Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The dogfight begns

Andrew J. Bacevich mulls the fight about who lost Iraq:

As the endgame in Iraq approaches, the score-settling promises to get downright ugly. Those who observe this spectacle will need a strong stomach.

Still, whatever their political inclinations, Americans should welcome this debate. At a bare minimum, the eruption of blame and backstabbing will offer considerable entertainment value. To read (on the Vanity Fair website) that neoconservative David Frum, former White House speechwriter and author of a fawning tribute to Bush, has discovered that "the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas," is simply a hoot.

More substantively, the purging of political elites infesting Washington always has a cleansing effect. Figuring out "who lost Iraq?" ought to provide the occasion for throwing out more than a few rascals who hold office and discrediting others -- a process that will no doubt get a kick-start with today's midterm elections. With luck, those surviving will be at least momentarily chastened, perhaps giving rise to an Iraq syndrome akin to the Vietnam syndrome, and which at least for a while will save us from another similar debacle.

One thing we can expect (especially over the long term) is the continuation of the "other Vietnam syndrome"--the claim that the opponents of the war are really the ones responsible for its loss (because, of course, a bunch of demonstrators have more power than the entire US military). This will involve more than just the Bush hard-liners Bacevich mentions--it will become folklore. Since it helps people avoid changing their minds, it will be popular. We've already seen the folks who change their minds and then claim that they were against the war all along, despite the evidence. What I don't see is any appreciation of the truth--that it was wrong to go to war in the first place and that it never could have been won in any meaningful sense. As I remarked even before the invasion, a truly democratic Iraq would look like--Iran. And so it does (more than one person has commented that Iran really won the war). That alone gives the lie to the claims that the neos "really" wanted to democratize Iraq (the excuse trotted out after the WMD excuse failed them).

This should involve a long national soul-searching, including the realization that this war involved the complicity of officials all the way up to the top in war crimes--deliberately and with malice aforethought. But I doubt that the nation has the courage for that much introspection.

Tip of the hat to Laura Rozen

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The Senate will have 12 Democrats up for re-election, and 21 Republicans. That's a huge opportunity, if they don't blow it in the next two years.

On NPR this morning, Robert Reich says that the Dems should concentrate on passing legislation and not investigating the crimes of the last six years, because people are sick of "mud-slinging".

That's what happens when one side adopts a policy of outrageous lying in order to make the public cynical about any bad news. It would be suicidal to let that strategy work. We need careful investigations into what has been swept under the rug all these years, and a dispassionate accounting of the facts. The country deserves it.

At the same time, the Dems need to pass strong legislation that works for the broad middle class (and helps bring more people into it)--a minimum wage increase, fixing the AMT, protecting civil liberties, rolling back the tax giveaways of the past few years, fixing NCLB, doing something serious about Medicare drug coverage, extending health care to the uninsured, reforming labor laws, making more financial aid available for higher education, serious job creation, and dozens of other things.

And they shouldn't be too eager to pass a diluted bill that will have the opposite of its intended effect--like NCLB--or allow various giveaways to be attached to it--like with the minimum wage bill a while back. Far better to pass something in one house that makes sense and will work and then fix the blame for its stall right where it belongs. In fact, it's time to grow some vertebrae and pass those politically impossible but realistically necessary bills in order to highlight the problems that need fixing (labor law reform is a good example of that). There's a danger of being tarred as "do-nothing" if that results in few bills passed, but that's better than doing the wrong things. An active Democratic House ought to be able to point to a whole pile of worthwhile bills and say, "We did our job!".

It's not an either-or choice--they can do both and they have to do both. And if the media prefer to concentrate on the more sensational stories, then it's up to the rest of us to read past the front page and emphasize the positive agenda.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

That carefully-timed verdict . . .

. . . even though the official document wasn't ready (the Saddam Hussein verdict of course) is really evidence of how effectively he had been defanged. The massacre for which he was condemned took place two dozen years ago--wouldn't such a dangerous tyrant have something more contemporary to be tried for? Furthermore, the massacre took place only a few months after the US removed Iraq from the State Department's list of sponsors of terrorism, and began shoring Saddam up in his war with Iran by giving aid and selling weapons (the year before the famous Rumsfeld handshake photograph). How wise is it to condemn him for something he did while he was our ally?

Not too unwise, apparently--the media seem to have missed it entirely.

Election Prediction

Just a retread from 2004--if the Democrats win big, prepare for a massive East Coast power failure caused by the drain of thousands upon thousands of paper shredders.