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Leading With The Left
May 21, 2004 PERMALINK
Is the raid on Ahmed Chalabi's home and office a severing of his relationship with Bush?
Or is it all for show, a staged event to give the illusion of a separation, helping Chalabi shore up credibility with the Iraqi people?
And to LiberalOasis' knowledge, no one credible is putting forth a case for the latter.
Having said that, Chalabi's hard-core supporters are arguing that Chalabi will be politically helped by the raid.
From the NY Times:
Richard N. Perle...[called] the raid on the Iraqi National Congress operations "bizarre."
"It is far from obvious how we advance American interests by acting against someone who shares our values and is highly effective," Mr. Perle said...
..."They have gone in recent days, at the C.I.A. and the State Department, from saying he has no influence in Iraq to a panic that he is really quite effective and could emerge with great influence" when the occupation ends.
He predicted that "the crude nature of this action will actually have the reverse effect, and bolster Ahmad."
It is possible that elements of both scenarios are true.
For example, if the neocons, realizing Chalabi might get squeezed out by Viceroy Paul Bremer (who is close to the anti-Chalabi State Dept.) and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, encouraged Chalabi to provoke Bremer into taking dramatic action, for Chalabi's ultimate benefit.
But that's one hell of a psycho-chess game to try to pull off.
Whatever the truth is, even if Chalabi is no longer Bush's chosen figurehead, it doesn't mean Bush doesn't have other figureheads in mind.
It doesn't change the fact that real democracy is not on tap for Iraq.
Brahimi was trying to set the stage for democracy, pushing for a transitional government consisting of people who had no plans to run for office.
That way, no one person or party would get a head start and consolidate power.
But the Bushies nixed that.
From the 5/9 NY Times:
The Bush administration is pressing the United Nations envoy to change his proposal for a transitional Iraqi government once self-rule is returned on June 30, Iraqi and administration officials say.
Instead of a government that is nonpolitical, the administration is pushing for one that gives prominent roles to people with ties to political parties, the officials say.
That pressure appears to have worked. The Economist reported yesterday:
...it now seems likely that...Brahimi...will pick many of [the government's] new members from the ranks of the [current Governing Council] and will not÷as he at first intimated÷select a team of technocrats generally unaffiliated to political parties...
...Most parties represented in the GC have packed the ministries awarded to them with their own members and allies...
...The Americans' latest catchword is "continuity". Mr Brahimi, it seems, feels obliged to adopt it too.
Chalabi's con man rep and unique role in orchestrating this war makes his story a hard-to-ignore train wreck.
But just because less colorful people with less checkered pasts (far as we know) are about to be installed, doesn't mean the Iraqi people are going to get the government they want.
They're about to get the government Bush wants.
May 20, 2004 PERMALINK
Elements of the Right appear to remain in a stupor because the horrific beheading of Nick Berg, and its disturbing video, hasn't turned the media -- and the public -- back to 9/11 jingo-mode.
And they are flailing about, trying to shame everyone back into it.
The Weekly Standard put a video still of Berg and his killers on its cover, titled, "Why We Fight."
The National Review posted a Bill Bennett speech heavy on enemy demonization (both foreign terrorist and American liberal):
Our enemy is horrid, wicked, inhuman. Those are the adjectives for 9/11, and for 5/11 [the day the Berg video was released].
Not "inhumane," as some of our soldiers acted at Abu Ghraib. Inhuman.
The moral equivalence, and the adjectival equivalence, needs to end now.
The flailing isn't working.
Exhibit A is how Peter Jennings started off last night's ABC World News Tonight:
We're going to begin this evening with why it is so hard for the United States to make headway in the Middle East.
The first court-martial in Baghdad of a soldier who abused Iraqi prisoners...was a reminder of how this has undercut the US with Iraqis.
The US has killed 40 people in the western part of Iraq, and there was some suggestion by Iraqis -- not yet confirmed -- that the people may have been at a wedding party.
That version of the story is all over the region.
And today the Israelis using American helicopters and tanks attacked Palestinians in Palestinian Gaza. Many civilians were killed and many more were wounded.
Those pictures are all over the region as well.
To folks on the Right, this is probably Exhibit A of liberal bias.
But it is merely putting the day's events into the context that Bush himself has created.
Remember, it is George Bush who said:
Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.
As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export.
That's why the media can't frame the current situation as simple Good Buys vs. Bad Guys the way some on the Right are demanding.
Because it is the leader of this war who has indicated that we will ultimately win, not by killing off a finite group of people, but by winning hearts and minds of the collective Arab/Muslim world.
In turn, when there are clear setbacks to that goal, it is news. Rightly so.
Perhaps more importantly, the majority of Americans appear to see it that way.
Polls did not show Americans directly blaming Bush (or Rumsfeld, but still, sign the petition) for the prison abuse scandal, yet Bush's approval rating on Iraq dropped anyway.
That's because people understood how damaging the photos were to our larger goals, regardless of who is ultimately to blame for the abuse.
And that's why simple demonization (which the terrorists who killed Berg certainly deserve) can't and won't solely define this phase of the war.
Because winning this war is far more than just killing as many Bad Guys as possible.
It's also about convincing the region that we are the Good Guys.
May 19, 2004 PERMALINK
The American people thought, and we were led to believe, we'll be looked upon as liberators and that they'll be glad to have us there.
But it appears to me that the sooner we get out, the happier they're going to be.
There has never been a consensus among liberals on the exact strategy for Iraq, once the war began.
(And there is no longer a conservative consensus either.)
The liberal rift was personified in the Dem primary:
Between Dennis Kucinich's "UN In, US Out" strategy and Howard Dean's argument that "We have no choice...If we leave and we don't get a democracy...the result is very significant danger to the United States."
Withdraw Now liberals were, of course, extremely marginalized during the primaries.
The argument didn't get enough attention to be fleshed out, and was dismissed as sheer irresponsibility.
Plus, polls are showing increasing support for some degree of withdrawal, though it does not yet reach majority support.
Send more troops: 25%
Withdraw some troops: 18%
Keep troops in: 53% (down from 63% in Jan.)
Bring troops home: 42% (up from 32%in Jan.)
Regardless of where you stand, the increasing credibility of the withdrawal argument is a positive development.
It means the center of gravity of the debate is shifting: from "should the war be about WMD or liberation?" to "how quickly should we leave?"
Having said that, LiberalOasis is mildly concerned that an unnecessary fault line could occur between the Withdraw Now vs. Withdraw Later camps.
That is not where the line should be drawn.
The fundamental line that separates the Bushie neocons from everybody else is:
Should Iraq policy be based on desire for US military, political and economic control of the Gulf region (which fosters resentment that harms our national security)?
Or desire for peace, stability and true self-determination for the Iraqi people (which fundamentally enhances our long-term national security)?
The fact is, most everyone in both the Withdraw Now and the Withdraw Later camps also falls into the latter "self-determination" camp, and not the imperialist Pax Americana camp (which uses self-determination rhetoric as a smokescreen).
The debate between Withdraw Now and Withdraw Later is mainly over how to get there with the least amount of bloodshed, and the least risk of long-term security problems.
And neither side is capable of definitively proving their argument, without it being put into practice.
While it's indisputable that the US occupation is an increasing irritant to the Iraqis, in the end, it's conjecture whether leaving simply relieves the irritation or allows for more irritating forces to thrive.
Thankfully, both camps are putting forth ideas as to how we can leave without damaging Iraq further.
All the Bushies have is "stay the course" and "wait until June 30."
Those of us who don't completely agree on when to withdraw are beginning to have a productive discussion, bringing out tactical ideas helpful to a new Administration.
We can keep it productive, by remembering we're all on the same side.
May 18, 2004 PERMALINK
Following this glorious day of the first legal marriages between gays, let's assess how the issue is affecting November.
Back in Feb., LiberalOasis noted that Bush's backing of a gay marriage ban was far from a political wedge masterstroke as some thought, but a desperate sop to the base made under duress.
Since then, as more people have noticed Bush doesn't go out of his way to speak publicly on marriage for gays, the CW is that Bush wants to deftly and quietly stoke the base with the issue, without offending the swing.
How quiet? Just yesterday, Bush responded to the Massachusetts marriages with a written statement (nothing spoken) about as long as when the Pentagon "told the world" in January about Iraqi prison abuses.
And now some are stressing out that the a growing list of state ballot initiatives banning and/or not recognizing marriage by gays will boost Bush turnout.
In fact, gay rights activists suspect Dubya is engineering the initiatives to that end.
That may well be.
Similarly, LO suspected White House fingerprints on Ohio's recent law banning gay marriage (as well as benefits to unmarried partners who government employees).
But just because the Bushies may be behind these under-the-radar moves, doesn't mean they are going to work.
LO previously noted that Ohio's GOP Gov. -- who probably has a better feel for his state than Rove -- signaled that he didn't think the issue was politically beneficial, when jobs are of paramount concern.
Now, Sunday's NY Times reported that even the Christian Right leadership is dumbfounded at the giant yawn they're getting "from the pews":
"Our side is basically asleep right now," Matt Daniels, founder of the Alliance for Marriage, which helped draft the proposed amendment, said in an interview last week.
The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, said: "I don't see any traction. The calls aren't coming in and I am not sure why."
Let's review: emphasizing opposition to gay marriage alienates the swing, and bores the base.
So relax and bask in the glory of this week's historic marriages, free of fear of a November backlash.
(Check out the new t-shirt "Support Family Values -- Legalize Gay Marriage" at the LiberalOasis Zazzle.com T-Shirt Store.)
May 17, 2004 PERMALINK
The quote of the day, from The New Yorker's Sy Hersh, directed to fellow guests Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Carl Levin (D-MI) on CBS' Face The Nation:
Let me just say this, though, to the senators...
...Believe me, I know our military is full of really dedicated people, and they can be very rough when they have to be.
But the kind of stuff that's gone on in this prison,...and with this program, has really offended some very senior people...
...If you convene a serious hearing...I assure you, some senior officers will come.
And, if you give them enough protection, [they will] tell you things that will really knock your socks off.
So go for it.
And once again, the Administration spins alone, without any GOP surrogates echoing the White House line.
On FTN and NBC's Meet The Press, Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), respectively, stuck to their no-matter-where-it-leads attitude.
(Not that Graham has ceased to be partisan. He took shots at John Kerry and Ted Kennedy by name. He also knocked Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), but not by name.)
The closest thing the Bushies had to a surrogate was Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who, on CNN's Late Edition, pooh-poohed Hersh's latest as being overly reliant on anonymous sources.
But Chambliss wasn't otherwise puffing up Bush, and he also took away a right-wing talking point, that to get good intelligence against the insurgents we got to play rough.
We have no indication that any positive information came out of these folks as a result of this treatment that they received.
From This Week:
We took action as soon as the information was made available to us by the Red Cross.
But Newsweek notes:
U.S. officials continued to say they didn't know until mid-January. But Red Cross officials had alerted the U.S. military command in Baghdad at the start of November.
More Powell from This Week:
The ICRC [aka The Red Cross] has access to all of our facilities around the world.
They've been to Guantanamo. They have been to our facilities in Iraq. They have been to our facilities in Afghanistan.
But the NY Times reported:
...[According to General Janis Karpinski,] military intelligence officers at the prison went "to great lengths to try to exclude the I.C.R.C. from access to [the cellblock 1A] interrogation wing."
Such classic Powell lies bring to mind what The Nation wrote back in May 2001.
Regarding Powell's attempt in his memoirs to gloss over his passivity in looking into My Lai, when he was an Army major in 1969, said The Nation:
Powell notes that[:]
"My Lai was an appalling example of much that had gone wrong in Vietnam.... The involvement of so many unprepared officers and non-coms led to breakdowns in morale, discipline, and professional judgment--and to horrors like My Lai--as the troops became numb to what appeared to be endless and mindless slaughter."
Yet he is silent on how the military brass (including himself) responded to the horrors.
Too often, in-the-field warriors who witnessed or engaged in tragedies or atrocities involving civilians--men like Bob Kerrey and his fellow SEALs--kept their secrets.
Too often, their superiors--men like Powell--were not interested in unearthing these awful truths (which usually were the results of their orders and demands), and certainly they had no desire to share that side of the war with the public.
The willful denial of the war's managers is as much a part of the dark memory of Vietnam as the lethal misdeeds and mistakes of the soldiers.
(As there is no Resign Powell petition, sign the Resign Rumsfeld petition.)
It is not well documented in the United States, however, I am writing now to reveal to my audience that Luboknovich, like John Kerry, has three purple hearts.
You see, my hearts were not granted based on some wonderful military achievement, nor have they recently been questioned by any New England media source.
On the contrary! The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine recently named me "Medical Oddity of the Year: 2003" (December 2003) and "An anomaly to watch" (March 2002).
You see, my purple hearts are literal hearts!
Yes, that's correct. My body cannot operate on the one heart granted to most people. Instead, I need three.
My condition is the result of a serious palimony mutation known as Pulmonary Equestrians Triadic Conglomerated Ovation (PETCO).
I did not ask for these hearts, nor was I thrilled when I received them.
You see, they are the result of extreme stress induced by divorce proceedings with my late wife Kirstie Alley.
The more she irritated me, the purpler my heart grew. I soon grew two new hearts once my body determined that my original heart was not strong enough to sustain me. However, I experienced so much stress that each of the new hearts turned purple as well.
Fortunately, my three defective hearts, when working together, are sturdy enough to keep me going.
Born in 1957 in Byelorussia, Alexander Pierre Luboknovich, a Soviet in exile, is a political commentator, water comedian, diplomatic impersonator, and importer of international wives. He is currently at work on a book of essays entitled "Power to the Peephole: Lewd Propositions for a New Sexual Revolution" and is an associate fellow at the Ruzzzivixxxxxxen Importing Co., Brighton Beach, NY. He is one of the leading practitioners of the high Russian art of "water comedy" and a regular columnist for LiberalOasis.
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