December 19, 2005

Quote of the Day

It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done. We would abandon our Iraqi friends — and signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We would undermine the morale of our troops — by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed. We would cause tyrants in the Middle East to laugh at our failed resolve, and tighten their repressive grip. We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us — and the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever before. To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor — and I will not allow it.

-- President Bush, speaking from the Oval Office tonight.

So what constitutes victory? The national strategy for victory document defined it thus:

In the short term:

An Iraq that is making steady progress in fighting terrorists and neutralizing the insurgency, meeting political milestones; building democratic institutions; standing up robust security forces to gather intelligence, destroy terrorist networks, and maintain security; and tackling key economic reforms to lay the foundation for a sound economy.

In the medium term:

An Iraq that is in the lead defeating terrorists and insurgents and providing its own security, with a constitutional, elected government in place, providing an inspiring example to reformers in the region, and well on its way to achieving its economic potential.

In the longer term:

An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency.

An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.

An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.

Would it be reckless and dishonorable to leave before the "longer term" prong of the White House's definition of victory is achieved? Yes, in my view, and I assume Bush's (unless he's perhaps using the "medium term" as his goalpost?). But this is still years away. Isn't it better to just come out and say so? So that the public better grasps that building a sustainable central government, a multi-ethnic, cohesive national army (with attendant de-militiazation), ensuring adequate protection of minority rights, and fostering democratic national governance structures--that these objectives will likely not be fully realized by the end of Bush's term. (Indeed, it's becoming increasingly clear that the next President will most likely still be grappling with the Iraq situation quite intensely--whether it's a Democrat or Republican).

Still, I thought it was a pretty good speech, though he lost points for continuing to repeat the junk about flypaper. Oh, and what happened to the "rejectionists" (read: insurgents)? They featured relatively prominently in the victory strategy document, but any mention of them was omitted from this speech. Why? Probably because it's easier to put together a seamless 9/11 to Iraq narrative when we are just dealing with "terrorists" (and Saddamists). Muddying the waters with talk of insurgents would confuse the plot a bit too much for a primetime address to the nation, I guess. Call it a B-, all told--with points for him inviting honest criticism and taking it on the chin, again, on the WMD intel being wrong. What do commenters think?


Posted by Gregory at December 19, 2005 02:28 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

i bet you the timing of our domestic elections will correlate directly with troop reductions... victory has nothing to do with his planning, no matter what he says

Posted by: just me at December 19, 2005 03:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hmm, not sure I see a direct correlation there, as we have been hearing about reducing troop levels if the IRAQI elections went well for about 6 months now. I did suspect pulling out of Fallujah the first time was a political move, as you recall, this was just prior to the US presidential election. But this allowed us to concentrate on the Sadr uprising in the south, which was more urgent. Saving Fallujah until later turned out to be the best strategic move for our military.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at December 19, 2005 03:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I find it striking that our president is terribly concerned that tyrants might be laughing at us. But, then, this is how our Narcissist-in-Chief operates: he is a man more concerned about how he looks in the world, or how he's viewed as a War President, or whether he looks resolute enough, than actually devising a strategy to, you know, win.

And, for the record, I suspect the world's tyrants were laughing at us already.

Posted by: Q at December 19, 2005 03:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While he doesn't "make decisions based on polls", he did hit nearly every point that critics, analysts, and assorted talking heads have insisted that he needed to say. He said them tonight and even treated us to some well-rehearsed hand gestures for extra TV sincerity.

Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth with an 0-2 count. You don't have to be a White House insider to know what he was going to pitch tonight.

Posted by: flitterbic at December 19, 2005 04:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

what do the commenters think?

this commenter thinks it's a little disingenuous for the president to try to convey that he understands the anti-war argument by casting it in an overly simplified and negative light, and then refuting it with a misleading statement about osama bin laden's aims. of course 9/11 wasn't in retribution for u.s. invasion of iraq and afghanistan--bin laden says explicitly it is because of u.s. presence in saudi arabia, which the pentagon has gone ahead and reduced severely since then, incidentally.

grade: D+ mediocre and dishonest

Posted by: jacob miller at December 19, 2005 04:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I went back and read your "flypaper" post. It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Iraq HAS been served this purpose to some degree, e.g. the poor misguided Belgian woman who punched her own ticket there not long ago. Why didn't al Queda save her for a harder target? While the supply of "splodeydopes" has yet to be proven finite, they have gone a long way to convincing Iraqis that these knuckleheads have nothing to offer.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at December 19, 2005 04:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"In the longer term: An Iraq that has defeated the terrorists and neutralized the insurgency. "

This is a pie in the sky (and some ponies) fantasy football victory quest.

Has the US defeated Osama & Co? No? And why then should Iraq be able to defeat its terrorists?

If there's ever going to be a victory declaration again, it will be a severe fudge on the longer term goals.

Unless victory is postponed until terrorism is no longer a global problem. And the Middle East policies of the US are no longer contested at home and abroad. But then you're talking decades and counting on things which are not under any substantial influence of the US and its allies.

And in my opinion, if you are really going to wait until terrorism is gone from that region, the best way to do that is not by keeping large numbers of troops there, but by applying effective diplomacy and developing a foreign policy not based on war and armed forces.

Thus withdrawing is part of reaching any realistic goal. It's just the timing that is the 64k$ question.

But by now the emerging consensus is that you will have to withdraw the troops before you can reach anything resembling those victory goals.


Posted by: Dutch at December 19, 2005 04:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you listened closely, I think you'll notice that he didn't actually use flypaper. He gets close in a few places, but he doesn't actually use it.

"And if we were not fighting them in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Southeast Asia, and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens, they would be on the offense, and headed our way."

Granted, the final clause ("they would be on the offense, and headed our way") is ambiguous. You can choose to read into it that because we are fighting them in those places, they are not on the offense. But he didn't actually say that, and the statement as it stands holds true. He probably should have made the final clause read "they would *still* be on the offense" to make it clearer, but really, the point that he was making was that OBL wouldn't leave us alone were it not for Iraq and Afghanistan, not "flypaper."

"And we will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad, removing their safe havens, and strengthening new allies like Iraq and Afghanistan in the fight we share."

Similarly, a kind of implied flypaper, but it's not actually there.

Compared with previous speeches, which contained much more direct assertions along the lines of "we are fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here," I think this qualifies as a rhetorical shift.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at December 19, 2005 05:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We have Bush as president for three more years, love him or hate him with the burning passion some of you have, he is still the only person that can do anything materially in regards to the US position in Iraq. This was clearly not a speech typical of the current Commander and Chief. For what might be the first time in his presidency he has admitted that he has made major policy mistakes and even accepted responsibility for those actions, that was a not good thing, that was a GREAT thing. I am not asking for policy leaps, but a sign, and this was a strong one, that he is at lest moving a better direction, that he is still in touch with the population, that he at lest acknowledges critics even if they don’t sway him.

I have a plethora of issues on which I disagree with this administration. But on Iraq, I want to agree with the POTUS because he is making all of the important decisions, and he was right this undertaking is too big and too important to fail. He, the president himself, needed to come out say, not just to the American public, but the Iraqi public and the Arab world (you know they where watching this more then American’s where by their voter turnout), what the US end-game is, and how we will be measuring success that will lead to withdraw. It was well past due, this speech should be been made at lest a year ago, if not during the election, but here we are a week before Christmas 2005 looking forward with at lest that glimmer of hope that the future will be brighter, more transparent, and hopefully the watershed that everyone, in both American and Iraq, wants. (That transparency part is a lot of wishful thinking, I know….)

Like I said I WANT to support Bush on Iraq, even if virtually nothing else, because that is the biggest issue of the day and the one that he has most control over, and yes this speech just made it a little bit easier to do just that.

Posted by: Randall Bennington at December 19, 2005 07:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, so some PR firm has got a couple of million dollars to poll the audience, and this was what they reported that people wanted to hear from their commander in chief.

So he said what he had to say, and his approval rating will raise a few points, and some republicans might even get re-elected next year. Splendid work!

But why should there suddenly be any connection between reality or actionable plans and what the commander says? It hasn't yet, has it?
;-)

Posted by: Laurila at December 19, 2005 01:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As Greg has pointed out in other posts, there does seem to be some substantive shift in the WH towards a more rational Iraq policy, so it isn't all just talk.
But then again, it might still be *mostly* talk. Certainly he had professionals working on the speech, as Laurila and flitterbic have noted.
Like Mr Bennington, I would *like* to believe the POTUS & his merrie men have really started to listen to outside voices and are putting our policy on more solid ground. However, it's still too early to tell if this is so.

Posted by: Antiquated Tory at December 19, 2005 03:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't read Bush as making the flypaper argument...at least, not the crude flypaper argument that we are *trying* to attract terrorists to Iraq so that our military can kill them, as opposed to have them wandering around the streets of Detroit. I think the argument is more broadly that Zarqawi, etc. are not going to be satisfied if and when we leave Iraq. They are at war with us permanently, and they will shift their view to other American targets, whether in the Middle East or in the U.S. I don't believe the president is making what I'd call the "crude flypaper" argument. I think he's right in saying that we didn't create the flies, and the flies will therefore not cease to exist when we are no longer in Iraq.

Posted by: Tim Schultz at December 19, 2005 03:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, I only got through the first couple of paragraphs... but the level of lies, spin, and intellectual honesty found in the first paragraphs forces a grade of "F'

Paragraph 1: He could have just repeated what was said last January -- wait, maybe he did just repeat what was said last january.

Paragraph 2: Lies about the impact of the election, and the situation in Iraq. "And this vote ... means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror. " (here's a clue -- we don't know the results yet....)

Paragraph 3: Mentions for the first (and last) time the costs of the war in Iraq.

Paragraph 4: distorted, ex post facto, justification for invading Iraq.

Paragraph 5: more distortion, "Takes responsibility" for "intelligence being wrong" -- without, of course, explaining why he isn't just technically responsible, but personally responsible.

Paragraph 6: More lies and distortions about the reasons for the war in Iraq. (Biggest lie: "He was given an ultimatum - and he made his choice for war. " )

after that intro, I simply stopped reading. Its obvious that Bush is incapable of facing the reality of what we are confronted with in Iraq, and because he'll be in charge for another three years, the smartest thing to do is to get out ASAP.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 19, 2005 03:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

larsen/schultz: i agree the so called 'flypaper' mention was more subtle than in the past. i actually debated mentioning it, as i did notice some of the real improvement in the treatment of it. still, not least because Rumsfeld was spouting off re: the unvarnished 'crude' version of flypaper in an O'Reilly interview a few days back (which I hope to 'Fisk' this week)--i thought the overall tilt was still one of a distortion that remains used too often w/ the American people, ie if we weren't in Iraq buses and trains and hotels and shops and skyscrapers would be getting blown up here. if bush made the argument in still more sophisticated manner, saying that the erection of a democracy in iraq would lead to providing more political space in the heart of the arab muslim world, and an improving economy there would lead to more economic hope, and that such trends would ideally spread to other countries in calibrated, disciplined fashion--so that the allure of radical Islam would dissipate (particularly taking into consideration the conditions of something of a demographic time bomb of youth in the region)--well, then i'd get off the criticism on this point more. apologies for the run on sentence, but that's my basic take on this issue at the present time.

Posted by: greg at December 19, 2005 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the argument is more broadly that Zarqawi, etc. are not going to be satisfied if and when we leave Iraq. They are at war with us permanently, and they will shift their view to other American targets, whether in the Middle East or in the U.S.

so basically Bush is saying that he thinks preventing al Qaeda from attacking the US is justification for thousands upon thousands of Iraqis are being murdered by al Qaeda.

Now, I happen to believe this is how Bush thinks -- that its better to have Iraqis slaughtered than it is to deal with the threat posed by al Qaeda in other ways. And I bet its also how the Iraqis see Bush's mindset --- which is why they want the US out of Iraq. They KNOW that Bush's agenda has nothing to do with "freedom" or "democracy" -- its all about providing an alternate target for "terrorists" who would otherwise be targetting Americans.

....and I consider that indefensible. Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda, and making them the victims in this war is unconscionable.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 19, 2005 04:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush wants to go on spending billions of dollars on Iraq, a country with one of the largest known petroleum reserves in the world. Rather than spend that money to improve Iraq's economy and to (in Greg's words) provide "more political space in the heart of the arab muslim world," the U.S. government could instead spend the money for some "nation-building" in places such as subSaharan Africa, central Asia, and Indochina, doing such things as eradicating malaria, combatting schistomiasis, refugee repatriation, curtailing the transmission of AIDS, child nutrition programs, and landmine removal.

It's a question of priorities. Bush would rather spend billions of dollars of American dollars on both trying to buy goodwill from arab muslims and on providing security for citizens of oil-rich countries, instead of on improving the welfare of those suffering in deep, abject, desperate poverty. Bush has his priorities, what are yours?

Posted by: Herman at December 19, 2005 04:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It would have left a better taste in my mouth, Greg, if you had quoted Bush's initial remark and left it at that. What is it about commentators that they need to step on the news to make their own point before the news itself has been assimilated?

There isn't a newscaster in front of a camera who doesn't feel the urge to toss in a zinger. It isn't "gotcha" journalism so much as it is "me" journalism.

You include the faint praise, "Still, I thought it was a pretty good speech" but it gets lost in the noise.

Posted by: sbw at December 19, 2005 05:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

One thing I found noteworthy about both the President's speech and his press conference today was how impressed he seems to be with the enemy.

He credits bin Laden's declared objectives; he's sure that even asking a secret court to authorize wiretaps risks giving away vital information to the enemy; his objectives in Iraq go way beyond denying that country as a base for al Qaeda operations against us. There is certainly a case to be made for this point of view. It may be unfair of me to point out that Winston Churchill did not sound as concerned about the Germans in the summer of 1940 as Bush sounds about al Qaeda and anyone who might be said to be on their side now.

Posted by: JEB at December 19, 2005 05:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Republicans that I know are honestly and unashamedly delighted that Bush is deliberately (in their minds) pursuing a policy that leads to massive Arab vs. Arab slaughter. Why on earth does Bush need to talk about peace when that's not what his supporters want?
Give this speech another F---he's not connecting with the base, and of course he's not telling the truth.

Posted by: marky at December 19, 2005 06:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> "pursuing a policy that leads to massive Arab vs. Arab slaughter"

Okay. If you are going to drop this casual remark, shouldn't you fill us in? This story line has to be quite something.

Posted by: sbw at December 19, 2005 07:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think this was a pretty good speech, certainly his best on Iraq, and it's too damn bad that it comes many months after the point that we first needed some clear leadership from the top on this issue.

I think that it's critically important that we stay engaged in Iraq, and that if given sufficient information about how things are going, the American electorate will support a continued presence in Iraq. It's unfortunate that the POTUS' numbers need to drop to "oh shit" levels before he starts acting like he gives a crap.

Posted by: TWAndrews at December 19, 2005 07:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Clearly there is a remarkable amount of emotion regarding the President and his policy among those debating the issue here. For those who are so emotionally opposed, what would they recommend as an alternative?

Surely we can all agree that no conceivable action by the US would entirely eliminate the current core group of terrorists. The issue then becomes selection and implementation of the best set of actions to marginalize their ideology.

It also seems clear that, especially in the wake of 9/11, the US must acknowledge two things: that Bin Laden, et al. were serious when they declared war against the US in the mid-1990s and that US inaction regarding this threat is not sufficient to end the conflict.

Given that the oft-stated (long-term) aims of its opponents include the destruction of the United States, is it wiser for the US to take the offensive now, before the first elements of a Caliphate can form (and be awarded both the legitimacy generally accorded to states by the "International System" and the economic wherewithal that typically accrues to those ruling a state)? Or is it wiser to take non-violent action, anticipating that diplomatic methods will suffice to marginalize the Islamist movement?

Obviously, each of these options leads to a series of other questions about the value of consensus (i.e., if there is no "hard power" that accrues, is having the assent of small, relatively poor nations of any value in combating the Islamist message?) and the ability of "international consensus" to form in light of the disparate interests of the states which comprise the "International System".

Emotionalism about how the US finds itself in this position or the individual elected to lead the US war effort might fulfill individual psychological needs, but it has very little value in determining what US aims should be or assessing what means are likely to successfully achieve those ends. We can do better than that...

Posted by: Jem at December 19, 2005 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Clearly there is a remarkable amount of emotion regarding the President and his policy among those debating the issue here. For those who are so emotionally opposed, what would they recommend as an alternative?

Surely we can all agree that no conceivable action by the US would entirely eliminate the current core group of terrorists. The issue then becomes selection and implementation of the best set of actions to marginalize their ideology.

It also seems clear that, especially in the wake of 9/11, the US must acknowledge two things: that Bin Laden, et al. were serious when they declared war against the US in the mid-1990s and that US inaction regarding this threat is not sufficient to end the conflict.

Given that the oft-stated (long-term) aims of its opponents include the destruction of the United States, is it wiser for the US to take the offensive now, before the first elements of a Caliphate can form (and be awarded both the legitimacy generally accorded to states by the "International System" and the economic wherewithal that typically accrues to those ruling a state)? Or is it wiser to take non-violent action, anticipating that diplomatic methods will suffice to marginalize the Islamist movement?

Obviously, each of these options leads to a series of other questions about the value of consensus (i.e., if there is no "hard power" that accrues, is having the assent of small, relatively poor nations of any value in combating the Islamist message?) and the ability of "international consensus" to form in light of the disparate interests of the states which comprise the "International System".

Emotionalism about how the US finds itself in this position or the individual elected to lead the US war effort might fulfill individual psychological needs, but it has very little value in determining what US aims should be or assessing what means are likely to successfully achieve those ends. We can do better than that...

Posted by: Jem at December 19, 2005 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Clearly there is a remarkable amount of emotion regarding the President and his policy among those debating the issue here. For those who are so emotionally opposed, what would they recommend as an alternative?

first and foremost, replacement of Bush with a Democrat (or perhaps a sane republican, like Danforth or Hagel). Bush's rank dishonesty makes it impossible to see this speech as anything other than what it is -- more rank dishonesty.

If you want a stable Iraq, you need to accomodate the legitimate (and even perhaps the "non-legitimate") concerns of nations like Iran and Syria. If you want continued death and destruction in Iraq --- if, like you, you believe that the slaughter of Iraqis in order to accomplish US foreign policy goals is justified -- then you encourage Iran and Syria to maintain the instability of Iraq so that Bush can't aim the US military at those two nations.

EVERY DAY, Iraqis are being blown up and murdered because of people like YOU, as you sit back in your recliner with your remote control and praise their mass murder at Bush's behest while pooh-poohing the "emotionalism about how the US finds itself in this position. " Their blood is on YOUR hands, and you seem to wallow in it with pleasure.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 19, 2005 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I hope the people who are actually doing the blowing up and murdering of Iraqis don't read that last post. Their feeling might be hurt to know that after all this time there are still some Americans who think the mayhem they have worked so hard to create is the doing of some guy in California somewhere posting to a message board under a psuedonym.

Posted by: JEB at December 19, 2005 08:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

hope the people who are actually doing the blowing up and murdering of Iraqis don't read that last post. Their feeling might be hurt to know that after all this time there are still some Americans who think the mayhem they have worked so hard to create is the doing of some guy in California somewhere posting to a message board under a psuedonym.

Cute, JEB. But face facts --- its the people like JEM, the people that have supported this atrocious war from the very beginning, and who re-elected Bush to continue to ensure that the slaughter of Iraqis continue, who bear a great deal of the responsibility here.

Or are you one of the people who approves of the deaths of 30,000 innocent Iraqis so that you can visit the shopping mall without fear of a terrorist attack?

Posted by: lukasiak at December 19, 2005 09:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"EVERY DAY, Iraqis are being blown up and murdered because of people like YOU, as you sit back in your recliner with your remote control and praise their mass murder at Bush's behest while pooh-poohing the "emotionalism about how the US finds itself in this position. " Their blood is on YOUR hands, and you seem to wallow in it with pleasure."

When you've reached the point where your hatred is aimed at the majority of your fellow countrymen instead of the actual fascists who are blowing up Iraqis, it might be time to look in the mirror and ask yourself where your amorality and fanaticism comes from.

"If you want a stable Iraq, you need to accomodate the legitimate (and even perhaps the "non-legitimate") concerns of nations like Iran and Syria."

See here. Your solution is objectively pro-fascist. Perhaps its time to take a good long deep breath and seriously think things over.

Posted by: andrew at December 19, 2005 09:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Funny, I thought one of the objections to the war in Iraq was that it was unrelated to the kind of terrorism that might target an American shopping mall. Not that I spend much time in malls anyway. Notwithstanding the risk of terrorism they are much too crowded at this time of year.

Actually, the facts in Iraq as I see them are that the people responsible for the ongoing violence are the insurgents -- many of whom are conveniently also among the people responsible for the somewhat lengthy list of crimes committed under the former regime. They should surrender, and apologize. Don't you agree?

Posted by: JEB at December 19, 2005 09:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am not as well informed as this blogger or many of his frequent commentators. So, a question?

How are we going to de-militiaize the army? This seems like a very difficult process and I have yet to hear anything more than the realization that unless it is achieved, there will be hell to pay.

Posted by: Chris at December 19, 2005 09:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When you've reached the point where your hatred is aimed at the majority of your fellow countrymen instead of the actual fascists who are blowing up Iraqis, it might be time to look in the mirror and ask yourself where your amorality and fanaticism comes from.

it comes from the fact that as an American, what WE are doing in Iraq is being done in MY name. Read the reports of groups like AMnesty Intl about Iraq in the years prior to the war -- no, Iraq wasn't a libertarian paradise, but tens of thousands of Iraqis were not being slaughtered each year --- and most of the suffering of the Iraqi people was because of the sanctions which turned out to be completely unjustified -- Saddam HAD complied with the terms of UN resolutions, and there WERE no WMDs.

See here. Your solution is objectively pro-fascist. Perhaps its time to take a good long deep breath and seriously think things over.

bullshit. Its not pro-fascist, its pro-reality.

Both Iran and Syria were considered to be on the road to more "liberal" societies before Bush showed up and threw the region into chaos -- and made it clear that they were next on his list. Syrians and Iranians are no different than anyone else --- when you present them with a threat, they take measures that would not be considered acceptable in the absense of a threat -- and as long as that threat is perceived to exist, a large portion of the population will support whatever the government does.

We see it here, in the USA --- when the threat is far less significant to our sovereignty. Torture, detention without charges, spying on fucking QUAKERS for Christ's sake, domestic wiretaps.... that isn't "America", its what you would describe as "pro-fascist" if you had a clue.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 19, 2005 09:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How are we going to de-militiaize the army? This seems like a very difficult process and I have yet to hear anything more than the realization that unless it is achieved, there will be hell to pay.

you aren't allowed to ask that question here. Freedom is on the March in Iraq, remember?

Its not that hard to "de-militia-ize the Army. What's impossible is creating an effective army that is neither related to the militias, nor infiltrated by agents of the indigenous insurgency and al Qaeda....

Posted by: lukasiak at December 19, 2005 09:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Both Iran and Syria were considered to be on the road to more "liberal" societies before Bush showed up and threw the region into chaos -- and made it clear that they were next on his list."

Who considered Iran and Syria to be on the road to more liberalized societies? The wishes of the Iranian people certainly, but not the government or elites.

How has Bush thrown the region into chaos? The Taliban and Saddam are gone and both Iraq and Afghanistan are in the early stages of democracy. Neither Iran or Syria have been touched. I'm sure the actual liberalizaton going on around them makes the dictators nervous, but how is that a bad thing? It's not like they can be much more oppressive than they already are-short of slaughtering large numbers of their own populations, which they won't do unless they want to hasten their own demise.

"bullshit. Its not pro-fascist, its pro-reality."

Sure it's pro-fascist. The Iranian and Syrian governments don't want democracies on their borders. Any temporary arrangement made with them (unless it's made from a position of overwhelming strength) will be bad for the future of democracy in the region. But, then again I'm talking to somone who hates his own fellow countrymen more than he does al-Qaeda or the dictatorships of the region. So I see where you're coming from. Anything that the governments of Iran or Syria say that they will do is more trustworthy than what America will do, in your mind. (I assume as long as the Republicans are in charge)

Posted by: andrew at December 19, 2005 11:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Who considered Iran and Syria to be on the road to more liberalized societies? The wishes of the Iranian people certainly, but not the government or elites.

if you are so completely ignorant about the recent history of both Syria and Iran, please go back to Little Green Footballs where you belong.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 19, 2005 11:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ad Hominems do not advance arguments. Just show an absence of serious thought. Hopefully you can do better in the future.

Posted by: rich at December 20, 2005 12:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You said: "Would it be reckless and dishonorable to leave before the "longer term" prong of the White House's definition of victory is achieved? Yes, in my view, and I assume Bush's (unless he's perhaps using the "medium term" as his goalpost?)."

Has it occured to you that the Iraqis might have a say in this? If the Iraqi government asked us to leave - a real possibility - and we did not, we would simply be occupiers.

Posted by: cllam at December 20, 2005 12:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"if you are so completely ignorant about the recent history of both Syria and Iran, please go back to Little Green Footballs where you belong."

Please enlighten me. How were those two countries on a path towards liberalization before the Iraq war? And how did the war suddenly put a stop to it? I thought I was at least familiar with all of the Left's theories on how Bush sent everything to hell, but I haven't heard this one before.

Posted by: andrew at December 20, 2005 01:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, Come now, Joe. He may not be in California anymore...

but Paul Lukasiak isn't all thatanonymous, is he?

He's a well-known Moonbat, Rich, with all the credentials. Not the least of which is an upside-down world view on fascism.

Tell us, Paul, where it is exactly that the B'aath Party traces it's lineage through and to?

Come on, don't be shy, you vulgar, disgusting little nothing. Tell us.

Posted by: Tommy G at December 20, 2005 01:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, Come now, Joe. He may not be in California anymore...

but Paul Lukasiak isn't all thatanonymous, is he?

He's a well-known Moonbat, Rich, with all the credentials. Not the least of which is an upside-down world view on fascism.

Tell us, Paul, where it is exactly that the B'aath Party traces it's lineage through and to?

Come on, don't be shy, you vulgar, disgusting little nothing. Tell us.

Posted by: Tommy G at December 20, 2005 01:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This time with links

Oh, Come now, Joe. He may not be in California anymore...

but Paul Lukasiak isn't all thatanonymous, is he?

He's a well-known Moonbat, Rich, with all the credentials. Not the least of which is an upside-down world view on fascism.

Tell us, Paul, where it is exactly that the B'aath Party traces it's lineage through and to?

Come on, don't be shy, you vulgar, disgusting little nothing. Tell us.

Posted by: Tommy G at December 20, 2005 01:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How Dee-lightful, Greg! What a lovely menagerie you keep here!

Funny how Lusaniac seems to be your greatest sycophant, Greg, but when he pulls back to rest his tonsils, he spouts off about our great liberalizing mullahs and Alawite kleptocracy. How positively moronic! Such friends must make you proud.

Next I imagine we can count on lusaniac offering Hussein's Iraq as an ally in the War on Terror. After all secular muslims and jihadists cannot cooperate...

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 20, 2005 03:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Funny, I thought one of the objections to the war in Iraq was that it was unrelated to the kind of terrorism that might target an American shopping mall.

it was unrelated. That was the point. Iraq wasn't harboring terrorists who wanted to attack the US, and there is nothing which suggests that he would every have done so.

The whole "flypaper" theory was based on the idea that the terrorists who would attack the US would be drawn to Iraq instead. That kinda did happen --- but the invasion also has significantly increased the number of people willing to travel to attack the interests of the USA -- both at home, and abroad.

So, once we leave Iraq, we'll have thousands of trained and experience terrorists looking for American targets --- and some of them are gonna try to get over here. And the worst part is that while OBL was pretty much addicted to big, grandiose attacks, the terrorists who are being trained in Iraq right now are not so interested in the "theatre" of terrorism.

Actually, the facts in Iraq as I see them are that the people responsible for the ongoing violence are the insurgents -- many of whom are conveniently also among the people responsible for the somewhat lengthy list of crimes committed under the former regime. They should surrender, and apologize. Don't you agree?

some of the people involved in the attacks were doubtless involved in crimes committed by Saddam's regime. Others were doubtless non-criminal supporters of Saddam. And then there are the foreign "fighters".

It appears that the indigenous elements of the insurgency have decided to concentrate their efforts on attacking US forces, and Iraqi police and military, and infrastructure targets. (Groups like the AMS were condemning the targetting of civilians from the get-go, and AMS is considered a "front" for indigenous insurgents to a large extent.) The actual "terrorists" -- the people who are blowing up mosques and marketplaces -- appear to be the "foriegn fighters."

Posted by: lukasiak at December 20, 2005 07:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"That kinda did happen --- but the invasion also has significantly increased the number of people willing to travel to attack the interests of the USA -- both at home, and abroad."

I suppose you have proof of this.

"So, once we leave Iraq, we'll have thousands of trained and experience terrorists looking for American targets --- and some of them are gonna try to get over here."

The idea that only because of Iraq there are more trained terrorists is ludicrous. There are any number of places around the world to fight, or if they prefer to train in some remote area. Aspiring psychopathic mass murderers who want to devote their life to jihad existed long before the Iraq war. Despite what some seem to believe, history did not begin with the Bush administration, nor does everything that happens in the world directly related to what America does.


Posted by: andrew at December 20, 2005 07:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, I do value your posts enough to visit regularly to read them. And I appreciate your patience with commenters who hijack threads in sheer self-absorption instead of starting their own blogs where they could bicker interminably should anyone care to visit and stay, however unlikely that might be. Thank you.

Posted by: sbw at December 20, 2005 02:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is there a reason my comments are not worthy of inclusion here?

I have been pointing out that Luka is not anti-war - just rooting against our side - for some months now. Yet his every thought, no matter how vile ( "EVERY DAY, Iraqis are being blown up and murdered because of people like YOU, as you sit back in your recliner with your remote control and praise their mass murder at Bush's behest while pooh-poohing the "emotionalism about how the US finds itself in this position. " Their blood is on YOUR hands, and you seem to wallow in it with pleasure." ) is worthy of inclusion?

Do you share this rosey interpetation of pre-liberation Iraq as a place where 30,000 Iraqi's would not have been killed in the normal running of the Baathist paradise - absent Coalition air-cover

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 20, 2005 03:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Must be on auto-pilot at the moment ; )

Everytime I get the "Thank you for your comment, we will review" screen - it gets reviewed - I think by Luka :)

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 20, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lukasiak,

You make my point quite eloquently. Thank you.

On a more substantive note, there are no really good figures on the number of civilian deaths in Iraq--in part due to issues like:

- Not everyone feels compelled to report deaths to central authorities (remember, dealing with the authorities could be a really unpleasant experience in Saddam's Iraq, and distrust of authority doesn't ebb completely and immediately)
- Not all reports of deaths/injuries are accurate
- It can be difficult for an "impartial" observer to know whether the deceased adult male "on the slab" was engaged in combat operations, criminal activity, or merely a bystander--at least the first category (if not the second as well) would not reasonably be considered civilians

The figure of 30,000 deaths over about 30 months does, however, seem to be "in the ballpark" with the estimates from a variety of sources, of differing political views. By way of comparison, the bodies excavated from the mass graves created since the end of the first Gulf War suggest 30,000 also is "in the ballpark" of the average number of ANNUAL deaths generated by Saddam's government. While it can plausibly be argued that a substantial number of those are adult males, there are thousands of bodies of small children and women who are among the dead. In the sense of death and destruction, the numbers suggest things have improved.

Lukasiak is correct to point out that Iran and Syrian interests are also at play in the situation in Iraq. The question of how solicitous or accomodating of their desires the Coalition should be is another interesting topic of discussion--and if one can do so in a rational fashion, there is hope for an effective solution going forward.

Posted by: Jem at December 20, 2005 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jem...

By way of comparison, the bodies excavated from the mass graves created since the end of the first Gulf War suggest 30,000 also is "in the ballpark" of the average number of ANNUAL deaths generated by Saddam's government.

with all due respect, I've spent hours trying to confirm these kinds of reports, and it turns out they are, in fact, grossly exaggerated.

Here is a good summary of the actual incidence of mass graves in Iraq -- the numbers aren't pretty, of course, but this story shows just how exaggerated the "mass graves" numbers being promoted by the far right wing are:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20050415/news_1n15graves.html

And Here, from a Washington Post article from 2005: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/29/AR2005042901191.html

U.S. investigators have exhumed the remains of 113 people -- all but five of them women, children or teenagers -- from a mass grave in southern Iraq that may hold at least 1,500 victims of Saddam Hussein's campaign against the Kurdish minority in the 1980s, U.S. and Iraqi officials said this week.

Hussein's forces carried out similar campaigns against the Shiite majority. More than 300 mass graves have been found across Iraq since U.S.-led forces overthrew Hussein in March 2003, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. The grave near Samawah would be one of the largest.

Now, you can go search the internet, and find "factual" reports of 2000 bodies being discovered in these Samawah graves two weeks prior to this report that actually talks about the number of bodies discovered. (here's one...http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2005/04/18/2003250977 )

Perhaps the largest mass grave in Iraq is the one found in Southern Iraq -- containing the bodies of thousands of Iraqi troops who participated in the uprising against Saddam after the first Gulf war --- But even here in the USA, we consider such actions to be justification for summary execution on the battlefield....

Now, of course all the wingnuts are going to claim that I'm a Saddam lover, blah-blah-blah, because I bother to try and point out that although Saddam was a war criminal and a really bad guy, the claims against him are grossly exaggerated -- and that while Saddam's human rights record was far from exemplary, in the years prior to Bush's invasion of Iraq he was not engaged in the kind of wholesale murder of political opponents that the right wing constantly alleges.

Pogue is right -- I'm not anti-war. I support military action to stop on-going slaughter, genocide, and extreme abuses of human rights if that is the only means of stopping those abuses. Iraq didn't meet that criteria in March 2003 -- and our involvement in Iraq makes it impossible to address the very real crisis in Darfur, or to take the necessary steps to relieve the suffering of people throughout the world.

Posted by: lukasiak at December 20, 2005 08:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka - how about those figures for Auswitz - have you spent hour going over them as well

Maybe you can point us to the sources that explain how there were no death camps and the reported slaughters were exagerated

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 20, 2005 09:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The idea that only because of Iraq there are more trained terrorists is ludicrous. There are any number of places around the world to fight, or if they prefer to train in some remote area. Aspiring psychopathic mass murderers who want to devote their life to jihad existed long before the Iraq war. Despite what some seem to believe, history did not begin with the Bush administration, nor does everything that happens in the world directly related to what America does.

Seems pretty well established -- a truism, even -- that the institutional and ideological nursery for bin Laden's organization was the Afghanistan of the Soviet era. As far as I know, the only folks who gained anything from Israel's Lebanese adventure were the Hezbollah. You'd have to be willfully naive to think that Iraq won't be the premier recruiting tool and training ground for bin Laden's acolytes.

Posted by: sglover at December 20, 2005 09:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"You'd have to be willfully naive to think that Iraq won't be the premier recruiting tool and training ground for bin Laden's acolytes"


Well now - it depends on how well things go for them don't it

To paraphrase Monty Python they may learn that their future prospects consist of standing around for a few months, in danger of discovery ( more and more thanks to locals alerting the authorities ), until they get a chance to blow themselves up

And thats a depressing thought for an ambitious young man

At some point the jihadi nihlism will hit a tipping point and fewer and fewer young muslims will see this as a goal in life - why can't this be part of the Iraq story as well?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 20, 2005 10:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

this tidbit appeared at the end of a Times piece explaining why the jubilation over the elections may well have been, um, a tad premature...

The Victorious Army Group, a band of guerillas, issued two Internet statements on Monday clarifying rules for a Web design contest, according to the SITE Institute, which tracks militant postings. The group said contestants should simply submit their designs rather than making comments to each other over the Internet. The group also reminded contestants that the deadline is Jan. 5, already a one-month extension over the original deadline.

The winner gets to fire three long-range rockets at an American base in Iraq. "May Allah reward you," the group said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/international/middleeast/20cnd-iraq.html?hp&ex=1135141200&en=621b954c40a2d198&ei=5094&partner=homepage

I guess the good news is that the winner has to fire long-range rockets...

Posted by: lukasiak at December 21, 2005 12:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Seems pretty well established -- a truism, even -- that the institutional and ideological nursery for bin Laden's organization was the Afghanistan of the Soviet era."

Seems to me that anyone who left their country to go fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in some mountainscape must have already been pretty extreme in their Islamic radicalism. Yes it was a rallying point for the lunatic fringe, but I don't see how that's what drove them nuts in the first place.


"You'd have to be willfully naive to think that Iraq won't be the premier recruiting tool and training ground for bin Laden's acolytes."

This is what I'm talking about. There are things that happened prior to March of 2003, and prior to Bush coming into office. Not everything that happens in the world should be seen through the prism of what the US is doing.

There have been plenty of places to train other than Iraq for a long time now. And as for Iraq being a recruiting tool it can get in line behind dozens of other reasons that have already been used to wage war on the infidel. I suppose you think that after Pearl Harbor we shouldn't have gone to war against Japan because it would have "radicalized" the Japanese.

Posted by: andrew at December 21, 2005 01:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well Andrew - we also shouldn't have gone to war with Japan because it would cause the "Japanese street to rise"

Not to mention the insanity of trying to foist American values like democracy and individual rights onto a nation and people that were either not ready or incapable of them

Sure glad we avoided that one and rather focussed on the error of our ways and what we did to make the Japanese hate us so much

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 21, 2005 02:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeb: "...his objectives in Iraq go way beyond denying that country as a base for al Qaeda operations against us."

It wasn't, until he invaded.

Posted by: Barry at December 21, 2005 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It wasn't, until he invaded."

And you know this how?

I mean - AQ members were operating in Iraq under Saddam - and they all sure flocked there to defend him

So your assertion that we created an AQ threat in Iraq is a little too blase really

Maybe we intervened BEFORE AQ and Saddam could link up as effectively as they would have in the coming years

Theres a lot of what if - but don't pretend this is some crazy fantasy

Saddam was pushing the Jihad line for many years until we toppled him - don't think he would not work with AQ - and wasn't already

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at December 21, 2005 06:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jem wrote: "Given that the oft-stated (long-term) aims of its opponents include the destruction of the United States..."

Can you provide a cite for this? The only time I recall bin Laden addressing this is in a tape broadcast in October 2004, and in that tape bin Laden said exactly the opposite. "Your security is in your hands. Each state that doesn't mess with our security has automatically secured their security."

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist at December 22, 2005 01:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yankee, go home!

Posted by: Ali Al-Smith at December 22, 2005 07:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What follows is an accurate chronology of United States involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war 1980-88. It is a powerful indictment of the president Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

From
Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement


Whatever his complexes, Khomeini had no qualms about sending his followers, including young boys, off to their deaths for his greater glory. This callous disregard for human life was no less characteristic of Saddam Hussein. And, for that matter, it was also no less characteristic of much of the world community, which not only couldn't be bothered by a few hundred thousand Third World corpses, but tried to profit from the conflict.

From:
The United States and Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

Iran gaining influence, power in Iraq through militia
By Tom Lasseter
Knight Ridder Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Iranian-backed militia the Badr Organization has taken over many of the Iraqi Interior Ministry's intelligence activities and infiltrated its elite commando units, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.


That's enabled the Shiite Muslim militia to use Interior Ministry vehicles and equipment - much of it bought with American money - to carry out revenge attacks against the minority Sunni Muslims, who persecuted the Shiites under Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, current and former Ministry of Interior employees told Knight Ridder.


The officials, some of whom agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of violent reprisals, said the Interior Ministry had become what amounted to an Iranian fifth column inside the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, running death squads and operating a network of secret prisons.

Posted by: NeoDude at December 22, 2005 07:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WOW!!! Hussein and Khomeini sound like a certain Texan Cheerleader

Posted by: NeoDude at December 22, 2005 07:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Although I don't have much common ground with G.D., I recognize his intelligence and expertise. I read the comments because often I have found a similar level of argument among the Bush supporters. It's very rare and valuable to find an honest supporter of Bush who can make reasonable arguments.
Why am I saying this? Because the ludicrous Pogue has filled up the comment thread with lies, unsupported assertions and rah-rah boosterism that would be embarrassing at LGF.
Sorry to see B.D.'s fine site ruined by this troll.

Posted by: marky at December 23, 2005 09:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Troll's indeed. Let's talk about the obvious self-outing of fuzzy little foreigners and their fellow travelers here:

"...It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran..."

How typical. "United States ambitions? Which States? Deleware? Oklahoma? Perhaps Hawaii? Oh, that's right, you imply a cabal of ministers. Who then? Tom Daschle? Tom Delay? Theodore Kennedy? Thoedore Stevens?

Who? How? You see, the problem with your little exposes is that we don't have that kind of set up here. The reason for AMerican exceptionalism is that we really are exceptional. Sorry you find republicanism so objectionable. Guess you're just going to have to learn to deal with it, Neo. Because you can't stop it. No one can.

Merry Christmas

Posted by: Tommy G at December 23, 2005 10:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

anyone critical of the presidents decision to invade Iraq should play a little mind game with themselves.You are the President of the US right now,with all knowledge of what has occurred to that point,and a variety of opinions on what the terrorists will do next.
The NSC calls a meeting.North Korea has said that they have nuclear weapons and ICBM s which can reach and point in Japan and that within 30 days they will be operational.We have observed by satellite actions consistent with tests of WMD s.We have defectors who tell us they are getting ready and will take this action as soon as they are ready.They are also supplying these weapons to terrorist nation who may be getting ready to use these aganist western target nations.Now we have intel which indicates they will fire these on Monday next.However there are as many opinions as there are analysts with other reasonable explanations advanced.You ask "what is the probability that this info is accurate"? Now suppose the answer is we are____% certain that if we do not take these site out tomorrow,We will lose Tokyo,Seoul and some other major centers with no less than 10 million casualties.Would you take out these NK sites if the answer is 100%?90%?50%?What degree of certainty do you need before you will act pre emptively?Keep in mind that a 50% probability means that if you had two of these situations,then one of them would actually occur.

Posted by: john morrissey at December 23, 2005 10:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

stop debating the lefties. When the "Democrats," you know, support democracy, and liberals embrace, you know, liberty, then the conversation will be worth having.

Till then, once you asshats figure out what you stand for, politely stop stealing my oxygen.

Averni, out.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 24, 2005 02:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tommy G,

The very people you claim to be helping, believe this statement:

"...It reveals US ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran..."

More than any nationalistic wet-dreams of exceptionalism you can drool over.

If you can not understand that the statement you deny is the statement our own allies believe, you are truly lost.

Wake Up!

No one believes you or the political leader of America's nationalistic right-wing party!

Posted by: NeoDude at December 24, 2005 06:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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