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9/30/2004

Kerry Debate Center

http://www.democrats.org/debates/

Tonight, don't let George Bush's henchmen steal another victory. We need your online help immediately after the debate, so save this email, print it out, and have it ready with you as you watch the first Presidential debate tonight.

We all know what happened in 2000. Al Gore won the first debate on the issues, but Republicans stole the post-debate spin. We are not going to let that happen again, and you will play a big role.

Immediately after the debate, we need you to do three things: vote in online polls, write a letter to the editor, and call in to talk radio programs. Your 10 minutes of activism following the debate can make the difference.

Vote
National and local news organizations will be conducting online polls during and after the debate asking for readers' opinions. Look for online polls at these national news websites, and make sure to vote in every one of them:

ABC News: http://www.abcnews.com/
CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/
CNN: http://www.cnn.com/
Fox News: http://www.foxnews.com/
MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.com/
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/
And be sure to check the websites of your local newspapers and TV stations for online polls. It is crucial that you do this in the minutes immediately following the debate.

Write
Immediately after the debate, go online and write a letter to the editor of your local paper. If you feel John Kerry commanded the debate and had a clear plan for fixing the mess in Iraq, put it in your letter. If you feel George Bush dodged tough questions on Iraq and didn't level with voters, put it in your letter.

With just a few clicks, you can write your letter at our online media center:

http://www.democrats.org/media/

Call
Do you listen to national or local call-in shows on the radio? How about on TV? Call them and let them know what you thought of John Kerry's plan to keep America secure and George Bush's continuing refusal to admit the truth about his record.

Here are some national shows to get you started. (All times are Eastern.)

Air America (all day): 646-274-2346
Alan Colmes (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.): 212-301-5900
Ed Shultz (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.): 701-232-1525
Bev Smith (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.): 412-325-4197
Doug Stephen (5 a.m. 10 a.m.): 1-800-510-8255
Find shows in your area on our media website:

http://www.democrats.org/media/find.html

Your actions immediately after the debate tonight can help John Kerry win on November 2. Make your voice heard!

Don't forget to visit our 2004 Debate Center before, during, and after the debate for important information, including questions Bush must answer, a Bush/Kerry contrast on keeping America safe, and Bush Debate Bingo, a game you can play with friends during the debate.

http://www.democrats.org/debates/

Thanks,

Tracy Terrell

MD Coordinator

Women for Kerry-Edwards

DC Gun Laws

The House passed a repeal of DC's gun safety laws, over the strong objection of DC's delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton. The obvious violation of DC residents' rights to self determination aside, I want to ask a question that has been nagging at the back of my mind since 9/11: How do gun rights advocates escape the spectre of terrorism?

There are two legitimate rationales for supporting an individual right to bear arms:

  1. The interest in self defense;

  2. The interest in opposing tyrannical authority.
The self-defense interest is certainly legitimate, and a corollary interest in gun ownership and a means to defend one's self may have actually grown after 9/11. But the argument for reading this interest into the constitution is decidedly weak, both because of the specific text of the 2nd amendment and the nature of the debates surrounding its passage:
As it is virtually impossible to prove a negative, I cannot claim that none of the proponents of the Second Amendment ever embraced a nonrepublican belief in the right to own arms for self-defense. Yet the dominance of the republican tradition in their thinking about the Amendment makes it unlikely that the primary concern of the provision was self-defense. As I have argued, the discussion of the right to arms was saturated with republican concepts and rhetoric, including the language of the provision itself, with its assertion that "a well regulated militia" is "necessary to the security of a free State." The references to a popular right of resistance are countless; in contrast, the references to an individual right to arms for self-defense are quite rare. I do not mean to argue that one could not construct a modern constitutional argument for a right to own arms for self-defense, or that all eighteenth-century republicans rejected such a right as a matter of general philosophy. Rather, I mean to argue that that right was, for them, a peripheral issue in the debates over the Second Amendment. This secondary status is critical because, as I will argue shortly, under modern conditions an individual right to arms is positively counterproductive to the goals and ideals implicit in a collective right to arms for resistance. As the latter was at the center of the republicans' concern and the former on the periphery, a modern version of a republican Second Amendment would not include a private right to arms for self-defense. [David C. Williams, Civic Republicanism and the Citizen Militia: The Terrifying Second Amendment, 101 Yale L.J. 551, 587-588]
There should be a debate about the prudence of gun control (a debate not aided by the dishonest tactics of Lott and his ilk), but it shouldn't involve constitutional considerations. Any foundation for an individual right, then, must revolve around the second rationale: ensuring the ability to oppose tyranny. This rationale, though, has been fatally wounded by both the Oklahoma City bombing and the rise of militant Islamic terrorism.

Characterizing the interest in opposing tyranny as an individual constitutional right confers legitimacy on those who claim to do so. As an individual right, it renders the identification of tyranny entirely subjective. What moral basis, then, do those who support an individual right on anti-tyranny grounds oppose terrorists? I'm really not sure - there is the obvious answer that the US isn't tyrannical, so their violent opposition to it as such isn't correct - but this hinges on an objective evaluation incompatible with most individual rights. The fight with terrorists is reduced to a substantive dispute, but their tactics are given a patina of constitutional legitimacy. If anyone can clarify this for me, I'd appreciate it.

Philadelphia Inquirer on Feith

Tuesday's Inquirer had a biographical sketch of Doug Feith. Laura Rozen comments here. Feith shares Bush's rose colored glasses:

Feith, a Philadelphia native with close family ties to the area, rejected the allegation that postwar planning for Iraq had been disastrous. He said history would vindicate much of his group's decision-making.

"We made mistakes, but we did a lot of good things," he said in a rare two-hour interview at his Washington-area home.
On a related note, defenders of the administration's catastrophic adventurists continue to try to brand critics as anti-Semitic: Mowbray, 9/29; Mowbray, 9/20; Gaffney, 9/10...

But see Haaretz, 9/26:
J.J. Goldberg, the editor of the Jewish weekly Forward, who is known for his anti-establishment approach, says that the investigation, "which has been under way for two years, with the knowledge of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, is not an anti-Semitic conspiracy." Goldberg also thinks that this is an isolated event and not a symbol of general American suspicion of the Jews' loyalty.

A senior source in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, while not sharing Goldberg's view that "there is a story" in the Franklin case, agrees with him about the bottom line: that the nervousness of the Jewish establishment about this case is wholly inordinate. "There is nothing to the affair, as will become clear, and the Jewish concerns about what people think about them are also exaggerated. If the Pollard affair, which was the genuine thing, didn't cause a rift between the United States and Israel and the Jews, and the Jews' status has only been enhanced since that time, then certainly the present affair will not cause damage of that kind."

Corruption in Plain Sight

Mike Scanlon, one of the former Delay aides responsible for defrauding millions from Native American tribes, refused to show for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing.

"The U.S. marshals tell us Mr. Scanlon is hiding out in his house with the blinds drawn," said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, after the hearing. "But we’re going to [subpoena] him again. He will be before the committee one way or another. … I want to ask him questions. He is going to have to duck and dodge."
Abramoff, Scanlon's partner in crime, pled the fifth.
Nighthorse Campbell said the documentary trail developed by the committee, including the e-mails released yesterday, tell a story of unbounded greed. He said he believes Abramoff privately showed bigotry and contempt for tribal officials who were awarding him and Scanlon multimillion-dollar contracts, referring to them as "idiots" and "troglodytes."

"Do you refer to all your clients as 'morons'?" he demanded of Abramoff. The witness, flanked by lawyer Abbe D. Lowell, looked abashed but did not answer, citing his right against self-incrimination.
According to John McCain, Abramoff manipulated tribal politics to keep the money flowing:
"The documents show that Jack Abramoff systematically sought out impressionable tribal leaders and representatives, seduced them with promises of power and prestige, and helped them attain positions of power within their tribes," McCain said. "Once in power, their allies on the tribal council steered multimillion-dollar contracts to Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm and Mr. Scanlon's PR company."
I imagine there is some tension between Delay and McCain.

Prebuttal Debate Briefing

Kerry has a debate prebuttal out. The real winner: editorial cartoonists. The last four years would have made a hilarious sitcom, perhaps "The Right Wing."

9/28/2004

GAO Report on Medicare

Nick Confessore discusses a NYT article on a GAO analysis of the Bush Medicare plan. The GAO report was just released [PDF]. Highlights here [PDF]. From the NYT: the plan limited "Medicare patients' choice of health care providers, including doctors, nursing homes and home care agencies" yet had higher "out-of-pocket costs for the elderly and had not saved money for the government, contrary to predictions by Medicare officials."

Less choice, more cost, in the service of an ideology of incompetence. I don't know if GOP ineptitude is better demonstrated by their general approach to foreign policy or the specific Medicare debacle.

Abramoff, Scanlon, Reed Fleece Indian Tribe

Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon, two Delay associates turned big shot Washington lobbyists, worked with Ralph Reed to stamp out tribal casinos in Texas, then extorted money from the same tribes to fight the positions they had just pushed through. The Washington Post has laid its hands on some damning email exchanges between Reed, Abramoff and Scanlon. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by John McCain, is holding a hearing on related issues tomorrow, and the shit should hit the fan. Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's previous employer, has an internal investigaton underway, and a grand jury is also investigating the situation. [Original Post story; today's editorial; El Paso Times article on outrage at the tribe; Kos diary 1; Kos diary 2]

Less than a month ago, Reed, who is Bush's Southeastern regional campaign chairman, claimed to not know that Abramoff and Scanlon were working for tribal casinos. This contradicts an earlier statement he made to the Mongomery Advertiser, where he noted:

He said Abramoff, a longtime friend, asked him to form a coalition of churches and other anti-gambling groups to defeat casino gambling initiatives in Alabama and other states.

Reed said Abramoff told him the money he would be paid would come from Indians who operate casinos and want to eliminate possible competition, but it would not be paid with casino revenues.

"He said I can draw the funds from non-gambling enterprises" operated by the tribes, Reed said.

McGregor, the Alabama dog track operator, laughed at the attempt to draw a distinction between the Indians' non-gambling revenue and gambling revenue." [Also here]
Here is the Washington Post's first story on the subject, from back in August. It has more details on the investigation:
Federal officials have assembled a criminal task force from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department's public integrity section, the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Interior Department inspector general's office, according to officials familiar with the investigation. The task force is looking into payments that Abramoff and Scanlon received from an array of clients, including 11 wealthy Indian tribes that operate gambling casinos.

Task force investigators have subpoenaed records at Reed's firm, Century Strategies, along with records of many other subcontractors for Abramoff and Scanlon, according to sources familiar with aspects of the inquiry.
Abramoff also happened to have a fraudulent charity nominally focused on teaching kids "sportsmanship." He's an expert on fair play, no doubt learned from Reed.

9/27/2004

Lost News: President Reneges on SCHIP Promise

Sometimes I get too caught up in Iraq, and miss the pernicious little Bush campaignistration assaults on our way of life. For instance, I missed this article in the Saturday Washington Post about Bush breaking a promise he made less than a month ago.

Bush's RNC speech: said:

America's children must also have a healthy start in life. In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.
He referred people to his website:
Promote Affordable Health Care for Children - The President will launch a nationwide, billion dollar Cover the Kids campaign to sign up more children for quality health care coverage. The Cover the Kids campaign will combine the resources of the Federal Government, states, and community organizations, including faith-based organizations, with the goal of covering all SCHIP-eligible children within the next two years.
Less than a month after promising new resources for the program, he takes back $1.1 billion from state governments.
The loss of $1.1 billion in federal money means six states participating in the State Children's Health Insurance Program face budget shortfalls in 2005; it is enough money to provide health coverage for 750,000 uninsured youngsters nationwide, according to two new analyses by advocacy organizations.
***
Over the objections of the National Governors Association and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, Bush opposes giving states more time to spend the money. In previous years he supported an extension, but he struck it from this year's proposed budget. Even if Bush belatedly endorses a bill extending the SCHIP spending deadline, it will come at a price: Congress is required to trim $1.1 billion elsewhere in the budget if it lets states keep the money. [Washington Post 9/25/04]
The administration is taking that 1.1 billion back, but giving 1 billion to "some states, community groups and religious organizations," nominally for outreach purposes. Outreach support is needed, as states have almost entirely eliminated it [PDF] for budgetary reasons. Like the rest of Bush's false faith based initiatives, though, Bush's is an effort to turn good government programs into largesse and graft for political constituencies.

The worst part of the story is that SCHIP has been the one example of the "flexible" conservative approach to social policy actually returning some dividends. States have been able to experiment, and have settled on different approaches to the program. To take back, at such a crucial time, money states were relying on to insure poor children is the height of folly.

The Baltimore Sun has a decent look at the differences between the candidates on Health Care.

PS. Including KOS in Google News has made a big difference. Here is the Kos diary on this subject.

9/26/2004

Iraq Has Made Us Less Safe

The media treats this argument as though it is confusing, poorly understood, poorly supported, or fringe. It is not. Here are the basics of the argument.

  1. Iraq did not pose a threat to us. It was not "grave and "gathering." It was decrepit and declining. It did not have a relationship with al Qaeda or other anti-American terrorist groups. There is no evidence that it would ever aid such groups. It did not have weapons of mass destruction to give to al Qaeda or other anti-American terrorist groups. There is no evidence that it would ever be able to acquire weapons, despite some residual desire to possess them.

  2. Developments in Iraq have increased the power and appeal of anti-American terrorist groups. Even Pervez Musharraf says it. Iraq has been a boon for terrorist recruiting and accelerated the dissemination of their ideology.

  3. Iraq policies have hurt American credibility. International and domestic confidence in our intelligence capabilities and in our good intentions have been hurt by the misleading case for war and Bush's unwillingness to engage reality. Our detention policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with the torture policy in Abu Ghraib, have hurt our credibility with moderates across the world, including the people whose "hearts and minds" are at the center of the struggle.

  4. Scarce resources have been spent in Iraq, and obligations continue for the indefinite future. Had we not invaded Iraq, we would have had more than a hundred billion dollars to spend on effective anti-terror policies, including capturing al Qaeda in the window of opportunity before its metastisization, and demonstrating our good intentions and potency in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. We could have supported necessary counter-proliferation operations and actually invested in homeland security. We would have reserve military capacity, with all its attendant benefits (force projection against Iran, N. Korea; humanitarian intervention in Darfur, Haiti, Liberia; preserved mystique).
This is all in addition to the possibility of Iraq spiraling into a civil war, or ending up as a failed state. Even if we succeed in stabilizing the country, which is beyond the best case scenario of the recent NIE, the Iraq war has been unfathomably expensive. What is the value of international good will and moral credibility? The security benefit has been minimal, both because of the nature of the intervention and the incompetence in prosecuting it. Hussein was an abominable human, but he was contained.

Conservatives argue that this argument is betrayal to the troops and emboldening to our enemies. They think speaking the truth is harmful, but living in a fantasy land is not. They think criticizing incompetence is disloyal, while unwavering incompetence is a sign of strength. They are wrong; the American people deserve the a President in touch with reality.

Support (a very much non-exhaustive set of references)
If, indeed, there is a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, it may not be the kind the Bush campaign is likely to dwell on. The same day the President spoke, the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies released its annual survey that found, among other things, that far from dealing a blow to al-Qaeda and making the U.S. and its allies safer, the Iraq invasion has in fact substantially strengthened bin Laden's network and increased the danger of attacks in the West. And the London-based IISS is not some Bush-bashing antiwar think tank; it hosted the president's keynote address during his embattled visit to the British late last year.

The IISS reported that al-Qaeda's recruitment and fundraising efforts had been given a major boost by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It estimated that bin Laden's network today commands some 18,000 men, of which about 1,000 are currently inside Iraq. After almost three years of President Bush's war on terror, the IISS offered the following assessment of the movement's prospects: "Although half of al-Qaeda's 30 senior leaders and perhaps 2,000 rank-and-file members have been killed or captured, a rump leadership is still intact and more than 18,000 potential terrorists are still at large, with recruitment accelerating on account of Iraq." The continuing danger of an al-Qaeda strike inside the U.S. as it moves into election season was underscored Wednesday by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who warned that intelligence tips suggest that the movement plans to attack inside the U.S. some time in the coming months. It was a non-specific warning, of course, and the color-coded terror alert level was not raised as a result. But the announcement affirmed for Americans the fact that they remain vulnerable to al-Qaeda attack, if better prepared and forewarned than three years ago. [Time 5/26/04]
Far from addressing the popular appeal of the enemy that attacked us, Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed, proof that America was at war with Islam, that we were the new Crusaders come to occupy Muslim land.

Nothing America could have done would have provided al Qaeda and its generation of cloned groups a better recruitment device than our unprovoked invasion of an oil-rich Arab country. Nothing else could have so well negated all our other positive acts and so closed Muslim eyes and ears to our subsequent calls for reform in their region. It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting "invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq." [Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies, 246]
Rather than seek to work with the majority in the Islamic world to mold Muslim opinion against the radicals' values, we did exactly what al Qaeda said we would do. We invaded and occupied an oil-rich Arab country that posed no threat to us, while paying scant time and attention to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable and made it difficult for friendly Islamic governments to be seen working closely with us. [Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies, 264]
179. The war in Iraq might in fact have impeded the war against al Qaeda. Our witnesses were concerned that it might have enhanced the appeal of al Qaeda to Muslims living the Gulf region and elsewhere. Professor Wilkinson told us that
most observers on counter-terrorism would accept that there was a very serious downside to the war in Iraq as far as counter-terrorism against al-Qaeda is concerned because al-Qaeda was able to use the invasion of Iraq as a propaganda weapon… They have always wanted to latch on to issues that could be exploited in very dramatic terms, and the proximity of American forces to the holy places on the Arabian Peninsula seemed to be a very early issue that they were exploiting to the full.
[House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, 7/31/03; Wilkinson tesimony here]
Ideological motivation for young men to join its ranks is now more important to Al Qaeda than a state sponsor. That motivation has been provided by the haste to war in Iraq. Officials in several Muslim countries have noted a rise in recruitment to extremist groups and even US officials (including [Cofer] Black) acknowledge that ‘‘there are literally thousands of Jehadists around the world’’. These extremists have added anti-Americanism to their local causes, which in the past only involved local separatist wars in remote parts of the world such as Chechnya and Kashmir. [CEIP, 4/12/04]
Emboldened and perhaps even inspired by the insurgency in Iraq, extremists linked to Al Qaeda are broadening their war against the West and taking an even more ruthless course in doing so. [CSM, 11/20/03]
Yet despite these setbacks, al Qaeda and its affiliates remain among the most significant threats to U.S. national security today. In fact, according to George Tenet, the CIA's director, they will continue to be this dangerous for the next two to five years. An alleged al Qaeda spokesperson has warned that the group is planning another strike similar to those of September 11. On May 12, simultaneous bombings of three housing complexes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed at least 29 people and injured over 200, many of them Westerners. Intelligence officials in the United States, Europe, and Africa report that al Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment drive in response to the war in Iraq. And the target audience for its recruitment has also changed. They are now younger, with an even more "menacing attitude," as France's top investigative judge on terrorism-related cases, Jean-Louis Brugui, describes them. More of them are converts to Islam. And more of them are women. [Jessica Stern, Foreign Affairs, 7-8/03]
Since the US-led Afghanistan intervention deprived al-Qaeda of a central base, the military dimension of counter-terrorism has diminished. Transnational terrorists are now clandestinely dispersed among perhaps 100 countries, and present few concentrated targets amenable to military measures. Law-enforcement and intelligence cooperation is now paramount. While the opportunity for a Predator -style strike may occasionally arise, military counter-terrorism is generally limited to technical intelligence gathering; precautionary special-operations deployments; first response and civil defence; and, exceptionally, counterinsurgency in Iraq. The enlarged US military and political footprint there, while intimidating potential state sponsors of terrorism, in the short term has heightened the Islamic terrorist impulse and enhanced recruitment - more than offsetting any calming effect of the US military withdrawal from Saudi Arabia. [IISS Military Balance 2003/2004]
In the past year, al-Qaida operatives have found in Iraq a fertile recruiting ground, the best possible training camp for jihad against the West, a destination any angry young man can reach if he has the will and pocket money. Iraq's borders, which stretch across hundreds of miles of empty desert, are perfect for smugglers and men seeking martyrdom. No one really knows how many people are coming into Iraq to fight the U.S. But the fighters who do make it across are changing the character of the resistance, internationalizing it, injecting religious extremism into the politics of a once-secular Iraq. Young men coming in from other countries don't fight for Iraq, they fight for Islam.

One of the unutterable truths for the administration is that the U.S. occupation is breeding and fueling insurgent groups. Iraqi government officials rightly fear for their lives, but Iraqi forces, which are supposed to be fighting alongside U.S. troops in the cause of a free and democratic Iraq, are often undisciplined, dangerous and in some places infiltrated by insurgent groups. The Mahdi Army in Sadr City has a number of police officers in its ranks, and in a little remarked upon event that took place during one of the large demonstrations in Baghdad at the time of the siege, the Iraqi police helped Sadr officials address a crowd of Muqtada al-Sadr supporters outside the neutral Green Zone. [Salon, 9/23/04]
[T]he biggest question... whether [the Bush] response to 9/11 has made [America] safer or more vulnerable.... Over the past two years I have been talking with a group of people at the working level of America's anti-terrorism efforts... no partisan ax to grind with the Administration... they have so far been proved right. In the year before combat started in Iraq, they warned that occupying the country would be far harder than conquering it.... [A]mong national-security professionals there is surprisingly little controversy... America's response to 9/11 [was] a catastrophe. I have sat through arguments among soldiers and scholars about whether the invasion of Iraq should be considered the worst strategic error in American history—or only the worst since Vietnam.... "Let me tell you my gut feeling," a senior figure at one of America's military-sponsored think tanks told me recently, after we had talked for twenty minutes about details of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. "If I can be blunt, the Administration is full of shit. In my view we are much, much worse off now than when we went into Iraq. That is not a partisan position. I voted for these guys. But I think they are incompetent, and I have had a very close perspective on what is happening. Certainly in the long run we have harmed ourselves. We are playing to the enemy's political advantage. Whatever tactical victories we may gain along the way, this will prove to be a strategic blunder."... [Fallows, The Atlantic, 9/04]
[See generally, CRS report (PDF) 5/23/03]
When it comes to winning over Muslim moderates who now sympathize with the militants, the US starts with a huge disadvantage - a rising tide of mistrust of its policies and intentions. According to a Gallup Poll of nine Muslim countries, only about 1 out of 10 Muslims believes that Americans respect Islamic values, and even fewer - 7 percent - feel that the West understands Muslim customs and culture. The majority of Muslims polled by the Pew Global Attitudes Project also believes that the US is a military threat to them. Other surveys show that the Iraq war has exacerbated Muslim resentment.

Unfortunately, America's non-Muslim allies have also come to mistrust it. Majorities in most Western European countries polled by EOS Gallup Europe now consider the US a threat to world peace.

I have rarely seen a change in public opinion as great in such a short amount of time as the one from 2002 to 2003 in Europe that came as a direct result of the war in Iraq.

Rightly or wrongly, much of the world has come to see American military initiatives as lacking legitimacy. The US can no longer count on its traditional allies to help dispel the poisonous anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. [CSM, 9/20/04]
[See generally, IPS, 6/24/04]

Washington Post in Bushland

The Washington Post keeps a foot in President Bush's special little fantasy land in today's editorial. It is blinded by the shadows of deception and distortion that characterize Bushland, but sees the outline of reality on the periphery.

The editorial begins on its Bushland foot, claiming that this week "Sen. John F. Kerry adopted, at last, a mostly coherent position on the war, one that describes Iraq as a 'profound diversion' from the fight against terrorism and 'a mess' that has made the United States less secure." For an actual analysis of the consistency of Kerry's positions, rather than a bland recitation of GOP spin, look to the San Francisco Chronicle. Seriously, is there any doubt that the Washington Post editorial board isn't fully aware of the consistency of Kerry's position? This abuse of editorial authority, probably included to appear "fair and balanced" is certainly neither objective nor professional.

Other misleading statements in the editorial:

Mr. Allawi spoke powerfully of what Iraqis have gained from the removal of Saddam Hussein, and we don't accept Mr. Kerry's assertion that America is "less secure and weaker in the war on terrorism" than it was when that murderous regime was still in power. In fact, we recall applauding when Mr. Kerry denounced Howard Dean for making the same claim.
I wish that I could just choose not to accept facts that upset me - maybe that's the ticket to Bushworld. On what basis does the Post believe that we are safer? Perhaps the editors should read the LATimes, or maybe get Richard Clarke's book out from under the wobbly table and actually crack it open.

In addition to being wrong on the facts, the Post mischaracterizes Kerry's statements on the capture of Hussein. I suggest the editors read Mr. Saletan's recent Slate piece. In a primary debate, Kerry said "Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president." As Mr. Saletan points out, he is referring with some specificity to "the world" and "Iraq," not to the United States. He notes that "we" are safer with the "capture" of Hussein, not with the overall invasion. This does not contradict his recent statement that "we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure," which is unfortunately now a truism.

Ah, but I have merely been sniping myself. The editorial does demonstrate a passing awareness that reality is crashing into Bushworld, and that his fantastic proclamations are becoming more and more detached from reality. The problem is that the editors are aware of this conflict yet choose to stay in Bush's fantasy land. Can any other conclusion be drawn from their continued embrace of his inept strategic vision?

Consider:
In describing the Iraq invasion as an unnecessary "diversion," Mr. Kerry has narrowed his definition of the war to the fight against al Qaeda and its related networks, while playing down the related problems of state sponsorship.
The Post just doesn't understand. It's not just al Qaeda or its related networks, it's the ideological vision embraced and advanced by al Qaeda. The Post pretends that Kerry has eschewed Bush's grand democratic vision in favor of Bush's blinkered "deck of cards" strategy. Kerry has endorsed neither - he wants to fight the real enemy, the vicious ideological strain of radical Islam. From this fight, Iraq has been worse even than a "diversion" - it has been a strategic failure, resulting in the "emboldening" of our enemies [note: I am not implying that this was the intended result, and am not implying that Bush wants terrorists to win - that type of argument is the exclusive provenance of the GOP].

The Post claims to be "in the center," though its interpretation of the center reflects more the "no spin zone" of Fox News than a genuine effort to understand the impact and importance of Iraq. Washington DC is a beautiful, cosmopolitan city virtually overflowing with wonks and experts, people with a deep understanding of what's going on in the world. It's a shame that the editors of the region's flagship paper don't enjoy those luxuries more often.

Al Qaeda Threat Changing, Growing

It's not really news that our attacks on al-Qaeda have dispersed the organization, resulting in a decentralized network and ideological position that still presents an ominous threat to American. The British think tank IISS produced the best analysis on the subject almost a year ago [summary here; other reports on IISS reports here, here, here].

I should say it's not news to anyone who has been closely following the situation. It is, apparently, news to the Bush administration though.

[O]fficials warn that the Bush administration's upbeat assessment of its successes is overly optimistic and masks its strategic failure to understand and combat Al Qaeda's evolution. [LA Times, archive here]
Part of the problem is that the US strategy - the deck of cards model - is ineffective or even counterproductive:
"Anti-terrorism experts who fault the administration's strategy and its optimism argue that concentrating on individual plots and operatives obscures the need to address the broader dimensions of Islamic extremism and makes it impossible to mount an effective defense."
The LAT article is worth a full read.

When you hear John Kerry say that "we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure," thank God that at least one candidate cares about reality. This Palm Beach Post editorial says it well.

Reconstruction Funds Not Going to Iraq

The LA Times reports (archive here):

Barton and his organization estimate that less than 30% of the [Iraqi Reconstruction] money spent reaches Iraqis. Another 30% appears to be going to security, about 10% to U.S. government overhead, 6% to contractor profits, and 12% on insurance and foreign workers' salaries. The rest, perhaps 15%, may be lost to corruption and mismanagement, they estimate.

Several government analysts, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue, acknowledged that the total amount lost to special costs was probably about 50% and that the administration planned to undertake a study to determine the extent of the extra costs. One government analyst said the costs of security and lost property could be estimated with some precision, "and that gets you close to around 50%."
Why is the situation so bad? Because the administration opted to work with "major contractors such as Bechtel and Halliburton," rather than on "locally staffed rebuilding projects, training police and other officials, and working to get government agencies and democratic institutions up and running." And it's going to get worse: insurance costs, security costs, and contractual indemnities will exacerbate the situation in the near future.

In the contentious $87 billion appropriation that passed almost a year ago, George Bush refused to separate money for reconstruction from money for the troops. He threatened to veto any bill that wasn't exactly what he wanted. The lack of oversight in his scheme has contributed to the "predicament" we are in today. John Kerry wanted more oversight and more accountability.

 

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