Friday, May 14, 2004

Rummy's solution to dispelling the Abu Ghraib crisis: let the grunts take the fall.

Having now lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, I guess the next logical step is to lose the hearts and minds of our soldiers in Iraq, followed of course by our soldiers everywhere, ending lastly (in November) with all Americans.

Or is there some other goal the Bushies have in mind? If there is, you certainly can't deduce it from their actions.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

This can't be true.

I do not want this to be true.

This musn't be true.

And yet...

Nicholas Berg's family has produced e-mails that very nearly prove the government is lying when they say he was never in US custody before being picked up by al Qaeda.

And his father, Michael Berg, was named along with his company on a FreeRepublic.com 'enemies' list.

Nicholas Berg was travelling in Iraq under that company's name. And then was detained by US forces. And then released and taken by al Qaeda, and murdered by al-Zarqawi himself.

When can I stop feeling like I've been kicked in the stomach?
Now even Alfalfa is putting distance between himself and the rest of Bush's Our Gang.

While Atrios hops into the Wayback Machine to dig up choice Tucker quotes, let's review what we learn about Carlson from this piece:

Tucker Carlson, CNN’s 34-year-old paleo-yuppie pundit guy — Robert Novak’s right-wing apple-polisher on Crossfire — will launch his own half-hour talk show on PBS on June 18. That’s right, PBS—dybbuk to the right, enemy to four Republican administrations, broadcaster of the Watergate and Iran-contra hearings.

They’re calling it Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered.

Was Mr. Carlson actually filtered up until now?

"No," Mr. Carlson told NYTV, but "basically, I want a place where if you’ve got an opinion that you think is right, but a little out of step with the mainstream, and you’re embarrassed to express it, you feel comfortable expressing it on this show."

Translation: Tucker is a big honkin' coward.

If a pundit expresses an unpopular opinion, but no one is there to hear it because it's on PBS, does it make a sound?

This is my favorite bit, though:

Mr. Carlson was beginning to sound a bit like former Nixon speechwriter and Crossfire alum Pat Buchanan, another righty who has been an opponent of the war. In the past, said Mr. Carlson, he had made some unfair attacks against Mr. Buchanan, and he was feeling guilty about that, too.

"Buchanan is a perfect example of somebody who’s been name-called into oblivion," he said. "And I did some of that. I definitely called Pat a lot of names. And I feel bad about that. I think he deserved some of those names. On the other hand, calling people names is a way of ignoring what they’re saying. It’s actually an outrage, and I actually feel really bad about my role in that."

What kind of names?

"I wrote two different pieces calling him an anti-Semite," said Mr. Carlson. "And while he may be an anti-Semite, I would say, in Buchanan’s case, not all his ideas are crazy."

Tucker feels bad for calling the anti-Semite an anti-Semite, because he doesn't want to marginalize him. I don't suppose it occured to him (or rather, his gigantic raging ego) that perhaps Buchanen may have marginalized himself by, I don't know, being anti-Semitic?

Poor Tucker. He sounds so lost and forlorn without the Kool-Aid to prop up his spirits. Don't you just want to run up and give him a great big hug?

No, wait, not 'hug', what's the word... oh, right, 'ass-kicking'.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I keep trying to ignore Mickey Kaus, but his idiocy keeps pulling me... back... in...

Goldberg vs. Kurtz: Jonah Goldberg argues that CBS' 60 Minutes II shouldn't have broadcast those photos of Americans abusing Iraqi prisoners... I'm with Goldberg.

Goldberg, Kurtz and Kaus. It's the pundit equivalent of midget wrestling. Tag me in, Howie! I'm ready!

Anyway, here are Little Mickey's arguments against releasing the pics:

You don't have to print everything. I wouldn't print the identities of CIA agents.

Cute. Mickey Kaus: "I'm not as despicable as Novak!" Rummy: "We're not as bad as Saddam!" Great minds think alike.

I wouldn't print private information (e.g. outing someone as gay, or twisted) if it would cause them to commit suicide. I wouldn't publish the sailing dates of troop ships, to use the classic court hypothetical. Would you? Forget whether the government should be able to stop you from printing them--would it be a moral thing to do to print information that would very likely result in hundreds of deaths? The Abu Ghraib photo situation is very close to that one, except that the deaths are likely to be measured in the thousands and tens of thousands--once all the Arabs and others who are enraged enough by the pictures to become (or support) anti-U.S. terrorists are finished with their careers. That's if we're lucky.

It's nice to know that Mickey would out someone if he didn't think they were a suicide risk.

As for the "releasing the photos is tantamount to giving away troop movement" argument... can someone please bitch-slap him? Handing military intelligence to an active enemy is not the same as releasing information that could aid in the recruitment efforts of an active enemy. Equating the two is the moral equivalent of suing a gun manufacturer for gun-related deaths. They may have helped make the weapon, but someone else still has to pull the trigger.

"What would be the alternative: covering it up?" No. As Goldberg and others have suggested, CBS could have produced a story--even a TV story--that didn't display the pictures. If the Pentagon dragged its feet about stopping the abuse and disciplining those responsible, CBS (or whoever had the pictures) could have threatened to publish at least some of the photos as a spur to justice. But if the only alternative were covering it up--then yes, covering up is sometimes the right thing to do.

Mickey's apparently too important to bother with things like research. The Pentagon was already dragging its feet; they asked CBS to delay the story for two weeks, which CBS did.

Time to hit Slate up for an intern, Mickey, to save you from these little embarassments.

"Why not suppress all negative news and just salute?" That's a silly argument. Just because you don't publish something doesn't mean you don't publish anything. As they say, Mississippi's a hard word to spell--you never know when to stop. But you've got to stop somwhere. Editors draw lines all the time. (Did we see, for example, all the grisly photos of Nicole Simpson's mutilated corpse? I think I'd remember it, and it would have gotten big ratings.) Given that the purposes of publishing the photos could have been largely accomplished without publishing them, I'm not sure this case was even close to any line.

The pics were shocking, therefore no one should see them? Excuse me, asshat, it's precisely because they are so shocking that the American public needed to see them. These horrible, appalling things were being done in our name, and on our dime. To even compare them to the Simpson killing -- which had no public policy implications, but was just more grist for the celebrity-industrial complex's mill -- betrays an inability to see issues in any but the shallowest of terms.

Nicole Simpson's death was awful, but had no bearing on my life whatsoever. What happened at Abu Ghraib does. Moron.

A basic debate over the war against terrorism has been between two models. In one model, there is a finite number of bad guys who want to kill us, and who need to be defeated, deterred, overawed or killed. In the other model, there is a large amorphous group of "swing voter" Arabs who might support terrorism but who might also be persuaded to live in peace with the encroaching forces of globalization. Model #1 is associated mainly with proponents of aggressive military action. Model #2 is largely associated with liberals who worry about "blowback," root causes and the Palestinians (though some neocon idealists envision spreading democracy winning over the "swing voters"). If you buy model #2, as do many of Donald Rumsfeld's critics on the left, and as do I, then you really didn't want these photos published, because they are what will lose us the swing voters and produce the blowback--if not in Iraq then elsewhere in the Arab world. Not only does it follow that the photos are best left unpublished; it also follows that the Pentagon was doing the right thing when it attempted to keep them secret. And it follows that the revered Senator McCain, who has been declaring that he wants all the remaining photos released, is acting like a posturing, media-mad fool. ""We need to assure the American people this won't happen again," McCain says. Huh? The current crop of stomach-churners isn't enough to do that? We need to make a few hundred million more people want to kill us!

Mickey only seems capable of comprehending simplistic, either/or choices, so here's one for him:

You've done a very bad thing, and evidence exists to prove that you did it. Do you:

a) try to hide the evidence and hope nobody ever sees it?
b) come forward and try to pro-actively minimize the damage by 'fessing up?

Most four-year-olds know the right answer to that one. But not Little Mickey.

When you make Howard Kurtz look good, it's time to hang them up. Or up the dosage. Maybe both.
More Tuesdays with Scottie Mac:

(Watch me do my Atrios impression...)

Why won't the president or vice-president denounce the hateful, anti-American statements of Mr. Limbaugh?

Q My question's about the President's deep revulsion to the photos and the abuses. We haven't heard anything from --

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, you can talk to the Vice President's office, but I am sure he --

Q They were not returning calls --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- I am sure he shares the President's sentiments and the sentiments -- these are sentiments that the American people share, as well.

Q Was the Vice President talking about --

MR. McCLELLAN: Because they do not represent our United States military and the more than 200,000 people who have served very honorably in Iraq.

Q Do you think the Vice President will do the Rush Limbaugh show again, given his almost embrace of these photos?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can ask the -- ask those questions to the Vice President's office. They have a -- they have a press office.

Q They're not -- they're not returning calls about this matter. Is there a reason for that, that you know of?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you can talk -- they talked to reporters over the weekend about some of the Vice President's views.

Q About Rumsfeld, but not about this specific incident and any revulsion to it, or --

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard anything about that, but you're welcome to call them.

Remember, kids, reading is for suckers:

Q Has the President been monitoring General Taguba's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee today? And following up, has he looked at the report, which is pretty much everywhere?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Taguba report -- as I mentioned last week, he was briefed on the Taguba report -- I believe it was last week -- by his National Security Advisor.

The Taguba Report has been online and available for anyone in the world to read for eight days now. But I guess the president has had better things to do.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

George Bush may really like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but he's apparently never read The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Scottie Mac, from Monday:

Q Do you have anything on the United States imposing sanctions on Syria, or about to?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are moving forward with implementing the Syria Accountability Act. We do have serious concerns when it comes to Syria's behavior. We want to see Syria change their behavior. We have talked previously about our concerns when it comes to Syria's continued development of weapons of mass destruction, when it comes to their support for terrorism, and when it comes to their failure to adequately police its border with Iraq. We've also expressed our concerns when it comes to Lebanon. And these are serious matters. We want to see Syria make more progress on these areas. And I don't have anything to announce at this time, but we are moving forward on implementing the Syria Accountability Act.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Nelson Mandela spoke out against the US and UK for the Iraqi prison abuses.

We look on with horror as reports surface of terrible abuses against the dignity of human beings held captive by invading forces in their own country.

Don't worry though, Bush apologists, the Britain's Channel Four will soon be airing a documentary that should give you plenty of outs for dismissing what Mandela says.

I mean c'mon, what would Nelson Mandela know about prison abuses, anyway?
Kos points out that Bush's legal beagles lied to the Supreme Court during the Gitmo proceedings.

This administration is becoming too predictable. You'd think at some point they might toss in some truth once in a while, just to keep people on their toes.
Watching Sully make his painfully slow progress towards abandoning Bush is, to me at least, a microcosm of what must be going on in the brains of a good portion of the American population. That doesn't make it any less frustrating, alas.

Read this:

The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong.

and you think, "Yes! Sully finally gets it!"

Scroll down a few paragraphs, though, and you find:

To my mind, these awful recent revelations - and they may get far worse - make it even more essential that we bring democratic government to Iraq, and don't cut and run. Noam Chomsky is wrong. Abu Ghraib is not the real meaning of America. And we now have to show it - in abundance. That is the opportunity this calamity has opened up. And then, when November comes around, we have to decide whether this president is now a liability in the war on terror or the asset he once was. How he reacts to this crisis - whether he is even in touch enough to recognize it as a crisis - should determine how the country votes this fall. He and his team have failed us profoundly. He has a few months to show he can yet succeed.

People -- Sully among them -- continue to cling to the idea that Bush is somehow a great leader, that he rallied the country in its time of need blah blah blah.

It's a lie. It's a carefully crafted lie. All he did after 9/11 was not fuck up, a challenge that has eluded him since.

The same team -- the exact same set of brains, since no one in this administration seems to lose their jobs over anything -- that came up with the War on Terror, came up with the War on Iraq. To think that the one has been wildly successful while the other is a disaster, or to think that those same incompetents can salvage a mess of their own making they have yet to even acknowledge, is a denial of reality.

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this administration can fix what has gone wrong in Iraq. None.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this administration has an aptitude for anything beyond massaging public opinion.

To give Bush an opportunity to 'become an asset again' is to give the administration yet another chance to pull the wool over your eyes.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and Andrew Sullivan proves he is the biggest fool on the planet.


Incidentally, I know it's pretty much accepted these days, but I'm really tired of the "Chomsky hates America" meme.

He no more hates America than Churchill hated democracy.

America should not simply be the lesser of 200 evils. It's supposed to be something greater than that, and if the professor sometimes gets a little strident in pointing out that disconnect, quite frankly I think that's a good thing, because somebody ought to be pointing it out.

Abu Ghraib is, indeed, not the real meaning of America, any more than crass commercialism is the real meaning of Christmas. But it's very hard to remember that sometimes when you actually have the guts to look unflinchingly at what it's become.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

This, from the LA Times, is just incorrect:

Rumsfeld's arrogance and errors will haunt him, but a forced departure now by the Defense secretary might leave a leadership vacuum at a critical point in the Iraq conflict.

There's already a leadership vacuum. What happened at Abu Ghraib could only have taken place under a leadership vacuum. Getting rid of Rumsfeld is just a good start towards filling it.
Sully recently linked to a Roger Simon post that quotes heavily from an Iraqi blog, giving a 'different' perspective on Abu Ghraib -- an interview with a doctor who served at the prison for a month.

Setting aside the question of how representative the views of Iraqis with internet access are, and the fact that the doctor being interviewed isn't named and doesn't indicate when he was at Abu Ghraib, I'd just like to highlight the following passages -- the last of which, of course, Simon doesn't quote:

...I’ll tell you what I know. First of all, the prisoners are divided into two groups; the ordinary criminals and the political ones. I used to visit the ordinary criminals during every shift, and after that, the guards would bring anyone who has a complaint to me at the prison’s hospital.

- What about the “political” ones?

- I’m not allowed to go to their camps, but when one of them feels ill, the guards bring him to me.


- What else? How often are they allowed to take a bath? (This may sound strange to some people, but my friend understood my question. We knew from those who spent sometime in Saddam’s prisons, and survived, that they were allowed to take a shower only once every 2-3 weeks.)

- Anytime they want! There are bathrooms next to each hall.

- Is it the same with the “political” prisoners?

- I never went there, but I suppose it’s the same because they were always clean when they came to the hospital, and their clothes were always clean too.

So, we've established that the doctor had no direct access to the ward where the abuses took place, and had minimal and supervised contact with those prisoners.

- Can you tell me anything about those “political” prisoners? Are they Islamists, Ba’athists or what?

- Islamists?? I don't care what they call themselves, but they are thugs, they swear all the time, and most of them are addicts or homosexuals or both. Still very few of them looked educated.

Aside from the obvious bigotry... how would he know that, exactly, if he was never in the ward and had minimal contact with them?

The only refuge left would seem to be screamingly obvious agit-prop.

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