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April 11, 2003

Did I blink and miss this one?

Somebody just sent me this link--to an amendment to remove "the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President."

(Update) My friend Bob Harris explains:

Not a Bushite plot; Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY16-Bronx), has been introducing this for years.

It was House Joint Resolution 4 in 2001, House Joint Resolution 17 1999, and H.J. Res. 19 in 1997. It died in subcommittee each time.

Doesn't mean things couldn't get creepy real fast.

Bob, by the way, is somebody I've been trying to convince to start a blog for quite awhile. In lieu of that, I'm going to ask him to take over my duties for a week or two in early June, when I'll be taking some time off.

Is irony dead, or merely resting?

"It's an amazing thing, when you see a person wounded, sitting there in a wheel chair or bound up in bandages...a young man, look you in the eye and say, 'I can't wait to get back to my unit. I hope I heal fast enough to get back to Iraq.'"
--President Bush, who apparently could wait to get back to his (National Guard) unit in 1972. (My transcription from a clip on Fox News, so no link).

The road ahead

Gary Kamiya writing in Salon:

Why should we celebrate? Because what happens to those Iraqis is more important than our political beliefs. Even if -- especially if -- we opposed this war, even if we are disgusted with and deeply suspicious of the U.S. administration, we should celebrate. Their fate matters more.

It is a strange celebration, and not an easy one. It is tinged with sadness, and for some of us with bitterness. The new Iraq is coming into being because of a war solely initiated and largely fought by my country, a war fought not for liberation but for other reasons, none of them convincing or good. It killed many thousands of people, almost all of them Iraqis, most of them innocent. To destroy the tyrant, we also had to destroy much or most of his wretched, doomed army -- untold thousands of semiliterate peasants and poor young men from the cities, conscripts, decent men who might have become auto mechanics or teachers but never had a chance before they were sent out onto the killing fields outside Baghdad. We killed many, many civilians. And then there are the American and British dead, young men and women, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who would be alive today had the United States not invaded a foreign country that posed no threat to us.


It is possible that we who celebrate today will be forced to recant tomorrow. But that should not stop us. Nor should it be our concern. Those who opposed this war in part because they feared what it would do to the Iraqi people must now make every effort to protect and raise up those people. And to do that, they must pay attention to what is happening to them -- the good, the bad and the in-between. This is the most compelling reason to celebrate the end of Saddam. Call that celebration a leap of faith, if you will -- but you could also call it a binding contract, American to Iraqi, human heart to human heart. We smashed your country and we killed your people and we freed you from a monster: We are bound together now by blood. We owe each other, but we owe you more because we are stronger and because we came into your country.

The left's role, now, must be to make sure that debt is paid.

I think it is less likely that postwar Iraq will be forgotten in the way that Afghanistan has been largely forgotten, because I don't actually believe that the "liberation of the Iraqi people" has ever been anything more than a happy side-effect of the war. The powers that be have agendas at which we can only make educated guesses--to establish a strategic foothold, to secure control over vital resources--but it's probably safe to say that setting up an independent democracy whose decisions we will respect even if they are contrary to US interests is not highest on the list. Which is exactly why it's important to demand that our leaders fulfill their promises of liberation and democracy in the days ahead.

Signs of the times

Atrios reports an online poll from the Amarillo Globe news (which was apparently pulled from their website after he made note of it):

What would you do if an anti-war protester stopped you on the way home in rush hour?
Introduce them to the grill of my car!
Ignore them.
Join them.


April 10, 2003

Oils well that ends well

Don't blame me, blame skippy. I stole his title in order to link to his post. (Scroll down, his permalinks don't seem to be working right.)

We don't need no steenkin' facts
NEW YORK - Thousands of construction workers and firefighters packed a noontime rally at ground zero Thursday in support of the war in Iraq (news - web sites) which, to many of them, began right there on Sept. 11, 2001.


Many speakers and participants described the war as a natural outcome of the World Trade Center attack, drawing little distinction between the terrorist group al-Qaida and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

"The war started right here on Sept. 11, 2001," Gov. George Pataki said.

Story here, via Xoverboard.

This is interesting

There always seems to be more to the story, doesn't there?

Where's Waldo--er, Saddam?

Steve Perry (editor of the Minneapolis City Pages and a longtime friend of the cartoon with which this site is loosely affiliated) is on the lookout. Go help out--and spend some time; he's got a lot of other good stuff up. (But you'd better bookmark his site until he does something about that unwieldy URL--you'll never remember it.)

Max again
In politics, you win debates for those with short attention spans by framing the question that leads to your favorite answer. The question now being framed is, could the U.S. military overwhelm the Iraqi resistance? Without question, anti-war skeptics like yours truly noted snags in the campaign as they came to light. But nobody said the U.S. couldn't prevail militarily. (I said that it seemed incredible, but maybe it could not.) Today the cakewalkers are crowing, but a week ago they were all denying they ever said the war would be easy.

In fact the war isn't over. It may not be over in two months either, just as it isn't over in Afghanistan. If winning the war means fulfilling the war objectives, rather than merely exterminating Saddam's ruling clique, then victory may be some time coming. The cheering Iraqi crowds on the streets, such as they are, have little bearing on the burdens to come.


And he doesn't like Steely Dan music either

The White House has nominated Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to be a U.S. Circuit Judge.

Pryor believes that vibrators should be illegal.

(Via Uggabugga.)

The cost of war

Here's a running tally.


From the Washington Post:

Yesterday's debate suddenly veered from guns to race when Cubin criticized a failed Democratic amendment that would have banned gun sales to drug addicts or people in drug treatment. After noting that her sons, ages 25 and 30, "are blond-haired and blue-eyed," she said: "One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean that if you go into a black community you can't sell any guns to any black person?"

The easy part is over

And let's acknowledge up front that it was easier than a lot of people expected--including many military and intelligence analysts--and let's posit that that's a Good Thing. The shooting's not over yet, and even Rumsfeld says that declarations of victory are premature--but if we soon reach a point at which no more American soldiers have to die on Iraqi soil, and no more Iraqi children have to have their arms blown off, then I think we can all be grateful for that.

The devil's just going to be in the details. Can order be restored and maintained? Is democracy something which by definition can even be "imposed"? Does the United States have a long enough attention span to see this one through? (To that last, I suspect the answer is yes--if only because the oil's there--though what "seeing it through" means remains anybody's guess.)

In the meantime, congratulations. You've just adopted approximately 23 million Iraqis.


April 09, 2003

What now?

The Daily Kos has some thoughts:

The US war against Saddam may soon be over, but that may only be the start of the Iraq war. There are millions of guns, rockets and mortars, billions of rounds of ammo, scattered across the country. No one knows who controls them or what they have planned. The Shia want control of their destiny, as do the Kurds, and the Sunnis may not be happy to lose power.

Let's say we fully control Baghdad in the next week or so and the rest of the cities in the next month. What Iraqi government official surrenders? Who runs things? Do we just slide from Saddam rule to American rule?

We have set up clear political goals, remove Saddam, establish democracy, but the problem is that we have no power base to work with.

Kamiya and his fellow liberals in the INC have no power. They say nice things, but they are largely strangers in Iraq. Saddam killed anyone who could be considered opposition, except for the hardest of the hard core clerics and guerrillas. The tribal leaders have been courted, bribed, threatened and have limited power. The Baathists, tainted by their connection to Saddam, still control the levers of government.

Tom Friedman suggested that Iraq was either an Arab Switzerland or an Arab Yugoslavia. I would suggest a third alternative: an Arab Congo.

An enemdically corrupt country barely held together by the most brutal means imaginable. When the levers of power are removed, various factions then turn on each other in bloody combat.

What is amazing is that the US has no clear supporters. No oligarchs, no Catholic refugees. Anyone we arm in Iraq today could kill Americans tomorrow. There is no one group which has any reason to align with the US.

It ain't over 'til it's over. And this one's barely begun.

Light blogging

It's one of those days. Just so you know.

Also: if you appreciate Atrios's efforts, it sounds like today would be a good day to hit his tip jar.


April 08, 2003

The ABC's of war

Mikhaela runs 'em down.

Riddle me this

Timothy Noah, writing in Slate:

In the March 11 New York Times, Neil MacFarquhar notes in passing, "Most Iraqi households own at least one gun." This comes as a shock to those of us who've been hearing for years from the gun lobby that widespread firearms ownership is necessary to prevent the United States from becoming a police state. Here, via the National Rifle Association's Web site, is Bill Pryor, attorney general of Alabama, decrying the "war on guns": "In a republic that promotes a free society, as opposed to a police state, one of the basic organizing principles is that individuals have a right of self-defense and a right to acquire the means for that defense."

If gun rights ensure our freedom, why has this war been necessary at all? Why didn't the people of Iraq simply rise up with their arms and demand their liberty? Isn't that how it works?

Via Electrolite.

A beautiful mind

"But why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's going to happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it's, not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
--former First Lady Barbara Bush (scroll down).

Now that's patriotism
"When I turn on the TV, I see wall-to-wall Humvees, and I'm proud," said Sam Bernstein, a 51-year-old antiquities dealer who lives in Marin County, Calif., and drives a Hummer H2, an S.U.V. sibling of the military Humvee.

"They're not out there in Audi A4's," he said of the troops. "I'm proud of my country, and I'm proud to be driving a product that is making a significant contribution."


Rick Schmidt, founder of I.H.O.G., the International Hummer Owners Group, said: "In my humble opinion, the H2 is an American icon. Not the military version by any means, but it's a symbol of what we all hold so dearly above all else, the fact we have the freedom of choice, the freedom of happiness, the freedom of adventure and discovery, and the ultimate freedom of expression."

"Those who deface a Hummer in words or deed," he added, "deface the American flag and what it stands for."

Story. Relevant cartoons here and here.


For those with time on their hands

Here's the State Department's yearly candid look at human rights conditions around the world.

If one accepts that our primary purpose in Iraq is the liberation of an oppressed people, it looks like we may have some work ahead of us.


April 07, 2003

The cost of this war

This will break your heart. Via Skippy.

Police attack protesters
OAKLAND, Calif. - Police opened fire with non-lethal bullets at an anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland Monday morning, injuring several longshoremen standing nearby.

Police were trying to clear protesters from an entrance to the docks when they opened fire and the longshoremen apparently were caught in the line of fire.

Six longshoremen were treated by paramedics and at least one was expected to be taken to a hospital. It was unclear if any of the protesters was injured.


Trent Willis, a business agent for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said angrily that dockworkers were leaving the docks after the incident.

"They shot my guys. We're not going to work today," Willis said. "The cops had no reason to open up on them."

Police used non-lethal bullets, sandbags and concussion grenades to try to break up about 500 protesters, who split into groups in front of different terminals.


(Update) If you're under the impression that rubber bullets bounce harmlessly off their targets, you should go look at these pictures.

How bloggers scoop traditional journalism

By plagiarizing the work of actual journalists, apparently.

Afterthought: don't get me wrong, I love the blogs. But I'm really sick of the current meme that blogging is somehow on a par with journalism. As I've said before, the relationship of blogging to journalism is mostly the relationship of the wood tick to the deer.

Lord knows I believe in the need for media criticism, and there's no shortage of that in the blogs. And as compendiums of news sources in an era of information overload, they're invaluable. But with a few rare exceptions, it's just not journalism, and it's silly and self-aggrandizing to pretend otherwise.

It's winter again

There's a damn blizzard outside my window.

Enough, already.

Reality check

Spinsanity takes on the fog of war.

The coalition against Iraq is larger than the one that conducted the first Gulf War.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has claimed that the current coalition "is larger than the coalition that existed during the Gulf War in 1991." While this claim is accurate in terms of the number of countries lending their political support to the effort, it is highly misleading in terms of the actual operational contributions of coalition members. As Dana Milbank pointed out in the Washington Post, "that 34-member group [in 1991] was an actual military coalition, with all members providing troops, aircraft, ships or medics. By that standard, there are only about a half dozen members of the coalition in the current war."

Passage of the Bush tax cut is necessary so that troops have jobs to come home to.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has offered a new rationale for passage of the president's proposed tax cut in recent days: "so that when our men and women in the military return home, they'll have jobs to come home to." But as Milbank has noted, full time military personnel will continue to be employed by the military, and thanks to legislation passed in 1994, reservists are entitled to resume their civilian jobs. The situation is not analogous to World War II, where large numbers of decommissioned troops returned home without guaranteed employment. Fleischer's claim is simply disingenuous.

There's much more.

Shifting rationales

I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times over the past six months or so I've received an email with some variation on the theme: don't you understand that Saddam has Weapons of Mass Destruction?

But as Robert Novak (yes, that Robert Novak) writes:

The real reason for attacking the Iraqi regime always has been disconnected from its public rationale. On the day after the U.S. launched the military strike that quickly liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, my column identified Iraq as the second target in President Bush's war against terrorism. I did not write one word about weapons of mass destruction because not one such word was mentioned to me in many interviews with Bush policymakers.

Now, so far they haven't found any WMDs (caveat: at least significant ones, that I've heard about), which is, of course, why this war has gradually shifted from being About the Weapons of Mass Destruction to being About the Liberation of Iraq. And apparently it's been a successful rebranding:

A growing majority of Americans believe the war in Iraq is justified even if the United States does not find weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, public optimism about the progress of the fighting has surged as recent gains on the battlefield have eased fears that the allies will become bogged down in a long and costly war, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

It's entirely possible that WMDs will still turn up in Iraq. In which case, the Coalition of the Shilling will undoubtedly stretch a few muscles patting themselves on the back. But handily enough, even if they aren't--even if the primary justification for this war turns out to have been a lie--well, they'll still be patting themselves on the back.

(edited slightly for clarity)

(Update) WMDs apparently found. Let the backpatting begin.

(Update2) Or...maybe not..

Our informed citizenry

According to an LA Times poll:

Nearly eight in 10 Americans now accept the Bush administration's contention disputed by some experts that Hussein has "close ties" to Al Qaeda (even 70% of Democrats agree). And 60% of Americans say they believe Hussein bears at least some responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks a charge even the administration hasn't levied against him.

(Update) The same poll also tells us:

Exactly half said the United States should take military action against Iran if it continues to move toward nuclear-weapon development; 36% disagreed.


Americans are divided almost in half when asked whether the United States should take military action against Syria, which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has accused of providing Iraq with military supplies. Syria has denied the accusation. But 42% said the United States should take action if Syria, in fact, provides aid to Iraq, while 46% said no.


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