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Me: Frank Lynch

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Monday, September 20, 2004:

Prove to me that this is an honest mistake. The AP is reporting that in his campaign speeches, Bush has been mixing up the names of two terrorists, calling on the ghost of Leon Klinghoffer to essentially make Saddam Hussein look even worse.

Shades of 2000: Bush continues to makes these "endearing" slip-ups (they point out he's made this specific error several times, and that it's in the written copy of his stump speech). And because it's assumed he's of lower intelligence, it's assumed it just can't be deliberate. Prove it, I say.

Why does Bush make this "slip"? Because there's mileage from it, is why. Klinghoffer's death is evocative, and Bush wants to use it the same way he wants to use 9/11 at every possible step. If it's written into his speech, it's not a slip up like "nucular." This is a planned error, plain and simple. (Don't forget his repeated efforts to foist the deficit off on some legendary trifecta remark.) Disgusting and cynical: this is a horrible use of a man's murder.

UPDATE: Partial screw up on my part: the planner of the hijacking which led to Klinghoffer's death, Abul Abbas, was in Baghdad when US forces moved in. So Bush is only screwing up the names of the two. But still, he is more than happy to leverage Klinghoffer's death for his own gains. According to this article, in 1998 "Israeli Atorney Gneral Elyakim Rubinstein said Abbas did not pose a threat to Israeli security and that it would be unreasonable to prosecute him for acts committed before 1993."
Link 8:57 PM Home

Can't make it through a transcript of the Kerry speech? I'm not sure why that would be, but if you want, William Saletan has a drill-down.
Link 8:28 PM Home

Inside the minds of the wing-nuts. You might have heard there were some hurricanes recently, causing devastation in the Caribbean? Last week Teresa Heinz Kerry visited a neighborhood near here, one full of immigrants from the region. First, read how it got written up by the AP (and printed as such in many newspapers); pay special attention to what Ms. Heinz-Kerry says...

Now, that second paragraph — the one where she recommended prioritizing donations, leaning away from clothes (it's warm in the Caribbean), and towards water, electricity, and food? Oh boy, the radical right wing bloggers had a field day with that. Frequently omitting the second portion of the quotation in order to focus on "let them go naked," she was heartlessly compared to all sorts of things, including Marie Antoinette. (Which is really silly, because in Antoinette's formulation of "let them eat cake" she was ignoring providing essentials, nothing like what went on in Heinz Kerry's quotation: she most assuredly was not ignoring essentials.)

Anyway, here's a round up of bloggery at its finest...

And so on... I never saw any instances where there was any informed discussion about her point: that priorities need to be set, and that in the Caribbean, where it's not exactly snowing, perhaps clothing wasn't as important as water, electricity, and food. Is she that off-base? Well, here's the word from Oxfam Caribbean humanitarian co-ordinator Marilise Turnbull: "The first thing will be getting fresh water, and there will also be a massive need for blankets and shelter materials." No mention of clothing. Others in that article mention clothing, but...

[T]he Jamaican High Commission in London urged donors to wait until a national damage assessment was made, and to refrain from making material donations until the commission announced what type of assistance was needed.

"The High Commission requests that Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica do not send any material donations until advised of our needs," a spokeswoman said.

So maybe Heinz Kerry understood the needs better than all these well-informed, rabid bloggers, who are so interested in scoring points that they can't recognize sense? Go figure.

UPDATE: An interesting thought occurred to me: Ms. Heinz-Kerry actually reported to do public service; she helped. The right wing bloggers who got on her case probably did far less, and all they do is snipe at her, much like they snipe at someone who reported for duty in Vietnam. It's sad, really.
Link 6:26 PM Home

Kerry on Iraq: "A profound diversion from the war" on terror. That was his ringing indictment of the failures of the Bush administration today at NYU. It's really a wonderful speech, hitting a lot of themes...

  • the burdens our troops bear and how we must support them;
  • our need to leverage all of our assets world wide in stopping the spread of terrorism;
  • the deteriorating situation in Iraq;
  • and the series of mistakes made by Bush and his administration in getting us into Iraq in the first place, plus those afterwards which have worsened the situation.

Ultimately, Kerry holds Bush accountable, not for a lack of foresight but a failure to use available judgment:

Two years ago, Congress was right to give the president the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This president, any president, would have needed that threat of force to act effectively. This president misused that authority.

The power entrusted to the president purposefully gave him a strong hand to play in the international community. The idea was simple: We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and we would convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam, disarm or be disarmed.

A month before the war, President Bush told the nation, If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side and we will prevail.

Instead, the president rushed to war, without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work. He went purposefully, by choice, without a broad and deep coalition of allies. He acted by choice, without making sure that our troops even had enough body armor. And he plunged ahead by choice, without understanding or preparing for the consequences of postwar. None of which I would have done.

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again the same way.

How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying to America that if we know there was no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq?

My answer: resoundingly, no, because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.

It's a powerful speech, do go and read it.
Link 4:53 PM Home

"This is the incompetence of this administration." (Why does Republican Senator Richard Lugar hate America?) Many of the problems in Iraq are some of our own doing, including under-spending the money for reconstruction that's been allocated. Senators from both sides of the aisle are calling for a re-think... "This has been incompetence so far," said Joe Biden; and Richard Lugar said, "This is the incompetence in the administration."

I can't help but imagine that it's costing American lives, too.
Link 3:02 PM

CBS no longer stands behind their documents. Here. But don't forget the rest of the story, it's substantial.
Link 12:47 PM Home

Promote the qualified. Unless they gave to the Democrats: the White House is blocking a recommended promotion for just that reason:

Bush administration officials say Zucker's ascent at HHS has been halted because he donated $2,000 to the Democratic National Committee in October, 2000.

Sources say HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson wants to name Zucker, 45, as one of his top deputy secretaries of health. But the White House has refused to approve the appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation. An HHS source said Zucker's promotion has been on hold for over a year.

This is not the first time the White House has placed a top healthcare-post nominee on hold because of political contributions.

In 2001, the White House temporarily delayed Tom Scully's nomination to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services because he contributed to Democrats as well as Republicans.

A uniter, not a divider. You'll recall that it was this kind of retribution by the White House which cause then-Republican senator Jim Jeffords to change his party affiliation to Independent, and cost the GOP the majority in the Senate. Has the White House learned? Not about right and wrong, of course, that's hopeless, but about backlash? Let's get this out...
Link 11:07 AM Home

Is the Ethics Panel investigation of Tom Delay about to be dismissed? The official word is that no conclusions have been reached, but some insiders say otherwise.

The lawmakers rejected reports that they disagree or have become deadlocked on how to proceed with the ethics complaint, which was filed in June by Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas).

It is understood, however, that the committee is moving toward dismissing he complaint but that Mollohan needs more time to rally his fellow Democrats to line up behind an outcome favorable to DeLay.

Cross your fingers.
Link 10:59 AM Home

How paranoid is it to imagine that Republicans might be behind the forged documents?

  • The White House didn't question the content of the memos' authenticity. (In this press gaggle, McClellan neither accepts nor denies their authenticity, but does say that "the documents do not change the facts." Bush has said he received no preferential treatment, yet the documents said he did. Why wouldn't he have contradicted the documents if they were untrue?)
  • Symptoms that the documents were forged were discovered quickly after the broadcast by an Atlanta Republican. When asked by the LA Times how he was able to work so quickly (within hours) — the White House only got its copies when the CBS segment went on the air, and they weren't available elsewhere beforehand — he refused questions. (More here.)
  • Karl Rove, the White House political overseer, uncovered an electronic listening device in his office when he worked on a 1986 gubernatorial campaign in Texas just days before a major debate. It cast a pall over the opposition, and no perpetrator has ever been found; Rove has been widely suspected of planting the device himself in order to cast suspicions on his campaign. (Molly Ivins has a lovely profile of the Rovester here, including his weaselly testimony on his political behavior.)
  • And to reiterate a question I've asked before, who benefits from documents whose authenticity is so easily questioned? Who would bother trying to pass them off?

Paranoid? We reserve judgment.
Link 9:52 AM Home

How stupid does it get? CBS says their anonymous source on the Bush memos received them in the mail:

Yesterday, Emily J. Will, a document specialist who inspected the records for CBS News and said last week that she had raised concerns about their authenticity with CBS News producers, confirmed a report in Newsweek that a producer had told her that the source of the documents said they had been obtained anonymously and through the mail.

In an interview last night she declined to name the producer who told her this but said the producer was in a position to know. CBS News officials have disputed her contention that she warned the network the night before the initial "60 Minutes'' report that it would face questions from documents experts.

Not saying it's so, but it certainly increases the possibility that these docs were a Republican plant. If you haven't read it yet, make sure you read this post about the Republican heavyweight who raised key questions about the docs within hours after CBS aired its report; how did he know so quickly?
Link 8:59 AM Home

Sunday, September 19, 2004:

Stupid. How CBS handled the Texas Air National Guard documents story, after talking to White House communications director Dan Bartlett:

White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to "60 Minutes," but only on condition that the CBS program provide copies of what were being billed as newly unearthed memos indicating that President Bush had received preferential treatment in the National Guard. The papers were hand-delivered at 7:45 a.m. CBS correspondent John Roberts, filling in for Rather, sat down with Bartlett at 11:15.

Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.

At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."

Stupid, stupid, stooopid. But why didn't the White House challenge the authenticity? Was the content true? Were they part of some sting? What's up with that? Bartlett said he didn't have "enough time" to challenge their authenticity, but why didn't he say so? Why couldn't he have called Bush on this? (Word has it that he's paying a lot of attention to the campaign...

One other thing: some of the warnings to CBS amount to "if you break it, you own it." Ownership is an important concept.
Link 8:23 PM Home

Seeing the Trashcan Sinatras last night here in New York City was a lot of fun, and if they're coming to your area I strongly recommend you check them out. They've been around about 15 years, and they have a strong repertoire of well-crafted, well-written pop songs that never (or rarely) creep into sentimentality. They also have the occasional hard rock tune to bring down the rafters. Their songs are so original sounding, and so interesting in their melodies (except for one that sounds too much like Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" for my tastes) that your big question will be, "why aren't these guys more popular?" Their singer Frank Reader is an evocative pop singer, with a lot of soul; the guitarists know their instruments well and get a wide variety of sounds out of them; the drummer uses sticks and brushes to great effect; their bass player lays down a firm bottom; and for a couple of numbers there are wonderful three part harmonies.

One of my few reservations — which won't apply to most of you, since I presume you don't have their CDs — is that they recreate their records a bit too faithfully, not having anyone who can really solo. All the musicians do what they do well, but no one seems capable of stretching a song into a new space. (My only other reservation has to do with stage craft: they don't have that many hard rock songs, and they ordered the set in such a way that rockers didn't follow each other and there was a loss of momentum.)

Early in the show they dedicated a new song, "It's A Miracle," to Ralph Nader. It confused some, and drew hisses from others. The song recognizes futility, and also the romantic nostalgia of trying; to me, the narrator in the song recognizes his own toying with the past:

And I hear your name
Calling me back through the days
You're a rare old flame, burning bright again
All those things that we shared matter now
I just can't say goodby
Do I have to try?

Honey, it's no crime to lose your way
Everyone in their turn gets to fail.

Just a couple more bits for housekeeping. They played about a 90-minute show; Roddy Hart opened (and did sideman duty later with the TCS), and his songs were interesting, he had great ideas for his music and lyrics, and used his voice well, successfully breaking into a smooth falsetto here and there.
Link 10:36 AM Home

Saturday, September 18, 2004:

The remnants of Ivan came through the area last night, flooding the subways and splitting an oak in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Half of the tree still stands, and as far as I could tell the damage in the garden otherwise was pretty minor. But up and down Flatbush there were branches laying at the base of trees. I was glad that the damage wasn't worse, of course, and know full well the damage it had done elsewhere.
Link 4:01 PM Home

Today is Samuel Johnson's birthday, a day of great significance to me. You may know him for his Dictionary, a great poem or two, or for his essays, but an integrated view shows him to be a truly compassionate man. Conservatives would like to think of him as "theirs," but that couldn't be further from the truth; if you click through to this page you can read a summary I drew together showing both his conservative and liberal perspectives. By all rights he was a well-rounded moderate, and knew the value of moderating your reactions according to the severity of the issue. (However, he did write some political pamphlets in the 1770's which are noteworthy for their vitriolic invective.) He was also a great arguer for perseverance, and had strong views on the value of patriotism. The home page to my Samuel Johnson web site is here; go feast.
Link 12:16 PM Home

Republican benefits from forged CBS documents? That was something I hypothesized last week, because you'd have to wonder why anyone would float documents which could be uncovered as forgeries so easily. The thought being that the label "forgery" would wash away all sorts of more legitimate questions about Bush's service. In an article on someone suspected of being CBS's source for the documents, the Washington Post writes:

In another development, the Los Angeles Times reported that an Atlanta lawyer with conservative Republican connections posted the first Web log entry questioning the authenticity of the CBS documents less than four hours after the initial broadcast on "60 Minutes." The paper identified Harry W. MacDougald as the "Buckhead," who became a hero of conservative Web sites after pointing out technical problems with the documents, such as fonts and proportionate spacing.

MacDougald declined to say how he learned about the problems with the documents so early. In addition to being released by CBS, copies of the documents were e-mailed by the White House to reporters as "60 Minutes" went on the air.

How modest! The LA Times article is here. In it, the Times writes,

Reached by telephone Friday, MacDougald, 46, confirmed that he was Buckhead but declined to answer questions about his political background or how he learned so much about the CBS documents so quickly.

"You can ask the questions, but I'm not going to answer them," he said. "I'm just going to stick to doing no interviews."

Until The Times identified him by piecing together information from his postings over the last two years, MacDougald had taken pains to remain in the shadows — saying the credit for challenging CBS should remain with the blogosphere as a whole and not one individual.

"Freepers collectively possess more analytical horsepower than the entire news division at CBS," he wrote in an e-mail, using the slang term for users of the site.

MacDougald is a lawyer in the Atlanta office of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice and is affiliated with two prominent conservative legal groups: the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, where he serves on the legal advisory board.

The foundation, created in 1976, advocates "limited government, individual economic freedom and the free-enterprise system," according to its website.

Is it fair or wild to accuse the Republicans of planting these documents? Of course it is: McClellan accused the Democrats of doing so first. Why would anyone try to pass off documents which seem such transparent forgeries unless the point was to question all the questioning?
Link 12:00 PM Home

Friday, September 17, 2004:

Looks like Nader's on the Florida ballot.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that maverick politician Ralph Nader can be on ballot papers in the November US presidential election.

The decision is regarded as a blow to Democratic Party candidate John Kerry.

In the 2000 election Mr Nader attracted enough left-leaning voters in Florida - a key swing state - to cost the Democrats the presidency, analysts say.

The Democratic Party unsuccessfully argued that Mr Nader's Reform Party was not a genuine national organisation.

The Florida Supreme Court said it was not clear what constituted a national party, and that therefore it could not bar Mr Nader from running in the state.

All the idealists in Florida — somehow they are going to have to learn that their ideals are destructive for the next four years. Can they really think that the small hope of long term change outweighs another Bush term? Don't they realize that he's not on the ballot to promote change, but to promote Bush?
Link 9:26 PM Home

If it's Friday, it must be time for another post-network-news-deadline file dump. More Bush National Guard files. Nothing overwhelmingly significant, just pointing it out. It deals with his early service in Texas, which by most reports was admirable; not to be confused with his failure to take a physical, losing flyer status, suggestions of later absences in Alabama, and failure to report in Massachusetts.
Link 7:01 PM Home

Maybe they woke up, maybe it's newfound election year sensibility, but ...

In a significant shift, leading Republicans in Congress are seeking to overhaul the way the federal government distributes antiterrorism aid, with an eye toward establishing a system that gives more money to New York City and other localities considered at higher risk of terrorist attack.

The changes being contemplated seek to address mounting criticism that members of Congress have been so intent on grabbing shares of security money for their own districts that not enough is left for New York City and other municipalities where the threat is believed to be greatest.

The most recent - and potentially embarrassing - round of criticism came from members of the 9/11 commission, who issued a report in July that, among other things, pointedly called on Congress to begin distributing antiterrorism money on the basis of threat and risk, not pork-barrel politics.

Thank God some sense has arrived, whatever the motivation. (If you were reading here a couple weeks ago, this was one of the many areas I cited where Bush was risking disaster in the war on terror. Yes, let's now write a stupid entry on the power of blogs.)
Link 4:48 PM Home

A laugher. A Miami Herald article about the battles to get Nader back on the Florida ballot under the Reform party (yes, it's going to the Florida Supreme Court) includes this:

Republicans cursed the Reform Party after Buchanan drew crucial votes from Bush in 2000, as they had done after Perot did the same to Bush's father in 1992. Now they argue that Nader deserves the same access to the ballot that the GOP's adversaries had.

"Republicans didn't use every possible tactic to get Ross Perot off the ballot or Pat Buchanan off the ballot," Jeb Bush said Thursday.

Miami Herald writer Mary Ellen Klas is awake to the irony there: if Buchanan had not been on the 2000 ballot, Gore might well have taken Florida, and be President now.

The long list of presidential candidates in 2000 spawned the complicated butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County that had thousands of voters accidentally voting for Buchanan instead of Gore and triggered the 36-day legal battle that had the presidency in limbo.

I don't detect any smirks on her part... must be a pro.
Link 9:39 AM Home

In a race this close, it could be the difference. Via the folks who bring you the Current Electoral College Vote Predictor, I read a Jimmy Breslin column which questioned the validity of telephone polls because the sample is all drawn from land-line telephone numbers, and excludes those who have a cell phone but no land-line. There's a feeling that these people skew younger and are more likely to vote Democratic, which would then call into question current projections. But I think Breslin repeatedly overstates the case when he keeps citing a figure of 169 million cell phones: this is all the US cell-phones, apparently, and includes those who have land-lines as well as those who have a cell-phone for business purposes.

It's a valid point to raise, and the polling industry should find a way to address it, but Breslin wants to throw the baby out with the bath water and call all the polls invalid. In a race this close it could make a difference, but I don't think it should call into question, say, the polling results in a deeply red or deeply blue state.

UPDATE: It's probably not a big issue this year, if this article is correct:

Between 3 percent and 6 percent of cell phone users (five to 10 million people) do not have land lines, according to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. That's well within a poll's margin of error.

It's wrong to compare that to "margin of error," which is due to randomness of data and not sample design. But it's still going to be pretty small, and not all of them are going to vote one party or another. The 5-10 million aren't all registered voters living in swing states. Even if it went 75-25, the impact is going to be very slim.
Link 9:27 AM Home

More needed from journalists... Knight-Ridder does a reasonable job on the he said she said surrounding health care programs, but needs to weigh in and say what the truth is, even if it's yet to be determined.

Here's an example of the to-ing and fro-ing:

"A recent study showed that the plan would cause 8 million low-to-moderate-income workers to lose private health coverage they currently get at work and be placed on Medicaid," the president said. "Now, here's the problem with that: Medicaid is a government program. And when the government is in charge, bureaucrats make the decisions, deciding what doctors you can see and what health services are covered."

Kerry campaign officials say Bush is falsely portraying the senator's plan as something akin to the Clinton administration's 1993-94 attempt to reshape the nation's health-care system.

"We've seen a series of misleading events on health care," said Sarah Bianchi, the Kerry campaign's policy director. "They don't have a plan to deal with health care."

When will the media stop acting as if they are a mere channel for the campaigns to talk to the public?
Link 9:15 AM Home

Thursday, September 16, 2004:

The sanctions against Iraq were working. A draft report of the Iraq Survey Group — the agency charged with understanding the state of WMDs in Iraq — sounds like it will say that Saddam Hussein had the desire and intention of manufacturing WMDs (perhaps only in small quantities for the purpose of assassinations), but that international trade sanctions made it impossible for him to fulfill those intentions. No one will be surprised by this, but the implications will be drawn differently by different groups. For me, it reiterates the idea that our invasion was not necessary, nor did it stop him from making WMDs (he wasn't making them anyway!) which supports the Catholic Church position that it was not a just war. And so far as I know no one was talking about lifting the sanctions. I'm sure that had that question arisen there would have been all sorts of hoops for Iraq to jump through.
Link 10:55 PM Home

Bush wants to show our enemies his hand during times of international crisis. Here's what he said today on the campaign trail:

So yesterday in a radio interview he tried to clear things up, and here's what he said: He said there were no circumstances, none, under which we should have gone to war, although his own vote to go to war was the right vote and it was right to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. (Laughter.) Even the radio host said, I can't tell you what he said. (Laughter.)

Let me be clear about something: Mixed signals are the wrong signals to send to our troops in the field -- (applause) -- the Iraqi people, our allies, and most of all, the enemy. (Applause.)

First, he's over-simplified Kerry's position again for the sake of sounding clever (Kerry voted to authorize force so that Bush would have adequate leverage in getting the UN to force inspectors back in — as a feint, but not to botch it up as badly as Bush has). But as for sending mixed signals? Presidents do it all the time; you know the standard line, "I want to keep all my options open, I don't want to take anything off the table," all the while working for a peaceful solution. This is how you maintain your bargaining advantage, by being non-committal. And what did he think he was doing in 2002, by saying "there are no war plans on my desk?" when he'd already seen presentations from Tommy Franks? What signals did he think he was sending the enemy then?
Link 10:40 PM Home

Hopelessly splitting hairs. UN Secretary General Koffi Annan told the BBC that the US-led invasion of Iraq was illegal, and violated the UN charter. I'm sure you won't be surprised that Bush disagrees with that characterization:

President Bush himself has not directly responded to Mr Annan's comments.

But while campaigning in Minnesota for November's presidential election, he reiterated the US position that Security Council resolution 1441, passed in November 2002, gave the invasion legal force.

"The United Nations looked at the same intelligence I looked at," AFP news agency quoted Mr Bush as saying. "They concluded Saddam Hussein was a threat. They voted by 15-0 in the UN Security Council for Saddam Hussein to disclose, disarm or face serious consequences."

Some problems with that defense:

  • There was a vote on 1441, but there was not a vote on force. In fact, while Bush had told the world that there would be a vote on the use of force, the US withdrew a resolution for the use of force when it became clear that there were not enough votes in the security council to support the US position. Logically, the US knew the UN was against the US on invading Iraq.
  • An additional point which demonstrates the UN's disapproval was how the US threatened that the UN would become irrelevant if it refused to proceed with a Security Council vote in favor of force. The US knew it did not have UN approval.
  • If the UN had concluded that Saddam Hussein was a threat in prior resolutions, it had not done so in the spring of 2003. UN inspectors had not found any large weapons stockpiles which would merit war, and had not recommended that the Security Council vote for the use of force.

For Bush to suggest otherwise is, uh, disingenuous retro-fitting of the information.
Link 10:26 PM Home

I would be perfectly happy if this election came down to an examination of what's happened in the last four years. If Reagan could successfully ask Americans "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" and have that considered acceptable, then the same approach should be perfectly acceptable now. I thought about this when I read, with fear and disgust, that the latest assessment of Iraq from the CIA has scenarios which run from dark to darker.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 — A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday.

The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms.

"There's a significant amount of pessimism," said one government official who has read the document, which runs about 50 pages. The officials declined to discuss the key judgments — concise, carefully written statements of intelligence analysts' conclusions — included in the document.

When we contrast that with what Iraq was supposed to be — a beacon of democracy's promise for the region — well, you just want ask why we're spending $200 billion on this project and have already spent more than a thousand US lives. (And it helps sometimes to think about who those thousand were: you can't easily compare the value of one life to another, but many of these were young people who had 40, 50 years of life ahead of them: children, grandchildren, love and happiness, along with strife and tension and all the richness that life entails. And they were a group that believed in this country enough that they accepted the responsibilities of enlisting.)

Remember when Andrew Natsios (of USAID) was on ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel, and said the entire cost was going to amount to $1.7 billion? Remember that? USAID is a federal government agency, not some crackpot think tank; they are supposed to be working for us. We could go on and on about how wrong the $1.7 bn. figure was (I don't know how you do the grossness of that inaccuracy justice), but this week the Administration calmly told Congress it wants to shift $3.46 billion from reconstruction into security. This of course reinforces the lead note on pessimistic projections, but when you have a number like this — almost exactly twice the figure Natsios gave for the whole project, being calmly transferred from one account to another — you cannot help but remark at how blithely it's being done by the administration. Said Senator Richard Lugar (a Republican, I might add),

"Our committee heard blindly optimistic people from the administration prior to the war and people outside the administration what I call the 'dancing in the street crowd,' that we just simply will be greeted with open arms," Lugar said. "The nonsense of all of that is apparent. The lack of planning is apparent."

And why are we even in Iraq, now saddled with a $200 billion burden on the future? We're there because our president doesn't respect the concept of 'truth' highly enough to question assumptions. When he heard the CIA case on WMDs in Iraq and expressed initial skepticism, and Tenet assured him the case was a 'slam dunk,' did Bush take the additional step of asking why it was a slam dunk? No, not so far as we know. In an interesting flip on the oft-used emperor's new clothes tale, Bush saw there were no clothes and convinced himself otherwise.

And when he was able to get inspectors in (thanks to Congress authorizing force, which allowed the necessary threat which got the inspectors in), Bush disregarded what the inspectors told the world: ain't no WMDs, gang, no reason to war. At that point, if Bush had had proper skepticism, he might have requestioned the slam-dunk conclusion (second opportunity missed, showing too little value for truth). Instead, Bush foisted that silly "time is running out" formula on the world. Time was most clearly not running out.

So here we are: Powell's invocation of the "Pottery Barn" rule (you break it, you own it) has come to pass; we're stuck with Iraq, the world is not safer, the US is not safer, and I see no reason to reward this chump another 4 years of US taxpayer dollars.

We pay these guys' salaries. Unbelievable!
Link 9:07 AM Home

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