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April 04, 2003
I just got a call from Ethel Kennedy...
...letting me know that I've won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for cartooning for the second time (first was in 1998).
It's a good way to close out the week.
A reader reports...
...that a firewall made by 8e6 Technologies blocks my site. I don't know if this is true or not, but welcome feedback from 8e6.
TBogg compares and contrasts the bios of John Kerry and the three top Republicans in Congress who sharply criticized him for recently suggesting that regime change begins at home.
Suffice it to say that one of these things is not like the others.
And Atrios alerts us (and adds his own emphasis) to the latest GOP Team Leader astroturf:
More reader response on Pearl Jam
In response to Denver, Eddie Vedder, tore into Bush early in the OKC show (the second show of the tour). The response in mostly conservative Oklahoma? A standing ovation and thunderous applause. What a difference a day makes!
Signs of the times
Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky wants to try Peter Arnett for treason for making what appear to have been some pretty foolish comments on Iraqi TV.
In the meantime, Geraldo is out there giving away troop positions. And apparently he's got a history of this sort of thing.
"We had two- and three-man sniper teams hiding out in the mountains" of Tora Bora, recalls Idema. "Geraldo found out about it from the [anti-Taliban] mujahedeen soldiers. We were paying them between $25 and $100 a month. Geraldo put the word out that he would pay any Afghan who deserted the U.S. Army $100 a day to point out where the snipers were so he could get pictures of them."
It all depends on what the meaning of "victory" is
From the Washington Post:
The Bush administration has devised a strategy to declare victory in Iraq even if Saddam Hussein or key lieutenants remain at large and fighting continues in parts of the country, officials said yesterday.
Did I mention chocolate rations are up?
A bit more silliness
With the tenacity of a pit bull--or, at least, a very angry yorkie--Sullivan continues to try to spin the non-story of the missing words "a bit" into a scandal which undermines the very credibility of that damned newspaper which no longer runs his work. (There doesn't seem to be a permalink, so you'll have to scroll down.) (Also, I'm going to let you go there for his links, rather than cutting-and-pasting them all.)
MORE NYT MYSTERY: The incorrect quote from the New York Times story about Lt. General William Wallace is a story that won't quit. As a quote, it wasn't a minor deal. Here's a Google search of its impact - an entire array of media sources perpetuating a quote that was inaccurate. In fact, a whole wave of "quagmire" spin was promoted by the quote. And yet - and here's the new twist - a few days earlier, a different New York Times story, by Jim Dwyer, got the quote right. Here it is. The same day, the Washington Post got it wrong. So the New York Times, having started out in better shape than its rival, then swerved into inaccuracy.
Sullivan seems to want to convince his readers that the missing "a bit" was a deliberate omission, an attempt to change the meaning of Wallace's quote to suit the twisted agenda of that damned newspaper which no longer runs his work. As I discussed at excruciating length yesterday, this is dubious logic at best. It's also demonstrably false, if one bothers to go back and read the original stories to which Sullivan has linked, such as this one (which includes the missing words which are sending our friend from across the pond into such hysterics):
WITH THE 101ST AIRBORNE, in central Iraq, March 27 — The removal of the Iraqi government is likely to take longer than originally thought, Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the commander of the Army forces in the Persian Gulf, said today.
So--as those of you with minimal reading comprehension skills will have already noted--the missing two words did not change the meaning of the General's comments in the slightest. On March 28, he believed that the battle ahead would be more difficult than anticipated. Was he right? I have no idea, and neither do you. Maybe Baghdad is a "house of cards." Maybe this war will be over in time for dinner tonight, and hand-wringers like your host will be happily proven wrong. But that's not the point. The point is, the news stories on which Sullivan is so fixated accurately conveyed the concerns of the General at the time they were written. And see, that's called "journalism." The job of the journalist in a free society is--at least theoretically--not to report what the government would like us to believe; it is to try to give us some understanding of what is actually happening in the world.
April 03, 2003
...you listen. He's a smart man.
Twice now I've heard something that resonates, in re: the war. Once from Kaus, and twice from an op-ed in today's Post by retired military brass. They both pointed out that in Afghanistan and Kosova, things didn't look like they were going too well until all of a sudden, they looked just fine. So in case the war ends before Sunday, I wanted to put in my acknowledgement that I am less than 100 percent certain we are in quagmire territory. Of course, it still depends on how you define victory. As far as I can tell, Afghanistan is still in the toilet. The U.S. killed a bunch of bad guys, but excepting Kabul the country is run by the older set of bad guys. I don't say there's no marginal improvement. I do say the Afghani people still await their liberation, and despite the military developments, there may be more bad guys now than two years ago.
But I thought this was about nothing more than the liberation of the Iraqi people
As it turns out--at least according to James Woolsey--we've entered World War IV. (Woolsey defines the Cold War as WWIII, apparently, so don't worry--you didn't miss a war.)
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former CIA Director James Woolsey said Wednesday the United States is engaged in World War IV, and that it could continue for years.
They bring you along incrementally, and like the frog in the saucepan of water which is slowly being heated to a boil, you don't even notice what's happening. It's always been this warm, you think. We've always been at war with Eurasia. And chocolate rations are up!
Is the glass 9/10ths full or 1/10th empty?
Pearl Jam war criticism prompts walkout DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- Dozens of fans walked out of a Pearl Jam concert after lead singer Eddie Vedder took a mask of President Bush and impaled it on a microphone stand.
The article doesn't specify, and I'll certainly post a correction if I'm mistaken, but it's safe to assume Pearl Jam was performing an arena show in front of, what, 25,000 people, give or take? And "dozens" walked out. Well, doesn't that mean that tens of thousands stayed?
Update: numerous emails on this one, but here's an eyewitness account which pretty much sums it up.
I happened to be outside the arena for an hour before the show ended. setting up a promotional event. It was at Pepsi Center - roughly 18,000 capacity. Maybe 100 to 150 people left early, some were audibly upset about the anti-Bush tirade, but most were audibly supporting our troops through puking and/or stumbling.
That last point is important. Every big concert I've ever gone to, there are hundreds of people streaming out during the encore, in order to beat the crowd.
Quote of the day
"Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes."
Of course, it's from that darned New York Times, so they probably eliminated a few words. Like "...for the wealthy."
...that US troops have taken the Baghdad airport. And that the US now claims definitively that the footage we've seen of Saddam and his advisors lately is not actually recent footage.
Wonder if they know something.
Update: No, it's just what I get for taking CNN at face value for five minutes. Now they're saying, never mind, it's not definitive at all.
Andrew Sullivan seems to find further proof of the Vast Stalinist Conspiracy, or whatever it is he worries about, in two seemingly innocuous New York Times corrections.
A front-page news analysis article on Sunday about the political perils faced by President Bush over the war with Iraq misattributed a comment about Saddam Hussein's government being "a house of cards." While some American officials had used the phrase to predict a shorter conflict and a quick collapse of the Iraqi leadership, Vice President Dick Cheney was not among them.
To which Sullivan bizarrely responds, "Amazing. Another front page Big Lie from Raines and company."
Don't get me wrong--if the Times misattributed a quote, they certainly needed to run a retraction. But to call this a "Big Lie" may be overstating the situation just a wee bit (by which I mean to say is definitely overstating the situation by an insanely large degree--but I'll get to that in a moment).
Cheney may not have said those exact words, but to pretend that this wasn't the Administration's message in the days leading up to the war is to attempt to rewrite recent history to one's own liking. For instance, according to the "Capital Journal" column in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Richard Perle speculated before the war began that the Iraqi regime would "collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder." And according to that same column, Cheney forecast that the war would take "weeks, rather than months."
In other words, he thought the Iraqi regime was a house of cards, even if he didn't use those exact words. I mean, it's exactly not as if the Times quoted him declaring his newfound adherence to godless communism and mind-expanding drugs. It was a misattribution, and they ran a correction--but it was not a misportrayal of his views.
And then there's this one:
A front-page article on Tuesday about criticism voiced by American military officers in Iraq over war plans omitted two words from an earlier comment by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of V Corps. General Wallace had said (with the omission indicated by uppercasing), "The enemy we're fighting is A BIT different from the one we war-gamed against."
Again, Sullivan seems to perceive bias at play, asking, "One simple question: why are the reporters who used that critical quote to exaggerate the difficulties of the allies still working for the NYT?"
As I say, of course it's important for newspapers to quote sources accurately. (And anyone who's ever been interviewed in any context can tell you how rarely that actually happens.) But in my experience, "a bit" is often used colloquially as a synonym for "rather" or "somewhat." It doesn't necessarily, or even often, signify "a small amount"--and in fact, generally is an understated way of suggesting the opposite. Maybe this is just an Americanism, to which our cousin from across the pond is tone deaf, I really don't know. But, for instance, if I were to write that "Andrew Sullivan seems to have a bit of trouble differentiating between reality and ideological fantasy," I would not be implying that he has minimal trouble making such a distinction. Now, unlike Sullivan, I'm willing to acknowledge up front that I have absolutely no idea what the General meant to say--clearly, it's impossible to know without fuller context. He may well have intended to convey his belief that "The enemy we're fighting is only marginally different from the one we war-gamed against." Though if that were his intent, it seems more likely that he would have accentuated the positive rather than the negative, i.e., "this enemy is so similar as to be indistinguishable from the one we wargamed against!"
To be fair, "a bit" can imply a negligible difference or a small amount--as in, "I clearly have a bit of time to waste at the moment." But it's so frequently used to suggest the opposite that it seems, well, a bit of a stretch--by which I mean, it is utterly and absolutely ludicrous--to suggest that two reporters should lose their jobs over this.
At any rate, the whole thing makes me a bit tired.
Today is the first day of the rest of the war
It's also chock full of obligations for your humble host. So nothing new here today, most likely.
Update: okay, I was wrong. Sue me.
April 02, 2003
Those who lead, cont'd.
Excerpts from a profile of the President in today's USA Today:
People who know Bush well say the strain of war is palpable. He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns. He's being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began. He's frustrated when armchair generals or members of his own team express doubts about U.S. military strategy. At the same time, some of his usual supporters are concerned by his insistence on sticking with the original war plan.
Unscientific survey alert
MSNBC has a more nuanced than usual online poll here.
Those who lead
David Corn in the Nation:
It took US policymakers and the American public many years, perhaps decades, to realize that hubris--arrogant and uninformed self-confidence--had played a crucial and negative role in the Vietnam tragedy. As Richard Helms, the CIA director for much of the Vietnam War, said in 1981, "We were dealing with a complicated cultural and ethnic problem which we never came to understand. In other words, it was our ignorance or innocence, if you will, which led us to misassess, not comprehend, and make a lot of wrong decisions, which one way or another helped to affect the outcome." This time out, the nation is more fortunate: the perils of hubris have become evident within days of the first attack.
Am I an expert in military strategy? No, of course not. But--it grows increasingly obvious--neither are the men who have led us into this war.
Er--what was that other fellow's name--Adolf something--?
The worst ruler in world history is Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Unscientific poll alert
Don't mean to step on Atrios' toes here, but it's Wolf Blitzer this time: "Do you have confidence in the Pentagon's war plan?" Currently 57% yes, 43% no.
I'll be damned
Naked cronyism suffers a setback. Okay, a minor setback.
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites)'s former company has decided not to enter a controversial bidding process open only to a few experienced and well-connected firms for major Iraq (news - web sites) reconstruction projects. Instead, Halliburton Co. will focus on becoming a secondary contractor.
So, see, they're only going to be a secondary contractor. But still. These are the days of taking what we can get...
The war explained to you...
PeaceNik: Why did you say we are we invading Iraq?
Extremists on the anti-war side occasionally engage in regrettable hyperbole.
Draw your own conclusions.
April 01, 2003
Unscientific poll watch
"Do you think the Pentagon had a good war plan in place at the start of hostilities?" Currently 63% yes, 30% no.
More from the pro-war front
This, sadly, is not an April Fools joke.
A Web site that posts the photographs of more than a dozen Tucson anti-war protesters and denounces them as traitors is creating a stir among local peace activists, who say it makes them more committed to using their free speech.
You pro-war types proud to be associated with this? Does it bother you at all that these tactics, used by anti-abortion wingnuts, led to the murder of Dr. Bernard Slepian?
I eagerly await your impassioned denunciations of this anti-American extremist.
March 31, 2003
Update: Neal's own contribution to the day is not suitable for the young or timid. You have been warned.
Click here. (Image taken off main page to conserve bandwidth, now that Make Fun of the Cheneys Day is over for another year).
You really have to go look at this.
A pre-emptive strike?
I saw Gen. Myers on a couple of the Sunday shows repeatedly making comments like these (from the Meet the Press transcript):
GEN. MYERS: Actually I think if you look at the way the war plan was put together by General Franks and his commanders, some of whom you referenced there—one of them was General Wallace—was that you had—at one end you had to be prepared for catastrophic success. What if it went like the Marine said and you had to be able to take advantage of that.
I'm no Kremlinologist, but it sure seems like Myers was pre-emptively putting Franks' name out there to counter Hersh's charges (link in previous post) concerning Rumsfeld:
Several senior war planners complained to me in interviews that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisers, who had been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, had insisted on micromanaging the war’s operational details. Rumsfeld’s team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning—traditionally, an area in which the uniformed military excels—and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "He thought he knew better," one senior planner said. "He was the decision-maker at every turn."
Update: apparently Rumsfeld was making the rounds as well, expressing his sincere admiration for the excellent battle plans drawn up by, you guessed it, Tommy Franks.
And one more
"The only hope is that they can hold out until reinforcements arrive," the former official said.
From a Reuters summary of a new Sy Hersh article on Rumsfeld's hubris in the upcoming New Yorker. The former official quoted above is talking about American troops.
Update: Here's the article.
Also via Josh:
Rumsfeld Faulted For Troop Dilution Military Officers: Forces in Iraq Are Inadequate
Story. I think we are witnessing a meltdown in progress, the size of which remains to be seen.
And we are surprised to learn this?
WASHINGTON - President Bush's aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from CIA and State and Defense Department officials who warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq, according to three senior administration officials.
As long as we're making wild generalizations...
...which side would you rather be affiliated with?
The people who believe in freedom of speech--or the people who want to "put a bullet" in the heads of their fellow Americans--and then "nuke Canada"?
We can play the reductionist game if you guys and gals on the right side of the blogs would like. But as I've said before, I'll see you and raise you, any day of the week.
Tomorrow is make fun of Dick Cheney day
Email from Neal Pollack:
I'm encouraging all Internet humorists to make fun of Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney, or both. This will be in protest of the White House's attempts to stop payment on Lynne Cheney parodies at Whitehouse.org. Don't worry, funny people. The war will be over by then. We still need to band together. Make fun of the Cheneys on April 1.
I can't promise to focus on this exclusively, but I will try to make fun of Dick Cheney at some point tomorrow.
I have been sadly remiss...
...in updating my links. It's just one of those things on the back burner that you get around to eventually. One I need to add is the Daily Kos. If you're not already a reader, go say hello.
From ABC News:
They may be the ones facing danger on the battlefield, but US soldiers in Iraq are being asked to pray for President George W Bush.
Fair and balanced
More shenanigans from the official propaganda wing of the Republican party:
Fox News had its own response to the demonstrators. The news ticker rimming Fox's headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn't carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.
Will war in Iraq lead to Armageddon?
Tim LaHaye asks the provocative question. But you have to subscribe to find out the answer.
(LaHaye is, of course, best known as the co-author of the Christian science fiction series of post-Armageddon "Left Behind" novels--but he is also the author of a mid-seventies marriage manual I happen to have picked up at a flea market once, titled, "How to Be Happy Though Married." Gotta love that "Though.")
Red meat to the hounds
So there's a six hour teach-in at Columbia University, featuring thirty different speakers, during the course of which one guy makes an incredibly stupid remark hoping for "a million Mogadishus."
And of course, every reporter on the scene knows the lede when they hear it, forget the other five hours and fifty five minutes of presumably rational discourse.
I don't even need to look to know that the warbloggers are all over this. Andrew Sullivan gets an entire column out of it: "A Million Mogadishus-the Far Left's Wish?"
(No, Andrew. But how's this for an idea: "Stupid, Unrepresentative Comments: A Lazy Propagandist's Dream!")
According to my sources at Columbia, this nonsense has also led to various death threats being phoned in to various offices. Oh, and they've also been made in the pages of the New York Post:
March 30, 2003 --Where's the Ohio National Guard when you really need it?
Ha ha. Those kidders.
Update: Patrick Nielsen Hayden has some thoughts.
In fact, the whole argument about “extremism” is based on the essentialist—and false—idea that views like Professor DeGenova’s are in some way an “extreme” form of views like (for instance) mine. Based on this kind of thinking, both Calpundit and the Post, in their different ways, lay responsibility for the DeGenovas of the world at the feet of people like me. So long as a single speaker at one obscure protest event calls for the death of American soldiers, it’ll be okay for major newspapers to advocate the shooting of protestors. So long as anyone calling themselves a “liberal” or a “leftist” gets themself into a censorious snit over Adrien Brody kissing Halle Berry at the Oscars, it’s okay to characterize the rest of us as prissy killjoys.
Old news for most of you...
...but believe it or not, there are readers who don't commit every single post on this blog to memory--a fact I was reminded of this morning when someone sent a link to the PNAC story which this site has discussed on several occasions. So, for those of you who missed it, here's the basic story of how the Administration's key strategists have been fantasizing over the war with Iraq since at least 1997--despite their insistence that they never even thought about it until 9-11-01.
The plan shows Bush's cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says: 'The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'
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