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Saturday, April 05, 2003

Bush-bashing lie #17 is...

..that we have abandoned or forgotten Afghanistan. (Mostly they're lying to themselves. It's called denial. )

You might want to look at this report, with pictures, at Dean's World.

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Will it be war after war after war?

Mickey Kaus did a series of posts recently speculating that the "neocons" are preparing us for a state of permanent war. (He doesn't seem to have perma-links, but it's 3/31/03) He has various clues or predictions we can take as evidence that this is happening...
...P.S. Isn't the "make life normal" strategy the same one Lyndon Johnson pursued during Vietnam, when he tried to lessen the impact of the draft by granting lots of college deferments? Yes. And life during Vietnam was shockingly normal during those years. The difference is that here -- if the only war we're going to fight is in Iraq -- there is no need for such a strategy. Nobody thinks the Iraq war is going to last years. A huge national effort for the duration of the conflict seems eminently sustainable. It's only un-sustainable for the duration of multiple conflicts. ...

P.P.S.: If the above is right, it yields a prediction: The White House will soon begin staging a series of events designed to help return American life to normalcy. Maybe the president will go to a ballgame, or go shopping. ...
Perhaps he's right. But there's a possibility he doesn't seem to have thought of. Suppose, just suppose for a moment, that the administration would prefer, if possible, to tackle the various axes of Evil, Weavil, Blixl, etc, by peaceful diplomatic means. Wouldn't the best background for such a campaign be the perception of the US as bunch of crazy gunslingers who would prefer to just knock off the dictators one after another?

Colin Powell's role as the diplomatic 'good cop' will be far more effective if he has a credible 'bad cop.' He can say, "President Assad, my old friend, I would just LOVE to settle this matter, but you're going to have to give me some help. If I can't show results, Rumsfeld's mad dogs will be painting your name on a TLAM tomorrow."

SO, let me make a prediction. If this view of things is correct, I predict that the manichaean conflict between Rumsfeld and Powell will never be 'won' by either side. It isn't intended to be won; both the good and bad cops are part of the performance. And, though there may be other wars from time to time, the unending war that the 'neocons' seem to be pushing for will never quite happen...

We will see.

USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) launches a tomahawk missile
USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) launches a TLAM (Tomahawk Land Attack Missile). March 27. 2003.

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Among other virtues, it would be the propaganda coup of the decade...

I've read some pundits (sorry, I didn't keep the links) who have discussed the evil influence the oil wealth has on governments. With no need to tax their citizens, governments can ignore the wishes of the people. Indeed, they can almost dispense with them altogether. The fact is, not only is there No taxation without representation, there is No representation without taxation!

One solution I've heard proposed, for Iraq, is to literally give the oil profits to the people. Every adult citizen would have an account, which would receive his or her share of oil money, to spend as they wished. To pay for itself, the government would have to vote taxes, which should impose a certain realism and sobriety on all concerned.

I think this would be good for Iraq, but there would be another big plus, which I often think of when I read things like the following, quoted at The Command Post:
...Polls show that most Europeans firmly oppose the war, even in countries the White House lists among the "coalition of the willing." European news coverage of war is often highly critical, or plays down accounts of Iraqis happily greeting Americans. There is deep suspicion of U.S. motives, with many suggesting the administration is attacking Iraq only for its oil...
It is easy to ignore or discount or distort abstract arguments about democracy and freedom, or the good intentions of the US. But giving Iraq's oil to its people would be something so wild, so stunning, nobody could ignore it.

Imagine the reaction of the ordinary citizen in, say, Iran...or Arabia... or Venezuela. It would be Power to the people, and leftists everywhere would hate it, and be put on the defensive...
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I have a suggestion ...

BBC NEWS: British find 'makeshift morgue' "Hundreds of skulls and bundles of bone in strips of military uniform have been found by British soldiers at an abandoned Iraqi military base..."
There's going to be a lot more of this kind of thing. The military will probably want to give them code-names, to keep the different sites organized.

Maybe we could help by suggesting a few names...Cities of course are often used for this sort of thing. Perhaps: Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Berkeley, Hollywood ... Or womens' names: Barbra, Sherryl, Nancy, Jane... Or men's names: Jacques, Kofi, Tom, Peter... Perhaps you can think of more.

Maybe I'll send an e-mail to my friend General Franks. He's a busy guy, and might not think of this...


This is a link to a picture of some soldiers of the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion being given a tour of the Temple of Ur. (Part of an interesting DOD Image collection)

Very interesting, but I had to laugh--the caption-writer has been writing too many military documents, and says that Ur " the birthplace of Abram who is referenced in the bible."
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Friday, April 04, 2003

these problems are temporary...

From an article at FOXNews about how a few Democrat leaders have begun to have qualms:
..On Thursday, as the war entered week three, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., exposed how deep the rift in her party is, making an unapologetic renewal of her opposition to war.

"I said then and I say now that I was not convinced that the use of force at this time was the best way to disarm Iraq,"... Pelosi said.
(She has a plan, you see, to disarm Iraq without force. Details not yet revealed, but it probably involves applying the immense moral prestige of the United Nations...Of course if such a thing actually happened it would leave Saddam in power. But no Democrat's gonna be bothered by such trifles. Besides, Acme Plastic Shredders is a big contributor.)
Also in the headlines, the DLC (Dinosaur Leadership Council) announced that the recent meteoritic impact in the Yucatan was no cause for concern, and should not be allowed to distract attention from pressing domestic issues. Prominent pundit Joshua Oviraptor Marshall laid blame firmly on the Administration, noting that no meteors had fallen while Bill Clinton was President.
Just kidding, there. Actually the article I was quoting from has a quality of bizarre understatement that puts my poor attempts at humor to shame. 80% of the country supports the war, various Democrat leaders are denouncing it and praising anti-war demonstrators, and then they express these vague litle tremors of unease, suspecting that they "...could look out of step with the American public." Gee, do you think so?, Don't worry guys, everyone in Hollywood loves you.

Or this: While the liberal wing of the Democratic Party hasn't been shy about opposing the war in Iraq, others within the party have begun to question whether that stance is politically wise... They've begun to question! Amazing...

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I've just started to worry about hegemony...

The New York Times has contacted me and asked me to write an op-ed criticizing the administration.

It's enormously flattering to be asked, but still, I'm wondering... do they really like me or did everybody else turn them down?

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P. Krugman
#86: Dreaming of a depression (when he'll be the new Keynes ...)

Gun, Germs and Stall" "(04/04/03) is one of Paul Krugman's basic gloom and doom, formula columns on the dismal outlook for the U.S. and world economies. The Krugman formula works like this: First he cites some disappointing economic statistics (there are always some at any given time) and then he weaves them into a theme of "going to hell in a hand basket" complete with anonymous and third party references that make it look like he's done some research and has substantial support on this side. Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, referenced in today's column, is a favorite Krugman stalking horse.

Whenever columns such as this appear it is a good idea to take a deep breath and reflect on the nature of the man. Krugman is a pessimist. He has never seen a set of economic variables that would give him hope or optimism. Over the years he has written books and articles with such cheerless titles as, "Return of Depression Economics", "The Age of Diminished Expectations", Dispatches From The Dismal Science", "Even Worse than You Think", "A Bridge to Nowhere?", and "America the Boastful." He's definitely a "glass is half empty" type of guy!

The only thing exceptional in today's column is that Krugman has veered off into entomology in search of new gloom. That's right folks. The bugs are coming! And we "shouldn't be shocked if the economic news turns awful."

All we can do is laugh.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]
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This just killed us ...

Charlene found this on a bullitin board at the SF Conservatory of Music...I'm sorry I don't have the name of the cartoonist to give proper credit. Looks like Bennet?


Thursday, April 03, 2003

curses on your moustache, you Ba'athist dimwit ...

Dave Trowbridge has a plausible theory for why Saddam isn't showing his face...
...So what if Saddam sustained facial burns that not only removed his mustache, but prevent the use of a false mustache? He'd look ridiculous in Arab eyes. Will this someday be commemorated in an update of that famous ditty about Richard III: for the lack of a mustache a kingdom was lost...?

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Just teensy weensy little mistakes...purely by accident, of course...

A few days ago, a firestorm erupted over alleged flaws in the U.S.'s Iraq war strategy. The theme of the criticism, which was voiced by nearly all news outlets in the U.S. and abroad, was that the Administration had underestimated the Iraqis' military capability, had failed to foresee the guerrilla tactics the Iraqis were using, and had wrongly sold the country on the idea that the war would be a breeze. This attack was based in large part on a quote from Lt. Gen. William Wallace, who allegedly said that "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we war-gamed against," and Vice President Cheney's alleged statement that Saddam's government was "a house of cards."

It turns out, however, that both of those reported statements are incorrect. The New York Times' corrections page is an endless source of amusement, but occasionally it conveys deadly serious information...(Here's the link)
And now that these lies have poisoned the waters, they will linger forever.
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Better switch to plan B, Nancy ...

I'd like to think that members of the anti-Bush left (calling themselves the anti-war left) will be pleased to read things like this. But I keep imagining them biting their knuckles and muttering, "Dammit, Saddam, don't wimp out on us now..."
NAJAF, Iraq -- Cheers, waves and handclapping from local people filled the main strip of this city Wednesday as about 100 heavily armed soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division marched through to signal the city's liberation from Saddam Hussein's regime.

The march and military convoy by Company A, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment was meant to show the presence of Americans and their firepower to armed paramilitary pockets and to give local people hope that Saddam's power is nearly gone.

Soldiers said they half-expected attacks from Iraqi fighters as they moved through town, but what they received was a warm welcome and lots of smiles, with pleas that they stay for a long time...

Staff Sgt. Albert "Shaka" Wakketsi, 31, Ghana, West Africa,
of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, A Company,
waves at Iraqi citizens of Najaf who lined the streets Wednesday.
John Partipilo/The Tennessean

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Because this is warfare, not police-work...

I just happened on this March 24 article by Andrew Sullivan (via WylieBlog). It has a lot of good stuff to chew on...
...When George W. Bush looked around him in the ashes of the World Trade Center for an analysis of what had gone wrong and a comprehensive strategy to put it right, the neoconservatives were the only credible advocates who had an actual plan. They weren't a cabal. And they weren't natural Bush allies. Men like the Pentagon's Richard Perle or Douglas Feith or Paul Wolfowitz or the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer and Bob Kagan, or the New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan or the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol: all these had been bitter foes of Bush's father, brutal critics of his foreign policy. The Washington Post and New Republic had endorsed Al Gore for president. The Weekly Standard had backed John McCain in the primaries. The reason they rallied behind Bush in the wake of 9/11 was simply because he was the president. And the reason Bush reached out to these theorists was because history had proved them right and disaster had proved them prescient.

So it's not surprising that the first White House meetings after 9/11 brought up Iraq as a target for counter-attack almost immediately. This was not because Saddam was directly implicated. It was because war had broken out. In a war against Islamist terrorism, the neocons persuasively argued, you had to look at the bigger picture if you wanted victory rather than half-measures and semi-success. If this was war, going after the mere perpetrators of one calamity was not enough. That was the hallmark of mere police work, not warfare. It was Clintonism and Clintonism had catastrophically failed. What you had to do was survey the whole network of terror, its state sponsors, and, in particular, the relationship between all this and weapons of mass destruction. You had to think deep and you had to think big. Saddam was by no means the only link in this chain. But he was a brittle link. And there was already an international legal case that legitimized direct action. If you wanted to remake the entire region, Iraq was an obvious place to start.

Of course, the Taliban came first. But there was never any question that Saddam would have to be dealt with next. And the precedents laid down by Bill Clinton and the U.N. always made the universal, Security Council-backed route a deeply perilous and dubious one. Dick Cheney never bought the case. But Powell and Blair insisted on trying, and the president, much more pragmatic than his critics are prepared to concede, went for the U.N. route. Was he wrong to have had war in mind from the outset? After the experience of the 1990s, surely not. In his view, war had already been brought to the United States. And this humble, instinctually modest president in foreign affairs, demanded a comprehensive strategy to grapple with the gravest attack on American soil in American history. The neocons had such an analysis. Their rivals - the multilateral purists - had nothing but piece-meal initiatives and they also had recent history against them. Critically, Bush also remembered his father's experience. Again, Bush's critics get it half right and therefore completely wrong. Bush isn't out to avenge his father. He's out not to repeat his father's mistakes...

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Laughing Saddam

According to ABC news:
Iraqi domestic television has showed footage of President Saddam Hussein, smiling and laughing with members of his cabinet.

A Reuters correspondent in the capital, monitoring state television, said Saddam was wearing military uniform in the footage...
Weren't there people, about a month ago, criticizing President Bush because he didn't look serious and sad about the prospect of war? (And of course if he had appeared glum they would have gleefully declared that he was in trouble...) So, will they criticize Saddam for laughing as Baghdad burns? Anyway, he's dead, dead, dead, and this is just another bit of evidence to prove it...
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We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make
room upon the earth for honest men to live in.

--Thomas Paine

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Poor and Stupid...who, me?

Donald Luskin has started a column at NRO that gathers together the various criticisms of Paul Krugman found on the web. He's titled it Krugman Truth Squad! Obviously a case of several great minds all stumped for a catchier title. Since he has been kind enough to mention our Truth Squad in his latest Column, we are not complaining!

Donald has his own website and weblog, called The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid. It's worth a visit. I just noticed this post on how the cost of war in Iraq is likely to be less than the cost of containment...
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Art from strange sources...

Charlene often goes creeping across the Internet looking for the oriental rugs that are one of her passions. She showed me this one yesterday, for sale on e-Bay:
Afghan War Rug
It's an Afghan War Rug, a special genre that emerged from the war against the Soviet occupation. Here's part of the seller's eBay description:
This is an absolutely beautiful vegetable (natural) dyed rug,2'9"x 4', made with hand-carded and hand-spun wool. It was made in Northern Pakistan by Ersari Turkoman refugees from Northern Afghanistan. The lovely ivory field (natural wool, i.e. undyed) bears very skillfully drawn fragmentation hand grenades, BMD-2 armored personnel carriers, an RPG-7, rocket propelled grenade, M-24 HIND attack helicopters, Markarov officers' side arm, and a Hip-8 troop carrying helicopter. The weaver has drawn the helicopters' rotors to give the illusion of rotation. A portfolio of photos of the equipment pictured on this rug will accompany the piece. This fascinating historical document is unreserved and has a "Buy it Now" price of $375.00.
Why am I posting this? I just thought you would like an example of how surpassing strange and wonderful the human spirit is...

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P. Krugman
#86: Bi-polar syndrome...

Whenever liberal Democrats discuss national security issues, an affliction sets in that resembles the psychological disorder know as bi-polar syndrome. On the one hand, Democrats find just about every aspect of security programs distasteful: military enhancements, beefed-up police presence, tighter border control, curtailment of civil liberties for terror suspects, military tribunals, those despicable FBI interviews, and so on into the night. But on the other hand, they just LOVE to spend money. Gravy train politics, after all, has been the life blood of the party for 70 years.

In Red-Blue Terror Alert (04/01/03) Paul Krugman faces this bi-polarity problem in classic Democratic fashion–he focuses on just the spending part. On that much, apparently, all Democrats can agree! Thus, he informs us that the amounts are inadequate (more is always better) and that the allocation is unfair (states that vote Democratic–the blue states–aren't getting enough). But there is not a single word about a specific project or about an actual security enhancement that would be financed by the additional spending. Why? Because as soon as he got down to details some liberal constituency group or another would find the security goal objectionable. So the column is written as though Krugman were discussing the size and allocation highway construction money, but without ever mentioning that the actual objective was building highways. Given the hazards he faced, we thought Krugman picked his way through this mine field fairly adroitly.

But not to worry. He may have avoided the land mines, but it was only to find himself on the slippery slope of electoral politics and the dreaded red-blue state problem. As Squad readers know, one of our great joys in life is to catch Krugman running into his own tracks going the other way. It happens to him here when he tries to make the absurd case that blue states aren't getting enough gravy from the security spending compared with red states. As he puts it, "New Jersey pays about $1.50 in federal taxes for every dollar it gets in return; Montana receives about $1.75 in federal spending for every dollar it pays in taxes." But wait a minute! What's wrong with that? New Jersey and the other blue states are where most of the rich people live. Krugman has spend his career warning us of the return of plutocracy. and when it comes to using the federal income tax system to “level” incomes, Krugman is a leveler among levelers. Witness his repeated railing against “tax cuts for the rich” in previous columns. But since the blue “Gore” states are richer in aggregate than the red “Bush” states, what’s his problem with the rich sharing with the poor? On most other issues, that’s Krugman’s default position.

He would probably argue that it is not fair to use aggregated state wealth data since all states have both rich and poor. But then he would run into another problem. If it's the blue state rich who end up doing most of the sharing, who are the most deserving beneficiaries on a red state-blue state basis? Put another way, are red state hillbillies and rednecks in Oklahoma and Tennessee less deserving than blue state hicks in upstate NY or in the New Jersey pine barrens?

Krugman avoids this slope by simply not going there. He ends the column with a politically dead-on-arrival statement to the effect that "the Bush administration isn't serious about protecting the homeland." Sorry. Nobody's buying that one.

There is one howler: "But one of these days, sooner than most people think. Texas may well turn blue."
In your dreams, Paul! New Jersey will turn red before Texas turns blue.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Found on Betsy's Page:

The reason Bush is compared to Hitler so often is simple: All the other recent monsters are heroes to major antiwar organizers. -- John Leo
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Marines at Catholic service in Iraq><BR CLEAR=
Photo by Jud McCrehin/Military Times staff
The Rev. (Cmdr.) Bill Devine, 55, of Boston, celebrates a Catholic service for Marines from Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, on Saturday in the battery’s artillery position in central Iraq.

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the scalpel, not the bludgeon ...

There's an interesting op-ed at the Command Post on the Baathist hopes of creating a new Stalingrad...
The battle of Basra appears to be following a script worked out long before the war began. It certainly will be the pattern for dealing with Iraqi cities in future, though there are bound to be variations for local conditions.

The basic problem: How do you neutralise a hard-core resistance that is (quite sensibly) taking advantage of the Coalition's unwillingness to cause civilian casualties. Remember, defeating Ba'athist armed forces is not enough to win: we must also spare those of the great majority, the terrorised not the terrorists...

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...The counter is obvious: do some long-distance patrolling, guerilla activity and lightning raids of our own. Raise an (almost) impregnable shield around the city, and send in task forces to kill or capture the hard-core that resistance relies upon. The Rapier, or rather, the Scalpel not the Bludgeon. Key-hole surgery at that. For we could absolutely guarantee the support of the populace, who'd let us know where the Ba'athists were. That, plus non-Humint (phone intercepts, recon via unmanned drones etc) and we'd slowly but inexorably chip away at the Ba'athist cadre.

A tank raid here (I wasn't expecting this degree of boldness though), an assassination there, and if a lot of them gathered together to co-ordinate, a few well-aimed laser-guided bombs. The removal of Saddam's visage to show that he was no Count Dracula to return from the grave. The Death of a Thousand Cuts alright. Once the cadre had been reduced so much they couldn't keep the local pouplace from lynching them, then and only then would we go in. There is no good defence against this - obvious measure to ameliorate the situation, such as holding Ba'athist party meetings in Pre-schools just avoid one attack method (laser guided bombs in this case), they don't stop the others...
(via Betsy's Page)
We should keep in mind that WE TAUGHT Saddam to do this. Withdrawing from Somalia after taking casualties, failing to destroy Saddam in '91, failing to fight when our people were taken hostage in Iran... over and over we've broadcast the message that we will be weak when things get ugly. And that has CAUSED things to get ugly with ever increasing frequency.