"When will our troops come home?"
That's what Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asks in an op-ed piece at the Post today: "Over the next six months, we must forge a sustainable political compromise between Iraqi factions, strengthen the Iraqi government and bolster reconstruction efforts, and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces."The problem is, there are just so many shoulds. Is Bush up to the task? Or will he continue to play politics? I suspect the latter.For more, scroll down or see my previous post here.**********On the right, Captain's Quarters responds.The Glittering Eye has an excellent post: "The most pernicious of the many errors we’ve made over the last several years is the notion that we can achieve good things in Iraq or in the War on Terror without substantial costs. That just isn’t going to happen. Come what may there will be major political, social, economic, and human costs."
Preparing for withdrawal from Iraq
Republicans went nuts after John Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, and I myself do not favour immediate withdrawal, but it already looks as though the Pentagon is preparing for withdrawal:
Even as debate over the Iraq war continues to rage, signs are emerging of a convergence of opinion on how the Bush administration might begin to exit the conflict.Of course, the tide has turned. The Bush Administration, which has flip-flopped so often on everything to do with the Iraq War that nothing it says is credible, is trying to "relieve enormous pressure by war opponents".So the latest "story," already told by Rice and soon to be pushed by Bush himself, is that the Iraqis are almost ready to defend themselves. Are they? Maybe. We'll have to see. (I suspect that the Iraqis are far from ready.)But you can see what's going on, can't you? The Bush Administration is trying to set up a win-win situation for itself. If Iraq succeeds, with success defined broadly as stable self-governance that is more or less democratic, Bush can take all the credit (the war was worth it, see?). If Iraq fails, with failure defined as civil war and/or anarchy, Bush can blame the Iraqis themselves (the war was worth it, but those good-for-nothing Iraqis let us down, see?). And Iraq ends up somewhere between success and failure, which seems likely, Bush can spin whatever story makes him look good and helps him stick it to his opponents.Don't get me wrong. I hope Iraq succeeds. But don't let Bush define the terms.**********Joe Gandelman gets it right at The Moderate Voice: "The Bush administration has insisted that setting any kind of even nebulous date for a withdrawal encourages the enemy to hold out and get even bolder. Translation: it has insinuated that by setting a timetable more American military could be killed. And it turned this into a partisan jihad, going after one political party when even some members of the GOP are voicing increasing doubts."For this White House, it's all political, isn't it?See John Cole at Balloon Juice (with whom I've had my differences but who is one of the more thoughtful conservatives out there): "While drawing down 40k of 160k troops over the next year is certainly not cutting and running, I think it is pretty clear this decision is being based on domestic political considerations rather than facts on the ground. Which, of course, makes this administration no better than the cynical Democrats who have been using this issue for their own political reasons. Worse, some might argue, since this adminstration led us into this war, and now seems unwilling to win it."Here's John Aravosis at AMERICAblog: "So, basically, in order to save his political behind, Bush will put even more US soldiers in danger by trying to split the baby in half. And, within days of Dick Cheney suggesting anybody advocating a troop pull out is a coward and emboldening the terrorists (even though most of the folks we're fighting in Iraq aren't terrorists, but are actually Iraqis we've pissed off), Bush is now proposing the same thing."And Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo: "What we have is posturing and positioning over the political consequences of withdrawal. The White House and the president's partisans will lay down a wall of covering fire, calling anybody who considers withdrawal an appeaser, to allow the president to go about the business of drawing down the American presence in Iraq in time to game the 2006 elections."And Justin Gardner at Donklephant: "The Roveian way of doing things is to double the PR budget and forget about what’s right or wrong, because history is written by the winners. My grave fear, though, is while we may seem like the winners to some right now, the Iraqis will end up losing so much."See also Eschaton, The Heretik, Middle Earth Journal, Rising Hegemon, The Mahablog, and Just a Bump in the Beltway.**********I just have one word for how the Bush Administration is handling all this: DISGUSTING.
In a departure from previous statements, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week that the training of Iraqi soldiers had advanced so far that the current number of U.S. troops in the country probably would not be needed much longer...
The developments seemed to lay the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals in 2006 and 2007, consistent with scenarios outlined by Pentagon planners. The approach also tracks the thinking of some centrist Democrats...
DINOs and RINOs: Is the center rising again?
Read Joe Gandelman (The Moderate Voice) on Jonah Goldberg (L.A. Times). Booker Rising weighs in here.For what I wrote two weeks ago on the alleged rise of centrism, see here: "The center is with the Democrats, more to the left of where the Republican spin machine says it is. Indeed, I would say that liberalism is centrism. But it's up to liberals, and their Democratic candidates and representatives, to explain that to the American people, that is, to explain just how liberalism is at the very center of American life, how America's fundamental values are themselves fundamentally liberal."
Terrorism and opportunism
Kevin Drum on taking terrorism seriously: "The American public can hardly be expected to take terrorism seriously if it's obvious that the Bush administration itself views al-Qaeda as primarily a political opportunity rather than a real problem. Sooner or later, we're going to pay the price for this feckless and irresponsible approach."I think America's paying it already.**********See Dahlia Lithwick's piece on Jose Padilla at Slate. On the Padilla case, also see Intel Dump, The Liberal Avenger, and The Mahablog.Laura Rozen at War and Piece: "It is kind of staggering to realize the extent to which we may have been sold a fiction the past four years. Orwellian. All the more staggering because it's propaganda in the service of exaggerating a threat that needs no exaggeration."There's the Bush Administration for you. Now what was that about Cheney again?
Bill Richardson and me
Dear Mr. Richardson:Why?Sincerely,MJWS (fellow Tufts graduate)P.S.: Several of my fellow bloggers are similarly curious -- see here, here, here, and here.
Note: I was drafted by my hometown Montreal Canadiens in 1988. They thought I was the next Guy Lafleur. Of course, the Boston Celtics wanted me, too, and the opportunity to play with Larry Bird was nothing if not tempting, but I realized soon enough that baseball was my true calling. I started out as a pitcher in the Montreal Expos organization in 1990 before playing seven seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. I won two World Series with the Jays, but I was lured into pinstripes by some big-time money from George Steinbrenner. But by that time I'd had enough of baseball. I spent the next two years training for the NFL, and, this coming Monday, you may see me on the sidelines as Ben Roethlisbergers' back-up against the Colts on MNF. I'll be live-blogging the whole thing, unless Big Ben goes down again and I'm forced to take the field.(Update: After researching the matter, I've come to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the Canadiens, nor did I play for the Celtics, Blue Jays, and Yankees, nor will I be in a Steelers uniform on Monday. I regret the error.)**********Welcome TBogg readers. It's an honour to be linked from such a great site. I hope you like The Reaction, and I certainly invite you all to check back regularly for multiple daily posts on a variety of political and cultural issues.
The "wisdom" of Dick Cheney
"The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy."Does that get your attention? It should. It's the first line of "The long march of Dick Cheney," Sidney Blumenthal's latest piece at Salon.com (thankfully available in full here).Here's the next line: "Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power."It's provocative, with an excellent overview of Cheney's rise to power in the Nixon Ford, and Bush I administrations (and as a Congressman during the Reagan years). Make sure to read the whole thing. (Even you Cheney defenders. Needless to say, I'm not one of them -- see here, here, here, here, and here.)To tempt you, here are a couple of key passages:-- "Even though experts and pundits contradict his talking points, Cheney presents them with characteristic assurance. His rhetoric is like a paving truck that will flatten obstacles. Cheney remains undeterred; he has no recourse. He will not run for president in 2008. He is defending more than the Bush record; he is defending the culmination of his career. Cheney's alliances, ideas, antagonisms and tactics have accumulated for decades."-- "The making of the Iraq war, torture policy and an industry-friendly energy plan has required secrecy, deception and subordination of government as it previously existed. But these, too, are means to an end. Even projecting a 'war on terror' as total war, trying to envelop the whole American society within its fog, is a device to invest absolute power in the executive."-- "Dick Cheney sees in George W. Bush his last chance. Nixon self-destructed, Ford was fatally compromised by his moderation, Reagan was not what was hoped for, the elder Bush ended up a disappointment. In every case, the Republican presidents had been checked or gone soft. Finally, President Bush provided the instrument, Sept. 11 the opportunity. This time the failures of the past provided the guideposts for getting it right. The administration's heedlessness was simply the wisdom of Cheney's experience."But when and where will that heedlessness end? I'm not sure America can take any more of Cheney's "wisdom".(See also The Left Coaster and The Sideshow.)
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers. Have a wonderful (and safe) day.
What is white phosphorus?
Alright, I've already written three rather incendiary posts on white phosphorus, specifically on the use of WP by U.S. forces in Fallujah last year. Those posts, which elicited a number of impassioned comments from readers, are here, here, and here. Here's what's happened so far:-- Italy's RAI TV network aired a documentary alleging U.S. use of WP against civilians in Fallujah. This story was picked up by the BBC, The Independent, The Christian Science Monitor, and, in the blogosphere, Juan Cole.-- The Pentagon initially denied the story, calling it "disinformation". But then, after much delay, it flip-flopped and admitted that WP was used as a weapon against insurgents in Fallujah (but not against civilians).-- Think Progress reported on a declassified Pentagon document that refers to WP as a chemical weapon.And so here we are.It seems that Think Progress's report was somewhat misleading. Conservatives John Cole and Confederate Yankee respond, arguing that a) the Pentagon document cited by Think Progress is not an official document but the report of a conversation between two Kurds, and b) WP isn't a chemical weapon but a conventional incendiary one (when used as a weapon and not strictly as a smoke-screening agent).Fair enough. But let's hear from the other side:Kos, for example, whom John Cole singles out: "Apologists of the use of WP continue to hide under the legalistic argument that white phosphorus isn't classified as a chemical weapon under any treaty signed by the United States, as if our moral standing in the world hinges on legal parsings. In the court of world opinion, if it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, and burns off the skin of babies like a duck while leaving their clothes intact, well then..."And my friend Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest, who has been challenged by Confederate Yankee to a blogospheric duel: "Don't you understand the propaganda advantage they gained because our forces used WP for 'shake and bake'? Just as with torture, it isn't the revealing it's the doing. I don't CARE if it is a 'chemical' weapon or not, that is hardly the point. They should not have started the policy of torture, and they should not have allowed the use of WP as a weapon. Because of the huge propaganda advantage this gives the enemy. It is NOT the revealing, it is the USE. It is our DUTY to speak out against the use. And it is NOT the troops, it's the leadership that failed us."In the MSM, The Independent picked up the Pentagon document story,**********Dave makes a valid point: Does it even matter if WP is technically a chemical weapon? Shouldn't we be more concerned with the use of WP as a weapon? Or, that is, shouldn't the discussion focus on whether or not WP is a useful, legitimate, and, well, morally defensible weapon? (Or, perhaps, morality doesn't matter on the battlefield? -- if so, then say so.) Beyond this, shouldn't we be concerned with the perception of the use of WP as a weapon in Iraq? Kos is right, after all: WP seems like a duck. How does this affect U.S. credibility in Iraq, throughout the Middle East, and around the world? Does that even matter?These are all, I think, valid questions. Let's ask them. And answer them.For more on what WP is, and what it does, see GlobalSecurity.org here: "White Phosphorus (WP), known as Willy Pete, is used for signaling, screening, and incendiary purposes... White phosphorus is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory. Smokes and obscurants comprise a category of materials that are not used militarily as direct chemical agents."But it's pretty nasty stuff. See here. For example: "Skin contact with burning white phosphorus may burn skin or cause liver, heart, and kidney damage."From its Wikipedia entry (which, admittedly, may be open to criticism): "White phosphorus is a common allotrope of the chemical element phosphorus which has found extensive military application as an incendiary agent, smoke-screening agent and as an antipersonnel flame compound capable of causing serious burns."Effects on humans: "Incandescent particles of WP cast off by a WP weapon's initial explosion can produce extensive, deep (second and third degree), painful burns. These weapons are particularly dangerous to exposed personnel because white phosphorus continues to burn unless deprived of oxygen or until it is completely consumed, in some cases burning right down to the bone."But here's where things get interesting:
Use of white phosphorus against military targets (and outside civilian areas) is not specifically banned by any treaty. However, there is a debate on whether white phosphorus is a chemical weapon and thus outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which went into effect in April of 1997. The CWC is monitored by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The spokesman for that organization, Peter Kaiser, stated that the use of white phosphorus was not prohibited under the convention if it was used for "(m)ilitary purposes not connected with the use of chemical weapons and not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare" (Chemical Weapons Convention, Article II, Definitions, 9, "Purposes not Prohibited" c.)). The Chemical Weapons Convention specifically defines a "toxic chemical" as a chemical "which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals". (CWC, II). Following that definition, the convention defines chemical weapons as "(t)oxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes". Strictly speaking, since white phosphorus's primary effects are not actually due to its toxicity, but its spontaneous ignition in the presence of oxygen, many believe it has more in common with incendiary weapons instead.So legally, yes, there might not be a problem. And, indeed, WP may be a useful and legitimate "weapon" when used indirectly on enemy targets -- whether as a smoke-screening agent or as a psychological weapon. But what if WP is used so that the "incendiary effect" becomes primary? Is it then still useful? Perhaps. Legitimate? Maybe (since the U.S. isn't a signatory to Protocol III). But moral? There's the big question.Pentagon spokesman Col. Barry Venable has admitted that the U.S. used WP as "an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," according to the BBC. He stressed that it isn't a chemical weapon, that it's merely a conventional weapon, and that it's not "outlawed or illegal".Again, fair enough. But is that where the story ends? For some, yes. The U.S. used it, but it's not a chemical weapon, its use is not prohibited by treaty, and it may be a useful agent on the battlefield -- where, let us not forget, our troops' lives are at risk.But I come back to this: What message does the use of WP send to those whose hearts and minds the U.S. is trying to win over? After all, they're not interested in whether or not WP is a chemical weapon by definition or whether or not the U.S. is a signatory to this or that convention or protocol or whatever. They're not interested in the chemistry of WP or its deployment on the battlefield as a smoke-screening agent. Rather, they're interested in how the U.S. conducts itself in a war of its own making as it attempts to spread freedom and democracy around the world, in speech if not always in deed.Perhaps the Pentagon -- perhaps America's civilian leadership -- needs to do a better job explaining why it does what it does. If it was absolutely necessary to use WP on the battlefield in Fallujah, then make that case. If it wasn't, then there'd better be a good reason why it was used.Let me be clear about something before I end: I do not believe that there is any sort of moral equivalency between America and her enemies. I have said that before and I say it again. Criticizing the U.S. for using WP or for torturing detainees is not to imply that the U.S. is at the moral level of the Islamofascists, as they're now being called, or of, say, the Nazis.But America must be held to a higher standard. That is why torture must be repudiated and why the use of WP in Iraq must at least be questioned. I won't say conclusively that it should or shouldn't have been used, but the discussion must take place within the context of that higher standard.That's what the world expects of America. And that's what Americans should expect of themselves.
The 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (Protocol III) prohibits the use of air-delivered incendiary weapons against civilian populations or indiscriminate incendiary attacks against military forces co-located with civilians. However, the protocol also specifically excludes weapons whose incendiary effect is secondary, such as smoke grenades. This has been often read as excluding white phosphorus munitions from this protocol, as well. The United States is among the nations that are parties to the convention but have not signed Protocol III.
To bomb or not to bomb... Aljazeera
Is this story simply unbelievable... or does it make perfect sense?Juan Cole reports: "The Mirror broke the story on Tuesday that a secret British memo demonstrates that George W. Bush wanted to bomb Aljazeera's offices in Doha, Qatar, in spring of 2004. The subject came up with Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK, and Blair is said to have argued Bush out of it."More: "Despite attempts of British officials to muddy the waters by suggesting that Bush was joking, another official who had seen the memo insisted, "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."Have you seen Control Room, the brilliant documentary about Aljazeera leading up to and during the early days of the Iraq War? Read Professor Cole's full post, then go out and rent/buy it.**********The Daily Mirror is a British tabloid, but The Guardian picks up the story here: "Claims that George Bush planned to bomb the Arabic TV news station al-Jazeera have fuelled concerns that an attack on the broadcaster's Baghdad offices during the war on Iraq was deliberate."At The Washington Note, Steve Clemons "takes no position at all on whether Bush said this outrageous statement," but his lengthy post is a must-read. Among other things, he points out just how Aljazeera is misrepresented by the right.Digby things the story's true. He may very well be right -- but, like Steve, I take no position here. See also Atrios, Kos, and Firedoglake.AMERICAblog: "We have lost any credibility we ever had as a beacon of democracy and freedom." Well, I wouldn't go quite that far. With Bush, Cheney, et al., however, whatever credibility America has left is fading fast.And that's not a good thing.
Let the withdrawal begin...
From the Post:
Barring any major surprises in Iraq, the Pentagon tentatively plans to reduce the number of U.S. forces there early next year by as many as three combat brigades, from 18 now, but to keep at least one brigade "on call" in Kuwait in case more troops are needed quickly, several senior military officers said.
Pentagon authorities also have set a series of "decision points" during 2006 to consider further force cuts that, under a "moderately optimistic" scenario, would drop the total number of troops from more than 150,000 now to fewer than 100,000, including 10 combat brigades, by the end of the year, the officers said.
In other words, "a gradual, phased reduction," not an immediate withdrawal; indeed, "administration officials say that military and political factors heavily constrain how fast U.S. forces should leave. They cite a continuing need to assist Iraq's fledgling security forces, ensure establishment of a permanent government, suppress the insurgency and reduce the potential for civil war."
This would seem to make a lot of sense. I've argued here before that America has a moral responsibility in Iraq and that the job needs to be finished -- meaning, Iraq needs to be left in a position to survive on its own, or mostly on its own, with a relatively stable, democratically-elected government and control over its own security without the risk, or as little risk as possible, of regressing into anarchy and civil war.
But what "political" factors will be considered? Indeed, is it not likely that the Bush Administration will politicize any such withdrawal in order to reverse the Republican Party's current slide and establish momentum going into next year's mid-term elections? Or to boost Bush's own sagging popularity?One hopes that the right thing will be done and that various strategic factors will be considered, but cynicism -- a cynicism based on experience -- insists otherwise.**********Around the blogosphere:Political Animal: "They can call this a 'rough rule of thumb' if they want, but it sure sounds like the Pentagon is adopting a set of measurable benchmarks for a phased withdrawal. This is almost precisely what John Kerry proposed last month, and what an RNC spokesman immediately slammed as a plan that would 'endanger American forces on the ground.' But politics aside, I sure hope they're serious about this. If it's done right, it's probably the best hope we have for a non-catastrophic outcome in Iraq.Absolutely.The Carpetbagger Report suggests sending apologies to Jack Murtha. Well, my Republican friends, will you?See AMERICAblog, Preemptive Karma, One Hand Clapping, and, on the right, Captain's Quarters.
A matter of trust: Does the White House mislead the American people?
Another poll paints a clear picture of Bush's White House. From the Journal: "A majority of U.S. adults believe the Bush administration generally misleads the public on current issues, while fewer than a third of Americans believe the information provided by the administration is generally accurate, the latest Harris Interactive poll finds."What are the numbers?Democrats: 7% accurate, 91% misleadingRepublicans: 68% accurate, 28% misleadingIndependents: 25% accurate, 73% misleadingTOTAL: 32% accurate, 64% misleadingThe partisan results are predictable (although 28% of Republicans calling the WH misleading seems like an unusually high number -- is Bush losing some of his partisan support?). But independents have clearly turned on Bush. He ran on trust, on "values," but how much credibility does he have left?See the Journal piece for more poll results.
Who's the real coward -- Murtha or Schmidt?
Last week, Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio called Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, the decorated war veteran who recently called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a coward. Needless to say, her ad hominem didn't go over well. From the Post:
Rep. Jean Schmidt flung the word "coward" at a decorated war veteran from Pennsylvania last week, but the Ohio Republican's comments landed with a splat in her own Cincinnati district, where some supporters are backing away as she scrambles to explain what she meant.
Judging by her words yesterday -- the first after avoiding the public for three days -- Schmidt doesn't understand what the fuss is about, and sees herself more as victim than villain. "I am amazed at what a national story this has become," she said in a statement. "I have been attacked very personally, continuously since Friday evening."
Well, boo-hoo. Is it at all surprising that Saturday Night Live made fun of her? Or that The Cincinnati Enquirer criticized her? Or that her own friends are backing away from her? Sure, there's a lot of partisanship in Washington, a lot of senseless name-calling, but there's a big difference between respectful disagreement and disrespectful childishness.Is Schmidt a coward herself? You make the call.But what other word do you have for someone who took such a cheap shot at a distinguished American, hid from public view when the public turned against her, and now can't even understand what she did that was so wrong?**********Around the blogosphere:The Carpetbagger Report: "For what it's worth, Schmidt may represent a conservative Ohio district, but her callous style and personal attacks aren't boosting her popularity back home. At least two Republicans who ran against her in this year's special election have expressed interest in taking Schmidt on in a GOP primary again next year."The Moderate Voice: "Schmidt has a problem. Clearly, Bush and Cheney wouldn't have suddenly done all but twist themselves into pretzels to try and change their position enough to try and defuse the Murtha controversy unless they discovered they were suddenly facing big problems. Evidently, they got some very negative feedback and had to shift gears — fast. Polls? Calls from other Republicans? Expressions of dismay from members of the first Bush administration?"See also Hullabaloo, Talking Points Memo, The Heretik, Firedoglake, and Middle Earth Journal.
Pentagon calls white phosphorus a chemical weapon
On November 9 and 17 of this year, I addressed the use of white phosphorus, an incendiary weapon, by U.S. forces in Iraq. Reaction from readers was, well, intense.You can find those posts here and here.No one thinks that WP is a humane weapon, and no one denies that it was used in Iraq, specifically in Fallujah, but one of the central questions of the discussion, both here and elsewhere, has revolved around whether or not it's a chemical weapon. The answer, I thought, was no.But now Think Progress alerts us to a declassified Pentagon document that suggests otherwise: "A formerly classified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document titled 'Possible Use of Phosphorous Chemical' describes the use of white phosphorus by Saddam Hussein on Kurdish fighters:
IRAQ HAS POSSIBLY EMPLOYED PHOSPHOROUS CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST THE KURDISH POPULATION IN AREAS ALONG THE IRAQI-TURKISH-IRANIAN BORDERS. […]In other words, the Pentagon does refer to white phosphorus rounds as chemical weapons — at least if they’re used by our enemies."See also Daily Kos: "About the most frustrating thing about the White Phosphorus "debate" has been the endless discussion whether it's a chemical weapon or not. There are legitimate uses for WP -- battlefield illumination and target spotting -- but use as a battlefield munition has apparently been a big supposed question mark. This regardless the fact that WP objectively behaves like a chemical weapon."And Seeing the Forest (with links to various right-wing apologists).
IN LATE FEBRUARY 1991, FOLLOWING THE COALITION FORCES’ OVERWHELMING VICTORY OVER IRAQ, KURDISH REBELS STEPPED UP THEIR STRUGGLE AGAINST IRAQI FORCES IN NORTHERN IRAQ. DURING THE BRUTAL CRACKDOWN THAT FOLLOWED THE KURDISH UPRISING, IRAQI FORCES LOYAL TO PRESIDENT SADDAM ((HUSSEIN)) MAY HAVE POSSIBLY USED WHITE PHOSPHOROUS (WP) CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST KURDISH REBELS AND THE POPULACE IN ERBIL (GEOCOORD:3412N/04401E) (VICINITY OF IRANIAN BORDER) AND DOHUK (GEOCOORD:3652N/04301E) (VICINITY OF IRAQI BORDER) PROVINCES, IRAQ.
The unbearable arrogance of Bob Woodward (revisited 4)
(Go to the main page or, if you're already there, scroll down for the previous installments of this ongoing series.)Bobby W. was on Larry K. last night. Which is where he seems to make all his public appearances, where he knows he won't be challenged in any serious way.Crooks and Liars has the video and some commentary. AMERICAblog live-blogged the whole thing -- a must-read.See also Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake: "You know, I truly do believe this whole uproar has shocked Woodward. He doesn't get it. He thought he was going to be the hero. Even Larry asked him if he was being "used" by the administration -- Bob just looked befuddled. He seems to believe that whatever price he paid for access to an otherwise impenetrable administration has been worth it, with no notion that he has turned into a complete tool."An unbearably arrogant tool.(See also Hullabaloo, The Next Hurrah, The Heretik, TalkLeft, and my good friend Steve Benen at Political Animal.)
Another Deep Throat?
Over at The Washington Note, one of our favourites, Steve Clemons asks the all-important question: "Who is Patrick Fitzgerald's 'Deep Throat' source?"Stephen Hadley? John Bellinger? Richard Armitage? Someone else entirely?(I've previously written about Hadley and Armitage.)
Iraqis want timetable for U.S. withdrawal
So America's moral responsibility may not matter much anymore. The Iraqis are looking for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal:
For the first time, Iraq's political factions on Monday collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces, in a moment of consensus that comes as the Bush administration battles pressure at home to commit itself to a pullout schedule.Of course, this may give Bush an "out" -- eventually. He won't give in to those at home who are calling for withdrawal, lest he look weak and lose a high-tension partisan battle. But if the Iraqi themselves want the U.S to leave... well, then, who is Bush to say no?Forget that he started this mess in the first place and that he has grossly mismanaged the occupation and reconstruction of a conquered nation. If things go well, Bush (and his party) will take all the credit. If things go poorly, he (and his party) will find someone to blame. That's how Bush (and his party) do things.You can count on it.
The announcement, made at the conclusion of a reconciliation conference here backed by the Arab League, was a public reaching out by Shiites, who now dominate Iraq's government, to Sunni Arabs on the eve of parliamentary elections that have been put on shaky ground by weeks of sectarian violence.
About 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, many of whom will run in the election on Dec. 15, signed a closing memorandum on Monday that "demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces," the statement said.
"The Iraqi people are looking forward to the day when foreign forces will leave Iraq, when its armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they can enjoy peace and stability and an end to terrorism," it continued.
All the Former House Majority Leader's Men
Starring Tom "Hammer" DeLay, Jack Abramoff, and a cast of corruption.From the Times: "Michael Scanlon, former aide to a powerful congressman and onetime partner of a wealthy lobbyist, pleaded guilty today to a federal conspiracy charge as part of a deal in which he agreed to cooperate with an investigation into possible wrongdoing by some lawmakers."Coming soon to a courtroom -- or a TV set -- near you.**********See Talking Points Memo, The Left Coaster, TalkLeft, and Think Progress. Firedoglake has a great post.And see The Next Hurrah: "Whatever your complaints and concerns about this President... 2006 is the only way to readjust the relationshipo between the Congress and the WH. If you want Congressional oversight, you'd best elect a few more Democrats. Else there'll be more of the same for the next three years. And for so many reasons, from Iraq to scandal resolution, that would be a national tragedy."I try to be "fair and balanced" in my moderation, but I don't think I've ever been this partisan. We do need more -- many more -- Democrats in Congress.
America's moral responsibility in Iraq
Andrew Sullivan responds to this excellent piece by John Burns in the Times. To quote Andrew: "One thing I wish were more insisted upon. It's not just that we have no interest in seeing Iraq degenerate into a brutal civil and possibly regional war. By removing Saddam, we created this vacuum. We own it. We have a moral responsibility to see this through." (OxBlog responds.)I sympathize with those who are calling for U.S. forces to be withdrawn, from Cindy Sheehan to Jack Murtha, but the job must be finished first -- that is, Iraq must be firmly stabilized. As I've said before, the consequences of not finishing the job could turn out to be even worse than the gross injustices of this war.(The graphic above is from the Times. Credits can be found at the John Burns piece linked above.)
Locked door thwarts Bush -- a metaphor
The BBC has the funny (and rather pathetic) story here: "President George W. Bush tried to make a quick exit from a news conference in Beijing on Sunday -- only to find himself thwarted by locked doors." The Post (via Reuters) has it here.Steve Soto calls it a "moment of total buffoonery". Andrew Sullivan is more sympathetic and notes that Bush looked "shattered" on TV.Must-see: Check out the photo montage at Eschaton. As always, Crooks and Liars has the video.Call it a metaphor for Bush's castrated presidency and the end of the Bush Era.
Ariel Sharon to leave Likud
The Jerusalem Post is reporting that "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will announce on Monday that he intends to quit the Likud and form a new centrist political party".Open question (feel free to comment): What will this mean for Israeli politics?
The unbearable arrogance of Bob Woodward (revisited 3)
(For the previous three installments of this series on the Woodward revelation, see here, here, and here.) The Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, tackles the Post's (and its star reporter's) "tough week" -- see here. But this is all she has to recommend:
What now? Woodward ought to have an editor; every reporter needs one. [Executive Editor Len] Downie needs to meet with him frequently or assign him to another top-line editor here. In any case, an editor needs to know what he's working on and whom he's talking to. The Post needs to exercise more oversight. Woodward needs the grounding a good editor gives.Or perhaps especially because he's rich and famous... and unbearably arrogant.BUT THAT'S IT?! WOODWARD JUST NEEDS AN EDITOR?! (Hey, maybe he ought to attend Bush's ethics classes.)John Aravosis at AMERICAblog: "Now we have Woodward outright lying about the entire fiasco, the Washington Post's executive editor saying that it's "ridiculous" that the readers should expect Woodward to even be "disciplined," and the Post's non-budsman writing some freshman-in-college essay that suggests Woodward get an editor, when he already has one - it's the guy he didn't tell the truth to, his executive editor, who now isn't that concerned anyway about what Woodward did, let alone the lies he's still giving us. And you wonder why Woodward felt no compunction to tell this man the truth?" It's a great post. Make sure to read the whole thing. (And here's a response from Avedon Carol at The Sideshow.)
It boils down to this: There ought to be clear rules, easy for readers and Post staffers to understand, about Woodward's job at The Post. He has to operate under the rules that govern the rest of the staff -- even if he's rich and famous.
A violent weekend in Iraq
From the Times:
The Marine Corps said today that 15 Iraqi civilians and a United States marine were killed on Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded in the town of Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. At least 11 other Iraqis were killed or discovered dead today in various incidents, and military officials reported the deaths of two more Americans and a British soldier.Read on.
The deaths capped one of the deadliest three-day periods since the American invasion. In all, at least 155 Iraqis and 7 foreign soldiers have been killed in a spate of bombings and assaults that began Friday morning, when jihadists tried using two trucks packed with explosives to demolish a Baghdad hotel full of Western journalists.
That attack was followed by a pair of suicide bombings in two mosques in the northern Kurdish town of Khanaqin that left at least 80 dead and more than 100 wounded.
Or maybe it was Richard Armitage...
It's been Hadley's turn in the spotlight, but maybe the leaker -- to the two Bobs, Novak and Woodward -- was former Deputy Secretary of State (and Powell ally) Richard Armitage. At Newsweek, Evan Thomas and Michael Isikoff make just that suggestion.Digby: "If it does turn out to be Armitage, regardless of the political implications, I think that it's actually quite likely that the Woodward leak probably happened just as he describes it -- passing on idle gossip."See also TalkLeft and The Next Hurrah.Speculation and more speculation, fodder for the blogosphere. I'll keep following it, but it would be nice to know some hard facts.
A House divided: Iraq, Murtha, and the passions of war
At Newsweek, Howard Fineman reports on the past week's drama in the House, with passions on both sides raising the political temperature to dangerously high levels. But here's what really happened, what it was all about:
The drama on the floor was a shabby—at times, farcical—finale to a season that nevertheless had produced something serious: a transformation of the politics of the war in Washington. Some of the change had little to do with the war per se. From the bungling of Katrina disaster relief to the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, the White House had faced a run of bad news that would buckle support for any of the president's policies. But as they watched the continued deadly attacks by Sunni insurgents—and the continued erosion of Bush's numbers as a war leader and honest man—Democrats were encouraged to up the ante in Congress. "The fact is, Bush's war policy has failed," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a former Clinton spin doctor who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "It's failed! Who better to say so than Jack Murtha?"Murtha's call for withdrawal only served to concentrate the debate and hence to make the options so much more concrete. Bush may have flip-flopped again today and "toned down his attack on war critics" just over a week after his reprehensibly partisan 11/11 speech, but there's no turning back now and there's little that he can do to change the terms of the debate, war room or no war room.There'll be more spin, of course, but Bush has lost control of the domestic front. Two months ago I wasn't so sure, but now it may very well be that the Bush Era is finally over.(For more, see The Moderate Voice.)
Zarqawi may be dead
The AP reports: "U.S. forces sealed off a house in the northern city of Mosul where eight suspected al-Qaida members died in a gunfight — some by their own hand to avoid capture. A U.S. official said Sunday that efforts were under way to determine if terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among the dead."Needless to say, the good people at Iraq the Model are ecstatic. If it's true, we all should be.No End But Victory has more: "According to the Jerusalem Post, at least one Arab television network has reported that [Zarqawi] has been killed."See also, Wizbang, The Political Teen, Obsidian Wings, and Centerfield.
The castrated president: Bush in Asia
It's like no one's even paying attention to him anymore. And -- with North Korea and China to deal with, two very different but two very serious problems, an emerging nuclear state and an emerging superpower with enormous military and economic might -- he's stuck in his own Iraqi quagmire, unable to provide the statesmanship necessary to lead the international community and provide real solutions to these real problems.Sure, he may say the right things, he may address China's human rights abuses and toss out some high-falutin' and largely meaningless rhetoric about freedom ("once the door to freedom is opened even a crack, it cannot be closed"), but President Bush has essentially sacrificed America's credibility and leadership at the altar of his reckless and stubborn venture in Iraq.No one doubts America's hard power, even with U.S. forces bogged down in places like Fallujah and Tikrit, but it's the soft power that matters in the long run. For all the current talk about the situation in Iraq, for all the current debate about if and when to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, America's soft power may be the ultimate casualty of President Bush's presidency.Whatever happens in Iraq, America is weaker now for President Bush. It will take a real statesman, one who understands the nature of power and America's place in the world, to fix that overarching problem, and hence to address the real problems that both America and the international community will face in the years to come.(Open trackbacks on the right are here, here, here, and here. They should love liberals like me, shouldn't they? Especially this particular post. But I do pay attention to the conservative blogosphere and I do link to the better conservative blogs quite often.)