Archive for the 'war' Category

Lies.com Podcast 24

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Join me in exploring my obsessions in Lies.com Podcast 24: lying politicians, in-the-moment actors and reporters, and teenage girl pop stars.

I don’t know what people think of this format I’ve been using for the podcasts lately; people are downloading them and presumably listening, but the number is small and I don’t get a lot of feedback.

I mostly make these as audio journals of the more-interesting stuff I’ve been listening to on my commute. When I hear something that makes me think, huh, I could listen to that again, I make a mental note to throw it in a podcast. Then I try to add some music that seems appropriate, either in terms of mood, or in terms of a specific lyrical commentary.

I don’t know that there are many other people doing podcasts like this, which may be trying to tell me something. But I find it interesting, and I enjoy listening to them myself (re-listening to them) during the commute.

Anyway, if you’ve listened to these recent ones and have any comments pro or con, feel free to pass them on. Thanks.

Pinky on the Iraq War’s Legality. Or Lack Thereof. Mostly Lack Thereof.

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

As long as I’m annoying Janus with pinkyshow items, here’s another one that I really like.

Powell the “Former Everything” Talks Reality

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

While you’re over at GQ, do read the interview with Colin Powell as well. Consider it a double-feature of amazingly competent, realistic, and principled men. The Powell interview is so consistently good, I won’t even try to quote or summarize it. Go read.

Update on the Iran-War Product Rollout

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Craig de-lurked long enough to vote “paranoia” on my earlier item about Barnett Rubin’s report that an anonymous source had told him Cheney was pushing the right-wing press to roll out stories building the case for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day. The substantive part of Rubin’s allegation went like this:

They [the source's institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects.

So, as promised, I’m here with a report card on how faithfully the listed mouthpieces followed their alleged instructions:

  • the American Enterprise Institute: AEI fellow Michael Ledeen’s latest book, The Iranian Time Bomb, is being pushed by the institute this week. They list an upcoming panel discussion on the book, though technically that discussion won’t be taking place until this coming Monday, so one could argue that the timing is a little off there. The institute’s home page currently lists the same book in its “latest books” section, though that item was posted the week before Labor Day, so again, the timing isn’t very good.
  • Wall Street Journal: The Journal ran an excerpt from Ledeen’s book Friday. Otherwise, a quick check of OpinionJournal doesn’t turn up any obvious smoking guns.
  • Weekly Standard – Bill Kristol chimed in with this item in the Daily Standard blog on Wednesday: Terrorist Training Camps in Iran: Should they be safe havens? (I’ll let you click through for his answer, in case you’re in doubt.)
  • Commentary: The best I could come up with in a quick perusal of the magazine’s site was this item, posted in the magazine’s “contentions” blog on Wednesday, in which Emanuele Ottolenghi criticized Michael Slackman’s article in the Interntional Herald Tribune characterizing Hashemi Rafsanjani as a moderate by quoting from a December, 2001, press release in which Rafsanjani seemed to imply that a nuclear exchange between Israel and a hypothetical nuke-equipped Islamic power would leave the Muslim world damaged but still standing, while Israel would just be gone.
  • Fox: Best I could come up with in a few minutes of clicking around on FOXNews.com was an AP wire story on the $2.65B fine over the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing.
  • “Usual suspects”: Not sure who to go with here, but National Review Online has a nice example from Tuesday, with Andrew McCarthy offering up a hagiographic review of Ledeen’s book.

As long as we’re evaluating Rubin’s story, we should also check out Rubin’s own followup posting from Tuesday (in which he points to a Newsweek article from AEI fellow Reuel Marc Gerecht as the beginning of the “war rollout”), and also from Tuesday, Spencer Ackerman’s report of a conversation with Rubin in TPMmuckraker. That item said that “Rubin said he didn’t know specifically that Gerecht was part of the campaign, but he pointed to the argument as fitting neatly within the pattern.” Rubin also cited the AEI panel discussion on Ledeen’s book, and mentioned another event scheduled for that day, in which Newt Gingrich will give a speech on how “it has been almost six years since the attacks of 9/11, and the United States has yet to confront the threat posed by the irreconcilable wing of Islam.”

So, summing it all up, what’s the verdict? Did the predicted onslaught of pro-Iran-war items appear in the echo chamber? Well, sort of. Most of the listed outlets did indeed run something prominent in the course of the week. And to be fair, Rubin said this would just be the opening act, with the big push timed to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 next week. Playing devil’s advocate, though, a lot of this week’s activity seems to be coordinated with the rollout of Ledeen’s book, which would have been fairly predictable in advance, even without top seekrit inside information about Darth Cheney having instructed his minions to make a push at this time. But that predictability cuts both ways: knowing that the book was due to come out, Cheney could indeed have put the word out that now was the time to push the story. Or, knowing that a flurry of book-related activity was due to happen, Rubin could have pushed an invented story about Cheney being behind it, knowing that events would bear him out, at least in the eyes of the paranoid.

I guess I’m left pretty much where I started. Which is pretty typical for the real world, which only rarely reveals itself all at once, in dramatic fashion.

Tilghman on the Myth of al Qaeda in Iraq

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Does this surprise anybody? From Andrew Tilghman’s The Myth of AQI:

Having been led astray by flawed prewar intelligence about WMDs, official Washington wants to believe it takes a more skeptical view of the administration’s information now. Yet Beltway insiders seem to be making almost precisely the same mistakes in sizing up al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Packer on Rubin on the Upcoming Iran-Bombing P.R. Campaign

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

In Test Marketing, George Packer quotes Barnett R. Rubin quoting a nameless friend who talked to a member of a neocon think tank (you still with me?) who allegedly conveyed the following:

They [the source's institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this — they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”

So: paranoia? Or is this really The New Cruelty? At least the test will be short. If we don’t get the barrage of making-the-case-for-war-on-Iran in the coming week, let’s meet back here and discuss the implications. Or if we do get a barrage, let’s all get serious about what we’re facing here.

Drum on Petraeus on the Surge

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Kevin Drum spells out how General Petraeus has played US public opinion and the Congress like a harp, setting everyone up for a completely manufactured “reality” that Bush’s troop surge is accomplishing great things in Iraq: General Petraeus’s PR Blitzkrieg.

Greenwald Tracks the Rhetorical Ramp-up to Bombing Iran

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Scariness from Glenn Greenwald: The president’s escalating war rhetoric on Iran.

Churchill, His Arms Wide

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I very much enjoyed this essay entitled The Power of (Right Wing) Myth, and its analogy between the episode of Star Trek involving a race of aliens that speak only in metaphor and the tendency of many (I won’t limit it to the right wing as the author does) to fall back to a defined set of references to 20th century history to explain, even justify, a lot of things our government has done more recently. You can see it in Bush’s bizarrely ironic comparison of the Iraq and Vietnam wars, and all the way down through the ranks of officials and commentators throwing Churchill and Imperial Japan and Hitler around, seemingly without considering them anything more than archetypes of “good” or “evil”.

I was one of the generation the author mentions, who grew up in a republican household, imprinted with the mythos of the triumphant Reagan throwing out the unmanly peanut farmer; I had a “Reagan ’84″ bumper sticker next to pictures of the Transformers on my bedroom door in grade school. But why haven’t more people like me given up childish caricatures and tried to learn the real lessons of history? I mean I wouldn’t use an episode of Star Trek to justify a war…

McGovern on Our Upcoming Attack on Iran

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

I’ve been reading Glenn Greenwald’s A Tragic Legacy. It occasionally feels over the top, but when I take the time to go through the case Greenwald lays out (on the specific nature of Bush’s decision-making, how it was manipulated to make the Iraq war happen, and how it’s being manipulated now to make a military attack on Iran happen), it’s hard for me find any flaws in his reasoning. That makes stuff like this piece from Ray McGovern especially worrisome to me: George W. Bush: A CIA Analysis.

Among other things, it mentions speculation that the reason Rove has left the White House (and perhaps the reason Tony Snow is also leaving), is that neither one wants to stay and deal with the aftermath of the upcoming missile and bombing attacks by the US on Iranian training camps and nuclear facilities.

The more I think about it, the more I think this isn’t just paranoia on my (and the other Bush-haters’) part. I think it’s a rational reading of the evidence before us.

Let me be more specific: I believe it now is more likely than not that Cheney has won the internal White House debate over whether or not we should bomb Iran, and Bush has decided to go forward with such bombing, probably within the next six months. I also believe that doing so will be disastrous, for many of the same reasons that invading Iraq has proven to be disastrous.

So, there are a couple of tests before us: 1) Am I actually being rational in drawing this conclusion at this point? Are we at essentially the same point in the Iran-attack timeline that we were in the late summer of 2002 with respect to the Iraq invasion? And 2) Will the people in a position to oppose this horrible idea be any more effective this time around than they were in the run-up to the Iraq invasion? Will media outlets conspire to pass on the administration’s pro-war propaganda and manipulated intelligence? Will wiser heads in the foreign policy community be more vocal in their opposition, and will that opposition have any effect? Will the Democratic-controlled Congress be willing or able to restrain a president bent on launching an ill-considered war?

Grunts and Non-Coms in the NYT on Iraq

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

This was interesting, and rings true to me, to the extent I can evaluate it from where I sit: The War as We Saw It. Makes for a thought-provoking contrast with the “don’t pull the rug out from under the troops Just When We’re Finally Making Progress(TM)” stuff that Team Bush has been putting out lately.

Cheney Knows His Stuff

Monday, August 13th, 2007

If I’ve ever claimed that nobody in the Bush administration recognized how dangerous and destabilizing it would be to invade Iraq, I apologize.

Cheney knew perfectly well.

What the Military Says

Monday, August 13th, 2007

The first casualty in wartime, famously, is truth. (Phillip Knightly’s book, The First Casualty, is an excellent resource in this area.) The military’s job, its very essence, revolves around the violation of the most fundamental moral principle we have (thou shalt not kill); it would be ludicrous to expect people steeped in that to bat an eye at the relatively minor transgression of bearing false witness. Or, to put it more charitably, for people who are engaged in an activity where the stakes are deemed to be high enough to justify the wholesale taking of human life, to balk at telling falsehoods would be ridiculous, even immoral (if morality could reasonably be applied to any aspect of such an undertaking, a point I’m not willing to stipulate).

There have been a couple of stories illustrating this lately. First was the case of “Scott Thomas”, a soldier in Iraq who wrote a piece (Shock Troops) for The New Republic, in which he talked about how his basic humanity had been eroded by the experience of fighting the war, recounting several icky-sounding actions allegedly carried out by himself and his fellow soldiers: mocking a woman with a disfigured face, taking a skull from a mass-grave and using it as a decoration, and intentionally running over dogs with a Bradley fighting vehicle. There was much howling from right-leaning bloggers that Scott Thomas must be a fake, since no real soldier would do, much less say, such things. Then it turned out that Scott Thomas was in fact Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a real soldier stationed in Iraq, at which point the focus shifted to whether or not Beauchamp’s statements were true. A great deal of blogging later, the question remains fairly murky; at a minimum, Beauchamp apparently got at least one significant detail wrong. But the actual truth of the matter, whatever it is, has been buried by an avalanche of self-serving theorizing and conclusion-jumping. The best source at this point is probably the fairly well scrummed (by which I mean, argued back and forth by partisans on each side, pruning away most of the bloggy snark and leaving only the principal pieces of published evidence behind) treatment at Wikipedia’s Scott Thomas Beauchamp article.

Making the truth murkier in this case is the fact that the military hierarchy is controlling the investigation, making Beauchamp stop talking to people and selectively releasing information to places like The Weekly Standard. Say what you will about the shortcomings of the media these days; even a fully functional media would have a tough time figuring out the truth in this context. One thing I’m sure of, at least, is that the military has not approached this from the perspective of an unbiased seeker of the truth.

The thing that got me about the Beauchamp story was that after reading all the reactions to it in the weblogs I frequent, I was surprised, when I finally got around to reading the original piece, that the actions it describes were actually as minor as they were. I mean, this is in a context of members of the military being successfully prosecuted for war crimes involving willfully killing unarmed civilians. But your outrage is reserved for a guy using his Bradley to run over dogs? I thought Philosoraptor’s take on that was pretty apt (even if the title puts me somewhat in mind of Jane Austen): The Scott Thomas (Beauchamp) Saga Draws to a Close? And Its Possible Effects on the War Debate With Comments on Memogate.

This is reminiscent of Memogate. It’s indisputable that Bush’s National Guard record stinks to high heaven. It’s very, very likely that something untoward went on there. But the Rather memo was a hoax. This single clear case in which the right was right goes proxy, in the minds of many, for all the other, more substantive debates about Bush’s Guard record. Having been right in one high-profile case, those eager to support him can tell themselves that they were right about the whole thing. Such a willingness to believe is the administration’s greatest ally on the right.

Anyway, moving on. The second story I’ve been thinking about lately that bears on the military’s trustworthiness concerns an op-ed piece that appeared on July 30 in the NY Times: A War We Just Might Win. It was written by Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack, and describes their experiences on a military-hosted fact-finding mission in Iraq. In the wake of the piece’s appearance there has been much trumpeting by war supporters of the fact that even two liberal war critics now admit that the surge in Iraq is working. Here’s the key paragraph from the piece:

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

There’s more, but the thing that gets me is how transparent the piece is at being a carefully planned opening salvo in the propaganda war that will surround Gen. Petraeus’ upcoming mid-September report on the state of the surge. Some background reading that helps put the piece in context:

Okay, ideological rugby players: The ball’s all yours. Have fun in the comments.

Hilzoy on Iraq War Advocates on Their Error

Friday, August 10th, 2007

It sometimes strays a little too far into snark for my taste (despite Hilzoy’s contention that that’s not the goal), but I mostly did enjoy this from Obsidian Wings: A Few Teensy Mistakes…

There’s a deeper issue at work here than just scoring points against the other side, and I’m impressed by someone like Rod Dreher (whose NPR commentary Hilzoy links to) being willing to confront more or less honestly his own error in supposing that invading Iraq was a good idea, and to consider how it was he came to be so in error.

But I agree with Hilzoy’s conclusion, in spades:

Again, I don’t mean this to be some sort of “I was right” triumphalism. What interests me is not so much who was right and who was wrong, but this particular version of being wrong — a version that involves not just error, but errors like “I didn’t realize until it was too late that I had to take reality into account”, or: “I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that making nice speeches isn’t all there is to being President.” And I’m also interested in why people seem willing to confess these kinds of profound error without any sense of intellectual shame, and why they continue to be given platforms in public life. Because until we find some way to ensure that we hear the opinions of people who know these sorts of things in advance, rather than having to learn them after hundreds of thousands of people have died, we are in deep, deep trouble.

Links Roundup

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

I’m throwing these in here because all of them struck me as post-to-Lies.com-able, but I haven’t been able to tear myself away from boring crap like vacations and work and my family and local politics long enough to geek out and post them.

My apologies.

But anyway, here’s some links that I would be talking about if I were in obsessive mode:

  • Pelosi’s Choice – Thomas Nephew at the newsrack blog goes into some detail about why Nancy Pelosi is wrong to keep impeachment off the table.
  • At The Stupa, The Mystic looks at What to believe?, an analysis of the fairly narrow question of whether it can or can’t be credibly said that Bush lied about the Iraq-Saddam connection in the run-up to the Iraq War. Yes, apparently this is still a serious question going on 5 years later.
  • From the Center for American Progress, a fairly compelling little timeline thingy in which Serious Pundits (and others) offer their wisdom as to how we’re just now entering the crucial six-month phase that will decide the outcome of the Iraq war. And have been for, oh, the last 5 years or so.
  • The scariest two minutes and nineteen seconds from Bush’s press conference of today: President Bush on accountability.
  • Did you know that Lies.com is the 116th-most-visited liberal weblog on the planet? I know it to be true, because a conservative weblog says so (based on Alexa data, apparently). I started off being happy that I was on the list. But I was sort of hoping to be higher than #116, so when I saw that that’s where we actually are, it made me sad. Damn you, expectations. If I could just make myself stop expecting sunshine and rainbows all the time, I wouldn’t go around being depressed about things that just are what they are. Same goes for my feelings stemming from a certain Democratic Speaker of the House’s attitude toward impeachment, now that I think about it.

Anyway, there you go: A concentrated dose of jbclinks. Kthnxbye!

Because Our Values So Clearly Distinguish Us From Saddam Hussein

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Lindsay at Majikthise asks an interesting question: How many US-held prisoners are there in Iraq?

In his memoir Fear Up Harsh former army interrogator Tony Lagouranis explains that American forces routinely detain Iraqis indefinitely on the mere suspicion that they have information that might be useful to American forces. That is, not everyone who gets detained is even a suspected insurgent, or a suspected accessory. It’s enough to be suspected of knowing anything useful.

Some of these people are arrested during raids or on the basis of tips (often from tipsters whose own credibility is suspect). Others just happen to be in the vicinity of an insurgent attack. According to Lagouranis, many Iraqis are hauled in just because they are family members of known or suspected insurgents. It’s one thing to question the family of a suspect, it’s quite another to detain them with out charge in the hopes of extracting intel.

Greenwald on Bond on Iraq

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Really, why would anyone ever read anything else but Glenn Greenwald? From his latest piece: Kit Bond and the credibility of war supporters.

At its core, the history of the Iraq War has been authored by an indescribably deceitful and very intellectually limited political and media elite, perfectly symbolized by Kit Bond. These are people who spent four years hailing the Great Progress the Leader was making in Iraq, claiming we were “clearing and holding” neighborhoods of all the Terrorists, that Freedom was on the March, that anyone who questioned any of this was either brainwashed by the war-hating media or a Friend of The Terrorists.

And now, four years later, with the War plainly having been a failure, and their assurances all exposed as false, what are they doing? Hailing the Great Progress the Leader is making in Iraq, claiming we are “clearing and holding” neighborhoods of all the Terrorists, that Freedom is on the March, that anyone who questions any of this is either brainwashed by the war-hating media or a Friend of The Terrorists. Nothing ever changes. It just plods along with the same idiot slogans and the same people spouting them. And they do it with no shame, no acknowledgment of their own past behavior, and no loss of credibility.

Philosoraptor: OBL + GWB

Friday, July 20th, 2007

W is the best de facto ally al Qaeda ever had.

Mission Creep (Revisited)

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

This item from Think Progress does an excellent job of summarizing Bush’s evolving position on a key issue: The Ever Changing Definition of ‘Mission’ In Iraq.

Greenwald on Klein on Iraq

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

I’d like to believe that Glenn Greenwald’s writing of such impressive stuff as Our rotted press corps, a division of “Camp Victory” gives reason to hope for the future of our country, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that the fetid stench of what he’s reporting on undercuts that sense of hopefulness a wee bit.

It is difficult to avoid a sense of resignation when one reads things like this. I try to avoid language like this generally, but the sheer stupidity and dishonesty and servile, slavish personality attributes necessary to engage in that behavior is unfathomable — for any human being, let alone for a leading journalist. Yet that is the person assigned by our most read and most establishment-trusted news magazine to write a lengthy article purporting to inform Americans about what is happening in Iraq, about the great victories we’re winning there over “Al Qaeda,” about the resolute and brilliant military commanders killing those who flew the planes into our buildings. Journalists like Joe Klein are as gullible and dumb as they are dishonest.