Friday, April 27, 2007

The losing winning argument

I have been thinking about this whole debate over the "War on Terror" and whether it can be "won" or "lost" for quite some time now, but I guess it worth addressing now that the GOP-spoon-fed-media are attacking Sen. Reid for saying that the war in Iraq is lost.

There were clearly two main phases of this war, which really are two separate wars. The first was the initial invasion, which America obviously won. Saddam's government was quickly overthrown, his military destroyed, his son's killed, and Saddam himself going into hiding and all with very little burning of oil fields and other environmental self-destructions. Great work by the military, even if it was fighting a weaker opponent than they did in 1991. After all, it had a much bigger task, and with far less troops--thanks to Rumsfeld--to do it.

The second phase was the occupation, which everyone who looks at reality knows was lost. Not in the sense of military retreat, but in the sense that the Iraqi people quickly became distrustful and disliking of the "coalition." And the Iraqis had good cause because college Republicans who were put in charge of Iraq--like the 24 year old real estate major who was in charge of the Iraqi stock exchange--messed everything up horribly. We couldn't even execute Saddam properly. Massive weapons stock piles went unguarded, giving groups plenty of raw material for IEDs... You know the litany as well as I do.

The point is, Americans are not seen as liberators but as occupiers who just want Iraqi oil and don't really care about democracy. Meanwhile, our military was unable to provide security and stability in important areas of the country, like the capitol were most people live. This is because they were not trained to be diplomats and police officers, but to conquer. Republicans used to critique Clinton's aggressive internationalism as being a "policeman to the world" well now our military is Baghdad PD.

The resulting instability and lack of security enabled tribalism to prevail. Ethnicity-based gangs offered neighborhoods protection in exchange for payments, these gangs infiltrated the state security apparatus, not only enabling the Baghdad Iraqi police force to become a tool of ethnic cleansing but also body guards to members of parliament themselves. Imagine if the IDF didn't exist and it was just groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Jewish extremists warring in the streets of Jerusalem...that is what happening.

Militarily, US forces cannot "win" Iraq back at this point. Maybe in 2003 or 2004, a surge and competent multinational leadership (with Muslim troops and leaders) could have made a difference. Politically, no side wants to renegotiate because they all believe they can achieve control of the country via genocide. There is nothing for these groups to gain by talking to the US or US-backed Iraqis.

Maybe the US forces are slowing the rate of such a genocide, as conservatives argue, but I don't think the US has any credibility left with the Iraqis to stay in a humanitarian capacity. If we give up our bases, let the Iraqi government invite in NATO or the Arab League (plus Iran) or the UN, we could be a part of that contingent. But the "coalition" has no power to serve as a power broker.

Republicans like to get into this rhetorical battle over "losing" and "defeat" on "the War on Terror," even though you can never defeat a tactic on the battlefield. What the U.S. and its allies are really fighting against around the globe is religious extremism that wants to dissolve church-state boundaries to oppress women and to eliminate all religious dissenters through violence. These groups use terror because they don't have the multi-billion dollar military budget of the US, and because it is pretty cost effective.

That war has not been lost. However, Bush's policies have strengthened the enemy. Iraq has wasted our resources (money, equipment, troop moral, public support, and troops themselves) on a side project that created more trained radicals willing and able to kill us. So now we have no troops to send to Afghanistan, where the Taliban is regaining control, no covert ops to send to Indonesia or deep into Pakistan. And the American people no longer trust President Bush, so he has no leeway in fighting this true war. Moreover, the world has long stopped trusting President Bush, so he will get no help from any country without bribes.

As many others have said, instead of using the events of 9/11 to rally the world behind the threat of religious extremism and eliminating it, Bush chose to go to war against someone who tried to kill his Dad, and to finish the job his Dad started. He chose to use the war as a club to beat his political opponents with, leveraging it into victories in 2002 and 2004. Meanwhile, he made the real war that started on 9/11 harder to win for him and his successor. That's why Cheney and his enablers in the Media are trying to tear down Harry Reid over the win/loose argument. They know that Al Qeada and ideologically allied groups are stronger than they were on 9/10.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

copy and paste journalism

Now many of you know that I am a big fan of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), and that I proudly served as intern in his office one summer. And what I am about to say is no slam on Jim, although I wish he would have voted for the Iraq Accountability Act.

What this post is about is lazy journalism. It seems once someone reports for the D.C. bureau or works on a national paper, they have to turn off their brain and parrot talking points and the Beltway's always wrong CW. Just look at David Broder's embarrassing foray into going after Maj. Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) as incompetent as AG Alberto Gonzales even though he managed to corral 50 Democrats and Joe Lieberman into passing lots of great legislation already (oh and can remember stuff he did a few months ago).

Anyway past to the meat of my post. This article "written" by Robert Gehrke, is clearly a Jim Matheson/Blue Dog press release with little or no edits. Politicians draft their press release in the following formula: snappy positive headline with pol's name in it, brief one sentence pro-politician spin on the event, a quote from the politician, an explainer paragraph, and then one more quote from the same politician or a bigger name.

This article follows the formula to a tea. In fact, it is very similar to a 2 year old Blue Dog Press that came up as the number three hit on Google when I copy and pasted Gehrke's headline into the search engine (number one when you remove the phrase "moderate Dems").

Now I agree with this Blue Dog legislation, and applaud Allyson Heyrand and the rest of Matheson's press staff for getting this article in the Tribune, but couldn't Mr. Gehrke actually write the article next time? Is that really too much to ask? After all, when politicians copy and paste legislation that lobbyists give them, the public cries foul. Shouldn't someone watch the media and cry foul when they do the same thing?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

wednesday round-up

Well, I finished my last final exam....[probably] EVER. That feels good, even if the test was long taxing. Oh elaborate fact pattern, how I dislike thee. After reclaiming my freedom temporarily (I have a 25 page paper to write on Wisconsin Right to Life's as-applied challenge to McCain-Finegold, and then the dreaded Bar awaits), I decided to skim through my google reader and found a few stories that I wanted to share with my readers.

  • "Brigham Young University will bestow on Vice President Dick Cheney an honorary degree Thursday when he speaks at the university's commencement exercises" according to the Utah Republican Party Morning News. One question why? What has he done other than get GWB elected twice? Made a lot of money off questionable oil deals with Iraq and Iran? Steering no-bid contracts to his former company? Leading us into a war that has been disasterous on so many levels? Lying openly and repeatedly? Pushing a theory of executive power equal to Nixon's wrong interpretation of the constitution? Advocating torture? Where are the things that Cheney stands for that BYU finds in keeping with the LDS faith? Answer that, and you deserve an honorary degree.

  • I am glad the media finally picked up Gov. Huntsman's flip flop on vouchers: "Huntsman [] said earlier this spring he would stand by the public should voters reject school vouchers, this week he said it would be up to the Legislature to respond to the vote." Here's the exact quote from a news conference in February (not exactly spring, but I guess it makes it sound more dramatic): "If the people vote (the voucher law) down, obviously that's the answer, I mean the people have spoken ... and I would obviously respect that." Actually, it is obvious that he has no respect for the voters. I guess that he why he supports McCain, who doesn't care what the people think on Iraq, and his Dad supports Romney, who cares so much what the people think that he is willing to pretend he agrees with them whomever he is talking to.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday round-up

OK I just couldn't resist writing another post about these next two items (someone diagnosed with ADD shouldn't have caffeine in the system):

  • Sean Hannity is a coward, a chicken, and a bully. Everyone knows it, and others in the Utah blogosphere have said it before, but it bears repeating.
    Suddenly, the debate planned for May 4 between the liberal Salt Lake City mayor and the conservative Fox News commentator appears off. Hannity objected to the presence of a documentary film crew, which had planned to record the Kingsbury Hall smackdown.
    According to Anderson's office, Hannity is blaming the mayor for backing out on contract terms. But Patrick Thronson, Anderson's spokesman, says the reverse is true. Thronson says the ban on documentary filmmakers "came out of nowhere."

    Why are you so afraid of Rocky, Sean? Are you too used to beating up on people on your radio and TV shows by cutting them off? What is so wrong with a documentary crew (my guess--this divided state, part II)? Are they going to show you in a bad light to liberal audiences? Oh no, that never happens. Plus, if they really use editing to distort the debate against you, as you would claim, you can always go back to the raw footage/transcript to prove it.

  • The headline "Cheney will call on LDS leaders while in Utah" disgusts me. It can be read as either, A) Cheney kissing their rings, or B) LDS leaders signaling that this is our guy. Either way is distasteful in my book. Moreover, the article says it is A) but then only mentions George and Laura Bush's visits with LDS leaders, subtlying sayin B) is the real answer. I know for a fact that Clinton met with LDS leaders in 1992, and charmed them. They really liked Bill, at least for a few moments.
  • exam week

    Amazingly enough, on the first day of exams I am already half way through finals. (I turned in a paper after my test) But I still have one more exam Wednesday and then a 25 page paper by the end of next week.

    So just warning you that posting may be light the next week or two. But here is something for you to chew on in the mean time:

    Career politicians these days are getting too comfortable with Washington. Too risk-adverse, and get sucked into the allure of K street. Exhibit no. 1,243: ex-Sen. John Breaux (D-LA).

    He took one look at the $5M US Rep. "Bobby" Jindal (R-LA) raised [he is a Brown Alum and Rhodes Scholar by the way], another look at his Maryland mansion and high paying lobbyist job, and wanted no part in helping his state get out of the post-Katrina mess.

    Selfishly, Breaux, probably the most popular politician in the state, didn't want to lose an election, and certainly didn't want to lose his new found opulent lifestyle. So he asked the AG to rule either that he wasn't a resident or couldn't tell if he was a resident, so that Breaux could blame the AG's opinion letter for why he wouldn't run.

    Same on you Breaux. Louisiana needs you, now more than ever.