Saturday, May 10, 2008

Transmitting extremist right-wing ideas into the mainstream

In an April 24, 2008 post on his Orcinus website, Dave Niewert dissects the formula Floyd Brown, creator of the Willie Horton ad campaign that helped torpedo the Dukakis Presidential campaign in 1988, uses to inject extreme right-wing theories into the mainstream media.

Brown was recently quoted in a Time article by Michael Sherer :

"The campaign by Hillary Clinton has not been able to raise Obama's negatives," said Brown on Monday. "It is absolutely critical that Obama's negatives go up with Republicans."

But who's following the Clinton campaign now? Probably NOT Republicans. Obama's negative with Republicans is that he's a Democrat (and a socialist, so I've heard at the local barber shop). The point of Brown's ad campaigns, which are only now beginning, is to increase Obama's "negatives" with Democratic and Independent voters.

Here's Niewert dissecting Brown's strategy:

That's the Brown formula:

Create an incendiary ad, typically reverberant with far-right (often racist) themes repackaged for more mainstream consumption;

spend a little bit of money in a few precincts,

let the Republicans involved look good with the soccer-mom contingent turned off by racially incendiary campaigns, by officially denouncing;

but still reaching the closet-racist bloc with the ad itself -- which of course gets national play in the mainstream media as it discusses the outrage that ensues.

This, of course, expands the audience exponentially, and for no added expense. Diabolical, really, but clever as hell.

It's important to understand that the media are being deliberately gamed here, but they have no excuse whatsoever, ethically speaking, for allowing this to happen. After all, this is Floyd Brown we're talking about here. He's played this game before -- many, many times -- and has boasted afterward about how easy the media were to manipulate. But they never learn. Or perhaps they don't want to learn, because it makes for an easy narrative, and there's nothing they love like easy narratives.

It's also been striking how often the narrative veers into a discussion of Rev. Wright and Obama's judgment, which is ostensibly the ad's chief storyline. But anyone watching it can see that there's a larger, underlying theme: the ad is all about associating Obama with black criminality and supposedly lax liberal policies to "blame" for it. It's all about scaring white suburbanites while giving them the cover of hand-wringing about his "judgment."


It's important to understand the role that people like Brown play. Not only does he enable the right to feed red meat to their more extremist elements while giving them a certain "plausible deniablity" (thus the official distancing, which Brown explicitly welcomes), he plays an even greater part in transmitting ideas from the extremist right into the mainstream, thanks largely to a complaisant media willing to lend him the mantle of credibility he doesn't deserve.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Know your enemy

Charles Krauthammer's opinion piece in today's Washington Post is a portent of things to come from the RWSM.

It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that [Clinton] found the seam in Obama's defense. In fact, Obama handed her the playbook with Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Michelle Obama's comments about never having been proud of America and Obama's own guns-and-God condescension toward small-town whites.

Book this - we will not hear the end of Jeremiah Wright (angry black hater of America and white people, mocker of JFK), William Ayers (the Weathermen, 60's radicals), Michelle Obama's comments (she's not a real American), and Senator Obama - the elitist who condescends towards small-town caucasians. Even IF Obama is elected President, these narratives will follow him on Fox News, MSNBC, and right-wing hate talk radio throughout his campaign, and beyond.

The line of attack is clear:

not that Obama is himself radical or unpatriotic, just that, as a man of the academic left, he is so out of touch with everyday America that he could move so easily and untroubled in such extreme company and among such alien and elitist sentiments.

Of course, this is standard republican / right-wing / conservative cant: Democrats are limp-wristed aliens (not human) feminine egg-headed elitists.

The gas tax holiday was never an economic or policy issue. It was meant to position her culturally. It heightened her identification with her white working-class constituency. Obama played his part by citing economists in opposing it. That completed her narrative: He had the pointy-headed professors on his side; she had the single moms seeking relief at the pump.

Obama - supported by the pointy-headed egg heads, intellectuals, elitists. Clinton - with the single moms seeking "relief at the pump." Interesting, that married moms apparently are NOT seeking such relief at the pump. Only the unmarried. Perhaps the sluts who had children out of wedlock? Typical of the Democratic constituency.

It was an overreach. It not only deflected attention away from the amazing Rev. Wright at the height of his spectacular return. It also never played as the elitist-vs.-working-folk issue she had wanted, because it isn't just economists who know the gas tax holiday is nothing but a cheap gimmick. Ordinary folks do, too. And the gas tax idea had the unfortunate side effect of reinforcing Hillary's main character liability vis-a-vis Obama: cynical Washington pol willing to do or say anything to win votes vs. the idealistic straight shooter refusing to pander even if it costs him.

CK suggests that Clinton's strategy "deflected attention away" from the "amazing" Rev. Wright. In other words, sounds like Senator Clinton, at this point, in Krauthammer's view, opted out of playing "the race card."

Interesting too that both economists AND ordinary folks understand the gas tax holiday to be a cheap gimmick. St. John McCain, apparently does not understand it, OR, if he does, then we must conclude that, OMG, McCain TOO then, must be the cynical pol willing to do or say anything to win votes - while Senator Obama becomes ... the straight shooter.

I'm beginning to understand. There are only so many roles to play in these political narratives, and in comparing one candidate to another, there can only be one straight shooter.

Should the 2008 Election come down between Obama and McCain, I wonder to which will be assigned the role of straight shooter, and which will be assigned the role of cynical pol?

Probably a dumb question. Obama is the latte-sipping egg-headed, out-of-touch guy whose wife hates America, whose (former) pastor hates American, whose friends bombed America. Oy, and I forgot to mention the unmentionable: he's black.

On the other hand, this column can most certainly be used to frame CK's support of Obama over McCain:

KRAUTHAMMER: Gas tax holiday cheap gimmick by cynical Washington pol willing to do or say anything to win votes ... straight shooter (Obama) refuses to pander even if it costs votes.

But, oh wait. Krauthammer concludes this article:

There's only one remaining chapter in this fascinating spectacle. Negotiating the terms of Hillary's surrender. After which we will have six months of watching her enthusiastically stumping the country for Obama, denying with utter conviction Republican charges that he is the out of touch, latte-sipping elitist she warned Democrats against so urgently in the last, late leg of her doomed campaign.

And, there we have it. CLINTON warned us against the latte-sipping elitist Obama. SEE. It says so, right here in CK's opinion piece. Incredible.


While a Democratic governor resigned shortly after his connections to a prostitution ring is revealed, Washington Post headlines trumpet: Panel Clears La. Senator In Call-Girl Complaint

Almost makes it sound as if the Senator didn't really do it, since, after all, he was CLEARED apparently, after a call-girl complained. It takes a special talent to write such headlines.

What we knew all the long: It's okay if a republican does it.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was cleared yesterday of any ethical misconduct for his association with prostitutes from the escort service run by the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam" who was convicted of running a call-girl ring.

The Senate ethics committee dismissed a complaint against Vitter "without prejudice," meaning he received no formal punishment or reprimand.

... Palfrey killed herself last week rather than serve time in prison.

In its ruling, the panel said it could not punish Vitter because his association with the escort service occurred before he joined the Senate in 2005.

"The conduct at issue occurred before your Senate candidacy and service . . . the conduct at issue did not result in your being charged criminally . . . the conduct at issue did not involve use of public office or status for improper purposes," the committee wrote in a letter signed by all six senators.

Elected to the House in 1999, Vitter cannot be investigated by its ethics committee because it has no jurisdiction now that he is a senator.

Although the conduct occurred while he was a member of the House of Representatives. Does this mean that if he runs again for the House and gets elected there, the the ethics committed WOULD have jurisdiction?

Sounds like oly-oly-ox-in-free - to me.

Bogus stories - Naratives with design in mind

What it's all about, Alfie

Writing at The Daily Howler, Bob Somersby hammers the nail on its head, splintering away all pretexts of a "fair and balanced" / "liberal" press corpse to smithereens:

So none of this is about the Two Big Dems, or about the other Democrats who understand the peculiar politics of this unfortunate subject. These posts have been about “World’s Dumbest Man” Richard Cohen, and about Lady Collins, the vaunted folk-singer; each of them told us, in the past few months, that Clinton lacks Obama’s character because of these flag proposals. Yes, Obama and Clinton cast the same votes. But Cohen and Collins sang the same song: They could tell that Clinton lacked Obama’s high character because of her troubling stance.

But so it has gone, for the past sixteen years, as these people have novelized politics—as they’ve told you the stories they like about at least three Big Huge Dems.

So this isn’t about Obama or Clinton; it isn’t about who should be the Dem nominee. This is about the upper-end press corps, and their astounding effort, down through the years, to peddle silly, bogus stories designed to make you hate who they hate. Might we state simple facts for a moment? When people deceive the public this way in financial industries, they are soon singing their folk songs in jail. But Cohen and Collins have done this for years. In their business, this leads to promotions.

More background: None of this conduct is new for these people. They sold you bogus stories during Campaign 2000, when they simply hated Gore and worked quite hard to make you do so. At some point, liberals and Dems have to come to their senses and see the shape of this world. But we mortals, built in the way we are, love to play our shirts-and-skins politics.

Trivializing important issues; pandering to their favored candidates (the ones who pat them on the heads, give them nicknames, and have best food on the plane - that would be GWB; did the press EVER stop to think that they were being treated like pet animals?).

The political press corpse helped elect GWB to not just one, but two terms of office. While they have favored Senator Obama over Senator Clinton as the Democratic nominee, their love for the straight-talking, straight-shooting, maverick, Senator from Arizona - who answers all their questions on the bus (what's your favorite book? what was your favorite book as a child?) and regales them with stories of dating strippers and doesn't bog them down with policy details will show in the months to come.

Breaking the law

Bart Cop on the Reverend Wright:

Rev Wright broke Bart's Law #1:

"Don't EVER tell the truth in a political campaign.

People WANT to be lied to."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The MSM starts a "race war"

An extraordinary article, Playing Telephone with MLK, in the Columbia Journal Review traces the genesis of the narrative that Democratic Presidential candidates have been playing "the race card", potentially "fracturing" the party. Turns out the MSM started shuffling and dealing "the race card" as early as possible in "the game."

The political press, this past week, engaged in an epic game of Telephone: hear the whisper, spread the word. It started last Monday, when Hillary Clinton was interviewed on Fox News and, trying to highlight her experience working within that labyrinth known as Washington, noted that it took a president—LBJ—to codify the work of MLK.


And now—despite last night’s truce between Obama and Clinton—the Democratic party may be broken. Or so some in the press are saying. NPR news analyst Juan Williams talked about the possibility of the MLK-legacy dispute leading to a “fractured Democratic party” on today’s Morning Edition; The Washington Post’s The Trail blog used the same term last night; the Christian Science Monitor declared that, “in going negative with Obama, something else is at stake: the next generation of Democrats”; Newsday, announcing yesterday evening’s truce, noted the “growing signs” that the leading contenders’ fight for the Democratic nomination is splintering their party; The Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet headlined her “racial tension” analysis with: “They try to cool things off, but race talk shakes up campaign.”


it’s both baffling and troubling that the media reached these points of Meta-Speculation via a single, and generally innocuous, comment. The evolution—from comment to story to intra-party fight to bigger story to intra-media fight to even bigger story to what-does-it-all-mean analysis—reveals a lot about the makeup of campaign coverage, from id to superego: its quick-fire nature; its viral makeup; its tendency to love a good dogfight even more than it loves a good horserace.

Here’s the Clintonian Comment in Question, and in full:

“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do; presidents before had not even tried. But it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became real in people’s lives because we had a president who said ‘We’re going to do it’ and actually got it accomplished.”
In that context, it’s clear that Clinton’s comment had nothing to do with race.


Let’s leave aside the questionable logic that to acknowledge Johnson’s role in the civil rights movement is to diminish Dr. King’s. Instead, let’s go back to the game of Telephone—and, specifically, its most basic law: that, when the first person to hear and spread the word misinterprets that word, there’s no recovering. The “Clinton diminishing Dr. King’s role” narrative caught on, with her words—taken out of context—used to reinforce it.


The whole affair, more than anything else, is incredibly sad. The two leading candidates of the party that, right now, seems to have the momentum going into the national election will, whoever wins the nomination, make history. We should be thrilled. We should be proud. But the past week’s “racial overtones” coverage reminds us that, however much our political universe has progressed, our media universe is still often one of ‘(sound) bite first, ask questions later.’

Race will NOT fall off the MSM radar, and most assuredly NOT by the Republican Party spin machine and echo chambers. Having introduced "the race card" into the primary, and furthered it along with non-stop sound bite loops of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, it is assured that the Republicans will frame African-Americans as the racists, the Democratic party as the party of racial divide, and in the process hope to dissuade enough disgusted Democrats from voting in the election as well as to inspire voters who hate and/or fear African-Americans to get out and vote.

A strategy:

Claim one candidate is racist.

Show the other candidate's pastor making racist comments about whites and America.

Subtext: both candidates are racist, ergo, the party is racist.

Claim very early on the the race issue is dividing one party.

Continue the strategy of successful voter suppression in urban areas -- voter ID's, minimize the number of voting booths, change the location of the polling places.

Keep stoking the racist story-line in the print headlines and fueling the idea on the political gas bag talking heads shows.

Spin McCain as Maverick.

Watch McCain win.

A strategy worthy of Attwater / Rove? Projection onto the other party all of your own party's worst impulses.

Doubtful, not impossible. More likely it is the media's simple:

tendency to love a good dogfight even more than it loves a good horserace.

When the enemy of my enemy is not my friend

Tim Russert recently pronounced that after the Indiana and North Carolina voting results, the Democratic Presidential primary race is "over". In despair and disgust over popular "liberal / progressive" partisan figures from the blogosphere using such opinions from well-known democrat-bashing media figures to support their own candidate (Sen. Barack Obama), turkana, blogging at The Left Coaster asks an important question:

[H]ow will those who have spent the past six months citing Russert and Dowd and Drudge and Politico and Sullivan and their ilk ever again have the credibility to criticize these blights on the body politic, when it is Barack Obama or the Democratic Congress or any other Democrats or liberals or progressives who are on the receiving end of their bilious spew?

I look forward to the attempts.

But for the obvious fact that a true liberal with truly liberating policy proposals has no chance of getting elected president, not to mention even competing for the nomination, The Great Convergence remains the most disheartening aspect of this political cycle.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

'Twas ever thus

Digby had a link to an excerpt from Rick Perlstein's Nixonland. These thought insights from that work caught my eye:

The New Politics reformers had fantasized a pure politics, a politics of unyielding principle—an antipolitics. But in the real world, politics without equivocation or compromise is impossible.


[W]e live in a fallen world. The saintly don’t survive in politics

Monday, May 5, 2008

The mililtary operation succeeded

Overthrow evil dictator - check
Eliminate (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction - check
(Accomplishable) Mission accomplished - check
So, why are our soldiers still there - ?

Common Dreams features a James Carroll column from the Boston Globe:

However misconceived, the project of ridding the world of Saddam and his Ba’athist regime was indeed a military operation, and it succeeded. But bringing order to a post-Saddam Iraq, especially once sectarian rivalries were set loose, was not a project for which the US war machine was remotely suited.


“Coalition” notwithstanding, the almost exclusively US occupation became the inflammable medium in which sectarian disputes flared, with Iraq’s warring parties united only in seeing that occupation as an enemy. Let’s call this repeated insanity the mistake of “supermilitarism,” choosing war over diplomacy, and expecting order to follow, instead of chaos.

The mistake was made at the beginning, in the middle, and is being repeated now, in what should be the end. The mistake is so deeply rooted in American structures of imagination, economy, and government that it isn’t even perceived as a mistake by those in power.

Those in power understand that the perception of stability in Iraq is far more important than the realities on the ground. Thus, the "metrics" of all the schools the U.S. was building (painting), stories which "never get published in the media", and how the "surge" was working because of the decrease in deaths. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News have told us so.

The plan all along was to stay in Iraq "forever". What else explains the construction of the one billion dollar edifice of the U.S. embassy, or the permanent military bases, or the decision to disband the Iraqi military so very early on.

This stay in Iraq "forever" plan was NOT what was sold to the American public.

The notion that our military can "bring democracy to the Iraqi people" or any people has always been delusional. A nation cannot export democracy at the end of a bayonet. Although the U.S. routinely goes abroad looking for demons to destroy.

Maybe protest begins at home

Writing in Counterpunch, Dave Zirin recalls the historic Olympic protests of 1968 and contrasts the statements made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos to the protests of present day Olympic athletes:

... while I support the right of any athlete to speak out and not be silenced by Olympic bureaucrats to make things pleasant for China's rulers, we should also look critically at what it is that people are protesting.

It speaks to a far different set of concerns than those represented by Tommie Smith, John Carlos and the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Smith and Carlos came to Mexico City to raise awareness about injustices happening in their own country. They wore no shoes on the stand to protest poverty in the United States. They wore beads to protest lynching in the United States. They wore gloves and raised them during the playing of the anthem to signify dissent against the way the African American Olympic athletes were treated. As they said in their founding statement, "Why should we run in Mexico City only to crawl home?"

Yet none of this 2008 crop of athletes is daring to say that maybe protest begins at home. They are raising concerns about China's policies in Tibet or Darfur, but not the U.S. wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. There are concerns about China's labor standards, but not the way their own sponsors, like Nike, exploit those standards.

Rationing Health Care is "Unpleasant"

The Des Moines Register reports on one aspect of national planning for the event of a disaster that overwhelms the nation's medical resources

Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won't get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.

Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn't be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia.

The suggested list was compiled by a task force whose members come from prestigious universities, medical groups, the military and government agencies. They include the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Representation from DHS, CDC, DHHS suggest that SOME people working for the Bush Administration take health threats seriously.

The proposed guidelines are designed to be a blueprint for hospitals "so that everybody will be thinking in the same way" when pandemic flu or another widespread health care disaster hits


... proposals resemble a battlefield approach in which limited health care resources are reserved for those most likely to survive.'s not the first time this type of approach has been recommended for a catastrophic pandemic ...

While the notion of rationing health care is unpleasant, the report could help the public understand that it will be necessary ...

I think the unpleasantness of rationing health care described here means rationing health care for people with health insurance.

... members believe it's just a matter of time before such a health care disaster hits

I've read that an influenza pandemic occurs about once every 70 years, which suggests the world is about 20 years overdue.

Endless War

Tom Englehardt writes of the madness that is the U.S. occupation of Iraq with an overview and insights that put the mainstream media to shame. I'm going to quote extensively from his analysis of 04 May, 2008:

Concisely describing how some things have come full cycle to the point we're at today:

... no longer is the U.S. attacking Sunnis. In the wake of the President's 2007 surge, the U.S. military is now officially allied with 90,000 Sunnis of the so-called Awakening Movement, mainly former insurgents, many of them undoubtedly once linked to the Baathist government U.S. forces overthrew in 2003.

Meanwhile, American troops are fighting the Shiite militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, a cleric who seems now to be living in Iran, but whose spokesman in Najaf recently bitterly denounced that country for "seeking to share with the U.S. in influence over Iraq."

And they are fighting the Sadrist Mahdi Army militia in the name of an Iraqi government dominated by another Shiite militia, the Badr Corps of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, whose ties to Iran are even closer.

Similar madness inspired Country Joe and the Fish's immortal lyrics:

well it's one, two, three
what are we all fightin' for?
don't ask me now I don't give a damn;

And a perverse reversal hearkening back to U.S. metrics of the war upon the Vietnamese:

The fighting in the heavily populated urban slums of Sadr City has been fierce, murderous, and destructive. It has quieted most of the talk about the "lowering of casualties" and of "violence" that was the singular hallmark of the surge year in Iraq. Though never commented upon, that remarkable year-long emphasis on the ever lessening number of corpses actually represented the return, in perversely reverse form, of the Vietnam era "body count."


With the coming of the surge strategy in 2007, frustration over the President's unaccomplished mission and his constant talk of victory meant that some other "metric," some other "benchmark," for success had to be established, and it proved to be the reverse body count. Over the last year, in fact, just about the only measure of success regularly trumpeted in the mainstream media has been that lowering of the death count. In reverse form, however, it still held some of the same dangers for the administration as its Vietnamese cousin.


In April, of the 51 American deaths in Iraq, more than twenty evidently took place in the ongoing battle for Sadr City or greater Baghdad. ... And many of them have died under the circumstances most feared by American commanders (and thought for a time to have been avoided) before the invasion of Iraq -- in block to block, house to house fighting in the warren of streets in one of this planet's many slum cities.

Unlike virtually all of the reporting from Iraq, Englehardt considers the situation from the viewpoint of the Iraqis.

For the Iraqis of Sadr City, of course, this is a living hell. ... As in all colonial wars, all wars on the peripheries, the "natives" always die in staggeringly higher numbers than the far better armed occupation or expeditionary forces.


That rising body count has, after all, taken away the last metric by which to measure "success" in Iraq. Even the small explanations ... seem increasingly bizarre. Take, for instance, the convoluted explanation of who exactly is responsible for the devastation in Sadr City. ...

"'The sole burden of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the militants who care nothing for the Iraqi people…' He said the militiamen purposely attack from buildings and alleyways in densely populated areas, hoping to protect themselves by hiding among civilians. 'What does that say about the enemy?... He is heartless and evil.'"


So, to sum up ... The Bush administration liberated Iraq in order to send U.S. troops against a ragtag militia that has nothing whatsoever to do with Saddam Hussein's former government (and many of whose members were, in fact, oppressed by it, as were its leaders) in the name of another group of Iraqis, who have long been backed by Iran, and… uh…


As in Vietnam, so four decades later, we are observing a full-scale descent into madness and, undoubtedly, into atrocity.

At least in 2003, American troops were heading for Baghdad. They thought they had a goal, a city to take. Now, they are heading for nowhere, for the heart of a slum city which they cannot hold in a guerrilla war where the taking of territory and the occupying of neighborhoods is essentially beside the point.

They are heading for oblivion, while trying to win hearts and minds by shooting missiles into homes and enclosing people in giant walls which break families and communities apart, while destroying livelihoods.


Remember the days when the warmongers were so elated with their "victory":

Remember when the globe's imperial policeman, its New Rome, was going to wield its unsurpassed military power by moving from country to country, using lightning strikes and shock-and-awe tactics? We're talking about the now-unimaginably distant past of perhaps 2002-2003.

Afghanistan had been "liberated" in a matter of weeks;

"regime change" in Iraq was going to be a "cakewalk,"

and it would be followed by the reordering of what the neoconservatives liked to refer to as "the Greater Middle East."

No one who mattered was talking about protracted guerrilla warfare; nor was there anything being said about counterinsurgency (nor, as in the Powell Doctrine, about exits either).

The U.S. military was going to go into Iraq fast and hard, be victorious in short order, and then, of course, we
would stay. We would, in fact, be welcomed with open arms by natives so eternally grateful that they would practically beg us to garrison their countries.

Here's another point, so obvious which Christopher Hedges has also made: Armies win wars and armies lose wars, but politicians begin wars and politicians end wars.

The current U.S. puppet government of Iraq has little legitimacy amongst the Iraqi people, all of whom want our foreign army to leave.

Every one of those assumptions about the new American way of war was absurd, even then. At the very least, the problem should have been obvious once American generals reached Baghdad and sat down at a marble table in one of Saddam Hussein's overwrought palaces, grinning for a victory snapshot -- without any evidence of a defeated enemy on the other side of the table to sign a set of surrender documents.

If this were a normal campaign and an obvious imperial triumph, then where was the other side? Where were those we had defeated?


[Secretary of Defense] Gates describes our war-fighting future in this way: "What has been called the 'Long War' [i.e. Bush's War on Terror, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq] is likely to be many years of persistent, engaged combat all around the world in differing degrees of size and intensity. This generational campaign cannot be wished away or put on a timetable. There are no exit strategies."

... This is
Gates' ultimate insight as secretary of defense, and his response is to urge the military to plan for more and better of the same. For this we give the Pentagon almost a trillion dollars a year.


Every time you hear the phrase "the next war" -- and journalists already love it -- you should wince. It means endless war, eternal war, and it's the path to madness.

Vietnam… Iraq… Afghanistan… Don't we already have enough examples of American counterinsurgency operations under our belt? The American people evidently think so. For some time now, significant majorities have wanted out of Baghdad, out of Iraq. All the way out.


And yet, the path to Sadr City is one that even an imperialist should want to turn back from. It's the road to Hell and it's paved with the worst of intentions.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

War without end, amen.

Fabius Maximus, in a post entitled How long will all American Presidents be war Presidents, directs readers to an Obama speech about national security, noting that Obama plans to remove troops from Iraq and position them in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama's plan means that

The Long War continues

without debate among our senior statesmen.

Without considering alternatives other than force.

Without a stated destination or goals, other than pacification of Islam — purging it of elements we find objectionable.

Without balancing of its costs vs. its benefits.

Without regard for the damage a sustained high tempo does to our Army and Marines.

Without analysis of the structural reasons we have had such little success in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

War without end, without thought. This is the inheritance the boomers bequeath to our children.

Turkana's opening salvo, posted at The Left Coaster, repeats a charge against Democratic leadership that is typically made by Republicans:

The Democratic House "leadership" is soft on terror.

In justifying this "Soft" charge, Turkana notes:

The Bush Administration openly and unapologetically flouts international strictures against torture, and the Democratic Congress does nothing.

The Bush Administration lied the country into a war that didn't need to be fought, and that has devastated both an innocent people and the U.S. military, and the Democratic Congress does nothing.

The Bush Administration has systematically undermined American national security, and the Democratic Congress does nothing.

In 2005, they were so focused on winning the 2006 elections that they took impeachment off the table.

In 2007 and 2008, they've been so focused on winning the 2008 elections that they're taking ending the war off the table.

The Democratic House "leadership" is so focused on winning the government that they're refusing to govern.


They're not resigned that they "can't" stop the war while Bush is still in power, they're unwilling to make any effort to stop it. Even after Bush is out of power. And by the middle of next year, they'll be worrying about the 2010 elections. They're so worried about looking soft that they're proving how soft they really are.

Maybe things have always been awry

The Legal Schnauzer cites a Thom Hartmann interview with Dan Seigleman:

Here's Siegelman about why the mainstream press, and many citizens, have ignored the story:

"Well, I really believe that people just don't want to believe bad things do happen in America. You know, we want to believe that decisions to go to war are made on what . . . is our best national interest, or we want to believe that our justice system works fairly and evenhandedly, that innocent people don't get indicted. We want to believe that our elections, as opposed to the elections of other countries, are conducted fairly and honestly. But, you know, when we take a close look at what is going on, we find that maybe things are awry."

Siegelman's statements about the broad nature of the Bush DOJ scandal are spoken in the finest Democratic tradition. And for that, he deserves our nation's gratitude.

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright has offered similar insights with documented examples:

BILL MOYERS: What is your notion of why so many Americans ... don't want to seem to acknowledge that a nation capable of greatness is also capable of cruelty?

REVEREND WRIGHT: ... we are miseducated as a people ... because we're miseducated, you end up with the majority of the people not wanting to hear the truth. Because they would rather cling to what they are taught.

James Washington, now a deceased church historian, says that after every revolution, the winners of that revolution write down what the revolution was about so that their children can learn it, whether it's true or not.

They don't learn anything at all about the Arawak, they don't learn anything at all about the Seminole, the Cheek-Trail of Tears, the Cherokee. ... No, they don't learn that.

What they learn is 1776, Crispus Attucks was the one black guy in there. Fight against the British, the- terrible.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal while we're holding slaves." No, keep that part out.

They learn that. And they cling to that. And when you start trying to show them you only got a piece of the story, and lemme show you the rest of the story, you run into vitriolic hatred because you're desecrating our myth. You're desecrating what we hold sacred. And [what] you're holding sacred is a miseducational system that has not taught you the truth.

"We find that maybe things are awry"

For some people (native Americans, Afro-Americans, and the poor), clearly, things in this country, have been worse than awry for a long long time. There is no maybe about it.

Legacy Appointees

Dan Froomkin cites a frightening prospect:

one way for Bush to tie the hands of his successor is to install
political loyalists in career positions.

And of course, the supremes.