Wednesday, September 27, 2006

but you already knew that, didn't you?

with the release of parts of the key judgements of the most recent national intelligence estimate (nie), the final linchpins to the administration's ever-shifting arguments for its continued occupation of iraq have been definitively yanked away, by the very community paid to know the facts better than anyone else on the planet. the last shreds of clothing have been snatched off the emperor, as explained by aj, a former defense intelligence officer who spent two years on iraq policy:

the recently-declassified nie titled "trends in global terrorism: implications for the united states", which was finalized nearly six months ago, is a devastating repudiation of virtually everything leading executive and defense department leaders have told americans about the war on terror.

as i've written before, the most important thing to look for in this kind of analysis is trends. events are different than how things are going in general, and here's an example: the report states that u.s. efforts have damaged the leadership of al-qa'ida and "disrupted" is operations, which is almost certainly true. there have been plenty of operations disrupted. but that's a summary of events, not a trend. more important is the follow-up that "the global jihadist movement ... is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts." event: we've done some good. trend: things are getting worse, not better.

much of the initial assessment is uncontroversial. jihadism is decentralized, it's expanding, self-radicalized cells (especially in europe) are a growing threat, etc. the real meat, both analytically and politically, involves iraq. bear in mind that the report focuses on terrorism, not iraq per se, so it's instructive that a great deal of the summary addresses iraq.

the iraq portion begins somewhat dubiously, with the statement that "perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere." that's disingenuous to the extent that jihadists already perceive success and fighters have already moved beyond iraq (claiming responsibility for attacks in jordan and other gulf states). the assessment that iraq "is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives" is also not surprising, though i think more people should realize that a similar situation in afghanistan caused the rise of al-qa'ida in the first place. no matter how or when we leave, there will be trained and angry operatives who will lash out in the future.

but to me, the most important, the scariest, and the most damning part of the entire summary is this single sentence:

we assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities are [sic] are likely to do so for the duration of the timefram [sic] of this estimate.

ladies and gentlemen, that's the ballgame right there. what this intelspeak means in english is, "the causes fueling terrorism outweigh the vulnerabilities of terrorists and their networks, and that fact is likely to be true indefinitely." the assessment is saying that the main motivations for terrorism — and the report puts iraq at the top of that long list — outweigh our ability to prevent it, meaning, essentially, that iraq is more harmful than helpful in our counterterror strategy. i already knew that, and so did most readers here, but i don't think that's the conventional wisdom. until now, at least. anyone who defends the iraq war now has to answer this question: the collective judgment of the entire u.s. intelligence community is that under the watch of the bush administration terrorism is becoming more of a threat, not less of one, primarily due to iraq. do you support continuing that failure, or changing the course to solve it?

the bush administration is trying to spin the findings, saying that they reflect previous statements, but this response is pathetic. the spin conflates fact with trend, basically saying that president bush has stated some of the facts contained in the report (shorter version: "the report says al-qa'ida is bad. president bush has said al-qa'ida is bad!") while failing to address the assessment that things are getting worse, not better.

one more time, because it's really a remarkable assessment, despite being in bureaucrat-speak:

we assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this estimate.

those underlying factors are listed as, basically, entrenched grievances and humiliation; iraq; lack of political reform in muslim nations; and pervasive anti-u.s. sentiment among most muslims. these are all interconnected, of course, and bush administration policies, especially its intransigence on iraq, are hurting more than they are helping. analysts are generally discouraged from offering policy suggestions (that's for policymakers, not interpreters of information), but this transcends that usual prohibition a little, and the strongest statement is this:

countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

that is a concept this administration, and its rubber-stamp congress, simply doesn't seem able to grasp.

the report is definitive, provocative, and damning, and every day between now and the elections democrats — and sane republicans — should demand accountability for these unconscionable failures of presidential and congressional leadership.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

it's a given

chief of u.s. central commander in iraq, general john abizaid:

given unlimited time and unlimited support, we're winning the war.

whew! — now that's a relief! and i was really getting worried there for a second ...

Monday, September 18, 2006


josh marshall:

if you were to pick the single greatest hypocrisy of the bush presidency, wouldn't it have to be this: that the man who ostentatiously claims jesus as his favorite philosopher (he of "do unto others as ye would have them do unto you" fame) would say, in all seriousness, "common article iii says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. it's very vague. what does that mean, 'outrages upon human dignity'?"

* what would jesus do?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

for the president's clarification

george w. bush, addressing the press in the white house rose garden:

this debate is occurring because of the supreme court's ruling that said that we must conduct ourselves under the common article iii of the geneva convention. and that common article iii says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. it's very vague. what does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? that's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. and what i'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal. you know, it's — and so the piece of legislation i sent up there provides our professionals that which is needed to go forward.

the geneva convention, article 3, regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, in force since october 21, 1950:

in the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the high contracting parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
  1. persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

    to this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

    1. violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

    2. taking of hostages;

    3. outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

    4. the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

  2. the wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
an impartial humanitarian body, such as the international committee of the red cross, may offer its services to the parties to the conflict.

the parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present convention.

the application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the parties to the conflict.

now tell us again, george — just what part is it that's "vague" and "wide open to interpretation"?

no, george, this "debate" is not occurring because of any wrist-slap from the supreme court. the geneva convention did not pass unmolested for more than a half century because no one noticed how pretty the plain and bespeckled old bird was. so too with the constitution and your craven efforts to play peeping tom on its citizens.

no, george, after spending your two terms shamelessly defiling both the convention and the constitution, your flabby virgin backside juts exposed to charges of war crimes and impeachment and you need your rubberstamping posse running congress (but running it for not too much longer) to cover your unsightly naked emperorship.

Friday, September 15, 2006

america's most wanted

or maybe not.

president bush, september 17, 2001:

q: do you want bin laden dead?

bush: i want justice. there's an old poster out west, as i recall, that said, "wanted: dead or alive."

q: do you see this being long-term? you were saying it's long-term, do you see an end, at all?

bush: i think that this is a long-term battle, war. there will be battles. but this is long-term. after all, our mission is not just osama bin laden, the al qaeda organization. our mission is to battle terrorism and to join with freedom loving people.

we are putting together a coalition that is a coalition dedicated to declaring to the world we will do what it takes to find the terrorists, to rout them out and to hold them accountable. and the united states is proud to lead the coalition.

q: are you saying you want him dead or alive, sir? can i interpret —

bush: i just remember, all i'm doing is remembering when i was a kid i remember that they used to put out there in the old west, a wanted poster. it said: "wanted, dead or alive." all i want and america wants him brought to justice. that's what we want.

president bush, march 13, 2002:

q: but don't you believe that the threat that bin laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

bush: well, as i say, we haven't heard much from him. and i wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. and, again, i don't know where he is. i — i'll repeat what i said. i truly am not that concerned about him. i know he is on the run. i was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. i was concerned about the fact that he was basically running afghanistan and calling the shots for the taliban.

president bush, september 5, 2006:

bin laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as lenin and hitler before them. the question is: will we listen? will we pay attention to what these evil men say? america and our coalition partners have made our choice. we're taking the words of the enemy seriously. we're on the offensive, and we will not rest, we will not retreat, and we will not withdraw from the fight, until this threat to civilization has been removed.

fred barnes, editor, the weekly standard, september 14, 2006:

host: alright fred, you and a few other journalists were in the oval office with the president, right? and he says catching osama bin laden is not job number one?

barnes: well, he said, look, you can send 100,000 special forces, that’s the figure he used, to the mountains of pakistan and afghanistan and hunt him down, but he just said that’s not a top priority use of american resources. his vision of a war on terror is one that involves intelligence to find out from people, to get tips, to follow them up and break up plots to kill americans before they occur. that’s what happened recently in that case of the planes that were to be blown up by terrorists, we think coming from england, and that’s the top priority. he says, you know, getting osama bin laden is a low priority compared to that.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

that certain ... je ne sais quoi

results from today's cbs news/new york times poll for the period august 17-21. the poll was open-ended, in which the respondents were allowed to provide answers in their own words rather than choose from a provided list:

what do you like best
about the bush presidency?
don't know34%
handling of war on terror11%
handling of war in iraq4%

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

tough guys don't carry umbrellas

we can all sense that the war is coming. it is vital for america to seize the initiative and fight it on our terms, when we have the maximum advantage.

it's five minutes to midnight. the time to strike iran is now.

— robert tracinski, "five minutes to midnight: the war is coming, no matter how hard we try to evade it."

tracinski tries his level best to sound calming and reasoned, yet still strident and imperative — but james wolcott, left blogistan's resident ginsu expert, knows the sound of trash talk when he hears it:

i have a theory on why the war party rhetoric has gone skittish and skyhigh, a theory based on casual observation of new york streetfights (streetfights everywhere, really). what i've noticed is that the trash talk in a street altercation escalates in proportion to the expanding distance between the two protagonists. when two potential fighters are almost literally in each other's faces, their words are few, their expressions fierce. it's when the fist fight has been avoided (or tabled) and they're putting distance between each other that the taunting becomes louder and more florid. "get back in my face again, motherfucker, and i'll pound your face into hamburger meat, motherfucker." "come back and say that to my face, lame-ass motherfucker." etc. you can supply your own david mamet expletives and challenges. one of my favorite verbal showdowns occurred on 14th street one rainy day when two non-pugilists kept up the trash talk until one of them said, "you're carrying an umbrella, motherfucker — how tough can you be?" which i must say got quite a chortle from us idle bystanders.

now what has this to do with the posings of our militaristic muscle mouths?

this: it is an index of the frustration and impotence they're experiencing at not getting their way. they're waging rhetorical escalation because de-escalation is the unacknowledged order of the day, and there's nothing they can do about it.

steve clemons published a dispatch from the nelson report indicating that despite all of the cheneyesque bluster, the bush administration is pursuing the diplomatic route with iran. to the dismay of the hard nosers, bush is also reeling back his use of "islamic fascists", which will be interpreted as a capitulation to political correctness. you even have rumself whining that his recent appeasement slur was taken "out of context," and calling for "constructive" dialogue regarding the situation in iraq. and then there's the happy novelty of rudy giuliani blowing the whistle and calling a foul on "partisan bickering", which will not endear him to the more strident dickheads in his party.

there has been a major shift in the mood climate, one which the war party and its bloggers are resisting at the top of their lungs. but resistance is futile. as john robb writes in an important post at global guerrillas, "playing at war", we're not going to the get the grand, conclusive world war iii (or iv) that same [sic] neocon ideologues crave.

newt gingrich: look at all the different connectivity. you'd have to say to yourself, "this is in fact world war iii."

john gibson: world war iii.

bill o'reilly: world war iii, right?

john gibson: this is world war iii.

sean hannity: ... world war iii. the start of world war iii!

michael leeden: more like world war iv ...

Friday, September 01, 2006

send in the clowns

fmguru @ steve gilliard's news blog explains exactly why joe lieberman's newly released "sunset" ad is further evidence that his contentious "independent" senate bid is doomed:

lieberman's expensive consultant sucks ass.

this is yet another reason why joe's campaign will sputter and die. all of the good political consultants and media people are already fully employed with '06 races. joe fired all his staff after the primary and went to hire a brand-new team. but august 9 is verrrry late in the season to be staffing up a political campaign. the people who are available are the political equivalent of the kids chosen last for the kickball team.

i was briefly worried that joe was going to go out and get himself a team of ass-kicking, eye-gouging, race-baiting republican campaign consultants (you know, the ones that actually know how to fight and win elections, unlike the bob shrum all-stars), but then i realized that all of the a- and b-level gop talent was already busy with actual republican races. and there are plenty of democratic shops that won't touch joe with a 10-foot pole. so he's stuck sifting the dregs for his campaign staff.

it's not even that the ad is terrible — it's that this ad was what they'd spent two weeks cooking up in their backroom. the [sic] spent a couple hundred thousand dollars making and airing this ad — this was their opening shot, their best foot forward. that's what so funny about this (well, that and the commo team's hapless response to people wondering how they got the sun to set over the southern coast of ct). it's proof that the entire lieberman campaign is being run by the political equivalents of larry, moe, and curly. i'm sure this same half-assery is replicated throughout the lieberman organization. you think these clowns will be able to put together a functioning gotv operation in 70 days, prep for a debate, organize campaign stops and appearances, or mail out literature to people asking for it? it's like the lieberman campaign should be followed around by caliope music wherever it goes.

i'm reminded of two things: one is the famous film flub in john wayne's dreadful rah-rah vietnam pic the green berets, where the movie closes with the sun setting in the gulf of tonkin (nice trick, that), and the other is the half-assed, corner-cutting way they did their web operation in the primary. the sort of people who figure webhosts are all the same, so why not go with the cheapest one are the same ones who'll buy the first piece of stock footage they find on google. sunrise, sunset, who the fuck's gonna know the difference, right?

buh-bye, joe.