Since Blogger migrated to the "new and improved" platform, the old archive HTML page is gone. If you're looking for old stuff, see the monthly archive links below the logo in the right navbar...
¶ 9:03 PM
Apparently our lone Congressperson, Bernie Sanders, somewhat surprisingly is going to work his ass off to get Kerry elected:
Not only am I going to vote for John Kerry, I am going to run around this country and do everything I can to dissuade people from voting for Ralph Nader. The likelihood is, this election will come down to a relatively few votes. Some of the polls already indicate Nader at 5, 6, 7 percent -- it's the margin of difference allowing Bush to be ahead of Kerry.
I consider four more years of Bush a potential horror show for this country, where actions will be taken that literally will be irreversible in terms of the courts, in terms of the movement or the privatization of Social Security, Medicare, the Veterans' Administration, and public education.
So I am going to do everything that I can, while I have differences with John Kerry, to make sure that he is elected.
I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven't had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.
Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win.
Still too soon, but it's a nice thought, isn't it?
[Update: New USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll shows Kerry leading Bush among registered voters 50-44. Oh, and Bush's approval rating is his lowest ever: 46%.]
¶ 4:04 PM
Bye, Bye Rummy
Today President Bush told the world that Rummy's doing a "superb job". He then broke into song:
In ev'rything I do,
My sincerity shows thro'
I looked you in the eye,
Don't even have to try,
So it looks like Bush is sticking by his man for now.
Fat lot of good it will do, but you might consider signing Kerry's petition demanding Rummy's resignation. And while you're at it, give Kerry some turkee--it's been a while since DM readers have donated, and I'm sure John has noticed.
This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.
Q: What do you call it when the "best SecDef ever" is fired?
A: A very good start.
[Update: found the direct link to the ArmyTimes editorial.]
¶ 11:48 AM
I'm still planning on the official move to TypePad on the 14th. There are still some things to tweak, and I want to explore some other hosting options before I take the plunge for real. But things are in motion--here's a picture hosted on the new photo album:
Finally saw a male rose-breasted grosbeak yesterday! Two, actually.
Former first lady Nancy Reagan endorsed human embryonic research Saturday night at a star-studded fund-raiser.
Such research is generally opposed by political conservatives and many anti-abortion groups because it involves the destruction of days-old human embryos. President Bush signed an executive order in 2001 limiting research to existing embryonic stem cell lines.
However, Reagan and others believe the use of stem cells taken from embryos could lead to cures for such illnesses as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, which afflicts Reagan's husband, former President Ronald Reagan.
"Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him," she said. "Because of this I'm determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain. I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this."
Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."
Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an interview Friday.
"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."
We are involved in what Boyd called a moral conflict. In fact, I believe we have already lost. We could not win it by torturing prisoners. We could not win it by killing more of "them" than they kill of us. We could not win by lying about our reasons for this war. That is not how you win moral conflicts.
I'm glad some senior military leadership is experiencing an ephiphany about the tactical/strategic dichotomy we face in Iraq. I hope they, and eventually all commanders and the American people, realize very soon that the only thing left to do is make the best of a terrible situation and choose the least bad option.
I keep hearing folks say "failure is not an option". Sorry, but it's not a choice any more. The United States has failed to balance the evil of war with a positive outcome in Iraq. The only question now is how do we deal with our failure.
We missed our window of opportunity to make things right through BushCo's incompetence, arrogance, and lack of planning. I have argued time and again that our troops simply must leave Iraq. I more firmly believe that now than I did last year.
Apropos of nothing, I'm going to be overhauling DM in the coming weeks as part of a relaunch celebrating my one year blogoversary in June. I appreciate the feedback I've gotten over the past several months, and I hope to make the site more functional, easier to read, etc.
The war in Iraq has become also a war of images. This week, we were troubled by pictures of tortured Iraqi prisoners. Last week, it was photographs of American soldiers who have given their lives there.
On Friday a week ago on NIGHTLINE, Ted Koppel read the names of the dead and showed their photographs. But their faces and names were blacked out on ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting. Sinclair accused Koppel of "…doing nothing more than making a political statement."
[I]t's their right. Freedom of the press, it has been famously said, is guaranteed only to those who own one.
That's just the point. These media giants can be within their rights even while doing wrong. It's the system, dear Brutus, the system...a cartel, in effect, of big companies and big government scratching each other's back.
Nowadays, these mega-media conglomerates relieve government of the need for censorship by doing it themselves. So we're reminded once again that journalism's best moments have come not when journalists make common cause with the state but stand fearlessly independent of it. A free press remains everything to a free society.
Thank goodness for blogs.
[Update: Tom Curley, the AP's President and CEO, also gets it. Read the whole thing. Thanks to praktike over at Eschaton.]
¶ 8:15 AM
The sharp-hoof'd moose of the north, the cat on the
house-sill, the chickadee, the prairie-dog ;
The litter of the grunting sow as they tug at her teats,
The brood of the turkey-hen, and she with her half-
spread wings ;
I see in them and myself the same old law.
A chickadee perches amongst new leaves this afternoon. It brings me cheer.
Time to lighten the mood: we have a winner in the latest Rummy Caption Contest! Here's the picture:
As usual, it was a tough choice. The honorable mentions:
Rummy: You could say we intend to Achy Breaky the will of the terrorists.
Garth: Um, that wasn't me.
Gee, Death, you're nothing like I pictured.
"Some people see the Grim Reaper in robes, some see him in a cowboy hat. Either way, you're coming with me, Rummy."
Cowboy: Yeah, I'd recognize the Rummy Kid anywhere, he's part of the Double-U Gang. Take him away sheriff, he's the worst!
Secretary Rumsfeld secretly wished to himself that he man in the cowboy hat was motioning for him to come out on the dance floor and join him for a waltz. Rummy remembered his youth spent cavorting in the hills above Vienna listening to the grand dances and dreaming that some young prince would sweep him off of his feet and ask him to the governor's ball where he could wear that dress he ever so loved. Was this charming cowboy his secret prince?
"Yes, I'd love to dance," he said with a breathless smile and eyes turned up at his enchanted lover.
The cowboy, a bit confused, said, "Hey, man. I just wanted a smoke."
The authorities routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention, prolonged detention, and incommunicado detention, and continued to deny citizens the basic right to due process...Special security courts have jurisdiction in all cases involving espionage and treason, peaceful political dissent, smuggling, currency exchange violations, and drug trafficking. According to the Special Rapporteur and other sources, military officers or civil servants with no legal training head these tribunals, which hear cases in secret. Authorities often hold defendants incommunicado and do not permit contact with lawyers...
Wazir Mohammad was held incommunicado. He was given no opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of his detention. He had no lawyer, no access to his family, and was not brought before any court, including the "competent tribunal" envisaged by the Geneva Conventions to determine prisoner status in time of war. He never met a delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross either. He was then put on a plane to Guantánamo Bay. He said that he was hooded and handcuffed for the 22-hour flight. When asked about toilet facilities during the flight, he refused to elaborate, saying that he could not talk of some of the things that happened on the plane.(19) Upon arrival at Guantánamo, Wazir Mohammad said that he and his fellow detainees were taken off the plane "like cargo, not people".
How important to the total-domination apparatus this complete disappearance of its victims is can be seen in those instances where, for one reason or another, the regime was confronted with the memory of survivors. During the war, one SS commandant made the terrible mistake of informing a French woman of her husband's death in a German concentration camp; this slip caused a small avalanche of orders and instructions to all camp commandants, warning them that under no circumstances was information ever to be given to the outside world. The point is that, as far as the French widow was concerned, her husband had supposedly ceased to live at the moment of his arrest, or rather had ceased ever to have lived.
There were no rules, by her account, and little training. But the mission was clear. Spec. Sabrina Harman, a military police officer charged with abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, said she was assigned to break down prisoners for interrogation.
A pro-military Democratic congressman's description of the war in Iraq as "unwinnable" unless changes are made sparked anger in House Republicans Thursday.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, in a news conference with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the problems in Iraq are due to a "lack of planning" by Pentagon chiefs and "the direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable."
Republicans seized on that word, ignoring Murtha's overall point: that more troops and equipment should be sent to Iraq.
Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the majority leader, accused Murtha of participating in a "calculated and craven political stunt."
"The Democrats are quitting, calling the war unwinnable while we have our men and women and their families sacrificing every day" charged Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
A few things struck me about this story and the way it was reported:
Of course, the obvious gross stupidity and/or crass politics in the GOP's response leaps out. Observing that we must change direction or the war is unwinnable is clearly different than saying the war is, in fact, unwinnable.
It's interesting that the reporter, Ted Barrett, felt it necessary to add the "pro-military" label to describe the Democrat, as though most other Dems hate the military. Some memes die hard.
I give Barrett full marks for noting that the GOP seized on "unwinnable" and completely ignored Murtha's point. Unusual for somebody at CNN or most of our media outlets to point out such things. Could the worm be turning?
Why is it that Republicans have such a hard time with reading comp? Maybe the private schools they went to should be declared "failing" and shut down?
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Friday extended "my deepest apologies'' to Iraqi prisoners abused by U.S. military personnel and told Congress he accepts full responsibility for the shocking events.
"These events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility,'' Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
I didn't think the old goat had it in him. At least somebody's taking responsibility in this administration.
Other items also modestly improved: employment population ratio was up 0.1%; average duration of unemployment dropped from 20.1 weeks to 19.7; there were 159k fewer people working part-time for economic reasons. Good.
Now the manure in that pile of ponies (thanks, Commissar): the number of jobs created were fewer than last month, and fewer than the promised 320k/month; hours worked was stagnant; wages barely budged. Not good.
Overall, hopeful signs in this report. I know the wingers will chastise me for my lack of enthusiasm, but these numbers are nothing to crow about, especially after years of promises--for me this is more of the good feeling you get when you stop beating your head against the wall. That said, I'm happy to see positive job growth, and hope to see this trend continue.
Even though I said midnight UTC today was the deadline for the current Rummy Caption Contest, it's still really not too late to enter for a chance to win a VALUABLE PRIZE. Winner announced tomorrow. Go now!
I told [King Abdullah] I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families. I told him I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him Americans, like me, didn't appreciate what we saw, that it made us sick to our stomachs. I also made it clear to His Majesty that the troops we have in Iraq, who are there for security and peace and freedom, are the finest of the fine, fantastic United States citizens, who represent the very best qualities of America: courage, love of freedom, compassion, and decency.
The essential feature of the narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy (DSM-IV™, 1994, p. 658)...Kantor (1992, pp. 203-204) describes the clinical characteristics of NPD as:
an exaggeration of the importance of one's experiences and feelings;
ideas of perfection;
a reluctance to accept blame or criticism;
absence of altruism although gestures may be made for the sake of appearance;
[Update: apparently Bush's crap passes as a real apology for the AP's Terence Hunt: President Bush, struggling to control a growing crisis, apologized Thursday for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers and called it "a stain on our country's honor." Puhleeze!]
¶ 8:09 PM
I was arguing with somebody the other night about Iraq-Vietnam comparisons. Inevitably, wingers point out the literal differences between the two conflicts, as though we don't know there are differences and that the analogy requires them to be exactly the same to hold true. One of the most popular reasons they list for why Iraq is no Vietnam is the casualty level, so I decided to take a look more closely.
Of course, it doesn't take a lot of research to recognize that casualties in Vietnam were an order of magnitude higher than what we're incurring in Iraq. But one would expect our casualties to be fewer now, wouldn't we? I mean, we've been told that our military technology is a force multiplier, so we need fewer troops to do the job and all that. But whatever.
First, some raw data. Here's a chart I built comparing the first 14 months of each conflict1:
What leaps out at me is that during the initial combat phase in Iraq, we suffered more casualties than we did in Vietnam. Of course, things got rapidly worse in Vietnam, whereas our quick overthrow of Saddam's regime bought us a relative "lull" in fighting. One other scary thing: we've seen a dramatic upward trend in casualties in the last few months, and May shows no sign of the violence abating.
All told, there were 14,910 killed and wounded during the first 14 months of Vietnam, and 4852 total casualties2 during the same span in Iraq. Great, we've only lost about 1/3 the personnel we did in Vietnam. Wow, I guess the wingers are right that Iraq is totally not Vietnam. It sucks 1/3 less!
What it all comes down to is this: wingers seem to think there is a threshold that we must pass before we can compare Vietnam and Iraq, and before we can call this a quagmire. Okay, so when do we cross that line? Do we have to be knee deep in the Big Muddy (or Sandy) before we recognize we're bogged down? Will we know we're in trouble when we have 1000 dead?
I was asked to put a number on it myself (I'll note the person asking the question never provided his). I said 500. Mostly arbitrary, but I figured it was a round milestone number, and clearly indicated that we'd been a) in Iraq for a significant time, thus the conflict would not be a Six Week Wonder like GWI, and b) incurring low-level casualties on a continuing basis, indicating that we aren't making any progress in terms of security and stability. Given that Vietnam also started slowly, and when we hit 500 in Iraq we were beginning to trend upward, this sounded like a reasonable marker of quagmireness.
But more importantly, how many is too many? Is 11,552 acceptable? How about 18,937? Or 29,853? Roughly 30k is apparently how many the "mass public" would accept in Iraq, according to a 1999 survey. However, what's important to note is the study asked specifically how tolerant would Americans be of casualties in a conflict to rid Saddam of WMD. Further, it seems that "what is crucial for maintaining public support is not [the incursion of] casualties per se, but casualties in an inconclusive war, casualties that the public sees as being suffered indefinitely, for no clear, good, or achievable purpose." That is why support for the war has slid.3
Let's leave Vietnam for the moment. All the talk about Abu Ghraib has made me wonder about some other comparisons. Wingers are gnashing their teeth, wailing, "where were the liberals when Saddam was doing bad things?" Is that really the bar we've set for ourselves: that we do bad things, but not as much as Saddam did?
I think of the Iraqis we've killed in combat since March, 2003, and the new revelations of abuse, torture and murder at our hands and again wonder, how much is too much? Is 11,000 Iraqi civilians we killed in just over 1 year (not counting the 1300+ we killed in April alone) really that much better than the 300,000 Saddam killed in 25? Is our abuse better than Saddam's because we mean well?
Not only have we gone in and destabilized a region and pissed off the Arab world more than they already were, but we've done the very things the bad guys have done. Keeping score and saying we're an order of magnitude less evil is cold comfort. This time it's my fucking government that is to blame. Morally and pragmatically, if not strategically, this war is a disaster.
Why did we lose Vietnam? Wingers like to say hippies and politicians are to blame. I'd say it was our inability to match our words with our deeds: saying we are defending freedom sounds great, but the reality of abuse, death and destruction trumps any assertions we make. Why did we lose Iraq? The numbers aren't exactly the same as Vietnam, but as Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself, at best it rhymes." We're singing the same sad song today that we did 40 years ago.
2 - This is assuming that Col. Hackworth is not correct when he says we're approaching 22,000 casualties. I've seen such high figures reported elsewhere, usually based on evacs or how many people have been treated at hospitals like Walter Reed, but I'm going to stick with the officially reported figures.
3 - That's interesting because support for Vietnam didn't start to really tank until late 1967.
I love mornings, especially the calm before-the-day-starts feeling as the birds start to wake up. As Cairo and I were taking out the trash/recycling, we paused to listen to the sounds of the red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves, and other members of the avian chorus. We also took in the sights of the foggy world in the early morning light...
One of the many webs out in our meadow this morning. Alas, at this resolution, you can't really see the teeny droplets of moisture collected on the strands.
Tommy is so cute when he gets all optimistic. He's right, Rummy should resign, but I don't hold out hope that this or anything else BushCo does will do all that much to restore our moral authority in the community of nations. We lost that long ago, and it's going to take a long time to get it back.