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October 14, 2003

THE GREAT PUSH BACK....Jack O'Toole, responding to the new White House PR juggernaut on Iraq — everything is great, there are no problems, and everyone is getting along fine — has this to say:

Here's a quick prediction that's undoubtedly worth every penny you're paying for it: By January of next year, just about every GOP smart guy who doesn't collect his paycheck at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will be calling this whole push back strategy an ill-conceived PR disaster, and at least privately questioning whether George Bush's political team is really the right one to lead their party into the 2004 elections.

Now, I might have disagreed with Jack about this. Sure, the media would see it for what it was, but a rock-em-sock-em approach could end up playing pretty well with the hometown crowds. Shows leadership, you know.

Except for one one thing: who was the idiot who admitted that the whole campaign was a PR offensive? Whoever it was, they should be hogtied, publicly humiliated, and banned for life from the PR community. Jeez, guys, you're supposed to at least pretend that your boss is showing heroic leadership.

So, anyway, Jack is right, and in a few months this is probably going to be right up there with the carrier landing in the annals of things that seemed like a good idea at the time. Confidence is a fine thing, but sounding like Pollyanna can make you look mighty detached from reality the first time there's some real trouble. It's a fine line, and I suspect the Bushies are on the wrong side of it.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 14, 2003 12:03 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Headline from Reuters:
Heavily Guarded Evans Says Iraq Dangers Overblown
Iraqian Irony?

Posted by: elvis56 at October 14, 2003 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Two issues I expect to see crop up:

1) That local media might not want to be the dupes the White House is hoping for, if nothing else to show big media how it's done

2) That local communities are where the body bags eventually come home

Posted by: chris at October 14, 2003 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

A mistake to announce Push-Back as a PR offensive? You'd think so, but a year ago, Bushco was widely quoted as saying You don't launch a major PR campaign in August. Then, on schedule, they started the Iraq war drumbeats in September, and, gosh, all the media went right along.

People probably DON'T have ten-minute attention spans, but the media acts as if they do, and it's the appearance that matters, isn't it?

Posted by: mud duck at October 14, 2003 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Fatalities

American soldiers 193
British soldiers 18
Coalition soldiers 4
---
215 Since May 2

American 332
British 51
Coalition 4
---
387 Since March 20

Wounded

American soldiers ~1833 Since March 20

Note: American forces have fallen to 130,000
British forces have risen to 11,000

Posted by: Ari at October 14, 2003 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Chris:

One of the reporters who got to interview Bush yesterday was on NPR a while ago. And he, certainly, has no squeamishness about being the dupe that the WH is looking for. All he could do was call everyone he knew and tell them he was talking to the President. And he maintained that this opportunity came about because 1) his company had been lobbying for it for years, and 2) some younger staffers in the WH had sold it. So this reporter, at least, is not going to help expose the PR campaign for the fluff it is. He can't see it, and he's too darn starstruck to think right now.

I do, however, think the WH launched this campaign too early. The national media that the WH claims has turned on them didn't take that long to realize they were being taken. And, yes, as more and more body bags get shipped into those local markets, it will be harder for the local news to pass on Bush unfiltered. Where will they go once the local media has turned on them? The Village Voice? Perhaps the local pulpits, but even Bush's own Methodist church has had it with him.

Posted by: emptywheel at October 14, 2003 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

People probably DON'T have ten-minute attention spans, but the media acts as if they do, and it's the appearance that matters, isn't it?

Yep. But if a few of us gentle readers would contact our local media outlets and ask them to consider how they're being used as shills for the White House PR line, it might help to dispell that notion.

Posted by: David W. at October 14, 2003 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

October 13, 2003

Iraqis' Guerrilla Tactics Blur Terms of Battle
By Anna Badkhen _ san Francisco Chronicle

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- To shoot or not to shoot?

Suddenly, it was a life or death decision Private Christopher Hollis had to make. Someone had just fired at his 1st Infantry Division checkpoint under an overpass on Highway 10, and now, crouching behind a guardrail, Hollis was scanning some rickety roadside soda stands 200 yards away for the sniper through the scope of his M-16 rifle.

He could fire back at the dusty desert, risking the lives of the Iraqi children who had scattered from the kiosks as soon as they heard the shot. Or, he could not respond, risking his life and the lives of the dozen other U.S. soldiers at the checkpoint.

This is a call GIs in Iraq have to make every day. With Iraqi guerrillas mounting between 10 and 20 hit-and-run attacks on U.S. troops daily, U.S. soldiers admit that the pressure of constantly being a target has made them jumpy.

The only way to respond, they say, is by following new, merciless rules of engagement stated one night last week by Lt. Peter Katzfey in front of 299 Engineer Battalion soldiers preparing for a night patrol in Tikrit:

"Shoot to kill. No questions asked." ...

Posted by: emma at October 14, 2003 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

I saw in my local podunk newspaper and on two different mainstream national news shows a story about how identical letters-to-the-editor were being sent to local newspapers decrying the bad news out of Iraq...they wanted their home town to know that things are really going aces...we're building hospitals, schools, and Iraqi morale. Each letter was signed by a soldier local to the newspaper. It turns out, some of these soldiers didn't even know their names were used.

Now doesn't that just make Bushco look Bush League? That kind of desperation warms my heart. That kind of organization is what got Senior Administration officials to out Valerie Plame.

Posted by: chris at October 14, 2003 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=452375

US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops
By Patrick Cockburn in Dhuluaya

US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.

The stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Local women were yesterday busily bundling together the branches of the uprooted orange and lemon trees and carrying then back to their homes for firewood.

Nusayef Jassim, one of 32 farmers who saw their fruit trees destroyed, said: "They told us that the resistance fighters hide in our farms, but this is not true. They didn't capture anything. They didn't find any weapons." ...

Posted by: emma at October 14, 2003 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

You can see, of course, how this liberation of Iraq has cleared up terrorism.

Posted by: chris at October 14, 2003 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know -- the Mission Accomplished thing was destined to bite him in the ass, since it was easily disproved and it provided some beautiful visuals for ironic magazine covers and news shows. This PR campaign isn't making such bold assertions, and it doesn't have the visual (unless you count the moon-halo pic). Also, do you really think the lazy, slack-jawed hordes who fall for PR campaigns in the first place are going to care or even notice that this one was announced as such?

Posted by: KenB at October 14, 2003 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Everything Bush is saying is true, though. It's not propaganda- he's simply clearing the air and getting the word out.

I still am boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have brought a free press and many tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 14, 2003 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, guys, but I think this is wishful thinking. It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: it's easy, when you're a politically-aware news/blog junkie, to lose perspective on how things appear to the other 95% of the population. We know this is a PR offensive, because we pay attention. We know it's callous and cynical, because we pay attention to every knews story that comes out of Iraq. We know this administration lies casually and with numbing frequency, because we pay attention to the blog footsoldiers that dig to the bottom of every "exaggeration" and "misstatement."

But most people just don't pay that much attention. They get dribs and drabs from magazine covers or the nightly news. They might have been faintly aware that things were grim in Iraq, and now they'll see their fearless leaders--who most people still like and respect--on television telling them to calm down, we're doing the right thing, things will be ok. So they'll go back to their lives reassured.

In short: it will work. They've done it countless times before, and it always works. Only truly catastrophic news from Iraq will break through the PR bubble that this adminstration has blown around the public.

Posted by: Realish at October 14, 2003 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good pr offensive or no good pr offensive misses the point.

The real issue is that it was a lousy idea to unilaterally* invade a country that was no security threat to the US and that things are going very poorly there.

That's the truth, and pr won't disguise it.


*To the cons who will split hairs over this: As if Britain's poodle-like role makes Bush/Iraq a real multi-lateral effort.

Posted by: tristero at October 14, 2003 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that the Bushes practically announced to the New York Times that this is all a PR stunt just goes to show exactly how high their regard is for the citizenry.

What they're basically saying is, "Yeah, OK, for those of you who can read, we'll not only tell you up front that it's a card trick, we'll even show you how we do it. But the idiots who watch TV (and vote for us) will never know the difference even if you write the truth in 36-point bold type. Because, like the president, *they don't read* let alone attempt occasional critical thought

Posted by: UncleBob at October 14, 2003 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Everything Bush is saying is true, though.

God help us.

Posted by: Realish at October 14, 2003 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I still am boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have...

will it last until and past the day when we pull out? if not, then it will have been a big fucking waste of lives, money and good will. declaring victory at this point is as absurd as it was back on the carrier.

Posted by: ChrisL at October 14, 2003 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I still am boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have brought a free press and many tangible benefits to the Iraqi people."

So, American soldiers went to war to bring a free press to Iraq? Eighteen hundred American soldiers wounded for a free press? One hundred fifty billion dollars spent for a free press in Iraq? What the hell are you thinking? American soldiers giving lives so that Iraq can have a free press?

Posted by: Ari at October 14, 2003 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

God help us.

Sorry, he's on our side :)
(oh come on, that's just too easy)

Posted by: spc67 at October 14, 2003 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I still am boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have..."


How about the families of American and British soldiers who have been killed or wounded in Iraq? How about the rest of us who care? I am not overjoyed. I do not wish a single casualty more in Iraq. I say, hold elections now and leave.

Posted by: emma at October 14, 2003 01:00 PM | PERMALINK

As if Britain's poodle-like role makes Bush/Iraq a real multi-lateral effort.

The price for being a poodle is that Blair is walking dead.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 14, 2003 01:02 PM | PERMALINK

TAPPED, in the person of Nick Confessore, has a good post up on this subject at:

http://www.prospect.org/weblog/archives/2003/10/index.html#001677

Posted by: David W. at October 14, 2003 01:03 PM | PERMALINK

Granted, the general public is just too busy to keep up on current events. They scan magazines at the checkout line and catch soundbites on TV and consider themselves well informed. Furthermore, they generally want to believe things are going well and our leaders made the right decision because otherwise, well, anything else wouldn't fit into our national mythology...easier to believe we went in for the right reasons, tax cuts to the wealthy stimulate the economy, NCLB is fixing the schools, and that bad old media is just picking on Bush to sell papers.

There is a codicil that we forget, however. People like to give the leader the benefit of the doubt. And it takes a long long time and a series of mishaps to get them to see the light. But *when they do* they don't forgive. They'll turn on Bush like a pack of jackels as all the direct consequences to his policies keep accumulating, soldiers keep dying, lies keep getting uncovered... It's drip, drip, drip. But it *will* fill the boat that sinks him in 2004.

Posted by: chris at October 14, 2003 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

I still am boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have brought a free press and many tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

This tired line get's trotted out everytime the right can't think of any argument with substance to make. There is no question (in my mind) that Iraq is better off without Saddam and having institutions such as a free press. But this does not make everything OK. It does not mean that:

1: We are not in serious danger of losing the peace if we don't establish some security and basic services in a reasonable period of time.

2: Bush did not repeatedly deceive the country as to the cost and the extent of commitment that would be required to do this right

3: Everything is OK. Some of the attacks seem to be getting more sophisticated and many attacks that do not kill American Soldiers don't make it into the press.

Just saying everything is OK does not make it so, and I think that conservatives should be the most worried about this because they have the most on the line.

Posted by: David Perlman at October 14, 2003 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

I still am boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have brought a free press and many tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

In yesterday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune there was an interview with Representative John Kline (MN-R) about his current visit in Iraq, and he cited how happy the kids were in a school he visited. I'm not going to dispute that this is a Good Thing, but I also had to note that the article noted that Kline's location could be disclosed for fear of his safety. I suspect Kline, like some other Congressional folks, was staying in Kuwait where it was safe. I have to wonder then what those kids were going home to in Baghdad.

Posted by: David W. at October 14, 2003 01:10 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, that congressional delegation was flown back to Kuwait nightly instead of staying in Baghdad. Yeah, things are just peachy.

Posted by: David Perlman at October 14, 2003 01:21 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, David P. You managed to figure out what I was trying to say. Gad, I need a proof-reader...

Posted by: David W. at October 14, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

Thanks once again to drawing our attention to this material with your post. One note, though: Your use of the long hyphen (em dash?) is driving my RSS reader crazy. Maybe substitute two dashes (--)? I don't think that the long hyphen is part of the original ASCII character set.

:)

Posted by: bink at October 14, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, guys, but I think this is wishful thinking. It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: it's easy, when you're a politically-aware news/blog junkie, to lose perspective on how things appear to the other 95% of the population ...

Sure, but you have to include in our five percent the many journalists and opinion makers who are also reading blogs ...

Posted by: bink at October 14, 2003 01:38 PM | PERMALINK

I still am boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have brought a free press and many tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.

Umm, I think you guys have been feeding a troll. Nobody can possibly be this stupid.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 14, 2003 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the Democrats running for President have to start spelling out specifically what they would do to get the U.S. out of this mess. I took a look at Kucinich's position on his web site, and although the timeline seems incredibly optimistic, he does set benchmarks for transfer of power to both the U.N. and Iraqis.

It's no longer enough to put the blame (properly) on the Bush Administration for a considerably simplistic and dishonest foreign policy in Iraq. It's time for the candidates to give America some options about what's next. And the answer better not be this "we're going to be there ten years, billions of dollars, blah blah blah" - that's no better than what Bush can promise. (Of course, it's probably WAY better than what Bush can deliver ;))

I'd like to see somebody else - Edwards, Dean, Clark, etc. - take a crack at laying out both an Iraqi independence and American de-occupation plan for Iraq, and put their candidacy on the line with it. It's not enough to be mad any longer. The Dems need to be healers, too.

Posted by: PSoTD at October 14, 2003 01:52 PM | PERMALINK

Umm, I think you guys have been feeding a troll. Nobody can possibly be this stupid.

This is the guy who said millions of lives in the U.S. and the middle east depend on Bush's re-election. Im going to remember that one for a while.

Posted by: David Perlman at October 14, 2003 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

As a relative newcomer to Calpundit, I couldn't tell whether "Joe Schmoe" was in earnest or was being ironic, but I was heavily leaning toward irony.

You mean to tell me he's serious???

Posted by: spacewaitress at October 14, 2003 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Mud Duck and Realish on this one. Clear evidence that Bush PR is just that has not hurt this administration up to now, to include Card's notorious statement about not launching a marketing campaign in August. The recent small bump in the CNN poll despite the recent run of what should be bad news for Bush indicates to me that a dismayingly large percentage of the public continues to wants to believe the spin from this fraudulent and failure-prone administration.

The key factors in 2004 will not be what this administration says but how it is perceived as doing in regard to the economy (significant improvement, to include months of job addition?) and Iraq (US troops still dying almost daily and no substantial support from other nations?), and to a somewhat lesser extent, how well the Dem. candidate holds up under the Rove assault.

Posted by: Bragan at October 14, 2003 02:09 PM | PERMALINK

"I am still boggled by the idea that anyone could not be overjoyed at the fact that we have brought a free press and many tangible benefits to the Iraqi people."

A free press?? Not as long as Bush has anything to do with it.

Posted by: pol at October 14, 2003 02:27 PM | PERMALINK

What I love about the Great Push Back is that its central message - the scaremongering US media report only bad news, not good news - is precisely the central message of Michael Moore's "Bowling For Columbine." Never again will I say the GOP underappreciate Michael Moore. I should really email this to him, and I guess I will, though I'm sure he's noticed.

Posted by: John Isbell at October 14, 2003 02:29 PM | PERMALINK

spacewaitress -- JoeSchmoe's a troll.

Posted by: squiddy at October 14, 2003 02:30 PM | PERMALINK

>It seems to me that the Democrats running for President have to start spelling out specifically what they would do to get the U.S. out of this mess.

This will be hard to do, since we don't know what the situation will be in Iraq when the new President takes office. That's in Bush's hands.

Posted by: grytpype at October 14, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

Uhm, spacewaitress, I think that Mr. Schmoe's mind is a irony free, humor free, and possibly rational thought free, zone. Scary, huh?

squiddy at 2:30 has the short version of the above.

Posted by: clio at October 14, 2003 03:04 PM | PERMALINK

"You mean to tell me he's serious???"

I'm afraid so, difficult as that is to imagine. He's actually fairly sensible on a lot of issues--hell, he's farther to the left than most of us on tort reform, for example. But he is completely out of touch with reality on foriegn policy. Hard to understand--he evidently has a brain, but seem reluctant to examine the issues critically.

He's said before that he doesn't mind if the administration acts criminally, because it's supposedly "serious" about the War on Terror. How this Iraqi farce, in which the United States, with vast expenditure of blood and treasure, does exactly what Osama wants us to do, amounts to being "serious" about terrorism, he never explains.

Posted by: rea at October 14, 2003 03:09 PM | PERMALINK

>It seems to me that the Democrats running for President have to start spelling out specifically what they would do to get the U.S. out of this mess.

Okay, here's Dean's plan again -- originally offered on April 9:

http://blog.deanforamerica.com/archives/001861.html#more

or click on my name

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 14, 2003 03:10 PM | PERMALINK

Don't deceive yourself - Iraq is improving everyday and so is Bush's rating. It was worth an effort and every dead American (or Iraqi) is not in vain.

Sanctions against Iraq - Clinton's cowardly solution for this very real problem were insidiously poisoning world goodwill toward your great nation. Bush launched this boil and rescued the world from 13 years of debilitating quagmire.

As any surgical solution it has hurt a lot, but is now healing incredibly fast. In half a year you won't even need to counter bad press because there won't be any. World opinion is already turning fast toward U.S. even in France and Russia.

With economy improving just in time for 2004 and no Perot to distract - Bush will be back in White House without so much as sweeting.

And please don't worry yourself too much about how to deal with Iraq in 2005 or 2006. Till 2008 at least your country will be watched over by grown-ups. Relax and enjoy the ride.

Posted by: Russian at October 14, 2003 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

Realish is right. Sigh.

Another straw in that particular wind: Bush's approval rating stabilized just as the media was finally picking up the Plame story. It's essentially unchanged since Sept. 15. Go check out Pollkatz' chart if you don't believe me.

One other thing. American soldiers continue to be attacked in a few cities, but when the Administration says things are continuing to improve in most of the country, I am not sure why I should disbelieve them. Should I? Isn't the real story in Iraq that there is no story, only flux and cross-cutting currents?

I'd much prefer it if we could all remember the hollering some of our fellow Dems were doing when the 3d ID bogged down for a few days about 60 miles from Baghdad. There was a lot of too-hasty talk about how this proved we didn't have the troops to win the war (Josh Marshall, who's otherwise quite good, was one of the principle offenders - go back to his archives and check). When this prediction proved wrong (as a moment's reflection should have warned it was going to) liberals looked like chicken little. We should not make this mistake again. Bush must go, and he's going to go only if we look credible on defense.

Posted by: TedL at October 14, 2003 03:18 PM | PERMALINK

So, American soldiers went to war to bring a free press to Iraq? Eighteen hundred American soldiers wounded for a free press? One hundred fifty billion dollars spent for a free press in Iraq? What the hell are you thinking? American soldiers giving lives so that Iraq can have a free press?

And with Bremer censoring the newspapers and kicking the Arab reporters out of the country, it's kind of hard to say that they even have a free press -- though I have no doubt that Joe will go ahead and say it anyway.

Posted by: Basharov at October 14, 2003 03:19 PM | PERMALINK

Till 2008 at least your country will be watched over by grown-ups ...

The purpose of our Revolution, over 200 years ago, was so to escape this attitude.

Posted by: bink at October 14, 2003 03:23 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Bush has a point: the press hasn't been telling us the truth. After all, the press has been reporting BushCo's statements as fact.

Posted by: RonZ at October 14, 2003 03:31 PM | PERMALINK

"The purpose of our Revolution, over 200 years ago, was so to escape this attitude."
Well, the Russian Revolution, when it came, had a slightly different purpose. Diff'rent strokes.

Posted by: John Isbell at October 14, 2003 03:34 PM | PERMALINK

By the way for anyone interested to compare occupation progress in Iraq with things past
Toronto Star opened it's online archive for the yer 1945. With headlines like:
"Crime wave sweeps Tokio. Women unsafe on streets" (19.10) and thousands of imperial soldiers rioting. Also your obligatory werewolfs.

Check it there:

http://thestar.pagesofthepast.ca/

Real deja-vu all over again. Just get some perspective. You are not first people living here on earth you know.

Posted by: Russian at October 14, 2003 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

Russian - How many car bombs were exploded during the occupation of Germany and Japan? How many US soldiers were killed by resistance? Just trying to get some perspective.

Posted by: lefty skeptic at October 14, 2003 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

On the one hand, the bungling of the cookie cutter "letters from soldiers" campaign is almost mindboggling in its incompetence. More indication that the major media isn't going to play along and more evidence to anyone who is paying attention of the almost Soviet-style qualities of Bush propaganda.

On the other hand, the stated desire to get around the "filter" means that lesson one from Arnold's success is that the way to reach folks is to go to Leno, Oprah, and Entertainment Tonight. I hardly think these and similar outlets of "information" will be reporting on the fact that this is a PR offensive, or that it is orchestrated, etc. They will be more interested in the entertainment value, on the one hand, or the moral virtues of W., on the other (Fox, Scarborough, etc.) and the Roveian propaganda machine will be only too happy to help them. It seems increasingly likely that future Republican PR offensives will concentrate even more than before on "non-traditional" and known-to-be-friendly forums.

Posted by: sdf at October 14, 2003 03:41 PM | PERMALINK

Russian -

Put your money where your mouth is. Otherwise, bug off.

Posted by: Granmere at October 14, 2003 03:42 PM | PERMALINK

Eh, baboushka, what exactly do you propose?

and, lefty, there was 135,000 american soldiers killed by 'resistance'in Europe in 1944-45. So perhaps you should take some time to sink it in before continuing about perspectives...

Posted by: Russian at October 14, 2003 03:55 PM | PERMALINK

I am serious. No, Squiddy, I am not a troll. I actually believe everything I have said.

The question Ari raised is interesting. Namely, is it appropriate to sacrifice American lives so that the Iraqis can have a free press?

This is a very important question. I would like to make two observations:

First, Ari's question implies that our efforts in Iraq cannot benefit us; American lives are being sacrificed for the benefit of a free Iraqi press. It further implies that American lives should only be sacrificed if Americans will benefit.

I don't think that implication is entirely correct. I think that Americans will benefit from a free press in Iraq. Ask yourself the following question. Everyone here is always deriding the neocons' "reverse dominio" theory of Iraqi democratization as hopelessly naive, far too ambitious, perhaps good in theory but poorly executed in practice, etc. Others think the whole effort will just backfire, and will cause more problems than it solves. Obviously, I disagree; I think it stands a good chance of working, and working splendidly. But ask yourself this: if we can pull it off, will it increase our security? Won't a modern, humane, liberal democracy in the heart of the Middle East help decrease the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism? I don't see how you can possibly argue that it won't decrease the threat.

Second, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers have died so Americans can have basic civil rights, such as a free press. I think about this every time I vote. Last week, while voting in California's recall election, I went into the voting booth with a bemused attitude. I knew that Arnold was likely to win, and I really didn't like what I'd seen of Bustamante, so I was thinking of voting for a fringe candidate, like Larry Flynt or Angelyne, just for fun.

But when I got into the voting booth and looked at the machine, I remembered that American soldiers died to give me the right vote. I couldn't vote for a fringe candidate after I remembered that.

The question then becomes, don't Iraqis have the same basic human rights as Americans? I think they do. My whole political philosophy, such as it is, is based on the idea that certain rights are universal. I think that every liberal should agree with this. Sadaam's dictatorship was evil, and we were right to rid the world of it. We fought the Civil War because it is wrong to enslave people, even though we ourselves were not enslaved. We fought the Cold War for much the same reason. No human should live under tyrrany. Everyone is entitled to freedom and democracy.

I think that American soldiers who died in Iraq have died for a cause that is every bit as worthy as those who died in the American Revolution and the Civil War. They have died to make the world a better place.

That being said, I do not think that American soldiers should be sent to liberate all of the oppressed peoples of the world. This is so for three reasons. First, I'm not that unselfish. American lives should not be sacrificed for the sake of an ideal that confers no tangible benefit upon Americans. The liberation of Iraq will benefit America becuase it will help set the wheels of reform in motion in the Middle East. But will the liberation of, say, Haiti or Liberia actually benefit the US? Probably not. I think we should send troops there, but not if they are going to get into a bloody war. Second, I don't like to play God. It's no fun to urge that someone's life be risked. I am not putting my own life on the line for the policies I favor, and I am relucatant to risk anyone else's life, either, unless it's for a really important reason. Third, it's not always necessary. Sometimes nations reform themselves. Why spill a lot of blood just to speed up the clock by a year or two?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 14, 2003 04:02 PM | PERMALINK
How many US soldiers were killed by resistance?

The total number of fatal US combat casualties in the occupations of Germany, Japan, and (more recently) Haiti and the Balkans has been -- zero.

Posted by: cmdicely at October 14, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

If you are indeed Russian, it would be useful to know how you think your country can contribute to the good start you think our country has made in Iraq.

Standing on the sidelines making gratuitous comments when you have no dog in the fight is lame. You need to earn the right to judge. Why is Putin so reluctant to support the *grown-ups*?

Posted by: Granmere at October 14, 2003 04:19 PM | PERMALINK

Russian doesn't have to answer for the foreign policy of his politicians. That's not fair. I don't "support" Bush's tax cut just because I am an American.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 14, 2003 04:22 PM | PERMALINK

and, lefty, there was 135,000 american soldiers killed by 'resistance'in Europe in 1944-45.

lefty skeptic was referring to the post-war resistance, and I think you know that.

Posted by: Spinning Tops at October 14, 2003 04:24 PM | PERMALINK

Russian is probably Karl Rove in disguise.

Kevin, check his IP, it's probably from Washington, D.C., not anywhere near Moscow or in the "Glorious Motherland".

Russian, the LA Times had an op-ed piece a few weeks ago about how before the end of WWII, the American goverment held language schools to help educate the people in Japanese who would help run things during the post-war occupation by America of the land of Nippon.

He contrasted this with the lack of Arabic language education both before and after the invasion of Iraq, and how this limits the ability of the American occupation forces to reach out to the 'man in the street' and help recounstruct a devistated civil society.

So even if there can be parallels made between WWII and the current effort, it falls apart when you see the lack of planning today with the careful planning of yesteryear.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at October 14, 2003 04:43 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Jim in Chicago!

Posted by: PSoTD at October 14, 2003 04:43 PM | PERMALINK

Russian - "lefty, there was 135,000 american soldiers killed by 'resistance'in Europe in 1944-45."

Why did you cut off at 1944? Why not include the US soldiers killed by German units in Italy in 43? Why not include all US fatalities in all theatres of war caused by German or Japanese units? That would have really made your point a good one.

Posted by: lefty skeptic at October 14, 2003 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry Granmere. I'm genuine Russian, but I'm sorta a mirror image of your bunch. I strongly dislike KGB crowd that currently rules Russia and I certainly can't influence their policies.

You just cannot imagine how different our political systems are. So what considers rebuilding Iraq I would rather held Russia and other UN crowd as far away as possible.

Posted by: Russian at October 14, 2003 04:56 PM | PERMALINK

"You mean to tell me he's serious???"

I prefer to think of it as Performance Art.

Posted by: Paul at October 14, 2003 05:12 PM | PERMALINK

Lefty sceptic,

Point is - your country is running the show for the next 10-15 years. Get used to lose hundreds of your troopers here and there. Or run away and later you'll again lose hundreds of thousand.

and Dark Avenger - I do believe you need Colonial Office or something like that to deal with natives, but will you support it?

Posted by: Russian at October 14, 2003 05:18 PM | PERMALINK

Joe is also wrong about everything Bush saying is "true." Just yesterday, for instance, Bush tried to pretend that all he ever said about Iraq and WMDs was that Saddam had used them in the past and that he was a "gathering threat." Somehow, the reporters didn't manage to point out all the other things he said, but that doesn't make it "true."

Joe has acknowledged, in many past postings, that he was shaken up by 9/11 and that as a result, he has willed himself to believe delusional fantasies uttered by the backbone administration - but really, he is otherwise a nice enough guy.

Russian, on the other hand, doesn't have a clue.

Posted by: howard at October 14, 2003 05:39 PM | PERMALINK

But ask yourself this: if we can pull it off, will it increase our security? Won't a modern, humane, liberal democracy in the heart of the Middle East help decrease the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism?

No. Iraq was a secular country with zero ties to Islamist terrorists. You can't get less than zero. Moreover, the spectacle of an Arab country invaded and occupied by a Western country is offensive to many Moslems. It will increase the recruits for terrorism.

It is a putrid joke to think that we're going to establish a "humane, liberal democracy" in Iraq. We were lied to about the reasons for the war, the cost, the ability of Iraq to defray the cost and the time scale. Why should we believe the same liers concerning the goal?

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 14, 2003 06:28 PM | PERMALINK

I appreciate the insight Russian is bringing - Every post better delineates his mindset -We surely have not seen this commentary on the current Russian government here before.

I hope that you, Russian, are willing to continue to participate, long term, in the discussion, I believe that would be an education for many of us. You would bring an invaluable perspective from inside Russia. And I surely agree you are not accountable for for the behavior of Russian politicians.

But, the fact is that we as Americans are generally seen to be part and parcel of the party currently controlling the government. If you went to Paris right now, as an American you would be identified with the Bush administration's stance. So inevitably one is judged by one's citizenship.

I know how hard it is as an individual to sway the thinking of the powerful. We have access in our country - many do not.

Many in our country are unhappy with the UN. To know that you, Russian, have enough information to understand the limitations we see is encouraging.

I apologize for being rude. Please don't go away.


Posted by: Granmere at October 14, 2003 06:28 PM | PERMALINK

Granmere - no offence taken.

I only want to say that some sence of proportion when attacking your powers that be is most welcome. Sometime I almost wish you people to really experience bad government like Hussein or our communist past to get the feeling what is at stake in the world around you.

Posted by: Russian at October 14, 2003 07:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Russian, it's nice to have you reading Western blogs like this one and joining in our debates. I like a world where that is possible.

Posted by: John Isbell at October 14, 2003 07:28 PM | PERMALINK

Russian, I think you missed the sense of my point about the lack of trained Arabic speakers for our current adventure in Iraq.

I don't care if you call it the Colonial Office or the Department of Speaking Funny, the point is that the Administration fumbled the ball on this point, as they have on so many other points since the war ended.

It takes about 2 years to take an individual with the right skill set to turn them into a fluent Arabic speaker. By not starting such programs soon after 9/11, or even after the Administration had determined that America would be invading Iraq to remove Saddam, the decision makers in the Executive Branch, the 'leaders' of our country, have learned none of the lessons of WWII.

This makes comparisons with that conflict grossly misleading, and points to a almost criminal mishandling of the whole post-war occupation of Iraq.

Posted by: Dark Avenger at October 14, 2003 07:45 PM | PERMALINK

Granmere, I haven't been to Paris since the Bush/Iraq war, but in my travels during the winter and spring of '02 in Africa, Australia, and Europe, I noticed two things:

1. Everyone -I mean everyone- I spoke to thought President Bush was crazy.

2. No one for a second made the mistake of blaming me or other Americans, necessarily, for Bush's actions. They believe he had stolen the election from us.

Posted by: tristero at October 14, 2003 08:12 PM | PERMALINK

Sometime I almost wish you people to really experience bad government like Hussein or our communist past to get the feeling what is at stake in the world around you.

With due respect for the accomplishments of the Russian people, the fact that you have had the misfortunes of autocratic governments does not require us to do the same. Our Constitution requires the President to give an honest accounting to Congress when asking for a declaration of war. The Founders were well read in the history of bad government and wanted to spare us the experience.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 14, 2003 08:35 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe is a verbose troll.

Posted by: squiddy at October 14, 2003 08:43 PM | PERMALINK

tristero: "1. Everyone -I mean everyone- I spoke to thought President Bush was crazy.

2. No one for a second made the mistake of blaming me or other Americans, necessarily, for Bush's actions. They believe he had stolen the election from us."

I was on a train in Italy about the time we invaded Iraq. I speak pretty fluent Italian. I asked the conductor how long a wait we'd have for a connection, and he said:
"Are you American?
Yes...
Then the next train will be there at once!"
Huge laugh from the carriage, him, and me. Then, a half-beat, and he APOLOGIZED for his joke. I lived in Europe for twenty years, and that's on my shortlist of weirdest moments. Welcome to Bushworld.

Posted by: John Isbell at October 14, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

I think a lot of Americans don't mind being played. Announcing that it's all PR doesn't matter at all. In fact it reassures them somehow. All they have to consider is, how does the pitch make me feel? Is it the kind of lie I like to tell myself? Or is it the evil Satanic lie those others tell? Yes, it's PR. So what? The people it's addressed to don't expect anything different. For them, Bush is the truth.

Posted by: SqueakyRat at October 14, 2003 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Squiddy-

Go fuck yourself, you asshole. 99% of your remarks amount to nothing more than name-calling, and you're calling me a troll? Eat shit and die, motherfucker.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 14, 2003 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

"No one for a second made the mistake of blaming me or other Americans, necessarily, for Bush's actions. They believe he had stolen the election from us."
Kind of makes the 2004 elections that much more important, doesn't it? Unless you really don't care what the rest of the world thinks.

Posted by: Another Bruce at October 14, 2003 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

It's vexingly true, Squeakyrat; many Americans don't mind being played.

There are certainly plenty of quotes I've seen by Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh when in a moment of candor they acknowledge that they are partisan propagandists and don't have any problem lying to advance that agenda. In Blinded by the Right, David Brock identifies a number of right wing pundits who self consciously see themselves as professional liars -- it's easy money. For example, Tucker Carlson would cheerfully tell Brock about articles he wrote that he knew were false but that he could sell easily. You could present these quotes to consumers of those media and it wouldn't trouble them. They'd probably blink for a moment and then defensively attack liberal and Democrats as equally culpable.

It's unfathomable to me why people would deliberately choose to consume propaganda but clearly many do. For dangerously close to a majority of Americans, there is no reality principle involved in their political reasoning. With that being the case, I tremble that facism is possible in this country.

If you were to poll Chinese people about the invasion of Tibet, I'm sure it would receive widespread popular support. The rest of the world doesn't have any difficulty seeing it as disgraceful. It comforts me, John and Tristero, to learn that the rest of the world doesn't have any difficulty seeing the invasion of Iraq as disgraceful. At least the whole world isn't going insane. Just my patch of it.

Posted by: copithorne at October 14, 2003 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

>It seems to me that the Democrats running for President have to start spelling out specifically what they would do to get the U.S. out of this mess.

This will be hard to do, since we don't know what the situation will be in Iraq when the new President takes office. That's in Bush's hands.

Maybe so. But Clark says:

To stay in, we've got to define our exit strategy

Posted by: PSoTD at October 15, 2003 05:49 AM | PERMALINK

What copithorne said. I've heard foreigners say they'll start judging if we vote the guy back in.

Posted by: John isbell at October 15, 2003 06:39 AM | PERMALINK

Your Great Helmsman will be in Australia next week and will take the opportunity to address Federal Parliament. The Labor Opposition is presently agonising over their response. Some have suggested that they will wear white armbands, while others say they will turn their backs while he speaks. The Opposition Leader prefers polite applause and this view will probably prevail. Unfortunately, the Public Gallery will be closed to the public and those citizens who are routinely scorned as anti-American will not have their voices heard.

Posted by: John C at October 15, 2003 09:59 AM | PERMALINK

and at least privately questioning whether George Bush's political team is really the right one to lead their party into the 2004 elections.

What the hell do they care. He's doing their bidding as far as ramming their narrow agenda down the country's throat is concerned. So as far as they're concerned he's a WINNER!

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