Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.
The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
Prisoners of Azkaban
Sunday, November 30, 2003
The pundits who addressed the nation from on high in this week's crop of shows were unanimous on three points:
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Matt Taibbi's True Colors
For years now, I've turned to The Nation mostly for its terrific cryptic crosswords. But they also print articles, and, from following a Clark list, I learned that the current issue of the mag features a remarkably pointless pile of drivel allegedly concerning Wesley Clark, and written by one Matt Taibbi. Although the best part of the magazine, the puzzles, regrettably, don't seem to be available online. Even more regrettable, the drivel is.
The article suggests that Taibbi's wholly negative view of Clark and his supporters comes from his observation of the campaign; in fact, it goes back several years. Through the late 90s, Taibbi lived in Moscow where he co-edited and helped write an English language magazine called The eXile. The eXile was, to put it mildly, opposed to the war in Kosovo. In his writing Taibbi was an open apologist for some of the most notorious crimes of Slobodan Milosevic and his associates. Taibbi wrote a long article implying that the January 15, 1999 massacre of Albanian civilians at Racak never happened. The evidence of a massacre at Racak is extensive; according to Human Rights Watch, which took extensive testimony from survivors:
Precisely how the twenty-three men were killed by the police on the hill outside of Racak remains somewhat unclear. But witness testimony, as provided here, and the physical evidence found at the site by journalists and KVM monitors, makes it clear that most of these men were fired upon from close range as they offered no resistance. Some of them were apparently shot while trying to run away. Journalists at the scene early on January 16 told Human Rights Watch that many of these twenty-three men also had signs of torture, such as missing finger nails. Their clothes were bloody, with slashes and holes at the same spots as their bullet entry and exits wounds, which argues against government claims that the victims were KLA soldiers who were dressed in civilian clothes after they had been killed. All of them were wearing rubber boots typical of Kosovo farmers rather than military footwear. It is possible that some of these men were defending their village in the morning and then went to the Osmani house once they saw the police entering the village. However, they clearly did not resist the police at the time of their capture or execution.
Precisely how the twenty-three men were killed by the police on the hill outside of Racak remains somewhat unclear. But witness testimony, as provided here, and the physical evidence found at the site by journalists and KVM monitors, makes it clear that most of these men were fired upon from close range as they offered no resistance. Some of them were apparently shot while trying to run away.
Journalists at the scene early on January 16 told Human Rights Watch that many of these twenty-three men also had signs of torture, such as missing finger nails. Their clothes were bloody, with slashes and holes at the same spots as their bullet entry and exits wounds, which argues against government claims that the victims were KLA soldiers who were dressed in civilian clothes after they had been killed. All of them were wearing rubber boots typical of Kosovo farmers rather than military footwear. It is possible that some of these men were defending their village in the morning and then went to the Osmani house once they saw the police entering the village. However, they clearly did not resist the police at the time of their capture or execution.
The massacre at Racak plays a prominent role in the indictment of Milosevic and his cronies for crimes against humanity. But Taibbi claims it was all a con job. To support this fantastic charge he offers no study of the evidence, but simply an examination of the resume of one witness, an American diplomat named William Walker who, as an official of the Kosovo Verification Mission of the OSCE, was among the first foreigners to enter Racak after the atrocities. Mr Walker, it seems, was previously stationed in Central America during the Contra War and related conflicts of the 1980s. Therefore, he is obviously CIA, proving clearly that the Racak massacre must have been a CIA trick. If Mr Walker were the only witness, that would be an ad hominem argument, but at least an argument. But since Walker 's statements were backed by many statements of survivors and other international observers, his own background is simply irrelevant.
The first armed NATO intervention in Yugoslavia took place at the end of August, 1995. The primary cause was the Srebrenica massacre which took place the preceding month, but the immediate spark was an artillery attack on the Sarajevo market that caused over 100 civilian casualties. Another Taibbi article suggests that this attack was staged by the Bosnians, as a plan to obtain NATO support by murdering their own people and then framing the innocent Serbs.
Despite its moral posturing about Serb ethnic cleansing, NATO itself has provided air cover for the same kinds of atrocities it now accuses the Serbs of committing. In 1995, NATO planes, responding to what many now suspect was a Bosnian-government-staged massacre of Muslim civilians, attacked and crippled the Bosnian Serb army with punishing air assaults.
Despite its moral posturing about Serb ethnic cleansing, NATO itself has provided air cover for the same kinds of atrocities it now accuses the Serbs of committing. In 1995, NATO planes, responding to what many now suspect was a Bosnian-government-staged massacre of Muslim civilians, attacked and crippled the Bosnian Serb army with punishing air assaults.
It is true that this claim has been made by such as Radovan Karadzic, not the most credible of sources, but good enough for the Nation. But it was categorically rejected by the UN (see paragraphs 438 - 441 of link) for good reasons, as discussed by Richard Holbrooke ("To End A War", ch 6). It is known that five shells were fired. Four failed to detonate, so analysis of their impact permitted a clear identification of the point of origin, which was in Serb-controlled territory. For the Bosnians to have fired the fifth and fatal round, it would have been necessary for the Bosnians to have known ahead of time exactly where and when the attack would come, in order to disguise their own shell as part of it.
Taibbi's further complaints against NATO ranged from the openly racist ("The Serbs are one of the tallest, most beautiful European tribes. Somalis, too, are tall and elegant, as are the Tutsi, who actually call themselves `The Tall People.` Why are the most beautiful tribes being wiped out by the squat and ugly?") to the highly personal ("Until a few weeks ago, Western men in Moscow could always count on being given special attention by that most precious of God's creatures, the Russian dyevushka.... Not now. Thanks to the NATO airstrikes, the White God has become the White Devil. All bets are off.... The days of E-Z sex and multiple partners in a consequence-free environment are over, thanks to America's sexually-demented president. Now, dyevs don't swallow. They just spit. All because your stupid country had to go 'n' bomb the Serbs.")
The general practice, rather conspicuous above, of going the extra mile to be as offensive as possible was a habit of Taibbi and The eXile. One Taibbi essy, under the title "God Can Suck MY Dick", says:
After 9/11, I'm certain: every last person who believes in God should be swept off the streets, captured with big nets, thrown into maximum-security institutions, and forced to knit oven mitts and play Lite-Brite with each other until their deaths. Despite what you may think, God people are not just incredibly stupid. They're dangerous. They make possible every kind of human idiocy. Why? Not just because they tend to be zealots who try to force their point of view on other people (indeed, most religions consider non-believers lost or damned); not just because they do things like level the World Trade Center or strap dynamite to themselves and walk into abortion clinics to kill teenage girls they don't even know. No, the big problem with God people is that they make patent absurdities a central fact in the lives of entire populations, so that if anyone by chance wants to live a reasonable life, he has to do so in private, apologetically, like a man walking half bent-over through a crowded subway car because he has an erection in his pants.
After 9/11, I'm certain: every last person who believes in God should be swept off the streets, captured with big nets, thrown into maximum-security institutions, and forced to knit oven mitts and play Lite-Brite with each other until their deaths.
Despite what you may think, God people are not just incredibly stupid. They're dangerous. They make possible every kind of human idiocy. Why? Not just because they tend to be zealots who try to force their point of view on other people (indeed, most religions consider non-believers lost or damned); not just because they do things like level the World Trade Center or strap dynamite to themselves and walk into abortion clinics to kill teenage girls they don't even know. No, the big problem with God people is that they make patent absurdities a central fact in the lives of entire populations, so that if anyone by chance wants to live a reasonable life, he has to do so in private, apologetically, like a man walking half bent-over through a crowded subway car because he has an erection in his pants.
Some of The eXile's outrages, such as the above piece, at least make a point. Others are adolescent transgressions of the worst kind, offensive for the sake of being offensive, without actually saying anything interesting, or making any noticable satiric point, or even being tastelessly funny. Certainly after a taste of The eXile, it is unsurprising that Taibbi adopted the persona of a porn director for his 'research' into the Clark movement.
As for the article itself, there's little to say. There are few facts to debate; Taibbi deals mainly in pointless anecdotes and personal opinions. He begins by looking deep into the eyes of various candidates. In the eyes of Kucinich, he finds limpid pools of sincerity consistent with Kucinich's standing as the writer's chosen favorite. In Lieberman, he finds humor - perhaps the gentleman from Connecticut also finds it clever to pick out random strangers and talk to them about having sex with their mother's corpse. In Clark he sees nothing, although the nothing seems to resemble a turtle, and there's a picnic basket in there somewhere. See, it's a metaphor, and if you're too clueless to understand, just do what Matt would do: read the article over again, changing every noun to 'penis'.
Matt then goes undercover to attend meetups with Clark supporters, who make valiant attempts to be polite to him although he is telling bizarre lies that they probably see through. As a result of this daring investigation, he is in a position to report that Clarkies want to defeat Bush and consider that more important than memorizing every detail of Clark's platform. Not many reporters could dig up this discovery in a month or so of research - most would take more like 5 minutes.
Taibbi is at pains to challenge Clark's bona fides as an anti-war candidate. "It is not easy to explain how a man who voted for Reagan and Nixon, was a speechwriter for Al Haig, worked in the Ford White House alongside Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and was a passionate supporter of the Vietnam War could become a darling of the liberal antiwar crowd. Thirty-five years ago, hundreds of thousands of people took angrily to the streets, universities were taken over and a sitting President was hounded from the White House because of people like Wesley Clark.... [N]o person who found the Iraq war morally repugnant could have gone on television and talked sunnily about how this or that weapon was ravaging Iraqi defenses. I remember watching Clark on CNN, and at one point he was actually playing with a model of an A-10 tank-killer airplane, whooshing it back and forth over a map of Iraq, like a child playing with a new toy on Christmas morning. A person who was genuinely opposed to the war as wrongful killing would be sick even thinking about such a thing." True, Clark is opposed to fighting the wrong war for the wrong reason in the wrong way, but that isn't good enough for Matt. Any true anti-war man would be opposed to all wars - except for those fought by tall and beautiful tribes to eliminate the unpleasantly short and ugly.
Taibbi also drops broad hints that Clark's 'true colors' involve some sort of military-electoral coup. Clark is compared variously to Caesar, Cincinattus, and Nixon. And what does the would-be dictator like to eat? Napoleons - hint, hint.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
The traditionally silly ritual of the Presidential Pardon for the White House turkey has never been more absurd than when carried out by George Bush. It richly deserves a satire like this:
ASHCROFT URGES MILITARY TRIBUNAL FOR WHITE HOUSE TURKEY
FBI agents arrested the turkey moments before the traditional pardoning ceremony, taking it away in shackles as a busload of third graders watched in horror. The decision to detain the White House turkey at Gitmo surprised many in Washington who had expected the turkey to receive leniency from Mr. Bush. But in a press conference at the Justice Department, Mr. Ashcroft said that there were "too many questions" hovering over the suspicious poultry to let it go free. "We would very much like to know how he got on the White House lawn and what he intended to do while he was there," Mr. Ashcroft said.
FBI agents arrested the turkey moments before the traditional pardoning ceremony, taking it away in shackles as a busload of third graders watched in horror.
The decision to detain the White House turkey at Gitmo surprised many in Washington who had expected the turkey to receive leniency from Mr. Bush.
But in a press conference at the Justice Department, Mr. Ashcroft said that there were "too many questions" hovering over the suspicious poultry to let it go free.
"We would very much like to know how he got on the White House lawn and what he intended to do while he was there," Mr. Ashcroft said.
Here is, in full, the only post on the NRO Corner so far which mentions the theft of documents from the computers of Democratic aides in the Senate:
LEAKER ON LEAVE [Jonathan H. Adler]
When committed by Republicans, theft suddenly becomes 'access' - but naturally the spin points that were used in the original leaks got rehashed.
Meanwhile, with the investigation just getting underway, the attempts at a coverup have already begun:
Earlier this week, several Judiciary Committee Republicans, including Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Larry Craig (Idaho), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) objected to what they feared would become a open-ended fishing expedition into committee business. “We strongly object to allowing anyone to read backup tapes or other electronic media from the Judiciary Committee server, the Exchange server or otherwise breach the privacy of our electronic files and communications,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Pickle dated Nov. 22. Committee Republicans requested that the sergeant-at-arms give them a status report of what steps have been taken and are currently being taken in the investigation, and notify them of all current action and any future action in connection with the investigation. They also demanded that the inquiry be limited exclusively to an examination of the 14 Democratic memoranda that were leaked to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.
Earlier this week, several Judiciary Committee Republicans, including Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Larry Craig (Idaho), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) objected to what they feared would become a open-ended fishing expedition into committee business.
“We strongly object to allowing anyone to read backup tapes or other electronic media from the Judiciary Committee server, the Exchange server or otherwise breach the privacy of our electronic files and communications,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Pickle dated Nov. 22.
Committee Republicans requested that the sergeant-at-arms give them a status report of what steps have been taken and are currently being taken in the investigation, and notify them of all current action and any future action in connection with the investigation. They also demanded that the inquiry be limited exclusively to an examination of the 14 Democratic memoranda that were leaked to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.
Friday, November 21, 2003
This Michelle Goldberg article about her weekend at a right wing con is interesting, but hampered somewhat by Goldberg's desire to be, as an invited guest, reasonably polite. Fortunately, Jesse has no such constraints.
Picky, Picky, Picky
Matthew Yglesias points out a subtle but crucial flaw in the GOP Medicare strategy:
One of the big ideas behind the Bush Medicare bill is that by introducing private-sector competition into the Medicare market, you'll be able to achieve cost savings because private firms are more efficient than the government. One big problem with this theory is that it isn't true: Medicare has significantly lower overhead than private health plans.
The whole post is excellent and has a lot of information in it that is quite contrary to what I would have expected - the sort of stuff a numbers geek like myself really appreciates.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
A few lines from Senator Rick "man on dog" Santorum, from the judicial nomination whine-a-thon staged last week:
We'll have our opportunity someday, and we'll make sure there's not another liberal judge ever, ever get on the bench. No more Richard Paez, no more Ruth Bader Ginsburg, never. Because what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Let them up the ante. We'll take all those activist judges they've sent up and we'll shoot them down. Is that what they want? ... Because, let me assure you as I live and breathe, that's what will happen.
"What's good for the goose is good for the gander." So if you give us only 98% of our judges and block 2%, we'll retaliate in kind and block 100% of your judges. For a Republican, that's just fairness.
During the judicial controversies of the past year, there has never been a single hint of compromise from the Republican side. Bush, who called himself a uniter so many times when campaigning, could have ended this dispute amicably at any time. All he had to do was cut a deal to resubmit a few of the highly qualified Clinton nominees that were blocked in the 90s in exchange for an end to the filibuster of his nominees. Or he could have simply withdrawn the names and submitted less ideological judges. Or comforted himself with the fact that he was getting 97.7% of his nominees approved and shrugged off the remaining 2.3% with a pro forma protest. (On the whole, after all, Bush has probably gotten as much of his agenda through Congress pretty much intact as any President of the past 50 years.) Instead of any of these choices, Bush and the Senate Republicans have fought as divisively as possible, smearing their opponents with accusations of racial and religious bigotry that they knew were lies, rewriting established procedures on the fly to support whatever their current partisan interest was, endlessly and bitterly complaining that they are forced to settle for anything less than exactly what they want.
The problem here is much deeper than a few judicial nominations. Compromise, negotiation, giving up on part of your agenda when you don't have a strong enough electoral mandate to dominate the opposition, are the very essence of democracy. Democracy isn't superior to other forms of government because democratic governments actually govern better; it is manifestly clear and reproven every day that democratic bodies often make relatively poor decisions. Democracy is superior because it provides a forum for resolving political disputes where every every adult citizen who wishes to has played some small part in the process and accepts the procedures, thus is predisposed to accept the outcome, even if contrary to his own wishes and interests. When one party has the sort of Bolshevik contempt for the process that the Republicans have repeatedly displayed in the past few years, it is democracy and not a few nominations that are in danger.
The Republicans have quietly become a truly radical party - I did not use the term Bolshevik above casually - and almost nobody is willing to see it.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Context is Everything
Definitely the best line I've read in a while on Calpundit: "not one single person was willing to put their balls in his bin".
It refers to Rupert and the immunity challenge on last week's Survivor. And yes, if you saw the show it makes perfect sense exactly the way it's written. If you didn't see the show and have to gues what it's about...
The Self-Evident Truth
Miserable failure George W. Bush has made a few small requests of his hosts on the occasion of his upcoming visit to London. One of these is that his security personnel be granted diplomatic status, so that if they get nervous and shoot up a few of the locals for no good reason, there won't be any actual consequences, except of course for the people they shoot. It's an unusual request, but Mark Kleiman observes that it's not unprecedented.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
The latest attack in Nasiriyah seems to indicate a pretty high level of sophistication from the enemy, both in tactics and strategy. A car ran off the road just before the main truck, successfully distracting the guards at the checkpoint and allowing the real attacker to go right up to the building.
Strategically, this is a clear shot against the US plan to bring troops in from other countries. No foreign leader is going to send forces to Iraq if he knows it will mean being held accountable for significant casualties. The burden is going to stay on us.
People still talk about winning, but I'm increasingly skeptical that that's possible any longer. Immediately after the war, pundits often spoke of a 'window of opportunity' which we had to use to fix Iraq before our presence there became untenable. That window now seems to be closed. What would winning mean? Pacifying the country? That seems out of reach - attacks are increasing and all the precedents from Algeria, Vietnam, the West Benk, etc suggest that you just can't win this sort of war by using force. For every enemy that you kill, two new ones spring up.
That can be prevented if we get the Iraqis to support us, but again this seems like a desirable but impractical goal. Every day we're there, the Iraqi people are enduring increasingly hostile contacts with the GIs on the front lines. It isn't the soldiers's fault - they're just trying to do their jobs and survive in a truly nasty situation where the enemy can't be identified and death could come at any moment without warning. But in a war like this, those confrontations can't be prevented, and they will gradually turn the people against us.
In either case, even if we have the support of most Iragis - at present we probably still do, at least to the degree that they oppose incidents like today's - it only takes a pretty small portion of the population to keep the pot boiling. And for a whole lot of reasons: the betrayal of Iraqis who rose against Saddam in 1991, the sanctions, Israel, the large and growing number who have had a relative or friend killed in the war or occupation, general xenophobia, there will always be a significant minority of Iraqis who loathe us.
Democracy in Iraq would be nice, but again to get there and actually make it work looks not only hard but perhaps impossible. There is no history of democracy and little visible desire for it. And in the few instances where local Iraqi democracy has sprung up on its own the CPA has been less than helpful.
At this point, I really don't see how we can get a better result than installing a new government that, while not democratic, would at least not be contemptuous of the rule of law. Something along the lines of Jordan, but not a Hashemite restoration. (The Hashemite dynasty, which is historically linked to Mecca, was given Jordan, then called Transjordan by Churchill during the Palestine Mandate as a reward for supporting the Arab Revolt against Turkey after al Saud drove them out of Mecca. Another Hashemite was named King in Iraq when the British occupied the country at about the same time. The Hashemites ruled in Iraq until a coup executed most of the ruling family in 1958.)
A failure in Iraq would be a failed state with no real government at all. a new dictatorship that would be comparable in brutality to Hussein, or permitting al Qaeda to establish a base of operations there. Also, any Iraqi government that tended to commit aggression against its neighbors would be a disaster, not least because it would encourage Iran to continue nuclear and other WMD development. Anything that isn't actual failure is about as close to a real success as we can probably hope for.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
Toe fetishist turned GOP hack Dick Morris gave the funeral rites for the Clark campaign in today's column. A closer look at the very numbers he cites shows that the only thing to mourn is Morris's own long-deceased integrity.
The latest Marist Poll taken at the end of October shows the former general fading from a tie for first place to fifth in the Democratic primary field, dropping to 8 percent of the Democratic vote nationwide, well behind Howard Dean who led at 16 percent of the likely Democratic primary voters.
That is what the poll shows, although even in this poll Clark is 2 points away from tying for third and 4 away from second, both well within the poll's 5.5% margin of error. Even Dean's lead over Clark is within the poll's MOE. Moreover, of the 4 candidates in front of him, all but Dean are dropping in support.
But why did Morris choose this poll to represent Clark's fade into the pack? Precisely because it was the only poll that did. Here are the numbers for Clark support in all polls of the past 3 weeks listed at the main site for poll followers. The numbers list Clark's support in percentage followed by his placement: 15 (2), 17 (1), 14 (2), 8 (5), 10 (2), 12 (2), 13 (1), 15 (2). In the most recent polls taken by 5 major organizations other than Marist, Clark is in a tie with Dean well ahead of the field (Newsweek), in a tie for second (Zogby), tied for second (ABC), in first (Quinnipac), tied for first (Gallup). (In the Newsweek and Gallup polls, Dean is 1 point ahead, but that amounts to a statistical tie.) The one poll which Morris has chosen to lead with is the exception, a single poll which shows Clark, both absolutely and relative to his opponents, as substantially weaker than any other.
Other recent polls confirm the same trend. The ABC/Washington Post poll last week shows Clark fading to fourth place and the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll records a drop in his favorable/unfavor- able ratio from 24-11 at the end of September to 25-19 at the end of October.
Morris flatly misrepresented the ABC poll, which has Dean (17) first and a tie for second through fourth of Clark (14), Gephardt (14), and Lieberman (13). The Fox poll does show Clark's negatives increasing, but that is unsurprising and probably irrelevant, since it polls all voters and the number is still relatively low. With heavy attacks on Clark from conservative media, it is likely that the increased negatives come largely or entirely from conservatives who don't vote in Democratic primaries or for Democratic nominees.
Since Clark is not running in Iowa (Jan. 19) and likely not in New Hampshire (Jan. 27) either, he had to keep his national standing intact to have any hope of entering the process on Feb. 3, when five states (Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina) have their primaries.
Clark's national standing is very much intact, as is his position in the states which vote February 3. Clark is running first in South Carolina, the most contested of those primaries, in the most recent poll. (Edwards is currently second in SC, Dean is back in the pack.) He is polling a strong second in Arizona, and likely to do well in Oklahoma, where no polls that I am aware of have been taken. He didn't do well in the one Delaware poll that has been published, but his chances there are probably good. Morris mentions none of this.
Morris also refers to Clark's "fading popularity", a claim that has circulated widely of late. But is Clark actually fading?
It's clear that Clark's numbers did drop from late September to mid October, when the campaign was struggling. Newsweek, Gallup, and Zogby all showed drops in this period. But the evidence suggests that the decline has probably stopped. Only Gallup, which last polled in late October, showed Clark falling in its most recent sample. Newsweek shows a modest increase, while Zogby shows no change. ABC, which also has yet to release a November poll. showed Clark holding steady from mid to late October. So, while it will require more data to be certain, the likelihood is that Clark's drop in the polls has halted and may well be reversing.
In September and October, the ultimate media candidate - Clark - competed for national attention with the leading grass-roots (cyber roots) candidate - Dean....But media coverage was all that Clark had,while Dean had amassed a solid base of 500,000 online supporters and 285,000 campaign donors... Clark had the Clintons.
Morris recites another standard spin line that the Clark campaign is a creation of the media/Clintons/party insiders. In fact, Clark has more grass roots and net support than any candidate other than Dean. Clark's money totals for the third quarter were competitive with those of other candidates than Dean, although Clark had only two weeks instead of a full quarter to raise money. (Clark beat all candidates, including Dean, in money raised per day.) And Clark, more than those other competitors, was raising his money in small contributions. Clark's Meetup numbers trail well behind Dean's, but easily top those of the other 7 candidates combined. And he probably beats Dean in support from webloggers.
Overall, Dean is currently leading Clark by a small margin - see the meta-analysis on the new Clark Community blog. But Clark and Dean combined pull only about 30% of the vote; how the undecideds and the supporters of other candidates break will determine the outcome. Clark's broader political base means that he is likely to top Dean in these groups, so his chances of victory remain significant.
This fascinating takedown of David Frum is probably the longest blog post I have ever taken the time to read to the end.
Monday, November 10, 2003
Perles Before Swine
Richard Perle took the air today on 'This Week', attempting to spin gold from the catastrophic Iraqi policy he helped create. His Rumpelstilskin impersonation was less than impressive.
Perle started out with recent reports that no effort was made to follow up seriously on Iraqi initiatives to prevent war by offering extensive secret concessions. Perle confirmed that the offers were made and died from apathy on the US side: "What I said... was that if there was any interest in Washington I would... pursue it, and it turned out there was no interest in Washington."
Two transparently lame excuses for the disinterest were then offered in sequence. "Let's be clear about who we're talking about on the Iraqi side. These were the thugs who ran the most vicious parts of Saddam's regime, his intelligence and military." Well, duh. If you're dealing with a regime like Hussein's, it's the offers that come from people who aren't thugs that you dismiss - anybody who counts and can negotiate seriously is going to be scum.
Perle also claimed that the offer, which included discussion of oil concessions, was a PR trap to generate propaganda that the war was over oil. "It was clearly a trap that was intended to discredit the administration's policy." If that was really the concern, then it would have been simple to send a response that expressed interest in other aspects of the offer, turning over terrorists to US custody and permitting more intrusive inspections and more inspectors, while dismissing the oil issue.
Perle also confirmed that the offer probably was never relayed to Bush, although he doesn't seem to know who dismissed it. This would seem to offer some confirmation to the theory that Bush isn't the one genuinely running policy beyond very broad outlines.
Perle then announces that everything is going fine. "There's no civil war in Iraq... We're making significant progress.... The incidents have all been confined to one small part of the country. And we are winning this war..." He forgot, however, to pose in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner while making the statement. Apparently, nobody has told the Red Cross, which has left not only Baghdad but also Basra. Last week, three judges were assassinated in two days in Najaf, Kirkuk, and Mosul, all outside the 'Sunni Triangle'. And there was that insignificant matter a few months ago of a bomb that assassinated a major religious leader, killed over 100 others, and caused 400 or so injuries. I guess it depends on what the meaning of 'incident' is.
I wasn't the only one not buying. Richard Holbrooke, who praised Perle's contributions to the Dayton conference in his memoirs, said, "Your description of the situation stuns me.... Everybody I know believes that this [the plans, announced and then canceled, to send Turkish troops] is a diplomatic fiasco, self-inflicted." Fareed Zakaria was no kinder. Even George Will has of late found the administration's bungling in Iraq hard to stomach. "Turn [Iraq] over to what?....The Iraqi governing council, with which we seem to have lost patiience, is our creation.... From what social soil in Iraq is a Constitution supposed to emerge?" When Perle described the Council as 'representing' Iraq's various factions, Will openly challenged him: "How do we know they represent them?" It wasn't the first time recently that Will has been openly distancing himself from administration spokesmen on Iraq.
In another Sunday show I saw, John Edwards had his moments but wimped out when invited a few times to directly address whether the decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake.
In possibly more newsworthy Sunday viewing, the Buffalo Bills seemed to take Edwards's inoffensive rhetoric as an inspiration, and showed a stellar level of inoffensiveness themselves. Trailing by less than a touchdown, they ran about five three and out possessions in a row, helping Dallas to run the clock out and probably eliminate their wn faint playoff hopes.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Armed with the fresh endorsement of Calpundit, Clark has taken a commanding lead in the Blogger Primary. Kevin joins Josh Marshall, Mark Kleiman, Andrew Northrup, Digby, and Scoobie Davis among leading liberal bloggers who are backing Clark. Matthew Yglesias also pretty clearly goes on that list, although he hasn't made an explicit endorsement; the same could be said of the popular not-exactly-a-blog site Media Whores Online. The Not Geniuses group blog has both Dean and Clark backers, but of late the Clarkie, Ezra Klein, has been doing most of the posting. And there are quite a few others not as high on the blog food chain as well.
Dean has the support of Kos and Oliver Willis Two impressive supporters, but that still leaves him so far behind Clark that he may need the coveted Atrios endorsement to catch up. Atrios has been virtually silent about the primary contest, and I suspect won't take sides until it has been decided.
Congratulations to Kos & Mrs Kos on the birth of their new son. The smaller, cuter baby was born one year to the day before the pending redefeat and retiremement of the larger, uglier baby.