Archive for February, 2007

Scarecrow on Dick Cheney’s Honor

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

From Scarecrow at Firedoglake, a nice catalogue of reasons why Dick Cheney is in no position to lecture the world on the subject of U.S. honor: Dick Cheney’s Honor.

Closing Arguments in the Scooter Libby Trial

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

David Corn has a good summary of the closing arguments that were given today in the Scooter Libby perjury trial: Final Arguments about Scooter, Cheney & Truth.

The case has been fairly interesting for me, mainly because of the way it tears aside a lot of the bullshit and presents a reasonably clear view of what was going on inside the Bush White House during the spring of 2003. There haven’t really been huge revelations; certainly not if you were paying attention at the time. But getting the facts out into the light is an important step. It will be nice if some similar light-of-day treatment can come from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq, but I guess I won’t hold my breath for that.

One thing in particular that has struck me is the self-righteous zeal Cheney’s office displayed in refuting Wilson’s “lie” (in quotes because I suspect it wasn’t an actual lie, but instead was merely a mistake on Wilson’s part) that the trip to Niger had been specifically instigated by Cheney’s office, and that Wilson’s negative findings must certainly have made their way back to Cheney’s desk. What an irony: The habitual liar (Cheney), for once actually having the truth on his side (that he hadn’t explicitly sent Wilson on the fact-finding mission), but prevented by national security considerations from going public with the information about Wilson’s wife. But of course, as we all now know, Cheney didn’t let concerns about national security stop him; he used intermediaries to leak her identity far and wide, until Novak bit and made the information public.

The raw, festering dishonesty that is at the heart of the Bush presidency comes from Cheney’s office. Bush himself is a liar, sure, and deserves to be held accountable for the crimes committed in his name. But Cheney is the Moriarty, the evil genius, the cynical spider at the heart of the web. Fitzgerald’s closing argument reiterated the government’s case that Libby committed perjury in order to protect himself, and while I guess that makes for a simpler storyline, I think the reality is darker than that. Libby lied to protect Cheney. He lied to obscure Cheney’s role in orchestrating the response to Wilson’s charges, and beyond that, to obscure Cheney’s role in making the original dishonest case for war.

They fight the light each step of the way, but eventually the light will win, at least for those willing to look. History will not be kind to these people.

US War Dead in Iraq for January

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

Here are the updated graphs for January. As you can see, we’ve entered the part of the Vietnam War where Johnson was dramatically increasing troop levels; from here on out, barring something really horrible, I’d expect the Vietnam numbers to exceed the Iraq numbers.

As always, I’m comparing the US military casualties in Iraq to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which some have charged is misleading; see disclaimer below). The data come 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 48 months of the comparison. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

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

Disclaimer: I’ve been accused of comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing:

  • I’m not saying that Iraq is somehow deadlier per soldier-on-the-ground than Vietnam. For both wars, the number of fatalities in any given month tracks pretty closely with the number of troops deployed (along with the intensity of the combat operations being conducted). There were more troops in Iraq in the early going than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeds the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam. I include the first graph mainly because I wanted a zoomed-in view of the Iraq data. And I include the second graph, which shows the entire span of the Vietnam war, because I want to be clear about what the data show about overall death tolls — where any rational assessment would have to conclude that, at least so far, Iraq has been far less significant (at least in terms of US combat fatalities) than Vietnam.

I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. For that reason, I chose as the starting point for each graph the first fatality that a US president acknowledged (belatedly, in the case of the Vietnam graph, since US involvement in the war “began” under Kennedy, but the acknowledgement was made only later by Johnson) as having resulted from the war in question.

As ever, you are free to draw your own conclusions. And for that matter, you’re free to draw your own graphs, if you have a way of presenting the information that you believe would be better. In that case, feel free to post a comment with a URL to your own version. Thanks.