Thursday, June 30, 2005

Voices from Camp

I just finished my first week of teaching at the UNC-Asheville Computer Literacy Camp to middle school boys, mostly minority, mostly low-income -- next week is girls. I teach Western North Carolina history using these resources and lessons I developed here. The camp is funded mostly by the Educational Research Consortium of Western Carolinas, which was started, and is given continuous cash infusions, by Congressman Charles Taylor (R-NC).

This year, I replaced PowerPoint with Blogger -- the kids loved it -- now they all have their own websites. The last lesson was desert -- teaching them the coolness of audioblogger -- you can listen to their sample posts below. You should have seen their eyes light up when one of their cohort's voice filled the room -- they couldn't wait to get home and play with it.

My thanks to my friend Barry at Enrevanche who kicked my ass into blogging and is always there to answer those pesky technical questions and offer advice and suggestions.

In a related note, it was a godsend that Blogger started allowing direct uploads of graphics (and not just limited to JPEGs!) two days before camp so I didn't have to mess with Hello.

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, June 24, 2005

Peter Daou on Rove & Durbin

We can expect to hear from the chattering class today, on the Sunday talk shows, and all next week, that there is no difference between what Senator Dick Durbin said and what Karl Rove said. It's the old, Michael Moore = Ann Coulter, calculus for the non-thinking. Peter Daou explains the huge difference below, but some background first.

Durbin commented on the Senate floor on the treatment of detainees at Gitmo, and went way over the top, describing it as Nazi-like:

"If I read this to you (the description of the treatment e.g shackling and subjecting the prisioner to alternating extreme temperatures) and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

These remarks prompted outrage from the GOP Noise Machine and legitimate derision from the Daily Show -- Jon Stewart pointed out that the prisoners in Nazi concentration camps would have been overcome with joy upon hearing the announcement that "Today is Shackling Day."

In an unrelated response, Rove made these remarks a couple of days ago:

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," he said. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."

Hillary responded (surely via the cheat-sheet Bill handed her):

"Either he said something in a hasty, ill-conceived, reckless moment ... or he said it deliberately, as part of a continuing effort to divide Americans."

But its Peter Daou's thoughts I want you to read. He gets it.

"My original post about Karl Rove's repugnant comments are in the extended entry... I want to respond to several conservative critics who emailed to say that my quote in today's Chicago Tribune undermines my argument against Rove. Here's an excerpt from the Tribune:

"Peter Daou, who compiles blogs from both the right and the left and summarizes what they're talking about for, said the effect of so much chatter eventually can become overpowering, seeping into the mainstream media.

"What Durbin faced was the bubbling up from the blogs and the pounding of the drums," said Daou, who first began monitoring the bloggers and feeding them information when he worked for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign. "This is a political tool, and it's manufactured outrage, it's feigned outrage, and it's
extremely effective."

I'll keep it simple: I challenge any of those outraged by Durbin to demonstrate that the senator, in his heart of hearts, thinks our troops are Nazis. It's painfully obvious that he was illustrating a point and used a hyperbolic analogy. In Durbin's case the outrage is feigned, and a political tool. It defies common sense to think Durbin actually believes "all US troops are Nazis." Now the same reasoning doesn't hold true for Rove, who expressed a thought that actually is widely held on the right: that liberals can't or won't defend America. Despite the sheer imbecility of it, many on the right really believe it to be true. And so I'll repeat, to those who question my strength, my convictions, my willingness to defend my family - as I have done my whole life in circumstances far more difficult than what a good number of Rove's cheerleaders will ever face - I thoroughly reject Rove's words. And I'd expect any of my critics to do the same if their patriotism was questioned in so loathsome a manner.

And a note on the term 101st Fighting Keyboardists: I use it specifically as a reference to those who avoid putting their lives at risk, but are quick to sit in judgment of others. Few things in blogland are more despicable...

ORIGINAL POST:I'm devoting much of today's report to Karl Rove's vile comments denigrating half of the American public. My office overlooks Ground Zero, and I'm looking at the gaping footprint as I write this. My wife and I were in New York that day, on our way to the WTC for a morning meeting. A chance
phone call dragged on a few minutes too long and most likely saved our lives. I lost friends in the towers, and when I walk past the site, as I do almost every evening, the pain is as real as it was on September 11th, 2001. I spent my youth in Beirut during the height of Lebanon's civil war, and I fought the Syrian presence in Lebanon long before the "Cedar Revolution." I watched young boys give their lives and mothers cradle their dying children in blood-soaked arms. I've seen more bloodshed, war, and violence, and shot more guns than most of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists combined. I wouldn't presume to question the strength or dignity of a stranger, and I pity those who blithely push the right=strong, left=weak rhetoric. It says far more about their inadequacies than it does about the target of their scorn. Today, Karl Rove took that rhetoric to a new, filthy low."

Absolutely, damn right.

Mistakes revisited...

Chap at Chapomatic plays beer pong quite well, thank you (it'll be interesting to see how many racquet metaphors we're going to go thru in this protracted discussion). He's done me the honor of responding to my rant on mistakes and culpability below. He's a fine apologist -- I'm swayed on some points. Go read his response here.

But there's one key "mistake" that I didn't itemize, yet Chap has brought it up inadvertently at least twice:

"If the President says “X is a mistake” then two things happen–first, he gets piled on with other claims expecting the same or better, and second, it now becomes a tool to be used by AQ. They’re a thinking enemy and use the advantages we give them–and our weakest center of gravity is the political will. It’s not a
good thing for any of this instant critique to be even publicly acknowledged by the guys still running the war for that reason."

Strategically speaking, I'm almost willing to concede the point. But before doing that, I want to hand down another indictment, and in a few days, I'll making the opening statement to the jury. The charge: the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war and tomfoolery at home is the primary reason that the so-called collective "political will" is the "weakest center of gravity." I don't think that particular vulnerability was inevitable going in nor was that die cast until about 6 months ago. We'll see what kind of a case I can make.

And another thing, I made the prognostication below that a tipping point has been reached in the crucial arena of public opinion, a prediction Chap characterized as merely another "news cycle" as opposed to something "seismic."

I don't see how one can see polls showing the majority, close to 60% of the country saying that the "war wasn't worth it", while holding (correctly, I believe) that public opinion is the point of greatest vulnerablity AND then not see current public opinion as anything other than seismic.

Tune in Monday evening for more beer pong.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Jesus, Empathy, and the Democratic Message

From Anne:

I always read about how clever the Republicans are at hijacking language and phrases to gain support for their causes, and the Democrats always seem to lament their inability to do the same. I've got a phrase for the Democrats, and it's a real buzz-kill for Republicans. You simply preface responses to Republican statements with, "By the grace of God...."

I just spoke to a Republican (and Christian) who said, "We should just drop a big bomb on the entire Middle East." I said, "Oooh, you don't mean that; it's just by the grace of God that we weren't born in the Middle East. And, how would YOU feel if the Middle East had all the military might and we had no real military defense, and they wanted to drop a bomb on us?"

The dynamic of the conversation changed instantly. First, I mentioned God which got his attention. Second, I followed up with an empathy question. If you are a true Christian, this one-two punch causes tremendous cognitive dissonance. It only results in a momentary skip in the Stepford, "Bomb the Bastards" rhetoric record, but that skip could be expanded into a ruined record if the message was more omnipresent.

For all the supposed Christians we have in this country, we have too few people who empathize. But, they have rarely, if ever, been asked to empathize with another person, culture, ethnic group, etc. Yet, what made Jesus such a powerful figure was his ability to empathize. The Republicans conveniently omit this rather glaring aspect of Jesus. The Democratic Party is ultimately about empathy, yet they rarely mention this blatant discrepancy between the two parties.

On a somewhat different note, I just watched a clip of Dean on the News Hour, and he said the Democrats were a party of hope. I about threw up. If that's going to be the Dem message, we're going to lose-- AGAIN!! It worked for Clinton when it was quasi-original because he grew up in Hope. But, 14 years later, 'hope' is hopeless. No one wants to go to the clubs which were hip years ago or drink a drink which was popular years ago. They want a new club and a new cocktail to get excited about. And, how do you make a new club or drink exciting? You change the goddamn name!!!!

That's Marketing 101.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Beyond Reproach or Morally Culpable?

"Beyond reproach Darth Cheney & the Bush Empire is, so go into exile, I must."

Over at Chapomatic, the new sport is taking Larry Diamond and/or his criticism's of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war, to task (scroll the comments as well). Which is cool with me -- I love tough criticism. And Chap made this excellent point, quoting Norman Geras:

"It brought home to me that I have never seen, in all the voluminous discussion since the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s rule, anything from the anti-war camp (perhaps I just haven’t read widely enough) that made a distinction between mistakes and avoidable mistakes, or mistakes and culpable mistakes. Plainly what happened at Abu Ghraib was culpable and was worse than a mistake. But on the sundry other matters, unless you have a distinction between avoidable and culpable mistakes and other kinds of mistake, including for example mistakes understandable in the circumstances, unless you allow that some of the mistakes may have been due to the scope and nature of the undertaking itself, it suggests one of two things: either that the undertaking could have been carried out altogether smoothly and unproblematically; or that the criticism of mistakes is motivated more by an impulse to oppose than by a desire for the undertaking to succeed.

You pays your money and you takes
your choice."

That's a fair criticism. But contrary to Thomas Friedman and Geras above, I'm certainly one liberal (and I think most of us are this way) who wants the best for the people of Iraq. It's from that center which we argue and emote, not some cynical fantasy about W crashing and burning here at home.

So the question which Diamond proposed, if not answered properly nor adequately in his book is essentially this (my phrasing):

Is it possible that the original military victory in Iraq was indeed squandered by the ineptitude of the Bush Administration? Did they fail to put the best possible plan for Iraq’s domestic SECURITY into play as opposed to what they thought was the best possible plan for short-term domestic political interests
and long-term US geopolitical/economic interests? And does that suggested failure entail that the situation in Iraq, given currently availble American assets and political consensus, is essentially irretrievable?

Or, as Geras would put it, were the actions and/or policies of the Bush Administration and its Defense Department which have proven to be demonstrably negative in outcome, mere "mistakes: with unintended and/or unforeseeable consequences, or is there significant culpability?

Consider the following:

Was it a "mistake" to secure the Oil Ministry first, considering the foreseeable message that would send as well as the foreseeable misallocation of assets when it comes to "first things first" when engaged in "regime change"?

Was it a "mistake" to dis Sistani's call for direct elections rather than push our notion for a parliamentary caucus based on
ethnicity/religious sect?

Was it a "mistake" to apparently push for privatization first and security second as reports on the D-plus-6 months would indicate?

Was it a "mistake" to rely so heavily on private contractors?

Was it a "mistake" to de-militarize the entire Iraqi army with no plan, no place for the disbanded, yet still-well-armed and unemployed soldiers, to go?

Was it a "mistake" not to make a "no
permanent bases" pledge prior to and during the occupation?

Was it a "mistake" not to demolish Abu Grahib as a matter of principal and/or political theater immediately after the invasion or, at the very least, most certainly after the American scandal? (Geras does concede the US is culpable for the conduct at Abu Grahib)

Was it a "mistake" to discharge 300 servicemen, who were foreign language specialists, because they were gay?

Was it a "mistake" not to adhere to the Powell Doctrine? ("Essentially, the Doctrine expresses that military action should be used only as a last resort and only if there is a clear risk to national security by the intended target; the force, when used, should be overwhelming and disproportionate to the force used by the enemy; there must be strong support for the campaign by the general public; and there must be a clear exit strategy from the conflict in which the military is engaged.") For me, this is the most egregious mistake of the whole affair.

Was it a "mistake" to rely so heavily on Iraqi expatriates like Chalabi and "Curveball" for intel and fortune-telling?

Was it a "mistake" to knowingly play up the WMD card at the expense of downplaying other foreseeable realities and costs of war?

Was it a "mistake" to not get a second resolution from the Security Council and/or to have created a broader international
consensus/coalition for invasion/occupation before D-Day? Would George Herbert Walker Bush and James Baker been able to do it better and smarter (had they been so inclined to invade to begin with)?

Is there any significant culpability afoot or are the forementioned items mere "mistakes"?

Or is it that the Bush Administration, being Ordained By Jesus Hisself, simply beyond reproach?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

The Mountain Philosopher enjoying one of his favorite vices.

It will have to be another post where I detail all the pleasures of smoking top quality tobacco in a well-made pipe. A long-time cigar smoker, I picked up the pipe again early last year. I say "again" because I dabbled with it throughout college but never really "got it."

But coming back to the pipe last year, and at the same time discovering what decent pipe tobacco tastes like and smokes like, as opposed to the crap sold in the drugstore or even in the big jars at your local tobacconist, a new obsession was born. And I mean obsession - I spend almost as much time on pipe boards as I do reading newspapers, magazines, and blogs.

There's a great, I would say, best ever, tobacconist right across the Pigeon River Gorge in Knoxville -- Knoxville Cigar Co which maintains a mind-boggling inventory of cigars, pipes, men's grooming supplies, and the choicest pipe tobacco. These cool folks also maintain the best bulletin board on the Web.

Their board had become inundated with a few dedicated trolls. Fortunately, the moderator had seen enough crap and executed them with extreme prejudice. I rewarded his efforts with a bottle Bushmills' Black which was purported to be his poison of choice. I was subsequently provided the return favor of smoking some 15 year-old Ashton Black Parrot which means nothing if you aren't a pipe smoker, but compare it to a top California Cab that's been laid down for 15 years and you've found the rough equivalent. The pic above was snapped while enjoying the Parrot.

My sister Susie, who used to bum good cigars from me when we lived together, asked me for a stick when she visted for dinner recently. Having no stick, but plenty of good tobak and a spare corn cob pipe (smokes as good as a $50 briar while only costing five bucks) I fixed her up with a good bowl. A hour of smoking pleasure later, she was hooked.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tipping Point

Chap over at Chapomatic, has graciously blogrolled me and engaged my most recent post concerning where the Administration is with its credibility and thus, its control over the situation in Iraq. His lengthy rejoinder can be found here.

I won't quibble with his chiding over my "Chomsky-like logic" where I employ the rhetorical device of "no person who wants to be taken seriously..." when it comes to where things stand.

But Chomsky-like or not, I believe that a "tipping point" in the crucial arena of public opinion has been reached. It's not just the fact that a couple of conservatives showed up for a seminar heard by less than 30 people at the Progressive Policy Institute to jointly bash the strategy employed thus far in Iraq that constitutes the tipping point, it's my interpretation of the broader constellation of which that event was a mere dot. And whether one conservative, Larry Diamond, can speak any Arab language or is just a doofus in general, hardly influences the big picture.

A more thorough examination is in order to make my case; in no particular order consider:

Item -- The attacks in Iraq, while perhaps diminished in number, have increased dramatically in intensity. Not only are average Iraqis getting creamed, the Iraqi "security" forces (can either be police or military units) are taking the brunt of the casualties. Our exit strategy at the moment is directly tied to the success of these forces. If we can't recruit, if we can't train, if we can't deploy, and most importantly, if we can't maintain these forces at a sufficient level, then American forces can't leave. This ties to .....

..Background Item -- Americans have only moderate tolerance for war and/or imperial actions. We will fight willingly, readily, with a broad consensus, and at length when it appears that national interests are truly at stake. Examples (American Revolution, Civil War, WWII). Americans historically will not provide broad and enduring support for wars where vital national interests do not appear to be at stake, where the aims appear to be more imperial rather than maintenance of the republic and its values. Examples (War of 1812, Mexican War, Filipino War, WWI, Korea, and most famously, Vietnam). The War of 1812 came perilously close to splitting the young nation. The Mexican War DID split the nation both at the moment of prosecution of the war, and then with powerful residual effects culminating in the Civil War. The Filipino War was the most unpopular war in American history until the Vietnam War, with American soldiers defecting to the other side -- it is the most unstudied war that should be studied. WWI was so unpopular towards the end of our 18-month participation, that the American public, if not its government and business community, remained hyperisolationist in the 1930s and 1940, 1941, in spite of American ships being sunk by Japan and Germany. I think we're all up to speed on Korea and Vietnam, so no comment at the moment is necessary.

Item -- The primary rallying cry for the war, "Saddam has WMD and he and his Al Qaeda allies will use them to repeat a 9/11 attack" has found to be entirely without merit with the exception of those who insist on faith-based intel.

Item -- The Downing Street Memo(s) finally grow(s) legs. So not only was the WMD claim without merit, it would appear to be an outright fabrication. The fact that the GOP Noise Machine is simultaneously calling the memos "fake" while also maintaining that there's "no smoking gun" tells me that the memos are serious stuff.

Item -- In an email, Chap admonished that in this war, as in all wars, you learn from your errors and go forward. But that sensible advice does not appear to be "operative" in the current administration. A democratic leader cannot prosecute a war in the same manner that a candidate in a democracy runs for the presidency. Yet, the Bush Administration seems to have turned over the politics of the war to Karl Rove. This entails an isolated president who does not listen and thus, cannot respond in a sensible, credible, and reassuring manner to the American people (think FDR) and thus cannot hold the consensus together. Senator Hagel puts it squarely: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

And from the equally important military perspective, is the CIC learning from mistakes and creating new "strategery" and just not telling the American public about these changes (which would constitute an admission of error), or is Generalissimo Bush as hardheaded with the Pentagon as he is with the rest of us?

Item -- Congressman Walter Jones, a Republican who coined the derisive "freedom fries" term (and whose Third District is home to the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune), has teamed with anti-war liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich, and Texas Republican/libertarian, Ron Paul, to co-sponsor a bill calling for a timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, creating in the process a small coalition but one that spans the American political spectrum. Moderate Senate Republicans (McCain, Hagel, Chaffee, Graham) appear increasingly uneasy with the Bush approach.

Background Item -- Politics in the US operates on two-year and four-year cycles. We're coming up on the two-year. Beginning right after Labor Day, congressional and senatorial candidates for 2006 are going to have to make a choice -- stay the course in Iraq or not. Barring some unlikely turn for the better in Iraq, the situation there, along with the economy here at home (the issues are linked) will be the top two issues in the campaign. Will Republican incumbents stay with Bush's weak economy, massive deficits, massive war debts with little visible return, or cut him loose. Republican primary challengers are going to have an easy time of preparing their message: "I'll bring the troops home and/or redeploy them in a way that is more substantial to true homeland security than Iraq is, and I'll restore fiscal conservatism in Washington." I don't see the GOP primaries being marked by who is the most anti-gay or anti-abortion. It will be who is the true conservative based on homeland security (including illegal immigration) and deficits. In other words, I believe that the Lou Dobbs Republicans are going to carry the day in the GOP primaries. And that's bad news for the Bush team.

Item -- The Bush Administration's credibility in general, not just the war, has taken tremendous hits (mostly self-inflicted) during the first 6 months of the second term. Leaving credibility on the "war on terror" and Iraq aside, the President has hurt himself tremendously by demagoging the Social Security issue, not to mention the misstep on Schiavo, global warming, and the insane hardheadedness on stem cells. You lose credibility in one area and you lose it in another.

Item -- George Bush's popularity is at an all-time low for a second term president, at this stage in his presidency, for the last 100 years, if not in our entire history.

Item -- Deep Throat is revealed. We remember about holding a President accountable. The right denounces Mark Felt as a traitor and denounces anonymous sources in general, but some journalists/editors/news directors start to fantasize about what it would be like to have a pair of balls. The other items in this list have also provided the scent of blood in the water and item immediately above provided the license to attack.

Item -- Newsweek botches the Gitmo/Koran story because a Pentagon source backtracks. The White House calls for blood. But then it turns out that the basic story was right after all which further emboldens the media which in turn...

...Item -- Ressurrects the spectacle of Abu Grahib and the ugliness of Gitmo which flatly puts the Administration on the defensive.

I guess I could go on but I think that's enough. When I add it all up, this is what I come up with:

The Bush Administration no longer finds a public willing to buy what they are selling without asking questions that the Bush team is unwilling and/or unable to answer. The product that they sold in early 2003, appears to most Americans, to have been oversold; they certainly did not buy a long-term war; and they most certainly did not sign up for a "generational committment" to use Condi's words, because that turkey wasn't on the auction block in March of 2003. Americans have become increasingly uneasy with the inevitable nastiness that accompanies all war: the Iraqi civilian casualties, casualties suffered by our own forces, and the unseemly, unAmerican aspects of Abu Grahib and Gitmo -- nastiness they could live with if victory appeared to be in sight and/or continued support appeared to truly enhance homeland security.

In a free market, in a democracy, if you don't like one salesperson/politician, you find a substitute. And once disenchanted with one vendor, you won't go back until you're disenchanted with the substitute. I believe that the Bush Administration has irretrievably lost control of Iraq policy because of its own ignorance, hubris, failure to pay homage to basic American values, lack of candor and focus, while doing direct damage to the fragile war consensus by its demagoguery on domestic issues.

And the sad fact is, is that while we wait for another set of drivers to grab the reins that the American public will trust, the situation will just get worse for American service men and women.

Not as Republican as You/They Think They Are

My sister Anne is quite the amateur landlord, renting out my grandmother's vacation home to the well-heeled. She relates this anecdote:

I've had some interesting conversations with potential tenants, especially recently. The first thing which stands out is that EVERYONE wants to meet me. They even want to take me to lunch. That is definitely a southern thing. I can't imagine the desire to meet a landlord being as strong in the North. But, here's the interesting part: I KNOW I am talking to Republicans on the phone, but they aren't as Republican as they think they are. I wish the Dems could really realize this.

For example, I just spoke with a woman from Birmingham. Her daughter knows the girl who disappeared in Aruba. She was FURIOUS that the government of Aruba wouldn't let U.S. guys come in and investigate. I said, "Well, what if the situation was reversed; can you imagine the U.S. allowing officials from Aruba to investigate here?"

Then, we talked about America's reputation in the international community. All of a sudden,this woman 'got it.' She suddenly could see that it is the 'little people' who get the shaft with this Administration, whether you are a missing girl or a soldier. She could see that the way we treat others can come back to haunt us (Geneva Conventions, missing girls in foreign countries, etc.). She also told me how frustrated she was at not being able to hear/read 'real news' while at the same time telling me that she was 'afraid using the internet was too hard.' I told her how easy it was and how wonderful it was to have access to the numerous topics not mentioned on TV. I gave her the recent example of Condi lying on FOX News about the 'Generational Commitment' and how quickly bloggers provided proof that this was BS [see below].

She was hooked. She wanted to learn more. She didn't want to be in the dark. This reminded me of a Bill Clinton quote. It went something like, "I love a debate based on facts because I can always win."

Condi's Big Fat Whopper

Plagiarized from the folks at Think Progress:

Rice Says Administration Told Americans Iraq Would Be A “Generational Commitment”

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if “the Bush administration fairly [can] be criticized for failing to level with the American people about how long and difficult this commitment will be?” Rice responded:

"The administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq."

That’s not true. To build support for the war the administration told the American people that the conflict in Iraq will be short and affordable.

Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03:
"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly. . . (in) weeks rather than months.."

Donald Rumsfeld, 2/7/03:
"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

Former Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 3/28/03:
"The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid…"

The Bush Administration is giving new meaning by way of vastly increased magnitude, the Vietnam-era phrase "credibility gap."

Here's Helen Thomas on the issue almost two years worth of lies ago, lies we've almost forgotton about by virtue of the copious new ones.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

FIRED!!! Conservatives Eat Their Own!

"I just want to say that Tony S. said we could all stay at his cabin this weekend."

If at all possible, you want to Tivo or even buy the seminar that I just saw on CSPAN with Hoover Fellow Larry Diamond and PNAC alum and current AEI Fellow Thomas Donnelly at the Progressive Policy Insitute today. These are what I would call an Teddy Roosevelt/ Eisenhower conservative in Diamond's case and a Wilsonian/Scoop Jacksonian neoconservative in Donnelly's case. And they made a powerful case, without resorting to the ad hominem, that the Bush team has royally screwed the pooch.

They were pretty brutal on Bush & Co; Donnelly gave clear-eyed analysis in gung-ho manner, while Diamond handed up indictments on malfeasance of leadership in Iraq. Interestingly, neither speaks like Scott McClellan, which is to say, which is to say, with a mouth full shit. Far more illuminating than watching Joe Biden or Duncan Hunter.

Here’s one particularly compelling example from Diamond (who is hawking a book, Squandered Victory).

Diamond made the point that the potential for future American military bases in Iraq is frequently the unmentioned elephant in the room when Iraqi leaders and American officials are present. It is a given that the method in which an American base would be insinuated onto Iraqi soil, would be through a treaty. In other words, the treaty ratification process would be the gatekeeper/hurdle to a future American base.

During the creation of the transitional Iraqi constitution (which, as Diamond pointed out, could well be the template for the permanent constitution) the Americans counseled that Tony Blair had just put a treaty into play for England strictly on his own authority, a model, the Americans said, would be just the thing for Iraq to copy – “if it’s good enough for Tony and the UK, surely it’s good enough for Iraq.”

The Iraqis rejoined that they wanted parliamentary ratification after deriding the American example. Apparently, we were a tad miffed, but said, “OK, a majority of the parliament would result in treaty ratification.” (“If it’s good enough for Bill Frist and Rick Santorum, it’s good enough for Baghdad.”).

One of the Iraqis - a lawyer who had spent time in the US, said, “Wait , no let’s do what the Americans do, let’s have two-thirds vote ratify a treaty like the US Senate.” We pushed back and forth, hard, and won the argument.

At what cost to our credibility, Diamond wonders?

So much for the Iraqis creating a democracy conforming to their own vision, not to mention James Madison's, if not conforming to Bush & Co's win-at-all-costs myopia.

We have reached a point where no person who wants to be taken seriously can support the way the war is being led by W/Cheney/Rummy. Their reign ended this week.

Now, the only debate is whether (A) we cut and run, and live with the fallout or (B) stay, spend, bleed, die and hope for victory because of a perceived, immense, potential benefit of a democratic domino effect and/or the costs to our international prestige and clout are too terrible to live with.

Who will grab the reins now that the drivers are being fired?

More later

Monday, June 13, 2005

SubMan Dave responds....

I've been sadly deliquent in posting/updating/pay attention to this here blog since Memorial Day -- try to get some new stuff up in the next 48 hours.

In the meantime, "SubMan Dave" offers a thoughtful critique of an earlier post and deserves to not be left languishing in the comments section or my gmail server. So click his link and go read.

I'll try to get back to him later

Was the Iraqi Campaign Necessary?