Friday, March 19, 2004

"Who does number 2 work for?"

Admist the rumors and fighting between Pakastani forces and Al-Qaeda-like ones, DEBKAfile, is good for another dish: "Pakistani forces resume onslaught on al Qaeda and Taliban elements holed up in Waziristan after Taliban defense minister Mullah Akhund denies presence of bin Laden"s No. 2 Zuwahiri in area. He believes both are safe in Afghanistan and moving around all the time."

DEBKA was a great source of Israeli-intell during the war in Iraq. And we all know that the Israelis a life and death stake in their info being spot on. After all, even though they are attacked all the time (last this week with 10 dead for instance), they do stop a bunch of attacks and catch a lot of bad guys. Unfortunately, their leader antagonizes more terrorists to crop up. "Mr. Sharon, tear down this wall!" When will an American president have the cajones to say that?

Meanwhile, in the Madrid Masacre case: "Madrid judge orders five suspects held for further investigation – 3 Moroccans charged with belonging to armed group responsible for at least 190 murders, 2 Indians with collaborating with armed group. Suspects can be held two years without formal charges. Train bombing deaths reach 202 and 1,600 injured.

"London counter-terror officers report: Moroccan al Qaeda bombers who carried out Madrid train attacks received logistical assistance from al Qaeda cells in Britain" Oh, and I wanted to note that the terrorists didn't win, Bush lost. This was another clear rebuke of Bush's foreign policy. Every foreign leader who has run on supporting Bush has lost, every one that has run away from him has won (Bush is 0-3). Even the new Spanish PM said he would keep troops in if the UN was in charge.

But NeoCons won't let that happen; because who needs allies right? It's not like the Pakistanis are the only ones fighting Al-Qaeda right now. We just need a "coalition of the willing." The trouble with this idea is that every time you mess up a foreign operation, like the Bush administration did, you have less countries willing to stick around and help pay the bill. There is a reason why for 50+ years the US had lots of long standing allies who were with us via treaty and thick and thin; it's because it worked. And clearly, Spain (and Japan and South Korea) shows that a Cheney-style "coalition" does not.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Why isn't Kerry Talking About National Security?

I thought Democrats nominated Kerry to not only dispell the "weak on Defense" argument of Democrats but that he could actually take on Bush on the issues of National Security and Iraq that other couldn't (this was also the theory behind Clark by the way).

Yet, when Kerry and his surrogates on the left ( and the Media Fund) responded to Bush's negative ads against the junior Senator from Massachusetts, they talked about Jobs, Healthcare, the Economy. These "kitchen table" arguments are ones that are tried and true for a reason: Democrats always beat Republicans on this issue. Where they haven't won on since Vietnam on is Defense.

So why isn't Kerry making the case for a Democratic view of international relations and national security? Why does Dick Holbrooke and Jamie Rueben have to do it for you? The case is quite compelling really: George W. Bush promised in 2000 (to the military) "help is on the way;" Democrats need to use that line right back on him. Candidate Bush said the military was overburdened, overstretched and low on morale without adaqute supplies or pay. Flash forward to 2004, the US military is now so overdeployed that National Guardsmen are in Iraq and Afghanistan for well over 6 months at a time. Confidential interviews with soldiers in military magazines like Stars and Stripes paint a picture of troops with extremely low morale. Despite the massive run up in defense spending the last 3 years, there still isn't enough flak jackets or armored humvees for our troops patrolling Bagdad, who are getting sniped and bombed daily. (Appearantly there still is plenty of money for failed missle defense systems and new boats built in Missippi). Whose soft on defense.

Howard Dean said the right thing at the wrong time (and he was probabbly the wrong messenger too): We aren't any safer with Saddam Hussien gone. Sure, I've wanted to get rid of him since 1991, and would have wanted to get rid of him in 1987 when he bombed the Kurds with Mustard Gas had I been aware of it at the time. I also wanted to get rid of Marcos in the Phillapines, or the Chinese out of Tibet, or the Tailban out of Afghanistan in 1998 when they started bombing budda statues and letting hijackers land planes there. But the point of that tangent is you can't get rid of everyone. You have to set priorities. Or you go after all of them.

But to claim that Iraq was an iminate threat, or even an emerging threat, was a stretch to say the least. Any one who was paying attention noticed that Iraq had been blanketed by bombs and UN quaruntines and was significantly weaker than it was in 1991. I wish Kerry had voted against the war this time and against it last time, but I understand why he thought he had to. Hopefully, he can get his story straight in time to explain it to the voters.

Believe it or not, Bush is vulerable to attacks on his record as commander-in-chief. We have two wars that haven't be 100% "won," we have allies that are alienated, we have Al-Qaeda's reimergence on the world scene, swiss cheese protection provided by the Homeland Security and so on. Bush is the one who is "wrong on defense."

Democrats need an ad late in the year that catalogues all the big lies the aministration has told before the American people. Those two methods of attack, plus actually laying out a counter proposal on what to do with Iraq and national security should be enough to be winning the defense issue.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

a pitstop in the Gore-ing of John Kerry

Amid all the late night talk show jokes and calls by the Bush aministration to name names,The Boston Globe's Patrick Healy, who quoted Kerry on "foreign leaders," who wanted him to defeat Bush, said 3/15 that "upon review of his tape, he realized that Kerry had in fact" said "more leaders." His reference to "more leaders," said Kerry spokesperson Stephanie Cutter, "could mean anybody." Even Drudge has the full e-mail by Healy on his website.

Question #1 leaps to mind: Why didn't Kerry's people say, no my boss never said that? Why did they let the foriegn leaders quote go on for days and days with GOPers making snide, "I'll bet it was Kim Ill Jung and Chirac" remarks? Number two, boy does Healy has balls or what? He talked to the LA Times about sending out this e-mail and admitting to a mistake by the press and ending a storyline that the press core loved. The press I have decided, are not, in general overly liberal or conservative. They are overwhelmingly lazy. If on the first time they think they hear "foreign leaders" they will stick to it for months. If they get a press release, they will quote it extensively.

Remember the Bush ad that had 9/11 images and the families of survivors who were aghast at George exploiting the attack for his political gains? Turns out, those people were part of a group, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, who's endorsed Dennis J. Kucinich, as pointed out by the Weekly Standard's Continetti. Yet none of the media bothered to mention the group's affilation when airing segments or writing articles. Why? Because they were too busy to look up the numbers of other victims; some liberal group had handed them the numbers and quotes and they ran with it.

Occationally, reporters do amazing jobs of investigative reporting, offering different views that the CW and inside views, but the last year has been partiuclarly void. While their were puffing up Dean, Edwards, and to some extent Clark, they were beating down Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman, and the unmentionables. Then once they had Dean, Edwards and Clark riding high, they took them apart again. It seems to me that the Bloggosphere does have valuable things to offer, as it offers different spins and stories on what is going on and is not the echo chamber of the press rooms. I am glad that people are tracking particular reporters and keeping them honest, like the Wilgoren Watch, or the Adam Nagaourney watch .

Of course, many of us are dependent on the media for our information and there is the issue of Journalistic Ethics that bloggers tend to dissregard when it doesn't suit their fancy, but on a whole, bloggers offer a needed supplement to the lagging elite, lazy media.

PS Today is the IL primary. And with it comes the quote of the day: "Election Day is an unusual time for the homeless"-- Chicago Sun-Times' Brown, on IL SEN's Blair Hull (D) hiring homeless Election Day workers.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Spain’s Whirlwind Weekend

Just imagine this: 5:30 EST October 30th, 2004: a NJ transit train from New York explodes in multiple locations, killing hundreds and wounding thousands.

The Bush administration says it was Syrian nationalist, and on Halloween, the US military begins bombing them into the stone age. Then a video surfaces; it was actually Al-Quaeda, and Ossama bin Laden himself is laughing at us from a cave in Afghanistan/Pakistan. On the tape he says how he got all those terrorists from Baghdad into the US via ship containers.

Then on November 2nd, 2004, something amazing happens, instead of people rallying around the president like they did over 3 years ago, Americans vote in John Kerry by overwhelming margins, and Democrats take back both houses of congress. Exit polls show that the public didn’t like how quick Bush was to blame an easy target and how Iraq and the administration’s inability to protect the public again made them very angry.

Sound far fetched? That is essentially what happened in Spain from Thursday to Sunday, only the Spanish public was never behind the war on Iraq in the first place. The "Madrid Massacre,"as some like to call it is a horrific act of violence with no real reason other than violence itself.

I haven’t commented on these events at length so far because I wanted to have time to think about who was behind it and why. We can be fairly certain that it was an Al-Quaeda group, or at least a like minded group, given the evidence found in an unexploded bomb and the arrests made by the Spanish government.

Many have commented that liberals haven’t reacted strongly or properly to events such as these. Polls show that Americans still view Republicans and Bush as better on National Defense/Security and Iraq, despite Kerry’s current narrow lead. Why is this? Is it because, as neocons claim, liberals see this as a police action and not what it is, an act of war? (Ex-Senator Bob Kerrey hates the term "war on terrorism" because he says we are at war with Al-Quaeda, not a method. If we were at war with terrorism, we would have troops in Israel, Columbia, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Chechnya, and many other places.)

At the same time, the war cannot be won "the old fashioned way" by knocking over client states like Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria. America is fighting a non-state actor who can live in countries that support them, like Afghanistan or Pakistan, but also ones that don’t like Germany, or the US. If the US really wanted to knock out all these states, it would have troops knocking in doors in Saudi Arabian Madrassas and charity groups.

Bush is right that it is a long battle with little apparent progress due to the covert nature of the work. But that fact that it hasn't happened again doesn't mean we are succeeding. In fact, it means the US has been damn lucky. Lucky that the shoe bomber's wick wouldn’t light. Lucky that they have decided on focusing their attacks on Iraq, Turkey and Spain and not the US.

To win this war, the US needs to search all points of entry, develop alternative sources of energy/reduce its dependence on foreign oil, stop supporting the governments of Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian regimes in the Islamic world for the sake of "stability" and start supporting democratic uprisings, create a visa tracking system based on technology and crack down of violators, create a national id system that would ensure that identity theft is as small as possible and only authorized individuals receive them (and not track the movements of US citizens or permanent aliens). The US and its allies need to strike a new covenant with the very people that are strapping bombs to their bodies: we will support economic development, hope and opportunity. In exchange, you will realistically engage Israel and come to terms that the Jews will have their own country and aren't going to leave (but again the Israeli government will have to pull out of settlements).

200 people in Spain shouldn't have to die for the world to wake up to the problem, 3,000 people in the US shouldn’t have to die for America to wake up to the problem either. While Democrats and Republicans can play with fire and say the other can't be trusted to keep America safe, they both need to realize there is much more yet to do.