Monday, March 31, 2003
Regardless of your opinions about the war, it's very difficult to feel anything but horrified and frightened upon reading this harrowing account of scenes from the battle for Nasirya, by Mark Franchetti of The Times (UK) (via Kos).
It is obvious that the planners of this war never anticipated fighting like this would occur anywhere outside of Baghdad, if at all. The involvement by civilians, including women, as combat scouts and decoys for the Iraqi irregulars cannot be explained in the terms that the Bush administration and its defenders employed to pitch this war to America or the world (for a brief rundown of the rhetoric, check out this Alterman post).
Months ago, it seemed there were many choices. Leave Saddam alone, or confront him? If confrontation was chosen, how best to do that? Through the UN? Through NATO? Cruise missile strikes a la 1998? Each decision closed off half of the universe of options, until now we are left with a choice that is, in itself, no choice at all. All questions flow into or branch out from just one question, now: Go back, or go forward? As Josh Marshall has observed, it is very much in character with the general methodology of the Bush administration to create these non-choices, these nested sets of faits accompli. How could we possibly withdraw, now that the only option that holds out even the possibility of a good outcome is the destruction of Saddam's regime?
Withdrawal at this point will leave Saddam immensely strengthened, and the US immensely weakened. All of the actual violence on the ground in Iraq, and all of the wanton ripping out of the wiring of the global political order will still be with us, at an advantage of...nothing. No international rapprochement, no reason to heal, just ugliness, recriminations, a chorus of I-told-you-sos from our former allies, a terrifying whiff of opportunity under the noses of every outlaw regime in the world, a domestic firestorm of fingerpointing, a new wave of American isolationism.
But if we go ahead, we will have more, and worse, stories like the one linked to above.
So what is there left to be in favor of? We can withdraw, and give up global superpower status, while having forced the destruction or grevious wounding of the only organizations that could hope to come after us, or I can just sit on my fat ass and yell "On to Baghdad!" while braver men than me take bullets and torture themselves over the horrible choices they are being forced to make. What is the third choice? Is there even a third choice left anymore? If not, is that by accident or design?
I spend a bit too much time on this site being aghast, but goddamn it, here I go again. I am fucking aghast. Check this out
US soldiers in Iraq asked to pray for Bush
They may be the ones facing danger on the battlefield, but US soldiers in Iraq are being asked to pray for President George W Bush.
Thousands of marines have been given a pamphlet called "A Christian's Duty," a mini prayer book which includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House pledging the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush.
"I have committed to pray for you, your family, your staff and our troops during this time of uncertainty and tumult. May God's peace be your guide," says the pledge, according to a journalist embedded with coalition forces.
The pamphlet, produced by a group called In Touch Ministries, offers a daily prayer to be made for the US president, a born-again Christian who likes to invoke his God in speeches.
Sunday's is "Pray that the President and his advisers will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding".
Monday's reads "Pray that the President and his advisers will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics".
Not rely on their own understanding? Whuh?
Friday, March 28, 2003
Iraq moves on, the world waits with specifically baited breath, everyone waiting to see which perspective will be vindicated. My first reaction is just to make a prediction:
If this war keeps going like it is, I predict that you will see something like this:
The liberals should be ashamed. While our troops fight for their lives in the desert, the left's anti-American carping has had it's desired effect. The Iraqis have hope now, reinforced by the pictures of American city streets clogged with this pack of deluded Stalinists. A unified America would have terrified the thugs who maintain and serve Saddam's regime. Instead, it is clear that the objectively pro-Saddam left has chosen to undercut the work of our noble sons (and daughters) in the desert. Every lost American life should be placed at the feet of those who choose to ignore reality and continue in their childish fantasy of "international consensus".
The people have a choice. They will be judged by that choice in the balance of freedom.
Coming soon to an op-ed page near you. Michael Kelly, the floor is yours, you inexplicably prosperous whore.
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Well this can't be good.
On the road this week, I'll do the best I can to post from the hotel.
Friday, March 21, 2003
I am way behind the curve here, as this has already been widely distributed, but check out this blog from Baghdad. I suppose that the author, one "Salam Pax" (Peace Peace), could be anywhere, he could be down the hall from me. But it feels legitimate after a few moments of reading. Apparently the lights are still on in Baghdad, and some of the TV channels are still broadcasting. He doesn't really get into where he stands on the war, but just talks about what's going on around him. I've read his site for a couple of days, and I have to say, I really hope he comes through okay.
I am curious why I haven't heard much about this excerpt from Tony Blair's Wednesday speech:
Our commitment to the post-Saddam humanitarian effort will be total, we shall help Iraq move toward democracy, and put the money from Iraqi oil in a U.N. trust fund so that it benefits Iraq and no one else.
This, if true, is a pretty big deal. The Bush administration has stated that it will use the resources of Iraq to pay for the reconstruction, but this is the first time I have heard that this work will be done, and the money managed, by the organization Bush and his cronies have constantly denigrated as a pack of ineffective, "irrelevant," foot-draggers.
So was Blair taking a flier on presenting Bush with a fait accompli? Or is this the real policy? This would be, frankly, an excellent way for Bush to quell, or at least rebut, a lot of the international opposition to this war. Such an action would lend credibility to the only aspect of this adventure that I have found to be compelling - the insertion of a spine into the UN, so it can work to solve the problems in this world that require global cooperation.
On another topic, I'm having a very hard time figuring out if the war is going well. I think it probably is, but it's amazing to see how the curtain comes down once the shooting starts. And I'm not talking about censorship, either, just the general fog of war, when an hundred thousand things are happening at the same time, and X% are good and expected, X% are bad and expected, X% are good and surprising, X% are bad and surprising, and X% are just random noise. Doesn't stop me from flipping over to the news sites every fifteen minutes, though.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
While characteristically less of a stream-of-consciousness rant than my post of yesterday, this Spinsanity post looks at the same Knight-Ridder poll indicating that over half of respondents believed that "some" or "most" of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens (with 21% answering that "most of them" were Iraqi). They state, as I did, that this is foolish. Spinsanity links to this helpful ABCNews guide to the hijackers in support of their categorical assertion that "none of them were."
But the ABC guide doesn't offer many more specifics than the FBI site does, and is, in fact, clearly based upon it. 7 of the hijackers are identified as Saudis, 1 (Atta) as an Egyptian, 1 as a Yemeni, 1 as Lebanese. Nine of the hijackers are not attributed to any nation, and the guide states that "little is known about them."
So what's the point? Am I saying I believe they were Iraqis? No. I believe that al-Qaeda is a completely independent entity from Hussein's Iraq, with diametrically opposed goals. Further, I don't think that bin Laden would do anything to add legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab world to a leader that he (bin Laden) has stated he wishes to depose and replace with an Islamist. Were al-Qaeda lacking financial support (they weren't), recruits (they had plenty), or a sympathetic nation to base themselves in (the Taliban were quite accomodating), then I could see a reason for such an alliance. Since none of those conditions are met, I chalk up this mental association to the feverish worldview of those who believe that all of America's enemies are closeted together in a room somewhere dreaming up new ways to get us.
Surely there are organizations in the world obsessed with damaging America, but these groups also have their own interests, their own agendas, which they will pursue, even if doing so prevents them from making a strategically valuable alliance. Just look at China and the Soviet Union. I imagine if you polled the country in 1958, the majority would have said that Moscow and Beijing were allies, at a time when those nations absolutely loathed each other, and were routinely on the brink of conflict.
The apparent vacuum of information about the true identity of the hijackers has been filled, in the minds of more than half of the country, by the intentional mantra linking 9/11 with Saddam Hussein that comes from the mouth of every official in the Bush administration.
But I am not righteous either - my mind was filled from somewhere as well. Before I started writing that post yesterday, I would have bet cash that the national identity of at least 15 of the hijackers was known with certainty. I would have been wrong about that.
N.B. - A brief tour of the current headlines of the major news sites:
WashingtonPost.com: "War Begins in Iraq"
FoxNews.com: "U.S. STRIKES BAGHDAD; IRAQ RETALIATES"
NewYorkTimes.com: "Iraqi Missiles Fired at G.I.'s in Kuwait
After U.S. Tries to Hit Saddam Hussein"
CNN.com: "DECAPITATION ATTACK"
Fucking CNN. Jeez.
N.B.2: It occurs to me that the "worldview of those who believe that all of America's enemies are closeted together in a room somewhere dreaming up new ways to get us" could be referred to as the "Naked Gun" view of history, after the scene in that movie when Frank Drebin crashes through a window into a secret meeting at which Gorbachev, Daniel Ortega, Castro, Ghaddafi, Yasser Arafat and the Ayatollah Khomeni are sitting around a conference table snickering and scheming. Drebin gives Khomeni the Three Stooges treatment. It's funny. And dumb.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
I think this Oliver Willis post is getting at something pretty important:
This Is The Brink Of War?
If it weren't for the thundering theme music on MSNBCNNFox, it would be hard to tell that this country is less than 24 hours away from an intense military conflict. My grandparent's generation lived through the conflict to end all conflicts, World War II - where even in the small island of Jamaica my grandmother got to know what it was like to black out your windows and hear an air raid siren. In World War II, you didn't know that our side would win. The eventual victory of the allies must have seemed very far off when Londoners sought shelter from the Blitz, Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor, and the Japanese engaged in atrocities in Nanking. Hitler and his army were a force so powerful, they could have won the war and that put the fear of Jesus into the globe.
For a country like America, even with 9.11 a recent memory - there is no such fear, and it strikes me as an unhealthy thing. President Clinton was the first leader born from a generation who saw conflict in the terms of Vietnam and America's subsequent bulking up for adventures in numerous global hotspots. Kosovo showed us that our power was so great we could cower an enemy without even setting foot on his land - we could destroy him from the air. I am of course happy that this force is defending me, but I wonder if in taking our military might for granted that we now see grand military undertakings not in the reverential tone of our forbearers, but as just another thing that happens.
There are 300,000 American soldiers about to break down Iraq's door and we don't think that's a big deal until the door is actually broken. Until then we watch American Idol and Frasier and go to work in our cars or on the subway and come home asking "hey, did the war start yet?" as if it were just another midseason replacement.
There is no way that can be a good or healthy development.
I don't want to fall into the trap of generalizing about people's reactions to the war. But we have been talking about the "imminent war with Iraq" since almost immediately after the dust settled in Afghanistan. I still don't understand how that trackswitch got pulled. People watch Frasier and American Idol not because they don't care about the war, but because they feel almost completely disconnected from the decisionmaking apparatus that is sending in the troops. They have been told, every day, from a hundred directions that war is coming, war is here, war is the new american ground-state.
For example, from the Address to Congress Bush made on September 20, 2001:
Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
Considering how assiduously Bush has labored to affiliate the war on Iraq with the war on terror, it should come as no surprise that Americans are inured to the state of alert. What is asked of Americans in the era of modern war, anyway? From the same speech:
Americans are asking: What is expected of us? I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.
I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith. (Applause.)
I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with your contributions. Those who want to give can go to a central source of information, libertyunites.org, to find the names of groups providing direct help in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you to give it.
I ask for your patience, with the delays and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security; and for your patience in what will be a long struggle.
I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11th, and they are our strengths today. (Applause.)
And, finally, please continue praying for the victims of terror and their families, for those in uniform, and for our great country. Prayer has comforted us in sorrow, and will help strengthen us for the journey ahead.
So, live your lives, hug your children, uphold the values of America, support the victims, cooperate with law enforcement, be patient, participate and be confident in the American economy, and pray. That's it - for better or worse, that's the menu of options available to you, unless you are a soldier. These options are passive, reactive, domesticated. (Well, supporting the victims is active, as is upholding "the values of America," I suppose) .
I don't mean to spin this like it's a bad thing. Christ, it's the goal of every society, to insulate its population from the shocks and disorder of conflict, of social disintegration. But what Oliver was getting at, I think, is a valuable point. When these types of choices are the only way to express your solidarity with Americans overseas, it makes you more receptive to the versions of events being presented by the authority figures, and gives those authority figures a vast credibility advantage over those who seek to dissent.
I think Bush has squandered his credibility at every opportunity. I think that there is no way to watch the man talk, and then compare his words to his subsequent actions, without coming to the conclusion that the man is a shameless, unrepentant liar and manipulator. I think this is painfully obvious. According to a CBS/New York Times poll taken last week, however, I'm fucking wrong.
In his prime-time press conference last week, which focused almost solely on Iraq, President Bush mentioned Sept. 11 eight times. He referred to Saddam Hussein many more times than that, often in the same breath with Sept. 11.
Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks. A New York Times/CBS poll this week shows that 45 percent of Americans believe Mr. Hussein was "personally involved" in Sept. 11, about the same figure as a month ago.
That's not even the worst of it. I don't find the evidence credible, but it is possible to believe that Hussein had some kind of hand in, at least, supporting al-Qaeda over the years. At the very least it can be said that, as there never could be in case of shadowy conspiracy like this, there is no concrete evidence disproving such a connection. But what to make of this, from the same article:
Polling data show that right after Sept. 11, 2001, when Americans were asked open-ended questions about who was behind the attacks, only 3 percent mentioned Iraq or Hussein. But by January of this year, attitudes had been transformed. In a Knight Ridder poll, 44 percent of Americans reported that either "most" or "some" of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens. The answer is zero.
The facts of the origin of the 9/11 hijackers are not a matter of opinion or credibility. It is not an instance where you can just have a feeling. The origin of the hijackers is established fact. Most of them were Saudis, and none of them were Iraqi. So how can Americans answer this question the way they did?
The same way they can watch Frasier and American Idol, and give an eyerolling sigh when the "Special Report" graphic comes up on the screen. Because they have been pummelled into incuriosity. They love their country, but they can't help it in any tangible way, so they just do what feels patriotic. It's a laudable impulse. It is also one that those currently running this country are aware of, and use, every chance they get. If you criticize the war, you are pro-terrorist. If you criticize Bush, you are unpatriotic. Wave your flag and eat your freedom fries.
This post has gone on way too long, and I know a lot of this is well-trodden ground. Anyway, check out >this dailyKOS post to see some more of this kind of instantaneous deployment of the shock troops to blanket dissent in the neverchanging message of support the war support the president support America support the war support the president support America support the war support the president support America war president America war President America war President America war President America war President America...
War starts tonight. I hope it's over soon. I hope we win. Saddam is a horrible man, who shouldn't wield power over a family, let alone a nation. But once it's over, the song's just going to get louder.
UPDATE - I just went looking at the FBI website to find out what the actual national origin count was on the 9/11 hijackers, and throw a link into the above sentence stating that the identity of the hijackers was, as I put it "established fact." Interestingly, the most current information up on the FBI site is from 9/27/01, and is not terribly specific. I tried in vain to find a news story breaking them down, but the best I could do was this, which names several as coming from the UAE, Syria, and Lebanon, along with at least two Egyptians and at between 11 and fourteen Saudis. The point is unchanged, but I find it interesting that the FBI site was not more comprehensive.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
I know I have been off the air for a while, and I will try to do better in the days to come, but in the meantime, ratchet up your spluttering-with-inexpressible-rage-at-the-witless-pack-of-xenophobes-America-has-become quotient by checking out this proposal to give the statue of liberty back to the French.
I know, I know, it's a joke. I'm sure the Congress was just kidding about the whole "freedom fries" thing, too. Hahahaha. Ha. Ahem.
A bad time to take a hiatus - a week in which I am thrown a link by the mighty CalPundit. Oh, well.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
This is funny. Go read it.
Friday, March 07, 2003
The exploding world population is something of a sidelined issue these days, or at least has fallen from its former four-alarm status in the public mind (remember "The Population Bomb" and all the associated garment-rending from the seventies?). But, just to check in, take a look at the U.S. Census Bureau's population clocks. Hit refresh a few times. I'm no expert, and I recognize that much of the alarmism about a Malthusian die-off was based on pretty shaky science, but still, jeez. Hit refresh a couple more times. That's a lot of goddamn people.
(post re-edited slightly to eliminate awful, inadvertent pun)
Well, the "Christmas Tree" bill is dead. The bill, originally drafted to provide significant tax breaks to active-duty military personnel, was killed on the floor by GOP rank-and-filers who recoiled in horror from the unrelated tax breaks slathered on the bill by their compatriots in the Ways and Means committee.
It may be unfair, as it was, in fact, the GOP that killed the bill, but I find this quote from the story to be singularly illuminating:
About two weeks ago, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) told Republican and Democratic members they could use the $482 million tax bill as a vehicle to add other tax provisions that had failed in previous efforts. Several Republicans responded with targeted tax breaks, including a repeal of the excise tax on fishing tackle boxes, a tax break for the weather-related sale of livestock, and elimination of taxes on foreigners who bet on U.S. horse races. Democrats extended the bill's benefits to Peace Corps volunteers.
And there it is. Heh.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
I have not read anything else on the site, so I don't vouch for it, but here "The Agonist" has set forth a pretty good breakdown of the risks vs. the rewards of invading Iraq.
Anne Applebaum's column in the Post today is an interesting meditation on the meaning of Stalin's birthday. Applebaum looks dubiously upon some of the latter-day dismissal of the significance of the Cold War, and what the questions posed about the Cold War say about the Soviets, and us:
The answers to these questions matter at a time when the West is once again fighting an ideological enemy, in the form of radical Islam. If we remembered, truly remembered, why the Cold War was fought and how it was won, for example, we would know that it is unacceptable to alter our liberal democracy in order to fight the war on terrorism either at home or abroad. This week, I heard a university professor tell a television interviewer that he thought the use of torture in the interrogation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the al Qaeda leader, was acceptable, as long as it is done abroad, and as long as it is not used on U.S. citizens. Elsewhere, Sen. Jay Rockefeller said, "We don't sanction torture," but there are "psychological and other ways we can get what we need" out of him -- whatever that means. Comments such as these have sparked, once again, a mini-storm about whether Americans should be allowed to use torture or not.
Properly understood, the history of the Cold War should lead us directly to the answer: We fought Stalin's system because it was inhuman, not just because it was powerful. Our weapons helped us to win, but our victory, in the end, had far more to do with the moral and material success of Western society and the bankruptcy of communism. On the anniversary of Stalin's death, it is worth remembering that radical Islam will also come to a swifter end if we abide by our own rules of decency at home, and apply them to others as well.
An obvious point, sure, but obvious only because it should be so basic. If we forget it, we become just another jousting, jostling power. Ascendant, triumphant, absolutely, but no different than the other empires that have risen, declined, and fallen. America may only rationally view itself as an exception, as outside the cycle, if we are, in fact, different. If the only thing we treasure and exult in is our power, and the only thing we are concerned with is our safety, we are doomed, standing a thousand miles high, ruddy with vigor, shield polished and held high, enemies at our feet, sun on our face, cancer in our belly, creeping, creeping.
UPDATE: Thanks to my friend Abe, I have been directed to this editorial by Jack Wheeler in the Washington Times, which presents, erm, a different perspective. I present it in it's horrible, indefensible entirety:
With the capture of top al Qaeda terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (known as "KSM"), getting him to disgorge the contents of his brain quickly and truthfully is critically necessary before his network has a chance to vanish undercover.
What, then, would the most efficient and effective form of interrogation be? In 1995, the Philippine State Police captured an al Qaeda agent. They knew he was planning some terrorist act, but didn't know what. So they tortured him — the old-fashioned way, right out of the movies with putting out cigarettes on his testicles, breaking his ribs, the whole brutal nine yards. It took two weeks and finally he broke, revealing a plot to hijack 11 airliners. By exposing and unraveling the plot, the torture saved hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives, so it was clearly justified.
The ethics of torturing KSM should not be an issue. As a practical matter, the question is: How to torture him in such a way that it takes hours, not days or weeks, for him to break; and when he does, you know for sure he is telling the truth.
To start, you don't want to use a so-called truth serum like thiopental sodium. It acts by confusing your memory so much you forget who is your friend and who is your enemy. So you think the interrogator is your friend and you talk — except you can't think or remember clearly. No, you want KSM to be thinking and remembering with crystal clarity.
The best lie detector — although it's not used as such — would be a medical brain-scanning device called a functional MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Light years in effectiveness beyond a polygraph, an fMRI scan can distinguish — instantly, in real time — when someone is lying as opposed to telling the truth, as different regions in the brain would light up.
So here's what to do.
Fly in from the United States and set up an fMRI at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, where KSM is being held, and do three things: Place KSM under the fMRI brain scanner; put him on a mechanical respirator; and give him an injection of a paralytic drug called succinyl choline chloride (SCC).
SCC, used as a veterinarian anesthetic, causes muscle paralysis by blocking neuromuscular junction. It causes immobilization without affecting the central nervous system, such that KSM cannot move, yet he is fully conscious and there is no analgesia (pain relief). Injection by an M.D. anesthesiologist of SCC into the nerve tracts leading to the diaphragm will paralyze the muscles needed for breathing. KSM can think, remember, and talk, but he cannot breathe. The mechanical respirator breathes for him. Without the respirator, he would quickly suffocate and die.
The respirator is a CPAP, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure unit used for treating sleep apnea, with a nasal mask. The unit itself is placed in an adjacent room with a long hose, as no metal can be around the huge magnets of the fMRI. The unit will force air via the nasal passageway into the lungs. His mouth is free and clear to talk.
Now the interrogation begins. KSM is asked a series of questions to which the answers are known (e.g., Are you a Muslim? Would you like a drink of pig grease?). If he lies, the respirator is turned off. Few experiences are more terrifying than that of suffocation. After a sufficiently terrifying period of suffocation, the respirator is turned back on, the question is asked again, and the process repeated until he tells the truth. Once you have the regions in KSM's brain clearly distinguished that light up when he is lying or telling the truth, the serious questioning starts. It will not take long, an hour or two at the most, before KSM is singing like a full chorus of canaries.
After all useful information has been extracted from his brain, KSM should be informed that he will now be killed after his body is smeared with pig fat, that his dead body will be handled by women, and all other actions taken that prevent a Muslim from entering heaven upon death so that he dies believing he will never get the heavenly wine and virgins, but will burn in Hell instead. Upon his execution, there should be no physical remains. The body should be cremated and the ashes scattered to the winds.
Then, the word can be spread. All members of al Qaeda must know that once captured, their terrorist brethren will betray their comrades and that their fate will be ashes and Hell. The only way to win the war against terrorism is to terrorize the terrorists into giving up their evil jihad.
Holy fucking shit. Where am I? What country is this? Is fear our only weapon? Does Wheeler really believe that we have literally nothing else to offer the world than a gun to the head?
And on a pedestrian note, let me get this straight: Applebaum writes a column excoriating those who apologize for Stalin, praising America's role in the defeat of communism, and urging us to remain true to American values (which, as defined in the 8th Amendment, do not include torture). Wheeler advocates the high-tech torture and execution of an enemy, including measures taken to ensure that he dies convinced of his own damnation, and states that we can only win battles by adopting the worst, cruelest tactics of our enemies. If the polarity of the mainstream runs from the Post to the Times, this is a striking indication of how far to the right that center has really moved (as if we needed any more evidence of that).
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Long-post blogger and freelance scribe David Neiwert's Orcinius is definitely among my favorite blogs right now. Neiwert is unafraid to engage in long, multi-post meditations on themes that, while perhaps tangential to the immediate front page, seem to be deeply in synch with the modern political context, and work to reveal the very real division between the political poles in this country. One example of this is his ongoing series on the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, ostensibly arising from the oft-dissected comments of Republican Representative Coble of North Carolina, but really exploring the deep will of Americans to decry the sins of others while forgetting, forgiving, or reifying their own. Another recurring series is Neiwert's exploration of the true definition of fascism, and the improper uses the concept is put to by both sides of the modern polity, the latest installment of which is up today. Today's post, the seventh, includes links to the previous six in the series. If you have a while, go read them all.
Also, I am having a hard time getting my head around the schizophrenic New Republic these days - one week they are falling over themselves to praise the Bush team's honesty and toughness in a bellicose lovefest like their recent Iraq issue, than they turn around and release Jonathan Chait's truly damning portayal of Bush's abysmal homeland security record, and the mainstream press' wilful ignorance of it. This article (subscribers only, sorry) could have been written by Alterman himself, as Chat fillets the media for their incurious acceptance and repetition of the administration's claim that homeland security is its top priority. Chait recounts numerous examples of Bush's citation of budget pressures to justify vetoing homeland security measures, and notes that preliminary democratic and bipartisan efforts to focus the budget on security priorities as basic as consolidating and guarding the nation's stockpiled nuclear material were utterly rebuffed because they would cost too much.
Bush's prorities are perfectly clear. He cares more about tax cuts than reducing the deficit. He cares more about controlling the deficit than boosting spending on homeland security. Ergo, Bush cares more about cutting taxes than boosting spending on homeland security.
. . .
Take the president's use of the Department of Homeland Security. When Lieberman first proposed creating such a department in October 2001, the administration opposed it. Then, last June, just as FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley finished her testimony about the FBI's mishandling of terror warnings, it announced that it would create such a department after all, even though the White House had only an embarrassingly vague proposal to offer at the time. Bush then seemed to go out of his way to ensure Democratic opposition. He demanded that department employees be stripped of civil servant protections - a surefire way to draw union opposition. Even though Bush himself had categorically opposed the creation of the department just months before, he immediately began telling audiences that any Democrates resisting his version were "not interested in the security of the American people." In the meantime, he spurned overtures from conservative Democrats, such as John Breaux, seeking a compromise. By opposing the department's creation at first, and then resisting any compromise, Bush created the very delay he bemoaned as injurious to the national defense - but gave himself a political issue with which to club the Democrats.
I'm not going to type the whole thing out, but I'm convinced that this is an important piece of political writing, especially as Bush ratchets up his rhetorical assault on the credulity of the American electorate and media. If half of the reporting in this piece is true, Bush has been impeachably irresponsible with his public trust, and unforgiveably dishonest in his holier-than-thou public posture as the determined guardian of the "security of the American people." Moreover, the media has given Bush a free ride for the record books.