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October 27, 2003

PROGRESS?....Look, I'm not one who proclaims every attack in Iraq as proof that the administration is incompetent, but what can you make of George Bush's remarks after this weekend's alarmingly sophisticated attacks, first on the hotel Paul Wolfowitz was staying at and then on the Red Cross headquarters and four police stations?

President Bush this morning said the increasing attacks on U.S. personnel and supporters in Iraq are a sign of progress because the attacks indicate Iraqi opponents are getting increasingly desperate.

And just in case you thought Bush was merely speaking carelessly, Scott McClellan repeated the theme:

"We've always said the more progress we make, the more desperate the killers will become," the spokesman said. Asked how it could be determined that the attacks signaled desperation rather than sophistication, McClellan repeated: "The more progress we make toward a free and prosperous Iraq, the more desperate they will become.

If this is "progress," what would count as a setback?

The conventional wisdom from the 1992 election is that Bush I lost not so much because the economy was lousy, but because he was perceived as not being engaged enough to acknowedge that the economy was lousy and then do something about it. Unfair, maybe, but there you go.

Bush II, of course, learned a lesson from this: he's been a beehive of tax-cutting activity from the day he took office. But I wonder if he realizes that there's a general lesson to be learned from his father's failure that applies to more than just the economy? If his reaction to ever increasing attacks in Iraq is that, basically, everything is OK and victory is right around the corner, he runs the risk of seeming just as detached from reality as his father.

The lesson he needs to learn isn't from 1992, it's from 1968. The public didn't turn against the Vietnam War because we lost the Tet Offensive — in fact, it was a considerable military victory — but because Tet made it obvious that our leaders had been lying about how much progress we were making. Americans may not mind a "long, hard slog," but they do mind a president who seems willfully out of touch with reality.

Bush and his advisors risk the same fate as LBJ unless they publicly acknowledge that the situation in Iraq is serious and then provide some sense that they have a realistic plan for turning things around. I don't doubt that internally they understand this, but their happy talk PR campaign gives no sign of it, and they're going to pay a price if they keep it up.

POSTSCRIPT: Phil Carter has some good analysis of the seriousness and sophistication of these attacks.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 27, 2003 12:52 PM | TrackBack


Comments

This is a confusing line of reasoning by BushCo. Does that mean that if there aren't any attacks, things are going poorly? Should we be celebrating American and Iraqi deaths?

Does this logic apply at home too? I can see the Onion headlines now: "New York obliterated by nuclear weapon; President calls attack 'sign of progress.'

Posted by: strannix at October 27, 2003 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

Every couple months I expect we are going to get renewed comparisons to Viet Nam, which of course are frivolous at this point in time. Oh well - keep trying.

Posted by: Charlie at October 27, 2003 01:04 PM | PERMALINK

By Bush's logic, Sweden is one of the most dangerous places in the world and Sierra Leone is one of the safest.

Posted by: tristero at October 27, 2003 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know which is scarier, that Bush is such an idiot or that the public is so gullible that he gets away with being such an idiot.

His administration has been one huge lesson in malfeasance yet each new offense is met with staggering waves of public apathy or supporter excuses. What exactly does it take to wake up the American voter?

Posted by: chris at October 27, 2003 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

I do, though, worry that the administration's line is just enough spin to see them through the news headlines. Also, I'm shocked that the recent Powell statement is missing from the WaPo story - it seems highly relevant, to put it mildly, that the President's SoS has been saying

‘‘We did not expect it would be quite this intense this long,’’ Powell said on NBC. ‘‘We are still in a conflict, and I don’t think the president ever sought to minimize that.’’

while the President himself is letting it be known that everything is rosaceous.

Posted by: Nasi Lemak at October 27, 2003 01:07 PM | PERMALINK

"The public didn't turn against the Vietnam War because we lost the Tet Offensive, but because Tet made it obvious that our leaders had been lying about how much progress we were making"

I always thought it was because it appeared to the public that we lost the Tet Offensive and was portrayed that way in the media, but I'm too young to know, I'm only going off what I've read.


My question is what is the solution? Nobody has offered anything resembling a better plan.
Do you want Bush to come out and say to everybody that things are going horribly and that we can't control what is going on in Iraq? Its truthfulness aside, it would devastate any hope of our ability to stay in Iraq long enough to make it better.
By keeping the focus on the good things, we defeat the purpose of the terrorists (which is to cause Americans to turn on the mission and leave) and we keep the necessary support to continue the operation there. Why on earth would you want Bush to say, that this is a huge setback towards the cause of peace?

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 01:07 PM | PERMALINK

Strannix

Isn't the Republican convention going to be in NYC?

Posted by: chris at October 27, 2003 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bring 'em on!

Posted by: Aaron at October 27, 2003 01:09 PM | PERMALINK

My father is a Republican and a Vietnam War veteran. Over Sunday dinner, I realized he doesn't support the occupation of Iraq anymore. To him, it looks as though the number and sophistication of the attacks are increasing. Secondly, he feels that the Sunni minority do not want a democracy, because it would mean the the Shia majority would be in control of the country. So, the Sunnis will provide safe havens for guerilla and terrorist actions against the US military and any Iraqi government organs.

He also thinks that there aren't enough troops, MPs, whatever, to control the country properly.

I state all this, because he was a supporter of the Iraqi war last spring. So, this may reflect or presage a larger political problem for Bush even among Republicans and independents.

Posted by: snore at October 27, 2003 01:12 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to see the reaction to the unelected fraud's powerful words in the cafes where many of his middle-America supporters were having coffee this morning.

Say what? These attacks show we are winning and making good progress? What moron is ever going to believe that? No one. Worse yet, he thinks we are that stupid.

Kevin is right. No one is that stupid. But Bush can't give up the lie now. The whole house would start to come down. Why gee, just look how fabulous the donors conference went.

Posted by: obe at October 27, 2003 01:14 PM | PERMALINK

Bush and Company have a fate FAR worse than LBJ awaiting them because of Iraq. LBJ has the great society and civil rights to off set his mistakes in Vietnam in the annals of history. Bush and Company have Tax Cuts for the rich and slackening of corporate regulation to buttress their ham-fisted handling of Iraq.

No, comparing Bush to LBJ does a disservice to LBJ.

Posted by: Gary at October 27, 2003 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

Reg,

"My question is what is the solution? Nobody has offered anything resembling a better plan."

Here's a better plan, Reg:

1. Bush is removed from office.
2. The UN coordinates Iraq nation building.

One without the other will not work. Both must happen. Since it is very unlikely he will be impeached, nothing good will happen until January 2005 at the earliest.

Posted by: tristero at October 27, 2003 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

Reg

Setting aside that we should never have invaded in the first place. Setting aside that Iraq, *because* of the invasion now has the terrorist base it did *not* have before the invasion.

All that aside, what I would have BushCo do is crawl on its belly to the global community, come up with a *real* agreement that everyone could sign that would give authority to the UN to settle this mess we have created. Spread out the costs and the benefits to everyone instead of trying to hog all the benefits and control and expect others to share the costs. We will get nothing but more destruction and corpses pretending to ourselves that everything is peachy and gee, progress is a bitch.

If all you're looking for is a way for Bush to save face so he can try to actually win this election, then I guess he's doing what he has to do (it's worked so well up to now): lie, bully and obfuscate.

If you're looking for a solution, it's time we started acting like part of the global community.

Posted by: chris at October 27, 2003 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

From Candide:
"Well, my dear Pangloss," said Candide to him, "when You were hanged, dissected, whipped, and tugging at the oar, did you continue to think that everything in this world happens for the best?"

"I have always abided by my first opinion," answered Pangloss; "for, after all, I am a philosopher, and it would not become me to retract my sentiments..."

Posted by: David at October 27, 2003 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

My question is what is the solution? Nobody has offered anything resembling a better plan.

Uh, Reg - the "better plan" was to not get into this mess in the first place.

Remember all those "commie-pinko-hippie peacenik Saddam-lovers" marching in the streets? Remember Schwarzkopf's, Clark's, warnings?

You broke it, you bought it, what's YOUR plan now?

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 01:21 PM | PERMALINK

Reg: Excluded middle.

Is it too much to ask for a sober, honest assessment of what the attacks mean instead of declaring them all a part of the glorious plan?

I guess so.

Shorter GWBush: Please Remain Complacent.

Posted by: V / VJ at October 27, 2003 01:22 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the Republican convention going to be in NYC?

Yes. Which, while not a nuclear strike, looks to be another terrible catastrophe for the Big Apple.

Posted by: strannix at October 27, 2003 01:22 PM | PERMALINK

Hopefully the ACLU is already working to make sure that we can demonstrate close enough to Bush to be effective.

Posted by: tristero at October 27, 2003 01:24 PM | PERMALINK

I was one among the many thousands at the big anti-invasion march in NYC. The police tried to keep people where they wanted them but that many people just tend to flow where they want. (Ask Korean War vets.)

I hope there are huge, I mean HUGE anti-Bush demonstrations at the convention. It would be interesting to see if the Repugs can contain them...Even more interesting to see if the press goes along with the spin.

Posted by: chris at October 27, 2003 01:27 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, it is a bit more complicated than that. The news media quite accurately reported two things that were relatively easy to ascertain:

1) The Anerican military command (MACV) repeatedly asserted that it was winning the war and sucessfully attriting opposing forces, which meant that victory inevitable.

2) National Liberation Front forces achieved temporary but real tactical victories across Vietnam that were completely inconsistent with MACV statements.

(BTW, Viet Cong was our propaganda term for them -- sort of like calling Iraq a war against terrorism.)

These were easy because they took no effort to discover. MACV made sure that anyone who vaguely looked like a journalist knew that victory was on the way. And anyone in Saigon during Tet could somehow guess that something was going on . . .

What was more difficult to know, and took much longer to make sure of was that Tet was an operational failure but a strategic victory. It failed to achieve the objectives set for it, but did manage to destroy the illusion that we would be winning any time soon -- helping to fulfill their overall strategic objectives.

Posted by: Claude Muncey at October 27, 2003 01:27 PM | PERMALINK

When is the republican convention?

Posted by: Scotty Burbank at October 27, 2003 01:30 PM | PERMALINK

By keeping the focus on the good things, we defeat the purpose of the terrorists (which is to cause Americans to turn on the mission and leave) and we keep the necessary support to continue the operation there.

So, basically by misrepresenting reality to the American people, the president can best serve the American people who otherwise would not approve of his course of action? Interesting take on good governance.

Posted by: Magenta at October 27, 2003 01:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Why on earth would you want Bush to say, that this is a huge setback towards the cause of peace?"

Maybe because it's true?

Are you saying that lying to maintain support is a good plan? As I recall, Churchill didn't tell the British that the Luftwaffe was impotent and the Third Reich on the verge of collapse. So maybe painting overly rosy pictures is not really necessary.

And btw, Kevin is correct that over-optimism from the government and the military, not to mention outright falsehoods, was a major factor in public disillusionment with the war. Don't go looking to blame the media for telling the truth.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov at October 27, 2003 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

>>"I hope there are huge, I mean HUGE anti-Bush demonstrations at the convention. It would be interesting to see if the Repugs can contain them...Even more interesting to see if the press goes along with the spin."

Well Chris,
We could hope the crowds were as big as the anti-war demonstrations in D.C. this weekend. I heard up to 10,000 were there over the two days.

The Communist party... er, A.N.S.W.E.R really had them motivated.

BWAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Posted by: Black Oak at October 27, 2003 01:33 PM | PERMALINK

So why would having the UN or multilateral troops be a solution? What would they do differently? It seems to me they would only face higher hurdles, as there would be several forces from different countries trying to work together. UN troops aren't inherently good and an solution in themselves.

It seems to me Bush is doing the right thing. Continue on, focus on the good things, and try to deny the Baathists the psychological impact they are seeking through their attacks, but you all want to capitalize on the attacks to hurt Bush politically.

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 01:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Are you saying that lying to maintain support is a good plan? "

Bush isn't lying. He is saying that he thinks the terrorists are desperate, which may be true or false. This sort of optimism is necessary to deny the terrorists their desired effect.
Thats my point. What if Bush was as pessimistic as you all? Is that your desired policy?

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 01:38 PM | PERMALINK

Reg,
There are some here who would rather see the economy go totally in the tank - can you say depression - if would would mean that President Bush wouldn't get reelected.

Posted by: Black Oak at October 27, 2003 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me Bush is doing the right thing. Continue on, focus on the good things, and try to deny the Baathists the psychological impact they are seeking through their attacks, but you all want to capitalize on the attacks to hurt Bush politically.

Read Kevin D.'s main point again, Reg. What's striking him and others as being damming for Bush is his evident denial that there is a problem. Even Rumsfeld is now on record as acknowledging that the resistance we're now seeing is unexpected and serious. If Bush as a leader wants to really level with the American people about Iraq being a long slog, he'd be better served (and so would we) by not minimizing the facts on the ground in Iraq.

Posted by: David W. at October 27, 2003 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

Reg,

This war has been nothing more than a money transfer from the taxpayer to BushCo's contributors and a pacifier to the anti-Arab faction of the neo-cons. It would have stayed that way if those uppity "liberated" Iraqis would've just played along. The reason we can't fix it is because fixing Iraq was never in the game plan to begin with. The reason the UN might be able to do so is because the global community has an actual interest in seeing stability in the region.

Posted by: chris at October 27, 2003 01:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we simply MUST get rid of Bush next year. Can anyone imagine ANOTHER four years of this crap? I can't.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at October 27, 2003 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

Fatalities

American soldiers 214
British soldiers 18
Coalition soldiers 5
---
232 Since May 2

American 353
British 51
Coalition 5
---
409 Since March 20

Wounded

American soldiers ~2028 Since March 20

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

Posted by: Emma at October 27, 2003 01:54 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Fineman in Newsweek:
“This is the first time that I have seen a parallel to Vietnam,” McCain declared, “in terms of information that the administration is putting out versus the actual situation on the ground. I’m not saying the situation in Iraq now is as bad as Vietnam. But we have a problem in the Sunni Triangle and we should face up to it and tell the American people about it.”

And now Calpundit, too!

But you've already been told -- Iraq isn't Vietnam. It's Manila, 1902. And he's a Yale history major, so he can never be wrong.

Posted by: Grumpy at October 27, 2003 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

Americans may not mind a "long, hard slog," but they do mind a president who seems willfully out of touch with reality.

I have to disagree. American support for elective action in Iraq is remarkably thin, especially when the administration flirts with the truth. as seen in the polls after the $87B bill was delivered. Americans are up for long hard slogs against real enemies like al Qaeda and the Taliban, but will not make real sacrifices for reality TV wars. The administration firmly knew this - that's why it encouraged false impressions about nukes and imaginary Islamic Ba'athist terrorists.

There is no way the administration is going to come clean now. It will not saturate Iraq with international nation builders, it will not drastically internationalize the occupation force, it will not treat Iraqis with respect. It will not admit this has an enormous price, likely well beyond America's willing capacity.

One slightly off-topic note: it is this administration that has chosen that thousands in our military be killed, maimed and otherwise emotionally damaged. Our service members deserve far more that our administration would give, so it is up to the rest of us to do the right thing. This war sucks, and our administration should be in jail, but our troops are heroes and patriots who deserve our highest respect.


Posted by: Pacific_John at October 27, 2003 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with the DC rally was one of message:

Anti-war is not the issue. Getting rid of Bush is the issue. Next summer, that will be front and center.

My opinion about the demos next summer? If they can be effective, I'm in.

If they are counterproductive, I think we should do other things, like mobilizing voter registration and transportation. Less sexy, but perhaps more practical.

In any event, 4 more years of this is intolerable.

Posted by: tristero at October 27, 2003 01:57 PM | PERMALINK

Black Oak, I would say it is a very small minority of people anywhere who would prefer to see the economy tank and Iraq go badly purely to defeat Bush. Personally, I wish to see Bush defeated because I think his policies are *causing* the economy to tank and our foreign policy to go to hell in a handbasket. These are not the same thing.

Posted by: Magenta at October 27, 2003 01:58 PM | PERMALINK

BillMon http://billmon.org/has a great list of Bush quotes calling the Iraqi resistance desperate that makes Bush sound more than a little desperate himself.

Posted by: Mike at October 27, 2003 01:58 PM | PERMALINK

what is so "alarmingly sophisticated" about these attacks?

Four assholes are motivated enough to build bombs. Point one: there are a lot of crazy a-holes out there. Almost any idiot could execute these 'plans.' I've had more strategy, sophistication, and brevity (right word?) when we played as kids in the backyard.

Point 2: Building a bomb is not difficult. Shit, the only real barrier is time. Finding out how to do it iss easy, and actually constructing it does not take a brain surgeon. Neither is deonating a bomb.

As terrible as (and, yes, as serious as) these attacks were, they were no more 'sophisticated' than egging a cop car

Posted by: bj at October 27, 2003 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

Reg and Black Oak,

Here's a third way: Bush comes out and says, "Clearly, in the wake of these attacks, it is time for a new strategy and a different response. To that end, I am commissioning a blue-ribbon, bi-partisan panel to examine our current strategy, explore posssible options, and make serious, workable recommendations so that we can ensure the brightest possible future for Iraq."

At the least, it would let people know that Bush isn't living in cloud-cuckoo land. It would also let the terrorists know that they can't count on the continued self-defeating strategy of the U.S. to aid their aims.

The alternative your posit--telling the people happy news as some sort of psych-ops against the terrorists, will allow them to continue examining, dissecting, and exploiting the existing holes in U.S. strategy and tactics. The scale of the ensuing disaster is then determined solely by how long we allow it to percolate.

Posted by: Derelict at October 27, 2003 02:00 PM | PERMALINK

False dilemmas, false dilemmas, false dilemmas.

No matter what you say, Reg, the idea that the salient events in Iraq of the past few days constitute progress is absurd.

Kevin's point is 1) this is absurd 2) it is obvious this is absurd 3) this makes Bush look out of touch with reality 4) which in the past has hurt other president's electoral success.

The only alternative is not for him to say "things are going horribly and that we can't control what is going on in Iraq" (hey Mr. straw man!) but he could come up with something that sounds a little more sincere -- something accurate that makes you look on top of the situation might actually be more of a "psychological victory" against the insurgents.

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

"...publicly acknowledge that the situation in Iraq is serious and then provide some sense that they have a realistic plan for turning things around."

Uh, that's like saying he'd be a nice guy if he were somebody else.

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

With undue respect, Dubya has no other option. What else can he say? "Well. We're fucked"?

It's like there's holes below the waterline in the ship of state. Those on starboard side point to those on the other side saying, if ya all'd just come over this side and trim the boat the water would stop pouring in the port side. (Those who mention the holes in the starboard side are dismissed as partisanly pro-sinking.) And the ship's speakers blare patriotic music and occasional speeches about how water entering the hull is a *good* thing, as it shows the ocean is getting desperate.

Me, I choose the lifeboats and to leave behind the management and their nifty new theories that holes in the hull make for a lighter, more efficient ship.

Posted by: squiddy at October 27, 2003 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

Magenta,

What you wrote.

Nobody's that honest would wish the world to stay the way it is or get worse merely to switch leaders. It's far too dangerous.

The problem is that as long as Bush is in power, it can only be terrible or worse. He is that incompetent and dishonest.

And no, I don't hate him. I hate that he is in power. I hope he enjoys a long retirement in Texas where he can wear a flightsuit every day if he desires.

Posted by: tristero at October 27, 2003 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

BJ:

Four bombs out of five attempts hitting their targets within 45 minutes all over town? Rounding up five guys willing to drive suicide cars? Dressing up one bomber as an Iraqi cop in a fake cop car and having another drive an ambulance into the Red Cross building? All of this a day after the successful strike with a homemade, timer-activated Katyusha against one of the most heavily protected buildings in Baghdad? Sounds pretty sophisticated to me.

Posted by: Zack at October 27, 2003 02:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: If this is "progress," what would count as a setback?

Elementary, my dear Drum. If having more setbacks is progress, then having fewer setbacks would be a setback. Lots fewer setbacks would be a really big setback -- and that would be progress.

Posted by: Cervantes at October 27, 2003 02:09 PM | PERMALINK

they were no more 'sophisticated' than egging a cop car

Now we're parsing the meaning of "sophisticated"?!

Our troops are just as dead, what's the difference?

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 02:11 PM | PERMALINK

Cervantes,

Your real name isn't Rumsfeld, is it?

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

Reg & Black Oak: At what point does Bush start sounding like Comical Ali?

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

President Bush this morning said the increasing attacks on U.S. personnel and supporters in Iraq are a sign of progress because the attacks indicate Iraqi opponents are getting increasingly desperate.

Do you think the fact that Spinal Tap is playing increasingly smaller venues is a sign that the band is becoming less popular?

No no no. I think it means that we are appealing to a more selective audience.

Posted by: Thersites at October 27, 2003 02:16 PM | PERMALINK

Elementary, my dear Drum.

Holmes is shooting up again.

Posted by: Felix Deutsch at October 27, 2003 02:23 PM | PERMALINK

To all who say things are going anything but swimmingly in Iraq , "I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you cheer up." (Thanks to Monty Python.)

Posted by: mas67 at October 27, 2003 02:38 PM | PERMALINK

Where'd Reg and Black Oak go?

I hope their heads didn't explode or something.

Can cognitive dissonance do that?

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

bj: what is so "alarmingly sophisticated" about these attacks?

uh, maybe that they happened in the most highly secured sector of baghdad, at the hotel where senior administration officials stay when they're not commuting from kuwait?

dumbass.

Posted by: bing at October 27, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of sophistication.

I just learned that one of the rockets nearly hit Wolfie (one floor below).

Jeebus.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 02:54 PM | PERMALINK

Where'd Reg and Black Oak go? I hope their heads didn't explode or something

Within 45 minutes of each other? That could be a sign of sophistication. Maybe they were just out egging police cars.

Posted by: squiddy at October 27, 2003 02:54 PM | PERMALINK

BJ There was an elaborate rocket launcher that was jerry rigged. This is a new tactic in Iraq, as is the simultaneity. Both suggest more sophisticated planning and people behind it.

This is definitely a Very Bad Thing.

Posted by: tristero at October 27, 2003 02:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's the dialectic!
Anytime that Kapital does anything to crush labor, it's a sign of labor's strength and Kapital's desperation.

Posted by: andrew at October 27, 2003 03:00 PM | PERMALINK

It never ceases to amaze me the way guys like you will bend over backward to frame a debate in such bizarre terms simply to avoid discussing the issue in any truly constructive way.

The UN is not a fighting force and the issue in regards to the UN is not one of "would they be able to fight as effectively as the US". The reasons for a UN controlled occupation have everything to do with legitimacy, trust, and honest brokerage, not war-fighting capability.

And there are no UN troops! Don't you understand that? UN troops are troops from member nations operating under UN command. The whole of the troops could be US troops and still be a UN operation.

What would they do differently? Well, for starters, they may not be assumed to be there to steal oil. They probably wouldn't pass along no-bid contracts, they might not be viewed as an colonial, occupying power, as any Arab with just the barest knowledge of Arab history might be inclined to think about the US or Britain or Turkey involvement.

It seems to me Bush is doing the right thing. Continue on, focus on the good things, and try to deny the Baathists the psychological impact they are seeking through their attacks, but you all want to capitalize on the attacks to hurt Bush politically.

"The Baathists". It's really that simple to you, isn't it? And you really think Bush saying essentially that the measure for progress is a worsening of the situation is doing anything to mitigate the "psychological" impact of 35 people being blown to bits?

"Capitalize" on the attacks? Fuck you.

The attacks, the entire situation in Iraq is a direct fucking result of BushCo's foreign policy. A policy sold with lie after lie.

These attacks are not just an unfortunate situation, they are the Bush whitehouse foreign policy manifest.

It's his fault, don't you get it? All of the bad shit that has gone down, from the looting to the guerilla war was predicted by people working inside the government- people who normally would be listened to but instead were shut out by the extreme ideologues currently in control of this country.

There's no need to "capitalize" on anything, the proof is in the pudding.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 03:00 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I know you guys would find something to snipe about no matter what Bush said.

I find it remarkable that when a hospital is blown up by an ambulance, killing Americans and our allies, all you have to complain about is how Bush responded. No Democrat has any idea how to beat these people, and nobody here has anything constructive to say, other than that the solution is to lose Bush.
Why, if there is no solution anybody else can offer?

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 03:01 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what happened but the first part of Reg's "surely he must be joking" post was supposed to be at the top of my last post.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 03:02 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I know you guys would find something to snipe about no matter what Bush said.
I find it remarkable that when a hospital is blown up by an ambulance, killing Americans and our allies, all you have to complain about is how Bush responded. No Democrat has any idea how to beat these people, and nobody here has anything constructive to say, other than that the solution is to lose Bush.
Why, if there is no solution anybody else can offer?

You are a real jerk, you know that?

I find it remarkable that you are incapable of assigning any responsibility to the administration for what's going on over there. Or are you using the tried and true wingnut tactic of implying there is no causality in the universe? That is, if someone kills a few of our guys in Iraq it's because he's a bad man, and has nothing to do with the fact that our administration put us over there on false pretense and ulterier motives?

Solutions!!??!!!?? You fucking twerp. Here's your solutions: go back in time and don't elect this fraud.

Saving that, put the whole shebang under UN control, stop acting like Isreal in the west bank by demolishing homes and farms as punishment for non-cooperation, reform the army, allow peripheral baath members who were nothing more than civil servants to reclaim their duties, did I mention put it all under the UN?

But you're mainly a twerp because you're using the old tried and true "old school evil corporate HR person" tactic of making all criticism illegitimate by implying that without a solution to the problem there can be no criticsm, because... see here's where my head almost explodes.

God you're a punk.

If you're happy with the way things are then go somewhere else. Get off your computer for chissakes and go play in the sunshine! I know if I thought things were dandy that's what I'd do- stop caring.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 03:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why, if there is no solution anybody else can offer?

Earth to Reg:

Bush. got. us. into. this. situation.

Fuck Bechtel and Halliburton, turn the CPA over to the UN and let the Iraqis handle the security and reconstruction.

They have no capability of striking the US (and didn't before the war either), declare victory and get out.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 03:13 PM | PERMALINK

President Bush this morning said the defeat suffered by the Yankees in the World Series was a sign of progress for the Yankees because the final run scored by the Marlins indicated the Marlins were getting increasingly desperate.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at October 27, 2003 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, soon Viceroy Bremer will be blown to bits. And Schrub will declare that day to be a day of National Triumph. That's where we're heading. To those who asked for an alternative plan: pray and vote. Nothing else will work.

Posted by: Chocolatier at October 27, 2003 03:18 PM | PERMALINK

Sovok-

See, I think me and you both have the same problem: we keep thinking people like Reg are capable of thoughtful consideration, or at the very least capable of understanding 1+1=2.

See, for people like Reg, when reality and causality and context and relationship and history all become inconvenient to their worldview they're simply able to throw them away. It's because of Bush, not Saddam Hussein, that we are now mired in Iraq. You and I know that- the whole world knows that- but for folks like Reg the line is still "We had to invade Iraq. Bush was only doing what he had to do." Therefore, he is not responsible for the situation- only the "bad guys" are.

See how that one little adjustment of their perception allows all their other crazy ideas to fall into place? If Bush and Co. aren't to blame for going in, if they had to, then the world's opposition to the war can easily be dismissed. It doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks, or thought, if we had to go in, so that also means the UN is irrelevant.

What does that mean? All of the problems that can be attributed to the fact that we're basically going it alone are not our fault either!

See how convenient it all is?

So, we can't be blamed for the invasion, we can't be blamed for the looting of cultural and nuclear facilites, we can't be blamed for the daily attacks on our troops or on civilians either.

We had to do it, and all the problems so far are the fault of the rest of the world for not doing it our way- which of course had to be done.

Makes sense, huh?

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq is a lighter, faster, cheaper Vietnam.

By that I mean Iraq is obviously on a much smaller scale. But the parallels are amazing.

GWB = LBJ - IQ

Posted by: grytpype at October 27, 2003 03:28 PM | PERMALINK

Then there's also the matter of Rumsfeld's editorial in the Washington Post yesterday, which was also a bizarre attempt to reinstate the administration's pre-war rationales.

Posted by: Emma at October 27, 2003 03:31 PM | PERMALINK

>My question is what is the solution? Nobody has offered anything resembling a better plan.

Reg, the answer is, the anti-war people have already offered the best possible plan: Don't Invade Iraq in the First Place. But that plan was ignored. And you think the burden is on US to sort out the problems created by the plan we opposed? Bullshit, this is ALL on Bush. 100%.

Posted by: grytpype at October 27, 2003 03:31 PM | PERMALINK

These attacks are not just an unfortunate situation, they are the Bush whitehouse foreign policy manifest.

It's his fault, don't you get it? All of the bad shit that has gone down, from the looting to the guerilla war was predicted by people working inside the government- people who normally would be listened to but instead were shut out by the extreme ideologues currently in control of this country.

thanks for the reminder, tim.

whatever happened to the party of personal responsibility?

Posted by: danelectro at October 27, 2003 03:33 PM | PERMALINK

"No Democrat has any idea how to beat these people, and nobody here has anything constructive to say, other than that the solution is to lose Bush."

Pointing out the truth may be deemed impolite by folks such as David Brooks and Reg, but by golly it has to be done if the mess is to be cleaned up. The truth, while not always constructive, is instructive of what the hell we should do, or not do. And it has been the wholesale butchering of the truth by this administration that has got us right where we are, with a deputy secretary of defense nearly killed, a ranking officer killed and 35+ other people killed, and three more US troops killed, in less than 40 hours and nearly 6 months after Bush declared the war over and victory ours (his).

This entire war, from the time it was first touted by Rove in 1/02 as the way to electoral victory, has been one unbelievable lie, distortion or fabrication after another. Kennedy was not resorting to hyperbole when he called it a fraud. That is exactly what it always has been, and why itg is such a mess now, with no one wanting to help, and the whole damn world disgusted at what this jerk with a smirk has done.

Posted by: obe at October 27, 2003 03:40 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone is overlooking a key point: THE ATTACKS WERE LIKELY CARRIED OUT BY TERRORISTS. Phil Carter's blog says this.

Imagine that tomorrow, the Chinese invade the continental united states. You antiwar types finally discover that living under a dictatorship is horrible. You decide to fight the Chinese occupation. (By yourself, naturally; you reject any offer of European military assistance becuase China has declared that it will veto any UN resolution calling for the use of force in the US, and as good liberals you are unwilling to accept liberation that is not sanctioned by the UN. You console yourself with this as your teenage daughers are raped in front of you; they may no longer be able to bear children, but at least the legitimacy of the UN has not been diminished in any way.)

A bunch of you get together with a friend who used to be in the army. You build some explosive devices and decided to detonate them all at once in a massive coordinated attack on the Fourth of July.

What targets do you select? The Hay-Adams Hotel, where high-ranking Chinese officials are staying? Okay, this is a legitimate target.

Two police stations filled with American police officers? This may be a legitimate target. While they are providing a vital public service, they ultimately take orders from the Chinese, so they are technically collaborators (though I personally tend to define "collaborators" as people who supress free speech and arrest and torture political prisoners, not cops on the beat who catch rapists and murderers, but I'll concede this one for the sake of argument.)

The Red Cross? Wait a minute. How can the Red Cross be a legitimate target? It is a humanitarian organization that only wishes to help the American people. The Red Cross aid workers have dedicated their lives to the service of their fellow man for very little pay. They are busy distribtuing food aid and immunizing children against disease. You decide to murder them all.

This is not the act of a legitimate "resistance" movement. This is the act of a TERRORIST.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 03:43 PM | PERMALINK

Joe-

Go misrepresent and mischaraterize arguments somewhere else.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 03:47 PM | PERMALINK

there are no UN troops! Don't you understand that? UN troops are troops from member nations operating under UN command. The whole of the troops could be US troops and still be a UN operation.

An important point to bear in mind. As experienced by Iraqis, UN occupation = US occupation. Remember Javier Viera de Mello?

Those of us who opposed the war need to find th ecourage of our convictions and not be blackmailed into supporting an endless occupation under the guise of "you broke it, you bought it." Especially since the Iraqis don't seem to agree that they've been bought.

Bring the troops home now!

Posted by: jw mason at October 27, 2003 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

But let's assume that they are not the work of terrorists. Let's assume that they are the work of a "resistance movement" made up of former members of Sadaam's regime.

Do we surrendur to them? Is that what you are suggesting?

Members of Sadaam's regime used to rape innocent women and feed people into plastic shredders. Some of these folks are undoubtedly behind the Iraqi "resistance," because they know that if we establish a democracy in Iraq, they won't live much longer. Once they are captured and tried for crimes against humanity, they'll be executed.

Are you suggesting that we pull out, and turn the country over to the UN, in response to the "resistance" of these torturers and murderers?

Or are you suggesting that this is really a popular resistance movement, even though it's only really evident in the Sunni Triangle, and that the Iraqi people secretly crave the good old days of plastic shredders and genocide? Are the Iraqis desirious of building some more presidential palaces for Sadaam? Would they rather spend their oil money on payments to Palestinian suicide bombers than food and medicine?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

If this is "progress," what would count as a setback?

Kevin, Bush didn't say, "Hey we were attacked! That's progress!"

He said quite clearly that because of the success (now that the UN is behind things and the fact that $32 billion (so far) has been promised in aid), they're getting desperate. What better way to try and get us to tuck our tails and run then to step up the attacks?

If you're going to debate the merits of what Bush said, at the very least, get right what he said.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at October 27, 2003 03:52 PM | PERMALINK

Joe-

Go make up crazy straw-man arguments and turn statements into bizarre, unrelated absolutes somewhere else.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 03:54 PM | PERMALINK

"This is the act of a TERRORIST. "

I suspect that is what Iraqis say as well each time we kill civilians trying to protect ourselves (troops). The civilian death toll is somewhere between 10,000 and 25,000 (according to stats i've seen at least). Yesterday, it grew some more.

Posted by: obe at October 27, 2003 03:56 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe, I have seen very few posts referring to these attacks as the work of a "legitimate resistance", and none at all that implied that the bombings were morally justified in any way.

It's entirely possible I missed posts making just those points, in which case I condemn them along with you, but otherwise your argument feels a little straw-mannish.

---JRC

Posted by: JRC at October 27, 2003 04:02 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, thanks for your warm welcome, Tim.

I'm the one using straw man arguments, but the folks who characterize our Preisdent as "this jerk with a smirk" and make well-reasoned and nuanced points like "I don't know which is scarier, that Bush is such an idiot or that the public is so gullible that he gets away with being such an idiot" are participating in a high-level debate, right?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 04:02 PM | PERMALINK

Joe-

Go change the subject and try to avoid your chronic foot-in-mouthism somewhere else.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 04:04 PM | PERMALINK

He said quite clearly that because of the success (now that the UN is behind things and the fact that $32 billion (so far) has been promised in aid), they're getting desperate. What better way to try and get us to tuck our tails and run then to step up the attacks?

It's still crazed, even if this is how you want it spun. They're stepping up the attacks because they can. They (and we don't even know who exactly "they" are) have had time to consolidate, coordinate, plan, and execute. Ascribing causality to the "$32 billion" (quotation marks used advisedly) is, well, silly. Connecting successfully undertaken terrorist attacks to our "success" is transparent doublespeak. Or newspeak. Or incipient dementia.

Posted by: Thersites at October 27, 2003 04:05 PM | PERMALINK

President Bush: "President Bush this morning said the increasing attacks on U.S. personnel and supporters in Iraq are a sign of progress..."

Kevin Drum: "If this is "progress," what would count as a setback?"

Jay Caruso: "He said quite clearly that because of the success (now that the UN is behind things and the fact that $32 billion (so far) has been promised in aid), they're getting desperate."

Jay Caruso later:"If you're going to debate the merits of what Bush said, at the very least, get right what he said."

Jay, if you're going to debate the merits of anything, perhaps a crash course in remedial reading comprehension is in order.

The fact is, Kevin paraphrased Bush quite correctly. You tell Kevin to "get right what he said" but you're the one not getting anything right! Can you point to me where President Bush mentioned the 32 billion or the UN support? He didn't mention any of that! He said that the attacks are a sign of progress.

Quote: "...increasing attacks on U.S. personnel and supporters in Iraq are a sign of progress..."

NOT: "... UN support and a pledge of 38 billion dollars is a sign of progress..."

He SAID the attacks were a sign of progress, to which Kevin pondered what would be a setback. And you tell Kevin to get what Bush said right! Remarkable.

Posted by: J.Bryan at October 27, 2003 04:06 PM | PERMALINK


By Bush's logic, the Israelis have been increasingly victorious over the Paelistinians for over forty years. No doubt victory is just around the corner for Sharon, too.

Posted by: NBarnes at October 27, 2003 04:06 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, some people never learn. A "sophisticated" military operation would involve highly coordinated attacks which were specifically designed and effectly implemented to maximize "enemy" harm while minimizing civilian injury. Syrians blowing up Iraqi's, the Red Cross, oh, and an unmanned rocket attack on a hotel- while serious and terrible, are not sophisticated attacks. Argghh! Everyone wants to interpret whatever happens as further proof they are right. What unadulterated bullshit. If foreigners keep blowing up Iraqis in Iraq - Is this the way to win friends and influence people?

And some people's response is..."See, the Iraqi's don't want us there - we'd better leave (besides, we should all be working on getting rid of [insert perjorative term for G.W. Bush here])." Wow - very smart. Reminds me of Gray Davis' campaign.

Posted by: Californio at October 27, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, I wanted to point this out:

"They can't stand the thought of a free society. They hate freedom. They love terror. They love to try to create fear and chaos," Bush said.

Glad to see we're still living in a black and white world with no context.

They just hate freedom, that's all! Nope, no history here, no ethnic of religious rivalries! Nope, no ten minutes ago let alone 2 years ago; no such thing as corruption of mendacity, nope!

Good vs. Evil. That's all. Move along now.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 04:08 PM | PERMALINK

This is the act of a TERRORIST

How the fuck do you know who did this? Maybe you should inform the CIA?

And why the hell does it matter WHO did it?

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 04:08 PM | PERMALINK

Californio-

Go have trouble reading and comprehending and forming honest assessments somewhere else.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 04:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Argghh! Everyone wants to interpret whatever happens as further proof they are right. What unadulterated bullshit."

Er. When the U.S. President says that increasing attacks on U.S. personnel and the near-death of the Deputy Secretary of Defense is a sign of progress -- what and who is interpreting whatever happens as further proof of whose rightness? The people who say that this is not progress? Huh?

It's just like Josh Marshall says. Up is down and down is up.

Posted by: J.Bryan at October 27, 2003 04:12 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, I see you all have no solution (except to call me names of course). You are criticizing Bush for his handling of the postwar, so I assumed you had a better way of dealing with the postwar, but you don't. Dean and every other serious Dem has promised to keep troops there. If that is their plan, I want to know how they would make things better?

I never said Bush shouldn't be blamed for the bad things that happen. He also gets credit for eliminating the threat and liberating the Iraqis, something you all would rather have not done at all.

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 04:13 PM | PERMALINK

JRC-

It's implied. The antiwar crowd has been saying for months that "resistance to the US occupation is growing."

Tim clearly implies it when he says: "What would they [UN troops] do differently? Well, for starters, they may not be assumed to be there to steal oil. They probably wouldn't pass along no-bid contracts, they might not be viewed as an colonial, occupying power, as any Arab with just the barest knowledge of Arab history might be inclined to think about the US or Britain or Turkey involvement."

Tim's argument clearly implies that the Iraqi people are languishing under the iron heel of a US "occupation."

Also, please permit me to turn your question on its ear. If you agree that the attacks aren't the work of a legitimate resistance, then you are forced to admit that they are terrorist attacks.

What is wrong with fighting terrorists? Isn't that what the war on terrorism is all about? But wait, then we'd have to admit that Iraq is, in fact, part of the war on terrorism.

You can't sidestep this point by arguing that the attacks might be carried out by Iraqis. Such attaks would be part of an Iraqi "resistance movement." But why would they target the Red Cross if this were so? The only explanation is that the attacks are (a) not carried out by Iraqis, but rather foreign terrorists, or (b) are carried out by Iraqis, probably ex-Baathists, who don't care about popular support, but only want to create chaos so that the Americans will leave and they will be able to sieze power at the point of a gun, just like they did before.

Has everyone failed to notice that these attacks were carried out on the first day of Rammadan? Is that just an incredible coincidence or something?

Has everyone forgotten that someone BOMBED the UN building just a month ago? Why would they have bombed it if it were illegitimate?

And finally, has it occured to anyone that maybe the Iraqis don't hate America as much as antiwar leftists do? Maybe they see the American occupation as a major improvement, one that will lead to freedom and democracy and will significantly better their lives? Maybe they, like billions of other oppressed people around the world, see the US as a shining beacon of hope and freedom, a place to be admired and emulated? Maybe they see the UN as an ineffecitve organization that was unable to liberate them from Sadaam? Maybe they don't have warm feelings for influential UN members like France and Germany, since those nations wanted to keep the Iraqi people in chains?

I guess the Iraqis weren't celebrating the demise of Uday and Qusay after all. They want a return to the days of torture and rape, and bitterly resent the US for bringing freedom, democracy, and hope to them.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 04:16 PM | PERMALINK

"eliminating the threat"

WHAT THREAT?

He had no WMDs - he was only a "threat" to his own people.

Tell me exactly why he was a "threat"? - details, please.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 04:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Iraqis don't hate America as much as antiwar leftists"

FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DON'T YOU EVER QUESTION MY PATRIOTISM, ASSHOLE!!!!!

I LOVE THIS COUNTRY AND I WOULD DIE FOR IT!!!!

FUCK. FUCK. FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 04:19 PM | PERMALINK

I never said Bush shouldn't be blamed for the bad things that happen. He also gets credit for eliminating the threat and liberating the Iraqis, something you all would rather have not done at all.

Are you even conscious? Are you typing in your sleep?

Eliminating the threat??!!??!!? Are you completely out of your head?

There was no threat! You (here comes another name- you'll be able to tell all your pals how much more civilized you are than those crazy "liberals") fucking twit.

And again with the solutions thing. "one can't critique unless one has all the answers" huh?

I'm officially through with Reg. He's a complete idiot and not worth even ignoring, so therefore I wipe my memory of his insignificant, yet annoying, presence.

Bling!

Who's Reg?

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 04:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Joe, but any President who says 'Bring 'em on!' so he can bloster his ego and look tough (despite being an AMOL coward) while a couple thousand of our guys are getting mangled and maimed and hundreds are getting killed, i am sorry, any one who would do that is a total, complete f***ing Jerk.

Now I agree that debate should focus on the substqantive issues, and mine mostly did. But since Aristotle at least, there has always been a place for anger and passion in political rhetoric. My anger/passion is not only sincere, it is relevant. Some would say important.

Posted by: obe at October 27, 2003 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Tim, just ignore anyone who you disagree with. That'll show 'em!

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

Joe-

Tim's argument clearly implies that the Iraqi people are languishing under the iron heel of a US "occupation."

You're a real ass, you know that? Any fuckwit with an ounce of sense would read what I wrote and realize I'm saying the UN may not be perceieved as a colonial, occupying power by the Iraqis as much as the US (or Britain or Turkey) may be.

Don't you fucking twist my words you punk. I'm so bloody sick of people like you.

You got crazy ideas. Fine. But to twist every fucking syllable out of whack to degrade the opposing argument is just so fucking despicable.

If you have something to argue, even if it's nuts to everyone else, at least have the balls to do it honestly.

You fucking coward. Don't twist my words again.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 04:25 PM | PERMALINK

Reg,

What threat, exactly? There was no threat to our people from Iraq. As for liberating the Iraqis, well, we'll see. I'm sure you'll say, "How could you think anyone could be worse off when this is all over than they were under Hussein?"

Here's my answer: "What could have been worse than the tsar?"

Posted by: Magenta at October 27, 2003 04:26 PM | PERMALINK

Tim,

Is it even possible for you to debate something without a steady stream of vulgarities and personal insults? I'm largely in disagreement with Reg and Joe Schmoe, but you hardly make an effective argument when every third word out of your mouth is an obscene personal attack.

Posted by: J.Bryan at October 27, 2003 04:29 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I need to clarify, because I know someone will accuse me of equating the U.S. and Stalin, that is not the point at all. It is that until a permanent government is formed in Iraq (and U.S. troops can't be that), we really don't know if the Iraqi are better off post-Hussein.

Posted by: Magenta at October 27, 2003 04:30 PM | PERMALINK

Any thread with Schmoe, Reg, or Sebastian on it is a thread about Schmoe, Reg, or Sebastian. That's just the way it is.

Posted by: Zizka at October 27, 2003 04:34 PM | PERMALINK

You are all a bunch of unpatriotic freaks. Joe didn't say it clearly enough. Fascist arabs blow up a hospital with an ambulance and all you can do is whine about Bush. It is clear that you hate Bush more than you hate the terrorists.

Posted by: Psycho Killer at October 27, 2003 04:35 PM | PERMALINK

J. Bryan

How could you possibly get on Tim's case when Joe Schmoe says that anti-war liberals "hate America".

No obscene personal attack could be more obscene than that statement.

I used to sort of respect Schmoe, even though I rarely agreed with him. Now his credibility is less-than-zero, he's just another pathetic rightwing idiot who worships his "glorious leader" no matter how wrong he is.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 04:35 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Psycho,

None of those people would be dead today if it wasn't for Bush.

Dumbass.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 04:37 PM | PERMALINK

J-

No. Not any more. I don't give that sort of courtesy to people like Reg and Joe.

I really don't care if the insults and vulgarities cheapen my argument in regards to people like them because, simply, you can't get any cheaper than them.

I don't mind people with crazy ideas. A co-worker of mine thinks public schooling is communism, yet I never get angry when it's discussed, even though it's a disgusting idea, because he's an honest debator.

Hell, I think Pat Buchannan is an OK guy. Insane, yes, but I've never seen him argue his insane cases through straw-man arguments and obfuscation. He sticks to the facts and... well he's still nuts, but he doesn't make shit up and go from there.

Twisting every word, turning every statement into a bizarre, indefensible absolute is not the mark of someone with, in my opinion, even the barest shred of intellectual integrity or honesty.

People who can only argue in that fashion aren't worthy any sort of courtesy in my opnion. You can argue that I ought to be the bigger man, but bigger man to what? To these people? I'd have to dig a 12 foot hole and fill it with shit before I'd stop being the bigger man than these guys, pretty much everyone in the world would have to.

I know my argument is diluted for all the swearing. I don't care because these guys aren't the loyal opposition, they're mean-spirited 8 year-old brats who deal with the world pretty much in one way and one way only-

Nuh-uh!

And that's not worth being kind to them.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 04:42 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that long ago that Joe Schmoe was posting all the time about how much better everything was getting, but now that it's so much harder to say that, his quality of posting is declining considerably. He was much more fun in his state of denial.

This said, let's try one more time: 1.) It is entirely possible for the iraqi people to be glad that saddam is gone and now wish us to be gone, too. Why is that such a hard concept for the joe schmoes and regs and jay carusos and californios to grasp?; 2.) some of us have been saying for months just what rumsfeld said in his memo: the backbone administration never sets any goals for iraq, so we can't ever judge how we are "doing," but when every single action is a sign that we are doing well, it's clear that there's no thought process in control; 3.) reg, actually, really and truly, it is our right to criticize the shallow, ill-informed man who led us into this war with such a cavalier and ill-considered attitude. just getting rid of him will be an improvement, and i hope we can next november; 4.) i do actually agree that attacking a red cross facility is a terrorist action. now that i've agreed with that, how does that change anything about kevin's original posting?

Posted by: howard at October 27, 2003 04:45 PM | PERMALINK

J-

You are all a bunch of unpatriotic freaks. Joe didn't say it clearly enough. Fascist arabs blow up a hospital with an ambulance and all you can do is whine about Bush. It is clear that you hate Bush more than you hate the terrorists.

Case in point.

It's not worth it.

Hey Psycho! Fuck you! You're a fucking idiot! We're there because of Bush! The reconstruction is going poorly because of Bush! Fuck you!

That's going to mean just as much to "psycho killer" (come on, you never really killed anyone, right? You live in Boise, right?) as would a carefully thought-out treatise deconstructing his argument.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 04:45 PM | PERMALINK

JS, I realize that the people who blew up the Red Cross and mussed Wolfowitz' hair were terrorists. If I was running this war, I would have expected suicide bombing terrorists during the occupation, and perhaps done something to make sure that terrorists don't get aywhere near senior administration officials. (I'm no expert, but I hear military police can do a lot of good.) When my assistant secretary of defence came within a few floors of dying, I would not then call it a sign of progress. (I'm sure some members of ANSWER would agree with Bush that Wolfowitz almost dying is a sign of progress, though. I wouldn't.) But that's just me. What do I know?

Posted by: sym at October 27, 2003 04:48 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, little Timmy who just learned how to curse is calling me an 8 year old.

And zizka, you are right, it does seem like we righties get too much attention. But what would you talk about if we didn't come here and post our thoughts? 50 posts in a row commenting on how much Bush sucks? How boring.
If you want attention, go find some rightie blog and mix it up a bit. Its really a lot of fun.

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 04:48 PM | PERMALINK

You are all a bunch of unpatriotic freaks. Joe didn't say it clearly enough. Fascist arabs blow up a hospital with an ambulance and all you can do is whine about Bush. It is clear that you hate Bush more than you hate the terrorists.

Well, see, Psycho, here's the thing. We all assume that everyone here agrees that the bombers in question were not good people. We all assume that no one supports them.

And *we didn't elect them.* We actually have a say in whether Bush stays in office. The terrorists are pretty much in Iraq becasue that's where they are.

Posted by: Magenta at October 27, 2003 04:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sovok, I apologize.

I do think that a lot of antiwar leftists are anti-American. Many of them don't even realize it. Some are just traitors. These people, however, are a very small minority. You can see them at the international ANSWER rallies, but they are definately a fringe element.

Others are ordinary people who exhibit an almost pathological pessimism on American foreign policy. They refuse to ever acknowledge the good that America has done. They always assume that America will botch anything that it attempts, without stopping to think that it is our soldiers and diplomats, rather than President Bush, who are the ones primarily responsible for Iraqi policy. He is ultimately responsble, in the "Buck Stops Here," sense, but the real success or failure of the reconstructon really isn't up to him. They refuse to see that our leaders might make innocent mistakes. They spin ridiculous conspiracy theories about our leaders (it's all about contracts for Haliburton!). It is impossible for them to acknowledge the fundamental humanity of our leaders; when Bush talks about the long-suffering Iraqi people and the need to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, he can't possibly mean it, or be at least *partly* motivated by these noble goals. Oh, no, it is nothing more than a cynical ploy to justify an oil grab to the slack-jawed American masses.

I call this sentiment "latent anti-Americanism." It's similar to racism. Most people deny that they are racists, and and honestly believe it. They would be outraged if they were accused of racism; those are fightin' words. But when their daughter brings home a black man, for some reason they are uncomfortable. Conversation is stiff and forced. They can't put their finger on why, but they just don't like the man. They also get uncomfortable when a car full of black men in their 20's follows them for a time at night. They don't feel that way when several greasy bikers with faded prison tatoos pull up behind them.

I think that a lot of antiwar leftists suffer from a similar sentiment.

However, I do acknowledge that many antwar leftists do not suffer from latent anti-Americanism. While I can generalize as a class, it is not fair to label individual people with this charge without first getting to know them, and that is difficult to do on the internet.

I cannot say that the majority of the commenters on Calpundit do not suffer from latent anti-Americanism, because I think that a lot of them do. However, I cannot say that about everyone who opposed the war. A lot of people have only posted once or twice, and it's imposisble to draw any conclusions on that basis. I don't know you, for example.

For this reason, I was wrong to say that "maybe the Iraqis don't hate America as much as antiwar leftists do," thereby implying that anyone who opposed the war hates America. I am sorry that I implied this, and I will refrain from doing so in the future.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 04:57 PM | PERMALINK

I still think that the reconstruction is going well. Terrorsit attacks are to be expected. I've said that all along.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 05:00 PM | PERMALINK

Joe, your theory about latent anti-americanism is one of the silliest things you've ever written, although i do appreciate that you have decided that maybe you don't know enough about people who disagree with you to label them as anti-american.

My suggestion is that you stick with actual content and not spend your time playing armchair psychologist: really, you were a lot more fun when you were an optimist.

Reg, i used to hang around conservative sites and try and debate, and the reception i got was way cruder and crueler than almost everyone here gives you (although Tim does cross the line)....

Posted by: howard at October 27, 2003 05:02 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, howard, you should see what I got at Atrios and DailyKos. Them are some serious wackos.

You have to go to someplace halfway serious to have even a somewhat serious discussion. I don't know what would be good on the right, Tacitus perhaps? I find it boring to argue with people I agree with, it is much more fun to find people on the complete opposite of the spectrum, especially because so many don't seem to ever have encountered people are are really conservatives. (I'm guessing the same is true on rightwing cites).

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 05:12 PM | PERMALINK

For those who keep complaining that "nobody here is offering solutions," I'll repost this:

Bush comes out and says, "Clearly, in the wake of these attacks, it is time for a new strategy and a different response. To that end, I am commissioning a blue-ribbon, bi-partisan panel to examine our current strategy, explore posssible options, and make serious, workable recommendations so that we can ensure the brightest possible future for Iraq."

At the least, it would let people know that Bush isn't living in cloud-cuckoo land. It would also let the terrorists know that they can't count on the continued self-defeating strategy of the U.S. to aid their aims.

Posted by: Derelict at October 27, 2003 05:17 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe:
This is not the act of a legitimate "resistance" movement. This is the act of a TERRORIST.
But..but...wait, I thought we liberated the Iraqi's. You mean we freed them to be a haven for TERRORISTS that they didn't have to worry about before we invaded?

Posted by: flory at October 27, 2003 05:19 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, and who would be on the committee, Ted Kennedy?
Seriously, if we said we were trying a new response, and it didn't work, we'd look even dumber.
Personally, I think this is one of those cases where there is no magic bullet (like most cases).
It might be true that we are currently employing the very best strategy possible and it is the case that this is the best we can do right now.

I'll give my own "solutions"
Personally, I'd like to see us pull all troops out of Bosnia/Kosovo and send them to Iraq, the equipping of an Iraqi army to do more patrols and security, and for us to decrease our own presence.
But I think most of this is already being done.

I think we planned on casualties in excess of 2-3 thousand for the war, and we are still below that months into the occupation, though this is the real trouble spot. Its a catch-22, we need Iraqi help to catch the bad guys, but if the Iraqis give us help they are punished by the bad guys.

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 05:26 PM | PERMALINK

Joe,

Apology accepted, please accept mine.

Maybe I'm naive, but I always thought that even between right and left, there was a root which fundementally unites us - the Costitution, liberal democracy, etc.

I really resent the cheapening of the word "traitor", when where will really disagree is on methods, not ends.

This is the essence of "loyal opposition".

For example, regarding Iraq, I supported "muscular diplomacy", a strong inspections regime, containment (no-fly zones), and the rule of international law. I believe our focus should be on Al-Qaida - the real enemy who attacked us.

Bush, on the other hand, chose unilateral military intervention, and I hold that the results speak for the foolishness of this policy.

I'm not "anti-war" per se, I'm anti-THIS-war.

I actaully enjoy duking it out with you, let's just keep it "above the belt", OK?

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 05:31 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 05:54 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.tmcm.com/comics/230_sorry2.gif

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 05:54 PM | PERMALINK

From Reg:
My question is what is the solution? Nobody has offered anything resembling a better plan.

From Tristero:
Here's a better plan, Reg:

1. Bush is removed from office.
2. The UN coordinates Iraq nation building.

One without the other will not work.

From Chris:
All that aside, what I would have BushCo do is crawl on its belly to the global community, come up with a *real* agreement that everyone could sign that would give authority to the UN to settle this mess we have created. Spread out the costs and the benefits to everyone instead of trying to hog all the benefits and control and expect others to share the costs.

{OK so the crawling on the belly is a little over the top, but the general idea of recognizing that the international community has legitimate interests at stake here is reasonable}

From Tim:
The reasons for a UN controlled occupation have everything to do with legitimacy, trust, and honest brokerage, not war-fighting capability.

And there are no UN troops! Don't you understand that? UN troops are troops from member nations operating under UN command. The whole of the troops could be US troops and still be a UN operation.

From Reg:
No Democrat has any idea how to beat these people, and nobody here has anything constructive to say, other than that the solution is to lose Bush.
Why, if there is no solution anybody else can offer?

Reg:
Ignoring peoples arguments doesn't make them go away. Internationalizing this occupation (ideally, giving it a Muslim, arabic speaking face) would go a long way towards legitimizing it for the average Iraqi. Making it possible for there to be some headlines on Al-Jazeera celebrating the signing of Iraqi/Egyptian/Jordanian etc etc contracts for {whatever} would help defuse the idea of "American occupation."
You're a smart guy Reg, we've argued before, you know all this. You can't wish away the fact that the RESISTANCE to this OCCUPATION (whether its IRAQI resistance to AMERICAN occupation or TERRORIST resistance to INFIDEL occupation) is due to the perception of OCCUPATION. Anything that morphs the idea of occupation to the idea of reconstruction helps. At this point the US is seen as the bully that created this mess; continued primacy of the US role only continues the OCCUPATION meme. Therefore, internationalizing the reconstruction helps. Period.
Your question at the top of this post was answered, you just didn't want to hear the answer.

Posted by: flory at October 27, 2003 05:58 PM | PERMALINK

I really have only one thing to say to the folks who are so convinced of the correctness of this war. Enlist. I recently read about a 54 year old reservists who was killed in action in Iraq, so age shouldn't be a problem. You are needed on the frontlines, which is obvious from the constant callups of reservists and guardsmen and continued pleas for troops from other nations. You are needed are the frontlines much more than you are needed here trying to change the minds of those of us who never supported the war in the first place. I thought it was a bad idea before it started, I thought the WMD's were BS all along, so why in God's name would I be convinced to support this tragedy now that it is falling to rags before I eyes? I'm sure there is a recruitment center near you. You could be signed up and on the bus to basic by nightfall. What are you waiting for?

Posted by: magurakurin at October 27, 2003 06:05 PM | PERMALINK

Reg/Black/Oak/Schmoe (if you're around)

For the third time, where was the threat?

I take it by your silence you finally understand us "anti-war" liberals?

We're still waiting...

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 06:12 PM | PERMALINK

Flora, I do not agree. The terrorist "resistance" is opposed to DEMOCRACY, not OCCUPATION.

Bin Laden's latest audiotape specifically urges Muslims to reject *democracy* and embrace a theorcratic Islamic government. It doesn't get any clearer than that.

We are trying to build a democracy in Iraq. We are by definition, therefore, NOT occupiers (at least not permanently) and NOT colonialists.

Unless you believe that our avowed goal of creating a democracy is a big lie, and that we really intend to install a Baathist general, I don't see how you can fault the US occupation.

If you state that the UN will help the Iraqis draft a constitution and hold free and fair democratic elections, how is this any different from what the US will do?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 06:17 PM | PERMALINK

Tim, Sovok-

Apology accepted, you miserable America-hating traitors! :)

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 06:18 PM | PERMALINK

You could be signed up and on the bus to basic by nightfall. What are you waiting for?

if all the chicken-hawk armchair generals went off to war, who would be left to keep all the hippies from running off with the good upstanding republican women?

Posted by: Sweet! at October 27, 2003 06:18 PM | PERMALINK

For this reason, I was wrong to say that "maybe the Iraqis don't hate America as much as antiwar leftists do," thereby implying that anyone who opposed the war hates America. I am sorry that I implied this, and I will refrain from doing so in the future.

someone bookmark this. i'm sure we'll need to come back to this in the future.

Posted by: ChrisL at October 27, 2003 06:22 PM | PERMALINK

Aye, so much to respond to.

"For the third time, where was the threat?"

The threat was this (and you'll protest like you always do): known intent to have weapons + having weapons in past + willingness to use weapons in past + unknown current state = possible threat. Viewing possible threats in prism of 9/11 (better to act before we have concrete knowledge of imminent threat) requires action. Simple?

And even if we are wrong, and Saddam wasn't a serious threat, big deal, we got rid of a really bad guy, and we don't have to keep troops stationed in Saudi Arabia for another 12 years to contain him and we get to show the world we mean business.

My question was what would the UN do differently. I disagree that the UN would have an inherently easier time dealing with Iraq. The Baathists want their country back, they might not have as much fun shooting German troops to get it as they do American troops, but they'll still shoot. A democratic president won't make people immediately love us, people never did under Clinton (Cole, embassy bombings, Somalia, etc.). You dems would just feel better about fighting with a Democrat, which is understandable, I enjoy war more now under Bush than I did under CLinton for that reason.

As far as enlisting, I plan to. I hope to be a JAG in 2 years.

And our Republican women would never go for you pot-smoking, long haired, america-hating abortionists. (I'm joking)

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I'm late to the party, but I'd like to get back to discussing the basic question.

I agree that any attacks on our troops can in no way be properly described as progress -- that's what was happening in March as we advanced into the country.

The attack on the Red Cross, however, does certainly smack of desperation, because it again indicates the frustration of the so-called "resistance" with attacking military targets. Simply put, they are able to pick off one or two of our soldiers now and then, but they basically have no means of making a dent in our military strength.

Attacking the Red Cross seems to be of a piece with Saddam's "Mogadishu strategy." The Baathists/terrorists obviously hope to incite enough domestic opposition to our actions to cause us to withdraw our troops. They hope that Americans will decide that Iraq is a hopeless quagmire and pull out.

The Baathists'/terrorists' bomb the Red Cross comes at considerable cost to themselves, because it will only make ordinary Iraqis hate them and support the American objective of bringing peace and stability. It makes ordinary Iraqis more likely to run to the Americans the next time they see someone with a bomb or hear anything about a bomb. Like the UN bombing, it provokes worldwide outrage and increases worldwide support for American actions to provide security and democracy for Iraq.

So, yes, it was a very desperate act. They know that they are losing.

On the other hand, it seems odd to me that many Americans don't realize that we are winning. At a cost, yes, but there is obvious progress in Iraq toward democracy and construction of a civil society, something that will pay huge dividends for America in the future as we attempt to change the Middle East from a hotbed Islamic fanaticism and collection of tyrannical regimes into a pro-western collection of free people.

When Dennis Kucinich and others call for us to "bring all of our troops home," they are doing exactly what Saddam wants them to. Most of them are not motivated by the desire to help Saddam, but that is the impact of their actions, because everyone call for the withdrawal of our forces encourages the Baathists/terrorists to think that their strategy will work.

Posted by: Ryan Booth at October 27, 2003 06:40 PM | PERMALINK

Thats the biggest pile of crap I've ever heard. What the hell is the matter with you?

"Americans don't realize that we are winning"

Hah, pull your head out of Shrub's Ass and take a look at reality. We aren't winning. We are losing. We should leave now before any more of our troops die. People like you make me sick.

Posted by: Peekuhdu at October 27, 2003 06:47 PM | PERMALINK

And even if we are wrong, and Saddam wasn't a serious threat, big deal

Tell that to the families of the dead soldiers!

Face it, this war was NOT NECESSARY - the WMD state was NOT unknown - Saddam WAS disarmed under the UN sanctions.

I didn't cry when Saddam's statue fell, but I get more than a little choked up when the body bags come home, day after day, week after week, month after month.

For nothing.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 06:48 PM | PERMALINK

They didn't die for nothing, Sovok. They died to bring freedom and humanity to the Middle East. They died to protect us here in the US: if we can bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East, the allure of fundamentalism should wane, which means fewer terrorists, and fewer attacks, in the long run.

Did the Union soldiers who freed the slaves die for nothing? African-Americans still aren't as well off as white Americans. Does this mean that the Civil War wasn't worth fighting? It was expensive, too, come to think of it. We didn't get any international support, either.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 06:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't you tell the Kurds that the war wasn't worth it? How about the families of Iraqis who were killed oy Sadaam's secret police?

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 27, 2003 06:55 PM | PERMALINK

JAG? isn't that a lawyer? in two years? My, what a brave man you are.

Posted by: magurakurin at October 27, 2003 06:58 PM | PERMALINK

"We are losing. We should leave now before any more of our troops die. People like you make me sick."

No, I don't in any way think that the answer is to pull out of the country. Is it unfortunate that our soldiers are dying? Yes, absolutely it is. Can we be doing more to protect them and to secure the country? Certainly. But the answer isn't just to pack up our things and go home.

Yes, many liberals opposed this war, and many would prefer we had never gone to Iraq, but it's too late for that. We did go to Iraq, now that we've invaded it and toppled its government, Iraq is our problem -- a problem for all of us, not just President Bush, like it or not. What's done is done, the invasion happened, and there just isn't any point any more in debating whether or not it SHOULD have happened. When you continue to have that debate months after the fact saying that "The resolution for all of Iraq's problems is never going there in the first place," you're ignoring the reality that we DID go there, we can't undo that, and so it must be dealt with now.

Just getting out of the country will not help matters. It would do us and the Iraqis no good to just abandon the country -- the same as it would do no good in Afghanistan, and the same as President Bush's neglect of Afghanistan and the Karzai government is doing that country considerable harm.

Leaving now would just condemn the Iraqis to warlordism, death and suffering, and little hope for things to actually get better. It is very much in our interest not to allow that. I doubt that we can establish a shining beacon of democracy in Iraq that will sweep the rest of the Middle East. That's just not going to happen. But it doesn't mean we should try to create some sort of stable, semi-democratic government there which will have certain assurances of human rights and will work to end some of the suffering of the Iraqi people.

We're not Losing. Things aren't going spectacularly, and can certainly go better, but we're not losing, and we shouldn't pull out just because we're suffering some damage. If that makes you sick, then too bad.

Posted by: J.Bryan at October 27, 2003 07:04 PM | PERMALINK

This is pretty funny watching the pro-dead soldier types attack the patriotism of those who would rather use the military to protect our nation than to protect Halliburton’s assets. Hey, if a REAL threat breaks out, where are you going to get the troops? Oh, and now that everyone knows your leader is a lying scumbag whose word is LESS RELIABLE THAN HUSSEIN’S (Which one said there were weapons? Which one said there were not? Only one of them could be wrong, the one with the correct answer has to be a more reliable source on the subject – the first wingnut who claims this is “support for Hussein” wins his own personal moron award), who is going to believe your assertions of danger?

To sum up: dead soldiers, massive giveaways to powerful insider corporations, lost prestige, decreased readiness, and decreased credibility. I wonder why there isn’t much support for Bush among those of us who care about our national security.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at October 27, 2003 07:10 PM | PERMALINK

"if we can bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East, the allure of fundamentalism should wane"

This is a twisted fantasy - you can't impose democracy with bombs and guns and national humiliation.

We need to declare victory and get out - democracy can only emerge when the Iraqis are free to do so without the shadow of foreign occupation - even then, I'm skeptical.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 07:11 PM | PERMALINK

"They didn't die for nothing, Sovok. They died to bring freedom and humanity to the Middle East. They died to protect us here in the US: if we can bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East, the allure of fundamentalism should wane, which means fewer terrorists, and fewer attacks, in the long run."

What the heck are you smoking? The war was a complete fraud. And propoganda like this is unmitigated BS. Even you don't believe it. The war will bring death, destruction and violence to the middle east, and has already resulted in more terrorists adn attacks, not less.

Posted by: obe at October 27, 2003 07:11 PM | PERMALINK

"JAG? isn't that a lawyer? in two years? My, what a brave man you are."

Heh, what the fuck is your deal?

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 07:11 PM | PERMALINK

Wow that was a painful experience reading this thread from top to bottom. Oh my delicate ears.

I'm a bit discouraged that it took a zillion posts all the way down to Ryan Booth's for someone to give a minute's though to what the *intention* behind the "they're getting more desperate" statement was. I agree with his assessment on this -- it's the latest in a long line (near-daily) failures to communicate. Clearly Bush is not the best at thinking on his feet, and I think Rumsfeld's memo was a valuable insight into the situation.

They sure as hell know it's not all going smoothly -- but saying "screw it, pack up the Humvees, send out a press release that we won and let's get outta here" isn't sensible, and isn't going to happen. Period.

What they should do, and I believe if Bush wasn't such a verbally-challenged individual a proper President would do, is EXPLAIN FOR ONCE what the hell he means by them "getting more desperate" when they nearly kill a top US official. As in "as the resistance/terrorists/whatever have been steadily beaten, they are now relying on more dramatic attacks and EVEN attacks on international aid organizations - these are not strategic attacks that threaten our control of the situation or militarily weaken us, rather they are brazen and desperate attempts to sway public opinion..."

I think this applies whether or not you love/hate/always/never wanted this conflict -- I find this soundbyte style of explanation patronizing and frustrating.

Then again, maybe they're gambling the "everything is peachy" line will drown out all else, and clouding that with a detailed explanation would dilute their message. I'm trying to avoid that cynical point of view, but with that many savvy PR ops in the WH it's hard to resist.

Posted by: TG at October 27, 2003 07:17 PM | PERMALINK

As to those who demand solutions (but ignore them when offered), here’s one: turn the entire effort over to the UN, give them as much money as they need, and get the hell away from there. Does that mean no more no-bid contracts so Halliburton can afford their brib…um…retirement given to Cheney, well that’s too bad. Does that mean that we have no say in whether Iraq is ruled by a theocracy or a democracy? Too bad. We had no business going there in the first place. We do, as was posted above, have a responsibility to make sure that it gets put back together. But we are doing more harm than good exposing our soldiers to danger in order to protect contractors who are gouging the American taxpayer and pissing off the locals.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at October 27, 2003 07:17 PM | PERMALINK

"This is a twisted fantasy - you can't impose democracy with bombs and guns and national humiliation.

You mean like we did in Germany and Japan?

Sovok, if you have the capability, you should try thinking before you type.

Posted by: Ryan Booth at October 27, 2003 07:20 PM | PERMALINK

"You mean like we did in Germany and Japan?"

Germany and Japan were advanced industrial states with pre-existing democratic forms - Hitler was elected.

Apples and oranges - thanks for playing.

Yes I can think before typing, let me think, oh yeah, Ryan Booth is a dumbass.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 07:23 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Booth, you should take your own advice. Or perhaps you just need a history. Consider Weimar Germany if you think that national humiliation is a plan for the spread of stable democracy. The unprovoked invasion of Iraq looks a lot more like the situation in Israel with Palestine than post-WWII Germany or Japan, and we all know how well that plan is going.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at October 27, 2003 07:27 PM | PERMALINK

What's my deal? Here's my deal. If you so gung-ho to stay the course and fight the "terrorists" in Iraq, then why aren't you shouldering a rifle, now, right now? If the right thing to do is fight, why aren't you fighting? Or are you to valuable to risk dying? If this fight in Iraq is a titantic struggle to protect America and spread Democracy across the world shouldn't you be in there going toe to toe with the evil ones? You seem pretty sure that this war is worth the lives of those who have and still will die, is it worth your life? Are you willing to die for the ideals behind this war? I certainly am not, because this war is based on lies, but if you believe in it, surely it is worth dying for, isn't it? Well, is it, are you willing to die for George Bush and his vision of "the American Way,", are you?

Posted by: magurakurin at October 27, 2003 07:32 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe someone's already pointed this out on this epic-length thread, but there's a pretty ironic passage in the WaPost story Kevin linked to above:

Another senior intelligence official said the United States has not devoted enough attention to understanding the anti-American groups in Iraq because intelligence resources have been devoted to locating weapons of mass destruction. As a result, the intelligence community and the military have little precise information about the resistance. "I am not happy with the kind of information we are getting," the official said.

Wow, not enough resources for the real problem, because we're devoting too many of them to the non-existent problem!

Posted by: Haggai at October 27, 2003 07:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Wow, not enough resources for the real problem, because we're devoting too many of them to the non-existent problem!"

No, I hadn't noticed that, just when you think you've gotten to the bottom of BushCo's stupidity, a whole new dimension is added.

Of course, this statement also applies to the entire Iraq debacle as well. Real problem=Al-Qaida

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 07:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Germany and Japan were advanced industrial states with pre-existing democratic forms - Hitler was elected."

Right ... and the Japanese elected Hirohito as well.

Oh, I get it now -- the Iraqis are too backward for democracy to take hold. They don't deserve liberty and freedom. It's amazing how racist some leftists can be at times when it suits them.

Sovok, this would be funny if I didn't have better things to do. Are you in the 5th or 6th grade now? That's usually the age when people think that cursing and name-calling makes effective argument.

It's sad, because this place used to be one of the better comments sections in the blogosphere.

Posted by: Ryan Booth at October 27, 2003 07:48 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone seen Ken Adelman lately? He's the Republican bright spark who originally predicted the whole thing would be a "cake-walk." Odd how he isn't in the newspapers and on TV these days. Must be laryngitis. Come to think of it, I'll send him a Get Well card. Maybe Wolfowitz will send him one, too, when he gets out from under all that ticker-tape and confetti.

Posted by: Cervantes at October 27, 2003 07:49 PM | PERMALINK

Joe-

I didn't apologize. That's the URL for a cartoon illustrating how natural and normal and correct it is to criticize and feel bad about things your country has done.

And I'm not going to apologize. You start out, pretty much every time, from the premise that anyone criticizing the US in any way is anti-american, or a traitor, or far-left wacko. I don't play that game. There are many, many legitimate reasons to think Bush is a terrible president. There are many, many legitimate reasons to think the war was a bad idea and the occupation is going terribly (btw- you really think we're going to allow a democracy over there? You really think we're going to allow a shiite government? Well, in case you've missed the papers for the last year, we've already stated we will not allow a shiite government, which means wwe're not going to allow any "true" democracy. You're really naive).

You and Reg and others like you still hang onto the most thin pretense for the invasion. A pretense we know now for 100% certain was all bullshit- and you know what? Most of the world knew that before we invaded.

You stick to the same talking points, you renegotiate little bits of reason and what-for when you need to, and you frame every debate in the same way- people who criticize want failure (are unpatriotic, partisan, whatever).

I didn't apologize. There's no reason to.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 07:49 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, this statement also applies to the entire Iraq debacle as well. Real problem=Al-Qaida

True, Sovok, but that this is actually happening within Iraq is surprising.

Posted by: Haggai at October 27, 2003 07:51 PM | PERMALINK

"If the right thing to do is fight, why aren't you fighting? Or are you to valuable to risk dying?"

magurakurin, and anybody else who buys into this line of thinking, I'm assuming you haven't supported Hati, Kosovo, Bosnia, Gulf I, Somalia, or any other military action in which lives were threatened. I also assume you give all non-necessary income to government or charity to help poor people, if you advocate more aid to poor being forced on all taxpayers, and I assume you drive a high MPG car and don't waste electricity on anything frivolous (like computers and blogging) if you are an environmentalist.

Also, I'm not too "valuable". Had Bush been president in 98 and 9/11 been before that, I would have signed up out of high school. Now, I am doing the next best thing in my situation, being in law school I am going into JAG, if I'm accepted. I disagree with you that only those soldiers in harms way are valuable to the war effort. Many JAGs sometimes do come into conflict areas, and I'd like the opportunity to see the action up close.


Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 07:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Right ... and the Japanese elected Hirohito as well."

Of course they didn't elect Hirohito - he was the emperor. Hidekei Tojo was the Prime Minister.

Actually, I'm in the fifth grade (I was held back) - but that's, OK my eduction is more than sufficient to debate you - dumbass.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 07:57 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I get it now -- the Iraqis are too backward for democracy to take hold. They don't deserve liberty and freedom. It's amazing how racist some leftists can be at times when it suits them.

Case in point.

If Ryan was the least bit honest, or familiar with history, he'd understand that Japan and Germany do not make good comparisons to Iraq. Germany had democratix institutions and was highly industrialized. Japan was highly industrialized as well and the culture was such that the people largely accepted their defeat and the consequences thereof.

But rather he maligns sovak in the most unfair way possible.

What good would it do to point this out to him? None, so...

Fuck you Ryan. You're a fucking idiot and a mendacious asshole.

Posted by: Tim at October 27, 2003 07:59 PM | PERMALINK

The next best thing in your situation. Yeah, that's right you have a life, maybe a girlfriend or a wife, things that need attending to. Yes comrade comissar, you should stay in the rear, you're intelligence is to valuable to risk at the front. You must get out the message of our glorious struggle. You people are so full of shit. Put your money where your mouth is and join the infantry, now, today, not after you finish law school.

Posted by: magurakurin at October 27, 2003 08:01 PM | PERMALINK

Just out of curiosity, Tim and Sovok, what is it about "industrialization" that supposedly makes a country like Japan or Germany able to accept democracy in a way that Iraq cannot?

The Athenians had a stable democracy 2500 years ago. They weren't very industrialized at all.

Posted by: Ryan Booth at October 27, 2003 08:12 PM | PERMALINK

That line of reasoning is so full of crap. I say this is a left of center Democrat who didn't want to go into this war in the first place -- when you say that anyone who supports the war is a hypocrite unless they go over to Iraq personally, you're being just as disingenuous and malicious as conservatives who say that anyone who opposes the war is unpatriotic.

I supported the Kosovo War. I did not sign up personally to go fight over there. Likewise, I supported the war in Afghanistan, but once again I did not personally join the army. I guess this makes me a "comrade comissar" and a hypocrite... but it also makes about 95+% of the American population just as bad.

Nice, guys.

Posted by: J.Bryan at October 27, 2003 08:13 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I might add that America wasn't very industrialized in 1776.

Posted by: Ryan Booth at October 27, 2003 08:14 PM | PERMALINK

Industrialization contributes to social stability - jobs, trade, prosperity.

But the main point is they already had democratic institutions - they did not need to be "built" - just restored.

Athens had a slave labor base - not applicable.

Posted by: Sovok at October 27, 2003 08:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Industrialization contributes to social stability - jobs, trade, prosperity."

The fact that these people have no social stability is all the more reason for us not to just pull out and leave them to rot even further.

Posted by: J.Bryan at October 27, 2003 08:39 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently according to the fine trolls Reg, Joe Schmoe and others, we have to adhere to military or Republican talking points discipline and continue to affirm that everything is JUST FINE in Iraq and that FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY are on their way, as first one or two, then three or four, and now 35 + American personnel are killed every day.

What will it take the Republican talking points zombies to admit that Iraq is a disaster: 350 Americans killed in one day? 3500 Americans (another 9-11)?

On that day, they will flip 180 degrees and state that the Iraqis were not ready for FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY and we were suckers to think we could help them, so NUKE ‘EM!

(I am not exaggerating. See the true history of the U.S. occupation of the Philippines -- thankfully pre-nuclear bomb, but American troops still massacred 200,000 Filipinos in reprisal.)

I am not endorsing such a change of policy in any way. Perhaps it's better that Reg et al. continue in their deluded optimistic state.

Posted by: sara at October 27, 2003 08:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sovok, I wasn't asking whether or not you could find any ways that Iraq is a different country from Japan and Germany -- I know that you can.

What I was asking for was a real explanation of why democracy is unlikely to take hold in Iraq. The idea that a well-education population would not want freedom strikes me as very odd, so I'd like to know where you're getting it from.

Posted by: Ryan Booth at October 27, 2003 08:51 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe:

We are trying to build a democracy in Iraq. We are by definition, therefore, NOT occupiers (at least not permanently) and NOT colonialists.

The 1907 Hague Conventions, of which the US is signatories, would disagree:

Art. 42. Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.

The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.

Art. 43. The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.

We are, in law and in fact, an OCCUPYING POWER. This week's putative rationale for invasion notwithstanding.

That being said, my post was in response to Reg's insistence that he couldn't get an answer to his request for a liberal alternative to the current Bush administration policy towards Iraq. Several posters provided an alternative: Internationalize the occupation.

If you state that the UN will help the Iraqis draft a constitution and hold free and fair democratic elections, how is this any different from what the US will do?

The question is not what the UN will DO differently from the US, it's how the Iraqi population will perceive the actions of an international, preferably heavily Muslim, Arabic- speaking UN power vs. how they perceive the actions of the invading, OCCUPYING US Coalition Provisional Authority.

Right now, because the CPA, as the OCCUPYING POWER, calls all the shots in Iraq, even neutral organizations, such as the ICRC, are considered tools of the OCCUPATION and, therefore, legitimate targets. The anti-war, liberal, progressive, {whatever you want to call us} position is that internationalizing the reconstruction of the country, (up to and including declaring Iraq a UN proctectorate until elections are held), and therefore eliminating any rationale of resisting US OCCUPATION can only help the situation, and the troops, on the ground.

I hope that's not unpatriotic in your worldview.

Posted by: flory at October 27, 2003 08:56 PM | PERMALINK

From what I know of history, it seems wrong to say that Japan and Germany had democratic institutions.
Germany had a Kaiser till after WWI, right? How were the various "states" ruled, did they have princes till then too? I know the Germans were educated and industrious, but they only had 20 turbulent crazy years of democracy to build on in 1945.
And Japan, was Japan ever democratic at all? I don't think it ever was before we got there.

Both countries were educated and had industry. Industry isn't as important today is it was then, and Iraqis seem pretty well educated.
I think conditions in the world today are so much more favorable for democracy than it was in the 40s, that this pushes most countries to eventually adopt it. All that is left is the middle east and a few communist outposts, and africa.

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 09:00 PM | PERMALINK

Flory, that is just semantics anyway. Most Iraqis want us there, so occupation seems wrong. It is also clear that we don't want to stay there a second longer than we have to.

Posted by: Reg at October 27, 2003 09:02 PM | PERMALINK

Reg -- watch the rhetorical questions!!

For the record, not only Germany but also Japan had imperfect multiparty democracies (like the ones we praise when our third world allies have them) before about 1930. After that time a gradual process of militarist encroachment led to fascism.

Posted by: Zizka at October 27, 2003 09:07 PM | PERMALINK

Reg:
Most Iraqis want us there, so occupation seems wrong.

James Zogby on the poll his organization conducted, the AEI creatively interpereted, Cheney spun and you are quoting:

"When given the choice as to whether they “would like to see the American and British forces leave Iraq in six months, one year, or two years,” 31.5 percent of Iraqis say these forces should leave in six months; 34 percent say a year, and only 25 percent say two or more years.

AEI and Cheny chose to interpret this as "over 60 percent of the people polled said they want the US to stay for at least another year", the average thinking person would interpret the results as "65% of Iraqi's want the US gone in a year or less".

So, in fact, most Iraqi's do not want us there, at least not for very long. And whether "occupation" seems wrong to you or not, its a legal fact - we are the Occupying Power.

Posted by: flory at October 27, 2003 09:17 PM | PERMALINK

Unless you believe that our avowed goal of creating a democracy is a big lie, and that we really intend to install a Baathist general, I don't see how you can fault the US occupation.

Well now. But if you believe that the avowed goal of creating a democracy is a big lie, and that the administration really intends to install (or will shrug and settle for installing) some sort of strongman... then it's pretty easy to fault the US occupation.

Posted by: Canadian Reader at October 27, 2003 09:58 PM | PERMALINK

Anyways, these attacks have destroyed that evil 'flypaper' theory once and for all, right? Could we at least all agree on this?

Posted by: sym at October 27, 2003 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Reg:
I think we planned on casualties in excess of 2-3 thousand for the war, and we are still below that months into the occupation, though this is the real trouble spot. Its a catch-22, we need Iraqi help to catch the bad guys, but if the Iraqis give us help they are punished by the bad guys
Are you mistaking fatalities for casualties? We have almost certainly had over 2000 casualties to date in Iraq, and the rate of increase is not declining.

You are also quite wrong about democratic institutions in prewar Germany and Japan. In fact, Japan continued with contested elections during the second world war, and the government-sponsored IRAA (modeled on the fascist and nazi parties) never succeeded in winning a popular vote. The U.S. occupation authorities (S.C.A.P.) consciously opted for continuity of Japanese political institutions, and clearly stated their belief that they were simply continuing the arc of democratic progress Japan had been pursuing since the 19th century, until it was "interrupted" by a military takeover of the civilian government in the 1930s.

Posted by: Keith at October 27, 2003 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Ryan:
"you can't impose democracy with bombs and guns and national humiliation."
You mean like we did in Germany and Japan?

"Germany and Japan were advanced industrial states with pre-existing democratic forms - Hitler was elected"
Right ... and the Japanese elected Hirohito as well

I hardly know where to begin. I guess I'll start by reminding you that it's generally a good idea to have some idea what you're talking about before engaging in a debate. For the record:
(1) The Showa emperor (a.k.a. Hirohito) was Japan's hereditary monarch. Hideki Tojo was only one of Japan's wartime prime ministers. He and others were chosen by the imperial government headed by the emperor, in collaboration with a democratically elected legislature. Although most of the wartime prime ministers were military officers, at least one was a civilian parliamentarian. There is an extraordinarily voluminous literature on this, as well as summaries in a number of good popular histories (e.g. Reischauer's "The Japanese" and "Japan: The Story of a Nation").

(2) The basic point is that Japan (like Germany) had a well-established history of democratic elections and democratic institutions on which occupation authorities could draw, and which meant that their populations were already well-versed in the "habits of democracy." The same cannot be said for Iraq.

(3) On industrialization, on might argue that it seems a necessary precondition for creating a stable democracy in today's world, regardless of the conditions that gave birth to democracy in earlier times. I'm not sure I'd agree, but this has in fact been a claim raised by a number of Asian leaders, and the claim seems to have been justified in places like Singapore and South Korea, which have produced more stable democracies than places like the Philippines.

the Iraqis are too backward for democracy to take hold. They don't deserve liberty and freedom. It's amazing how racist some leftists can be at times when it suits them
That's not racism. It's patronizing, and it may not be true, but it's a claim that deserves more serious engagement than "that's racist". There are serious reasons to be skeptical of Iraq's ability to produce a stable democracy in the short run, and among them are that the country has no prior history of democracy, and competing factions which are likely to see democratic institutions as obstacles to their ability to control traditional constituencies, as well as the land and wealth they desire.

Both Germany and Japan were relatively fertile soil for democratic institutions in the mid 1940s, while Iraq is further behind than they were then, in a world that has moved on by six decades. Today's Iraq would have been a poorer candidate than Japan or Germany in 1945, and modernization theory would argue that its prospects are much worse in 2003. Even with institutions in place and populations well versed in the habits of democracy, Germany and Japan were occupied for several years. The occupation of Japan lasted from 1945 to 1952, and would probably have continued longer than that if not for the Korean War and the Cold War. And no one thought that sporadic attempts to derail those previous occupations were signs of progress.

I'm not at all confident that a less-prepared Iraq, facing far more serious internal problems than Japan did and with a population that is far less complacent, can be transformed into a model democracy in less time than it took in Japan. However, if we are serious about transforming Iraq, petty humiliations and ever-changing messages are not the best way to start things off!

Posted by: Keith at October 27, 2003 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

This strikes me as the same old same old that initiated and then prolonged American involvement in Vietnam .
Patriotism is love of country.
Nationalism is devotion to national interest.
What happens when the perception of what is in the national interest is wrong, as Iraqmire well may be, and is acted on?
A reckless policy with damaging and unforeseen consequences occurs.
Patriotism, in and of itself a noble trait, prevents a rational appraisal of the danger arising from the flawed national goal. It drags on and on.
As Lester Phearson, Nobel prize winner, said to JFK,in 1962, when he asked what to do about Vietnam....GET OUT
Take all the emotion out of it, then look for other ways to stabilize the region. 130,000 troops in Iraq make as much sense as 241 marines in Beiruit.
I say, split the country three ways, keep Turkey away from the Kurds and Iran from the Shiah, and contain from the perimeter like we were before George and the morons started this shitstorm. They can drift towards being natural client states when things cool down. Make it a NATO operation, do what we have to to buy off the Russians. I suspect the French and Germans will go along. I think it's better than what we have.

Posted by: PeteyPuck at October 28, 2003 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

"From what I know of history, it seems wrong to say that Japan and Germany had democratic institutions."

No surprise you're onboard this noble neocon mission then.

Here's some more history for you:

http://www.msnbc.com/news/1639839.jpg

Posted by: Troy at October 28, 2003 05:06 AM | PERMALINK

Keith,

Thanks for a reasoned argument. The idea, however, that Japan was anything resembling a true democracy is silly. Tojo was chosen to lead the country by the emperor, and it was the military (not elected leaders) who called the shots.

You might as well claim that Iraq under Saddam was a democracy:

http://www.1upinfo.com/country-guide-study/iraq/iraq68.html

The country had a "national assembly" after all, and even Saddam was democratically elected. In fact, in the last election, Saddam got 100% of the vote.

What's the difference?

I'm also amazed that you consider Iraq "less industrialized" than pre-war Japan and Germany. Iraq is highly industrialized compared to other Arab countries. It has many factories and a large base of oil to spur future industry. Technologically, the country is vastly ahead of postwar Japan and Germany, because of the availability of computers, etc.

Anyway, how factories are supposed to ensure democracy is beyond me, but there is one thing that I do know, and that is there is much wider access to information in Iraq now than there was in Germany and Japan.

Scores of independent newspapers, satellite TV, independent radio stations, and newly-open internet cafes in Iraq give their population the ability to discuss issues and compare candidates in ways that were impossible in Germany and Japan. The people of Baghdad have mobile phones and many more means of communication than those in Germany and Japan did.

Perhaps education is a key to democratic development, especially literacy. I'll buy that as a reason for the failure of democracy in many places of the world. Haiti, for example, had in 1982 only educated 8% of its population above what we would call elementary school, and 65% had no education at all. No wonder that we've had such difficutly establishing democracy there. In Iraq, by contrast, is a largely literate and educated society -- a natural home for democratic thought.

I was wrong to imply that Sovok was necessarily a racist, but many liberals are when they insist that democracy "can't" succeed in Iraq. It's the same racism as when liberals say that we need to make affirmative action policies permanent. It's "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Posted by: Ryan Booth at October 28, 2003 06:46 AM | PERMALINK

I'm also amazed that you consider Iraq "less industrialized" than pre-war Japan and Germany. Iraq is highly industrialized compared to other Arab countries.

I don't have the figures on me right now, but pre-WWII Germany wasn't just highly industrialized compared to its neighbours, it was perhaps one of the most highly industrialized nations in the -world-. [Depends on exactly how one measures industrialization, of course.] I don't think Iraq, even at its pinnacle, could say the same.

Two further remarks to illuminate my ignorance seem in order:

* I think the point is stronger w.r.t. Japan and Iraq, but I don't know enough about Japan's pre-WWII industrial base (or the specifics of the Co-Prosperity Sphere) to say. My hazy recollection is that Japan's industrial base was quite strong but Japan lacked resources, hence the CPS; can anyone with actual knowledge of such matters fill in the blanks here?

* While it's true that Iraq possesses factories and computers that presumably dwarf the German industrial might prior to WWII in raw output, it's not clear to me whether the theory mentioned above posits an absolutely strong or a relatively strong industrialization as a prerequisite for a flourishing democracy. That is, is it necessary for Iraq to have sufficient industrialization to provide the necessities of its citizens -- absolutely strong -- or is it necessary for Iraq to be able to compete effectively in the global marketplace -- relatively strong?

Nice to see a good debate breaking out after the hockey fight. It's so often the other way around ;)

Posted by: Anarch at October 28, 2003 07:26 AM | PERMALINK

I was wrong to imply that Sovok was necessarily a racist, but many liberals are when they insist that democracy "can't" succeed in Iraq. It's the same racism as when liberals say that we need to make affirmative action policies permanent. It's "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Is that racist or something more ephemeral like "culturalist"? I don't recall any on the left saying that democracy can't succeed in the (specifically) Arabic world, which would be the logical extension of a truly "racist" viewpoint.

One could argue, for example -- with what success I do not know -- that modern Islam and democracy are fundamentally incompatible, but that doesn't seem like racism as one would be describing a clash between social structures and not the inadequacy of a racial type. If it were constructed carefully enough, I can even imagine such an argument not being bigoted; the key would be to evaluate the compatibility of the two as social structures without applying a moral valuation to one or the other.

I know it's a semantic point, but given the power of the words "racist" and "bigot" I think we should be careful in their use. YMMV.

Posted by: Anarch at October 28, 2003 07:39 AM | PERMALINK

Ryan, there is certainly a time and a place for oversimplification, but claiming that pre-ww ii japan was just like iraq under saddam with respect to freedom and democracy isn't one of those.

Anarch, i think the real issue with respect to the "racist" claim is this: we fought a war over wmds. we couldn't find wmds. suddenly, the right no longer cared about wmds, it cared about bringing democracy to iraq. people who questioned this program and the ability of noted "nation-building" haters like the backbone administration to "bring" democracy to iraq, especially by september '03 (by which time, recall, we were supposed to be down to 30K troops), were suddenly labelled "racists" by the usual band of enablers on the right who have replaced honest conservatives.

It's not meant to be a serious claim; it's meant to drown out honest discussion.

Posted by: howard at October 28, 2003 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Keith really is an expert on Japan -- we have corresponded via email -- but I respectfully disagree with him regarding the strength of prewar Japanese and German democratic institutions.

Germany basically had 14 years of chaotic, depression-era democracy followed by Hitler.

Hitler was elected, and then essentially did away with all German democratic institutions. For example, all religious and civil institutions publicly subordinated themselves to Hitler personally. The History channel shows old newsreels of this every so often. You see the bishop of some Protestant church (don't remember which one, but it was one of the major denominations, like the Lutherans) in full priestly regalia, , getting on his knees, kissing Hitler's hand, and declaring how *honored* the Church is to subordinate itself to the glorious Fueher. This kind of thing just doesn't happen in a true democracy. It would never happen here. Even a politicized religious leader like Jerry Falwell would never get on his knees before any President.

The Chief Justice of the German supreme court decalred in the late 30's that the chief source of all German law was not the Constiution, not the legislative history of the Reichstag, not thousnads of years of common-law precedent -- but the will of the Fueher. I am a lawyer, and I can tell you that hell will freeze over before the courts ever declare that all American law flows from "the will of the President."

Naturally, the Gestapo and SS didn't respect basic civil rights.

For these reasons, it is hard to say that Germany had a legitimate democracy prior to WWII.

Japan is a little bit tougher. The parlimentary process did continue throughout the war, and there was no single dictator.

However, the thing to remember about Japan is the astonishing speed with which it was transformed as a country. In 1868, Japan was a feudal, agraian society. When Commodore Perry sailed his gunboats into Tokyo Bay, Japan was essentially a modern version of mideaval Europe, one unified under a central monarch, the Shogun.

The samurai and merchant elites realized that the rest of the world world had passed them by, so they deliberately began to modernize the country. They began sending scientists and military officers to foreign schools for training, and invested in industries like steel. In just a few decades, they had transformed Japan's economy.

But it took them longer to transform the society. One of the many reforms imposed by the samurai and the merchants was a democratic form of government. It was successful for a little while, but it didn't take long before it was hijacked by the military.

The Imperial Army and Navy were tremendously influential in Japanese politics, in much the same way that the Turkish army is influential in today's Turkish politics, or the Nicaraguan army is influential in Nicaraguan politics. Elections were tolerated, as was some dissent, but the army was always waiting in the wings.

During the 1930's, the Japanaese government was riddled by a series of corruption scandals. The Japanese street became dissatisifed with democracy -- which, remember, they had only experienced for 10 or 15 years. Also remember that democracy was imposed on Japan by the samurai and merchants, who assumed that it was more "modern" than the traditional Japanese feudal government. It was not the product of a popular uprising. Also, Japanese democracy only flourished duing a period of rapid and dramatic eocnomic growth. Once the Great Depression hit, it disappeared within a few years. Contrast this to our democracy, which survived the Great Depression unscathed.

Anyway, the Japanese street began looking to the army as the incorruptable, unselfish "saviors" of Japan. They thought that the Army would clean up the corruption and bring Japan back to its "roots." At about the same time, a group of radical young military officers known as the "ultra nationalists" began assassinating politicians. The Japanese invaded Manchuria shortly thereafter. All of this led to a dramatically increased role for the military in civil affairs. During the 1930's and 40's, the military essentially controlled the Japanese government. It wasn't a true democracy any more; elections were still held, but all real power rested in the hands of the military. For instance, there was no parlimentary declaration of war on the US; the decision was made by the military officers who controlled the cabinet.

Suppose that the office of President of the United Staes is an appointed position. The President, and 9/10ths of all Cabinet officials, are military officers. A few years ago, several prominent congressman who dared to speak out against the increasing military domination of the government were assassinated by military officers and their sympathizers. Today there are even more military officers in the governemnt. This was the state of the Japanese prewar "democracy" in the 30's and 40's.

Anyway, I don't think it's fair to characterize the prewar Japanese and German governments as true, vibrant "democracies." They were at best weak, central-American style democracies which crumbled at the first sign of adversity and a charasmatic group of militarists.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 28, 2003 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Joe Schmoe: Keith knows better than I do, but because it's important for purposes of my broader argument, i still say he's wrong.

Shorter Howard: Joe, what does anything in your entire posting have to do with the question of the ease of transitiong to a democracy at least as legitimate as Turkey's?

Posted by: howard at October 28, 2003 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Howard, man, you're killing me on this thread.

First you give the thumbs down to my theory of "latent anti-Americanism." (Do you really think that it is that bad, by the way? I am very proud of it.) Then my knowledge of prewar Japanese and German history doesn't measure up.

What I was trying to say is that the argument that Iraq isn't like Germany and Japan, becuase Germany and Japan had democracies in the prewar era, isn't terribly compelling. Yes, Germany and Japan they had democractic forms of goverment, but they were incredibly weak. They blew away in the first strong wind.

For this reason, I think that there is hope for an Iraqi democarcy. There is no democratic traditon there, but it's not as if Japan and Germany were libertarian paradises in the prewar era, either.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 28, 2003 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Well, joe, ol' buddy, let me put it this way: i too believe that iraq, like every other country, has the potential to be a rule-of-law driven, market-based, democracy.

Unlike you, though, i'm far from convinced that the way we're going at it is going to get us there.

As for your theory of latent anti-americanism, ok, let me be fairer (since you worked so hard on it). I think it's too easy to assume that the reason people disagree with american policy is because they don't like america. in fact, often those of us who most feel the pain of what we regard as misguided policies do so because we hold america to the highest standards, not because we hate america.

Now, does that mean that there is no such thing as an american who hates his or her country on some level and therefore criticizes as a result? Probably, but i regard this as a relatively tiny percentage of the critics of iraqi policy and not worthy of much attention.

So, in short, yes, your theory probably does apply to some folks, but we're better off focussing on what people really say or do, not on what we imagine their motivations are....

Posted by: howard at October 28, 2003 01:46 PM | PERMALINK

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This is actually a true story. Only the names and titles have been changed to protect my ass from the FBI.

Posted by: Sergeantmajor at October 28, 2003 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

Hitler was elected

No, he was appointed by Hindenburg.

then essentially did away with all German democratic institutions

Weimar-era Germany was the scene of a rather intense cultural war -- true leftists vs. true rightists. Democracy cannot survive such radicalization.

This kind of thing just doesn't happen in a true democracy.

Of course not. The Axis nations went off the rails prior to the start of hostilities.

It would never happen here. Even a politicized religious leader like Jerry Falwell would never get on his knees before any President.

Sure he would. The 20's and 30's were no picnic; bring in national disaster and Christian Reconstruction, and viola!

Contrast this to our democracy, which survived the Great Depression unscathed

You have a funny set of history books.

Suppose that the office of President of the United States is an appointed position

:)

For this reason, I think that there is hope for an Iraqi democarcy. There is no democratic traditon there, but it's not as if Japan and Germany were libertarian paradises in the prewar era, either

"Democracy" cannot survive in an unsafe / revolutionary / radicalized environment. cf. the frickin' entire 20th century for particular examples.

Posted by: Troy at October 28, 2003 02:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Contrast this to our democracy, which survived the Great Depression unscathed....You have a funny set of history books."

Well, Troy, looks like we are going to agree to disagree on this one.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at October 28, 2003 03:05 PM | PERMALINK

Schmoe, historical comparisons only make sense when the similarities outweigh the differences. The only similarity between Iraq and Germany is that they both lived under a ruthless dictator for a while, and even that one isn't very helpful. While it is true that democracy wasn't really in the "hearts and minds" of most Germans before Hitler, this assertion ignores the fact that since 1848 there has been a constant battle between progressive and conservative forces in German history. The currently ruling Social Democratic Party traces back its roots to the year 1863, when Ferdinand Lassalle founded the German Workers Association, promoting workers rights, civil liberties and democratization. There is a long tradition of democratic thought and progressive political action in Germany well before 1949 and while these forces had only limited success it helped shape the post-WWII democracy both institutionally and ideologically. There is nothing comparable in Iraqi history. Furthermore religious conflicts, which will be one of the main problems facing an Iraqi state, played only a minor role in modern German history and were of no importance after WW2. Needless to say that Germany never had to face the ethnic divisions, which will be another potential stumbling block for a new Iraq.

As one can easily see, the comparison to Germany is useless and silly. I wish the Iraqis all the bestn but they are facing a very different set of problems.

Posted by: novakant at October 28, 2003 04:13 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Schmoe:

I'll defer to you on Germany. It's been a while since I read up on that country in the 1930s, and it's not important enough to my argument to trudge through old notes. I'll point out, however, that you've got a few things not quite right on Japan.

It's true that democracy was relatively recent in that country, but not true that it was only 10 or 15 years old. The Meiji Constitution was passed in 1890, prefectural assemblies were selected by popular vote before that, and everyday folks were experimenting with constitution-writing in the 1860s. By the time the military began its end-run around the parliament, the country had:
(1 )70 years of familiarity with democracy on the level of "I've thought about it, but havent' participated much,"
(2) more than 50 years of voting experience, and
(3) almost 50 years under a constitution with well-established political parties a democratically elected legislature and a central government that was dominated by the legislative branch.
(4) maintained democratic institutions through major wars with China and Russia, World War I, and the Great Depression, which was relatively short-lived in Japan.

That experience with democracy before World War II was not trivial, and it was the base on which the U.S. Occupation authorities laid their plans to reconstruct and democratize the country after the war ended. It's also worth pointing out that planning for the occupation began less than a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which means that people had been discussing it for something like 2 1/2 years by the time Japan surrendered.

Compare that with Iraq: no real experience with democratic institutions, and an occupation that seems to have been slapped together, rather than carefully planned. Why should we then expect that an occupation of Iraq can be successfully concluded in less time than the U.S. occupied Japan -- 6 1/2 years.

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