January 12, 2007

A question of credibility

A constant theme here at The Hue and Cry while critiquing the antics of the Bush Administration, whatever the topic, has been an examination of this president's track record. This isn't a partisan tactic. Far from it. When assessing an individual's credibility, it's nothing more than basic common sense.

I mean, have this person's predictions proven consistently right, or have they missed the mark more often than not? Has he been demonstrably forthright and honest, or been caught time and time again spinning a web of outright lies? Has he surrounded himself with the best of the best, or packed his staff with incompetent loyalists and political cronies? Have his policies and actions achieved the results promised, or... well, you get the picture.

And why shouldn't we demand this, particularly of the President of the United States? We'd certainly take a look at, say, the stats of a college athlete before deeming him worthy to join our favorite pro team. We'd carefully examine the recommendations and job history of an applicant for even an entry-level corporate position. We'd evaluate a student's school records and GPA to judge his qualification for university admittance. Good God, we factor in word-of-mouth reputation and performance reviews when deciding on a restaurant.

How could we do any less when evaluating this president's credibility concerning Iraq?

It only seems logical to me that every discussion, every analysis, every committee meeting and editorial and news feature, every consideration of just how much respect we should afford Bush's "New Way Forward" must begin with an objective recitation of George the Younger's track record. Fortunately for us, on Wednesday Keith Olbermann neatly summarized the trustworthiness, strategic brilliance, and competence of our Commander In Chief with this superb, succinct list:
President Bush makes no secret of his distaste for looking backward, for assessing past results... Any meaningful assessment of the president's next step in Iraq must consider his steps and missteps so far.

So, let's look at the record. Before Mr. Bush was elected he said he was no nation builder. Nation building was wrong for America. Now he says it is vital for America. He said he would never have put U.S. troops under foreign control. Today U.S. troops observe Iraqi restrictions.

He told us about WMDs, mobile labs, secret sources, aluminum tubing, yellow cake. He has told us the war is necessary because Saddam was a threat, because of 9/11, because of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, because of terrorism in general, to liberate Iraq, to spread freedom, to spread democracy, to keep the oil out of the hands of potentially terrorist controlled states, because this was a guy who tried to kill his dad.

In pushing for and prosecuting this war, he passed on chances to get Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Moqtada al Sadr, Osama bin Laden. He sent in fewer troops than recommended. He disbanded the Iraqi army and deBaathified the government. He shortchanged Iraqi training. He did not plan for widespread looting, nor the explosion of sectarian violence. He sent in troops without life saving equipment, gave jobs to foreign contractors and not the Iraqis, staffed U.S. positions in Iraq based on partisanship, not professional experience.

We learned that America had prevailed, mission accomplished, the resistance was in its last throws. He has said that more troops were not necessary and more troops are necessary, and that it's up to the generals, and then removed some of the generals who said more troops would be necessary.

He told us of turning points, the fall of Baghdad, the death of Uday and Qusay, the capture of Saddam, a provisional government, the trial of Saddam, a charter, a constitution, an Iraqi government, elections, purple fingers, a new government, the death of Saddam. We would be greeted as liberators with flowers, as they stood up, we would stand down. We would stay the course. We would never stay the course. The enemy was al Qaeda, was foreigners, was terrorist, was Baathists.

The war would pay for itself. It was going to cost 1.7 billion dollars, 100 billion, 400 billion, half a trillion dollars. And after all of that, today it is his credibility versus that of generals, diplomats, allies, Republicans, Democrats, the Iraq Study Group, past presidents, voters last November, and the majority of the American people.
That's hardly a record that speaks well for the reliability of George Bush's ideas. In fact, it flabbergasts me that anyone in his or her right mind would seriously consider any suggestion that emanates from his narrow, insulated, belligerent brain.

Yet, there are 30 percent of you that embarrassingly cling to a hope that, if we just give him one more chance, maybe Dubya will get this one right. I simply can't understand that line of reasoning, when proof to the contrary lies in plain sight, stacked like firewood 10 stories high in every direction. Instinctively, we wouldn't accept this pattern of failure and ineptness and duplicity from a job applicant, athlete, student, or teenager living under our own roof.

How can we overlook it, then, in the most powerful individual on Earth.

To give this man even one hour longer to pursue his campaign of aggression throughout the world is to invite the whirlwind of retribution that will almost certainly follow as a result. This Administration's exacerbation of Middle Eastern violence and instability - not to mention overall global tensions - can no longer be tolerated by a people that cares anything for its own survival.

As George Bush himself once tried (unsuccessfully) to say, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." In light of this Administration's clear intentions to steer us closer to actual world war - and with common knowledge of its repeated strategic and diplomatic incompetence - we must do everything in our power to force our elected representatives to face this grim reality:

Bush and Company must be removed from office - by whatever Constitutional means available - before they mislead this nation to a catastrophic point of no return.

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(*Also, be sure to read this terrific piece by OpEdNews contributor Gustav Wynn.)

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A tale of two narratives

I found this to be the most interesting read of the day. Journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker Gabriel Rotello clues us in to a key bit of information the Bush Administration should have had under its belt before traipsing through the Arab world, spreadin' democracy at the end of a gun. Excerpt:
Bush's Iraq adventure has confirmed a primal fear in the Arab imagination, the fear of 'fawda,' or chaos. Bush justified his invasion on the 'freedom' narrative of history that we learn as children in the west. But the Arab's have a very different historical narrative, and Bush's failure to understand it will be one of his most tragic legacies.

The western 'freedom' narrative goes something like this. In the bad old days, our ancestors suffered under tyrants like George III and Louis XVI. Then came a series of great revolutions that ushered in freedom and liberty. Our task today is to preserve our hard-won liberties and guard against any return to tyranny.

Bush appears to believe that this narrative is universally embraced. But the Arab narrative could hardly be more different.

In the Arab version of the 'bad old days,' their ancestors suffered not from tyranny but from 'fawda,' usually translated as anarchy or chaos.

The strong preyed upon the weak, women could not walk the streets in safety, violence and anarchy made life miserable. Then came Mohammed, who established the divine authority of Islam. Society became ordered, stable and safe. Fawda was banished.

Arab children are taught that one of the worst sins on earth is to challenge stability and order, since this invites a return to the horrors of fawda. Hence the famous Arab saying: 'Better a century of tyranny than one day of chaos.'

This narrative goes a long way to explain why the Arab world is so resistant to the messy workings of democracy.

And it also indicates that if anyone wants to promote democracy in that region, they must decisively challenge this deeply ingrained suspicion that democracy will inherently lead to horrific chaos, rather than a Jeffersonian pursuit of happiness.
Wow. Isn't this the kind of fundamental information we'd expect the people in charge of American foreign policy to know a little something about?

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January 11, 2007

Closer to catastrophe

I really just don't know what to say anymore. Is there anything I haven't said before in this column, anything new I could add to the list of obvious reasons George W. Bush has never been fit to occupy the White House, anything more I could do to warn my fellow citizens that we are spiralling closer to catastrophe every additional minute this fanatic is allowed to remain the American president?

Watching our Dear Leader last night, I wept (metaphorically, at least) for the future of our nation, the future of world peace, the future of our loved ones and children. It couldn't be any clearer that Bush is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the PNAC - albeit, a mouthpiece who's been granted virtually unlimited Executive power by a rubber-stamp Republican Congress and a cowed public over the past five years.

What could I possibly write that would do any good now.

King George not only raised a defiant middle finger at the American public, the 110th Congress, the military brass, and the people of Iraq last night, but also upped the ante to include Syria and Iran. Why, for all intents and purposes, he's already committed an act of war against Tehran in the wee hours of the morning, by assaulting its consulate (you know, that whole "sovereign territory" thing) and "detaining" five members of its diplomatic staff.

Bush put the country on notice that he intends to do whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it. As I've repeated ad nauseam here, the solution to every problem he sees is a military one, his narrow global vision one of all war, all the time. Didn't you hear it in the conclusion of last night's address? "We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the armed forces we need for the 21st century." And, "America is engaged in a new struggle that will set the course for a new century."

I don't know how he managed to keep from breaking into that trademark smirk, knowing in his heart how essentially impotent we are to stop him.

So the question, America, appears to be, "Now what?" Short of impeachment, a military coup, or a bloody popular revolt, I'm fresh out of ideas about effectively halting the Warmonger In Chief's rush toward Armageddon. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

But do hurry, please. By tomorrow I may be packing our bags and booking passage to Fiji - while trying to explain to my children just why it is they have to leave their home and friends and community, simply to guarantee their survival.

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And then...

...read this. Courtesy of Sidney Blumenthal at salon.com (by way of digby, once again).

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January 10, 2007

Before anything...

...this. Bleak, accurate, eye-opening commentary by digby on the State of our Union.

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January 08, 2007

62,040,610 of you

I guess I'm really losing it over the surreal chain of events shaping up in Washington these days. The fact that George Bush seems, by all accounts, to be so self-righteously dismissive of every piece of fact-based advice he's getting on Iraq - coupled with the belated realization by Republicans that Bush's expanded "war" powers allow him to do just about anything he damn well pleases now, with or without their rubber-stamp support - spell out only one guaranteed course of action to come:

America will be sending more troops to Iraq. As long as George the Younger remains on his throne.

Now, the reason I began by questioning my own sanity in light of this conclusion, is that my reaction today to our collective impotence in preventing Bush's troop escalation is, surprisingly, coldly, "Go for it, then, Mr. President!" And that means not only Dubya specifically, but all his enablers and apologists and supporters as well. Not in the half-hearted, CYA way most predictions (10,000 to 20,000 troops) indicate. All the way, baby.

I've issued these kinds of challenges to Conservatives before, but this one is deadly serious. 62,040,610 of you voted to keep this petty despot in power two years ago. 62,040,610 of you stated with that vote that you agreed with George and his Congressional sycophants about "fightin' 'em over there" and "the calling of a new generation" and "spreadin' freedom 'n' democracy."

62,040,610 of you were willing to surrender our treasured civil and Constitutional rights, and abandon historic codes of global conduct to this manipulative individual's vision of "danger around every corner." 62,040,610 of you tacitly approved of secrecy and torture and cronyism and war profiteering as acceptable government policy. 62,040,610 of you gullibly believed that there ever was such a thing as "victory" in the "war on terror" - and, like a herd of sheep, nodded in unison agreement that Iraq was the way to achieve it.

And 62,040,610 of you should now shoulder the responsibility for delivering this "success" you've championed and promised and chattered on about from the safety of your family rooms since March of 2003.

In fact, the time for talk (on your part) is over. If those 62,040,610 of you have the courage of your convictions, and stand behind the idea that Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror," the climactic moment has finally arrived to prove all of us "Bush haters" and "defeatists" and "terrorist sympathizers" wrong. Your boy is about to hand you the golden ticket of opportunity.

10,000? 20,000? Those 62,040,610 of you could easily provide your Crusader In Chief with a million. That's only 1.6 percent of the voting-age total! Why, just start with the CRNC. The College Republican National Committee is the nation's oldest and largest youth political organization. Founded in 1892, the CRNC currently has over a quarter of a million members on over 1,800 campuses nationwide.

After all, you've made a cottage industry out of comparing our Baghdad misadventure to World War II. Surely, the time is at hand to do more than slap a magnetic ribbon on the back of the ol' SUV. So belly up to the bar, boys and girls!

And, Mr. Bush - why think so small? Any escalation at all runs the risk of burying you and your party politically, so why stop at some arbitrarily ineffective number? You could easily have so many more, and make a real play at imperialistically molding Iraq into whatever it is you'd be willing to call "victory."

You've got the tools in place, sir, courtesy of that 62,040,610. You've been handed unlimited, unsupervised, unprosecutable freedom to wiretap, trace IP addresses, intercept e-mail, and now even open citizens' private letters, so surely the 62,040,610 who renewed your contract in '04 won't mind a little data-mining in the name of "achieving our goal." Time to demand that your loyal disciples demonstrate their actionable understanding of the word "sacrifice" - and you have all their phone numbers at your fingertips.

So enough, already! Put up, or shut up. Send in half-a-million and "end" this thing - whatever you fantasize that to mean. Silence your critics once and for all with a display of your visionary and strategic brilliance. Make it a requirement that any single citizen between 18 and 30 who cast a vote in your favor two years ago simply must "volunteer" to make your dream a reality. Sort of a retroactive "loyalty oath," like those ones you used to require of your supporters at campaign speeches.

I'm sure we Dems would be happy to put just such a proposal into law, if you'd insist.

Why, we'd probably also be willing to agree that, if your approach proves correct, and peace, secular democracy, and economic stability blossom throughout the Middle East, restoring America's benevolent and admired reputation while ridding the world of terrorist ideology and actions, we Liberals will forever stand in awe of your wisdom, and yield to your philosophies, policies, leaders in the future.

Of course, on the minuscule chance that The Decider's "surge" doesn't produce those results, or that immediate outpouring of tangible "sacrifice" from among those 62,040,610 of you doesn't materialize, Mr. Bush's detractors and I would expect something approximating an equal level of contrition. Or, in Crawfordspeak, "Sit the f#%k down, keep your lame ideas to yourselves, and get the Hell outta our way!"

It's simply got to be one of the two. Because if 62,040,610 of you were blind or vengeful or misinformed or just plain stupid enough to actively perpetuate the madness of King George, you'd damn well better have the stones to accept the consequences of his continued reign. But I won't hold my breath.

62,040,610 of you helped bring us to this point. And today I'm furious with each and every one.

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(I do want to say, for the record, that I mean no casual disrespect with this post to the families of those Americans who have genuinely sacrificed all to the President's Iraq fiasco - many of whom are among that 62,040,610 I've mocked as a whole. Nevertheless, as we stand in the shadow of Mr. Bush's Wednesday call for escalation, I would urge even those individuals to join in demanding an equal commitment from the "fellow Americans" who've demonstrated their support for the war at the ballot box only.

Ideally, as a means of calling this President's bluff, and blocking the senseless, needless delivery of still more young men to their deaths.

I'd also hope that the men and women in uniform, their families, and the families of those already dead and wounded, can one day see that those of us who've consistently opposed Mr. Bush have done so not to undermine or denigrate their service, as we've so often been accused of doing. It has always been our goal to ensure that the sacrifice of American soldiers is not something to be undertaken irresponsibly by our civilian leaders - and, if it has been, to first and foremost bring our sons and daughters home alive. --BP)

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"Quagmire of the Vanities"

I think the New York Times' Paul Krugman has coined the perfect title for our Dear Leader's anticipated escalation of troop strength in Iraq. Forget "A New Way Forward" - Krugman notes in today's editorial:
I began writing about the Bush administration's infallibility complex, the president's Captain Queeg-like inability to own up to mistakes, almost a year before the invasion of Iraq. When you put a man like that in a position of power - the kind of position where he can punish people who tell him what he doesn't want to hear, and base policy decisions on the advice of people who play to his vanity - it's a recipe for disaster.

Consider, on one side, the case of the C.I.A.'s Baghdad station chief during 2004, who provided accurate assessments of the deteriorating situation in Iraq. "What is he, some kind of defeatist?" asked the president - and according to The Washington Post, at the end of his tour, the station chief "was punished with a poor assignment."

On the other side, consider the men Mr. Bush has turned to since the midterm election. They constitute a remarkable coalition of the unwilling - men who have been wrong about Iraq every step of the way, but aren't willing to admit it...

Mr. Bush is expected to announce his plan for escalation in the next few days. According to the BBC, the theme of his speech will be "sacrifice." But sacrifice for what? Not for the national interest, which would be best served by withdrawing before the strain of the war breaks our ground forces. No, Iraq has become a quagmire of the vanities - a place where America is spending blood and treasure to protect the egos of men who won't admit that they were wrong.
Not much I can add to that.

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(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", Mr. Krugman's article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.)

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