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:: Sunday, November 30, 2003 ::

About Hillary

Howard Owens should be commended for giving a Conservative thumbs up to Hillary Clinton's trip to Baghdad, boldly taking on many of his fellow right-wingers, who are apparently still gripped with some residual anti-Clinton vitriol. For that alone, I'll rank Howard up there with Dan Drezner and Joe Katzman as the most principled, decent Conservatives in the blogosphere.

I have to agree that her public comments about Bush's own visit to Baghdad demonstrated far more statesmanship than any of the Democratic presidential contenders could muster (except Gephardt and maybe Clark). Spoons comments on Howard's post:
Wait a minute. Hillary shows up in Afghanistan, tells the troops that a lot of Americans are questioning the President's war decisions; that she fears that they don't have enough troops to get the job done, and that our victory in Iraq is less certain, and you think conservatives should ENCOURAGE her?!?

Not bloody likely.

Mickey Kaus is even worse:
And, pace Howard Owens, there was something unseemly about Clinton's inability to refrain from sniping at Bush until she returned home. It's not that she violated the hoary bit of etiquette that says a U.S. politician should never criticize a U.S. president on foreign soil. I've never completely understood that rule. If Hillary had gone to Iraq and flat-out blasted Bush, that would have been fine by me. The problem is she smarmily wanted to have it both ways, pretending her trip was in part a morale-building visit to the troops while she griped about the mission the troops were on.

Oh, stop it already. The "sniping" cited by Kaus was certainly appropriate, and actually more constructive than any criticisms offered by her fellow Democrats:
November 30, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ventured into Iraq's dangerous northern region yesterday, as she took another shot at President Bush for trying to move too fast to get troops out of that country.

As she has on each leg of her three-day trip, Clinton questioned the White House battle plan for restoring order and stability to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's going to take more time than has been allotted for the process to take hold," said Clinton, referring to the July deadline by which Bush aims to transfer power back to the struggling Iraqis.

"I don't think we should be setting artificial timelines as this is a very challenging undertaking and we need to work with our Iraqi counterparts and make sure that the steps that are being taken are going to work," added Clinton, who is due back in Washington today.

This is certainly no more petty than the criticism offered by John McCain, or any number of Conservative hawks, and frankly, I find it admirable.

Secondly, Kaus links to this story, in which Hillary answers troops' questions about how people feel about the war back home:
"Americans are wholeheartedly proud of what you are doing,' " Clinton said she replied, " "but there are many questions at home about the (Bush) administration's policies.' "

To which, Kaus comments -- speaking of sniping, "Bet that fired them right up!"

What a jerk. This may come as a surprise to Kaus, but military people aren't too fragile to be given straight talk (and there's no doubt that Hillary's comment accurately reflected the the current political environment) -- we kind of like it, actually. And we certainly wouldn't want our leaders to bullshit us about these kinds of things.

UPDATE: Kaus responds to my criticisms (same post), essentially making two points.

First, he says that I missed his point, and that Hillary's response to a soldier's question about "how the people at home feel about what we are doing" -- though completely accurate -- cannot be construed as "morale building." True enough, but that wasn't really my point either.

Hillary's visit itself -- and her many words of encouragement -- were intended to be morale-boosting. She didn't go to Baghdad just to tell soldiers about the misgivings some people here have about their mission. She was asked the question, and she gave a straight answer. The real question is whether her answer was so "negative" that it completely -- or even partially -- cancelled out the good things she had to say. I certainly don't think so, and frankly, I don't see what the alternative would have been, when asked that question in such a point blank manner. Keeping criticisms to herself weren't really an option in such a situation -- she could either have given a straight answer or lied to the guy.

Kaus also accuses her of partisanship by saying the administration's policies instead of we in her comment. That's one way of looking at it. Or, considering the remark was made immediately after saying that "Americans are wholeheartedly proud of what you are doing," one could also have interpreted it as distinguishing between what politicians are doing and what our men and women in uniform are doing. That's how I took it, at least. To be honest, I don't think it matters much. We've already analyzed this one comment as if it were the Zapruder film -- that alone says quite a bit about Kaus' criticisms.

Kaus also takes issue of my characterization of her remarks in Kirkuk as constructive, specifically the phrase "I don't think we should be setting artificial timelines":

It seems to me this is not constructive. It's almost entirely a partisan cheap shot. "Artificial timelines" can be very useful, both in forcing action and making it clear that something --i.e., the transfer of sovereignty--will happen. I think Hillary knows this. The Bush administration is clearly struggling with the need for a quick transition, on the one hand, and the need for "the process to take hold" on the other. I think Hillary knows this too. If the process hasn't taken hold by next June, the Bushies may let the deadline slip--and Hillary knows that. But in the meantime, denouncing the "artificial" quality of the timeline is a nice, safe criticism for Hillary to make, along with all her other safe third-order process-criticisms of the war.

Like a garden variety conspiracy theorist, he's making the worst assumptions about Hillary's motives simply because he disagrees with what she says.

That, and he's completely wrong about the issue. The idea that setting this deadline -- which, because it is independent of the political realities on the ground, does indeed have "artificial" qualities -- will apply more pressure on the Iraqis than it will on us is absurd. I'm sure that the religious hardliners who want to prevent a truly secular democracy from taking hold in Iraq -- to say nothing of the Ba'athist "resistance" -- were encouraged by the U.S. setting a date for transfer, apparently abandoning the tried and true "we'll stay in Iraq until the mission is done and not one day longer." By setting a date, we've boxed ourselves into a corner, not the Iraqis. There are factions in Iraq that wouldn't mind if we transferred sovereignty tomorrow, because we haven't yet established institutions that will prevent the country from becoming one of those One Man, One Vote, One Time kind of "democracies." I don't know where Kaus gets the idea that establishing something that looks like a deadline applies leverage to anyone but us.

But that's all very much beside the point. Kaus has put forth reasons to think that Hillary's criticisms were wrong. But he hasn't really offered a reason to consider her criticisms anything other than constructive -- She wants us to stay until we get the job done right, for pete's sake.

So what do we have? Hillary mentioned that there are misgivings at home about our policies in Iraq, and she criticized the administration for setting an "artificial" deadline for our departure. Apparently, these two phrases are the worst examples of Hillary's petty partisanship that Kaus can come up with. That alone says a lot.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:31 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, November 29, 2003 ::

Idiot of the Week

Conspiracy nut Wayne Madsen writing in Counterpunch:
es folks, we are now all bit players in a real-life version of the movie "Wag the Dog." President Bush and his GOP advisers are ecstatic that the president made a secret trip to Baghdad to be with U.S. troops for a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner. His polling numbers -- which I contend are as fixed as a Florida election -- will undoubtedly receive a huge boost.

I may be a bit naive, and it has been a while since I served on active duty, but I can't recall ever sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at 6:00 AM. Air Force One touched down at Baghdad International Airport, under cover of darkness, at 5:20 AM Baghdad time. Bush was on the ground for two and a half hours, his plane departing Baghdad at around 7:50 AM. Considering that it likely took some 30 minutes for Bush to disembark from Air Force One and travel by a heavily secured motorcade to the hangar where the troops were assembled, that means our military men and women were downing turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and non-alcoholic beer at a time when most people would be eating eggs, bacon, grits, home fries, and toast.

What a fucking jackass. Today, he posted a correction/retraction on Nazimedia -- apparently one of his haunts [Hey, that used to be one of your "haunts," too -- Ed. Yeah, but I was an admitted troll. Not the same thing]:
I was dead wrong. I based my entire article on an early news report indicating Bush arrived in Baghdad shortly after 5am. This was incorrect. He arrived at 5:31pm and left around 8pm Baghdad time.


Yes, I know, I shouldn't pick on such an easy target, but this guy divides his time between Counterpunch, Nazimedia, and being a frequent guest on Fox News.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:06 PM [+] ::

Help Me ...

Tammy Faye Bakker Resnick was just on Fox News defending Michael Jackson against the current media lynching.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the back yard building a bunker.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:58 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 ::

Why I Could Never Be a Republican

Andrew Sullivan on the horrible, horrible attempts by Democrats to stifle the entrepreneurial spirit of the drug industry, and kill the golden goose of American pharmaceutical innovation:
I can't get beyond idiotic statements like the following from John Kerry: "If the drug companies win, who's losing? It's the seniors!" And people call George W. Bush a moron. Has it occurred to Kerry that the drugs that he wants working tax-payers to give to seniors free only exist because of the drug companies? Does he really think it's this "zero-sum"? Of course he doesn't. He's just demagoguing again.

First, the irony of this statement is apparently lost on Sully. Yes, Kerry's statement was demogogic and stupid. But how is Sullivan's contention that any action taken to lower the insane costs of drugs will kill innovation any less "zero sum?"

More importantly, I had almost missed this correction by Sullivan:
CORRECTION: "In your essay on Rich and "Angels In America," you assert that AZT was available as an anticancer drug before it had been used in HIV disease.
Although your contention in no way undermines your essay, it is wrong. AZT was synthesized in 1964 by a scientist, funded by the US government, seeking a cure for cancer. It failed as an anti-cancer drug and was not used again until the AIDS epidemic. I believe a study showing the efficacy of AZT in the treatment of AIDS patients with PCP was published in the New York Times in 1986, and it became commercially available at that time."[Emphasis added]

Guess I should be forgiven, because Sully seems to have missed it himself.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:49 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, November 24, 2003 ::

Warren Spahn 1921-2003

:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:25 PM [+] ::

The Rules of Debate

Let's see if I have this straight: Howard Dean can run a campaign ad attacking Dick Gephardt for supporting the latter's support for the Iraq war, and that's daijobu.

But Bush cannot run an ad responding to criticism over his decision to overthrow Saddam, because that would be questioning the patriotism of his critics.

There's way too much of this sanctimonious -- to say nothing of hypocritical -- horseshit masquerading as political discourse. Between this non-issue and the prattling about "astroturf" campaigns, I'm beginning to wonder if anyone really debates the issues on their own merits anymore.

And let's clear one thing up about "astroturf," while we're on the subject: in politics, there are no natural grass fields. It's all astroturf. Whether you're talking about a "grassroots" organization or one that's rolling in cash, they all use the same contrived, manipulative tactics. The only difference is whether their fucking brochures are four-color process or are printed on recycled paper.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:37 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, November 14, 2003 ::

How's This for Pathetic Spin?

"U.S. War Dead in Iraq Exceed Early Vietnam Years"

They're all out of angles, folks. This is just unspeakably lame.

UPDATE: But apparenlty not too lame for Katie Couric. Then again, what is?
[Via Henry Hanks]

:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:14 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 ::

Uh, Bad Analogy

Andrew Sullivan has a cogent critique of Wesley Clark's foreign policy ideas, except for his comparisons between Kosovo and Iraq, in which he engages in a bit of overstepping:
A final point: Milosevic hadn't threatened the United States and hadn't attempted to assassinate the president of the United States. Saddam had. On humanitarian and realist grounds, toppling Saddam was far more legitimate than toppling Milosevic.

Just one problem with this reasoning -- we didn't topple Milosevic. We stopped his aggression against Kosovars. Essentially, Operation Allied Force is more analogous to the operations against Saddam over the previous 12 years -- air strikes and policing no-fly zones to protect the Kurds in the north -- only Allied Force was far more effectual, despite all its flaws.

Yes, it did have the ultimate, if indirect, effect of leading to Milosevic's downfall, but only because his own people had finally had enough of him. What happened to Serbia is essentially what Bush I had intended to happen to Saddam after Desert Storm, but didn't -- the regime was considerably weakened due to losses on the battlefield and in terms of prestige, and he was removed within the existing political framework, without any major political or social upheaval. To compare this to Iraqi Freedom is absurd.

Another fallacy in Sullivan's piece:
Moreover, the "imminent threat" of ethnic cleansing is an odd casus belli. By the time of the Kosovo operation, the world had already stood by and watched the slaughter of a quarter of a million Bosnians by the Serbian fascist machine. That had triggered no war from the West. The same could be said for the holocaust in Rwanda, which the Clinton administration (and the United Nations) observed from afar. For Clark to argue that Kosovo was worse than either of those events is bizarre.

I seriously doubt Clark ever did argue that Kosovo was a more egregious humanitarian crisis than Bosnia or Rwanda, and it certainly wasn't the actual reason for the intervention.

The reason we went to war over Kosovo was to preserve our credibility. The U.S. had, on numerous occasions (beginning with Bush I) warned Serbia over its aggression against the ethnic Albanians. To do that, and not follow up with consequences would have been an abdication of any responsibility as a world -- and, more importantly, NATO, leader.

The tragedies of Bosnia and Rwanda, if anything, served as more of an impetus for us to act in Kosovo. It was because of the consequences of our inaction in those two cases, not in spite of them, that we rightly came to the conclusion that such inaction was no longer an option.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:08 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, November 04, 2003 ::

Debt Forgiveness

Mark Medish says that proposals to cancel Iraq's debt -- incurred under Saddam Hussein -- are foolish and "would set a bad precedent for the international financial system." Moreover, he argues that it is "too sweeping" to deem debts owed by Saddam, because they weren't all for military projects.

Alas, the international financial system could have used Medish's wisdom during the depression, when we allowed France (link requires subscription) -- which did not have the benefit of being ruled by a despot (yet) -- default on its debt to us:
During and after World War I, the U.S. extended a substantial amount of credit to its European allies. In 1922, the U.S. and 15 European countries agreed on a total indebtedness of about $11.5 billion -- slightly more than $4 billion for France. Payments were made until 1931, mostly from German war reparations. Then the Depression led Hoover to declare a one-year moratorium, and by 1934 all but two of the countries defaulted. As of last December, according to the U.S. Treasury, principal and interest due on the French debt amounted to about $11.8 billion, or about twice what France may be owed by Iraq.

So, if the principle of demanding that nations live up to their financial obligations no matter what the circumstances is worth preserving, I agree with the Wall Street Journal: let's start with France.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:49 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, November 01, 2003 ::


In the latest spin by the anti-war crowd, Ivan Eland makes the followinng argument in USA Today for an honorable exit from Iraq:
The only way to let the air out of the resistance is to quickly turn Iraq back to the Iraqis and withdraw U.S. forces. The violence arises primarily as a reaction to the invasion and occupation by a foreign superpower.

To provide for security after U.S. forces leave, the Afghan model could be adopted. Kurdish and Shiite militias could be used to police their own sections of the country. Baghdad and other problem areas could be policed by an international coalition. If the United States were to relinquish control over Iraq's reconstruction, foreign nations would be more likely to commit their military forces for peacekeeping.

Heh. The "Afghan model" eh? I thought these anti-war types were strictly forbidden from referring to Afghanistan without the qualifier "forgotten."
:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:19 AM [+] ::

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