October 21, 2007

"Serious Consequences"

Vice-President Cheney, in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

Across the Middle East, further progress will depend on responsible conduct by regional governments; respect for the sovereignty of neighbors; compliance with international agreements; peaceful words, and peaceful actions. And if you apply all these measures, it becomes immediately clear that the government of Iran falls far short, and is a growing obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Given the recent appearance by the Iranian President in New York City, no one can fail to understand the nature of the regime this man represents. He has called repeatedly for the destruction of Israel; has spoken of his yearning for a world without the United States. Under their current rulers, the people of Iran live in a climate of fear and intimidation, with secret police, arbitrary detentions, and a hint of violence in the air. In the space of a generation, the regime has solidified its grip on the country and grown ever more arrogant and brutal toward the Iranian people. Journalists are intimidated. Religious minorities are persecuted. A good many dissidents and freedom advocates have been murdered, or have simply disappeared. Visiting scholars who've done nothing wrong have been seized and jailed.

This same regime that approved of hostage-taking in 1979, that attacked Saudi and Kuwaiti shipping in the 1980s, that incited suicide bombings and jihadism in the 1990s and beyond, is now the world's most active state sponsor of terror. As to its next-door neighbor, Iraq, the Iranian government claims to be a friend that supports regional stability. In fact, it is a force for the opposite. As General Petraeus has noted, Iran's Quds Force is trying to set up a "Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and to fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq." At the same time, Iran is "responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and, in some cases, the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers."

Operating largely in the shadows, Iran attempts to hide its hands through the use of militants who target and kill coalition and Iraqi security forces. Iran's real agenda appears to include promoting violence against the coalition. Fearful of a strong, independent, Arab Shia community emerging in Iraq, one that seeks religious guidance not in Qom, Iran, but from traditional sources of Shia authority in Najaf and Karbala, the Iranian regime also aims to keep Iraq in a state of weakness that prevents Baghdad from presenting a threat to Tehran.

Perhaps the greatest strategic threat that Iraq's Shiites face today in -- is -- in consolidating their rightful role in Iraq's new democracy is the subversive activities of the Iranian regime. The Quds Force, a branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is the defender of the theocracy. The regime has used the Quds Force to provide weapons, money, and training to terrorists and Islamic militant groups abroad, including Hamas; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; militants in the Balkans; the Taliban and other anti-Afghanistan militants; and Hezbollah terrorists trying to destabilize Lebanon's democratic government.

The Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power is a matter of record. And now, of course, we have the inescapable reality of Iran's nuclear program; a program they claim is strictly for energy purposes, but which they have worked hard to conceal; a program carried out in complete defiance of the international community and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. Iran is pursuing technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The world knows this. The Security Council has twice imposed sanctions on Iran and called on the regime to cease enriching uranium. Yet the regime continues to do so, and continues to practice delay and deception in an obvious attempt to buy time.

Given the nature of Iran's rulers, the declarations of the Iranian President, and the trouble the regime is causing throughout the region -- including direct involvement in the killing of Americans -- our country and the entire international community cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions. (Applause.)

The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. (Applause.) [my emphasis]

Make no mistake, Dick Cheney is directly threatening war against Iran. Why do I say this? For perspective, note this is not the first time he's used the phrase "serious consequences." For example, see here a speech to Heritage back in October of '03.

Twelve years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council resolutions, hundreds of U.N. weapons inspectors, thousands of flights to enforce the no-fly zones, and even strikes against military targets in Iraq -- all of these measures were tried to compel Saddam Hussein's compliance with the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. All of these measures failed. Last October, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize the use of force in Iraq. Last November, the U.N. Security Council passed a unanimous resolution finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences in the event Saddam Hussein did not fully and immediately comply. When Saddam Hussein failed even then to comply, our coalition acted to deliver those serious consequences. In that effort, the American military acted with speed and precision and skill. Once again, our men and women in uniform have served with honor, reflecting great credit on themselves and on the United States of America.

And here is Cheney before the Iraq War, on Meet the Press back in March of '03, threatening "serious consequences." In other words, if you get the feeling an old play-book is getting trotted out, well, it's because it is.

There are other examples, but the upshot is clear, we must brace ourselves for the real possibility that this Administration will launch massive airstrikes on the Islamic Republic of Iran, with untold consequences. And while these threats apparently garnered applause among the audience at the Washington Institute, I find myself less impressed by such reckless jingoism. Hopefully the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of Defense will issue similar cautionary notes to the President, because we can now be surer than ever that the Vice-President will try to goad his nominal superior into a conflict with Iran. He caught the "fever," all right, and men who previously collaborated with him during the Bush 41 years reasonably well (think Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell) I strongly suspect in private view him now as a genuinely dangerous national security player.

P.S. Don't miss this gem from the Vice-President's Washington Institute speech either:

As time passed, the terrorists believed they'd exposed a certain weakness and lack of confidence in the West, particularly in America. Dr. Bernard Lewis explained the terrorists' reasoning this way: "During the Cold War," Dr. Lewis wrote, "two things came to be known and generally recognized in the Middle East concerning the two rival superpowers. If you did anything to annoy the Russians, punishment would be swift and dire. If you said or did anything against the Americans, not only would there be no punishment; there might even be some possibility of reward, as the usual anxious procession of diplomats and politicians, journalists and scholars and miscellaneous others came with their usual pleading inquiries: 'What have we done to offend you? What can we do to put it right?'" End quote.

It's really an appallingly strange time in our country. We have a singularly powerful Vice-President (compared to any of his predecessors)--openly quite enamored by the tactics employed by the Soviet Union--our former arch-foe whose human rights standards we derided. Indeed, we fought a decades-long Cold War so that Western style constitutional freedoms would trump Soviet authoritarianism. But yes, from this Sovietophile posture, use of torture and black-sites and detention without habeas corpus protections makes all the sense in the world, doesn't it? Because we have a Vice-President all but openly emulating and cheer-leading the tactics of the KGB, not in the wilds of Wyoming, but to a soi disant sophisticated audience in Washington DC. Put differently, he is very proud of his world-view, indeed eager to share it with Beltway 'elites'. Who will clear this dangerous rot out of Washington and help us restore our good name? The stakes are high, that is, the preservation of the American democratic model as a leading force for moderation and rule of law on the world stage.


Posted by Gregory at October 21, 2007 08:06 PM
Comments

Who will clear this dangerous rot out of Washington and help us restore our good name?

The one protection we have is the presidential electoral cycle. Not even the Bush administration will try to bypass that.

Posted by: Redhand at October 21, 2007 09:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Who will clear this dangerous rot out of Washington and help us restore our good name? "

Given that the Democratic Congressional leadership is as craven as Bush/Cheney is corrupt, you'll just have to sweat it out with the rest of us, Greg. (Of course, its gotta be worse for someone like you, who supported Bush/Cheney in 2004. Then again, you insist upon praising people like Petraeus, who is clearly on board with Bush/Cheney....so what gives?)

Given that you do seem to have seen the light on the current administration, perhaps you could tell us whether you think any of the GOP candidates intend to "clean out this rot", as you put it? IMHO, the entire Republican Party (with a few unimportant exceptions like Hagel) has fallen down the rabbit hole (Ron Paul just has a different rabbit hole.). But I'm curious to know if your disgust with things have removed the partisan blinders you wear -- and that you understand that the entire GOP infrastructure is now rotten to the core?

Posted by: p_lukasiak at October 21, 2007 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Taking just the Vice President's most recent speech, the appropriate media follow-up would be to ask Secretaries Gates and Rice whether 1. the Vice President's discussion of Iran reflected their views and 2. they had reviewed his speech before he delivered it.

Personally I think it likely the truthful answer to both questions is "no," but the importance of asking them lies along the lines of dragging Cheney's role in policymaking out into the open. Plainly he retains influence over the President, and a practically free hand as far as what he can say and when he can say it. Equally plainly, his efforts to direct policy at least on this subject poach on the jurisdictions of the Departments of State and Defense. Sec. Rice is a special case because of her intense personal relationship with the President -- I can't think of anything Cheney could do or say that would lead her to threaten resignation, so while awkward questions should certainly be asked fo her we can be pretty sure that the answers will always come back to her commitment to serve George Bush.

Sec. Gates, though, is different. He has been, most recently, engaged in trying to prevent a new war from breaking out over a group of ingrate Kurds who have taken advantage of America's efforts to protect their people by using Kurdish territory to blow things up in Turkey. And it is the services in his department that would have to fight any new war with Iran, at the same time they are slogging through the Iraq quagmire. So it is rather a large additional burden that the Vice President is suggesting may have to be borne by the Department of Defense -- all other considerations aside. In no previous administration would it have been necessary for a Secretary of Defense to resolve whether the Vice President speaks for the United States or not. Someone needs to now.

Incidentally, it might be a good idea for the Washington press corps to file away a question for the next press conference President Bush calls on ten minutes notice: is Vice President Cheney directing and speaking for the American policy toward Iran?

Posted by: Zathras at October 21, 2007 09:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Think it will be different starting January 2009? You must be smoking very good stuff!

Posted by: Really! at October 21, 2007 10:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...the preservation of the American democratic model as a leading force for moderation and rule of law on the world stage."

That battle was lost a while ago.

Posted by: eatbees at October 21, 2007 11:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> Given that the Democratic Congressional leadership is as craven as Bush/Cheney is corrupt

Alliteratively attractive turn of phrase :)

Posted by: Striada Helfathi at October 21, 2007 11:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How long? How long until the Bush/Cheney cabal attacks Iran and provoke ww3?

Posted by: 31tudor at October 21, 2007 11:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Who will clear this dangerous rot out of Washington and help us restore our good name? The one protection we have is the presidential electoral cycle. Not even the Bush administration will try to bypass that."

>Anyone who expects the Democrat party to clear up this mess had better take a better look, especially at the Democrat presidential hopefuls and especially Hillary....

>Pelosi is becoming a joke. Rockefeller has just sold out on the Senate Select Committee investigating the White House and what led up to 9/11.

>Bush's nominee to replace Gonzales will be approved by the Democrats.

>In fact, all I see is the leading Democrats waiting their turn to do the same things the Republicans have been doing for the past seven years.

>You don't have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.

Posted by: dahreese at October 22, 2007 12:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Anyone who expects the Democrat party to clear up this mess had better take a better look, especially at the Democrat presidential hopefuls and especially Hillary....

The mess created by Bush/Cheney is so vast that it cannot be cleared up entirely through human agency; only the passage of time can do that.

There is a difference between all the GOP candidates, and all the Democratic ones --- the Democrats recognise that there is a mess that must be cleaned up. Even more frightening are the kinds of people advising the major GOP candidates on foreign policy -- its a rogues gallery of the same people who brought us to where we are today.

Finally -- and critically -- cleaning up the mess is going to require the aid of the rest of the world, and while the end of the Bush regime will be seen as a happy occasion throughout the world, the amount of help we get will depend on whether the world detects a fundamental shift away from Bush/Cheney. Only the election of a Democrat can signal such a shift.

I do agree with you about Hillary -- she is the Democrat who is likely to make the least progress in fixing things. I'm personally appalled that she is allowing the same company that is doing PR for Blackwater to run her (highly successful) media strategy. Her willingness to get into bed with someone as ethics-free as Mark Penn to achieve the Presidency makes me shudder. Nevertheless, even she would be better than any of the GOP candidates.

Posted by: p_lukasiak at October 22, 2007 08:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Zathras,

I'm surprised, at this point, you assume there is a correspondent, WITH ACCESS to Gates and Rice; who has the tenacity, the disdain for all the professional sanctions said correspondent would be courting, and the intellectually capability to wade through the two or three bullshit responses such questioning would elect from Gates and Rice. Evasion, after all, is the skill they excel at.

On another note...implicit appeals to the Scrowcroft's and Powell's (and the latter is an especially dubious source of strength) of the nation seem, more and more, like calls to some flawed, and cuckolded father figures. Akin to the Jim Backus role in Rebel Without a Cause, if anyone recalls that relic these days. The wise men, to the limited extent they were such, have failed, repeatedly, to stop BushCo. Whatever their personal feeling were on the subject. Gates will simply be the latest 'wise man' to fail. Though how the hell he made it into the pantheon in the first place is a mystery. An above 70 white guy from Texas I guess.

The Bernard Lewis quote smacks of high level Neil thought. i.e. 'we were the pussies in the Middle East (and one, guesses, the rest of the world at that) to the manly man Soviets'. Such differences, to the very limited extent they existed, did the Soviet Union a lot of good. Did they not?

You want to see the face of this Admin? Go watch the entire Mukasey hearings. Its BushCo saying 'you pricks, this is the best you guys get' , a mild speaking fascist delivering, in relatively soothing tones, the news that the Republic is over, from his perspective. But if that news upsets you he goes on to say...'I have a spoonful of laudanum for you child, to make the news go down more readily'. Right out of central casting....a favorite grand uncle type to deliver the news. Come on....whose gonna stop Cheney? Clinton? Edwards? Obama? Not a chance in hell. Webb, maybe. Maybe.

Posted by: jonst at October 22, 2007 09:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Somebody needs to get a Congressional consensus together that a hostile action against Iran is an impeachable offense. of course, that won't happen, but that's the only thing that can restrain Cheney. (The man is quite mad. That's the only conclusion one can reach.)

Luka -- question -- what the ^&% is wrong with your party? Did 1994 and the years in exile teach them nothing? This alternately fearful and craven Congress looks a lot like the 1993-4 Congress that was scared of health care reform, rendered itself impotent, and got voted out, in part, not because of Hillarycare, but because they were so afraid of Hillarycare.

I think the American people intended this Congress to put a leash on the President. Their popularity ratings reflects their success at that.

As for what's wrong with MY party? Too many voters in the primaries still love war and bein' tough, and donors on both sides of the aisle do not reward moderation, caution, or prudence.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 22, 2007 10:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Agree with eatbees, above. As a non-American, I'd say you-all really have left yourselves nothing to preserve at this point in that regard. All America really has left to offer the rest of the world from now on is fear. (At the very least, though, you might try to use that fear more wisely, for your own sakes.)

When social change comes to some beknighted backwater in the 21st century, the last place those new Founding Fathers will be looking for as their model of liberty is the U.S. Your leaders have demonstrated again and again that you have no liberties or principles you will not let them abrogate in fear for your own security. So please get over yourselves. The rest of us surely have.

Posted by: BruceR at October 22, 2007 11:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jonst said: "You want to see the face of this Admin? Go watch the entire Mukasey hearings. Its BushCo saying 'you pricks, this is the best you guys get' , a mild speaking fascist delivering, in relatively soothing tones, the news that the Republic is over, from his perspective. But if that news upsets you he goes on to say...'I have a spoonful of laudanum for you child, to make the news go down more readily'. Right out of central casting....a favorite grand uncle type to deliver the news. Come on....whose gonna stop Cheney? Clinton? Edwards? Obama? Not a chance in hell. Webb, maybe. Maybe." I had to copy and post is since it needs repeating.

Yes, we have become like the Soviets a power feared throughout the world for our prisons, arbitrary killings and torturing. We see our military in Iraq now acting as police men killing criminals and bystanders, not combatants, a Soviet tactic. We have Mukasey justifying holding American citizens seized on American soil without charges indefinitely on the ground that the American soil is a battleground. Sounds like a Gulag to me.

The sad thing is the Democrats are afraid, actually afraid, of what the Republicans will say about them. The Democrats are in a holding position. The orders are: "do nothing that will display any weakness in foreign policy or you will hurt Hillary's chances." So the Democrats will allow Bush/Cheney free hand on attacking Iran. (Did you notice last week that the Admiral, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, changed his tune from one of caution to one of belligerence?)

As far as Iran is concerned, we need at least two carrier groups to be in the Persian Gulf area. We have the USS Enterprise there. It is an old type carrier so that will be removed. The USS Harry S Truman a newer carrier is leaving for the Gulf in November and will be there until next summer. If one other carrier group heads for the Gulf before the end of the year, it is a go. So watch the carriers to learn when we will invade Iran which will probably be on the anniversary of the attack on Iraq: Happy St. Patrick's day. s

Posted by: Llyonnoc at October 22, 2007 11:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka -- question -- what the ^&% is wrong with your party?

I think its part of the party DNA: Democrats are by nature more "democratic" -- the people who rise to power in Congress do so through compromise and achieving consensus and making deals, because Democrats in general don't respond to authority as such. Democrats aren't 'pack animals', and its much harder to herd them.

(Republicans, on the other hand, are always looking toward their leadership for direction. Much easier to 'herd'. )

Consequently, Democratic Party leaders tend to be ill-equipped to deal with the kinds of challenges presented to them by Bush/Cheney. It simply cannot react quickly enough, because it feels compelled to consult with everyone before taking a stand --- and the consultation process inevitably results in a 'watered down' stand that remains subject to change because the consultative process remains ongoing.

(This, btw, is the real meaning behind the "reality based community" comment. Democrats are 'reality based' because they are constantly dealing with the reality at hand -- while Bush/Cheney are constantly changing that reality. For Bush/Cheney, accruing, maintaining, and expanding power by constantly changing reality is more important than the outcome of any specific decision -- which also helps explain the mess were in.)

Add to that the problems inherent in any seniority system (where clowns like Rockefeller and Reyes can rise to the chairmanship of intelligence committees), garden variety influence peddlers (Hoyer, Emmanuel) and choosing someone from a conservative state to lead Democratic Senators (Reid saw what happened to Daschle), and Presidential candidates who prefer to talk about what they will do if elected rather than actually demonstrating their leadership abilities today when they are needed, and, well, you get the mess that is the Democratic Party today.


....or was that a rhetorical question ;)


Posted by: p_lukasiak at October 22, 2007 11:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OH, I forgot to mention another similarity between the present USA and the former Soviet Union.

If you've been around as long as I have and have watched the May Day parades in Red Square you could hardly forget to notice all the medals that crowd upon both sides of the chests of the generals who stood on the reviewing stands.

Now look at the American generals and admirals. They have bedecked themselves out with so many medals that they run over to the right side of their uniforms. We see that none of them are in danger of being hurt so they must use the medals to offer a delusional belief that they faced danger. This is the true Sovietization of America.

The only difference is that our military leaders retire to seven figure jobs in the industry they are suppose to oversee. So from their viewpoint, war leads to medals and a good retirement. They have to keep war going to insure their future. So Cheney has many willing abettors.

Posted by: Llyonnoc at October 22, 2007 11:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka.

It really wasn't a rhetorical question. I find the Democrats actions mystifying because I think it's bad strategy as well as bad policy. Bashing on Rush Limbaugh ineffectually is hardly a substitute for concrete actions like using the power of the purse to compell some actons. (If they could think of that in the 18th century, how come they can't do it now?)

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 22, 2007 12:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It's really an appallingly strange time in our country."

Better get used to it, because what we're seeing now is the end of the American republic.

Look, the ONLY remedy has been the impeachment and trial of Bush and Cheney. This has been obvious for AT LEAST the last year. The Congress has refused to even consider this, or to perform even its most minimal legal and moral obligations. It is now pretty completely irrelevant. Its only institutional function, now, is to manage SOME of the sluice gates of the public trough.

I don't know what's coming next. If I had to guess, I think we're heading toward something very like Putin's siloviki/oligarch society. But the American system that our high school government classes assured us was an enduring model for the world, is over.

Posted by: sglover at October 22, 2007 12:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Look, the ONLY remedy has been the impeachment and trial of Bush and Cheney. This has been obvious for AT LEAST the last year. The Congress has refused to even consider this, or to perform even its most minimal legal and moral obligations. It is now pretty completely irrelevant. Its only institutional function, now, is to manage SOME of the sluice gates of the public trough.

I don't know what's coming next. If I had to guess, I think we're heading toward something very like Putin's siloviki/oligarch society. But the American system that our high school government classes assured us was an enduring model for the world, is over.

The hell of it is, I think this is on target. I won't go so far as to say that Bush/Cheney will declare themselves "prime minister" or whatever, but the precedent they've set for "unitary executive" dictatorship in 4-8 year increments is horrifying. The Republican nominees are clueless on his point; the only chance we have, I think, of turning back the clock on the new President-as-Dictator model is a democratic presidential winner who will reveal all the dirt that has gone on these terrible post-2001 years and prosecute all those who are liable for illegal actions: assuming of course that Bush doesn't issue blanket pardons to everybody, which is a distinct possibility.

The naive side of me still holds out the hope of impeachment and mass street protests if Bush/Cheney attack Iran without securing congressional consent. If that happens and they get away with it, we can kiss our democracy goodbye.

Posted by: Redhand at October 22, 2007 01:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Under their current rulers, the people of Iran live in a climate of fear and intimidation, with secret police, arbitrary detentions, and a hint of violence in the air. In the space of a generation, the regime has solidified its grip on the country and grown ever more arrogant and brutal toward the Iranian people. Journalists are intimidated. Religious minorities are persecuted. A good many dissidents and freedom advocates have been murdered, or have simply disappeared. Visiting scholars who've done nothing wrong have been seized and jailed.

The sad thing is that you can replace the words "Iran" and "Iranian" with the words "the United States" and "Americans" and the statement is just as true.

Climate of fear and intimidation? Check - thanks to the wiretaps and secret evidence used by this administration.

Arrogant and brutal? Check - just ask Jose Padilla.

Religious minorities are persecuted? Check - go to your local mosque or ask any of the Muslims rounded up after 9/11.

The Bible advises us not to throw stones in glass houses. But I guess that comes from a passage that we would rather not pay attention to.

Posted by: Nathan Hale at October 22, 2007 02:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Not even the Bush administration will try to bypass that.

Oh, if I only had a dime for every time I thought that to myself in the last six years.

We've all seen the "unthinkable" become thinkable so many times now that I can't believe anyone still thinks that THIS time they won't go THAT far (or that THIS time the Democrats will FINALLY stand up to them).

How many times must Lucy pull the football before we see what's going on here.

Posted by: Thumb at October 22, 2007 02:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It really wasn't a rhetorical question. I find the Democrats actions mystifying because I think it's bad strategy as well as bad policy. Bashing on Rush Limbaugh ineffectually is hardly a substitute for concrete actions like using the power of the purse to compell some actons. (If they could think of that in the 18th century, how come they can't do it now?)

It's not like this is anything new. National-level Democrats have been jaw-droppingly idiotic throughout the Bush years*.

Consider the run-up to the Iraq war. Prior to the '02 elections, worhtless cowards like Tom Daschle (his spirit lives on!) actually really, truly believed that if they could just get this troublesome war powers carte blanche out of the way, they'd move on to the real vote-getter -- prescription drugs for the AARP crowd. Forget about the morality of this sell-out. For a party forever dogged by a reputation for cowardly pandering, what did this bit of legislative genius do but cement the stereotype?

Or consider bankruptcy "reform". Given Republican Congressional majorities, this little gift to the finance industry was practically certain to pass. The finance industry isn't exactly beloved throughout the land, and I would think that any intern-level member of the "Party of the Common Man" would jump at the chance to hang this dreadful, bought-and-paid-for legislation around Republican necks. But no, a pretty substantial block of Dem senators signed on, and made it a bipartisan betrayal. And note that this happened mere *weeks* after Kerry's defeat, which was almost certainly due in part to the tagline, "He voted for it before he voted against it". This was an incredibly effective GOP slogan, because it was fundamentally true.

There are two votes I want to cast in the next Dem primary, one for Kucinich, and one for a challenger to my disgrace of a Congresscreature, Al "I occupy space" Wynn. And then I'm changing my registration to independent, after 30 years as a registered Dem.

Posted by: sglover at October 22, 2007 02:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the only chance we have, I think, of turning back the clock on the new President-as-Dictator model is a democratic presidential winner who will reveal all the dirt that has gone on these terrible post-2001 years and prosecute all those who are liable for illegal actions

Can you persuade yourself that ANY national-level Dem will do that, is even interested in doing that, hell, is even interested in thinking about the principles behind doing that? I can't.

assuming of course that Bush doesn't issue blanket pardons to everybody, which is a distinct possibility.

I wouldn't be surprised if the pardons were written and signed quite a while ago, and have been sitting in Bush's desk for years.

Posted by: Samuel Glover at October 22, 2007 02:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, this is such a better way of dealing with Iran

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Fn3JJJZJHWo

Hans Blix: Mr. Il, I was supposed to be allowed to inspect your palace today, but your guards won't let me enter certain areas.

Kim Jong Il: Hans, Hans, Hans! We've been frew this a dozen times. I don't have any weapons of mass destwuction, OK Hans?

Hans Blix: Then let me look around, so I can ease the UN's collective mind. I'm sorry, but the UN must be firm with you. Let me in, or else.

Kim Jong Il: Or else what?

Hans Blix: Or else we will be very angry with you... and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are.

Posted by: Bob Roberts at October 22, 2007 07:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have been saying since at least Autumn of '02 that Bush/Cheney were wrong and the Democrats were useless. But they are just operating within the existing rules & incentives. We don't need new bozos in office.

We need a new government. It is insane to expect a different outcome with the same input model.

Posted by: Tom at October 22, 2007 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What we need to do is withdraw our tacit consent to this goverment by de-legitmating it. The 'consent of the governed' is supposed to be important, what if the governed withdraw consent?

Posted by: Tom at October 22, 2007 09:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Can you persuade yourself that ANY national-level Dem will do that, is even interested in doing that, hell, is even interested in thinking about the principles behind doing that?
I don't know. But unless this President-as-Dictator theory of the "unitary executive" is completely exposed and repudiated by Bush's successor, this Republic is in for a grim future.

No Republican is willing to even admit the issue exists, so it has to be a Democrat.

Slightly OT, but I'm beginning to think that the post-Vietnam all-volunteer military is a time-bomb, which has finally exploded. Not that I think that the military is disloyal, but rather that it is too insulated from mainstream American society, and therefore American society is too insulated from the carnage. If what's happening in Iraq now to our military professionals -- and defacto (but limited) draftees in the National Guard -- were spread across society by a new draft, you'd see an anti-war movement that would have stopped this madness long ago.

To me, the docility of the American public to the creeping authoritarianism of the Bush Administration is at least as disturbing as the Democrats' impotence in combating it.

Posted by: Redhand at October 22, 2007 11:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Slightly OT, but I'm beginning to think that the post-Vietnam all-volunteer military is a time-bomb, which has finally exploded. Not that I think that the military is disloyal, but rather that it is too insulated from mainstream American society, and therefore American society is too insulated from the carnage."

The problem isn't the all volunteer army, it was the decision to invade Iraq with an all volunteer army. One of the reasons for an all-volunteer military was that it would discourage another Vietnam. And in the event of a genuine threat to our national security, a draft could be instituted with very little resistance.

Iraq is an indictment of the US in its entirety, and exposed the fatal flaw in democratic theory --- you can have times of crisis with good leaders, and times of peace with bad leaders, but eventually you are going to have a time of crisis with bad leadership... and democracy is unprepared to deal with that eventuality.

Posted by: p_lukasiak at October 22, 2007 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

@ p_lukasiak. I think your comment is brilliant. My only caveat is that all societies and political systems are at great risk from bad war-making decisions by authoritarian leaders. A sense of absolute power by any unchecked leader always leads to overreach, and ultimate failure. We're seeing it in spades here.

Posted by: Redhand at October 23, 2007 02:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And lets not forget the 'miltary contractors,' the mercenaries who would likely have no compunction about arresting or murdering opposing politicians, in or out of Congress. This never ending war idea is a catastrophe for liberty and democracy. Osama destroyed some buildings, and murdered some people, this adminstration has debased our civil liberties, and tortured and murdered in our name, for a phony war. We must withdraw our consent for this abomination.

Posted by: Tom at October 23, 2007 09:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Redhand:

I don't think the American people are docile about Iraq. Congress has just ignored the mandate they were given (for reasons that I simply don't understand). This will have some variety of consequences in 2008, though I am at a loss to figure them out.

p_luka:

Part of the problem is that the Bushies did what Democrats used to do in Great Society days -- start up a large operation without any regard to the costs, and selling it as an essential operation and a fairly cheap one. I do think it would have been harder to do this silly war with a draft, but I also have a real problem with the idea that government has a right to a random selection of individuals for three years. But one of the thing that makes me Republican rather than Democrat is a belief that government is not a stand in for society as a whole, however much the political theorists will it to be so.

Tom:

You deligitmize the government -- you delegitmize everything -- including Social Security, the FAA, your Congressman who regularly brings home the pork...er bacon...Not sure you really want that. Luka actually has his thumb on the major problem here -- the presidnt was the wrong man for new milennium. Every system has flaws, and ours is that removing a moron from power is not easy in our system. (It's the one thing parliamentary systems have over us.)

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 23, 2007 11:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

But one of the thing that makes me Republican rather than Democrat is a belief that government is not a stand in for society as a whole, however much the political theorists will it to be so.

Heh. That's a good one. I well remember how, back in the 80's, Bush the Elder and the younger Rumsfeld and the younger Cheney were all just a bunch of country squires, reluctantly enduring their stint of selfless public service, counting the days until they could return to the honest folks back home.

Bush the Lesser has never done anything but follow Reaganism to its logical conclusions. And as the GOP never gets tired of insisting, it IS the sainted Ronnie's representative here on earth. In this, I take them at their word.

Posted by: sglover at October 23, 2007 11:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Appaled Moderate:

I take your point, but the system can't fix itself so we have no good options. If rather than a two party system, we consider that we have actually a one party system with factions, then some actions begin to make sense. I beleive we were warned by Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin to take care in our actions. We suffer now under greater injustices than those which George III inflicted upon us. For pete's sake, we need real change.

Posted by: Tom at October 23, 2007 12:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nathan Hale: The US is as oppresive as Iran!? Hmm, so that explains the mass hanging of Gays yesterday on the National Mall here in Washington DC yesterday!

All the Moslems rounded up and I suppose put in Concentration Camps just like the Japanese Americans on the West Coast in WWII were after Pearl Harbor!

Really Nathan Hale, as bad as this Administration has been and it often times reminds me of that bunch of idiots that led Imperial Germany to disaster in WWI; to compare it to Iran and the Mullahs is a gross overstatement.

Remember 9/11 really did Happen and it was not a Plot by Bush/Hitler and his ZionistNazis Masters!

Posted by: David All at October 23, 2007 12:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Or Iran, for that matter.

Posted by: BruceR at October 23, 2007 03:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tom:

Change can happen from within. You just have to concentrate on voting the bums out, and pay attention to what your congress critter is truly promising.

sglover:

I happen to be lieve that Reagan was the right President for his time period, just as FDR was right for his period, and Lincoln right for his. You put any of those guys in todays environment, you might well have a disaster on your hands. Bush, trying to relive Reagan's greatest hits without an Evil Empire, a Democratic Congress in need of restraint, or a coherent world view, is a predictable disaster.

As for Bush the elder -- Well, he had the sense to get out of Iraq after his war aims were met. As for Rumsfeld, I don't rmember how he spent his 80s. Wasn't he a somewhat odd congressman?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 23, 2007 03:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem is that every time Bush asks "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" the media, led by the attack dogs from the right, but indirectly aided by the rest of the business, smears, marginalizes, or destroys any potentially dangerous opponent.

We saw this Plame, Clarke, O'Neill, Powell, etc.

We saw it especially with Kerry (though he painted a target on his back); and we even saw it with Dukakis in '88.

This Administration in general, and the Bush family in particular, is very, very good at manipulating images in pursuit of remaining in power.

Why does any reasonable person think this state of affairs *won't* continue? We're probably stuck.

Posted by: Greg at October 23, 2007 03:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg (not Greg D):

I know "the right-wing news media" is a current mantra, but please. If the wingers had their way, you'd be hearing nothing but "good news! good news!" happy talk on Iraq and Keith Olbermann would be covering soccer matches at Guantanamo. There are tendencies in the media that cause them to overhype stories, overhype conflict, and overdo stuff that plays to fear. Really, 9/11 coverage and Katrina coverage had the same flaws, but the effect of that over-emotional coverage played out differently in terms of partisanship.

I don't know how issues of civil rights erosion and torture gets any traction in this media. They don't usually generate good pictures. The same is true of scandal stories, which are usually very complex (unless sex is involved)

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 23, 2007 04:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for Rumsfeld, I don't rmember how he spent his 80s. Wasn't he a somewhat odd congressman?

He was busy carrying felicitations to our good friend and staunch ally, Saddam fucking Hussein.

Posted by: sglover at October 23, 2007 07:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

you guys are truly hilarious. I want some of what you're smoking.

thing is, if the current trend lines in Iraq continue their improvement over the next year -- A WHOLE YEAR -- the terms of the national security debate running up to the election most likely will rather uncomfortable for the Dem candidate.

But then again, Bush will probably have declared martial law and cancelled the election by then.

Posted by: neill at October 23, 2007 10:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A. Moderate,

"If the wingers had their way, you'd be hearing nothing but "good news! good news!" happy talk on Iraq and Keith Olbermann would be covering soccer matches at Guantanamo."

First, that is exactly what Fox News does, (and frankly would like to do to Olbermann). Second, I said, explicitly, that there is a division in the media being the attack dogs and the rest. However, when exactly did the media turn against the war? 2004, the only time we could have gotten rid of the Bush administration? No, guys like Ricks were still reporting how Iraq was about to "turn a corner".

"Fiasco" wasn't released until 2006; so let us say that the media's opposition contributed to the GOP congressional defeat.

What on earth has that defeat accomplished? Nothing, nada, the Democrats have been defeated on essentially every single issue. Meanwhile, Gitmo is still open, wire-tapping still occurs, torture has not stopped, we're still ensconced firmly in Mesopotamia, and the President has basically said that we're going to keep doing things his way.

Why have the Democrats backed down? They have been subject either to withering attacks from the right or hand-wringing from centrists about how we need to keep our options open on Iraq, instead of getting the hell out of the country to prevent the even bigger catastrophe of losing an army after attacking Iran. Even though the media turned against the war during the 2006 campaign, even if the real turning point happened in 2005 with Katrina, the self-same people still arguing that withdrawal would lead to chaos or insuring poor children would lead to Socialism.

The Democrats, then, are running scared, even in the majority, of being savaged by the same machine that has beaten bloody critics and opponents so many times before, aided and abetted by a professional news corps that seems fatally compromised. Yes, there are men like Olbermann, but they pale in comparision to Cronkite and Murrow, especially since their reach is only a shadowy wisp of the great newsmen of the past. Olbermann, after all, might attack the Bush administration, but he can be easily ridiculed for being, after all, a former (and insufferable) sports anchor and for appearing on MSNBC, a network that embarrasses itself almost every minute of airtime outside of Olbermann's show.

In Keith's case, to paraphrase Koba, how many viewers has his show?

Then compare his ratings to O'Reilly's or even Dobbs'.

Posted by: Greg at October 23, 2007 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

please, enough with the melodrama.

they have thin majorities, won with the election of mostly blue-dog democrats.

they don't have the votes. they don't have the votes. they don't have the votes.....

methinks they raised the expectations bar a wee bit high.

Posted by: neill at October 24, 2007 01:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yes, but it's precisely because Congress is really impotent without a veto-proof majority.

Frankly, this has always been true. It's only that the Framers, in their most egregious blindspot, refused to believe our politics could become as factional as they are today.

The Congress is supposed to act as a counterweight to the President, but at this point, we have essentially a Rump Congress that acts a counterweight. That's simply not enough.

And neill, unless you can find a way to increase the Democratic majority, your comments remain true. (I highly doubt the Democrats could possibly get more than 250 reps; I do think they can get to 60 senators, but 60's enough to pass legislation - not override a veto) Also, I doubt any current candidate would agree to give up voluntarily the powers the executive's accumulated.

Posted by: Greg at October 24, 2007 01:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey, lay off Wyoming. You write like it isn't part of the U.S.

Posted by: Sjbish at October 24, 2007 02:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Er, Neill. They won the 2006 House vote by an overall national vote margin of fully 8.5% (as compared to a 7% margin for that "Republican stampede" we kept hearing about in 1994). And they won the Senate races by an even bigger vote margin -- which explains why they astonished everyone by winning 23 out of 33 Senate races this time and thus gaining six seats to narrowly pick up the Senate RIGHT NOW, which very few people (including me) thought they had a chance of doing. If all 100 Senate seats had been up in 2006, they'd hold the Senate right now by a landslide margin. And most of their new winners in both houses are standard-model liberals.

As for Iraq: well, of course if the situation continues to "improve" they'll do better in 2008 than the polls right now show. (Of course, this would still mean that we would have spent half a trillion dollars and 5000 lives for only a trivial gain in our worldwide security, but who thinks anymore about silly little things like that?) But the whole point of most of the people on this site is that the strong evidence is that things are still NOT going at all well, temporary drop in the casualty rates or not. For things to actually work out in Iraq, we need a major increase in the willingness of Iraq's factions to actually be willing to share the country -- and what we're seeing instead is just a lot of work by those factions to position themselves strategically (including continued regional ethnic cleansing and weapon acquisition) for the armed struggle that will come after the US pulls most of its troops out of Iraq, which we will have to do for logistical reasons next year in any case.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at October 24, 2007 08:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for Wyoming: having driven through it a couple of times, I'm not entirely sure it's part of the planet Earth. (It certainly doesn't look like it.) And it sure as hell is not any more entitled to two Senators than any other single Congresional district in the country.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at October 24, 2007 08:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

do they have the votes or not?

they don't.

apparently not enough are willing to commit political suicide.

Posted by: neill at October 24, 2007 10:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wilds of Wyoming? Have you ever taken the time to actually stop and talk to some of us Wildmen and Wildwomen? You'd find people like me who cringe every time Cheney opens his mouth. Yes, he does have admirers in the state, but he has admirers in D.C. and southern California and possibly among Russians who yearn for the good-old-days of Uncle Joe Stalin. As you're driving through, remember that Wyoming has a strong progressive community. Short on numbers, long on passion.

Posted by: Michael Shay at October 24, 2007 10:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg (Not D):

Well, this centrist is all for getting the %^% out. And I do blame the Democrats for not doing all they could -- which means using their power of the purse -- to do so. I understand the problem of the veto and the filibuster. The way to deal with this is to withhold the money needed to execute stupid policies. This was a common tactic used in the early years of our republic by state/colonial legislatures. It's certainly a tactic the framers would have understood and endorsed.

As for the media -- well, for most of our history, people could choose the bias they wanted in their news reporting. Up until the 30s, cities had multiple newspapers with multiple biases, and the news columns reflected the bias. Those days have now returned, with Fox News, Rush et al for wingnuts, the WaPo for centrist establishment, NPR for responsible college professors, NYT for rich liberals, etc. I don't find this a bad thing, incidentally. You usually end up with a better array of information, when there are multiple outlets with different axes to grind. Depending on Walter Cronkite to tell us "that's the way it is" might be better for developing consensus for lucky politicians, but is exceptionally limiting.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at October 24, 2007 12:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AM,

I'm 150% with you on the power of the purse, especially since in the Federalist/D-R period, state governments were extraordinarily willing to use it to neuter governors (I'm pretty sure that what changed in my state, NY, is that Martin van Buren and his friends were ruthless and skilled politicos)

Unfortunately, I can't understand why the Democrats backed down on the budget earlier this year.

I mean, other than fear of being slammed in the press and on TV/radio, why else did they fail to do it? :(

Posted by: Greg at October 24, 2007 01:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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