constitution should praise Reagan and Goldwater for their principled stands on the Civil Rights act of 1964, the Voting Rights act of 1965 and Medicare, as all three were completely unconstitutional because they simply trashed the 10th amendment.
Although I do not subscribe to any doctrine of Supreme Court infallibility, I do generally believe that any credible legal argument will find at least a measure of support somewhere on the Supreme Court. However, tenth amendment challenges to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was immediately challenged by the proprietor of the Heart of Atlanta Motel in Atlanta, Georgia. The motel's attorneys challenged the legislation on the basis of, among other things, the tenth amendment of the constitution. They found not a single justice receptive to their argument. The Supreme Court voted 9-0 in favor of the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The majority opinion was written by Tom Clark of Texas. Hugo Black of Alabama wrote a special concurrence.

As for the argument that Reagan and Goldwater should be lauded for their "principled" opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I can only laugh. Goldwater's grandstanding was a shameless and politically expedient appeal to bigotry that was so thoroughly rejected by even his own party that such race baiting tactics were deemed unfitting of national political discourse until Reagan led a recrudescence of this ploy in the 1980's. If Goldwater had been so concerned about the tenth amendment, why did he support the Civil Rights Act of 1957 as proposed by Eisenhower, a bill that proposed granting the federal government the authority to enforce voting rights, to seek injunctions against all civil rights violations, and to prosecute violators of these injunctions? The civil rights bill of 1957 was no less an incursion on states rights than the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but somehow Barry wasn't as concerned in 1957. No, Barry's newfound consitutional beliefs in 1964 reflected his desire to capture the south in the '64 presidential election. John F. Kennedy knowingly and courageously put the south back in play in presidential politics for the first time in a century when he decided to cast the civil rights issue as a moral issue. Barry sunk to the occasion, suddenly discovered the tenth amendment, took his 40-some electoral votes from the Land of Dixie, and earned himself a place in the Political Expediency Hall of Fame.

I don't like to trash Barry, because he softened considerably in his old age. But Barry's trolling for southern votes in '64 was distinctly unprincipled, and Reagan's support of such racial pandering singularly unseemly.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Great Appeaser

Like any liberal, I am profoundly ambivalent about Ronald Reagan. His domestic policies were small-minded, his vision extending no further than the constricted perspective of his class and time. Through a remarkable confluence of luck, personal charm, optimism and a natural garrulousness, he had rocketed from humble beginnings in the midwest of the depression era, son of an alcoholic loser, to a life of acclaim and glamour in Hollywood. The ease with which he accomplished this, the apparent fluidity of this progression, imbued in Reagan the conviction that there were no problems that couldn't be overcome with pluck and grit, a naive and ingenuous outlook that spoke soothingly to a constituency weary of the battle for social justice after 20 years of hard won progress, but an outlook that translated into politics that widened the divisions in our society into chasms that to this day paralyze our ability to deal with social problems, a paralysis that leaves the wealthiest nation on earth an also-ran among its western peers in terms of educating its children, caring for its elderly, providing health care to its impoverished and protecting its weakest against the scourges of violence, drug addiction and despair.

These are the hard truths about Ronald Reagan.

He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed Medicare. He was consistently on the wrong side of history on every major domestic initiative during an era in which this country finally, after nearly 200 years, resolved to give full meaning to the promise of the constitution. With respect to the great foreign policy issue of the day, Reagan favored a limitless commitment to the war in Vietnam and expansion of the war in southeast asia. "We should declare war on North Vietnam," Reagan insisted. "It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and be home by Christmas." Even as the rest of the republican party was looking for the exits in Vietnam, Reagan foolishly persisted in the delusion that victory in Vietnam was attainable.

Ronald Reagan does deserve credit, however, for resisting the temptation to impulsively and blindly retaliate in response to a string of terrorist attacks against the U.S. in the mid-1980's - the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in April 1983, the Beirut barracks bombing in October 1983, the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kuwait in December 1983, the bombing of the U.S. embassy annex in Lebanon in September 1984, the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. It took courage to withdraw from Lebanon following the barracks bombing that claimed 241 American lives, to admit that he had been wrong to deploy the marines in Lebanon and that there was no U.S. objective in Lebanon that justified risking American lives. Reagan refused to permit a minute, radical element of Islam to goad him into declaring war against a billion people.

If any of the Reagan hagiographers who will flood the airwaves in the next 48 hours were true to their republican convictions about the necessity of waging a war against terrorism, they would be compelled to excoriate Reagan for his fecklessess and weakness in the face of terrorism, his "failure to understand" the nature of the terror threat. They would have to condemn him for permitting Islamic radicals to believe they could strike at America with impunity. They would have to lay at Reagan's feet substantial responsibility for the terror attacks of the last 11 years that culminated in 9/11. If republicans were right about the necessity of waging war against terrorism, then one would have to conclude that on the issue of terrorism Ronald Reagan was yet again on the wrong side of history.

But of course Ronald Reagan was not on the wrong side of history on the issue of terrorism. As distorted as Reagan's sepia-toned image of America frequently was, it was absolutely precise in its evocation of the gentle giant, slow to anger but fierce in its determination to defend its liberty, a nation with an innate understanding that it would be judged by the rest of the world and by history not by the strength of its armies or the vastness of its wealth but by the restraint and wisdom with which it exercised the prerogatives of great power. Ronald Reagan's America was wary but not fearful, resolute but not vengeful. In this respect Ronald Reagan's vision of America was true and right, and in this respect Ronald Reagan's vision of America stands in stark contrast to the vision of America that prevails in today's republican party.

I have no doubt, however, that the Deserter and Newt and Billy Kristol and all the rest of the midgets will manage to overlook these inconvenient truths while they canonize Reagan over the airwaves. But make no mistake: the same people who will lionize Reagan in the coming days have for the last three years implicity damned Reagan's terror policy as appeasement, and located him on the wrong side of history on the most significant issue of our time.