May 20, 2004

Plain Talking on the Iraq Upfuckery

Just one more war item before I head off for some peace (!) and quiet at anchor off a desert island for a few days. Check out Senator Earnest Hollings: Bush's failed Mideast policy is creating more terrorism. Yeah, what he said.

Also, even Wolfowitz seems to be unable to avoid acknowledging that up is up and down is down, at least in some cases: US faces growing fears of failure.

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Marshall on the Iraq Blame Game

Excellent commentary today from Joshua Micah Marshall, as he dissects the blame that some (former) Iraq-war supporters are aiming at war opponents these days: It's an obvious question, really.

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May 18, 2004

Provance: Definitely a Cover-Up

From ABC News, via Hiro, comes this interesting item: Definitely a cover-up.

May 18, 2004 -- Dozens of soldiers -- other than the seven military police reservists who have been charged -- were involved in the abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and there is an effort under way in the Army to hide it, a key witness in the investigation told ABCNEWS.

"There's definitely a cover-up," the witness, Sgt. Samuel Provance, said. "People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet."

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September. He spoke to ABCNEWS despite orders from his commanders not to.

"What I was surprised at was the silence," said Provance. "The collective silence by so many people that had to be involved, that had to have seen something or heard something."

Provance, now stationed in Germany, ran the top secret computer network used by military intelligence at the prison.

He said that while he did not see the actual abuse take place, the interrogators with whom he worked freely admitted they directed the MPs' rough treatment of prisoners.

So, I can see two ways to explain this: Either Provance is a publicity hound who's willing to put himself in a world of hurt by lying to get his face on camera. Or he's telling the truth, and there is in fact a concerted effort under way to limit the damage of the Abu Ghraib scandal by covering up the extent to which Military Intelligence folks were involved.

On the face of it, I'd say the latter explanation is more likely.

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May 17, 2004

John Brady Kiesling: Victory Through Defeat

I get a fair number of reader submissions, most of which I choose not to run. That's not meant as a knock on the submitters; their submissions are often interesting and noteworthy, but they just fail to get me inspired enough to go through the effort of posting them.

This one came in this morning from reader Alex, and I just now got around to checking out the links he sent. And was promptly blown away.

Hi, thanks for an excellent site!

Did you read an article by John Brady Kiesling in May 9th Washington Post (Outlook section)? I loved it, it has dozens of very insightful observations, and most importantly, it presents the only more or less realistic plan of ending this war with minimal damage. Here's the URL:

And here's online discussion with the author:


Kiesling's voice of reason is a reminder that there are actual grownups, people of intelligence and experience and integrity, in this country. Just not so much in the ranks of our current political leadership. But they do exist, and there's hope in that.

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May 16, 2004

Hersch on Cambone and the Black-Ops SAP

Seymour Hersh continues his series of New Yorker articles on the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal with The gray zone. It describes how Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone led the process of applying outside-the-rulebooks interrogation techniques to get intelligence on the Iraq insurgency. The operation was conducted under the authority of a "special-access program", or SAP, a super-secret Defense Department program for situations deemed too sensitive to handled by the normal classifed-secrets procedures.

Hersh bases his story on the accounts told to him by several former intelligence officials and by a former Pentagon consultant "with close ties to many conservatives." None of the sources are identified by name.

It's a compelling story that Hersh tells. Is it true? I dunno. But it certainly explains recent events much more elegantly than the nonsensical fairy tale that Cambone and Rumsfeld have been telling about a few misguided MPs going off the reservation within an otherwise-professional and well-led operation.

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May 13, 2004

Digby on Bush on Cambone

The thing I love about weblogs is the way I get to share my obsession on (whatever) with the community of similar obsessives the world over. And within the community of people obsessing over the discrepencies between the Taguba and Cambone testimony at the Abu Ghraib Senate hearing this week, the following quirky little item is really kind of funny/interesting. From Digby's Hullabaloo weblog: Where are they, damn it!

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Meyerson on the Price of Empire

Harold Meyerson makes some really good observations in this Washington Post op-ed piece: Fantastical Occupation.

...military occupations offer the worst possible terrain on which to fight the battle of ideas. From the French in Indochina and Algeria to the British in South Asia and the United States in Central America and Vietnam, occupations are where liberal democracies go to betray their ideals -- if not as a matter of intent then, inevitably, as a matter of execution. One way or another, it becomes necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.

But if one thing is clear beyond dispute in the muddle of post-Saddam Iraq, it is that the Bush administration gave no thought whatever to the problems inherent in occupation. No one thought to protect Iraq's cultural treasures. No one thought to secure the nation's power grid. No one thought to enlarge our own armed forces, so that we weren't sending civilian National Guard troops and private contractors to do a soldier's job, with a clear chain of command in place.

And clearly, no one sought to train those Guardsmen assigned to duty at Abu Ghraib prison in the rudiments of the Geneva Conventions and our Army's regulations on the treatment of prisoners. Instead, they were thrown into a system that was being redesigned to "Gitmo-ize" the treatment of detainees there -- that is, to deal with prisoners the same way we treat the al Qaeda prisoners and others at our Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba, free from prying eyes and the codes of either civilian or military law. And Gitmo-ize the prisoners is just what some of our guards at Abu Ghraib did. Some prisoners, apparently, were Gitmo-ized to death.

It defies all belief that the young women and men of an Army Reserve unit from West Virginia were some kind of sadistic cult just waiting to be called away from their civilian lives to torture prisoners in Iraq. I doubt they brought the hoods, the dogs, the nightsticks with them. They were doing the very dirty work of an occupation that, as it's developed, could hardly be more counterproductive to our ultimate goal -- the liberalization of the Islamic world -- if we'd planned it that way.

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May 12, 2004

Politicians vs. Generals

I like to watch birds. Lately I've been working on getting better at difficult identifications. Empidonax flycatchers, immature gulls; that sort of thing.

One thing that really helps in learning to make fine-grained distinctions is having the chance to make a side-by-side comparison. If you're just looking at a woodpecker, it can be hard to tell if it's a Hairy or a Downy. But put the two side-by-side and it's much easier to notice the differences.

So with truth-tellers versus liars. A good liar can fool you, but put him next to an honest man and question them both about the subject at hand, and it gets much easier to tell which is which.

An excellent object-lesson in that came the other day, when Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba testified alongside Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. From the New York Times: Rumsfeld aide and a general clash on abuse.

WASHINGTON, May 11 -- The Army general who first investigated abuses at Abu Ghraib prison stood by his inquiry's finding that military police officers should not have been involved in conditioning Iraqi detainees for interrogation, even as a senior Pentagon civilian sitting next to him at a Senate hearing on Tuesday disputed that conclusion.

The officer, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it had been against the Army's doctrine for another Army general to recommend last summer that military guards "set the conditions" to help Army intelligence officers extract information from prisoners. He also said an order last November from the top American officer in Iraq effectively put the prison guards under the command of the intelligence unit there.

But the civilian official, Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, contradicted the general. He said that the military police and the military intelligence unit at the prison needed to work closely to gain as much intelligence as possible from Iraqi prisoners to prevent attacks against American soldiers. Mr. Cambone also said that General Taguba misinterpreted the November order, which he said only put the intelligence unit in charge of the prison facility, not of the military police guards.

While General Taguba depicted the abuses at the prison as the acts of a few soldiers under a fragmented and inept command, he also said that "they were probably influenced by others, if not necessarily directed specifically by others." His report called for an inquiry into the culpability of intelligence officers, which is still under way.

Those of you who are repeating the Bush team's talking points on this need to sit down and think for a minute. The broad outlines of the situation are pretty clear. The people claiming that this was an isolated incident, and that the civilian leadership in the Defense Department and the White House bear no responsibility for the unfolding debacle, are the same people who told you that Saddam Hussein had huge stockpiles of WMD, an active nuclear weapons program, and close ties with al Qaeda. They were lying then, and they're lying now.

If you aren't convinced of that, I encourage you to read some of the following. These are the best things I've come across in the past few days on the Abu Ghraib cover-up:

George Paine of England: I was just following orders.

Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo: Okay, I think the wheels are now officially off this car.

The Washington Post's editorial writers: Protecting the system.

And since I overlooked mentioning them when they first came out, I should mention the two pieces Seymour Hersch did for the New Yorker: Torture at Abu Ghraib and Chain of command.

On the larger picture of how Bush's incompetence and mismanagement led to this mess, here are a few other good pieces I read today:

Moe Blues at Bad Attitudes: Lost: Two countries.

Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post columnist: War management follows the wrong corporate model.

Posted by jbc at 07:03 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2004

Marshall on the Red Cross Report

At one point I considered just running the image of the Iraqi prisoner cowering before the dogs (from the latest Seymour Hersch New Yorker article), under a headline consisting of Bush's over-the-top praise for Rumsfeld. ("You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror. You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.") I didn't, because I didn't want to increase the chances of needing to have another conversation like the one I had when my 6-year-old son appeared unannounced behind me while I was reading the paper at breakfast the other day.

(If you really want to see that quotation juxtaposed with that particular picture, you can do so courtesy of Lambert at Corrente: "superb job". Great minds, and all that.)

What I will do here is encourage you to read Joshua Micah Marshall's analysis of the newly released Red Cross report on Abu Ghraib: I took some time this evening...

Marshall's main reaction? Well, the report could have been worse; it doesn't sound as if every American in the system was engaged in organized abuse of all the prisoners. But what it does describe blows a huge hole in the "handful of bad apples" theory.

According to the report, all Iraqi prisoners were at high risk of abusive treatment during their initial arrest and processing. Which is disturbing enough, given that 70% or more of them were apparently innocents swept up by mistake. And with no means for family members to get information about them, these innocents simply ended up being "disappeared" for weeks or months. But for those deemed to be "high value" detainees (i.e., those suspected of actually knowing something useful), abuse continued even after the transfer to the detention facility, with the military intelligence folks overseeing a process of "softening up" prisoners using the methods all of us (including impressionable 6-year-olds) are becoming all too familiar with lately.

This is the same sort of stuff that has been happening in our name at the extra-legal Gitmo detention center. It's not an aberration. It's policy. And the policy flows from the top.

Lambert from the aforementioned Corrente flirts with Godwin's Law by pointing out the chilling similarities between the current situation and the Third Reich, in which it wasn't necessary for Hitler to specifically order things like the gassing of Jews. He merely had to create the conditions in which underlings knew that actions like that 1) would produce the kind of results der fuhrer liked, and 2) would get the blind-eye treatment from superiors. After that, human nature took over. Anyway, see: Abu Ghraib torture: Hersch drops the other shoe.

No, the US is not the same as Nazi Germany, any more than the Iraq war is identical to Vietnam. We are still many steps short of that degree of evil. But that's where this path leads.

Those of you who still support Bush, who are still inclined to vote for him in November, please think about this. How far down that path are you willing to travel? How many of our nation's fundamental moral values are you willing to sacrifice in the name of partisanship? Because that is absolutely where we are headed. And the people running things willl not turn aside on their own. They think they're doing a superb job, and that we owe them a debt of gratitude.

We owe them something. But it isn't gratitude. Help deliver it at the polls in November.

Posted by jbc at 07:08 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 09, 2004

Senior Military Officials: We Are Losing the War in Iraq

I just read an extraordinary article. It quotes numerous sources who charge that the Bush team is blowing it bigtime in Iraq, failing to adapt its strategy to realities on the ground, heading straight for a Vietnam-style quagmire that will mean years of steady carnage and ultimate failure. Which isn't exactly news; plenty of us have been saying that for a while now. What is extraordinary is who's saying it: senior US military officials.

From the Washington Post: Dissension grows in senior ranks on war strategy.

Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.

Their major worry is that the United States is prevailing militarily but failing to win the support of the Iraqi people. That view is far from universal, but it is spreading and being voiced publicly for the first time.

Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."

Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an interview Friday.

There's lots more, and it's all really interesting, if depressing. Like this part:

Even if adjustments in troop presence and goals help the United States prevail, it will not happen soon, several of those interviewed said. The United States is likely to be fighting in Iraq for at least another five years, said an Army officer who served there. "We'll be taking casualties," he warned, during that entire time.

A long-term problem for any administration is that it may be difficult for the American public to tell whether the United States is winning or losing, and the prospect of continued casualties may prompt some to ask of how long the public will tolerate the fighting.

"Iraq might have been worth doing at some price," Vickers said. "But it isn't worth doing at any price. And the price has gone very high."

The other key factor in the war is Iraqi public opinion. A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that a majority of Iraqis want the United States to leave immediately. "In Iraq, we are rapidly losing the support of the middle, which will enable the insurgency to persist practically indefinitely until our national resolve is worn down," the senior U.S. military intelligence officer said.

Many of those interviewed point to Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld as the targets of their anger. Now, I know that Rumsfeld has stepped on a lot of toes in his time as Secretary of Defense, and that some of this is probably just normal bureaucratic in-fighting, with people going for the jugular now that Rumsfeld looks weak because of the Abu Ghraib scandal. But this goes deeper than that.

When our country experienced the particular constellation of bad judgement, hubris, and venality that resulted in the Vietnam war, it took more than a decade for us to come to enough of a national consensus to change course. But like an organism that has built up antibodies as a result of exposure to a particular pathogen, I don't think it will take us as long this time to successfully identify and fight off the disease. At least I hope it doesn't. And if I'm right about that, then the willingness of senior military leaders to speak up about the mistakes they see being made will be an important part of that process.

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May 07, 2004

Riverbend: Just Go

If we've lost Cronkite, we've lost the war.
-- Lyndon Johnson

One of the thing that has always made Riverbend's Baghdad Burning weblog so interesting to me is that she represents, in many respects, the target audience for the US message in Iraq. She's young, educated, professional, has attended school in the West and speaks excellent English; in short, she's exactly the sort of thoughtful, cosmopolitan Iraqi who we'd hope would be willing to give our message of liberation and democracy a fair hearing. If Iraq is ever to emerge from the US occupation while avoiding the twin pitfalls of repressive authoritarianism and theocratic dogmatism, it is Iraqis like Riverbend who will make it happen.

In her previous post, she spoke of the revulsion that she and other Iraqis felt at the revelation of the Abu Ghraib prison abuses: Those pictures.... As she's thought about it more, and as she's watched the reactions of various players to the events, her views have hardened. Now, in a heartbreaking post that rings with the moral authority of our own Declaration of Independence, she speaks on behalf of all Iraqis to the country that has done her such wrong: Just go...

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.

If we've lost Riverbend, we've lost the war.

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May 06, 2004

Losing Hearts and Minds Over the Abu Ghraib Abuses

So, the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal continues to widen (and to draw much-needed attention to the profoundly un-American obscenity that is the Guantanamo Bay detention center). Of particular note to me are the growing number of people who find themselves struggling to reconcile their views about the rightness of the war with the obvious wrongness of how it is being carried out. People like Thomas Friedman: Restoring our honor. And Christopher Hitchens: Prison mutiny.

I have to give them credit for being willing to face up honestly to the latest news. Still, there are plenty of other people who aren't burdened by the need to explain how they could have been so wrong in the first place, and so are able to follow the trail of implications even further. People like Sidney Blumenthal: This is the new gulag. And Juan Cole's wife Shahin: America in the balance: Sex, lies and prison abuse.

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May 01, 2004

Record US Deaths in April

Remember back on April 15, when Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers said the growing Iraqi insurgency was a sign of our "success"? Well, I've updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs with the numbers of US dead for April, so you can now get a graphical representation of that success.

Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first fourteen months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Obligatory disclaimer: As large numbers of people have previously pointed out, we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn't get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until shortly after Johnson won the 1964 election, some three-and-a-half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above.

I'm not claiming that these graphs prove that the Iraq war is somehow equivalent to, or worse than, the Vietnam war. I was just curious how the "death profile" of the two wars compared, and these graphs let me see that. Those of you who like to defend the Iraq war by pointing out that many more US troops died each month at the peak of the Vietnam war than are currently dying in Iraq are welcome to make that case using the data shown above. Those of you who want to explain why I'm an idiot for suggesting a comparison between the two sets of data are likewise welcome to contribute via the comments.

Posted by jbc at 12:41 PM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (4)

Good News, Bad News from Fallujah

I try to notice when I'm wrong. Like everyone, I fail in that endeavor most of the time, but I still make a point of trying. Failed predictions are important. They're trying to teach me something.

So with this latest news from Fallujah, that US forces are turning over control of the city to a newly constituted Iraqi force under the leadership of one of Saddam's former generals. From the LA Times, Iraqi general enters Fallouja as security transition advances:

FALLOUJA, Iraq -- Iraqi troops led by one of Saddam Hussein's former generals began replacing Marines here Friday as a plan to end a near-monthlong siege of this battle-torn city gained momentum.

Former Iraqi Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, dressed in the uniform of Hussein's Republican Guard, entered Fallouja to cheering crowds, triggering a debate on whether securing the defiant city with an Iraqi force was a masterstroke or a concession that could undermine U.S. control of the country.

So, I was wrong, or at least it looks for now as if I was wrong, when I predicted that Bush would have the Marines push on in and do the overwhelming-force thing in Fallujah. Apparently his sense of political self-preservation, given time to operate, can overrule his gut, at least in certain circumstances (say, when his gut's choice has already been tried, and more or less conclusively shown to be disastrous). So, lesson learned, both by me and, one would hope, by Bush.

Which leaves me in a bit of a dilemma of my own, though. How do I feel about this? Well, I'm a little bummed by the fact that I was wrong. But that reaction is countered by a sense of relief that the innocents of Fallujah will not have to pay with more of their blood for my president's bad judgement.

The part of me that generally prefers to be right, though, strikes back by pointing out that if Bush strings together enough good decisions like this in Iraq, he could conceivably pick up enough support from jittery-about-the-war swing voters to help him win the upcoming election. Perhaps I should want things to go badly in Iraq, in order to help bring about the much-to-be-desired regime change here in the US. Perhaps it would be better for Bush to screw up a certain amount now, to avert the possibility of his screwing up much more spectacularly in the course of a second term.

But that argument gives me the creeps. Accepting the death of innocents in the pursuit of some hypothetical greater good isn't the kind of thing I want to get involved with. I'll leave that to people like Osama bin Laden and George Bush.

But when I update my US-troop-deaths graph in a few minutes with April's record body count, what will I be feeling? Sorrow and remorse over the carnage that those statistics represent? Or grim satisfaction at the way the statistics bear out my concerns about Bush's policies? And if it's the latter, what does that say about the kind of person I am?

Posted by jbc at 11:54 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 25, 2004

A Tale of Two Fallujahs

So, it looks like we're reaching the later stages of our collective pre-emptive remorse over the additional innocent blood we're going to spill in Fallujah. From the New York Times: Bush's decision on possible attack on Falluja seems near.

Facing one of the grimmest choices of the Iraq war, President Bush and his senior national security and military advisers are expected to decide this weekend whether to order an invasion of Falluja, even if a battle there runs the risk of uprisings in the city and perhaps elsewhere around Iraq.

After declaring on Friday evening in Florida that "America will never be run out of Iraq by a bunch of thugs and killers," Mr. Bush flew to Camp David for the weekend, where administration officials said he planned consultations in a videoconference with the military commanders who are keeping the city under siege.

So, Bush is on the horns of a dilemma. Leaving the evil-doers of Fallujah unpunished would be intolerable. But killing them will result in the deaths of large numbers of innocent civilians, thereby turning Iraqi, Arab, and world public opinion more firmly against us, making our larger Iraq problem dramatically worse.

See, this is where having a president who was actually capable of introspection and the careful weighing of complex issues would be helpful. Because Bush's decision on this one is completely predictable, and it's going to suck. Faced with a choice between an intolerable current situation (a situation he created with his previous decisions, one should remember), and a "solution" that will actually make things much worse, he's going to ignore the consequence and go with what feels right to his gut. Which will be to kill the bad guys. And make things much worse.

Meanwhile, I was struck by this item from war-supporter and überblogger Andrew Sullivan: Email of the day. It's an email allegedly from a military chaplain in Fallujah who offers an extended analogy comparing the insurgents there to a street gang.

The part I find interesting is the contrast between this version of Fallujah and the ones I linked to earlier from the peace activists who visited the medical aid station there (see Firsthand account of Fallujah and Rahul Mahajan on Fallujah). Those earlier accounts essentially portrayed the insurgents as being in solidarity with the locals. It said the fighters consist essentially of all the able-bodied males in the city, banding together to protect their homes and families against the US invaders. It said the insurgents very much had the support of the city's population.

Compare that with Sullivan's anonymous military chaplain:

[I]n Faluja, the supposed hotbed of dissent in Iraq, countless Iraqis tell our psyopers they want to cooperate with us but are afraid the thugs will slit their throats or kill their kids. A bad gang can do that to a neighborhood and a town. That's what is happening here.

So which is it? I mean, there's doubtless some truth in each side's account, but each side is also filtering its perceptions through a bigtime reality filter. Which one is distorting things more? If you and I could go there, live with the people of Fallujah for a while, and get to know them, which version would emerge as being more accurate?

I know which one is easier for me to believe. But I also know that the world is not under any obligation to behave in a way that minimizes my cognitive dissonance. War supporters like reader Thom will have the same problem, but with the arrow pointing the other way.

I don't think it's really possible to answer the question conclusively from here. But it's an important question, and given the actions that are about to be carried out in our name in Fallujah, I think it's a question that deserves serious thought.

Posted by jbc at 08:00 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 23, 2004

Iraq Pre- and Post-Mortem

So, much saber-rattling coming from the US military leadership in Iraq, about how we're just about ready to unleash large-scale carnage on Fallujah again: Marines poised for Fallujah offensive. Just when it was looking like wiser heads were doing some prevailing, too.

Meanwhile, a couple of interesting looks back at the war's justification and prosecution, from a few folks who recognized it was a catastrophe in the making from Day One. From Juan Cole, responding to some baiting from Christopher Hitchens: Hitchens questions on Iraq. And from Paul Krugman: What went wrong?

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April 22, 2004

Cole: Perle Carries Water for Chalabi at Senate Hearing

Giving you a welcome break from my increasingly strident fuming about how George W. Bush has a deep-rooted desire to nuke little children, here's some fuming about someone else: Richard Perle, who aroused Juan Cole's ire with some testimony he gave Tuesday: Perle at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Interesting stuff.

Posted by jbc at 10:16 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 19, 2004

More Detail on Marines Sniping Ambulances

There was a brief scuffle in the comments here recently between reader/author Craig, reader Thom, and me regarding the nature of US Marines' and Sunni insurgents' actions in Fallujah (see Firsthand account of Fallujah and More on events in Fallujah). It ended up that Thom was surprised I would take accounts of Marines sniping on clearly marked ambulances seriously, until I explained that I considered it likely that the insurgents might have used ambulances for transport, at which point Thom creatively spun my remarks to be somewhat stronger than I intended them, declared victory, and we let the matter drop.

Now I've come across a little more detail on the issue. Dahr Jamail (a peace activist who visited Fallujah a week ago, and who wrote one of the accounts I previously linked to) has this item on his weblog: Iraqi health minister presses authorities to explain U.S. targeting of Falluja ambulances. It includes the following:

I attended a press conference today at the Ministry of Health, led by the Iraqi Minister of Health himself. In short, he held the press conference to stave off criticism of not doing enough to assist (medically) the besieged and suffering residents of Falluja, as well as some of the areas down south where fighting has occurred.

Al-Iraqia television, the Coalition Provisional Authority-run propaganda station that most of my Iraqi friends call the "CIA Station", was at the press conference. They packed up and left promptly after the minister and his two doctors finished their discussion, entirely missing the pointed questions that were to follow.

A stunning surprise, however, was that the minister acknowledged the U.S. military had been intentionally targeting ambulances in Falluja. He expressed his outrage over the matter, and stated that he had personally pressed the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) and Bremer for explanations about why these human rights violations, as well as violations of the Geneva Conventions, are occurring.

He said that the U.S. military had accused mujahedeen in Falluja of using ambulances for fighting, and that is why Marines were firing on them. Perhaps there is some truth in this, but at the same time, ambulances that were being used legitimately are being targeted as well, and innocents are dying. My personal friends Jo Wilding and David Martinez were riding in one of these that received 5 sniper rounds through it. I can vouch that they are not mujahedeen.

Also, a number of outlets are carrying the message from a US military briefing announcing details of the latest cease-fire agreement between Iraqi and US forces. Among the terms of the agreement are these:

  • Coalition forces will allow "unfettered" access to Fallujah General Hospital for treatment of sick and injured.
  • All parties agreed to provide for the removal and burial of the dead, as well as providing food and medicine in isolated areas of the city.
  • The start of an evening curfew will be moved from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to enable Fallujah religious functionaries to conduct services.
  • Measures will be implemented to provide passage of official ambulances throughout the city via checkpoints.
  • Medical, technical and security personnel will be allowed access throughout Fallujah to conduct their work.
Examined in context, and taking into account the spin being applied by the various participants, I think the broad outlines of this ambulance-sniping behavior are pretty clear. Yes, Marines have been sniping ambulances, as described by activists in Fallujah a week ago and tacitly acknowledged by the US military in the latest cease-fire agreement.

Marines have justified shooting ambulances by claiming Sunni insurgents were using them to transport themselves. Were the insurgents actually doing that? I think it's probable. These are guerrillas fighting an enemy who has overwhelming air support and heavy armor. Their only hope of surviving, to say nothing of inflicting harm on the enemy, is to be quick, stealthy, and, for want of a better word, "creative." If ambulances are being treated as sacrosanct by the Marines, the insurgents would be stupid not to use them. And if they're using them, the Marines would be stupid not to snipe them. And given those facts, those of us trying to figure out what's going on from the outside would be stupid to expect anything other than what has taken place.

Now, to the extent the insurgents are using ambulances to get around, that would, I assume, constitute a war crime. To the extent they're hiding among civilians, using them as shields against the US forces, that would constitute a war crime. Those crimes notwithstanding, to the extent Marines aren't working particularly hard to distinguish between real ambulances and clandestine troop carriers, or to the extent they're not making a good-faith effort to determine if any given 10-year-old boy is or isn't toting a Kalashnikov, or a particular burqa-wrapped "woman" is or isn't actually a male insurgent concealing an RPG, before shooting said ambulance/boy/"woman", they're also guilty of war crimes.

Of course, good faith isn't the sort of thing one should expect to find in a war zone. War crimes happen on both sides in every war. When the war is over, the victors get to make a show of exposing the other sides' perfidy, while sweeping their own under the rug. To believe that our side doesn't engage in such things is naive.

War is the realm of pragmatism. It explicitly sets aside the usual norms of civilized behavior. Warriors kill people. They do it brutally, efficiently, and without compunction. Civilian casualties are minimized "to the extent that it's possible and prudent." Prudence, in this case, though, often means nothing more than not using up your bullets on people who don't represent a real threat. In the position the Marines were in in Fallujah, not knowing who was a combatant and who wasn't, which ambulances were carrying insurgents and which weren't, and with no shortage of bullets, the international conventions that prohibit shooting unarmed civilians and ambulances were set aside. And it was completely predictable that that would happen when the decision was made to go in and make an example of Fallujah.

Which is why I continue to think that the decision to go into Fallujah with guns blazing was stupid. Sure, we can defeat individual bands of insurgents, and given the provocation of the four contractors/mercenaries' killing and mutilation on March 31, I can see where the desire to go in and just impose our will on the city, "pacifying" it by killing anyone suspected of opposing us, along with anyone who happened to get in the way while we were doing so, was tempting, especiallly to someone like Bush. In that sense, as I've said before, Fallujah represents a microcosm of the larger Iraq war, and the overall "war on terror." One can almost hear Bush, after watching footage of burned and dismembered Americans, saying, "Fuck Fallujah. We're taking it out."

Yeah, I happen to think that Bush's quick resorting to blunt military solutions, without exhausting the messy, complicated solutions available short of war, is immoral, betraying as it does a tragic indifference to the innocent lives that war grinds into hamburger. But as I've also said before, I'm not basing my objection to the Fallujah action on a moral claim. I'm basing it on a more practical concern. It was completely predictable that it was going to descend almost immediately into this sort of ugliness, thereby driving Iraqis all across the country, not just in Fallujah, away from us and into the arms of anti-US radicals. Which makes the solving of our larger Iraq problem much, much harder.

We need Iraqi hearts and minds if we're going to leave a friendly-to-the-US government behind. Fallujah was a huge failure in that regard. In the same way, we need the support, trust, and cooperation of other countries if we're going to effectively combat terror around the world. By misleading the world about things like Saddam's connections with al Qaeda and his stockpiles of WMD, and then launching a pre-emptive invasion over the objections of the UN Security Council, we've taken a huge step backward in that regard, too.

George W. Bush: Fuckup-in-Chief.

Posted by jbc at 11:37 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 16, 2004

Myers: Iraq Insurgency a Sign of Success

In keeping with tradition, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers observed today that the recent widespread violence (and, presumably, record numbers of US dead, though he didn't mention them specifically) were a sign of the "success" we are having in Iraq. He even managed to use the word three times in two sentences. From the Washington Post: General calls insurgency in Iraq a sign of US success.

BAGHDAD, April 15 -- The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that the deadly insurgency that flared this month is "a symptom of the success that we're having here in Iraq" and an effort to undermine the country's transition to self-government.

Asked at a news conference here whether the military had failed to counter insurgents' attacks in Iraq, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said guerrillas want to undermine several political successes, including the creation of the Iraqi Governing Council, the signing of a bill of rights and efforts by the United Nations to devise an interim government that would assume power on June 30.

"I think it's that success which is driving the current situation, because there are those extremists that don't want that success," Myers said.

Quoting The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Posted by jbc at 04:08 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman on the Iraq/Vietnam Analogy

Paul Krugman has some apt comments on the various ways in which the Iraq war is (and isn't) like Vietnam: The Vietnam analogy.

Posted by jbc at 08:59 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2004

Poop For Peace Day: April 16, 2004

I can't say it any better then they do....
On April 16, take some time to think when you take your time to stink. Think of yourself on your toilet, and George W. Bush on his, and Saddam and Osama on theirs. Think about the children of Iraq and the children of America, and realize that while their skins are different colors and their gods have different names, their daily ritual is exactly the same. We all poop, which means we're all human, which means we're all brothers and sisters. Any other differences are arbitrary -- we are all united in the daily struggle against the tyranny of the bowel.

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Time on Fallujah

Time magazine has a new article about events in Fallujah: How to squeeze a city. It's very much from the Marines' perspective, and offers some additional detail. An excerpt:

City combat blunts the Marines' chief advantages: speed and awareness of what is ahead. Buildings create vast "dead spaces" where the enemy can hide. The cityscape hinders communications and prevents anything that flies low, like helicopters, spy drones and warplanes, from assisting friendly forces on the ground for very long. Life-and-death decisions must be made instantly: 90% of the targets are less than 50 yds. away and seen for only seconds. "When they start zinging RPGs in here, you can't really do anything about it," says Staff Sergeant Mike Conran. "It's really just dumb luck if you get hit."

In some neighborhoods, the Marines say, anyone they spot in the streets is considered a "bad guy." Says Marine Major Larry Kaifesh: "It is hard to differentiate between people who are insurgents or civilians. You just have to go with your gut feeling." U.S. commanders say many residents of the town haven't declared their allegiance to either the coalition or the insurgents and are waiting to see who prevails. But the Marines sensed that, no matter how the battle turns out, winning hearts and minds in Fallujah after so much destruction may be impossible. "I think that was a pretty big step we took," said Corporal Andrew Stokef, 20, after Specter gunships pounded Fallujah for several hours. "There's no turning back now."

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More on Events in Fallujah

Here are some links on recent events in Fallujah.

From the Washington Post's Pamela Constable, a reporter embedded with the Marines, apparently, comes this story. I think it provides an important perspective that has been missing in the items I've posted so far: A wrong turn, chaos, and a rescue:

Marine officials said the three-hour battle that erupted at dusk Tuesday on the streets of Fallujah, and was recounted Wednesday by several of the key officers involved, exemplified the bravery and resourcefulness that Marines are known for, even when surprised and surrounded by a host of enemy fighters on alien urban turf. By the end of the tumultuous encounter, the charred personnel carrier had been towed to safety by a tank and most of its 17 crew members -- several of them wounded -- had been rescued from a house where they had taken shelter.

But the incident also revealed some startling facts about the insurgency that the Marines are facing here, officers said. More dramatically than any armed confrontation since U.S. forces surrounded Fallujah nine days ago, it showed the tenacity, coordination, firepower and surprisingly large numbers of anti-American guerrillas who still dominate much of the city.

"We definitely stumbled into a wasps' nest. They were definitely a lot more organized than we thought," said Capt. Jason Smith, 30, commander of the company whose armored supply vehicle made a wrong turn into insurgent territory and was immediately inundated by gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades from all sides.

Marine officials here said offensive operations in Fallujah would remain suspended, extending a pause that was ordered Friday to allow civilians to leave the city and let political leaders in Fallujah and Baghdad attempt to negotiate a solution to the conflict.

Just before dawn Wednesday, however, AC-130 Spectre gunships launched a devastating punitive raid over a six-block area around the spot where the convoy was attacked, firing dozens of artillery shells that shook the city and lit up the sky. Marine officials said the area was virtually destroyed and that no further insurgent activity had been seen there.

I bet. It's pretty hard to recconcile this last part with the earlier reassurances by Lt Col Byrne of the Marines that 95% of those being killed are armed insurgents. How do you flatten six city blocks in a punitive raid while making sure that you only kill 1 non-combatant for every 19 enemy fighters?

I find it interesting that the Marines were surprised by the level of coordination and resistance they encountered. The earlier items by the relief workers who travelled into and out of Fallujah over the weekend made it clear that pretty much the entire male population of the city, from little boys to old men, are toting Kalashnikovs and itching for a chance to shoot back at the guys sniping and bombing them -- and that they are doing so with the active support of their neighbors.

Anyway, here are some more perspectives, courtesy of those anti-American propagandists at the Christian Science Monitor: Refugees tell of rising anger in Fallujah and Siege of Fallujah polarizing Iraqis. From the latter:

The Marines and coalition officials say they doubt many civilians have been killed in Fallujah and promise that their rules of engagement limit civilian casualties. "My solution is change the channel," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said earlier this week, after being asked about TV images of dead Iraqi civilians.

"The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources, that is propaganda, and that is lies."

While the fog of battle makes it difficult to get to the bottom of their differing accounts, the political impact of the television images and of what most Iraqis deeply believe can't be denied.

I'll grant that it's difficult to know exactly what the proportion of innocents to insurgents being killed is. But it's obvious to anyone looking at the various accounts that this is a very different kind of fighting, with a much higher incidence of "collateral damage," than the "pinpoint bombing" and "surgical strikes" that were employed during the initial invasion.

Let's be honest about what has happened here. There was a conscious decision to make Fallujah an example, to respond in a forceful way to its ongoing defiance of the occupation, and in particular to the desecration of the bodies of the four contractors who were killed in late March. That act showed graphically, in a way that could not be spun away, that at least in Fallujah we were not viewed as benign liberators opposed by a mere handful of bitter-enders. We were hated occupiers facing a population that was united against us. So the word came down, no doubt from the highest levels, to show them who was boss. As with the Iraq invasion itself, the goal was to bypass that namby-pamby diplomacy/law enforcement/negotiation stuff and just go in with guns blazing.

I haven't linked to it before, but I keep thinking about the short piece Scott Forbes posted on his "A Yank in Oz" weblog: Chickenhawk down. In it, he speculates that the strategy in Fallujah may represent the right wing's response to the perceived weakness displayed by Clinton in pulling out of Somalia after Mogadishu. We know how to deal with brutal savages who parade our side's dead bodies through the street. With force, brutally applied. Anything less will be taken as a sign of weakness, and will simply encourage more attacks on us.

Well, it's an interesting theory, and one that obviously resonates with the way George Bush looks at the world. Whether it is moral, or will be effective in advancing US interests, is another matter. I'm skeptical, but I guess we're going to get a chance to find out.

One more item: George Paine's commentary on all this, from which I obtained most of the links above: Of punitive raids and public opinion. He calls what has happened in Fallujah a war crime. I think he's probably right.

Posted by jbc at 12:18 PM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

Riverbend on Media Coverage of Fallujah

Riverbend offers her Iraqi's-eye-view of the controversy over recent media coverage of our glorious military campaign: Media and Falloojeh.

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Jo Wilding's Account of Fallujah

Another firsthand account by a Westerner (British activist Jo Wilding) who was in Fallujah this past weekend: April 11, Falluja.

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Zakaria: The Way Out

Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria has an informative article on the current state of Iraq, including suggested steps that Bush could take in order to turn things around. Unfortunately, those steps include the acknowledgment of error and the setting of a new course -- things our South-Going-Zax-in-Chief seems incapable of considering, much less doing. Sigh. Anyway: Our last real chance.

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April 14, 2004

Rahul Mahajan on Fallujah

Here's another on-the-scene account of what things looked like in Fallujah this past weekend. It sounds as if this blogger (Rahul Mahajan) was part of the same group as Dahr Jamail, whose account I linked to previously. He's obviously not a fan of the war, what with his frequent references to US imperialism. But he offers some more specifics, and an interesting perspective on the mindset of the people of Fallujah: Report from Fallujah: Destroying a town in order to "save" it.

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April 13, 2004

Firsthand Account of Fallujah

From The Nation comes this fascinating story by Dahr Jamail, describing a trip that he made to Fallujah over the weekend with a group delivering medical supplies: Sarajevo on the Euphrates.

Righties will dismiss it as propaganda. I'm not so sure.

Posted by jbc at 05:26 PM | view/comment (7) | TrackBack (0)

Who Died in Fallujah?

So, the civilian bloodbath that I (among others) feared during the initial invasion of Iraq, but which (to some degree) was averted when the Iraqi forces melted away rather than fighting pitched urban battles, appears to have taken place, albeit on a smaller scale, in the recent fighting between US Marines and Sunni insurgents in Fallujah.

Or at least, so says the director of the Fallujah hospital:

A fragile cease-fire between Sunni insurgents and Marines showed signs of faltering this morning in the besieged city of Fallujah, where Iraqis said more than 600 civilians were killed in the past week... [M]ost of the Iraqis killed in fighting that started April 5 were women, children, and elderly, the director of the city hospital, Rafie al-Issawi, said.

Not so, says the leader of the Marines assaulting the city:

Asked about the report of 600 dead, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Brennan Byrne said, "What I think you will find is 95 percent of those were military-age males that were killed in the fighting."

"The Marines are trained to be precise in their firepower... The fact that there are 600 goes back to the fact that the Marines are very good at what they do," he said.

Riverbend of Baghdad Burning seems to take for granted that the hospital director's version of reality is the correct one: One Year Later - April 9, 2004. Meanwhile, two members of the US-picked Iraqi Governing Council have resigned in protest over the civilian death toll: Turki resigns from Iraqi Governing Council. What the US has been doing in Fallujah amounts to "collective punishment," they say.

Asked why it is that Iraqis believe US forces have committed a massacre of innocent civilians, Brig. General Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director of US military operations in Iraq, blames misleading news coverage from Arabic-language TV networks like al Jazeera, calling said coverage "a series of lies":

[A]sked by [an] al-Jazeera anchor about the live images [of US fighter planes attacking a residential neighborhood in Fallujah during an announced US cease-fire], the U.S. commander said he was not accusing al-Jazeera of faking the images, but rather "looked at things differently."

Sigh. The ideologically slanted media giveth, the ideologically slanted media taketh away. And it was just a few weeks ago that Dick Cheney was doing damage control on Rush Limbaugh's show, taking advantage of Rush's pro-Republican bias to promote the fiction that Richard Clarke was a disgruntled low-level staffer who, frankly, was "out of the loop" on the actions Bush took on terrorism prior to 9/11.

But anyway, there's a reality on the ground (or, for some sad number of former civilian residents, under the ground) in Fallujah. What is that reality?

For myself, I think it's likely to be much closer to the hospital director's version than to the Marine colonel's. Dead civilians are the predictable by-product of waging war with tanks and fighter planes in densely populated cities. This is the fundamental nature of war, the thing that separates it from that more-civilized, and lately much-maligned, alternative of law enforcement.

If what you're doing is law enforcement, and some bad guys are shooting at you from an apartment building, you seal off the area, evacuate nearby residents, and yack at the bad guys with a bullhorn for several hours. If what you're doing is war, you drop a 500-pound bomb on the building and move on.

What we've been doing in Falluja is war. And as Colonel Byrne observes, the US Marine Corps is very good at it.

Posted by jbc at 06:30 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 01, 2004

Thirteen Months In

I've updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs with the numbers of US dead in Iraq during the month of March; see below. March's numbers were up, sadly, as the people who were concentrating on killing Iraqis during February turned their sights (well, their improvised roadside bombs) back on us.

Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first thirteen months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Yes, I'm completely aware that we had fewer troops in-theater in the early stages of the Vietnam war than at comparable points in the Iraq war. If I were trying to make a comparison of the relative lethality of the two conflicts, normalized for troop levels, I'd be starting the Vietnam graph later, in 1965.

But I'm not looking at that. I'm looking at these wars from a political perspective, looking at how politicans deal with bodybags coming home. And since December of '61 is the date of the US death that Lyndon Johnson subsequently identified as having been the first to occur in the cause of Vietnamese freedom, that's when I chose to start the Vietnam graph.

Posted by jbc at 01:23 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2004

Riverbend on Iraq, One Year Later

An important perspective -- and in a certain respect the only important perspective, given that liberation of the Iraqi people appears to be the sole survivor of the many justifications Bush has offered for the pre-emptive Iraq war -- on what has been accomplished in Iraq over the last year: The war on terror...

But we've learned a lot. We've learned that terrorism isn't actually the act of creating terror. It isn't the act of killing innocent people and frightening others… no, you see, that's called a 'liberation'. It doesn't matter what you burn or who you kill- if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you're not a terrorist- you're a liberator.

Posted by jbc at 11:20 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Milbank and Wright's Iraq Post-Mortem

So, it's one year later, and Bush gave a speech about Iraq today (well, yesterday, now). I assume he wanted to talk about how great things are going, but it ended up being a speech more about the importance of not letting the terraists win, a goal we can achieve, apparently, by not questioning his ongoing foreign policy failures.

In the meantime, Dana Milbank and Robin Wright have an excellent article in the Washington Post: Off the mark on cost of war, reception by Iraqis. It reminds us what Bush & Co. were saying about the upcoming war this time last year, and details the many ways in which their predictions have failed to come true.

I note that the story appeared on page "A01", according to the slugline. It's nice to see this kind of thing on the front page, rather than buried on A20.

Posted by jbc at 03:22 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 19, 2004

Michael Caine: Soldier

From The New Yorker, check out Dan Baum's up-close look at what it means to be a young amputee back from Iraq: The casualty.

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March 18, 2004

Gwynne Dyer Continues to Make Sense

More very worthwhile discussion about the larger context of this whole "War on Terra" thing from historian Gwynne Dyer. First, from a few weeks back: It was an unlucky day when the neocons met the Islamists. Second, from a week or so ago: The UN is not a morality play.

Posted by jbc at 06:20 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 10, 2004

February Death Toll Down for Us, Up for Them

I've updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs with the numbers of US dead in Iraq during the month of February, and the news is good, at least for our loved ones currently stuck over there: only 20 US war dead last month. That's the best month since the start of the war. On the not-so-great side, at least for those who still believe Bush's assertions that the outcome of all this will be a democratic and stable Iraq, the downturn in US fatalities doesn't seem to have been so much the result of the people blowing us up having been defeated, as their having switched to blowing up other Iraqis.

If you're interested in the total deaths for US troops so far, it comes to 544. One way of looking at that is to realize that at its peak, the Vietnam war was killing nearly five times as many US soldiers each month as in the entire first year of the Iraq war. From a less-optimistic point of view, Bush's elective war so far has managed to kill off as many of our youth as the first three and a half years of Vietnam.

Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first year of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Obligatory note: I am not claiming any military significance in this particular comparison. I'm just talking about the wars' respective political histories. See lengthy discussion in my previous postings here, here, and here, for example. Or don't bother, and just spout off in the comments about what an idiot I am; you'll have plenty of company.

Posted by jbc at 01:12 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2004

Marshall: Getting al-Zarqawi (Or Not)

Interesting talk from Joshua Micah Marshall about how the Bush White House apparently was pressured on three different occasions to go after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the year before the invasion of Iraq, but each time shot the idea down because eliminating an al Qaeda operation from Iraq (though admittedly, the part of Iraq that Saddam Hussein didn't control, thanks to our efforts) would have made it harder to push the bogus claim that Hussein and bin Laden were in bed together: What to make of this...

Yet another opportunity for Bush supporters to display their patriotic double-standard, giving Bush a pass for behavior that, if engaged in by a Democrat, would be eliciting words like "outrage," "treason," and "impeachment."

Posted by jbc at 07:27 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 21, 2004

How the New York Times Helped Sell the War

From Michael Massing, here's a long but really excellent article on how the New York Times (among other media outlets) helped the Bush administration make its case for war by hyping bogus WMD intelligence and downplaying the concerns of those who thought the administration was giving a one-sided version of reality: Now they tell us.

Particularly interesting to me is the way Massing points out that in the run-up to war, most major daily newspapers in Washington and New York were running front page stories that were largely supportive of the administration's position. Stories that were critical tended to be consigned to page 10 or 15. That's an aspect of the coverage that I didn't really notice at the time, since I was reading most of the stories online, following links from third parties or Google search results or what have you.

Posted by jbc at 12:30 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 04, 2004

Post-Saddam Death Toll Up Slightly

I've updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs with the numbers of US dead in Iraq during the month of January.

Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first twelve months of the Vietnam war, and the first eleven months of the Iraq war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Obligatory note: I am not claiming any military significance in this particular comparison. I'm just talking about the wars' respective political histories. See lengthy discussion in my previous postings here, here, and here.

The latest figures reinforce the view that we'll continue suffering 1-2 dead soldiers per day (and some larger number of severely wounded soldiers per day) pretty much forever, or until we decide to declare peacewithhonor and leave.

Posted by jbc at 11:14 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

January 29, 2004

United States of Islam

Between this and the Hitler-baby image, I'm running the risk of becoming the lies yellow journalist of late, but I'm a sucker for a good picture:

At last, conclusive evidence Saddam not only funded terrorism against the US, but planned to invade! Click the image for more shocking revelations!!

Posted by ymatt at 09:27 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 26, 2004

McNamara on the Iraq-Vietnam Parallel

Here's an interesting article based on an interview with former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara: 'It's just wrong what we're doing'. McNamara is haunted, apparently, by the many ways in which the Bush administration's Iraq policies betray a profound lack of appreciation of the lessons of Vietnam.

Thanks to Jerome Doolittle of Bad Attitudes for the link.

Posted by jbc at 07:50 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

CIA Worries About Civil War in Iraq

So, with Bush determined to bolster his domestic political position by handing over power in Iraq to some sort of authority (any sort of authority, apparently) by the end of June, we seem to be heading toward a very nasty time for Iraqis. For example, the CIA now joins Steve Gilliard in worrying about the prospect of open conflict between Iraq's Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish populations: CIA warns of Iraq civil war.

(Steve Gilliard, by the way, has landed in the hospital with a heart-valve infection, and will apparently be having surgery soon. Having been through a similar experience with my daughter a few years back, I sympathize, and wish him the best in the operation, and a speedy recovery. More details as they emerge at his weblog.)

Posted by jbc at 07:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 25, 2004

Drum on Bush's Politicization of the War on Terror

Here's one of the better things I've read from Kevin Drum (of Calpundit) lately: Terrorism and elections. He ties together some things really well, pointing out how Bush has undercut the war on terror by reducing it to a political wedge issue. An excerpt:

After 9/11 George Bush had a chance to build a bipartisan consensus about terrorism and how to respond to it. But he didn't just fail to do that, he deliberately tried to prevent it, and by transparently treating terrorism as little more than a chance to boost the prospects of his own party he has convinced everyone who's not a Republican that it's not really a serious threat. After all, if he quite obviously treats it as simply a political opportunity, it's hardly reasonable to expect anyone else to take it seriously either.

Update: And now Drum writes more on the same topic: Bush at war. Great stuff.

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January 24, 2004

Kay: There Are, and Were, No WMD

So, David Kay is off the hunt. That is, he's stepping down as head of the Iraqi WMD search, and has told Reuters in an interview that he doesn't believe there are any WMD in Iraq, that there weren't any at the time of the US invasion, and that it wasn't that the WMD had been destroyed in the run-up to the war, but rather that they never existed in the first place.

Posted by jbc at 02:13 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 14, 2004

Star-Tribune Editorial on the Iraq War

Here's a great editorial from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: The wrong war/Why Iraq was a mistake. Really gets to the heart of the matter.

Bigtime thanks to Mark Richter for the link.

Posted by jbc at 07:06 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2004

41 US Iraq War Dead in December

December's US bodycount wasn't as bad as November's, merely as bad as the previous awful months. I've updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs accordingly.

Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first twelve months of the Vietnam war, and the first ten months of the Iraq war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Obligatory note: I am not claiming any military significance in this particular comparison. I'm just talking about the wars' respective political histories. See lengthy discussion in my previous postings here, here, and here.

And for a somewhat more personal look at the human cost of Bush's failed Iraq policies, check out this page from Faces of valor.

Posted by jbc at 08:26 AM | view/comment (8) | TrackBack (0)

December 16, 2003

Philosoraptor: Reactions to Saddam's Capture

A long, but extremely interesting piece of soul-searching from Winston Smith of Philosoraptor: Politically incorrect degrees of happiness. He's talking about the right wingers' demand that lefties rejoice in the capture of Saddam (a rejoicing that, in the righties' case, smells of hypocrisy, given the way their Presidents Reagan and Bush the First armed and financed Saddam in the 1980s, when many of the worst crimes "against his own people" now being recalled actually took place).

But Smith doesn't really focus on that issue. Instead, he looks inside himself, asking why he feels empty and hollow about an event he looked forward to for so long. From his conclusion:

Actions are morally good or bad on the basis of intentions--on the basis of the goals for which they are undertaken--and we undertook this war not in order to bring justice to Iraq, but in order to eliminate a threat our leaders invented almost out of whole cloth. We had a morally good goal and a goal that motivated us, but sadly these were two different goals. The not-especially-noble goal of self-defense actually moved us to act, something that the morally laudable goal of deposing the tyrant never would have done by itself. The morally laudable goal was invoked only after the fact, after it became painfully obvious that our action taken in self-defense was based on irresponsibly shoddy evaluation of the evidence. Shamed, and left without a plausible reason for doing what we had done, we were all too willing to be manipulated again, especially when this time we were being manipulated into accepting an account of things that made us, not pusillanimous lackwits sheepishly obeying orders to fire indiscriminately, but brave and noble defenders of the downtrodden.

The thing I like most about this, as with all the stuff on his site, is the way Winston Smith doesn't talk down to his reader. He's talking to himself, and that means that even if others can take refuge in ignorance or partisanship in order to make merry over Saddam's capture, he doesn't get to. He's too honest with himself for that.

That sort of honesty is supremely important. I may disagree with some of the things he posts on his site, but I give him credit for being honest. He's holding himself to a higher standard. He can still be mistaken, can still be wrong, but at least he won't be wilfully wrong.

It's a lot like what I was writing about Howard Dean the other day. Philosophers and doctors have to be honest in order to succeed in their chosen professions. Unlike, say, presidents and CEOs.

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December 14, 2003

Saddam Captured; Iraq War Still Stupid

Saddam has been captured, huzzah! Meanwhile, the war was still a profoundly stupid idea, sold to the public via a systematic campaign of lies.

Winston Smith at Philosoraptor sums up my feelings exactly with this item: A humble prediction.

The right acts as if it has accepted the following inference: Saddam is terrifically evil; Bush opposes Saddam; so Bush must be good. The left acts as if it has accepted this one: Bush is a very bad man; Bush opposes Saddam; so Saddam must not be that bad.

But both inferences are defective. Note also that, though both inferences have true premisses, both have false conclusions.

Saddam is evil and Bush is merely awful, but Bush's awfulness hits closer to home for Americans. If we ignore either Bush's awfulness or Saddam's black, bottomless, inhuman evil, we're ignoring something important about the world.

Finally, ymatt lends his Photoshop skills to answering the question on everyone's mind: What was Saddam thinking with that beard? One possible answer: He was working on his costume for the local Return of the King line party.

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December 11, 2003

Bush, Kerry, Thompson, GYWO, Iraq, and the F-word

You probably saw, or heard about, the interview with Rolling Stone where John Kerry said, "When I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, 'I'm against everything?' Sure. Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did."

For what it's worth, I actually thought Bush was going to fuck things up pretty badly in Iraq, and I bet I could find at least a few dozen others who were on the record with similarly dire predictions. But the cool thing about the statement is the way it (aptly) assumes that everyone knows that Bush has, in fact, fucked things up.

The followup, in which Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, complained about Kerry's use of such foul language, was pretty interesting. Especially given that Bush, a year or so before the onset of war, interrupted a national security briefing with Condoleeza Rice and a group of senators to say, "Fuck Saddam. We're talking him out."

Anyway, some additional discussion of Bush's use of the F-word is provided by Capitol Hill Blue's Doug Thompson: What's in a word? A lot it seems. "So why are Republicans so upset that John Kerry invoked such a classic Anglo Saxon term in reference to Bush? Their only option is anger at the language because they can't really argue that Kerry's assessment is wrong."

Wrapping things up with a feel-good foul-language fest are the good people at Get Your War On: Page twenty-eight.

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December 06, 2003

Traveling Soldier: Bring 'em Home

From Traveling Soldier Online: How can we leave Iraq?

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December 02, 2003

November: The Cruelest Month

More US troops died in Iraq in November than during any previous month of the war, including "major combat operations" last spring. With US military leaders reviving the inflated enemy bodycount as a way of putting a positive spin on things, it seemed like a good time to update my charts comparing US deaths in Iraq and Vietnam (see my earlier postings here and here). Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first twelve months of the Vietnam war, and the first nine months of the Iraq war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

These charts really seem to annoy supporters of the war who think I'm trying to make an argument that Iraq is "worse" than Vietnam because the brown line on the charts is higher than the corresponding portion of the green line. Even among the not-so-annoyed, it's a common observation that these numbers haven't been normalized for the number of troops in-theater, so any comparison that tries to derive a sense of the relative lethality of the two wars from these charts willl be way off-base. More than one observer has suggested that a more valid starting point for the Vietnam numbers would be somewhere around March of 1965 (year 3.3 or so on the last two graphs above), since that's approximately when the number of US troops on the ground in Vietnam matched the number currently in Iraq, and when US forces in Vietnam really began engaging in direct combat operations, rather than the training/advisory role they were playing prior to that.

Others have questioned my focus on US military deaths. What about the other side's death toll? What about all the young men and women whose lives have been shattered by horrific injuries? And what about the many thousands of non-combatant Iraqis who have been killed in the fighting?

All these folks have valid points. It really would be stupid for me to try to argue from these numbers that Iraq is somehow "worse" than Vietnam, that one conflict is more or less dangerous than the other for a typical soldier, or that December of 1961 is an appropriate point to begin counting Vietnam war deaths in order to derive some kind of lesson about military strategy or tactics. It would likewise be wrong for me to argue that US military fatalities are the only, or the most significant, cost of this war.

But I'm not arguing any of those things.

Again, as I've said from the beginning, I'm looking at something fairly specific here. I'm looking at the history of each of these conflicts not in terms of the military situation, but in terms of domestic US politics. I'm interested in US attitudes about the war, and politicians' statements about the war, at similar points in each conflict's political timeline. Given that, I think it's valid to start the Vietnam numbers at the point when President Johnson first started talking about US soldiers dying in the cause of Vietnamese freedom. And since the count of US dead is one of the most direct, unambiguous pieces of data about the cost of these wars, at least in the eyes of the domestic audience, I think a comparison of the US military death toll at similar points in each war's history makes for an interesting, if depressing, graph.

Those who want to use the numbers to make other sorts of arguments are welcome to do so. (You can download a CSV version of my data to help you, if you wish.) I haven't been able to find month-by-month statistics for troop levels in Vietnam, but the year-end numbers I have found seem to generally support the view that both conflicts are pretty close to each other in terms of lethality per 1,000 troops.

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November 30, 2003

Packer: How We Got Here

Given enough time and motivation, smart people will eventuallly figure things out. I think that's what's happening now in terms of identifying what went wrong in the time before, during, and immediately after the "major combat operations" phase in Iraq, such that we're in the mess we're in now.

See, for example, George Packer's lengthy but excellent article in the latest New Yorker: War after the war. What Packer presents is the detailed back-story that confirms what seemed like a pretty likely explanation all along: that the neocons who sold the war to Cheney & Co. (or, if you prefer, to Bush & Co.) let their ideological zeal blind them to the advice of people who had a much clearer idea of the likely nature of the post-war challenge.

Ignoring the advice of experts because you have a compelling vision of the future that their hidebound expertise prevents them from seeing can sometimes be a good thing. But there has to be a balance. Taken too far, you get what we have now in Iraq: a slow-motion clusterfuck brought on by ignorance, arrogance, and hubris.

Which is nothing new. It's human nature, after all, for the ambitious to oversell their abilities, for their reach to exceed their grasp, and, when things subsequently go bad, for them to refuse to acknowledge their responsibility for the result.

Feith, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush: they gave it their best shot. But their best shot wasn't particularly good. In fact, it was pretty much awful. As time goes by that fact becomes harder and harder for them to obscure.

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November 18, 2003

Bombing Tikrit

Riverbend of Baghdad Burning has some more on-the-ground commentary from an average Iraqi-in-the-street: Difficult days. I must admit, our latest bombing campaign (along with the drive-by shootings and other "shows of force" the US troops have been engaging in lately) reminds me of nothing so much as Xerxes flogging the waves of the Hellespont. I thought it was the other side that was supposed to look desperate.

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November 13, 2003

Bad to Worse in Iraq

So, a very interesting thing seems to be happening: the White House, while stopping short of admitting that the reconstruction of Iraq is in trouble, is tacitly admitting it by their actions. (And as they've demonstrated many times over, we can't trust their words, but have to follow what they're actually doing to get a sense of what they're thinking.) Josh Marshall has some good commentary on this: I've found it difficult. And Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a great opinion piece (as always): Blame leaders as support for war wanes.

Meanwhile, from inside Iraq, Riverbend of Baghdad Burning paints a really informative picture of how Iraqis view those we'd like to install as their leaders: Iraqi governing council...

Finally, this article by Paul Starobin from the National Journal is one of the best things I've read on Iraq in a long time. Very highly recommended: The French were right. An excerpt:

An understanding of how the French got to the place they got to and stubbornly clung to, even as relations with Washington badly deteriorated, requires a probe of the substance and roots of the French position.

That may not sound like much fun. Even though they deny it, the French are already gloating that their much-maligned prewar forecast has proved to be on target. But here's the good news -- and it really is very good news. One big reason the French were right is that they were thinking along the lines that Americans are generally apt to think -- that is, in a cautious, pragmatic way, informed by their own particular trial-and-error experience, in this case as an occupier forced out of Algeria and as a front-line battler, long before 9/11, against global Islamic terrorist groups.

The Bush administration, by contrast, approached Iraq the way the French are often thought to approach large world problems -- with a grandiose sweep of the theoretical hand, a tack exemplified by the big-ideas neoconservative crowd, whose own thinking, ironically, draws on European political philosophy. So as the administration rethinks Iraq, the way back to a sound position may lie at home, in the great but neglected tradition of American Pragmatism. And then everyone can forget about the French.

The thing I like best about the Starobin article is that it's not just Chicken Little-inspired "the sky is falling" stuff. It's eminently practical. It's just saying, look, this is what's happening. The sooner we face up to it the sooner we can start fixing the mess we've created.

Good advice.

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November 08, 2003

How the War Is Going

So, those pesky facts keep getting in the way, requiring periodic reformulations of the analysis that shows we are "winning" in Iraq. The latest developments include a dramatic uptick in the US bodycount in connection with attacks on helicopters, and indiscriminate shooting up and bombing of civilian neighborhoods by US troops in retaliation. See this item, for example: US retaliates after Blackhawk crash.

In commenting on the story, Kynn at Shock & Awe points out that we are marching firmly in the footsteps of Israel: Welcome to the occupation, part three. Meanwhile, William S. Lind at CounterPunch has his own interesting take on what it all means: Indicators.

At the same time, I've noticed a definite surge in feisty comments from war supporters, both in the comments here and across the wider blogosphere. I wonder; do you think the sudden outpouring of bile is a sign of their desperation? Proof that us anti-war folks are making progress against the dead-enders of the Bush regime? Time will tell, I guess.

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November 05, 2003

Calpundit on Why We're in Iraq

Kevin Drum of CalPundit takes a thoughtful look at an important question: Why are we in Iraq? He points out that for all the macho sound bites we've been getting lately from Bush about "staying the course," we've managed to drift into pretty murky territory as to just what "course" we're actually supposed to be on.

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November 02, 2003

Rieff: The Failure to Plan for Post-War Iraq

David Rieff has a lengthy but really good article in the New York Times Magazine on the screwed-up planning for post-war Iraq: Blueprint for a mess. Rieff makes a compelling case that the failure we're seeing now is at least in part the predictable result of poor planning by the Pentagon's senior civilian leadership.

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November 01, 2003

Iraq War Deaths

I've updated my earlier posting comparing the number of US deaths in Iraq and Vietnam at equivalent points in the history of the two wars. My previous charts used a projected figure for October that turned out to be overly optimistic; instead of 32 US military deaths in Iraq last month there actually ended up being 42.

Here are the charts again, updated with the actual number for October. (Again, I'm getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.)

The first graph shows the first twelve months of the Vietnam war, and the first eight months of the Iraq war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

There were some interesting comments on the original item. Some people would like to see the comparison expanded to include all casualties, not just deaths. The argument is that this would give a better comparison to Iraq, where the human cost is masked somewhat by the fact that we've gotten better at keeping wounded soldiers from dying. Another person was interested in seeing a comparison of deaths normalized for the number of US troops present in-theater at any given time. I think that would be pretty interesting; if you know where I can find statistics on the number of troops deployed in Iraq and Vietnam by month, please let me know.

Another person basically accused me of celebrating soldiers' deaths because of my hatred of the Bush administration. There's an element of truth in that accusation. I disagree strongly with this war; I think it is a mistake both in a broad moral sense and in a more narrow, practical sense. I see it as a crime against humanity, justified by lies and pursued by people who lack the moral clarity to recognize the wrong they are committing. Besides being wrong in those terms, though, I believe this war is just plain stupid in a practical sense, in that it will hurt, rather than help, the longterm security interests of Americans (along with pretty much everyone else on the planet), while exacting a terrible price in terms of money and lives.

It's true that I want to see Bush punished politically for his decision to launch this war, and evidence of the ongoing death toll is an important part of making that case. But it isn't just personal animosity toward Bush that's motivating me. I'm not just looking for retribution. I'm looking for deterrence. It's wrong for politicians to lie their way into wars like this, and then lie about the consequences of their having done so. I'm pissed at Bush about that, but more importantly, I want to stop him, and stop other politicians who would do the same thing in the future. I want to demonstrate to them that, as a practical matter, lying your way into an ill-conceived war is a losing proposition, politics-wise.

Yes, the Iraq war is not yet giving us the kind of horrific death toll we saw at the peak of the Vietnam war. But that isn't the point. The point is that if a war is wrong, then even one death is a horrible injustice. Forty deaths a month is much worse.

The main tragedy of the Vietnam war, in my mind at least, wasn't the number of people who died. It was the number of people who died needlessly. It was the fact that having pledged their lives to protect their country from harm, soliders had those lives wasted in pursuit of a very different, and much less noble, goal: protecting politicians from the embarrassment of admitting that their policies had failed.

I believe that's exactly what's happening now. And I want it to end sooner, rather than later.

Posted by jbc at 11:17 AM | view/comment (57) | TrackBack (1)

October 29, 2003

Winning Badly in Iraq?

Josh Micah Marshall reports an interesting phenomenon: Hobnobbing with foreign-policy-astute folks at the American Progress conference yesterday, he was struck by the similarity in the fears being voiced by Democrats and neocons alike: that the Bush administration, in a bid to protect itself politically from the failure of its policies, might leave Iraq prematurely, leaving a worse situation behind (in terms of US interests) than what originally existed there.

In the previous item at Talking Points Memo, Marshall had linked to the following opinion piece from Monday's Washington Post: Winning Badly. In it, columnist Richard Hart Sinnreich talks about the idea that in war, winning badly can be even worse than losing. Sinnreich speculates that by taking Iraqi submission for granted and pursuing a plan aimed at minimizing pain on both sides, the US may actually have gotten itself into "badly won" territory, in which the enemy remains unconvinced of his own defeat and as a result the war drags on and on.

I'll grant that it's not a foregone conclusion that Bush will be driven from office over his actions in Iraq. But despite betting lines that still show him a favorite for (re-)election, I think he's going nowhere but down over the next year. The country will, in effect, have a referendum on the war, and the decision of the people will be that it was a mistake.

But President Dean will still have to deal with the mess. And it won't be pretty.

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Smith: The Revision Thing

Check out this great, if troubling, piece from Harper's magazine: Sam Smith's The revision thing. It's a history of the Iraq war told entirely through reassembled Bush administration lies.

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October 25, 2003

C-130 Gunship Video

Continuing the theme of downloadable video that provokes widely varying reactions, you might want to check out some of the war videos from In particular, this footage from a C-130 gunship killing a bunch of people in Afghanistan. (Note: The server seems to be confused about what type of file it is; I had to tell my browser to "Download link target," then load the file from within Windows Media Player.)

It makes for fascinating, if chilling, viewing. How you interpret it will probably depend on what sort of context you assume for it. Were the people (now ex-people) represented by those video-game images terrorists bent on killing innocent Americans? Or were they themselves the innocent victims? The video really doesn't say.

But however we interpret it, I think we have an obligation to be honest about what it shows. Take those images and multiply them a thousand-fold. That's the reality of what we're exporting to the middle east these days.

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October 20, 2003

US Deaths in Vietnam and Iraq by Month

(Note: For more on these numbers, see my later end-of-the-month posts for October, November, December, January, February, March, and April. All the postings share the same graphs, which I update in place when new numbers come out each month; only the accompanying commentary is different.)

I was watching John McCain and Bob Graham yacking at each other on Meet the Press yesterday, and good lord, this is sounding more like Vietnam all the time. It won't be long before we'll have politicians talking about "peace with honor" and secret plans to end the war.

And that reminded me of something I'd been meaning to do for a while. Whenever I bring up a Vietnam/Iraq comparison, fans of the current war point out that casualty rates in Vietnam were way beyond anything we've seen so far in Iraq. Which is true, if you're talking about the Vietnam war at its peak. But there was a long run-up during which Vietnam simmered along at much lower casualty rates. I keep meaning to put together some charts to compare the two wars in terms of the US death toll, and now I've done that.

For my Vietnam statistics I used the excellent Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, where there is an advanced search tool that lets you query the database of war dead by month. For the Iraq statistics I used Lunaville's page on Iraq coalition casualties.

In each case, I counted all US deaths in the war zone, rather than only counting combat fatalities. In the case of the current month (October 2003), I took the fairly morbid step of estimating that the current monthly total of 24 deaths would rise to 32 deaths over the next 10 days. (Here's hoping that estimate turns out to be high. I'll revise the charts at the end of the month to reflect the true total.) (Update: Sadly, I was low. The actual number of US deaths in October was 42. I've updated the charts accordingly, and have posted some new observations in this item: Iraq war deaths.)

For the first chart, I plotted deaths for the first 12 months of the Vietnam war, and the 8 months to-date of the Iraq war. I picked December of 1961 as the "starting point" for the Vietnam war mainly because that was the month in which SP4 James Davis of Livingston, Tennessee, was killed by the Viet Cong, with Lyndon Johnson later referring to him as "the first American to fall in defense of our freedom in Vietnam." (See this interesting timeline of the Vietnam war.) Note, though, that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial currently lists Capt. Harry Griffith Cramer, who died in October of 1957, as the earliest Vietnam war death.

Since my main interest in putting this graph together was to think about (and stimulate thinking about) politicians' and citizens' perceptions of war-related death tolls, I figured that Johnson's willingness to identify a particular death as the "first of the war" was as good a starting point as any.

Anyway, here's the graph (note that you can click on any of these images for a larger version):

It's interesting to me how the Iraq war, so far at least, shows dramatically more US deaths per month than the Vietnam war did at a comparable point in its political lifetime. Yes, I realize that there were far fewer troops in Vietnam at this stage of the war than we currently have in Iraq. I grant that the two wars have followed very differerent scenarios so far. What I'm really interested in here is the domestic political picture, and its relationship to the ongoing death toll.

Let's get a little more perspective. Here's the same chart, but with the numbers for Vietnam extended out to December of 1965, by which time, armed with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (passed in August, 1964), Johnson had dramatically increased the number of US troops on the ground:

Finally, here's a version of the chart that shows the entire extent of the Vietnam war, ending with the fall of Saigon and the evacuation of the US Embassy in April of 1975:

You can spin the data depicted in these charts however you like. For myself, I view them with concern. When politicians are allowed to launch wars for ill-defined reasons, with vague exit strategies and ever-shifting criteria for success, you have a formula for tragedy. That's what happened back in the 1960s, and I can't see any reason to believe it isn't happening again today.

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October 19, 2003

Drum: How Are We Doing in Iraq?

Kevin Drum of Calpundit takes a look at the current Iraq situation, trying to divine the truth from the various competing storylines: How are we doing in Iraq? His conclusion? Things aren't going very well. Hard to dispute his logic.

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October 09, 2003

How Much Is $87 Billion, Anyway?

Here's a nice retread of an old idea: depicting large numbers in a way that lets people actually grasp their significance. In this case, the $87 billion that Bush wants to fund Iraq reconstruction for the next year: $87,000,000,000.00.

Posted by jbc at 06:55 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 05, 2003

This Headline Is a Lie

Among other fun verbal paradoxes Devo delivered over the years, the song "Enough Said" from New Traditionalists contained this gem: "The next thing I say to you will be true / The last thing I said was false." That song popped into my head when I wrote the headline for this item, although in thinking about it, I don't think it actually has much to do with what I'm about to say.

No, what I really wanted to mention was David Kay's preliminary report to Congress, and the way his remarks are being spun this way and that, and the way an abbreviated version of some piece of information (a headline, say), represents a golden opportunity to misrepresent that something.

Hm. Let me give a more concrete example of what I mean. Back in April, as our boys were swooping down on previously inaccessible document troves in Baghdad, the good little minions at the Daily Telegraph ran the following story: Bush always suspected Saddam was behind 9/11. Which would have been quite a story, don't you think? Except that wasn't really what the article was about. No, it was about a bunch of documentation allegedly showing high-level cooperation between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda, with said documentation having been allegedly discovered by Telegraph reporters rummaging through the wreckage of the Iraqi intelligence service's headquarters. That, too, would have been pretty newsworthy if it had held up to scrutiny, but apparently it didn't. At least, it seems to have subsequently disappeared from public discussion.

But back to the headline. At one point, the piece made the following, unsourced assertion:

In the days immediately following the attacks, President George W Bush confided to colleagues that he believed that Saddam was directly involved in the attacks. "He probably was behind this in the end," he said.

The article pretty much says nothing else about that. But that's the part they chose to put in the headline. Cool, huh?

Fast-forward to the recent delivery of US weapons inspector David Kay's preliminary report to Congress. You can read the whole thing, thanks to the helpful webmasters at the CIA, who have run the transcript of Kay's statement under what I assume was its original title: STATEMENT BY DAVID KAY ON THE INTERIM PROGRESS REPORT ON THE ACTIVITIES OF THE IRAQ SURVEY GROUP (ISG) BEFORE THE HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS, SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEFENSE, AND THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE.

Heh. In order to be effective at drawing in readers, a headline probably should distill things down a bit more than that. Unless your aim is to discourage people from reading your statement, since the statement itself consists of a rambling, hyper-detailed account that seeks to obscure, rather than highlight, its central point. I think maybe David Kay has been visiting Kuro5hin, where the following piece is currently prominent: HOWTO: write bad documentation that looks good.

But even thus obscured, David Kay's statement still reveals that actually, he hasn't found any of those WMD that Hussein was supposed to possess at the time of the invasion. For those who don't want to read the whole thing, Beltway Bandit offers a nice summary that ties in the report's key passages with pre-invasion statements by the administration: Comparing Bush regime rhetoric on Iraq to reality.

Nonetheless, righties are spinning as hard as they can to avoid answering the question of whether the Bush people were criminally dishonest (because they sold the public on a pre-emptive war using intentionally doctored WMD evidence) or criminally inept (because their own ideological reality filters caused them to misinterpret that evidence). Like Andrew Sullivan, who writes (in Read the report):

The administration claimed that Saddam had used WMDs in the past, had hidden materials from the United Nations, was hiding a continued program for weapons of mass destruction, and that we should act before the threat was imminent. The argument was that it was impossible to restrain Saddam Hussein unless he were removed from power and disarmed. The war was legally based on the premise that Saddam had clearly violated U.N. resolutions, was in open breach of such resolutions and was continuing to conceal his programs with the intent of restarting them in earnest once sanctions were lifted.

Oh, that's what the president was saying a year ago at this time. Silly me. I must not have been paying attention. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Mr. Sullivan.

Rev. Donald Sensing comments on the Sullivan story, helpfully putting the gist of the argument in his headline: Kay report upholds administration position. Hmm. I suppose that would depend on what your definitions of "upholds," "administration," and "position" are. See also Sensing's subsequent entry, in which he outlines his theory that it was all the CIA's fault: The administration, Iraqi WMDS, and the cause of war.

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October 03, 2003

Geroge Paine on Kay's WMD Report

So, here we are, three months later, and the fearsome David Kay report, the definitive report on Iraqi WMD that was going to force all us peaceniks to eat crow, the one with all the "surprises" Kay was hinting about back in the day, has been delivered to congress. And... he's got bupkis. Which may well be surprising for those who believed Bush's case for war, but isn't much of a shock for those of us who realized early on that it was basically horseshit.

Anyway, George Paine of Warblogging sums things up nicely: 1,200 inspectors; 90 days; $300MM: no WMD

Posted by jbc at 01:50 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 01, 2003

A Tale of Two Graphs

Check out these two nifty graphs showing the same data (more or less) in two completely different ways, in order to make two diametrically opposed arguments. First, from Samizdata: We are winning, in which US and British fatalities in Iraq are plotted over time, with a breakdown into combat and non-combat deaths. Then, after you've chewed on that for a while, check out this chart from Professor Ed Stephan at Western Washington University: US fatalities in the conquest of Iraq (thanks to Warblogging for the link).

Cool, huh?

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September 26, 2003

Wars Real and Imagined

So, here we are in the middle of one of those big online debates. They never end; no one ever "wins," because both sides are right, and (rightly) aware of their rightness, and unwilling (or unable) to transcend the frame of reference that is the necessary underpinning of their rightness. A few (a very few) are willing to actually listen to the other side, raising the possibility of a synthesis that one day might lead beyond the current stalemate, but too much of the discussion is just angry, sarcastic, or dryly snarky denunciations, knocking down strawmen created by inverting all the known-to-be-right positions of one's own side and attributing them to the other.

Consider the following two essays which, in combination, have thoroughly depressed me the last few days. First up, from ex-Israeli military man, novelist, and far-right commentator Mark Helprin: War in the absense of strategic clarity. This is probably the most dressed-up version I've seen of the argument, presented repeatedly since 9/11, that we are, in fact, at war with the whole of the world's Arab population, or the whole of its Muslim population, or both. It is the argument that says the ties between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 are self-evident in the Arabic ethnicities and Islamic belief of the dead hijackers.

Of course, this glosses over the all-important step where the boundary between us and them was drawn. We could also observe, after all, that all the hijackers were dark-haired, or male, or human, or mammals, and blame that group for the attacks. But those boundaries would include too many whom we know, from personal experience, to be innocent. Drawing the boundary in such a way as to group only Arab (or Muslim) innocents within our retaliation's blast radius works better. We can indulge our sense of rage, and the darker fear that underlies it, with relative impunity, entertaining various brutal fantasies for how we will even the score with them. Like Ann Coulter's call to invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. Or Rich Lowry's musing that nuking Mecca (in response to a hypothetical terrorist dirty bomb detonated on US soil) would send a strong message, and would kill few people, though perhaps the more moderate strategy of nuking Baghdad and Tehran, and maybe Gaza City and Ramallah, and maybe Damascus, Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli and Riyadh, would be preferable. Or Helprin himself, who comments wistfully in his essay about the ability of the United States to "almost instantly turn every Arab capital into molten glass."

In response to Helprin's essay, Lee Harris of Tech Central Station offers the following: War and wishful thinking. Harris points out that the mere desire, even the very, very, strong desire, to go to war in response to the events of 9/11, does not, in and of itself, mean that a suitable target for such a war actually exists.

Harris makes a bunch of other observations about the nature of war, some of which I disagree with, but his conclusion is worth quoting:

Everything about the present crisis is new. Historical analogy drawn from the period prior to 9/11 more often misleads than illuminates. We are in a brave new world, and the sooner we recognize the unreliability of all our prior categories and metaphors to guide us, the sooner we will free ourselves from the wishful thinking that is perhaps an even greater threat to our survival than the terrorists themselves.

I think Harris has a point, but I think that ultimately, he's as bound up in his own frame of reference as Helprin is. And that, sadly, isn't anything new at all.

When nuclear weapons entered the world's military arsenals, humanity did a collective double take and said, "Whoa. We've got to re-think this whole war thing." We still do. And while my own views (obviously) fall much closer to Harris' side in this debate than Helprin's, I think the debate itself is not particularly helpful in coming up with a solution.

So what is the solution? I don't know. That's why it's depressing.

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September 25, 2003

Kay Report Expectations Lowered

I seem to remember, several months ago, getting some snarky commentary from supporters of the Iraq war about how David Kay's upcoming report was going to blow the lid off the whole WMD thing. Hoo boy, us liberals would have some egg on our faces then, you betcha.

Well, here comes the report: Iraq weapons report won't be conclusive. Surprisingly (or not), it seems to be following exactly the same pattern we've seen, oh, maybe 20 times before during the WMD hunt: BIG GIANT PRELIMINARY ANNOUNCEMENT and then, after a while, littletinyacknowledgement to the effect that, um, well, we haven't acutally found anything. But we'll keep looking!

Hey, super. You go right on doing that.

Update: An interesting editorial from the Washington Post, taking the administration to task for basically the same issue I'm complaining about above (or at least, for making the availability of expert analysis contingent on whether it helps or hurts the administration): Waiting for Mr. Kay.

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September 20, 2003

What to Think About the War?

I'm big on the idea that our subjective attitudes color our perceptions. We inhabit a world of myths and fantasies masquerading as facts, and no one is immune. The most hard-headed, rational, objective observer still builds a picture in his or her mind and goes looking for bits and pieces of reality that match up with it. It's not necessarily dishonest; it's just how our brains work.

Obviously, a lot of that is happening now with Iraq. As we head into the presidential campaign season, a lot of money and effort will be spent on convincing each of us that the reality in Iraq conforms to one of two conflicting storylines: Bush's and his Democratic challenger's. And a lot of that sales job will be dishonest, in the sense that the people doing the selling won't balk at knowingly misrepresenting things to try to make their case.

Those storylines are being fleshed out now. For those looking to replace Bush, the story is that Iraq is a mess, and it's Bush's fault. He lied to us to build support for the invasion, and while the lies worked (mostly) in convincing a still-reeling-from-9/11 domestic audience, they didn't do too well with the rest of the world. As a result, we're now bogged down in a Vietnam-style quagmire, with few allies, a faceless enemy that evaporates whenever we try to bring our superior firepower to bear, no exit strategy, and no credible plan for making things better. As time goes on the mess will get worse, our enemies will multiply and become better organized, until we have no choice but to leave the country, letting it fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, and having fanned the flames of anti-US passion to the point that we face worse terrorist threats than ever.

For Bush's supporters, it's basically the same picture, just with every assertion reversed. The pre-war justifications for invasion (at least as modified with the benefit of hindsight) were perfectly valid. The war is going great; we've got a broad coalition of the willing fighting beside us, and we're kicking the bad guys' asses. We know exactly what we're doing, and the plan is working flawlessly. We're enhancing our domestic security by fighting the terrorists on their turf, not ours, and over time we'll succeed in killing them off, substantially reducing the threat of terrorism.

And then we've got those pesky "facts". Obviously, each side chooses different ones, then claims that they conclusively show that its interpretation is the correct one. Some of the latest pesky facts are summarized well in this new article from Time magazine: Election season brings new questions for Bush on Iraq. There's also this article from the Washington Post on the recent battle in (near?) Tikrit: Attack on US troops shows strength of Hussein loyalists. And this one from the Boston Globe: US troops patrol Tikrit in tanks in show of force following killing of three soldiers.

I dunno; these events seem to fit the "things are getting worse" story better than the "things are getting better" one. Time will tell, of course.

In the meantime, I've been getting into some of this with Donald Sensing, who falls very much into the "things are going great" camp. While I disagree with many of his conclusions, I've come to believe that he's both relatively informed, and relatively honest in terms of not intentionally misrepresenting things. But I do think he's laboring under a pretty selective fact filter. Here's some of the latest examples of that: The Saddam-bin Laden connection (and my response here), and I try not to get personal here, but there are times... (and my response here).

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September 18, 2003

So, Getting Back to That Iraq-Vietnam Comparison

Those who are fully onboard with the Bush administration's grand plan for defeating evil think things are going really well in Iraq. Austin Bay, for example: A war we are winning. (Update: See also this AP story: U.S. moves in Iraq, Afghanistan commanding respect of foes even as old allies alienated by aggressive superpower.)

Obviously, I'm not so sure. To me, this thing feels more like Vietnam all the time. Yes, I realize we are way short of where Vietnam ended up. But this sure looks to me like the path that leads there. Consider this article from Knight-Ridder's Ron Hutcheson: Some see troubling parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

See also this opinion piece from former Senator Max Cleland: Mistakes of Vietnam repeated with Iraq.

(Cleland, by the way, is the triple-amputee Vietnam vet who lost a narrow re-election bid to Saxby Chambliss, after the latter ran ads questioning Cleland's patriotism and equating him with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein because Cleland had voted against Bush's version of the Homeland Security bill. More on how Cleland is feeling about that is available in this Washington Post article from a few months ago: Political veteran; there's also some interesting discussion in the comments on this piece at Hit & Run: The lighter side of Max Cleland.)

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September 17, 2003

Rumsfeld Denies Knowledge of Iraq-9/11 Link

Rumsfeld denies knowledge of Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and any direct involvement by Saddam Hussein in 9/11. Film at 11:00. Defense chief sees no link between Iraq and al-Qaida's Sept. 11 attacks

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September 15, 2003

Marshall Debunks Cheney on the Saddam-9/11 Link

Good lord; Dick Cheney's Sunday appearance on Meet the Press was really shameless. Josh Micah Marshall discusses it in detail: Apparently he can't help himself.

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September 11, 2003

Guardian: War on Terror Failing

From The Guardian's Brian Whitaker comes this troubling analysis: Another fine mess. According to Whitaker, who cites a new report from academic peacenik Paul Rogers, Bush's "War on Terror" is failing to have any particular impact on the identified enemy.

I'm not sure I go all the way with the spin on this one. The Guardian is pretty famously one-sided in its view of things; sort of a Fox News-lite of the left. But even shading the conclusions with that in mind, it's still a damning datapoint. By the particular measurements the report employed, at least, the Bush administration's anti-terror campaign really isn't achieving much good at all. And it's certainly achieving plenty of bad.

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Bookman on the Islam/West War

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman has another good op-end piece, this one on the unfortunate fact that Osama bin Laden is probably pleased as punch at the way the initial campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan morphed step by step into an assault on the heart of Islam proper, in Iraq: bin Laden's wish granted.

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September 06, 2003

Another Account of Baghdad Insecurity

Following up on that reality-distortion field being propagated either by Riverbend (who writes that current conditions in Baghdad are hellish in the extreme) or Ken Joseph (who writes that it's great in Baghdad; the stores are stocked, the power's mostly back on, and people are taking relaxed evening strolls with their families), here's a firsthand account from columnist Rich Miller: Postwar Iraq moves dangerously close to civil disaster. Sounds a lot more like Riverbend's Baghdad, in which women, especially, are living in near-constant fear, than Joseph's.

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Schell on Why We Must Lose the War in Iraq

I know it's going to really disturb the manly types, but I think Jonathon Schell is making an excellent point: The importance of losing the war. An excerpt:

Biden says we must win the war. This is precisely wrong. The United States must learn to lose this war – a harder task, in many ways, than winning, for it requires admitting mistakes and relinquishing attractive fantasies. This is the true moral mission of our time (well, of the next few years, anyway).

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September 05, 2003

Cpl. Brian Taylor's Iraq Photos

Check out thes photos of and by Marine Cpl. Brian Taylor during his recent tour of duty in Iraq: Iraq War - Fox Company, 2nd BN, 23rd Marines. Link courtesy of Sgt. Stryker.

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September 04, 2003

Joseph vs. Riverbend: What's It Really Like in Baghdad These Days?

Interesting story being linked to by a number of pro-war blogs: Commentary: Letter from Baghdad. Published in the right-wing Washington Times, it's an account by Reverend Ken Joseph, Jr., who according to his bio was initially against the war, but changed his mind after seeing pre-war conditions in Iraq.

What makes this interesting to me is that there is pretty much no way to recconcile his rosy account of current conditions in Baghdad with the much-more-grim portrayal being provided by others, including, for example, everyone's current-favorite Baghdad blogger, Riverbend.

Here's an excerpt from Joseph's piece:

Despite the recent bombings, Baghdad looks dramatically different. The stores are full of supplies. The streets are crowded with people and cars. The buses are working and police are on the streets, directing traffic.

At night the streets are full of pedestrians, many families with children. I am at a loss to reconcile what we see on the ground with what is being reported.

The "regular people" are much better off than they were. Security has improved with Iraqi police everywhere, telephones are starting to work, electricity, while off and on, is relatively stable, the stores are full of food, and, little by little, people are getting jobs back.

Pensions have been paid on time. The schools are working and people for the first time have hope and a future.

Now, here's an excerpt from a recent piece by Riverbend in her Baghdad Burning weblog (Road trip):

Being out in the streets is like being caught in a tornado. You have to be alert and ready for anything every moment. I sat in the backseat, squinting into the sun, trying to determine if a particular face was that of a looter, or abductor or just another angry countryman. I craned my neck looking at the blue SUV, trying to remember if it had been behind us for the last kilometer or longer. I held my breath nervously every time the cousin slowed down the car because of traffic, willing the cars in front of us to get a move on.

I caught site of two men fighting. A crowd was beginning to gather and a few people were caught in the middle, trying to separate them. My cousin clucked angrily and started mumbling about ignorant people and how all we needed, on top of occupation, was hostility. E. told us not to keep staring and anxiously felt for the pistol under his seat.

The ride that took 20 minutes pre-war Iraq, took 45 minutes today. There were major roads completely cut off by tanks. Angry troops stood cutting off access to the roads around the palaces (which were once Saddam's but are now America's palaces). The cousin and E. debated alternative routes at every checkpoint or roadblock. I stayed silent because I don't even know the city anymore. Now, areas are identified as "the one with the crater where the missile exploded", or "the street with the ravaged houses", or "the little house next to that one where that family was killed"...

By the time we got to my aunt's house, every muscle in my body was aching. My eyes were burning with the heat and the strain. E.'s brow was furrowed with the scenes we had left behind us on the street and the cousin's hands were shaking almost imperceptibly- knuckles still white with tension. My mother said a prayer of gratitude for our safe arrival and the cousin's wife, T., swore she wasn't going to leave my aunt's house for another three days and if we planned to go home today, we could do so without her because God needed to look out for other people today, not just us...

Even a notorious truth-is-what-we-make-it guy like me can't view these divergent accounts as the normal result of the differences between two observers' subjective realities. One of these people (at least) is intentionally lying in an effort to mislead us.

Which one is it? We report. You decide.

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September 02, 2003

Carroll: The War Is Lost

James Carroll, writing in the Boston Globe, has a terse analysis: The truth about Iraq.

It's interesting to me how we've basically moved on. The WMD discussion is essentially over: They aren't there, and weren't there. These days the focus is on the failure of the justification trotted out after that one: that we invaded Iraq in order to transform it from a brutal dictatorship that was a state-sponsor of terrorism into a pro-Israel democracy that would be a beacon of peace in a troubled region.

So, how's the peaceful beacon thing coming along? Uh huh. About the same as the last justification.

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September 01, 2003

L.T. Smash's Homecoming

Interesting firsthand account from weblogger L.T. Smash of his journey back from Kuwait (where he'd been for the last eight months): The long road home.

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August 31, 2003

1,000-Word Pictures

Jamal A. Wilson took this interesting series of photos, currently running at Electronic Iraq: Photo story: Bombing of Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.

In a somewhat-thematically-related vein, check out the latest wackiness from jwz: WebCollage.

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August 29, 2003

Baghdad Burning on the Economics of Reconstruction

Here's an interesting perspective from an Iraqi author who runs the numbers on the costs of rebuilding her country: The promise and the threat.

As with the bogosity of the data that was being offered six months ago to justify the war, the truth about what is going on here is transparently obvious to anyone with an Internet connection and an inquiring mind. This is a get-rich-quick scam, pure and simple, in which the Very Bad Men currently running this country take a whole lot of other people's money and give it to their friends.

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August 28, 2003

Bookman on the Busted-Flush War

Jay Bookman has a good opinion piece at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: US must now play the hand it dealt itself. It's a nice followup to the piece I posted back in March (Powell: War is the scourge of God) on the dangers of going to war for irrational reasons.

Waiter? This president isn't very good. Can you please bring us another one?

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August 19, 2003

Kos on the Costs of Iraq's Reconstruction

So, as our infrastructure crumbles at home, we're learning that the Iraqi reconstruction is going to cost us much more than the Bush administration orginally maintained, since the Iraqi oil revenue that was going to pay for it was... exaggerated. Heavens; what a surprise.

Anyway, from Daily Kos: Smells like... victory.

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August 11, 2003

WMD Update

So, it's mid-August. Do you know where your weapons of mass destruction are? Experts review, poke holes in case for war.

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August 06, 2003

Robert Purdy and George Paine, Take Three

Another interesting (to me, at least) exchange of letters between George Paine of and Robert Purdy, a US Army helicopter pilot recently returned from Iraq: More from the Third ID. is an antiwar site, so I guess it shouldn't be surprising that most of the people who comment there are going to have a field day with someone like Purdy, who is unsurprisingly pro-war in his attitudes. But still, I find myself cringing at some of the snide comments people are making toward him. This guy is risking his life, okay? In defense of our collective life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Yeah, I happen to agree that the people who sent him in to fight this particular war were wrong to do so, but that's not Purdy's fault.

Maybe you believe we should build a world where he wouldn't have to make those sacrifices. I happen to think so, too. But guess what? We haven't built it yet. In the meantime, he's putting himself on the line to stand between us and the bad guys. It's not his fault if the people giving the orders are self-serving chooms. That's our fault.

So show a little fucking respect. I'm not saying you have to agree with his political views. But acknowledge who he is, and the personal sacrifices he's made on your behalf. You can at least be polite. Can't you?

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August 05, 2003

Gwynne Dyer on the Iraq/Vietnam Parallel

Here's a very interesting piece of crystal-ball gazing from war historian Gwynne Dyer: Welcome to Iraq-Nam. He thinks that the US will probably invade Syria sometime before the election next year in order to help Bush's election prospects. Bush will win said election, after which there will be increasing Viet Nam-style quagmire and an eventual pullout from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, leaving violently anti-US Islamic hard-liners in charge of each of those countries.

Sounds good (well, bad, but credible) to me. And it's quite testable. So, let's check back in 2006 or 2007, and see how good a job Dyer did in predicting things.

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July 29, 2003

Iraq War as Retribution for 9/11

George Paine at is one of my favorite war-obsessed webloggers these days. So it was interesting to see him respond to a critical email he received last night, from someone describing himself as a newly returned soldier in the 3rd Infantry Division: A letter from the Third ID.

As I read through that exchange, and as I read through the postings and discussions on various pro- and anti-war weblogs, it seems like the debate over the war's justification comes down to one question: Was Saddam Hussein either directly or indirectly involved in perpetrating the 9/11 attacks? Or, if not, do you think he was likely to involve himself in such attacks in the future? If you answer that question with a "yes", then you probably supported the war. If you answer "no", then you probably didn't.

The people who seem most confident in their positions for or against the war also seem to be the ones most sure about the Saddam-9/11 connection (or lack thereof). In the pro-war camp, I was struck by this item from 9/11 widow Christy Ferer, describing her participation in a recent USO tour in Iraq: A note of thanks to those who serve. Her account reinforces what I see on pro-war weblogs: for those currently or previously in uniform, the tight linkage between Saddam and 9/11 is pretty much a given.

For people who've never paid much attention to the world beyond the US border, the category "Arabic bad guys" is sufficiently all-inclusive to make this a non-issue. But others offer a more-nuanced version of the same position. Check out the opinion piece from righty weblogger Steven Den Beste that ran in the Wall Street Journal last week, for example: We won't back down. Den Beste's argument is a lot longer than Ann Coulter's prescription for world peace ("we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity"), but they share the same wellspring, which is the normal human impulse to see every major world problem as susceptible to the same, simple solution: just make everyone else in the world much more like me (at the point of a bayonet, if necessary).

See? Problem solved.

In general, simple solutions are a good thing. Einstein famously observed, "Everything should be made as simple as possible -- but no simpler." It's the "but no simpler" part that worries me here. A "solution" that involves the forcible conversion (or extermination) of some 280 million Arabs seems, how shall I put it, cumbersome. As in, not going to work.

So I think we need another solution. It almost certainly won't be as simple. But it will have the even greater virtue of actually having a remote chance of success.

Update: George Paine goes another round with his military correspondent: Continuing the correspondence with Third ID.

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July 25, 2003

War Without End

In some ways, being at war makes it all so easy. Complex moral dilemmas vanish. Everything polarizes into black versus white, good versus evil, us versus them. "Major combat operations" have ended, but the war goes on, the War on Terror, the war that will never, ever end.

So with the killing of Saddam's son's, Qusay and Uday. They were guilty of horrible crimes, and it was war, and they were part of the enemy's command and control structure, and so they were, of course, legitimate military targets. And the fact that Qusay's 14-year-old son, Mustapha, was also killed is no cause for moral qualms; again, it's war. These things happen.

And the showing of the dead bodies on TV; again, it was necessitated by the harsh realities of war. We're fighting a guerilla campaign against people motivated, in part, by the dream that Saddam's regime will be restored; images of his dead sons help sap their will, at least according to the judgement of Donald Rumsfeld. Remember that stuff about the Geneva Convention that Torie Clark brought up back when it was dead engineers from the 507th Maintenance Company being shown on TV? Well, that turns out not to be so important after all. Military advantage trumps international agreements, for us no less than for Saddam.

And the gruesome media parade that now follows the bodies of Qusay and Uday, as recounted in this story: Reuters Sees Touched Up Bodies of Saddam Sons; again, it's all part of war. Interesting bit there about how our embalming of the bodies to make them look more lifelike doesn't actually play the way we intended in the Arab street, since they don't do such things with their dead. But look; we're Americans. This is how we do things.

I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I'm resigned to the fact that, at least for the duration of the Bush presidency, the War on Terror is not a metaphor, not some marketing slogan like the "War on Drugs". It's a real war, with everything that implies. Hell, I'm surprised we haven't stuck a couple of spears in the ground in front of the Palestine Hotel and put Qusay and Uday's severed heads atop them. Maybe that will occur to someone over the next few days.

The only part that gives me pause is this: Because the enemy in this war isn't a country, but is instead an idea; a vague, decentralized, anti-American antipathy that exists throughout the world, and which is in some ways actually strengthened, rather than weakened, when we oppose it in this particular way, this war will never end. Never.

Get used to those faces: bruised and blackened, or touched up with putty and paint. They're the faces of war.

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July 22, 2003

Stryker: Soldiers Are People, Too

Interesting post, and ensuing discussion, from Sgt. Stryker: Your pain and suffering will lead us to electoral victory. Stryker takes exception (I think) to a Steve Gilliard post at Daily Kos, because it views soldiers in Iraq in terms of the political impact of their losing limbs and such. Basically bitches at both major parties for using the military for their own political purposes, and has a very Shylockian tone to it; "if you prick us, do we not bleed?" and all that.

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July 10, 2003

Rosen on the Missing Iraq Exit Strategy

SFGate columnist Ruth Rosen updates her earlier piece applying the Powell Doctrine to the Iraq war, asking, in particular, about just how it is we're supposed to get out of this mess: What's the exit strategy? Good stuff on the Iraq/Vietnam comparison; here's Rosen's conclusion:

Like ghosts from the past, words and phrases from the Vietnam-era -- quagmire, credibility gap, guerrilla war, winning the hearts and minds of civilians, requests for more troops -- are creeping back into military and public parlance.

But this is not Vietnam. Finding an exit strategy in Iraq is far more complicated. There is no government that can negotiate a peace treaty with the United States. Until Iraq has a strong government, one that can provide basic services and protect its people, withdrawal of occupation forces is inconceivable.

Perhaps the military mess in Iraq can at least remind Americans how and why the Powell Doctrine, with all its reasonable restraints, prevented the United States from plunging -- until now -- into another unnecessary and perhaps unwinnable war.

Meanwhile, if the Bush administration -- which never articulated clear post- war plans -- has an exit strategy, what is it? The Iraqi people, our military forces and the American public have a right to know.

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July 09, 2003

Ari, Gilliard, Wilson, Wilkinson, Me: Time to Fess Up on WMD

A quick base-touching on the whole Bush-lied-about-weapons-of-mass-destruction thing. First up: I have to acknowledge the truth. I've been wrong, wrong, wrong about WMD this whole time. I hang my head in shame. After carefully reviewing the evidence, and analyzing my statements over and over again, I've come to the following inevitable conclusion:

I should never have pluralized the acronym as "WMDs".

Since WMD expands to "Weapons of Mass Destruction," it's plenty plural already, as lots of more-grammatically-astute people have been maintaining all along. But I was casually tossing around unfounded s-appended pluralizations left and right, unwilling to acknowledge the glaring evidence of my own error.

Anyway. Henceforth I shall refer to them only as "WMD". I apologize sincerely for having resisted so long the admission of what was so painfully obvious.

In the same vein, it was interesting to see the way the White House dealt with the Wilson revelations (the op-ed piece in the New York Times, and the Meet the Press appearance on Sunday), with Ari initially saying, "What? There's no issue there," and then, when Fearless Leader was safely on his plane for Africa, issuing written clarifications along the lines of, "well, of course we were wrong; everyone knows that, and has known it for a long time. Except we didn't know it before the State of the Union Address." (Except that they clearly did.)

I'm not going to bother linking to all the press coverage of this over the last few days; it's not hard to find. A few decent starting points would be this piece from the Washington Post: White House backs off claim on Iraqi buy, and this one from The Independent, sent along by Glen & Pilar: Diplomat who blew the whistle on falsified evidence.

The most interesting part of the whole thing has always been this: Given how obvious it was that the version of the Iraqi WMD threat being promoted by Bush before the war was bogus, why would he do it? Why would a politician leave himself so exposed, basing an invasion of another country on a lie that was certain to be revealed as such?

Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos points to one account that sheds some light, possibly: Time to admit the obvious: there are no WMD. The account he points to, and discusses, is this one at Capitol Hill Blue: White House admits Bush wrong about Iraqi nukes. This is the key passage from the CHB story:

An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address.

"The report had already been discredited," said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. "This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings."

Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said.

"He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could," Wilkinson said. "He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country."

The discussion in the comments at Daily Kos about whether or not Capitol Hill Blue is a credible source is interesting; time will tell on that, I guess. If this Wilkinson guy is real, and is really on the record, it should just be a matter of time before the story is in some mainstream news outlet.

If true, it certainly dovetails nicely with the picture that many people, myself very much included, have been building in our heads of Bush. He simply knew better than the so-called experts. His gut told him the WMD were there, God told him the WMD were there; he was on a mission to eradicate Evil, and pointy-headed analysts from the CIA or wherever were not going to get in his way. And since the neocon cabal among his advisors had a longstanding interest in seeing the Iraqi government overthrown by a US invasion in order to further their own ideological agenda, the Commander-in-Chief had plenty of enablers willing to help him set reason and evidence aside and proceed on the basis of his Higher Truth.

Yeah, the real truth was going to come out sooner or later. But at that point the deed would be done. Even if Bush ended up paying a high price personally, that wouldn't necessarily bother the PNAC folks, as long as their vision of mideast transformation by the US military had been successfully launched. And Bush, bless his tiny little capacity for personal insight, believed he was right, dammit. Reality would rearrange itself to protect him.

Well, maybe it will. There are plenty of people with a compelling emotional need to see Bush vindicated on this. The collective suspension of disbelief only has to carry him through November of next year, at which point he'll have succeeded as much as it's possible to succeed in US politics, with enforced retirement thereafter courtesy of the 22nd Amendment. It would be a fitting end for his career, the crowning achievement of a life characterized by repeated personal failure, followed by rescue at the hands of powerful interests unwilling to let that failure reflect badly on themselves.

George W. Bush: our collective underachieving problem child.

Update: "Wilkinson" story acknowledged by CHB to be bogus. Bigtime thanks to Craig for pointing it out in the comments.

Posted by jbc at 10:48 AM | view/comment (8) | TrackBack (0)

July 08, 2003

Bandow on the Conservative Duty re: WMDs

Doug Bandow has a great opinion piece running in the Christian Science Monitor: Conservatives' core duty on WMD. Here's the real heart of the WMD issue. For those whose willingness to give Bush & Co. the benefit of the doubt has kept them from seeing the WMD thing as a big deal, please consider reading this article, and telling me which part of the author's argument you disagree with. Or, if you agree with it, let me know what you think would be an appropriate approach to holding Bush accountable.

Posted by jbc at 02:02 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Hayden on Quagmire

In keeping with the ongoing discussion of ways in which the current Iraq war is and isn't like Vietnam, here's a piece by Tom Hayden: Say it: This is a quagmire. Not much new evidence, but a different arrangement.

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July 06, 2003

Vietnam and Iraq: A Comparison

Craig recently commented that he thinks characterizations of the current situation in Iraq as a Vietnam-style "quagmire" are inappropriate. He asked there for "a rational and coherent analysis of how this really compares in any specific, factual way to Vietnam."

"Rational" and "coherent" aren't phrases that people normally apply to me, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. Follow the link below, or scroll down, to read the result.


Posted by jbc at 06:55 PM | view/comment (8) | TrackBack (0)

July 04, 2003

More on 'Bring Them On'

The "bring them on" news cycle continues. Here are a couple of the more interesting pieces: From Stan Goff at CounterPunch: Bring 'em on? Goff, who fought in Vietnam, imagines what life is like these days for a soldier in Iraq - and it's not pretty.

Meanwhile, Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos has this analysis: It's worse than it seems. Note, by the way, that today is the earliest date previously predicted by Gilliard for the existence of "civil war" in Iraq. I think we clearly haven't reached that point yet; Iraqis still seem much more focused on killing us than killing each other, but that doesn't exactly make for rosy Defense Department briefings. The level of violence certainly hasn't diminished since Bush's "Mission Accomplished" photo op; it's arguably getting worse.

Yeah, it's a different part of the world, a different kind of local insurgency, different history, different rationales. And still, in its essence, Iraq is Vietnam. Congratulations, Mr. Daddy-in-Chief. It's a quagmire.

Posted by jbc at 10:07 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 01, 2003

Time on the WMD Hunt

Interesting article in Time Magazine's latest issue: Who lost the WMD? The lead tells of a funny, if it weren't scary, incident that took place during Bush's recent visit to Centcom.

Posted by jbc at 11:16 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cheney's Iraqi-Nukes Lie Disputed

The OmbudsGod has an interesting analysis of the March 16 Meet the Press appearance at which Dick Cheney made his much-cited comment about how Iraq "has reconstituted nuclear weapons": What the vice president didn't say. He points out that that one statement by Cheney was made in the context of numerous other statements that clearly ackowledged that Saddam did not actually have the nukes yet, but was biding his time until he could revive the program later.

It's a good point. But it also betrays a naive view of how bigtime liars operate. Cheney makes five statements acknowleding the (obvious) reality that the Saddam of March, 2003, did not have the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. And in the midst of them he makes one statement that unambiguously says Saddam actually did have that capability.

Is that a simple mistake, as the OmbudsGod argues? Well, maybe. It could also be an intentional way of planting the suggestion in the mind of the suggestible. Like finding ways to mention Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the same sentence six different times in a single speech, without ever making the explicit (and easily refuted) statement that they actually are working together. You accomplish your goal (getting the gullible to believe something that isn't true) without giving your opponents the ammunition that a bald lie would provide.

We don't live in a binary universe. Reality doesn't slice neatly into yes/no, either/or, true/false. Cheney made several true statements, and one glaringly false one. Maybe he did that on accident. Maybe he did it on purpose. But he did it, and the result was the same either way. And the result was that many more people believed they needed to support the president in his push to invade Iraq right then, not later. And since fostering that view was clearly Cheney's intention, I don't think he deserves much slack on the false statement.

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June 27, 2003

Time Gets Antsy About War's Duration

Continuing my wacky linking behavior today, I'm going to link to that ultimate in mainstream media: Time Magazine. Specifically, to their current lead story, which asks what I think is actually a really good question: Iraq: When can we go home?

Hello? Mr. President? Middle America is on the line. They'd like to know when their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers are coming back. They're asking politely, for now, but I think they really want an answer, preferably something more specific than "as long as it takes."

Posted by jbc at 06:38 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 24, 2003

Fritz: WMD Debaters Talking Past Each Other

Ben Fritz at Spinsanity has the following cool analysis: What's at stake in the WMD debate. His basic assertion is that both sides are making statements that are literally true, while neither is really engaging the other. On the one hand are people arguing that Bush & Co. lied about what secret intelligence showed in order to sell the war. On the other side are those arguing that Saddam had a long history of WMD production and use, and of non-cooperation with those trying to disarm his regime, as acknowledged by everyone from UN inspectors to Bill Clinton.

Really, says Fritz, it boils down to two separate, but related questions: Did Bush lie to build support for the war? And given the failure to find predicted WMDs, was the war in fact justified? By focusing on those parts of the debate where their own arguments are strongest, while ignoring the parts where they are weakest, each side does a disservice to the actual determination of truth.

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At the Pentagon news briefing today Donald Rumsfeld was in fine form, spinning the WMD issue for all it's worth. As Janus/onan so-aptly paraphrased the Secretary of Everything: "WE WILL FIND WEAPONS (orevidenceofweaponsprograms)." Anyway, see Yahoo! News for the Reuters report: Rumsfeld says US will find Iraqi WMD evidence. Or go to the State Department for the full transcript, which, for a WMD-controversy fanboy like me, makes for fascinating reading: Defense Department briefing transcript.

The best part is this:

Q: And, Secretary Rumsfeld, can I just ask you -- follow-up on your statement about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You said that -- in your opening statement, that there was no doubt before the war that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction "programs," was the word you used.

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: I'm just wondering, when I hear you say "programs," are you signaling at all that Iraq may not have had actual weapons or weaponized forms of this, but simply the programs to produce them? Or am I reading too much into what you said?

Rumsfeld: You may be reading too much. I don't know anybody that I can think of who has contended that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons.

Q: I didn't say nuclear --

Rumsfeld: I'm saying that. I'm trying to respond to your question.

I don't know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons. That's fact number one.

If you go back to my statement, we also know that the Iraqis did have chemical weapons. They confessed to having had all of these weapons over a sustained period of time. I brought something along. In the '90s, Iraq admitted having 8,500 liters of anthrax and several tons of VX. Iraq admitted producing 6,500 chemical bombs containing an estimated 1,000 tons of chemical agents, none of which have ever been accounted for. In 1998, President Clinton said Saddam Hussein possessed 5,000 gallons of botulin, 2,000 gallons of anthrax, and 177 Scud warheads, and bombs filled with biological agents.

We know he used chemical weapons against the Kurds and against the Iranians in the war. So you had a country that had these weapons and programs, a country that used those weapons, a country that by everyone who had reason to be knowledgeable believed filed a fraudulent declaration to the United Nations. And it seems to me that that speaks for itself, that they --

Q: But isn't it possible, now in retrospect, that Saddam Hussein could have destroyed the weapons -- that is, destroyed the evidence -- while maintaining the programs to produce them in the future, in an effort to ride out the sanctions, and that as a result, you may never find any actual weapons in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to get into the various possibilities. They're fairly self-evident as to what the possibilities might be. I have reason, every reason, to believe that the intelligence that we were operating off was correct and that we will, in fact, find weapons or evidence of weapons programs that are conclusive. But that's just a matter of time.

It's just a matter of time, all right.

Anyway, it's all revisionist history from here on out. Thanks to Daily Kos for being on top of the story (Rumsfeld: 'really, we will find something!'), including the item from the comments pointing out the Meet the Press statement by Cheney on March 16: "And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Posted by jbc at 05:36 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 23, 2003

Gilliard, Pitt on Quagmire

Here's a piece by Daily Kos' Steve Gilliard that surveys the weekend news stories about how crappily things are going in Iraq: War by other means. He doesn't mention whether he still thinks Iraq will be in a state of "civil war" by the fourth of July, but he doesn't mince words about who he thinks is responsible for the mess.

In a similar vein, William Rivers Pitt at truthout takes a blunt approach to laying out the costs of the ongoing occupation: Slaughtergate.

Posted by jbc at 10:37 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 21, 2003

Gilliard Says WMDs Still Matter

An excellent commentary from Daily Kos' Steve Gilliard on why the lack of WMDs is still important: Eight reasons why WMD matters.

Posted by jbc at 07:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cote on the WMD Fallacy

Owen R. Cote, Jr., associate director of MIT’s Security Studies Program and a coeditor of the journal International Security, has written a powerful indictment of the Bush administration's approach to dealing with WMDs: Weapons of mass confusion. He points out that nuclear weapons on the one hand, and chemical/biological weapons on the other hand, are distinctly different problems. By pursuing policies that treat them as one and the same, Bush & Co. are hampering their own effectiveness and exposing us to horrible dangers.

Cote's arguments sound solid to me. See, this is why we have experts. Because to really smart people who have specialized knowledge and lots of experience in particular fields, thorny problems are significantly easier to break down into their component parts and solve. Listening to experts doesn't always mean the resulting policies will succeed, but routinely ignoring them is a pretty sure prescription for failure.

Which is what we have with George Bush. He doesn't trust experts. He trusts his gut. As a result, decisions on matters ranging from defense against terrorists to invasion of other countries to dealing with global climate change are being made by a man who is notoriously uninterested in critical thinking, and who instead substitutes the dimly understood urgings of his own psyche and the advice of a tight circle of ideologues and political tacticians.

So, do you feel safer?

Thanks to Janus/onan for the link.

Posted by jbc at 10:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2003

Kinsley: WMDs No Longer Matter

Slate's Michael Kinsley writes some of the most intelligent stuff I've seen on WMDs in a while: Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? It doesn't matter. I especially like his comments on the meaning of recent poll results, in which a large majority of respondents, even those who clearly haven't been anywhere near actual data in a long time, are convinced they have the straight dope.

Verily, we live in the Age of Mutually-Exclusive Certainties. Wild.

Posted by jbc at 11:38 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 17, 2003

This Just In.......Joseph Goebbels Is STILL Dead!

This will come as quite a buzz kill for those who seem to believe that Joey and his Nazi cronies are alive and well within Bush's Administration. The media microscope is steadily coming closer into focus on the details of the Private Lynch story. The Washington Post has gathered the most information yet, from a larger pool of sources, of the events, from the ambush of the US convoy to Jessica's rescue and recovery. Of course, there are still some conflicting stories to shake out, and some missing pieces. Interestingly, apart from some purposeful willingness on the part of the Pentagon and White House to not jump in very quickly to correct some positive details that the initial media scrum was cranking out, it seems a great deal of the "Hollywood" storyline to this incident was due to the media feeding on each other's flawed information. Not really the carefully scripted propaganda story that is being credited in some circles to Joseph, er, I mean, Ari, Donald and the rest.

Granted, the microscope of truth will continue to bring the facts even more into focus. But what appears to be becoming clearer is the ever-increasing likelyhood that this Hollywood tear-jerker was not made in D.C.

Posted by Craig at 08:16 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Poll Shows Many Americans Believe WMDs Found AND Used

The polls keep getting better. By which I mean, worse. Dumber. Wronger? Something.


War poll uncovers fact gap. According to a recent poll from the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, a third of US citizens believe US forces have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Twenty-two percent believe such weapons were actually used by Saddam's forces during the recent war.


Interesting discussion by the people who conducted the poll, trying to figure out how so many people would believe something that not even the president's strongest supporters on the WMD thing claim to be true. "Given the intensive news coverage and high levels of public attention, this level of misinformation suggests some Americans may be avoiding having an experience of cognitive dissonance," said Steve Kull, director of the program. You think?

Posted by jbc at 02:28 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dyer on the Emerging Iraq Quagmire

Either Gwynn Dyer is reading Steve Gilliard, or they're both coming to the same conclusions independently: US faces long, hot summer in deadly tinderbox.

Posted by jbc at 01:29 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Baghdad Museum Redux

I never posted anything about the Baghdad-museum looting during the full-on phase of the war. It just didn't seem as important to me as the stuff about actual people getting blowed up and all that. But now that it has turned out that a lot of the hand-wringing about the US troops standing by while priceless antiquities were being looted was not exactly accurate (or even just flat-out untrue), conservative war supporters are paying gobs of attention to it.

So, here you go, fans of equal-opportunity lie exposure. Courtesy of Andrea Harris' Too much to dream, a trio of recent items on the Baghdad-museum non-looting: Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, John Malcom Russel in the Washington Post: We're still missing the looting picture, and from The Guardian's Rory McCarthy: Staff revolt at Baghdad museum.

Posted by jbc at 10:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 16, 2003

British Government: Trailers Not Bioweapons Labs

Keeping the Bush administration's track record perfect, a British government investigation has concluded that the two trailers in northern Iraq (the ones pointed to by Bush on the Polish stop of his recent European trip as the smoking gun in the Iraqi WMD hunt -- "we've found 'em") were in fact for producing hyrdogen gas for weather balloons: Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds.

Bush supporters seeking to reduce their cognitive dissonance are encouraged to focus on the source of this story (those left-leaning Brit journalists), or on the notion that the trailers were designed to be instantly convertible to bioweapons production at some hypothetical future date. But the pattern repeats, yet again: Big headline: POSSIBLE WMD DISCOVERY!!! Followup, weeks later: Oh, well, I guess not. But we'll keep looking.

Yeah. You do that.

Posted by jbc at 04:14 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 14, 2003

Gilliard: The Coming Long, Hot Summer in Iraq

Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos offers an extremely depressing analysis of the current situation in Iraq: McKiernan's dilemma. I think if things are even half as bad as Gilliard says, this becomes a key issue in the 2004 elections. It took many years of US casualties to turn the tide of public sentiment against the Vietnam War, but this Iraq quagmire could give us Vietnam on a hyper-accelerated timeline.

Posted by jbc at 11:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 12, 2003

In Search of.....

Allow me to add more to the steady drone of WMD talk.

This from an Iranian official, stating that Iranian intelligence also believes Iraq was hiding its weapons from U.N. Inspectors. Admittedly, a source that is not always a baston of truth and integrity.

This former Iraqi intelligence officer gives more fodder to the explanation of a merely dormant weapons program with the structure in place to become active quickly once the heat was off, and also lays out the level of creative deception that was occurring. He also provides a reason for Saddam not being forthcoming with the fact that his weapons were destroyed.

It will be interesting to see which path the evidence takes once things begin to be uncovered. If there really is solid proof regarding a weapons program on "stand-by" status rather than "active" status, with no appreciable amounts of usable WMD around, Bush will be stuck in a bit of a gray area. He can at least say that Saddam's intent was never to disarm but merely to wait out world resolve before actively re-producing his lethal arsonal, for use or for sale. But he'll still have to squirm mightly to explain to Congress, the American people and the world, why he said there was an imminent threat posed by active WMD that wasn't really there. Was it an overstatement of a calculated assumption, based on the only pieces of the information puzzle that he had to work with? Or was it a deliberate misrepresentation of intelligence that showed slim likelyhood of any kind of active weapons threat in Iraq? Neither answer will be good, but Bush could survive the former scenario relatively well if he can at least prove a "spring-loaded" biological/chemical production infrastructure ready to go into action at any time.

Even so, the price would still be paid in a degree of erosion of US credibility in the world and an increased reluctance within the US for future pro-active military responses.

Posted by Craig at 08:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 11, 2003

Gilliard: Civil War in Iraq by July 4

Steve Gilliard of Daily Kos is moving up the timeline yet again for when he thinks the situation in Iraq will have reached the stage that can be justifiably characterized as "civil war": Delusions. Following up on a USA Today article (Official: US not read for Iraq chaos), he discusses the difficulties we're likely to have in rounding up peacekeeping troops from the other members of our much-ballyhooed "coalition", given the extremely negative attitude toward our war and occupation in those countries.

To recap: On April 10, Gilliard specifically did not predict civil war, but laid out the signs that would let us know one was coming: How Iraq could devolve into civil war. On June 6, he said the situation would indeed be a civil war "well before September": No end in sight. And then today, this latest prediction of a civil war by July 4.

I'm not sure that the sky is really falling. Rumsfeld would no doubt dismiss this with some weirdly sarcastic mixed metaphor. But we've got an easy test: if the violence in Iraq settles down noticeably over the next three weeks, Rumsfeld wins a point. If it ramps up, with the size of the engagements increasing, point to Gilliard. If it stays more or less the same... I guess we get to keep arguing about what it all means.

Posted by jbc at 02:55 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

WMD Redux

Time for the morning batch of Smirking Chimp-derived articles about the administration's WMD problem. From Jules Witcover: Not buying revisionist sales job on Iraqi weapons. Richard Gwyn: Bush's weapons of mass deception. John Prados: Hoodwinked. Rupert Cornwell: Accountability missing in Bushland.

And a bonus link: From Salon: Can Bush be toppled? It's a collection of Democratic pols weighing in on Bush's beatability next year. The article itself is only borderline worth enduring the lame Microsoft ad to get the "one-day pass", but the illustration of a Bush statue being pulled down before cheering crowds is definitely worth a look. Heh. Kudos to Bob Watts, Salon's art director.

Posted by jbc at 08:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 10, 2003

More on Iraqi Civilian Deaths

The AP has published the results of a preliminary accounting of the number of non-combatant fatalities in Iraq: AP tallies 3,240 civilian deaths in Iraq.

The approach they used makes this very much a lower boundary, rather than a complete count. What they did was to go to about half the hospitals in the country, including most of the largest ones, and do interviews and examine death certificates. People whose bodies never made it to a hospital didn't get counted. People who died in hospitals that didn't distinguish between combatant and non-combatant casualties didn't get counted. People who died before March 20 or after April 20 didn't get counted. Overall, this sounds to me like it matches up pretty well with the earlier estimates of between 5,000 and 10,000 civilian dead.

That's a lot of innocent dead people. I remember driving my daughter to school on September 11, 2001, and having her ask me on the way why it was such a big deal that those buildings had collapsed. I told her, "Because when they collapsed they were full of thousands of people." Seeing the realization dawn on her 10-year-old face of what that meant isn't the worst of my memories from that day, but it's one that has stayed with me.

So hey, congratulations, America. In our fear and anger over those events, we've managed to inflict a comparable toll on the innocents of one country (Afghanistan) whose leadership arguably had some measure of responsibility for the events of that day, and a toll two to three times higher on the innocents of another country (Iraq) whose leadership arguably had nothing whatsoever to do with the events of that day.

So can our national scared/angry-toddler routine be over already? Have enough 5-year-olds had their bodies turned into bloody hamburger to appease our collective reptilian hindbrain?

Sigh. Thanks to janus/onan for the link. I guess.

Posted by jbc at 05:52 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Latest WMD Developments

It's interesting to watch the process play out. Isolated bitching is turning into a steady chorus: Bush and the members of his team lied shamelessly to exaggerate the Iraqi WMD threat in the months before the war. Those making these claims don't just have a "smoking gun," they have a whole smoking arsenal.

Bush, on the other hand, has bupkis, and has begun the process of backtracking. Answering questions during one of those Reagan-esque not-quite-a-press-conference exchanges that allows him to pick and choose a question or two to answer, then feign deafness to follow-ups, Bush said yesterday he remains "absolutely convinced" that we will uncover evidence that Iraq had a "weapons program." Not weapons, mind you, but a weapons program. He used the phrase three times in one brief response. From the LA Times: Bush tempers talk of weapons.

Right. But see, that wasn't what you said, repeatedly, emphatically, and without qualification, in selling the war.

Checking in with the columnists: From Robert Scheer: Bad Iraq data from start to finish. From Paul Krugman: Who's accountable? And from Geov Parrish: The impeachable offense.

Posted by jbc at 07:54 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 08, 2003

Phillip Carter on the Too-Small Occupation Force

Dipping back into some of the militarily-informed commentary I was feeding on steadily during the Iraq war proper, I came across several links to this piece, by Phillip Carter writing in the Washington Monthly: Faux Pax Americana. Basically argues that yeah, Rumsfeld's small, agile, high-tech invasion force can indeed defeat an enemy on the cheap. But it can't necessarily hold the resulting conquered territory afterward.

On the shelf of nearly every Army officer, you'll find a book by retired Col. T.R. Fehrenbach on the Korean conflict titled This Kind of War. At the end of World War II, confronted by the military revolution brought on by the atomic bomb, America cut its military from a wartime high of 16 million down to a few hundred thousand. Bombs and airplanes--not soldiers--would now protect America's shores and cities. After fighting as a grunt in Korea, Fehrenbach thought otherwise. Transformation was great for the Air Force and Navy, but for the Army and Marine Corps, the essential nature of warfare remained unchanged.

"You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life," wrote Fehrenbach. "But if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud." It's time Don Rumsfeld brushed up on his Fehrenbach.

There's a storyline that ties these sorts of criticisms together, and I think it's an important one in terms of working against Bush in the 2004 election. People like me are already going to vote against Bush, at least if we can avoid sinking into depressed apathy. But the swing voters who will actually decide the election aren't going to care about a lot of the stuff I talk about here. Bush lied? BFD. They want someone who can protect the country against a scary world. So do I, for that matter.

So talk about the combination of arrogance and naivete that leads people like Bush and Rumsfeld to ignore the warnings of the career military types when deciding when and how to go to war. Weird ultralefties who froth about cabals and conspiracy theories are easy to dismiss. Generals with decades of military experience who question Bush & Co.'s ability to avoid Vietnam-style quagmires may get more of a hearing.

Posted by jbc at 09:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kagan on WMD 'Lies'

Robert Kagan has a column in the Washington Post that makes fun of the notion that Bush lied about Iraqi WMDs: A plot to deceive? It's clever, and entertaining, but I think it's basically an example of the straw man fallacy. Those claiming Bush lied are not arguing that Saddam never had any weapons of mass destruction. They're saying that Bush misrepresented ambiguous evidence as being much more certain than it actually was, in order to build support for an immediate invasion, as opposed to the slower approach represented by things like sanctions and continued UN weapons inspections. Which, as far as I can see, is a legitimate criticism. True, it's not as bad as if Bush had invented the idea of an imminent Iraqi WMD threat out of thin air, but it's still dishonest, and needs to be looked at carefully by anyone being asked to believe what Bush says in the future.

Posted by jbc at 08:49 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

NYT on WMD Intelligence

Today's New York Times contains the following editorial: Was the intelligence cooked?

Righty bloggers have no doubt already swung into action, linking the "idiocy" of the editorial to the same muddled thinking that gave us Jayson Blair and the Raines resignation. But I wish they could forget the messenger for a minute, and concentrate on the message. It's important. It's also clear, unambiguous, and untainted by elliptical distortion.

Maybe it was just reading those accounts of Leo Strauss's appeal for an actual questioning dialog, one that seeks to illuminate the truth, rather than the kind of partisan sophistry I've been wading through lately, but I'm getting tired of people whose claims of certainty increase rather than diminish when the evidence supporting their position starts eroding.

More detail comes from the Times' Week in Review piece by Steven R. Weisman: Truth is the first casualty. Is credibility second?

Update: The Washington Post takes a similar, if more restrained, position in its own lead editorial today: Hunting Iraq's weapons.

Posted by jbc at 08:08 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 07, 2003

Burgess-Jackson on the Irrelevance of Motives

Keith Burgess-Jackson shows off his philosophy skillz in Bush's critics meet the logic police. His main point is that Bush's having lied about why he was going to war is not relevant to an analysis of whether the war was justified.

Either there is a justification for the war (objectively speaking) or there is not. If there is, then it doesn't matter what motivated President Bush. If there isn't, then it doesn't matter what motivated President Bush. Either way, it doesn't matter what motivated President Bush.

There's an interesting game he's playing here. Yes, it's true that the question of whether or not Bush lied about his motivations is orthogonal to the question of whether or not the war was justified.

We can construct a matrix of possibilities:

Didn't LieLied
Not JustifiedIIIIV

If you ask any given person whether the war was justified, and whether they think Bush lied about his motivations for waging it, you can map which of the four sectors that person falls into, in terms of which sector they believe accurately describes reality: Sector I (Bush didn't lie, war was justified), II (lied/justified), III (didn't lie/not justified), or IV (lied/not justified). War supporters would land in sectors I or II; opponents would get III or IV.

Any one of the four sectors is a legitimate contender at the outset. What Burgess-Jackson is arguing is that the mere fact that Bush was known to have lied wouldn't mean that everyone automatically had to move to sector IV; there could still be a safe haven for war supporters in sector II.

Which is true enough. But it kind of misses the point. The articles claiming Bush has been dishonest aren't only about the horizontal dimension of the graph (didn't lie/lied). They're also about the vertical dimension of the graph (justified/not justified). See, Bush's stated motives have basically been a laundry list of every conceivable justification for going to war. If a bunch of those justifications turn out not to be grounded in reality, then yeah, it will mean Bush was probably lying, and the partisan folks at the New York Times or the Guardian are going to make hay with that. But it will also weigh heavily in any rational determination about whether the war was justified. Not because Bush was lying per se, but because of what it was he was lying about (namely, the evidence he supposedly used in making his own decision about whether the war was justified).

It's significant, too, that there are war supporters who aren't even seriously considering whether the war was justified. They're simply taking Bush's word for it when he says that it was. In a sense, such people are guilty of the same logical fallacy Burgess-Jackson accuses the liberal media of: conflating the question of Bush's honesty with that of the war's justification, albeit in the opposite direction. (I believe Bush is telling the truth; therefore, the war is justified.)

I suspect Burgess-Jackson of intentionally obscuring these points. Still, it's an interesting argument that he makes. Thanks to those clever partisans at The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web page for the link.

Posted by jbc at 01:41 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 06, 2003

Gilliard on the Coming Iraq Civil War

Here are a couple of really scary Steve Gilliard pieces at Daily Kos: No end in sight and Iraq Sunni cleric calls for jihad. He predicts Iraq will be in a full-fledged civil war before September.

We are facing a total collapse of our Iraq policy not within years or months, but weeks. If the pace of combat increases and we have to hunt down guerrillas through every village, and deal with platoon and company-sized ambushes, we will be fighting to hang on.

I think this could get very Vietnam-esque. Would we stay, and pay that terrible price, or leave, and watch Iraq fall to one anti-US faction or another?

The person elected president in 2004, whoever he or she is, is going to need to have a plan for dealing with this. And it seems increasingly possible to me that that person is going to be a Democrat.

Posted by jbc at 11:08 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cook: I Told You So, Too

Robin Cook, who resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet over the decision to go to war, makes some interesting observations in this op-ed piece from the LA Times: Shoulder to shoulder and stabbed in the back (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works for the login).

Basically, he points to the widening gap between Blair on the one hand, and the Bush administration on the other. Unlike Bush, who used a shell game of ever-morphing justifications for the war, Blair focused squarely on WMDs. Now, Blair is forced to maintain with increasing stridency that the WMDs will be found, while Bush is gradually moving to a position of "Well, we had to pick something to base the war on, and that seemed like the thing everyone could agree with," or "Yeah, maybe the weapons aren't there. But they were there once, and Saddam would have made more eventually, so it really doesn't matter."

Granted, Bush himself isn't saying those things yet. But that's clearly the direction the administration is headed, based on recent comments from Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

Posted by jbc at 10:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 04, 2003

Is Wolfowitz Serious?

Paul Wolfowitz, the visibly-vibrating-with-barely-contained-excitement nerve center of the neocon cabal currently running the country, has been making some very odd statements lately. First there was his recent admission in Vanity Fair that the WMD justification for going to war was chosen for "bureaucratic reasons." That news cycle is barely dead, and he's back in the headlines for having announced to an Asian security summit that the reason we went to war with Iraq, rather than with North Korea, is that the former is "swimming" with oil. From The Guardian: Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil.

Another nice piece on the whole WMD thing, by the way (which, given the title, I can't resist) is the following from Mother Jones: Liar, liar.

Posted by jbc at 12:16 PM | view/comment (7) | TrackBack (0)

June 03, 2003

A New Wrinkle On Jessica?

Media Research Center gives this new NBC report on Private Lynch's rescue. They provide some information to dispute some of the earlier BBC/ABC accusations such as the use of blanks and just how recently the Iraqi military was present at the hospital. Interesting to hear, since I still find it hard to swallow that a military force would be sent into any battle zone with only blanks.

However, in fairness to the conspiracy-types out there, it should be noted that NBC also still plans on developing a movie on the rescue of Lynch. Could their News Department be stretching their journalistic integrity to save their Entertainment Department's future big ratings blockbuster? Hmmmm........

Posted by Craig at 07:00 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 02, 2003

Sullivan on WMDs

Andrew Sullivan gives what strikes me as being just about the strongest possible case one could make in defense of having waged war on Iraq absent actual evidence of Iraqi WMDs: So where are they? Basically, he argues that they still could show up, and even if they don't, it doesn't matter, because Saddam was a Very Bad Man and he would have eventually gotten around to making them and giving them to terraists.

Posted by jbc at 01:34 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 01, 2003

WMD Plot Thickens

Media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic are running lots of pieces on the question of Iraqi WMDs. From The Guardian: Straw, Powell had serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims. From MSNBC: Pressure mounting on Bush and Blair as weapons hunters find no unconventional arms. From the New York Times: Powell defends information he used to justify Iraq war. From the Washington Post: Tenet defends Iraq intelligence. And from Reuters: US insiders say Iraqi intel deliberately skewed.

Meanwhile, the story containing the "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit." quotation from Colin Powell has now made it to US News and World Report's website. See the following interesting article: Just how good was America's intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass terror? So the folks at Islam Online and AFP were telling the truth about USNWR saying that, and Craig will need to come up with another explanation for why the rabid leftwing media hasn't made more of the story so far.

Posted by jbc at 08:21 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 31, 2003

Filling in the Gaps on WMD Intelligence

More details continue to trickle in regarding who was behind the doctoring of evidence about Iraqi WMDs. A nice summary of the latest developments is this piece from Islam Online: Powell, Straw voiced doubts over Iraq’s WMDs: Diplomats.

One especially colorful anecdote is attributed to a U.S. News and World Report story (though I haven't been able to find it on their web site):

Meanwhile, a U.S. weekly said Friday that Powell came under persistent pressure from the Pentagon and White House to include questionable intelligence in his report on Iraq's WMDs to the Security Council.

U.S. News and World Report magazine said the first draft of the speech was prepared for Powell by Vice President Richard Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, in late January.

According to the report, the draft contained such questionable material that Powell lost his temper, throwing several pages in the air and declaring, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."

Cheney's aides wanted Powell to include in his presentation information that Iraq has purchased computer software that would allow it to plan an attack on the United States, an allegation that was not supported by the CIA, the magazine said.

Posted by jbc at 10:32 AM | view/comment (8) | TrackBack (0)

May 30, 2003

Martz on the Sanitized TV War

Ex-Marine and current embedded reporter Ron Martz makes some interesting observations about the hate-mail he's been receiving over his commie war-coverage for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Embed catches heat.

Posted by jbc at 03:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2003


MSNBC has a nice wrap-up of the latest developments in the WMD hunt: Iraq weapons questions dog allies.

Posted by jbc at 01:59 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lynch Family Told Not to Talk?

Interesting turn of events in the Jessica Lynch story: Lynch family silent over rescue.

The BBC says the Pentagon's version of the rescue is a lie; the Pentagon says the beeb's criticisms are "void of all facts and absolutely ridiculous." Meanwhile, Jessica's dad, asked about the controversy, is telling reporters, "We're really not supposed to talk about that subject."

Nonsense, responds a Pentagon spokesperson. "The army does not tell people what they can or cannot talk about. We have advised the family, but they have free speech and know they can talk about what they want." Yeah, really; who are we supposed to believe on the question of what Jessica's dad thinks he's free (or not free) to talk about: Jessica's dad? Pff.

Posted by jbc at 01:49 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Billmon's Timeline of WMD Statements

Here's a nice collection of quotations by Bush & Co. on those elusive Iraqi WMDs: What a tangled web we weave.

Posted by jbc at 11:06 AM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2003

Gwynne Dyer 2/3: 'War on Terror' Isn't War

This is the piece by Gwynne Dyer I was actually looking for when I came across that other one I just posted. This one is a column in which he makes a compelling case that the "War on Terror" cannot be considered a "war," technically, but is, rather, an ongoing law-enforcement effort, in which there can never be a "victory." Definitely food for thought, as politicians attempt to stretch the war metaphor into the basis of actual policy (and actual war, for that matter). Anyway, here it is: A 'statistical' victory over terrorism cannot be achieved.

Posted by jbc at 07:44 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gwynne Dyer, 1/3: Blair Mocked on WMDs in Moscow

I liked this column by Gwynne Dyer, and think it makes an interesting counterpoint to Craig's recent WMD posting: The missing WMD. It tells the story of how Vladimir Putin mocked Tony Blair about Iraqi WMDs during a Moscow press conference. Ouch.

Posted by jbc at 07:35 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on the WMD and the Commencement Issues

This article does a good job of addressing my thoughts on the existence of Iraq's WMD and the importance of finding such evidence.

In another ongoing topic, here is a reality check for any liberals out there who may be getting too smug about the intolerence of conservative thinkers who are faced with opposing views during Commencement speeches. Rudeness and/or reflexive dogmatic thinking is not the exclusive property of any one ideology.

And just because no one got around to pulling the plug on the microphone doesn't put it in a different category than Rockford's incident. At least Albright was giving a speech within the context of the event.

Posted by Craig at 06:13 AM | view/comment (8) | TrackBack (0)

May 26, 2003

More Perspective on the Saving of Private Jessica

From the Chicago Tribune comes this interesting update for those still interested in the Private Jessica story: Sorting fact from fiction in POW's gripping story. It confirms many of the criticisms that British reporters have been making of the original gung-ho storyline, though it diverges from the BBC version in saying that the ambulance the Iraqis used in trying to return Jessica to the US troops a few days before the rescue may not have come under direct fire by US forces. There's also an intersting comment about the arrival at Centcom of a White House spinmeister shortly before the well-orchestrated original presentation of the heroic-Jessica story.

I'm curious how this will play out in made-for-TV-movie land. Will one of the networks present a dramatization of the original heroic version of the story? Or will the powers that be, who presumably are the same people telling Jessica to keep her mouth shut and claim amnesia, pressure the networks into letting the story just go away, so as not to risk giving the debunkers a wider audience?

Posted by jbc at 06:27 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Margolis on Bush's Iraq Lies

Following up on the excellent link Craig posted, here's a less-sympathetic treatment of the same issues from the Toronto Sun's Eric Margolis: Oh, what a tangled web Bush weaves. Ties things together well.

Posted by jbc at 10:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 25, 2003

Credible Option?

While I still feel confident that some direct evidence of WMD material will be uncovered in time, I am not adverse to acknowledging other viable options for the current failure to produce the evidence that was assured by the Bush Administration. The key in this commentary is that Bush and his inner circle placed too much credence in speculative or unsubstanciated intelligence reports and those of key Iraqi exiles in assessing the level of weapon-ready material Iraqi had on hand. Not the more sinister scenario pushed by the Far Left of a revenge-thirsty, immoral, imperialist who has strung out a series of bald-faced lies to the world.

Regardless, if this more plausible alternative explanation becomes much more evident, it will still result in a big backlash for Bush and the Republican Party, come 2004. Which would be the same blissful end result hoped for by the Democrats, both radical and mainstream (other than those extremists who think Bush should be in front of the World Court, even before Saddam).

And it would be a jarring setback in the leadership role of the US in the world (possibly for the better in some ways, but most definitely for the worse as well).

If nothing else, it provides food for thought for those who are becoming increasing uncomfortable at the delay in finding Iraq's WMD (with the exception of those who have already stumbled off the intellectual cliff due to being blinded by all their perceived Bush-Hitler-Satan analogies).

Posted by Craig at 10:34 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 24, 2003

More Data on the Iraqi Civilian Death Toll

The Christian Science Monitor is running an article about various groups' efforts to figure out how many Iraqi noncombatants got liberated from their lives during the recent war: Surveys pointing to high civilian death toll in Iraq. The numbers aren't pretty; it's sounding as if our use of cluster munitions and the speedy thrust by the Marines (especially) up the Euphrates resulted in anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 civilian deaths.

Those dead bodies are all ours. Our taxes paid for the bullets; our friends and neighbors formed the troops that did the killing; our votes (or lack thereof) put the politicians in place who sent those troops on their mission.

So, you supporters of the war: Explain to me, please, just why those people had to die. The 4-year-old Iraqi girl obliterated by a missile, the 12-year-old Iraqi boy torn to pieces by exploding cluster bomblets, the family of four strafed by machine gun fire at a checkpoint. What greater good justifies their deaths?

You don't get to ignore the question. You don't get to just flip channels to some sitcom, or some reality show, and make it magically not-have-happened. It did happen. We did this. And I want very much for you to tell me why.

Posted by jbc at 02:55 PM | view/comment (14) | TrackBack (0)

May 22, 2003

The Meaning of Missing WMDs

Still yet again even more commentary on the missing Iraq WMDs, and what their absence means: First up, an op/ed piece from Melvin A. Goodman: Weapons failure. Next, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman: Trust in leaders is lost if WMD are not found. Finally, from someone who (yes, I know) supported the Ku Klux Klan in his early politicking in West Virginia 50 years ago, but today is apparently the only person in the Senate to care so little (or so much?) about his future that he's willing to take a moral stand: The truth will emerge.

Thanks to for all three links, and for hosting the text of Byrd's speech.

Posted by jbc at 11:27 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2003

I'm Insensitive and Tactless and Free to Prove It!

Sorry. This has nothing really to do with lies exactly, but this story just bothered me! There is a time and a place for everything, but a commencement speech is not the forum for a guest speaker to get on his soapbox regarding a divisive issue such as the war in Iraq and subject an unwitting audience to his political views! Freedom of speech still comes with a responsibility to have some respect and sensitivity to your audience and the occasion you are a part of. The parents and grandparents in attendance were rightly expecting a moment of pride and happiness for the accomplishments of their child or grandchild. Not an attack on their Country and Government! College is the time for open thinking and debate. But this event wasn't a session of Political Science 101.

And yes, I would have thought it to be equally inappropriate if the speaker decided to focus his speech on deriding and discrediting all those who protested the war or who felt it was immoral.

An additional story about this incident provides a few more quotes from those involved. Hedges' speech had absolutely no context or mention of the reason for this gathering: a college graduation! How arrogant do you have to be to agree to be the guest speaker at a commencement and refuse to even make a passing reference to the event, let alone gear your comments around it! He even makes a condesending remark afterwards in this article in which he infers that commencement-type of speeches are essentially beneath him! In another story I've read on this issue, it appears both the College President and Hedges are acknowledging what should have happened in the first place. Hedges says he would have directly told the school what he planned to say, and the President would have sought out a speaker with a less volatile topic. I've also seen mentioned that the New York Times may be looking to see if Hedges violated some aspect of a company ethics policy (just what the Times needs right now).

I still come back to the fact that, in the proper setting (of which there are many), this speech would be fine. I probably would even agree, to a point, with the general idea of how war affects people's attitudes, group thinking and belief systems.

People are bombarded with strident messages on controversial topics all the time. No one will be any worse off by hearing one congratulatory/inspirational message on their graduation day! It was simply the wrong type of speech for the wrong occasion.

Posted by Craig at 08:40 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

May 17, 2003

Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans

Here's a really interesting story from the Observer, as reprinted at Guardian Unlimited: US rivals turn on each other as weapons search draws a blank. It describes the activities of "The Cabal," a shadowy group of intelligence analysts that is part of the Office of Special Plans, an intelligence-gathering body set up in the Defense Department by Donald Rumsfeld in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. According to the article, Rumsfeld didn't like the intelligence he was getting from traditional sources like the CIA, so he set up the OSP to produce intelligence more to his liking. The OSP apparently was the source for much of the now-exposed-as-fallacious "intelligence" about the Iraqi WMD program.

The article appears to be a follow-on to this earlier New Yorker article by Seymour M. Hersch: Selective intelligence. For a counter-spin, see this piece from Jack Shafer in Slate: The leading indicator that WMD will be found: Seymour M. Hersh says they won't.

Posted by jbc at 12:55 PM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

May 16, 2003

Public, Dems Don't Care about Missing WMDs

According to this analysis from the Washington Post, most of the US population, and virtually all the Democrats in Congress, have decided that the Iraq war was a great success, even if it turns out Bush lied shamelessly about the Iraqi WMD threat: No weapons, no problem for Bush.

I wonder how many of the people who believe the war was justified even without Iraqi WMDs also believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Posted by jbc at 09:50 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Corn on Iraq War Truths

I'm a little late with the link, but it's good stuff. From David Corn, writing in The Nation: Now they tell us.

Posted by jbc at 10:58 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Jessica Lynch Thing

I just can't seem to sync up with this Private Jessica plotline. I somehow got sidetracked into feeling all maudlin and sympathetic toward Private Shoshana Johnson, and when the first soft-focus pieces about Jessica appeared I gave them a pass. Joined the Army to get out of her West Virginia poverty, just saving up money for college, wanted to be a kindergarten teacher; it was just a little too hard-sell for me. Nothing against her personally; she seemed like a great person. I just wasn't interested in that particular story at that particular time.

Then, when the Big Daring Rescue happened, I was anchored in a little cove off a more or less desert island with no net, no news at all, really. So I missed that story.

Then when I saw the stories floating around from the foreign papers that were pointing out that the facts of the case didn't quite match the Hollywood storyline that the Pentagon and their mouthpieces at Fox News were putting out, I dunno; I think I was just tired of the whole thing. And I was right in the thick of my reaching-out-to-the-conservatives impulse, and it just didn't seem right to hit them over the head by harping on the Jessica story.

But anyway, there's a new piece in Salon about it, and it's pretty funny, and I think I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention this along with all the other lies witih which the Iraq war was sold to the American people. So go thou and fill thine eyes with the gritty, messy reality that is the Private Jessica story, for reals: Saving Pvt. Lynch: The made-for-TV movie. (It's worth enduring the anti-Web clickthrough ad for the Well that gets you the 1-day pass.)

Update: reader Pilar sent this helpful link, with more on the truth behind the Jessica story: The real 'Saving Pte. Lynch'.

Posted by jbc at 01:32 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2003

Army WMD Team Stands Down

Since the pro-Bush folks seem to still be in denial about this, I guess I'll have to keep flogging the WMD story a little longer. Here's the latest development, as reported in The Independent: US weapons team ends its search with no discovery.

Just to recap, briefly: We invaded another country and overthrew its government, killing thousands of innocent people in the process. We justified this as an act of self-defense, given that the country had (we claimed) lots of banned weapons that it supposedly was likely to hand over to terrorists. No such weapons have been found.

So Bush lied about that, right? And you people who continue to support him as president deal with that issue how, exactly? I'm not trying to bait you; I just really want to know what you think about all this.

Posted by jbc at 11:07 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

May 04, 2003

Fireman: Current Status of the War Justification

Okay; I lied. I really wasn't going to post about it anymore, but then I read this really nice wrap-up from Ken Fireman at Newsday: Hunt goes on for war's motives. It covers the whole issue really well, even mentioning the "Remember the Maine" and the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. The difference between this case and those earlier two is that in those cases, it took years, even decades, for the truth to be widely recognized. This time, I think the truth is obvious just a few months later. (Well, I think the truth was obvious before the war even started, but now, with the post-war weapons hunt playing out the way it has, it has become really obvious, to the point where those who support the president are reduced to acknowledging the lie, but claiming it didn't matter.)

Posted by jbc at 12:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Digby on the Bush Loyalty Oath

From Digby of Digby's Blog, via The Smirking Chimp, comes this really fabulous piece: Loyalty oath. Among the other wonderful things about it is that I now feel there is no longer any need for me to talk about this, since Digby has said it better than I ever could. So there's something we can all celebrate. :-)

Posted by jbc at 11:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2003

Vitello: Lessons of Iraq

A nice opinion piece from Newsday's Paul Vitello: Iraq 101: What we've learned. Nothing new, but a nice summary, brief and to the point.

Posted by jbc at 08:30 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

12 SARS Patients Report Relapses

Hello. This is my 1st post, so if there are any errors, please forgive me.

Definitly a year in history that will be remembered for a long time: a President of the USA who promotes peace by causing war(?), recession (but finds millions and billions to fight a war), and now SARS (an illness which, with all our technology, is still a myserty to us). In my travels through the world wide web, I came across intresting infomation about SARS, and how people who seem to have defeated the illness are being "re-infected." Could this be the black plague of the 21st century? Only time will tell...

An article from New York Times: 12 SARS Patients Report Relapses. And here is an interesting article from Newsday: HIV/Aids Infected people resistent to SARS?

Here are a few more on other topics:

US Marine investigated for war crimes after newspaper interview

U.S. Tells Iraq Oil Ministers Not to Act Without Its O.K.

Coca-Cola promotes drink with 'swastika' robots

Lawyer: FBI agent's job in jeopardy because she blew the whistle

The Secrets of September 11: The White House is battling to keep a report on the terror attacks secret. Does the 2004 election have anything to do with it?
(I am just glad the terrorists are the only ones who hate our freedom.)

Only on the net you find an article like this one... I won't claim it as fact, but it still is an intresting article: Bush's "Christian" Blood Cult, Concerns Raised by the Vatican

Well I hope it's not too much infomation; if it is, please let me know and I will limit the amount of articles I post.

-- best way to lie, is by knowing the truth

How fortunate for leaders, that the masses do not think.

-- Adolph Hitler

Where the People fear the Government - you have tyranny; Where the Government fears the People - you have rights.

-- Thomas Jefferson

It must never be unpatriotic to support your country against your government. It must always be unpatriotic to support your government against your country.

-- Stephen T. Byingt

It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

-- Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering

Posted by immy2g at 01:01 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 30, 2003

Goddard on Ali Ismail Abbas

From Australian newspaper The Age comes this piece by Chris Goddard: Look into the eyes of Ali Ismail Abbas: what do you see? Ali, you'll recall, is the symbolic representative of the war-ravaged children of Iraq that even the US media was willing, however briefly, to put on TV. Goddard has some interesting things to say about what it is that he actually symbolizes.

Posted by jbc at 11:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Uppity Women on the Media

Let us all give thanks for people like Janeane Garofalo and Ashleigh Banfield (an interview with the former, a speech by the latter). Or not. But I will, anyway. Lots of good stuff here on the nature of public debate in this country, and the way the war has been presented in the media.

Posted by jbc at 11:45 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2003

Reid on the Dixie Chicks

Here's a nice opinion piece from focusing on the whole Dixie Chicks thing. By Joy-Ann Lomena Reid: Whistling Dixie. She has a lot of good things to say about the importance of allowing criticism of the president during wartime, including this quotation from Teddy Roosevelt:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
There's also this passage, where Reid hits the nail on the head, at least as far as I'm concerned:
And then there was the hour-long, televised rebuke of the women Thursday night, in which ABC News correspondent Diane Sawyer repeatedly pressed, in tisking, school-marm fashion, for just one more apology to Bush. Maines heroically resisted the attempts to reduce her to a wicked child, who surely must realize that it isn't nice to criticize her betters, but the interview ought to go down in history with the House Committee on Un-American Affairs hearings for its daring presumption of guilt. What many of the rest of us still don't get, is just what Maines is guilty of: Feeling ashamed? Being from Texas? Or speaking her mind?
Really. What exactly is Natalie Maines guilty of? Because whatever it is, there's a whole bunch of us who are just as guilty.

Posted by jbc at 11:53 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ebert Interview

Something I missed when it first appeared is a really fabulous interview with Roger Ebert over at AlterNet. He talks about Michael Moore's Academy Awards speech, actors and musicians who criticize the war, and whether movies can make us better people. An excerpt:

Q: What do you make of the criticism of Hollywood celebrities for speaking out against the war – the Sean Penns, the Susan Sarandons?

Ebert: It's just ignorant; it's just ignorant.

Q: Why do you say that?

Ebert: I begin to feel like I was in the last generation of Americans who took a civics class. I begin to feel like most Americans don't understand the First Amendment, don't understand the idea of freedom of speech, and don't understand that it's the responsibility of the citizen to speak out. If Hollywood stars speak out, so do all sorts of other people. Now Hollywood stars can get a better hearing. Oddly enough, the people who mostly seem to hear them are the right wing, so that Fox News can put on its ticker tape in Times Square a vile attack on Michael Moore, and Susan Sarandon is a punchline. These are people who are responsible and are saying what they believe. And there are people on the other side who also speak out, and it's the way our country works.

There's lots more good stuff there. Definitely worth checking out, if you haven't seen it already.

Posted by jbc at 09:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Bitching About WMD Lies

Ho, hum. Another day, another round of criticism of Bush's willingness to justify the Iraq invasion with lies. First, from the normally-quite-staid LA Times editorial writers: Tell the truth on weapons (login required, cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works).

"We were not lying," one administration official told ABC News on Friday. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." No, it wasn't. Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction is central to the legitimacy of the war.

If it turns out that the administration did mislead the world, the only way to mitigate long-term damage to U.S. credibility is to come clean. Fast.

Next up, Robert Scheer's latest column: Are we numb or dumb?
It is expected that despots can force the blind allegiance of their people to falsehoods. But it is frightening in the extreme when lying matters not at all to a free people. The only plausible explanation is that the tragedy of Sept. 11 so traumatized us that we are no longer capable of the outrage expected of a patently deceived citizenry. The case for connecting Saddam Hussein with that tragedy is increasingly revealed as false, but it seems to matter not to a populace numbed by incessant government propaganda.
Finally, let's give the floor to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, writing in his latest piece, Matters of emphasis:
One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.'s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement -- if it is ever announced -- that it was a false alarm? It's a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing -- and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished -- not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat -- just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy -- aren't we?

I guess that has become an empirical question. If we are a democracy, a healthy one, with the kind of well-developed immune system that can successfully fight off an infection by anti-democratic forces, then events between now and November of next year will demonstrate that.

Posted by jbc at 07:07 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2003

Springsteen Supports Dixie Chicks

ymatt pointed me to this story, about how Bruce Springsteen is standing up for the Dixie Chicks: Springsteen backs under-fire Dixies. Even better, the story included a small screenshot of the nude-Dixie-Chicks cover of Entertainment Weekly, which reminded me that I'd wanted to see that (for journalistic reasons only, you understand), which led me to track down a bigger version of it here.

Cheesecake factor aside, it's a pretty cool image. I give Natalie Maines credit for standing up, Bush-like, to her detractors, rather than running off and hiding. Must be a Texas thing. And mad props to Martie Maguire and Emily Robison for standing by Maines, too.

Posted by jbc at 10:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Campbell: Holding Bush Accountable

From The Smirking Chimp comes word of this opinion piece by Don Campbell: Pause the postwar glee to ask: Were supporters misled? It's yet another example of the "Hey, did Bush lie to us about Iraqi WMDs to justify the war?" talk going around, and I find it especially significant because Campbell describes himself as previously having supported the war based mainly on the WMD assertions. This is your prototypical swing voter talking here, from the pages of the can't-get-more-mainstream USA Today:

If the weapons are found and their authenticity confirmed, Bush will have the I-told-you-so moment of his presidency. He'll deserve to be rewarded politically for staring down the Nervous Nellies and defending the nation against weapons controlled by a mad man.

If the weapons are not found, the most charitable explanation is that they were moved out of Iraq while we were bombing our way to Baghdad -- or that we had rotten intelligence to begin with. Either illustrates incompetence.

The more ominous conclusion is that Bush deliberately misled Americans to gather support for the Iraqi invasion -- or unwittingly was misled himself by gung-ho advisers, none of whom wear uniforms. I don't know which of the two is worse, but either should carry a heavy political price.

Posted by jbc at 07:26 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2003

More on WMDs

From the NYT comes this piece on how the Bush administration is doubling the number of people it has searching for WMDs in Iraq: US plans to add to teams to hunt for Iraqi weapons. An excerpt:

One official, discussing the American plans, said that despite some polls indicating that Americans do not care very much whether the weapons are found, White House officials are pressing the United States Central Command to step up the search for them because of worldwide skepticism that the main American rationale for the war was not proving to be true. "There's just a lot of pressure coming from the White House on this," an administration official said. "But Centcom is pushing back because they have other things to do — like securing the country and guarding its antiquities."

Meanwhile, here's a piece from The Independent that gives a nice summary of that "worldwide skepticism": Revealed: How the road to war was paved with lies.

Posted by jbc at 07:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 26, 2003

Did US Cut a Deal with Saddam?

As you've no doubt figured out by now, I love conspiracy theories. I give this one only a 10% - 20% chance of actually being true, but it still makes for an interesting thought experiment.

As described in an opinion piece by the Detroit Times' Jack Lessenberry, the idea is this: that the US might have secretly entered into a deal with Saddam to let him take the money and run, setting himself up in some out-of-the-way place in return for a promise from us not to look for him too hard.

The reason I don't think it's especially likely to be true is that it doesn't fit with the image of Bush as having a personal vendetta against Saddam, being annoyed about that whole "he tried to kill my daddy" thing, wanting to "fuck" him by "taking him out," and so on.

But, as Lessenberry points out, there are aspects of the theory that fit the known facts pretty well, especially the sudden disinterest on the part of the powers that be in Saddam's location after the (staged?) decapitation strike on the restaurant. And it would make all kinds of sense in terms of the overall war plan, what with its emphasis on toppling the regime with a minimum of bloody Baghdad street fighting.

Anyway, make of it what you will.

Posted by jbc at 07:42 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

*SUPER* Sugar-Coated Cluster Bombs

General Myers, true to has word, looked into the reports of all those Iraqi civilians being killed by US cluster munitions, and got back to the press yesterday with the results: Head of Joint Chiefs defends use of cluster bombs in Iraq. Only 26 of the 1,500 or so cluster bombs we dropped in Iraq were dropped on civilian areas, according to Myers, and that was Saddam's fault anyway, for locating military targets in civilian areas. According to Myers, there was only one (1) case of death or injury to a noncombatant due to a US cluster bomb.

Thankfully, LA Times reporter Greg Miller provides some context for readers who bother to read the whole article:

Myers' assertions were challenged by human rights organizations, which said they had learned Friday of new injuries to civilians in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Weapons experts also said Myers' remarks are somewhat misleading because his account of the U.S. military's use of cluster bombs does not cover similar weapons dispersed by rockets and ground artillery.

Because they are not dropped from airplanes, those weapons are not considered "cluster bombs" in Pentagon parlance, the experts said. Even so, they added, the weapons have a similar effect and, in many cases, higher "dud rates."

"I'm hearing about a lot of surface-delivered cluster munitions in the suburbs," said Mark Hiznay, senior researcher in the arms division of Human Rights Watch in Washington. "They're hanging in the trees. They're sitting on the ground."

Human Rights Watch and other organizations, as well as doctors in Baghdad, have reported hundreds of casualties from cluster bombs or similar devices.

Posted by jbc at 07:25 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 22, 2003

Sattar's Story

Kathy Kelly has a really interesting entry in the Iraq Diaries project at Electronic Iraq: This is your country now. It tells the story of Sattar, a Baghdad resident, providing what feels to me like a more authentic look at the perceptions and mindset of the typical Iraqi-in-the-street than we've been getting lately from the mainstream media.

Posted by jbc at 03:17 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Carroll Thinks Deeply About the War

Here's an opinion piece from James Carroll, as published in the Boston Globe: A nation lost. There's some really good, deep thinking here about what's going on with our country these days. His conclusion:

Photographic celebrations of our young warriors, glorifications of released American prisoners, heroic rituals of the war dead all take on the character of crass exploitation of the men and women in uniform. First they were forced into a dubious circumstance, and now they are themselves being mythologized as its main post-facto justification -- as if the United States went to Iraq not to seize Saddam (disappeared), or to dispose of weapons of mass destruction (missing), or to save the Iraqi people (chaos), but ''to support the troops.'' War thus becomes its own justification. Such confusion on this grave point, as on the others, signifies a nation lost.

Posted by jbc at 02:51 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scheer: Did Bush Lie to Us On Purpose?

Robert Scheer's latest column isn't the best work I've ever read from him, but it seemed like the kind of thing people would keep suggesting to me if I didn't post it, so here you go: Did Bush deceive us in his rush to war? Nothing really new here, but a decent summing up. Here's the money quote from the end of the piece:

Did our president knowingly deceive us in his rush to war?

If he did, and we are truly concerned about our own democracy, we would have to acknowledge that such an egregious abuse of power rises to the status of an impeachable offense.

I think impeachment talk is a distraction at this point. Yeah, on some level I'd agree that launching a war under false pretenses really ought to be considered a vastly more serious offense than, say, lying under oath about whether you got a blowjob from an intern in the Oval Office.

But precisely because it's so much more serious an offense, I think we need to stay focused in terms of our response. We shouldn't waste our time, energy, and credibility pushing for an impeachment that, realistically, is never going to happen. Instead, we need to be talking about how we're going to defeat Bush in the 2004 election.

Posted by jbc at 02:32 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Estabrook: Call It What It Is

Carl Estabrook has a powerful, if disturbing, piece currently running at CounterPunch: Support our euphemism. An excerpt:

The "pro-troops" line echoes what is perhaps the most successful rhetorical strategy in modern politics, "pro-choice." In each case attention is shifted away from a questionable action toward the actor, for whom sympathy is solicited. But everyone knows that "pro-troops" is an assertion of the legitimacy of the war, just as "pro-choice" is a contention that abortion is ethical. In neither case does the argument have to be made explicit. Both involve ending human life (obvious in the case of war, but rejected as a description of abortion by some of its defenders; others however admit that abortion ends human life but is nevertheless justified, and their position is closer to the "pro-troops" position).

There's another similarity. Noting that many of the invading US troops cannot legally buy an alcoholic drink in the US, one commentator has spoken of Bush administration plans' being carried out by "brutalized 19-year-olds." (It's true that the American sniper quoted last week as saying he killed a female civilian because "...the chick was in the way," was a 28-year old Marine sergeant.) The presumed beneficiaries of pro-choice policies could also often be described that way. Most people considering abortion feel that they have little "choice" -- the decision seems necessary in a society that doesn't provide medical care, education, housing or income. In the same way "our troops" are often constrained by economic necessity. Nineteen-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch from West Virginia was celebrated throughout the media after her rescue; her father was quoted as saying, when he first heard that she had been captured, that she had enlisted only because there were no jobs for 19-year-olds, even at McDonald's...

It's a vicious society that offers abortion and enlistment as palliatives for poverty. To force people young and old into situations in which they have no choice but to stain their consciences with the deaths of others is a great crime, one that can't be covered with euphemisms. The beginning of wisdom is often to call things by their right name.

Posted by jbc at 07:05 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sugar-Coated Cluster Bombs

Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers sounded particularly lame during yesterday's Pentagon briefing, as he tried to deflect criticism about the thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets we've recently distributed throughout Iraq. From a State Department transcript of the briefing:

Q: Mr. Secretary, prior to the conflict, human rights groups complained about the use of cluster bombs by the United States. Now that the major combat phase is over, we're seeing the evidence that this, in fact, is a weapon that can continue to kill after the hostilities are over. There've been a small but significant number of people maimed or killed, including some children and some American forces as well. Would you consider limiting the use of cluster bombs in the future, or perhaps even eliminating them from the U.S. arsenal in response to this kind of -- type of criticism?

Myers: I think it gets back to -- well, first of all, cluster bombs are not like mines, completely different subject. Cluster bombs are set to go off when they strike their target or whatever they do, so they're not like a mine that lies there until it's activated.

I have not heard of injuries due to cluster bombs, but we'll look into it. It's possible, of course, but we'll have to look into it.

You do that, General Myers. See what you can turn up. Here are some links to get you started. From Newsday: Clusters of death: Bomblets wreak havoc long after their initial deployment. Or from the Dallas Morning News (as reprinted in the Billings Gazette): Toy-like bombs dropped by U.S. kill, maim kids. Or maybe Myers is a Beatles fan? McCartney wants cluster bomb ban.

Posted by jbc at 06:47 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 21, 2003

My Coastal View Letter

Here's the letter I'm planning to drop off at my local weekly paper, The Coastal View, tomorrow (actually, today, now):

Two recent letters in the Coastal View bothered me. One said that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The other said our troops have found evidence that proves Iraq has been developing weapons of mass destruction. These statements bother me because as far as I can tell, neither of them is true.

We owe the troops more than yellow ribbons. We owe them the careful, thoughtful performance of our duties as voters. That's the only way to make sure we elect leaders who won't go to war for the wrong reasons.

While this war debate has sometimes been unpleasant, we need to have it, and we need to base the discussion on facts, not propaganda. We owe it to the troops.

Posted by jbc at 12:56 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 19, 2003

Media Coverage and the War at Home

I'm thinking this morning about the way the war is being portrayed, and the way people's perceptions are shaped by their biases, and what this all means in terms of the next presidential election, which I'm more or less convinced is going to end up being a referendum on the war.

It's a concern. I believe that a majority of voters in this country, if they have access to a reasonably full, balanced account of what's been happening, will choose to take a step back from the cliff Bush is doggedly determined to march us over. But the chance of their getting that sort of account seems to be diminishing.

A nice article on this, published in American Reporter and pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, is Randolph T. Holhut's The war I saw.

According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly 70 percent of people the paper polled said they got most of their information from the all-news cable channels such as CNN, Fox and MSNBC. But the coverage these people got sounded suspiciously like NBC's coverage of the Olympics, where the United States is the only country that gets covered and the other nations are bit players in a red, white and blue melodrama.

The New York Times is already talking about a "Fox Effect" on television news - what reporter Jim Rutenberg called "a new sort of tv journalism that casts aside traditional notions of objectivity, holds contempt for dissent and eschews the skepticism of government at mainstream journalism's core."

Holhut himself listened to the BBC World Service via public radio. Another good alternative would be the sampling of an array of non-US news sources via the Internet, which is the approach that I, and probably most of you, used to keep informed about all this.

But what about that nearly 70% of US citizens that are getting their news from the cable news channels? It gets worse with the hard-core fans of right-wing talk radio; these people get a non-stop stream of fantasy entertainment, and a lot of them actually believe it, with scary consequences.

Like the consequences seen by John Fleming, as recounted by the Denver Post's Reggie Rivers (again, via The Smirking Chimp): Protests are fine; just not here. Fleming hung an upside-down US flag in his store's front window as a protest against the war; shortly thereafter he received a visit from the local chief of police, along with two other armed officers, who told him the display was illegal, and that he'd have to take it down. Which was, of course, thoroughly untrue, but the police chief still asserted it, and the display still came down.

Multiply that by many thousand times, and you get a picture of what's going on all across the country. Bringing it home, again, to the smallish farming-cum-surfing community I live in, I already mentioned the flap that resulted when the wife of a local right-wing gadfly went around tying yellow plastic ribbons on every tree and lamppost, and a young woman of a different persuasion followed behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The larger context is that going back a number of months, a group of local activists have been gathering for an orderly peace vigil on a downtown corner every Friday evening; since the outset of war they've been opposed by an increasingly large, noisy, and occasionally violent group of pro-war counter-protesters who gather on the opposite corner.

A dialog about the conflict is taking place in the letters to the editor of the local weekly paper. Last week's paper carried a letter from one of the regular counter-protesters that asserted the following:

Anybody who keeps saying that we have no reason for fighting in Iraq keeps refusing to see the facts. It has been stated time and time again Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11, supporting terrorist groups and supplying them. They came and attacked us, killed our men, women and children in an act of war. There is and can never be a reason for doing such a cowardly and terrible act of murder.

Yes, Saddam has brought this war on himself. Thank God we have a president right now who saw what needed to be done and being a leader did the right thing.

I was momentarily outraged at the linking of Saddam with 9/11, and was close to sending in a reply, but I didn't. I figured that such an obvious lie would doubtless draw many such responses.

Well, it didn't. Or if it did, the paper chose not to publish them. Instead, this week's paper contains a new letter, from a different local right-winger, with a new lie:

Sadly, the true agenda of the "anti war" crowd is anti-Bush. Even with the phenomenal success of our military, they refer to our government officials in ways that I will not even dignify by quoting. Even as we find the "smoking guns" that prove the existence of weapons of mass destruction, they refuse to acknowledge the legitimate actions of our president.
Sigh. For our system of democracy to actually work the way it's supposed to, the people casting their ballots need a clear understanding of what's going on. I should have written a letter pointing out the lie in the first letter, and I should write one now pointing out the lie in this one. Not out of any delusion that I'll actually influence either of these letter-writers to question their sources of "information," but because left uncorrected, those lies are like a cancer that will spread through the minds of more open-minded people.

Those of us with access to better sources of information have an obligation to share that information. And not just with the other well-informed folk we interact with online, but with people in our own geographic community who don't have access to those sources.

Whew. That was a rant and a half, eh?

Posted by jbc at 08:30 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Ex-Spies Predict Planting of WMD 'Evidence'

Here's an interesting article, courtesy of the Smirking Chimp, and India's Sify News, and France's AFP: Ex-spies slam US over failure to find WMDs. It's based on a statement by a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), apparently formed by former spies who object to the politicization of their profession at the hands of the Bush team. An excerpt:

Retired CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern told AFP: "Some of my colleagues are virtually certain that there will be some weapons of mass destruction found, even though they might have to be planted.

"I'm just as sure that some few will be found, but not in an amount that by any stretch would justify the charge of a threat against the US or anyone else."

He added: "Even if the planting was discovered by and by, they'll say, 'ok, the weapons were planted - fine.'"

Posted by jbc at 07:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 18, 2003

Steele on the Ongoing Carnage

From the Guardian's Jonathan Steele comes this updated front-line report from the hospitals of Baghdad: Bombs silent, but the children still suffer.

At least six children were wounded by cluster bombs this week and taken to the Kadhimiya hospital because it is nearest to where they live. Clutching his mother's hand as he lay on a mattress, Ali Mustafa's head is half hidden by a bandage. He is a "post-war" victim. The five-year-old was playing with his brother and two friends earlier this week when he picked up an odd round object. It was an unexploded cluster bomb, one of thousands that lie around Baghdad. It exploded in his hands, blinding him. His legs, scarred with shrapnel, will heal but Ali Mustafa's sight will never return.
So, the horrible human cost of the war continues to mount. And why, again, was it that 5-year-old Ali had to pay this cost? To take away Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? To punish him for his involvement in 9/11?

Oh, wait. I remember. It was for freedom. Hear that, Ali? I know you're not having a good time at the moment, but guess what? You're free!

Gah. I can't joke about this. It's not funny.

I'm sorry, Ali.

Posted by jbc at 02:54 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Morford: Hail the Great Victory

From SFGate columnist Mark Morford comes this amusing piece of sarcasm: The warmongers were right!

Hail the great victor BushCo! Ha! The U.S. kicked ass! Who's your daddy, beeyatch? Thump thump thump on the manly chest of great liberator America! Liberals suck! Go, war! It's Miller Time.
I think I mostly like the fact that a major newspaper is running a column using the word "beeyatch." Heh.

Posted by jbc at 02:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voices in the Wilderness Barred from Palestine Hotel

Here's a nice back-atcha from the enlightened military leadership currently charged with fixing the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Iraq: the folks in the Iraq Peace Team apparently are now barred from the Palestine Hotel, the location from which both the U.S. Civil Military Operations Center and the bulk of international journalists in Baghdad are currently working. Seems the powers that be didn't like the press release the peaceniks put out yesterday, in which they exposed the more or less total lack of clue on the part of the CMOC.

The respose is certainly consistent with the style of the commander in chief: Don't like the criticism you're hearing? Muzzle and/or ignore it, and keep right on doing whatever it was you were doing. Problem solved!

Posted by jbc at 02:37 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 17, 2003

Van der Stockt's Account of Marines Killing Civilians

From an article by Michel Guerrin in Le Monde, as translated by Norman Madarasz and posted in CounterPunch: Embedded photographer: 'I saw Marines kill civilians'. It consists of the eyewitness account of Laurent Van der Stockt, an embedded photographer working for the New York Times Magazine, who travelled with US Marines into Baghdad.

On the morning of April 7, the Marines decided to cross the bridge. A shell fell onto an armored personnel carrier. Two marines were killed. The crossing took on a tragic aspect. The soldiers were stressed, febrile. They were shouting. The risk didn't appear to be that great, so I followed their advance. They were howling, shouting orders and positions to each other. It sounded like something in-between a phantasm, mythology and conditioning. The operation was transformed into crossing the bridge over the River Kwai.

Later, there was some open terrain. The Marines were advancing and taking up position, hiding behind mounds of earth. They were still really tense. A small blue van was moving towards the convoy. Three not-very-accurate warning shots were fired. The shots were supposed to make the van stop. The van kept on driving, made a U-turn, took shelter and then returned slowly. The Marines opened fire. All hell broke loose. They were firing all over the place. You could hear 'Stop firing' being shouted. The silence that set in was overwhelming. Two men and a woman had just been riddled with bullets. So this was the enemy, the threat.

A second vehicle drove up. The same scenario was repeated. Its passengers were killed on the spot. A grandfather was walking slowly with a cane on the sidewalk. They killed him too (SEE PHOTO IN LE MONDE). As with the old man, the Marines fired on a SUV driving along the river bank that was getting too close to them. Riddled with bullets, the vehicle rolled over. Two women and a child got out, miraculously still alive. They sought refuge in the wreckage. A few seconds later, it flew into bits as a tank lobbed a terse shot into it.

Marines are conditioned to reach their target at any cost, by staying alive and facing any type of enemy. They abusively make use of disproportionate firepower. These hardened troops, followed by tons of equipment, supported by extraordinary artillery power, protected by fighter jets and cutting-edge helicopters, were shooting on local inhabitants who understood absolutely nothing of what was going on.

With my own eyes I saw about fifteen civilians killed in two days. I've gone through enough wars to know that it's always dirty, that civilians are always the first victims. But the way it was happening here, it was insane.

At the roughest moment, the most humane of the troops was called Doug. He gave real warning shots. From 800 yards he could hit a tire and, if that wasn't enough, then the motor. He saved ten lives in two hours by driving back civilians who were coming towards us.

Distraught soldiers were saying: 'I ain't prepared for this, I didn't come here to shoot civilians.' The colonel countered that the Iraqis were using inhabitants to kill marines, that 'soldiers were being disguised as civilians, and that ambulances were perpetrating terrorist attacks.'

I drove away a girl who had had her humerus pierced by a bullet. Enrico was holding her in his arms. In the rear, the girl's father was protecting his young son, wounded in the torso and losing consciousness. The man spoke in gestures to the doctor at the back of the lines, pleading: "I don't understand, I was walking and holding my children's hands. Why didn't you shoot in the air? Or at least shoot me?"

You think they'll be covering this side of the war on Fox News?

Posted by jbc at 02:33 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kysia: The US Military Is Clueless

Here's another really interesting piece from Ramzi Kysia of the Iraq Peace Team: Heavy-handed and hopeless, the U.S. military doesn't know what it's doing in Iraq. Kysia recounts being part of a meeting today between Voices in the Wilderness (the Iraq Peace Team's parent organizing body) and the US military's Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) in Baghdad. Frighteningly, the CMOC comes off as not knowing its ass from its elbow.

CMOC reported that they did not yet have a plan for how to restore essential services in Baghdad, but are working on creating such a plan today. However, that information will not be publicly available for review, and will only be shared with organizations that agree to work with the U.S. military in Baghdad - cutting out any humanitarian agency that insists on maintaining neutrality.

CMOC also reported that they spent several days locating hospitals, power plants, and water & sanitation plants in order to do needs assessments. Apparently no one in the U.S. military thought to ask the United Nations, or other international organizations working in Iraq, for any of this information prior to, or even after, the fall of Baghdad. The World Health Organization and the Red Cross have been working in Iraq for years. The United Nations Development program has been working to assist Iraq in restoring electricity since 1996. Locations and assessments of civilian infrastructures are not secret information - except in the Pentagon's world. Why didn't anyone ask for this information? Why wasn't a plan for rehabilitation developed prior to the war?

When told that of rumors of a cholera outbreak in Hilla, CMOC even asked Voices in the Wilderness where that neighborhood was located in Baghdad - unaware that Hilla is a major Iraqi city located approximately 1 hour south of Baghdad!

Sigh. Make room for more innocent corpses on the altar of our glorious military victory.

Posted by jbc at 02:26 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missing WMDs and the 2004 Election

Nice piece in the Boston Globe summing up the current state of the search for those "vast stockpiles" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: Pressure to find weapons mounts. (Update: And don't miss the Onion's new infographic.)

My wife and I had a long discussion last night about the 2004 election, and the chances that Bush would be able to get away with the exceedingly lame lies he used to justify the war. She was feeling depressed, and inclined toward the view that he would succeed. But I don't know. Bush's approval ratings shot up after the quick victory, it's true, but not to the 90%+ levels that his dad enjoyed after Gulf War I; currently I think he's hovering in the 60's or 70's. And even with his dad, those stratospheric approval ratings proved short-lived once a compelling case was made that he was ignoring people's pain on the economy. The current Bush is obviously way vulnerable in that area, too.

Anyway, I'm beginning to think Lincoln was right: you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but eventually a significant number of swing voters are going to call you on your bullshit. Flag-waving yellow-ribbon campaigns aside, I think most Americans have a real problem with the neocons' plans to remake the Middle East via the US military. Bush gets to play the 9/11 fear card only so many times. Eventually, he has to be able to produce some positive results, and uniting the rest of the world (and the rest of the global economy) in opposition to US interests seems like a really poor way to achieve that.

I think dubya's gonna be a one-termer. I hope so, at least, and I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and see what I can do to help make that prediction a reality. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, and that more will be coming around to that point of view in the months ahead.

This election is going to be interesting. For one thing, it seems like it might actually be about something. Cool.

Posted by jbc at 12:12 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 16, 2003

Lind's Neocon Primer

Some strange radio-show host I've never heard of named Jeff Rense has apparently stolen and posted for public consumption an article that appeared recently in New Statesman, a progressive British publication that seems curiously non-progressive when it comes to unleashing its content on the Web, since you have to pay and log in to read that content.

But none of that's important. What is important is the article, by Michael Lind: The weird men behind George W. Bush's war. It's great stuff on just why it is that the US is suddenly going berserk, foreign-policy wise. Lind mentions, and dismisses, explanations that focus on political economics ("it's the oil, right?") and the essentially warlike US nature. Neither of these explanations is correct, he says.

Both the economic-determinist theory and the clash-of-cultures theory are reassuring: they assume that the recent revolution in US foreign policy is the result of obscure but understandable forces in an orderly world. The truth is more alarming. As a result of several bizarre and unforeseeable contingencies - such as the selection rather than election of George W Bush, and 11 September - the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.
Lind goes on to describe just who these people are. And boy, is it scary.

Posted by jbc at 02:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wolff: I Was the Wise-Ass of the War

From The Guardian comes this really cool account by journalist Michael Wolff on how he became a temporary hero with his fellow reporters (and got into hot water with about 20 million dittoheads) for daring to question the value of those daily Centcom press briefings: I was only asking.

Posted by jbc at 09:18 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Current Thoughts, Next Steps for War Dissenters

Here are a couple of interesting opinion pieces. First, from Robert Steinbeck, as published in the Miami Herald, A dissenter looks at war's consequences. And for those who'd like a way to channel their war concerns into action, Elizabeth Ready and John Moyers at have a suggestion: Ballots can keep bullets from flying.

Posted by jbc at 08:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2003

Supporting the Troops in the Second America

A really nice piece from Mary Sojourner is running at Support the troops: Catch phrase or cop-out. She reports her experience of going to a local city council meeting where a resolution to "support our troops" somehow slipped into being a resolution to support the war, thereby allowing right-thinking folks to more-easily identify those pink monkeys in our midst who harbor dangerously heterodox thoughts.

It's going on all over. Even in my own laid-back neck of the woods, where the city manager gave in to a woman's request to put up yellow ribbons all over town, and then, as she was doing so, another woman decided to follow behind on her rollerblades, cutting them all down. The subtext is that the woman putting up the ribbons is actually the wife of one of the most rabid right-wingers on the local political scene, a man who, to my way of thinking, is at least as interested in dividing the community and exposing those who don't adhere to his "support our country, right or wrong" views as he is in sending any particular message to the troops overseas. From the LA Times: Town finds skater out of line.

It's very reminiscent to me of the "horizontal prayer" Roger Ebert wrote about in the Chicago Sun-Times column I previously linked to (since removed, but available on the Interesting-People mailing list archive).

These yellow-ribbon campaigns are like Ebert's horizontal prayer in the sense that they don't merely represent a desire to communicate a feel-good sentiment to the men and women overseas. They're also meant to put those who have the gall to oppose Fearless Leader on the defensive, to marginalize them, to exclude them. See: We all support the war. We even decorate our public spaces with symbolic speech to that effect. What's wrong with you peaceniks, anyway? Why don't you all go back to France?

Maybe I should stroll down Carpinteria Avenue, tying blood-red ribbons next to each of the yellow ones, to symbolize the innocent blood our bombs and bullets have been shedding. You think that would go over well? How about if I pick up some spare entrails from the local butcher, and tie those around the lampposts, to symbolize the horrific injuries one Iraqi 6-year-old sustained after an unexploded cluster bomblet went off in his Najaf schoolyard the other day?

Finally, a nice perspective on all this is the following piece from Mike Duncan at The Weekly Lowdown: The second America. Polarization, American-style, courtesy of the policies of our uniter, not a divider, in chief.

Posted by jbc at 07:15 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2003

Rumsfeld to Syria, Take 2

Good buddy ymatt was willing to have another crack at the update of the Jap... You're Next! poster, so here you go. My intention with the redone version was to be both more direct and more subtle, in the interest of encouraging both pros and antis to embrace the image as representative of their own particular point of view. Sort of like those sex-crazed frat boys at do with their counter-protest signs.

Or something. Mostly, though, I just really like the image, and wanted an excuse to float it past you all again. And, with stories like this in today's (Bush warns Syria not to harbor top Iraqi fugitives), it seems like it remains timely.

Click on it for a larger version. C'mon, people; share it with the world! I want to hear about it being on the wall of Rumsfeld's office.

Posted by jbc at 12:34 PM | view/comment (17) | TrackBack (0)

Dyer on What to Expect Next

Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian-born historian whose War documentary series should be required viewing for any boy-soldier lacking actual military experience who wants to play commander in chief, has written the following informative column: White House hubris will end with the domino effect of Iraq war. He talks about the imminent danger of Turkey and Iran being pulled into fighting against or on behalf of Iraq's Kurdish and Shiite populations, respectively, then continues:

Above all, there is the fact that the United States, abetted by Britain and Australia, has launched an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state. That is why most other governments are deeply worried: The American attack on Iraq could be used as a precedent, using exactly the same arguments as President Bush, to justify an Indian attack on Pakistan or a North Korean attack on South Korea. The U.S. action in Iraq has fundamentally challenged the rule of law in the world, which is a problem no matter how happy most Iraqis are at the moment -- and Washington clearly meant to do just that.

Posted by jbc at 08:33 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sorenson on the History of US Involvement in the Mideast

Columnist and self-described "liberal iconoclast" Harley Sorensen has this nice little historical summing up in today's Occupational hazard. A sample:

We won the war, but will we win the peace? If you believe George W. Bush, who is saying all the right things, we will. Bush is saying that Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis. And, he says, the U.S. will stay in Iraq "not a day longer than necessary," these words spoken by Bush's puppy dog, Tony Blair.

Unfortunately, Bush himself sometimes seems a bit dyslexic in his public statements. If he says Iraq's wealth belongs to Iraqis, what he really means is, the Iraqis will get what's left after we skim what we want. As for when we leave Iraq, "not a day longer than necessary" means, in Bush-speak, when hell freezes over.

Posted by jbc at 07:56 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 13, 2003

The Wide-Angle Statue-Toppling Shot

I'd passed over this the first time I saw it, but I guess reader Will has a point; it deserves a mention on the site. So, without further ado: Information Clearing House's Tale of Two Photos.

Posted by jbc at 03:48 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ramzi Kysia's War Reflections

Ramzi Kysia, a member of the Iraq Peace Team currently in Amman, Jordon, has a really nice piece at Electronic Iraq: Where now, America? It's a heartfelt look at what the war means, and where those opposed to war go next, in the big-picture sense. Highly recommended. From his conclusion:

If there is any hope at all, then we ourselves must overcome the institutions within our own society which further violence. We must overcome our own militarism, and the materialism that drives it. We must stop paying taxes, we must risk arrest, we must shut down a government in Washington D.C. that is illegitimate and absolutely out-of-control.

And we must overcome our anger at the mass killers of the world, the Saddam Husseins and George Bushes, even as we overcome their tyrannies. That anger is playing itself out today in the streets of Iraq - further wrecking lives already crushed by violence.

Please God, we must learn how to heal ourselves of all our delusions.

Posted by jbc at 01:43 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gumbel on the WMD Shell Game

The Independent's Andrew Gumbel has a nice wrap-up on the current state of the Great Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction Hunt: America targeted 14,000 sites. So where are the weapons of mass destruction? The upshot: the WMDs aren't there. Breathless newsbreaks from Bush's Ministers of Information at Fox notwithstanding, there are no signs yet of anything other than the scattered debris of the pre-Gulf War I weapons program.

With rumors having surfaced (apparently courtesy the straight shooters in the Israeli intelligence community) that the WMDs have in fact been spirited away to Syria, Gumbel wonders how long it will be before this is trotted out as the justification for the next invasion:

Disarmament experts do not give the claim much credence. After all, any suspicious convoy or mobile laboratory would almost certainly be spotted by US planes or spy satellites and bombed long before it reached Syria.

But the notion does provide the hawks in Washington with a compelling plot device not unlike the McGuffin factor in Alfred Hitchcock's films – a catalyst that may or may not have significance in itself but that gets the suspense going and keeps the story rolling.

If the Bush administration should ever seek to turn its military wrath on Damascus, the weapons of mass destruction it is failing to find in Iraq might just provide the excuse once again.

I guess it's a good thing my tiny little mind couldn't keep track of what our actual stated reason for going to war was during those tumultuous days leading up to the invasion. Because if I had been able to keep track of that, I'd probably be getting pretty annoyed by now, as it becomes increasingly clear that the whole war was predicated on a lie.

Posted by jbc at 08:33 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2003

Rumsfeld Gets Pissy

I caught some of the Defense Department briefing today, and boy, Rumsfeld was ready to snap. It's not every day that you see someone at that level of government laying on the sarcasm, openly mocking the reporters looking for his response to the (actually quite real, by all accounts) chaos in Baghdad.

The Reuters account of the briefing described it this way:

In Washington on Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied Iraq was falling into chaos, saying television images of isolated acts of looting and violence were being played "over and over again" for sensational effect.

"It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," stormed Rumsfeld, his hand chopping the air for emphasis in response to reporters' questions at a Pentagon briefing.

"It is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again of some boy walking out (of a building) with a vase and say 'Oh my goodness you didn't have a plan' -- That's nonsense," he told reporters.

Here's how the BBC's Nick Childs put it in their reporters' weblog:
It was an extraordinary combative performance by Donald Rumsfeld at the latest Pentagon briefing. Clearly exasperated by the new criticisms of US-led forces, the American defence secretary suggested that media reports of chaos and lawlessness in Iraq were exaggerated.

He agreed that US forces did have an obligation to help provide security and said that they were doing what they could to curb the looting where they saw it.

Mr Rumsfeld said no one condoned looting, but according to him much of the lawlessness was a natural pent up response by people to the end of a repressive regime. Any such transition was inevitably untidy, he said.

I find it interesting that even when the press was piling on Rumsfeld a week or so into the invasion, when he was getting all that criticism about the inadquate war plan, he wasn't this feisty. I guess he was confident then that subsequent events would vindicate him, which, in all honesty, they have, at least with respect to his having put sufficient forces in place to topple Saddam.

But now, he's really sounding stressed. I don't think he anticipated this: that having won this great victory, he would immediately get all this flak about the war's aftermath. And honestly, I don't think he has an answer. Which is a pretty scary notion, especially if you live in Iraq.

Posted by jbc at 06:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Arab News on Marines in Baghdad

Here's a short piece from Arab News with another street-level view of what it's like in Baghdad these days: 'We came, we saw, we conquered'. An excerpt:

The Marines appear to be very edgy, even terrified, following the human bombing on Thursday. And there are also those among them who are plain arrogant. When one discovered a bag of raisins in this reporter's carry-bag while conducting a body search, and was offered some of them, he replied: "If I want them, I'll take the whole bag. We came, we saw, we conquered."
A brief digression: I'm not posting this to be critical of the Marines. I actually buy into that whole "support the troops" stuff, as far as it goes. But it doesn't go as far as some would like to take it. Or maybe it's that I actually take it farther than some would like it taken.

These young men and women are wholly honorable. They are sacrificing their freedom, and in many cases their mental and physical health, even their lives, to defend this country, including me and my loved ones.

Marines don't have the luxury of questioning the motives and judgement of their leaders. They have to believe that their chain of command, all the way up to the commander in chief, is wise, thoughtful, and just. They have to believe that they are being sent in harm's way for the best of reasons, that their sacrifice is justified, that they are not having their lives thrown away for stupid reasons. They have to believe, because otherwise they couldn't do the things they do. And anyway, they have willingly surrendered that kind of questioning; that's not their job.

But it is the citizen's job. The people who founded this country knew that greedy, evil people, people without honor, would inevitably try to usurp the power of the military. It is the duty of every citizen to guard against that.

The Marines in Baghdad are paying a terrible price. They are paying that price willingly, out of a sense of honor and duty. In return, I owe them this: To play my own part, as a citizen, to make sure that this country's civilian leadership honors their commitment and sacrifice. To make sure we have leaders who will spend the lives of brave young men and women only when the nation is in the utmost need, when all other options have been exhausted. Leaders who will go to war reluctantly, somberly, after careful reflection, doing everything in their power to minimize the attendant horrors that war always brings.

In other words, leaders who are pretty much the opposite of George Bush.

Posted by jbc at 06:21 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Into the Hell of Baghdad

Here are a couple of on-the-ground reports from Baghdad to file alongside the administration back-thumping and high fives. From Cathy Breen, of the Iraq Peace Team: There will be no victors in this war. And from the Sydney Morning Herald's Paul McGeough: Descent into a charnel-house hospital hell. From the latter:

The traffic to and from the morgue is pitiable. Hospital orderlies wheel the dead in and families bring makeshift coffins to take the dead out.

And when a group of foreign cameraman moves in to film the scene, the four men charged with moving the bodies in and out of the morgue react badly, angrily chasing them away.

"Why are you taking photos? For Bush?" one of them yells, waving his arms. "Tell him to go to hell."

Posted by jbc at 09:07 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gilliard on the Possibility of Civil War in Iraq

Here's an interesting artice by Steve Gilliard, writing for Daily Kos: How Iraq could devolve into civil war. This is the sort of stuff I love getting from the Web. It's thoughtful, informed, and unmediated. Maybe it's BS, but it makes sense to me. I'll take it over the predigested viewpoint of mainstream media any day. Well, actually, I'll take both, so I can compare the messages I receive from each of them.

Mark Twain pointed out that a man with one watch knows exactly what time it is, while a man with two is never sure. The subtext, of course, is that neither of them really knows, but one of them has a much better idea of the limits of his own knowledge.

The Web is our second watch.

Posted by jbc at 06:38 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 10, 2003

The Financial Times on Civilian Casualties

A nice summing-up of the current near-complete lack of information about how many Iraqis, armed or otherwise, we've killed and wounded so far is given in this piece from the Financial Times: Civilian casualty figures cause concern. Coming at the same issue from another perspective is this story from the same paper, giving a street-level view of some US marines' rules of engagement as applied in fighting today in Baghdad: Eyewitness: "The marines shot anything they considered a threat". An excerpt from the latter article:

We heard screaming from the alley. None of the US troops moved. If it had not been for Mohammed Fatnan, an Iraqi translator with the UK's Channel 4 News, the Americans would not have treated the casualties. Mr Fatnan crossed the road outside the palace under the guns of two marine armoured fighting vehicles and came back carrying a young girl, Zahra Abdel-Samii', bleeding from the head.

In the alley, a man who had run on to his balcony upon hearing gunfire had been shot dead. Men wailing "There is no God but God" were hauling him into the back seat of a car in a blanket.

Minutes later, the explosion of a rocket-propelled grenade thundered through the palace garden, then came bursts of heavy gunfire.

A white Mitsubishi van roared along the main road that runs beside the palace wall, the driver slumped over the wheel, unconscious or already dead. The van veered off the road into a wall.

Mr Fatnan and two marines ran across the road to help a woman injured in the arm and foot and a young man, her son, shot in the head.

The dead driver had not understood the warning shots meant to tell him to stop.

The marines had had enough of journalists filming. We walked slowly along the road outside the palace back to our van.

Posted by jbc at 04:18 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sarandon, Robbins Get Smackdown from Baseball Hall of Fame

Here's a wacky story. As pointed out by the fine people at Daily Kos: Robbins-Sarandon anti-war talk leads Hall to cancel celebration. Baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey, a former Reagan administration official, has apparently chosen to cancel a scheduled tribute to the movie Bull Durham, because the tribute would have involved participation by those dangerous peaceniks Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. The story quotes from the letter Petroskey sent to Robbins announcing the cancellation:

"In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard -- and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly," Petroskey wrote.

"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."

The story quotes Robbins as replying that he didn't realize baseball was "a Republican sport." The story goes on to quote the following from Robbins' letter of reply:

"You invoke patriotism and use words like 'freedom' in an attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so, you dishonor the words 'patriotism' and 'freedom' and dishonor the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a place where one can freely express their opinions without fear of reprisal or punishment."

Right on.

Posted by jbc at 10:31 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Get Your War On Updated

The latest depressing fun from Get Your War On is up as of yesterday. Favorite quote: "I AM WITHOLDING MY ANALYSIS UNTIL I HEAR FROM THE IRAQI INFORMATION MINISTER."

Posted by jbc at 10:12 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thoughts on the 'End' of the War

I'm relieved at the thought that the open-warfare stage of the conflict is over, at least in Baghdad. But I can't celebrate along with the pro-war types; I don't see this as a particularly worthwhile achievement, and fear that the costs of the operation will end up far outweighing any good that we've achieved.

Also, the part about this that sickens me the most isn't even close to over. I can't shake the mental image of the hundreds of horribly injured Iraqi children spilling out of their hospitals, the thousands more destined to die in the weeks and months ahead in the aftermath of this stupid dick-size contest.

Anyway, for more on the less-pleasant aspects of our glorious achievement, here are summaries of recent reports by the UN: Humanitarian crisis looms in Iraq because of breakdown of law and order, and by the Red Cross: Humanitarian situation has dramatically worsened.

Posted by jbc at 09:43 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Where'd They Go?

From the AP's Hans Greimel, in the Washington Post: Republican Guard a no-show in Baghdad.

One U.S. official involved in both military operations and intelligence said there are thousands of Iraqi troops unaccounted for.

"That's the scary part. We don't know where these guys went to. Did they just melt into the population? Are they planning to come back out as paramilitary? Are they laying in wait?" the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It's not like I have any special insight that others don't, but I guess I'm inclined to think yeah, all of the above. Time will tell, though.

Posted by jbc at 09:15 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Watching Saddam Fall

From the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley, a description of the way yesterday's events in Baghdad were portrayed in various TV outlets: Amid the scenes of joy, a sight less welcome. I like her comment on Fox's reaction to the Marine draping a US flag over Saddam's head:

Even the Fox News Channel, the 24-hour cable news network that has been the most consistently ardent in celebrating the American show of force, seemed a bit nonplussed by the imagery. "You can understand these marines who have put their lives on the line, sweated with blood and guts for past three weeks wanting to show the Stars and Stripes in this moment of glory," David Asman said quietly as the flag went up. "It is understandable, but no doubt Al Jazeera and others will make hay with that."

Another version of the same story, from the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz: The shot seen round the world.

The problem, as Ted Koppel put it, was that he remembered seeing anti-Soviet crowds trying to bring down a statue of Lenin, and "it took them 17 hours."

Television wanted the pictures faster than that. And daylight would soon be gone.

As if sensing the impatience, some Marines brought in a tank to speed the statue's destruction. Then one of them clambered up the statue and threw an American flag over Saddam's head – producing precisely the wrong image, that of a foreign occupying force.

"You had troops with specific orders – no displays of any American flags," NBC's Jim Miklaszewski noted.

"This was not the picture the Pentagon wanted to see," said CNN's Barbara Starr.

Finally, from, proof that where you sit really does make all the difference sometimes. Despite that fact that commentators the world over were clucking their tongues at Marine Corporal Edward Chin's bonehead mistake in draping the flag over the statue's head, that didn't stop his family in Brooklyn from going batshit over his 15 seconds of fame: Family cheers as 'their Marine' leads statue's destruction.

"I [am] so, so proud, so very proud," said an emotional Nai Koon Chin, the Marine's mother. "He used to play like GI Joe as a little boy. He always dreamed he would be a Marine."

Posted by jbc at 08:20 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 09, 2003

Rumsfeld's Message for Syria

Updating the Jap... You're Next! war bonds poster seemed like an obvious thing to do, so I did a (fairly lame) version of it, which in turn inspired ymatt to produce this much-more-awesome rendition (click for a larger image):


And, in a less frivolous vein, this piece from Newsday: Hawks in US eyeing Syria as next target.

Update: And now, here's an updated version, with a new, simplified message to help it sneak in under the pro-war-types' radar:

Posted by jbc at 09:00 PM | view/comment (42) | TrackBack (0)

The War at Home: Yellow Ribbons and Election 2004

Here are a few interesting pieces that talk about what's going on inside the US these days. From the Lebanese Daily Star: Pockets of anti-war resistance in America. And from Geov Parrish: Picking a challenger, in which he handicaps likely 2004 presidential aspirants based on (what else?) their fundraising ability. "This is now how America chooses its presidents -- through money, media, polling, and more money. Actual voters are only invited at the very end." Democracy, American style.

Posted by jbc at 11:29 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Total-War Fallout

Some interesting stuff this morning as journalists, especially, digest the lesson that even they are not immune to the with-us-or-against-us logic of the forces invading Baghdad. From Cox Newspapers' Craig Nelson: The killer attack journalists never saw coming.

There's been a fair amount of back and forth over just what circumstances caused the US tank's crew to fire on the hotel. Early reports said they saw a sniper in front of the hotel. Journalists have disputed that, saying there was no gunfire coming from their vicinity. Then more detail emerged: The tank crew said they saw binoculars watching them from the hotel, and wanted to take out someone who might have been spotting their location for a sniper located elsewhere.

Well, yeah. I mean, there were lots of lenses focused on them from that hotel, with live images probably being fed to a few million TV screens all over the world. And the rules of engagement for the US forces invading Iraq seem to have very much become "shoot whatever you want to, if it makes you feel safer." I could easily see a person in that tank feeling better if his precise position weren't being broadcast to anyone with a satellite TV receiver, and the ear of someone with an artillery piece a short distance away.

Again, this sort of thing shouldn't take anyone by surprise. Our side wanted a quick resolution. And I'm sure the argument will be made, many times over, that by being so ruthless towards the non-combatants in Baghdad we actually helped them, since we thereby avoided the wholesale blunt-instrument trauma that would have resulted from a more sedate approach to conquering the defending forces. See, for example, this story from the Washington Post: Military defends risks of aggressive tactics.

So go ahead and make that case, if you want to. But if you do, you have an obligation to look square in the face of those innocents whose lives are nevertheless being destroyed by our actions, and explain to them that their suffering is justified by the greater good. Like the maimed children described by Arab News' Essam Al-Ghalib: The evil of cluster bombs.

Posted by jbc at 11:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kaplan on Toppled-Statue Symbolism

Slate's Michael Kaplan has this interesting realtime take on the much-reported toppling of the big Saddam statue today: Toppled: National styles of pulling down statues. Thanks to ymatt for the link.

Posted by jbc at 10:56 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 08, 2003

Vitello: Powell Should Step Down

This story, from Newsday, caught my attention mainly because it constitutes the most-prominent call that I've seen so far for Powell to step down as Secretary of State: Nation scarred by many wars.

Posted by jbc at 12:42 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Parry: Darth Bush

A really nice summing up of the march to war is this piece from Robert Parry: Bush's Alderaan. The best part is his comparison of Bush to Darth Vader:

Once Bush had chosen the site, there was virtually nothing the Iraqi government could do to avoid war, short of total capitulation. As a demonstration of both America's military might and his own itchy trigger finger, Bush had decided to make Iraq his Alderaan, the hapless planet in the original Star Wars movie that was picked to show off the power of the Death Star.

The piece contains nothing that will be news to anyone who's been paying attention, but again, it does a good job of assembling the pieces into a coherent (if scary) whole.

Posted by jbc at 12:15 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0) Ceases Operations

No more Russian military spook briefings, apparently: Ramzaj discontinues operation. Bummer.

Posted by jbc at 11:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Expanding Circle of Baghdad Targets

Seeking that imminent regime collapse our leaders keep talking about, we appear to be taking the gloves off when it comes to blowing up civilians in Baghdad. There are lots of reports this morning about the dropping of four "bunker buster" bombs on a residential neighborhood (or a restaurant?) where Saddam was believed to be meeting with Baath party officials. Also much in the news are the missile attack on the al Jazeera (and Abu Dhabi TV?) offices in Baghdad, and the decision by a US tank commander to fire shells into a hotel containing journalists, killing two of them, based on his belief that a sniper was located in or around the building. This comes on top of several days' worth of stories about our more widespread bombardment of the city, and a number of "unfortunate" incidents in which carloads of civilians, including women and children, have been incinerated for the crime of failing to follow directions shouted at them by jumpy invaders. Likewise with the rolling incursions our armored columns have been making, in the course of which we seem to be prepared to blow away anything that moves, or anything behind which something might be moving.

Some good links: Al Jazeera: US warplanes bomb Al Jazeera office, kill journalist. Yahoo News/AP: Al Jazeera: Journalist killed in blast. Washington Post: Two journalists killed as new battlefield emerges. The Independent: US bomber attacks Saddam 'hide-out'. The Globe and Mail: U.S. flattens 'leadership target' in Baghdad.

Please note that I'm not surprised to see this. I think it's been more or less inevitable from the outset that we would reach this point, where we demonstrate that we are just as willing as Saddam's forces to rank the preservation of innocent civilians well below the preservation of our own skins, or at least the achievement of victory.

What bothers me more is the effort to portray this as an unfortunate necessity, brought about solely by Saddam's refusal to do what we told him to do. It was not a necessity. It was a choice, one exercised by George Bush, in the full knowledge of (or at least, as full a knowledge as his mind is capable of) the eventual consequences.

The other part of this that bothers me is the surge in support Bush's poll numbers are showing. We seem to have decided, as a people, that we know as much as we need to about this conflict. Just as we get to the part where the really horrible cost is being inflicted on the Iraqi people, we've apparently reached our saturation point, and can't be bothered with paying attention to what's going on. It has suddenly receeded into the "fog of war," or at least the fog of foreign events that are not as important to us as the season finales of the various TV shows we follow.

Sigh. Anyway, here's a nice piece from a member of the Iraq Peace Team, who has been on the ground in Baghdad throughout these events: Open letter to all Americans and our 'allies' the Brits.

Posted by jbc at 10:41 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2003

Bathe for Jesus

The Miami Herald has a short bit on an Army chaplain taking advantage of the current water shortage to increase the number of soldiers getting baptized. It's good to know that 500 gallons of water are being reserved for baptisms, while all of the soldiers who are loyal to their current faith (or lack there of) are being forced to go weeks without bathing.

Posted by hossman at 06:09 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Dubya's War Obsession: Is He Or Isn't He?

From the Philidelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman comes this interesting look at Bush's obsession (or non-obsession) with the war: Bush spin doctors flip between hands-on and hands-off image. There's no smoking gun here; just lots of examples of Ari saying one thing and someone else saying something completely different, as Bush's handlers struggle to portray him in the best possible light.

Posted by jbc at 03:16 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

War Updates from

As described in a piece by John Sutherland in The Guardian, the folks in the Russian GRU (the Russian military's espionage arm) are publishing un-spun analysis of just who's doing what in Iraq. The main place their reports are being published is, but as someone who doesn't know Russian I'm limited to the English translations available at the site for Venik's Aviation.

It's really fascinating stuff. And, as far as I can tell, it really does offer a much more objective picture of what's going on than you can get from either side's propaganda.

Posted by jbc at 09:58 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Kos: Iraqi Army Hiding, Not Defeated

Forgive me for my behind-the-times-ed-ness, but I'm just getting caught up after my sojourn away from civilization. Anyway, here's a story I would have linked to when it appeared two days ago, except I was still trying to figure out what was going on. From Daily Kos: Raiding Baghdad. He basically makes the case that US claims notwithstanding, we haven't defeated the heart of Saddam's army. It's simply hiding. Talk of M1s rolling triumphantly through the streets of Baghdad, blowing up pickup trucks and withstanding small arms fire and RPG attacks, do not a defeated heavy armor division make.

Which begs the question: where is the Iraqi army? Apparently it's hidden away in a huge underground tunnel system, awaiting a time and place of Saddam's choosing to launch its counter-attack. From the Washington Post (again, from a few days ago): Closing in on Baghdad will push war underground, and from Battle for Saddam's underground regime centers.

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McGovern: Bush's Symphony of Falsehood

From George McGovern, via The Nation, via The Smirking Chimp, comes this nice roundup of ways in which the Bush presidency sucks: The Reason Why.

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April 06, 2003

Edelstein on 'Three Kings'

From today's New York Times comes an interesting review of the 1999 movie on the aftermath of Gulf War I: One Film, Two Wars, 'Three Kings'. Reviewer David Edelstein is a big fan of the movie, which he describes as "the most caustic anti-war movie of this generation." He also quotes from a recent email he received from David O. Russel, the movie's writer and director, on how he'd like to believe that the American public is smarter today about the realities underlying our mideast war aims, "but I honestly don't think so... I mean, come on, it's a SCANDAL that Bush has pulled this off. It's mind-blowing."

Anyway, if you haven't seen the movie yet, you should rent it. Good performances by George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, among others.

I'm not sure why, but I've found myself drawn to war movies lately. On some level I guess it's obvious: a steady diet of raw news from the front lines has left me wanting something a little more polished, something that puts all the technology and amoral strategic calculation into a more-human context.

I recently Tivo'd and re-watched Full Metal Jacket, mostly for Lee Ermey's Sergeant Hartman in the first half of the film, but as usual for a Kubrick movie, once I started watching it I was sucked in, hypnotized by his vision, and ended up watching the whole thing.

I also rented Saving Private Ryan last week, which really is an incredibly good war movie, as long as you skip the ham-handed opening and closing present-day sequences where Spielberg felt compelled to hammer us over the head with his message, just in case there were any five-year-olds in the audience who'd missed it.

Two war movies I've meant to see, but haven't gotten around to, are The Thin Red Line (with a pre-Two Towers performance by Miranda Otto!), and Tears of the Sun, which has that Bruce Willis thing going for it (assuming we're talking about the Bruce Willis who was smart enough to associate himself with The Fifth Element and Twelve Monkeys), which I'm hoping is enough to make up for the frighteningly twisted Hollywood premise of a war movie predicated on a Navy Seal officer's heroic decision to violate his orders in order to save a bunch of Third World civilians.

Anyway, get out there and get your war (movies) on.

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April 04, 2003

Lanchester's Square Law

I'd not been previously aware of "Lanchester's Square Law" prior to this article at Assessing Military Edge. In an interesting application of math to war, it states that for two matched armies on a battlefield, doubling the size of one will kill the enemy four times faster. Or conversely, hitting four times better is the only way keep even odds while being outnumbered 2-to-1.

First proposed by F. W. Lanchester in his 1916 book "Aircraft in Warfare", these tactics have been taught in the military ever since.

This has interesting implications if US soldiers end up on foot in the streets of Baghdad without the ability to use precision guided bombs or tanks.

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March 31, 2003

The Coulter Doctrine

I still remember, amid my shock and revulsion at the 9/11 attacks, the additional layer of shock and revulsion I felt when I read Ann Coulter's "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity" National Review column. Not only had we been confronted with racial and religious hate raised to the level of mass murder from outside our borders, but now we were facing the same thing from inside as well, since people like this thoroughly vile woman were willing to promote themselves through appeals to the worst in all of us.

Now, Counterspin Central has a link to the following story from Newhouse News: Plans under way for Christianizing the enemy.

So, with the help of a president who doesn't believe in thinking too hard about these sorts of things, Ann Coulter's prescription for our national response to 9/11 has become, quite literally, the actual policy we are pursuing.

It's a nightmare. And I can't wake up.

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Bush Advisers Split on War

A really interesting piece from the Washington Post talks about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that has been going on at the White House in an effort to influence Bush's war policy: Advisers Split as War Unfolds. It focuses on Colin Powell's role, which naturally caught my attention. Lots of palace intrigue.

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March 30, 2003

Dowd Tells It Like It Is

Maureen Dowd has a nice op-ed piece in today's New York Times: Back off, Syria and Iran! Again, it's not that it mentions anything new, but it does a good job of connecting the dots on the war-plan upfuckery. "Ideology," observes Dowd, "should not shape facts when lives are at stake."

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Marines Asked to Pray for President

I saw this story on The Agonist: US soldiers in Iraq asked to pray for Bush. It's really just too weird. According to an embedded journalist, marines have been given a prayer book from a group called In Touch Ministries; the book contains a form to be torn out and mailed to the White House, indicating that the marine in question has indeed been praying for the president. The book provides helpful suggestions on what sort of prayer for the president would be suitable on any given day; today's suggestion, for example, is: "Pray that the President and his advisers will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding."

Hm. That particular prayer actually makes a lot of sense to me. But I confess that the whole idea is confusing. Aren't the marines already giving enough, what with that whole thing about sacrificing their freedom, their health, and in many cases, their lives? Now they're supposed to pray for the president, too?

I'm obviously missing something here.

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Cook Blasts US War Planning, Calls for British Pullout

British Labour MP Robin Cook broke the silence he has maintained since resigning as foreign minister two weeks ago by writing a scathing attack on US war planning in the Sunday Mirror: Bring our lads home.

Personally I would like to volunteer Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz to be "embedded" alongside the journalists with the forward units.

That would give them a chance to hear what the troops fighting for every bridge over the Euphrates think about their promises.

It will be interesting to see what happens with British support for Tony Blair's war agenda. Last I heard it was riding high, but that was a few days ago. And the Colin Powell fanboy in me would love to see a resigned-foreign-minister-turned-war-critic doing well in the polls. I still think it could happen here. Would happen here, if Powell were willing to shoulder the burden.

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Caputo: A Familiar Stench

From author Phillip Caputo's excellent piece in today's LA Times: The smell of war:

I wish it could be bottled and the bottles placed on desks in the White House, the Capitol, the Washington think tanks, the editorial board rooms of magazines and newspapers whose cheerleaders called for war with Iraq, and the studios of the talk-radio hosts fulminating about French quislings and unpatriotic antiwar protesters.

Just when they were at their saber-rattling worst, I would uncork the bottles and make them sit there and inhale that hideous perfume. As a combat veteran of Vietnam and a war correspondent who covered the fall of Saigon, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the October War in the Middle East, the Eritrean rebellion in Ethiopia, the Sudanese civil war and the Lebanese civil war (in which I was wounded in both legs), I have been appalled to see such zest for war exhibited by people who don't know the first thing about it. If they did know, they wouldn't be so enthusiastic.

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Bush Obsessing About War

According to an article in today's New York Times, Bush is giving the Iraq war his full attention: President keeps the battlefield close at hand. I liked the following story:

George W. Bush was standing three feet from his television screen in his cabin at Camp David last weekend, absorbed in every detail of the news from Iraq, when a correspondent came on to report that the president of the United States, according to White House officials, was not glued to the TV.

Mr. Bush started laughing, said his close friend Roland Betts, who was with the president at the time.

"He is just totally immersed," Mr. Betts said in an interview.

Like his daddy before him, the famously disengaged president who nonetheless was visibly vibrating with excitement when he announced that "the liberation of Kuwait has begun," the current Bush really seems to get off on going to war (or, to be more precise, sending others to war -- though see this recent Onion piece for a delicious alternate reality: Bush bravely leads 3rd Infantry into battle).

Digging deeper into the relationship between the two presidents' penchant for waging war on Iraq, Kevin Phillips has an interesting piece in today's LA Times: A family's path to war. It talks about something biographers have noticed about Dubya: a deep-rooted psychological need he seems to have to follow in his father's footsteps, to prove himself, or something. The article talks about the eery parallels in the timelines leading up to the two presidents' wars (initially floated in the second year of office, then launched in the spring of the third, helping to distract the country from naggingly persistent troubles with the domestic economy). Phillips continues:

Yet, these parallels would not count for much if they did not reflect a larger pattern that has fascinated Bush biographers -- the way in which the 43rd president, from the time he was a schoolboy, has tried to imitate his father's mannerisms and follow his career path. He went to his father's schools, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Yale University; played his father's sport (baseball); and joined his father's secret society (Skull and Bones) at Yale. Thereafter, he became a military flier like his father and then went into the oil business in Midland, Texas, where he set up his little company in the same office building where his father had his business.

Two biographers, Elizabeth Mitchell and Bill Minutaglio, note that, like his father, George W. wanted to get married, while at Yale, to a girl who had attended his mother's college. The fiancee, however, broke off the engagement in part because she worried about the psychologies driving the footsteps pattern.

To be sure, the career paths of No. 41 and No. 43 have not been exactly parallel: George W. had no experience as a diplomat and his father none as governor of Texas. However, since the United States is again at war in the Persian Gulf, the footsteps enigma that has fascinated biographers should interest a larger audience, as well.

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Hecht on DU Warheads

I haven't talked here about the depleted uranium munitions the US is using throughout the Iraq war, but it's worth learning something about them, and the article in today's LA Times by Susanna Hecht, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Social Research at UCLA, is a good place to start: Uranium warheads may leave both sides a legacy of death for decades.

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March 29, 2003

Bush, Rumsfeld, and Franks, Oh My!

I'm trying to make sense of a trio of articles I just read from Sunday's Washington Post. The first one I read, from page A29, describes the pissed-offed-ness among military brass at civilian overseer Rumsfeld for screwing up their war plan: Rumsfeld targetted for troop dilution. (Update: See also the earlier Reuters article: Rumsfeld ignored Pentagon advice on Iraq.) The Post article goes into lots of interesting detail, including the following:

Responding to criticism, Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference Friday that U.S. forces were following a war plan that was developed by Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of Central Command, and agreed to by leaders of all the military services. Myers called it "brilliant."

Aides close to Rumsfeld said any changes made were for the better. "The original war plan for Iraq was really awful," a senior official said yesterday. "It was basically Cold War planning, and we're not in the Cold War anymore. Rumsfeld, like a lot of people, asked a lot of questions designed to produce the best, most flexible plan."

An analysis from the same issue's front page puts this in context: War's military, political goals begin to diverge. There's some cheerleading for the awesome advance that has been made in the first week of the war (including from Paul Van Riper, the retired Marine general who blew the whistle on the bogus war games), but also this:

Top Army officers in Iraq say they now believe that they effectively need to restart the war. Before launching a major ground attack on Iraq's Republican Guard, they want to secure their supply lines and build up their own combat power. Some timelines for the likely duration of the war now extend well into the summer, they say.

So far so good. But then there comes this mishmash of conflicting information, also from Sunday's front page: Push toward Baghdad is reaffirmed. It talks about the teleconference Bush did with his "war council" from Camp David today:

In that session, as one senior official described it, Bush supported Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's desire to press ahead with the plans embraced by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of the Iraq effort. These plans call for continuing to prepare for a ground offensive against the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's most fearsome troops, while awaiting the arrival of additional forces -- some of which are weeks, even months, from being ready to fight.

This is where I get confused. It sounds like they're saying yes, we're going to need to pause while we build up our forces. But then we have administration officials denying that:

Field commanders this past week have spoken openly of a "pause" in the allied campaign to rest, regroup and reinforce, while securing supply lines by pacifying southern Iraq. But yesterday's session of the War Council reaffirmed a battle plan that was crafted in Washington, and reminded any dissenters what the commander in chief wants.

"When we say we're on the plan, we're on the plan," an administration official said. "There is no pause."

Someone's not on the same page here. If there isn't going to be a pause, someone needs to tell the field commanders. I think it's pretty obvious there is going to be a pause, which means this probably is just about giving Rumsfeld (and by extension, Bush) political cover by pretending that there isn't actually any difference between "proceeding quickly to Baghdad" and "pausing to restart the war." In other words, it's just spin doctoring over the use or non-use of the word "pause" to describe what's going to happen, about which there actually isn't any lack of clarity between the civilian and military planners and the people in the field.

I'm not surprised that the administration would lie to put the best face possible on the events of the past week. But I'm scared that it might not just be a lie. That is, I'm scared that the differences in what people are saying at different levels of the civilian/military command-and-control structure might reflect actual fuzzy thinking and miscommunication -- which don't sound like the kinds of things you want when so many lives are at stake.

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Firsthand Account of Home Searches in Nasiriyah

Again from the Washington Post, an interesting embedded-reporter account of Marines in Nasiriyah performing a house search: U.S. mounts house-to-house sweeps. This sounds so not-fun.

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The AWOL Dolphin Story

People keep submitting this story, and I guess it does seem like the sort of thing I would run, even though I chose to pass over it initially. Anyway, by popular demand, here you go: Takoma the dolphin is AWOL. Reader immy2g also helpfully supplied a link to the earlier story: U.S. enlists dolphins to aid war effort.

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More Detail on Rigged War Games

I'd previously seen the discussion of "Red Force" commander Paul Van Riper having quit in protest midway through the Millenium Challenge 02 war games when the people running the test kept rigging it so that "Blue Force" (the US player) would win. Now there's a story from Slate that puts the story in context with the recent statement by Tommy Franks about the enemy being different than the one we war-gamed against: War-Gamed. The article includes a link to the article in Army Times where the story originally broke, after a copy of Van Riper's scathing email was leaked to them: War games rigged?

The Army Times piece has a lot more detail on what actually happened at the games than I'd previously seen.

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Thayer's Exit from Baghdad

Slate's Nate Thayer has a fascinating account of his drive from Baghdad to (I think) Jordan on Friday, after Iraqi authorities found a clandestine sat phone in his room and ordered him out of the country.

That would be one freaky drive.

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Powell: War Is the Scourge of God

Excerpted from Colin Powell's US Forces: The Challenges Ahead, Foreign Affairs, Winter 1992:

Military men and women recognize more than most people that not every situation will be crystal clear. We can and do operate in murky, unpredictable circumstances. But we also recognize that military force is not always the right answer. If force is used imprecisely or out of frustration rather than clear analysis, the situation can be made worse.

Decisive means and results are always to be preferred, even if they are not always possible. We should always be skeptical when so-called experts suggest that all a particular crisis calls for is a little surgical bombing or a limited attack. When the "surgery" is over and the desired result is not obtained, a new set of experts then comes forward with talk of just a little escalation--more bombs, more men and women, more force. History has not been kind to this approach to war-making. In fact this approach has been tragic -- both for the men and women who are called upon to implement it and for the nation. This is not to argue that the use of force is restricted to only those occasions where the victory of American arms will be resounding, swift and overwhelming. It is simply to argue that the use of force should be restricted to occasions where it can do some good and where the good will outweigh the loss of lives and other costs that will surely ensue. Wars kill people. That is what makes them different from all other forms of human enterprise.

When President Lincoln gave his second inaugural address he compared the Civil War to the scourge of God, visited upon the nation to compensate for what the nation had visited upon its slaves. Lincoln perceived war correctly. It is the scourge of God. We should be very careful how we use it. When we do use it, we should not be equivocal: we should win and win decisively. If our objective is something short of winning--as in our air strikes into Libya in 1986--we should see our objective clearly, then achieve it swiftly and efficiently.

I am preaching to the choir. Every reasonable American deplores the resort to war. We wish it would never come again. If we felt differently, we could lay no claim whatsoever to being the last, best hope of earth. At the same time I believe every American realizes that in the challenging days ahead, our wishes are not likely to be fulfilled. In those circumstances where we must use military force, we have to be ready, willing and able. Where we should not use force we have to be wise enough to exercise restraint. I have finite faith in the American people's ability to sense when and where we should draw the line.

Update: More on the application of this article to the current situation can be found in Nicholas Johnson's War in Iraq: The military objections. Johnson observes that military commanders frequently are more rational about the use of military force than are their civilian overseers. That certainly seems to be the case here. A quotation:

By the time an officer reaches the top of today's U.S. military you can bet that he or she is bright, extremely well educated in the liberal arts as well as military history and other matters, and possessed of a good analytical mind.

As you know, a central principle of American government is what we call "civilian control of the military." Of course, I support that principle. Few would deliberately choose life under a military dictatorship.

But when I compare the approach to war of some civilian politicians with that of the military's leadership I have occasionally commented that what we really need is "military control of the civilians" - at least the civilians' decisions about war.

When evaluating a sophisticated issue involving politics, foreign relations, and the global economy, it is usually the politicians, not the military officers, who are the first to forgo thoughtful analysis for expressions like "send in the Marines," "let's kick some butt," and "nuke 'em."

It is the military that modestly suggests the need for prior application of rational thought.

I love that quote about macho politician-speak for going to war. Especially in light of the recent Time article revealing that the course for war upon Iraq was laid in March of 2002, when Bush told a group of Senators, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." It doesn't really square with the President of the United States' job description to be quoted using the F-word, especially when the President in question likes to claim moral authority as a born-again Christian, but I suppose the White House thinks it's the kind of thing that will actually boost his popularity. But regardless of how it plays with the electorate in terms of making the commander in chief seem like an ordinary guy, the willingness to talk that way about going to war, and what's more, to actually follow through on it without carefully considering the costs and benefits beforehand, reveals a profound unsuitability for the task of wielding US military power.

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Webb: Welcome to Hell

James Webb, who was Secretary of the Navy under Reagan and a Marine company commander in Vietnam, has a good piece running in the New York Times today: The war in Iraq turns ugly. That's what wars do. He sees lots of parallels to Vietnam. His concluding quote: "Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don't expect it to get any better for a while."

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The Plaid Adder: Baghdad as Harfleur

The Plaid Adder has a thought-provoking piece at Guilty in defense. It uses Shakespeare's Henry V to discuss the morality of war, and more specifically, the morality of blaming a war on those resisting invasion, since they could, after all, make the whole thing unnecessary simply by surrendering to their attackers.

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Weiner: The Stench of Vietnam

Bernard Weiner, writing at, has some harsh criticism of the war: A familiar odor in the air: The Vietnam connection.

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The Iraq-O-Meter

Again from daypop: the Iraq-O-Meter.

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Iraq War Rationale in a Nutshell

Hey. I just realized something: is the most-prominent war-obsessed weblog that is authored by an actual O'Reilly author. Yay for me!

In honor of that, here's a nice little Nutshell guide to our reasons for going to war with Iraq. It's from, courtesy of daypop: A warmonger explains war to a peacenik.

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The Guardian on War Strategy

The Guardian is running a long, but really good, analysis of where we stand in terms of military strategy in Iraq: How the Pentagon's promise of a quick war ran into the desert sand. It describes Rumsfeld as being inclined to continue pushing for a quick assault on the defenses of Baghdad, rather than waiting for the arrival of the reinforcements that the Army is saying it needs.

I get a bad feeling about this. It's way too Vietnam-esque. You have a civilian leadership that feels invested in an overly optimistic plan, and a military feeling like it is being denied what it needs in order to win.

The easy victory is not going to happen. The Army is going to say the only way they can win this is by killing a buttload of civilians, and Rumsfeld, Cheyney and Bush are then going to have an ugly choice: personal political failure, or mass murder of the Iraqi population. They will reliably choose the latter. And even having made that choice, and having chosen to ignore that part of the war's cost, there will still be a terrible price to pay.

With Vietnam, it took 60,000 dead Americans, a million dead Vietnamese, and an uncountable number of additional shattered lives before the fighting stopped.

Excuse me: Can I have my Powell Doctrine back now?

Posted by jbc at 01:27 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk: The Evolving Baghdad Bombing Campaign

Robert Fisk, in the New Zealand News: Bombs destroying Baghdad's essential services. Also, a profile of Fisk from the same paper: Herald correspondent a scourge of US foreign policy.

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Fox Taunts Protesters

From words mean things, word of a story on a Rockefeller Center anti-war protest: 'Die-ins' target war and news media. The good part is this:

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.

"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!" read one message. "Who won your right to show up here today?" another questioned. "Protesters or soldiers?"

Said a third: "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

Still another read: "Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street" - a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine."

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March 28, 2003

The Short-War Bait-and-Switch

The Washington Post is running a nice analysis that looks at the Bush administration's nimble now-you-see-it, now-you-don't behavior on the short, easy Iraq war.

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Another Market Blast Kills 50+ Iraqi Civilians

From the BBC, word of another horrific blast in another northern Baghdad marketplace that again seems unlikely to get the gruesome-pictures coverage on US TV: 'Many dead' in Baghdad blast.

Here's a quote that hit home with me: "One man sobbed for his five-year-old son killed while playing near the vegetable market. 'After this crime, I wish I could see [US President George W] Bush in order to cut him to pieces with my teeth,' he said."

My son is five.

Update: I think it's completely possible that either or both of these market explosions have been cases of Saddam blowing things up himself to generate favorable propaganda. If true, that would be another item to add to a long list of reasons why Saddam is a Very Bad Man. But I still place ultimate responsibility for this war, and the carnage it is generating, squarely on George Bush.

Posted by jbc at 03:57 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Army Names Forward Bases "Exxon" and "Shell"

The New York Times ran a piece on Wednesday (I think) by Jim Dwyer, who I gather is embedded with a unit of the 101st Airborne Division, the folks on the left side of the US forces south of Baghdad: Troops endure blowing sand and mud rain. It's a pretty standard piece, I guess; talks about Biblical-scale sandstorms and such. But the cute part, which I didn't notice until Janus pointed it out to me, was this: "By day, the soldiers from the 101st were kept busy reinforcing the camp they have set up here in central Iraq, primarily a base for the helicopter gunships flown by the division. The official name is Forward Operating Base Shell; another similar base is called Exxon."

Maybe I've just been assimilated into the military hive mind, what with all the war coverage I've been consuming, but I can't help appreciating the cynical humor reflected in those names.

Posted by jbc at 03:43 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk on Basra

Robert Fisk has a piece in Arab News describing an unedited videotape he watched that came from "Mohamed Al-Abdullah, Al-Djazaira’s correspondent in Basra."

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March 27, 2003

Doctored (and Non-Doctored) 1940s Propaganda Posters

A lot of you are not going to like these. But seriously, they're really funny, from a certain point of view: 1940s propaganda posters remixed. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

And now, thanks to Hiro and Yserbius, here are a bunch more cool posters for those who prefer their propaganda straight, not doctored: From EBay: This is the enemy and The United Nations fight for freedom. From Snapshots of the Past: Jap... you're next!, Loaded?, and Don't Drop the Ball! And finally, from, Cruel Aviator.

Posted by jbc at 11:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rumsfeld: Crisis? What Crisis?

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers testified about the war before the House and Senate today; here's coverage from the Washington Post and a slightly different emphasis from the State Department's Office of International Information Programs.

Amazingly, both Rumsfeld and Myers still appear to believe there's a chance that the whole mess will go away when various groups within Iraq come to their senses and welcome us with open arms. The only reason that hasn't happened already, according to Myers, is that those darned "death squads" (the new, favored term for the Fedayeen, apparently) are forcing Iraqi civilians to fight, "when they would much rather give up."

Speaking to reporters on the way into the Senate hearing, Myers even seemed to hold out hope that the Republican Guard might still just simply surrender of their own accord: "There is still time for the members of the Republican Guard, their leadership, to do the right thing and ... honorable thing ... lay down their arms and be on the right side of this inevitable victory by the coalition."

News flash for General Myers: You've tried this already. It didn't work. At this point, floating more offers to whatever officer you hope will turn against Saddam and cut a deal with us just feeds into the perception, apparently widespread on their side, that we don't have the stomach for a real fight.

For his part, Rumsfeld waved away the inconvenient fact that large-scale defections to our side haven't happened even in Basra, the largely Shiite hotbed of anti-Saddam sentiment. He now predicts that the Shiites of Baghdad will rise up to help us overthrow Saddam. All in all, the "subduing" of Baghdad sounds like it's going to be remarkably straightforward, at least the way Rumsfeld described it. Though he acknowledged that "it could take some time."

Rumsfeld also dismissed Red Cross warnings of an impending humanitarian crisis in Basra, where the main water treatment facility has been out of service for nearly a week. From the State Department story: "While acknowledging that there are places in Iraq where water is not flowing properly, Rumsfeld said there is no intelligence coming in to suggest there is a humanitarian crisis at hand or that shortages have reached critical proportions." I wonder how long Rumsfeld thinks it takes for a city of one million without adequate drinking water to reach a state of crisis.

Anyway, it's nice to hear that everything is going so well with the war. Or it would be nice, if any of it were credible.

Posted by jbc at 06:52 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Singer: The Moral Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Iraq War

Peter Singer is someone who, in my view at least, brings as much intellectual honesty to questions of morality and ethics as someone like Tacitus does to military strategy. And he (Singer) had an opinion piece in today's LA Times that really hit home with me, touching, as it does, on many of the issues I've been wrestling with in the last few weeks: How many lives is this war worth? (LA Times login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works). In years to come, when we look back on this war, most of us won't be focusing on the specific strategies and tactics that were employed in the fighting. We'll be focusing on the stuff Singer is talking about: Were we right to go in? What did we accomplish? What did it cost? Was it worth it? We have an obligation, to our future selves if to no one else, to think seriously about those questions now, while we're still in a position to make the choices we'll be living with later on.

Update: The Web-hostile LA Times no longer offers the article for free, but still does. Go Web.

Posted by jbc at 12:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tacitus on the New, Longer War

One of the militarily-smart types I'd previously mentioned that I've been reading lately is Tacitus. He has an interesting piece today on how things have gone wrong with some of the rosy assumptions that some, at least, were making before the war: Doctrinal purity. It draws, and comments, on an article from today's Washington Post: War could last months, officers say. Choice Tacitus quotation: "But they [the US and British forces currently deployed] cannot win the war. They could win the war that was, it seems, expected -- popular revolts at every turn, and a demoralized enemy fleeing at the speed of feet -- but they cannot win this war."

Posted by jbc at 12:17 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

al-Chalabi: Forget About Winning Iraqi Hearts and Minds

From The Guardian of last Tuesday, expat-Iraqi brit Burhan al-Chalabi has this opinion piece: You should have known we'd fight. "So the message from Iraq is clear: go home and leave us alone. You will never be welcome in Iraq as colonisers. Stop destroying Iraq. Do not bury our nation. Stop the war and give peace and the UN inspectors a chance in the name of humanity."

Posted by jbc at 11:49 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk on the Abu Taleb Explosions

Here's Robert Fisk's on-the-scene report of the explosions that killed at least 15 civilians in a northern Baghdad market yesterday: It was an outrage, an obscenity. The Pentagon briefers made it clear yesterday that if the blasts were the result of US bombs or missiles, they were off-target. I think I buy that, as far as it goes. We've obviously been trying to avoid events like this (well, at least within the context of having launched an invasion that requires events like this). Other comments I've seen have focused on the possibility that the explosions were caused by Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles. But whatever.

CNN carefully edited the Iraqi TV footage to omit the most gruesome parts, while the rest of the world saw it in all its pulpy, bloody glory. And of course, it's not hard to draw a connection between the sanitized images the US public sees, and that public's willingness to go along with the lame justifications for the war, while the rest of the world was saying, hey, wait a minute. Do you understand what you're unleashing here?

Our much-praised free market compels our media outlets to refrain from upsetting us too much. Parents like me would be outraged if our 5-year-olds, whom we persist in leaving unmonitored in front of the TV, were seeing that footage in its original form, and we'd let CNN (and if need be, their sponsors) know in no uncertain terms that we wanted that shit off the air, pronto. And CNN would do it, or their viewers would quickly migrate to another channel that would.

I guess we'd be okay with this stuff being broadcast on some pay channel, like HBO, after 10:00 p.m., when our children are safe in their beds. Too bad those three kids who were burned alive in their overturned car yesterday didn't enjoy the same sort of protection from this war's effects.

Posted by jbc at 11:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arab News on Humanitarian Aid Distribution in the South

Here's an Arab News account of the initial distribution of humanitarian aid in southern Iraq yesterday: Resentment, relief, and resistance. Definitely paints a different picture than the one I got through the narrow-focus lens of CNN's video clip.

Posted by jbc at 10:53 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arab News: War Stays the Same

Arab News is running this fairly depressing, if apt, editorial: Realities of war. "The reality of war is always death and destruction. It always spews out dead bodies - torn, twisted and charred bodies - and legions of injured and maimed." The piece goes on to point out that the US seriously misjudged in thinking that Iraqis would not defend themselves: "For all that the Iraqis fear and hate the regime under which they suffer, they are patriots - and patriots are always at their toughest when defending their homeland."

Posted by jbc at 10:41 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 26, 2003

The Battle for US Public Opinion

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, here's a nice overview of the issues surrounding public support for the war in the US: Favorable opinion on the home front crucial during war.

The big unknown for me is this: granted, the public that was willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt on his lame mishmash of reasons for going to war may well take a more skeptical look if and when thousands of bodybags start coming home. But will they have the same skepticism in the face of Iraqi civilian casualties? So far, images on Iraqi TV and al Jazeera notwithstanding, these seem to have been extraordinarly light. As Robert Fisk said, the US has mostly been blowing up empty buildings in Baghdad. But assuming the militarily-smart-sounding guys I've been reading on the Web know what they're talking about, we'll soon reach a stalemate, in which our forces have reached the outskirts of Baghdad, but can't go in without generating all those full bodybags. So what will we do then?

I'm thnking we'll do whatever promises to deliver the city with the fewest US casualties. That is, we'll take out Baghdad's power and water systems, then sit back and wait. Shortly thereafter, 5 million innocent Iraqis will start dying.

Bush will claim this is Saddam Hussein's fault, rather than his own. Will the American people buy that?

Posted by jbc at 05:20 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ritter: US Will Lose Iraq War

Here's a position you don't see every day: Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector and long-time Bush gadfly, is saying that the US defeat in Iraq is inevitable. Make of it what you will. Thanks to Janus for the link.

Posted by jbc at 02:11 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk on the Propaganda War

From the New Zealand Herald comes this interesting piece by Robert Fisk: Allies not telling truth - things are going wrong. I'm not sure if that's Fisk's headline or the Herald's; the story is a little less breathless than the headline makes it sound. It's basically a rant on the way many who are covering the war are not being as critical as they could about the information they're being fed and the language they're using in their dispatches.

Posted by jbc at 10:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2003

Peters: War Is Going Great

Here's the gung-ho, upbeat version of what's happening in Iraq, from retired military man and right-wing columnist Ralph Peters, writing in yesterday's New York Post: Winning big. Basically, he asserts that everything is going fine. Sure, some people on our side are dying; that's war. Overall, he thinks the strategy is sound. Worst-case scenario, he says, is that we have to lay siege to Baghdad for a few weeks while we think up some innovative ways to end their resistance. Um, what innovative ways would those be? And do they involve a few hundred thousand Iraqi civilians dying? Something tells me that might cut severely into the profits of Halliburton's FTD division, which I understand has been awarded the contract to supply the flowers that grateful Iraqis are going to be showering on their liberators.

Posted by jbc at 09:37 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

War Links: Fisk, Higgs, Walkom

Here are three putting-things-in-context pieces I just read. First, from, a great interview with Robert Fisk, the writer for The Independent who's been posting stories from Baghdad: Live From Iraq, an Un-Embedded Journalist. Next, from a different Independent (, Robert Higgs' commentary, Military Precision versus Moral Precision. Finally, from the Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom, Is Saddam winning political war? The first and the last stories, especially, make some interesting points about where this war is headed, in terms of the larger political picture. And it's not pretty.

Posted by jbc at 05:02 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bill Schneider on Likely US Casualties

I caught a brief piece on CNN yesterday that struck me as fairly insightful (!), and have now found the transcript for it at In it, analyst Bill Schneider points out how the US public seems to be "fighting the last war," in the sense that they are expecting US casualties from the current Iraq invasion to be of the same order as those of Gulf War I (when about 1 in 1,500 US military folks were killed or wounded). But it seems much more likely, says Schneider, that this war will result in something closer to what we experienced in World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam, when the casualty rate was more like 1 in 15. As a result, we'd end up not with the 760 or so casualties we saw in Gulf War I, but something closer to 17,000. And in his (Schneider's) view, the US public isn't at all prepared for that.

You can browse CNN's transcript for the piece (look a little more than halfway down the page), or you can just follow the link below (or scroll down) to see my stolen copy of the relevant portion.


Posted by jbc at 07:58 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

More Detail on US Violations of the Geneva Convention

Here's a nice article from The Guardian that provides more specifics on how the US has been violating the Geneva Convention with respect to prisoners from Afghanistan, making it kind of silly for Rumsfeld to issue stern pronouncements about how he expects the Iraqis to toe the line in their handling of US prisoners: One rule for them. Thanks to reader michael for the link.

Posted by jbc at 07:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2003

Poniewozik on Moore's Oscar Rant

Just to beat a dead horse a little more, here's Time Magazine's James Poniewozik with a fairly apt critique of Michael Moore's anti-Bush, anti-war acceptance speech at the Oscars last night: Shame on You, Mr. Moore! Shame on You!

Posted by jbc at 05:01 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kos on Quagmire and Propaganda

Some good commentary from Daily Kos today: Not a quagmire. Yet. He also talks about the ongoing propaganda effort from the U.S. military, and their squandering of credibility through lots of statements that have required subsequent retraction:

  • Saddam is dead! Ok, no he's not.
  • Iraq fired a Scud at Kuwait! Ok, no it wasn't.
  • Umm Qasr is taken! Ok, no it's not.
  • The Iraqi 51st Division surrendered en masse! Ok, no it hasn't.
  • Republican Guard commanders will surrender! Ok, no they won't.
  • Basra is taken! Ok, no it's not.
  • We found a chemical weapons factory! Ok, maybe it isn't.

Anyway, see the article for the rest of his take on it.

Posted by jbc at 11:37 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weiner on Effective Antiwar Protest Strategy

Bernard Weiner has a really fabulous piece running at A Vietnam-era Dad Talks to His Protesting Son. We need more voices with this level of wisdom guiding the antiwar movement.

Posted by jbc at 10:50 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Birthday in Baghdad

From comes this relatively upbeat story to counter some of the stuff we've been seeing lately: Amal Shamuri's thirteenth birthday party. "When asked what she wanted for her birthday, Amal - whose name means 'hope' in Arabic - smiled and simply replied, 'All I want is peace.'" Happy birthday, Amal. May you get your wish.

Posted by jbc at 10:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Latest War Analysis

The Washington Post has a nice analysis of where the US war strategy stands after yesterday's events: U.S. Losses Expose Risks, Raise Doubts About Strategy. The upshot seems to be that while the nasty images of captured and dead US soldiers are kind of shocking to the domestic audience, the inherent vulnerabilities of the long, relatively unprotected supply line the front-line forces are leaving behind is nothing the military planners were unaware of. "'I'm waiting to see what happens when they hit the Medina division,' [retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson] said, referring to one Republican Guard unit. 'That's when we really will know how we are doing.'"

Posted by jbc at 10:35 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Civilian Casualties: The Numbers Game

From our right-leaning friends at US News & World Report comes John Leo's column, The truth about casualties, in which he labors manfully to undercut the message of folks like Marc Herrold, whose civilian bodycount numbers for the Afghan war I linked to previously. Leo claims that Herrold's number of as many as 4,000 civilian dead in Afghanistan is too high; Reuters and the LA Times, he points out, have estimated around 1,000 civilians killed.

On some level I guess that would tend to undercut my comments about the signifcance of our having killed more innocents than the 9/11 hijackers. Leo specifically cites such arguments as justification for looking skeptically at Herrold's numbers. But on another level, the whole debate just makes me nauseous.

It's like that chilling phone caller in Talk Radio, asking Eric Bogosian's Barry Champlain if he knows how many Jews really died in Nazi Germany. Well, obviously, no, I don't know exactly how many Jews died in the Holocaust. Nor do I, or Marc Herrold, or John Leo, know exactly how many Afghan civilians died as a result of our bombing campaign in Afghanistan. But I know that it was a fuckload more than it should have been. We're all people. The equation that says a single death in my family is equal to five deaths in my hometown is equal to 100 deaths on the other side of the country is equal to 10,000 deaths on the other side of the world may be more or less accurate in predicting what I will pay attention to as a consumer of news-as-entertainment, but that's a reflection of the way my brain twists reality to serve my individual needs. I don't believe it is actually true, in some objective, higher sense.

George Bush has consulted his gut, and made the determination that any number of deaths of innocent civilians outside our borders is justified by the need to prevent largescale innocent deaths inside our borders. My gut can understand that, because it works the same way. All our guts do. But my head knows that it's wrong, and that the logical fallacy it embodies will eventually catch up with us, or with our descendents, and make a mockery of our short-sighted attempts to guarantee our security.

We need a better option, one that does a better job of guaranteeing all our security. We need to change the rules of the game. Bush lacks the imagination required to see that, and his limited moral vision has become the bottleneck through which all the world's hope for a better future must now pass.

Posted by jbc at 10:01 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Red Cross Warns of Drinking Water Shortage in Basra

From the Washington Post comes this scary harbinger of things to come: Red Cross Fears Basra's Drinking Water May Run Low. Basra has a population of about 2 million, including many young children, whose low body mass typically makes them the first to start dying in large numbers when water-quality issues lead to widespread dysentery.

Posted by jbc at 09:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2003

Good Morning, Vietnam?

The US war-making apparatus appears to have come full-circle. After waging a first Gulf War designed to slay forever the concept of military force hampered by political squeamishness at civilian casualties, that appears to be exactly what is happening in the fighting in southern Iraq today. Or at least, that's the implication of this article from the Washington Post: U.S. Makes Some Gains, Suffers Setbacks. Lots of interesting parallels there, including the idea that we'd be welcomed as liberators being replaced by the realization that when you bomb and invade a country (surprise!) people fight back. There were also some quotations that seemed reminiscent of an earlier conflict in which traditional military types had to deal with annoying locals who refused to fight on the invaders' terms. I can totally imagine some British army general sending something akin to this back to George III circa 1775: "What we're finding throughout the area is small groups of determined men, probably Fedayeen, loyalists, fanatics, who are in a limited way fighting in quite a determined manner... They're a nuisance rather than a significant threat, but they're a nuisance to soft-skinned logistics vehicles and the like."

Posted by jbc at 04:36 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

US POWs on Iraqi TV

I guess this will be the first real test of the war's popularity with the people who don't view Iraqi casualties as significant: Al Jazeera is airing footage from Iraqi TV showing a handful of US supply-line troops who have been captured by the Iraqis. The POWs include at least one woman, which seems likely to give pause to at least some of the more enthusiastic in the war-is-good camp. Christopher Allbritton points out that Rumsfeld's call for Iraq to observe the Geneva Conventions with any captured prisoners rings somewhat hollow, given the way our own side has been playing fast-and-loose with those rules during the War on Terra. Update: Daily Kos points out that, given the military strategy currently being pursued by the US ground forces (bypassing outlying cities and avoiding direct fighting while racing to Baghdad), the supply lines represent our Achilles' heel.

Posted by jbc at 10:02 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

More War Stories

Here's another trio of stories about the ongoing war on Iraq. From the Sydney Morning Herald, US fears a hard, bloody war; from the Washington Post, On the Line From Baghdad, A Family's Stoicism and Fears; and from Robert Fisk writing in The Independent, This is the reality of war. We bomb. They suffer. So, the new-car smell seems to be wearing off on this precision-bombardment thing. I suppose it's still too early to tell, and it might still be possible that the defense will melt away in the face of our ability to center the blast radius of our bombs on particular phone booths. But it seems more likely that there will still be some forces on the ground willing to resist the advance of US troops in Baghdad, and that the inevitable logic of urban combat will then kick in: lots of civilian lives expended in the only-somewhat-successful effort to preserve the lives of soldiers. Nice of these folks to pay with their blood so that those calling the shots in the Bush administration, who to a man managed to avoid seeing combat when they were of cannon-fodder age, can learn these lessons now. And isn't it interesting how the only senior advisor to Bush who actually has combat experience has been the one least willing to pursue war as the preferred option. I guess Colin Powell has seen enough carnage already, and doesn't need to demonstrate his machismo by ordering up more.

Posted by jbc at 09:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2003

Historical Megadeath

From Bravo, a perennial beacon of interesting information in an otherwise murky world, comes this nice little historical context: Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century, as well as Death Tolls for the Man-made Megadeaths of the Twentieth Century. I'm not sure what this means, actually; abstracting war into however many millions of people end up dying seems to tapdance around the reality somewhat. But if you're going to make meaningful comparisons between these things, you need to start somewhere, I guess.

Posted by jbc at 06:28 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voices Against the War

Here's a trio of opinion pieces expressing opposition to the war: From William Rivers Pitt, I am the terrorist; from Alan Bisbort, God damn you; and from Richard Dawkins: Bin Laden's victory. They each come from a different perspective, but each is worth reading. The Pitt one is especially interesting to me, in that he claims the Shock and Awe bombardment has led to large numbers of civilian casualties already, if not due to actual blast and shrapnel effects of the huge bombs going off, then due to the resulting out-of-control fires. I haven't seen that reported elsewhere, and I've been looking. If true, it would call into question much of the "bending over backward to avoid civilian casualties" claptrap coming out of Donald Rumsfeld's mouth lately. But I'm not sure it's true. Which isn't to say that I'm down with Shock and Awe, in any sense. Even if massive civilian casualties aren't happening yet, it doesn't mean we won't get them later, either as a result of disease, thirst, and starvation, or as a result of the military tactics likely to be employed in taking Baghdad on the ground if resistance persists that long. Anyway, thanks to The Smirking Chimp for all three links.

Posted by jbc at 06:16 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 21, 2003

Rosenberg on the Big CNN Lie

Scott Rosenberg at Salon reports that he could only take a half-hour or so of CNN today, and goes on to talk about the big lie that underlies all the whiz-bang coverage: CNN and the denial of death. Thank you. On the other hand, when I was eating lunch with Linda and William (and a bunch of other moms and kids) today, and the seating arrangements at the burger place meant that the kids ended up in the room with the TV on the wall tuned to images from the war, I found that lie comforting, since it meant my son and his buddies were able to stay focused on their 5-year-old interests, without needing to pay attention to the silly grown-up stuff on the TV. If that coverage had been more honest, I don't think that would have been the case.

Posted by jbc at 05:52 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stories from

I noticed today that I had to mute the audio on CNN to avoid getting pissed at Wolf Blitzer's verbal hard-on in reporting on the outbreak of Shock and Awe. And that made me wonder if CNN's coverage has become more jingoistic than I remember it being during the first Gulf War, maybe as a result of things like Fox's competing "news" coverage, or if it's just me that's changed. I'm guessing it's a little of both, but it made me stop and think about the influence that Net-based news sources have on my outlook these days. I can read coverage of the war from as many perspectives as I want, which means I get to gravitate toward those that match my existing opinions, and can be less patient with those that contradict those opinions. Anyway, that's all meant as preface to the following links from, the web site for Saudi Arabia's oldest English-language newspaper, which I'm finding is a pretty good source when I need to counter some of the spin that much of my own country's media seems willing to pass on more or less verbatim: Hell rains down on Iraqis, The horror of it all as seen from the other side, Baghdad’s night of terror, and My dear Americans.

Posted by jbc at 05:29 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

GYWO #22 Is Up

Get Your War On has a new update. My favorite quote: "All I have to say is, Once this is over, the Iraqi people better be the freest fucking people on the face of the earth. They better be freer than me. They better be so fucking free they can fly."

Posted by jbc at 06:39 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2003

Mike's Message

I tend to avoid posting things in the "War" category, but I'm a big fan of Michael Moore (both as a Director, and as a Human) so I want to point out his recent letter to Bush
WHOA!!! ... that's got to be a first for .. it's a Dup!

Posted by hossman at 04:39 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

US and Iraqi War Strategies

Paul Hirst has an interesting piece at on the respective paths to victory likely to be pursued by the US and Iraqi forces in the current war: Asymmetrical strategies.

Posted by jbc at 02:30 PM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

Statement by a Human Shield

Rosemarie Gillespie is a 62-year-old grandmother from Australia. She's currently stationed at a water-treatment plant in Baghdad. Read what she has to say in From a human shield.

Posted by jbc at 02:24 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Long Road to War

Our friends at PBS/Frontline have put out this great chronology of the events beginning with Saddam's rise to power thru the days leading up to the current conflict.

Funny how even today, 15 years after he left office, our country is still influenced by Ronald Reagan and his leadership.

Posted by jaybird at 12:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: Things to Come

Another nice piece from the NYT. This one is an opinion piece from Paul Krugman: Things to Come. Yeah, this is pretty much what scares me the most, too.

Posted by jbc at 07:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Iraq Body Count

Here's a convenient way to keep track of your tax dollars at work:

Posted by jbc at 07:16 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

NYT: War in the Ruins

Did you miss me? My power was out for about 55 hours (not that anyone was counting), but the juice seems to be flowing again. Here's a nice editorial from the New York Times to get back into the swing of things: War in the ruins of diplomacy.

Posted by jbc at 07:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 17, 2003

Parry: The Potential Downside for U.S. Troops

Writing in, Robert Parry discusses Bush's double jeopardy for U.S. Troops. It's basically a laundry list of the ways in which the quick victory Bush is counting on in Iraq could fail to materialize.

Posted by jbc at 12:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Back to Iraq 2.0

According to Daypop, everyone's linking to Back to Iraq 2.0, in which journalist Christopher Allbritton blogs from Iraqi Kurdistan. Actually, I'm not sure if he's there yet, or just planning on going there. But wherever he's posting from, it's pretty good stuff on the war.

Posted by jbc at 10:02 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 15, 2003

Meyerson on the Neocon/Xenophobe War

Here's a story that ties together all my recent obsessions, making it hard to classify. From the LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson, On the Brink: The neocon-xenophobe war. It's about the real reasons we're going to war, and the weakness of the publicly stated ones; the larger context in terms of why the rest of the world is so uniformly opposed to what we're doing; and the unpleasant truths about where Dubya is coming from, psychologically. Much thanks to Janus for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:05 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 14, 2003

Comparing the WTC/Afghan Bodycounts

I find it interesting that the count of civilian casualties of the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan is so close to the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks: a little over 3,000 in each case, with the edge apparently going to the U.S. government in the killers-of-innocents contest. Rumsfeld and Co. make grand claims about how hard they worked to keep the civilian death-toll in Afghanistan "as low as humanly possible," but I think these numbers really beg the question: what exactly is the point of being the good guys in a war on terror, if we end up killing more innocent people than they do?

Posted by jbc at 01:04 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

War on Iraq: When, How, and Why?

Here's a trio of stories that look at the imminent Iraq invasion from three different perspectives: First, from the Guardian: Preparing for war on four fronts, which looks in detail at war preparations, attempting to deduce when the attack will occur. Next, from the Mercury News: U.S. plans coordinated, fierce strike on Iraq, which gets into the specifics of the U.S. and British plans for what to do once the fighting starts. Finally, from UPI, What is the war's brand strategy?, in which a marketing expert looks at how well (or rather, how poorly) the Bush administration is doing in terms of selling the war in the marketplace of ideas.

Posted by jbc at 10:18 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2003

Rogers on the Clean-War Myth

From Paul Rogers comes this very articulate analysis: The myth of the clean war -- and its real motive.

Posted by jbc at 05:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 12, 2003

Parrish on Dubya's Specialized War Vocabulary

Here's a cute piece from Geov Parrish: The Dubya war glossary. My favorite entry: disarm v. To blow to smithereens. E.g.: "Saddam Hussein's destruction of his missiles is an impediment to U.S. plans to disarm Saddam Hussein."

Posted by jbc at 03:16 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2003

MemoryHole: This Is War

From my new favorite site,, comes This is war, a collection of photographs and text passages describing just what it is our not-quite-elected leadership is about to unleash in our name.

Posted by jbc at 07:19 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

The CENTCOM Leaflet Gallery

As you've probably heard, the U.S. isn't just raining peace, freedom, and democracy onto the heads of the Iraqi people these days. Along with the occasional high explosive munition, we're also dropping propaganda leaflets. Now, thanks to Hiro, you can check them out on the Web. Collect the whole set! I think my personal favorite is this one, in which we tell Iraqi soldiers that they can best protect their children by making sure to keep the oil fields intact. Nice priorities we've got, eh? Who wouldn't want to be more like us?

Posted by jbc at 08:56 AM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Weiner on the Run-Up to War

Here's a piece by Bernard Weiner: How to Swagger and Bully Your Way to Disaster: Bush's Foreign Adventurism. There's nothing particularly new here, but it does tie it all together in a fairly coherent package. I think that's the thing that's really clicked in my head tonight, the reason I felt compelled to get out of bed and post a whole raft of anti-Bush links: the president, and the bitter, scary men who pull his strings, really intend to go through with this, despite the objections of virtually the entire world. And it's going to really, really suck.

Posted by jbc at 12:53 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 10, 2003

Jimmy Carter on the Upcoming Not-So-Just War

From the NYT comes Jimmy Carter with a list of ways in which the invasion of Iraq currently being prepared for fails the test of the "Just War" doctrine.

Posted by jbc at 10:55 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2003

Estrich on the Shifting Case for War with Iraq

Susan Estrich has a nice piece at WorkingForChange on the Incredible Shrinking Case for War with Iraq: What is it this week?

Posted by jbc at 12:38 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Turnley's Unseen Gulf War

From photojournalist Peter Turnley comes The Unseen Gulf War, a series of images showing the side of Gulf War I that Bush the First and his spin doctors worked so hard to keep us from seeing.

Posted by jbc at 09:03 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 26, 2003

Evan Maloney Grills Those Opposed to War

Evan Coyne Maloney made a really interesting video, which you can grab from (assuming you have QuickTime, and a decent-sized pipeline). He went out on the streets of New York and interviewed anti-war protesters, and found, perhaps not surprisingly, that many of them have only the vaguest notion of what an appropriate alternative would be to the actions they're protesting against. So, hey, protesters: think about that, okay?. You really ought to have an answer.

Posted by jbc at 03:56 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

February 25, 2003

Rogers: War to Begin on or about March 15

From Paul Rogers at comes War by Timetable, which looks past the smoke and mirrors about inspections and U.N. votes, and tries to deduce the war timetable from U.S. troop and armor movements. His conclusion: the war will begin on or around March 15.

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February 24, 2003

Yammering on about 'Shock and Awe'

Interesting discussion lately about the Pentagon's so-called "Shock and Awe" plan for the opening round of the Iraq war (the official war; the current bombing doesn't count). Pentagon planner Harlan Ullman told CBS News about Shock and Awe in late January, and folks on both ends of the pro/anti-war spectrum have been making pretty outrageous claims about it since then. Ira Chernus asks if Baghdad is going to be the next Hiroshima, while Geov Parrish wonders if the rest of the world will ever be able to forgive us. Meanwhile, the arch anti-liberals at Blogcritics pooh-pooh such alarmism, asking, at one point, "Do seemingly reasonable people really think the United States military would willfully and purposefully engage in indiscriminate bombing and mass murder?" Um, actually, yeah, I think it's a demonstrated fact. The truth about what we intend for Baghdad probably falls somewhere in the middle, between those who say we're planning to reduce its population to ashes, like we did in Dresden and Hiroshima, and those who say we're going to employ weapons so intelligent that they will only destroy water treatment facilities, power plants, and "command and control" centers, while not actually harming any of the millions of human beings who live in their vicinity (well, at least until they succumb to the resulting disease, thirst, and famine). But think about it for a moment: A cruise missile, when it detonates, has an effect roughly similar to that of an airliner, fully loaded with fuel, plowing into a building. This country experienced three such events, over the span of a few hours, and the horror of it is still with us a year and a half later. What we're talking about now is unleashing 800 such explosions on a densely populated city over two days. Eight hundred. Your tax dollars at work. Sigh.

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February 20, 2003

Administration of Two Minds on Post-War Iraq

Interesting piece from on the debate currently going on inside the Bush administration over just what a post-war Iraq will look like. Apparently there's no consensus among those who steer the President's views this way and that, so, assuming we go forward with our plans to invade and overthrow the Iraqi government, I guess we'll just kind of make things up as we go. Which should work just great; I mean, look at the inspiring way democracy has flowered in Afghanistan since we fixed the broken government they had there.

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February 19, 2003

13 Myths About the Case for War with Iraq

More in my continuing stream of anti-war propaganda: from the folks at, 13 Myths about the case for war with Iraq.

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February 14, 2003

Ready for War at Clear Channel

From Jason (the Jason who is actually called Jason, as distinct from the plethora of Jasons called something else), comes this cool memo from Clearchannel Preparing for War. I realize these folks are just doing their jobs, and am not surprised that this type of preparation is going on, but still, there's something about this that feels horribly wrong. It's like that story about how the Academy has their contingency plans all ready so the Oscars go off without a hitch even if the war has the bad manners to start in the 24 hours preceding the ceremony. There's a willingness to view the war as inevitable, as something more or less routine, to be scheduled around trips to the lake and picking up Jimmy at soccer practice and setting the VCR to record the finale of Joe Millionaire. I keep thinking back to September 11, and how there was such a feeling of momentousness in this country afterwards. People were shocked that such a thing could have happened. Someone had coldly reached out and destroyed those high-rises, reducing them to rubble and snuffing out the lives of thousands of innocent people. There was this collective sense of incredulity; you wanted to grab strangers by the shoulders and shake them, make them understand. Forget all those petty details of your life; they don't matter; this is huge; this is different; we've got to stop and look, all of us; my God, what's going on here? And now here we are, about to unleash precisely the same sort of inhumanity on a few million of our fellow humans over on the other side of the world. And it's no big deal; just another opportunity for us to do our jobs, working on our bottom line, padding our resumes. February, 2003: Led preparations for Iraq war coverage at KBFK and KSTE; set up interviews with terrorism experts, military recruiting centers, and anti-war types; achieved 23% ratings increase during the February sweeps; received local Emmy for public-affairs programming. Ho hum. Just another war.

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February 10, 2003

Zunes: Powell is No Adlai Stevenson

There's a nice piece at on how far short Colin Powell fell in his UN Security Council speech last week, where he tried to cash in some of his credibility chips in order to make a convincing case for war against Iraq. I have to admit, I've had a pretty high opinion of Powell's honesty ever since that (scary, but awesome) description he gave of the upcoming Gulf War I ground war, when he said of Iraq's army, "First we're going to cut it off; then we're going to kill it." Especially in the context of Bush the Elder's campaign to portray the war as a video game without actual casualties, that really blew me away. Too bad we're getting so little of that Colin Powell these days.

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February 06, 2003

Houlahan: No War in the Near-Term

According to UPI's Thomas Houlahan, dubya isn't serious about going to war with Iraq anytime soon. According to Houlahan, we would have a lot more tanks in the region if we meant business.

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February 05, 2003

Scheer: Powell Soldiering On in the Face of Big Lies

From the extremely Web-challenged L.A. Times (because I can't find anywhere else to link to it), comes this latest column from Robert Scheer, in which he argues that Colin Powell is being a good soldier by dutifully pretending that the Bush administration's lies on Iraq are credible.

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January 30, 2003

The Case for War

Michael T. Klare has written a nice analysis of the U.S. government's real reasons for going to war with Iraq. Bottom line: The stated reasons are a joke. The real reason is a desire to maintain U.S. hegemony by controlling the flow of oil from the Middle East. You can disagree with Klare's conclusion, but in that case you're going to have to deal with his supporting arguments. Good luck.

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January 27, 2003

Israeli Officer Stymies Bombing to Save Palestinian Civilians

An interesting story, from Hiro, about an officer in the Israeli military who was censured and transferred to another assignment after he acknowledged having withheld intelligence information in order to prevent an attack that he said would have harmed innocent Palestinian civilians. Expect not to see this story on your local news if you live stateside.

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January 20, 2003

Will spook for food!

Although not internet related, I was in the middle of my normal Sunday newspaper reading yesterday when I turned to page 2 of the LA Times business section and found a quarter page ad from the CIA looking for Patriotic Arab Americans to join them to help save the world from the Axis of Evil! What, they don't need caucasian folks to help infiltrate Osama's close circle of advisors?

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January 10, 2003

U.S. Bombs Iraq While Downplaying Possibility of War

So, CNN is running a story that recounts how the U.S. (along with our British lapdogs) has been bombing an area south of Baghdad for the last six days. The Pentagon refers to the strikes as "defensive" in nature (and who am I to argue; for all I know that patch of smoking rubble was fully intending to up and invade Malibu before they stopped it). Meanwhile, the L.A. Times has a piece about how the U.S. is seeking to tone down the drums of war. Which raises an interesting question: If we can be bombing the fuck out of Iraq at the same time we're assuring everyone that we're going to hold off for now on the actually-going-to-war thing, how will I know when the war has actually begun? My theory: war will officially have started on the day when dubya makes a nationally televised speech in which he displays signs of sexual arousal while stating that "the liberation of Iraq has begun."

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January 07, 2003

Rall: Another Fake Liberation

Ted Rall offers up some more chilling details on the Iraq-oil connection, and the similarities between the Iraq invasion to come and the Afghanistan invasion just ended. When all this comes to pass according to his predictions, don't say you didn't have fair warning, okay?

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January 03, 2003

U.S. Army Resurrects William Wallace to Lead Gulf War II Ground Assault

Ever the canny manipulators of public opinion, the U.S. war-planning apparatus has found a suitably named general to lead the assault on Iraq: Lieutenant General William Wallace. As recounted in a news report from the New Zealand Herald, Wallace would likely lead the ground attack in a future US/Iraq war. Which conjures up all sorts of wacky mental images. Like, General Wallace, his face streaked with blue paint, exhorting the grunts with stirring phrases like, "You have come here today as not-quite-free men, and not-quite-free men you are. What will you do with that not-quite-freedom?" Or maybe, "...and dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our freedom, but they'll never take... our oil! Mobil!! Exxon!!"

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December 04, 2002

Viggo Mortensen's Anti-War Views on Charlie Rose

Viggo Mortensen, who plays Aragorn in the LOTR movies, made some really fabulous statements in opposition to the U.S.'s current mania for dropping bombs on people during an appearance on the Charlie Rose show Tuesday night. I'd love to link to news coverage of it, but I don't think any has made its way onto the Web just yet. Let me know if you run across some, okay? Thanks. Update: One of the obsessed fans sent a description of Viggo's comments to That's all I've been able to find so far. Later: More spoutings from the obsessives, as collected over at Still later: Another Movable Type blog (Lying Media Bastards) saw fit to mention the incident.

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November 26, 2002

War Without Death

Yet another really nice link from Janus, this one to Patrick J. Sloyan's article Bodies? What Bodies?, which recounts the extraordinary (and extraordinarily successful) effort on the part of Bush the First to convince the U.S. population that no one actually died in the course of Gulf War I.

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November 16, 2002

Parrish: The Middle East Match Game

A nice reality check from Geov Parrish on just what we're about to start in Iraq: Match Game.

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November 04, 2002

Solomon on the Branding of Warfare

Norman Solomon has a nice piece over at Working for Change called Branding new and improved wars, about the careful attention politico-military types give these days to choosing catchy names like "Enduring Freedom" for their activities.

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October 27, 2002

John Balzar Beats the Drum (Ambiguously) for War

I'm not sure why I still link to the L.A. Times web site, since it sucks so severely in so many ways, including that it requires a "free" login (all it will cost is your soul; use cypherpunk98/cypherpunk in the meantime), and that it routinely moves things around to break inbound links more than a few days old. But, unfortunately, it's the web site for the dead-tree news source I get every day, and when I come across something cool in its pages that I can't find anywhere else, I have to link to it. (Hmm. Or I could just steal it, and post it here. Have to think about that.) So, anyway: John Balzar has an interesting op-ed piece there where he talks about Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and the ambiguity of evil. I disagree with his conclusion, in which he gives dubya props for pursuing military brinksmanship as a way of achieving Good in a murky world, but I still like that someone is talking about ambiguity.

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October 21, 2002

Parrish: U.S. Could Lose War to Iraq

Working for Change's Geov Parrish presents an interesting explanation for the Bush administration's sudden backing away from its plans for a single-handed invasion of Iraq: the Pentagon's conclusion that the U.S. would probably lose the war.

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October 08, 2002

Voices Opposed to War

from the deep-breath-before-the-plunge dept.

Janus sent this nice URL my way:'s compendium of op-ed pieces pointing out the potential downside of the latest rush to war.

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September 18, 2002

War on Iraq: The Evite

from the bring-your-own-bombs dept.

Maybe it's just because I've received a few Evites lately, but this invitation to participate in our upcoming naked aggression gave me the giggles. Once again, y'all have Janus to thank.

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August 23, 2002

al Queda's Fantasy Ideology

from the all-the-world's-a-stage dept.

From Policy Review Online comes one of the more sensible things I've read yet about what the events of 9-11 signified. You should really go read this. Be aware, though, that after crafting a deeply insightful analysis of the true motivations of the 9-11 attackers, the author veers off into his own fantasy ideology, in which righteous physicians eradicate (read, "exterminate") the disease represented by radical Islam. Oh, well. You can't have everything, I guess. Where would you put it?

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July 23, 2002

Sharon Hails "Great Success" in Gaza Bombing Raid

from the hey-man,-nice-shot dept.

In the wake of a midnight Israeli bombing run on a crowded Gaza Strip residential neighborhood, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proclaimed the attack a resounding success. "This operation was in my view one of our biggest successes," said Sharon. "While scrupulously limiting ourselves to a legitimate military target, we still managed to achieve a civilian casualty rate of 14:1. Those are better numbers even than some suicide bombers achieve. I can't tell you how proud that makes me feel."

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June 02, 2002

India to Pakistan: We'll Nuke If You Do

from the boys-and-their-guns dept.

From the Hindustan Times comes news of the Indian Defense Secretary's Strangelove-ian assurance that everything is in place such that if Pakistan uses its nuclear weapons on India, India will use its own nuclear weapons in response. So, I wonder just how many more fingers we can get on the trigger in our global game of all-chambers-loaded Russian roulette before someone has a little "accident."

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May 13, 2002

Vanunu in Court Appearance

from the nuclear-secrets dept.

Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli nuclear technician who is serving an 18-year prison term for treason because he gave photos of an Israeli nuclear reactor to the Times of London in 1986, made a rare court appearance today to request that he be allowed to speak with his British lawyers, and that sealed documents from his case be revealed to the public. The part that intrigues me is the mention of the Israeli government's policy of "nuclear ambiguity," under which it doesn't confirm what everybody in the world knows already: that it both possesses nuclear weapons and is crazy enough to use them.

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May 08, 2002

Hanson on Hating Israel

from the good-Jews,-bad-Arabs dept.

A nice example of the sort of whip-up-the-anger-on-both-sides rhetoric that flourishes in times like these is Victor Davis Hanson's piece in the National Review Online, On Hating Israel. Those poor, plucky Israelis, perched on the edge of destruction at the hands of those vicious, anti-Semitic, uncivilized Arabs, just trying to find a few yards of ground to call their own after the unique horrors they suffered at the hands of those vicious, anti-Semitic, uncivilized Europeans during the Holocaust. I mean, really; why can't the rest of the world just understand and sympathize with the suffering of the Jewish people?

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May 07, 2002

Karmi's Palestinian Narrative

from the seldom-heard-voices dept.

From the Jordon Times (as reprinted from the Web-hostile login-required Chicago Times web site) comes Omar Karmi's explanation of the post-1948 Palestinian experience, and of the national yearning for the right of return that is the result. It's a calm, measured, succinct statement of the Palestinian position - which makes it amazing that it appeared in a U.S. newspaper. I'm sure Congress will act quickly to condemn the heresy.

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May 06, 2002

NZ Herald on Jenin

from the devil-in-the-details dept.

The New Zealand Herald is running a detailed story on events in Jenin, and whether the Israeli Defense Forces there were guilty of war crimes. Based largely on the report issued by Human Rights Watch, the story focuses on the evolution of IDF tactics over the course of the operation. There is also an interesting quote from Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst for ABC News, who says, essentially, that this is just how urban warfare works. Not mentioned explicitly, but underlying all this, is the Sharon government's assertion that it actually should be praised for the restraint it showed in Jenin, that it was their concern for Palestinian civilians that prevented them from doing what they very well could have done, which was to just shell and bomb the entire camp, with its 14,000 civilian inhabitants, from a distance. Like we Americans did to Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki in World War II, for example, or to North Vietnam in the early 1970s.

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May 03, 2002

Reality Check on Jenin

from the backing-away-from-the-m-word dept.

The L.A. Times has a story today titled Massacre at Jenin Doubted. It focuses on whether or not Israeli soldiers committed an indiscriminate massacre of civilians in Jenin, concluding, on the basis of interviews with investigators from groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, that they probably didn't. Instead, it seems likely that the civilian deaths (22 of which have been documented so far by Human Rights Watch, along with an additional 30 Palestinian and 23 Israeli deaths) were side effects of the Israelis' overwhelming-force approach to rooting out Palestinian combatants in the camp. Still unclear, according to the story, is the extent to which Israeli soldiers committed various other war crimes, such as using civilians as human shields and blocking access of emergency medical personnel to the dying.

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May 01, 2002

Israeli Mood Turns (More) Hostile

from the us-vs.-them dept.

The Christian Science Monitor has a nice piece that looks at Israel's return to isolationism in light of the world's reaction to recent events. Note the "crawling back into the womb" metaphor offered by author Tom Segev - makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the earlier Arutz Sheva metaphor about Israel's birth pangs.

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Sharon: No U.N. Investigation of Jenin

from the will-these-hands-ne'er-be-clean? dept.

The Scotsman, among others, has the story of Ariel Sharon's apparently-final rejection of the U.N. investigation into the conduct of the Israeli military in Jenin. Given the bad light in which this puts him, one can only wonder at what worse outcome Sharon feared if the investigators were actually allowed into the camp.

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Arutz Sheva on Israel's Birth Pangs

from the invoking-God dept.

The Rabbi Eliezer Waldman has an editorial running in Arutz Sheva (a far-right Israeli news outlet) deploring, among other things, the scandalous way in which Israel's current government has been pressured to abandon their righteous principles by dubya and Colin Powell, who are working, we are told, on behalf of the Saudi crown prince. Lots of talk about the 5-year-old girl murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Adora on Sunday, and an extended metaphor about how the Sharon government's latest violence represents the "birth pangs of Israeli redemption."

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Ghitis on Mideast Rage

from the oh-yeah?-take-that! dept.

The L.A. Times has an opinion piece by Frida Ghitis titled Weapons of Rage Are Fed With the Ammunition of Suffering. It's a pretty good discussion of the emotional underpinnings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, focusing on how the current leadership is caught firmly in a seemingly unbreakable cycle of suffering and revenge. The one criticism I'd make is that it suffers itself from a selective historical myopia, managing to recall the mistreatment of Jews by Nazis in World War II, but leaving the events that made the Palestinians a nation of refugees shrouded in the mists of time. Still, it offers a fairly balanced view, something increasingly hard to find these days.

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April 29, 2002

Yarkoni Shunned for Criticizing Israeli Army

from the questioning-authority dept.

The L.A. Times has the story of Yaffa Yarkoni, a 77-year-old Israeli singer well-known for her renditions of patriotic songs. Interviewed on radio shortly after she viewed images of the destruction in Jenin, Yarkoni criticized the West Bank incursion, likening Israeli actions to that of the Nazis during World War II. "We are a people who have been through the Holocaust. How are we capable of doing these things?" In response, the Israeli performing artists' union cancelled a scheduled tribute to Yarkoni, her own performances have been cancelled, and she reportedly has received so much hate mail and so many angry phone calls that she now fears to appear in public.

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April 28, 2002

Lerner: Jewish Critics of Israel Not 'Self-Hating'

from the convenient-labels,-pesky-facts dept.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, a leader of the Tikkun community, has an excellent opinion piece in today's L.A. Times: Israel's Jewish Critics Aren't 'Self-Hating'.

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Blueprint for Gulf War II

from the just-like-the-last-gulf-war,-only-better dept.

The New York Times (via the Financial Times) has a story outlining likely scenarios for dubya's upcoming Gulf War: The Motion Picture. Originally the plan had been to launch the war this fall, but now the big thinkers have pushed the war's debut back to early 2003, with the extra months being used to wrap up that pesky Israeli-Palestinian plot line.

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April 25, 2002

Get Your War On

from the why-am-I-always-the-last-to-know? dept.

I realize it's very much old news to anyone with half a clue, but I just discovered Get Your War On, and have been ROFLMAO as a result. Those who are offended by harsh language need not apply, though something tells me those of you who fall into that category wouldn't enjoy it much, anyway.

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April 24, 2002

The Onion on Events in the Middle East

from the the-new-Onion's-here,-the-new-Onion's-here! dept.

It's always a joyous occasion for me when a new Onion comes out; the latest features a very cool post-mortem on recent events in the Holy Lands: Mideast Peace Process Derailed, Burned To Ground, Shoveled Over With Dirt. (In case you hadn't noticed, wants very much to be just like the Onion when it grows up.)

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Israel Retracts Agreement to Jenin Probe

from the had-my-fingers-crossed dept.

Less than a week after Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said his country would welcome a U.N. fact-finding mission in Jenin, proclaiming that "Israel has nothing to hide regarding the operation in Jenin...our hands are clean," Israel has retracted its agreement to the probe. After a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an Israeli government spokesperson explained that "when the Israeli government said it would welcome a probe by a U.N. commission into events at Jenin, that should not have been taken to imply that we would actually welcome a probe by a U.N. commission into events at Jenin."

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April 21, 2002

The Telegraph's Version of Jenin

from the inching-closer-to-truth dept.

From comes yet another version of the Israeli Defense Forces' behavior in Jenin. This one, like the earlier one I posted from the Jerusalem Post, is very much from the Israeli point of view, being based mainly on interviews with soldiers and officers who were on the scene, and taking pains to defend their actions, but unlike that one, it acknowledges many of the less-savory realities that other accounts have described: buildings bulldozed with innocents inside, Palestinian civilians used as human shields by IDF soldiers, and wounded Palestinians bleeding to death while Israeli gunfire kept emergency medical personnel from reaching them.

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April 18, 2002

The Jerusalem Post on Jenin

from the same-rubble,-different-spin dept.

Margot Dudkevitch, writing for the Jerusalem Post, has a different take on what happened in Jenin. I especially like the part about how the soldiers gave the women and children candy and escorted them to safety inside a building, only to be ambushed by terrorists hiding inside. I hate it when that happens.

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The Economist on Jenin

from the rubble-and-corpses dept.

Now that journalists are being allowed back into the Jenin refugee camp, more stories are coming out. While most focus on the horrific conditions reporters are able to see firsthand, a consistent undercurrent is the question of just what took place there over the past two weeks, in particular the treatment of civilian noncombatants by Israeli troops pursuing Palestinian fighters. While the consensus is that we'll never really know for sure, the facts that are emerging, such as they are, aren't pretty. The Economist has a good story on it: What Happened at Jenin: Under the Rubble of the Refugee Camp.

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April 16, 2002

The Truth About Jenin

from the good-luck-on-this-one dept.

Skirmishing continues over the question of how many Palestinians have been killed in the Jenin refugee camp, and in what manner. Israeli military sources put the death toll at "dozens", most of them gunmen shot in house-to-house fighting. Palestinian sources claim "hundreds", many of them civilians, including women and children buried alive as buildings were demolished by Israeli bulldozers and tanks. Some interesting items to appear today are a piece from the Independent, in which a reporter who managed to enter the camp paints a picture very much in line with the Palestinian position, and an editorial from the Jakarta Post, calling for a United Nations investigation. Ananova also has a story about an Amnesty International team that has arrived to investigate.

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April 15, 2002

Thomasson: Let Sharon and Arafat Fight Each Other Directly

from the pay-per-view-rights-alone-would-be-astronomical dept.

It's only mentioned briefly in the course of an otherwise garden-variety piece on the Israelis' and Palestinians' irreconcilable differences, but Dan K. Thomasson has a suggestion for resolving the current Mideast impasse: let Sharon and Arafat fight each other directly. Which I realize is an old idea, but it got me to wondering, seriously, if you did that, which one would win? Arafat isn't getting any younger, but Sharon was carrying some extra pounds the last time I checked.

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April 13, 2002

Charges, Countercharges, Re: Jenin Body Count

from the first-casualty dept.

An interesting, if depressing, story connected with the ongoing Israeli military operation in the West Bank is the war of words regarding the number, and nature, of Palestinian deaths in the Jenin refugee camp. As of yesterday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had announced they were going to start burying the bodies of dead Palestinians; Palestinians cried foul, claiming the IDF was seeking to cover up large-scale massacres of Palestinian civilians. In response, the Israeli Supreme Court issued an injunction last night halting the burials. The dead were unavailable for comment.

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