Hey, guess what? I'm "the right wing spin machine at it's finest."
Well, that's going to be the end of that conversation. People who can't see the world except in the colors "right-wing" and "progressive" aren't going to see me at all.
And sure enough, my erstwhile adversary wants to talk past me and froth and spit at some billboard caricature of corporate Republicanism. Sorry, I'm wasting my time. But before I go, there's time for a hearty laugh.
"The UN was on the ground and delivering aid to tsunami victims immediately. And while they were doing that...Bush was on his umpteenth vacation in Crawford."
Even her sympathetic commentators are calling her on that one. As for what the U.N. so far has managed to do, you can get an idea here.
I'm sure they mean well. I'm sure the captain of the "Exxon Valdez" meant well, too. Sometimes, that's not enough.
As for Bush's reaction, even the "New York Times" can figure that one out. It had a piece this weekend on Tsunami relief and "The Triumph of Gesture Politics"
In Europe, at least, the public has separated the heroes from the scoundrels with a simple yardstick -- lost vacation time. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany stands among the winners. He rushed back from a post-Christmas vacation in his native Lower Saxony to set up a crisis center in Berlin, and has since been a whirlwind of activity, pledging more than half a billion dollars in aid and devoting his New Year's address to the disaster.
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who chose not to cut short his own vacation in Egypt, finds himself cast as the arch-goat. Blair's government was quite active during the days that followed the tsunami. But even though Britain has offered substantial assistance to the wave-damaged region, that is somehow insufficient. For the past month, the British news media have savaged their prime minister for his "colossal act of disrespect." According to an editorial in The Independent, "Blair has failed to grasp the essence of leadership."
And, further along, this: "Accusations of 'gesture politicking' are often made following natural disasters. In 2000 the European Union was embarrassed by reports that of the $440 million it had pledged in aid to the Central American countries hit by Hurricane Mitch two years earlier, none had arrived."
Back to Carla (now writing sarcastically):
But how dare we criticize Bush when the UN is a much more tempting (if not factual) target?
We don't seem to know what we're talking about, do we? Neither the U.N. nor Bush is the topic of what I wrote. I introduced the U.N. for the purposes of comparison to the U.S. military, which is what Carla started talking about. The U.S. military is not "Bush." America is not "Bush." If we can't stay on one topic (U.S. military) for more than 15 seconds, there's not going to be a discussion.
[Meanwhile, there's an interesting line of argument, much contrary to Carla's thesis, is that it does best in modern Iraq- and Afghanistan-style situations when it has fewer, not more, troops on the ground.
But I'll leave her to dismiss that as just more Bush lies.]
I brought up World War II. Evidently, she's an expert on it:
Let me help you wipe away the wonder. During World War II, the United States instituted a draft ...
Or not. The draft was in place before the war began.
The citizens of the US also sacrificed heavily, rationing fuel and various other resources.
Absolutely, and I wish we would be doing that again. Of course, seeing the snit fit some people pitched about $2-a-gallon gas last summer, I can imagine the rivers of tears that would flow. But I want to see more of a sense of common cause and national material sacrifice in this war.
But what does that have to do with the U.S. military's capabilities? Is the 82nd Airborne going to be defeated in Iran because we're not holding scrap drives at home?
The burden of resources was distributed throughout the Allies. What we're doing in Iraq right now is essentially the antithesis of that.
Except that the U.S. fought not only Germany -- with the burden of fighting borne by the Russians -- but also, simultaneously, Japan and Italy, the latter two involving the U.S. forces doing the vast bulk of the heavy lifting.
And while Bush vigorously defended the Niger/yellowcake incident, the documents they used to verify it were forgeries.
It's an interesting, but not very effective, tactic to pick out the most embarrassing, but most irrelevant, tid-bit about the Niger story and make it a summation of the whole case. As she's done. It takes more time and effort to lay it all out in context.
BEGIN BORING DIGRESSION ON YELLOWCAKE
Without going into a lot of dreary detail (but I'll direct you to it if you want it), here's the facts, as so far discovered, on the Niger uranium claim.
Europeans, especially France, have much better intelligence-gathering in West Africa than the U.S. Almost every European intelligence service thought Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa. One European intelligence agency had been monitoring a uranium-smuggling operation involving Iraq for three years.
The CIA did a terrible job of checking on this; it sent one agent, who had a grudge, who only stayed a week, and who didn't even bother filing a written report. As a result, the only folks who didn't think Saddam was trying to buy African uranium were the CIA. In this case the British and Europeans were right, and the Americans were wrong.
Lord Frederick Butler's report, or, properly, "Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction," lays out the findings on Niger uranium:
45. From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:
a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.
b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.
c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.
d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it. (Paragraph 503)
This addresses the claim Bush made in the '03 State of the Union address, which has been continually derided by the anti-war crowd. And now the basis of that derision has collapsed, along with the reputation of retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had investigated the Niger claims on behalf of the U.S. (shabbily, as it turns out) and all but said the State of the Union address claim was a lie.
"To say this," in the words of Christopher Hitchens, "is not to defend the Bush administration, which typically managed to flourish the only allegation made about Niger that had been faked, and which did not have the courage to confront Mr. and Mrs. Wilson in public with their covert political agenda."
But the fact that the document in question turned out to be a forgery no more discredits the yellowcake story than Dan Rather's forged documents mean that George W. Bush satisfied all his service requirements in the 1970s.
END BORING DIGRESSION ON YELLOWCAKE
"We invaded because Bush and his people told us that Hussein was an imminent, immediate threat to the shores of the United States."
More dreary history here. Sorry, there's no way to cut through a fuzzball of feeling and fiction without applying some facts.
But first, what's often forgotten is that, before the Iraq War, even the people who opposed it thought Saddam had WMD. "Der Spiegel"
wrote that he did. Joe Wilson wrote that he did. As Bill Clinton said last summer in London, "You can second-guess Blair if you like. But at the time, nearly everybody thought there was probably a stock of chemical and biological weapons there and that it was vulnerable to falling into the wrong hands."
So people who want to damn the entire war based on the failure to turn up WMD ought to be willing to explain why they were against a military action even when they, too, thought Saddam had WMD. That seems a reasonable request, if they wanted to be treated as adults. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting, though.
The WMD threat was the one that got the most play, the most press, and it can seem, in retrospect, like Bush and his friends said nothing else. But that's hindsight. Certainly the anti-war crowd makes it seem that way, because that threat turned out to not live up to the dramatic urgency that it was cloaked in before the war.
BEGIN BORING DIGRESSION ON WMD
A key document in the march to war is the White House Background Paper on Iraq, "A Decade of Deception and Defiance", which served as a background paper for Bush's Sept. 12 speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
One-seventh of it is devoted to WMD. Other headline sections in the report are: Saddam Hussein's Repression of the Iraqi People, Refusal to Admit Human Rights Monitors, Violence Against Women, Torture, Saddam Hussein's Abuse of Children, Disappearances, Withholding of Food, and Crimes Against Muslims. Altogether almost twice as much space is given to human rights abuses as is given to WMD. Another section is titled "Saddam Hussein's Defiance of United Nations Resolutions," and more than twice as much space is devoted to this as to WMD.
Other topics in the report: Saddam Hussein's Support for International Terrorism, Saddam Hussein's Refusal to Account for Gulf War Prisoners, Saddam Hussein's Refusal to Return Stolen Property, Saddam Hussein's Efforts to Circumvent Economic Sanctions.
The WMD threat was played up by the U.S. and the British in the weeks before the war. In part, this was done because it was the one issue that the U.N. had taken a position on. The U.S. and its allies were seeking U.N. approval, and at the same time they sought to force the U.N. to stand up and be something.
The Iraq resolutions were the exact right place to do that. The U.N., after all, takes no positions on internal matters such as whether a tyrant can feed parents alive into a shredding machine in front of their children, or whether a dictator can kidnap young girls off the streets to serve as his "girlfriends."
Bush in essence rolled two questions into his efforts at the U.N. before the war: "Will you give us approval to overthrow Saddam," and, "Are you a real world governing body, with teeth, or just a paper mill that churns out threats that are never going to be enforced?"
Iraq wasn't the most serious problem in the world in March 2003? Looking back, probably not. But how could the U.N. bring any pressure to bear on North Korea, on Iran, if after 17 condemning resolutions against Iraq, each one of them torn up by the dictator, it did nothing but rally its members to protect Saddam from American pressure? The U.N. was adept at passing resolutions, but the body itself was far from resolute.
As Tony Blair put it:
The truth is, as was abundantly plain in the motion before the House of Commons on 18 March, we went to war to enforce compliance with UN Resolutions. Had we believed Iraq was an imminent direct threat to Britain, we would have taken action in September 2002; we would not have gone to the UN. Instead, we spent October and November in the UN negotiating UN Resolution 1441. We then spent almost 4 months trying to implement it.
So: 1. the WMD claim was not the only stated reason for the U.S. and its allies going to war against Saddam; 2. the other reasons given, such as the humanitarian crisis in the country, were amply documented and have proven to be, if anything, worse than feared; 3. the WMD part of the reason for war, though partially based on faulty intelligence, was also partly true, and key players (Kay, Duelfer, etc.) have agreed that Iraq was, in fact, in violation of resolution 1441.
END BORING DIGRESSION ON WMD
Ironically, Callimachus agrees with me that our intelligence was bad and hopes Iran and North Korea are watching:
Don't you just love people who use "ironically" when they mean "surprisingly?" My goal is not to disagree with her, or anyone. I can think of many points where we agree, and I'll gladly acknowledge them. I only am interested in refuting her statement that I'm ignorant because I think the U.S. military is capable of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power and that the threat of U.S. military action is a useful deterent in that case.
Oopsie ... From an Iranian source:
"No doubt that many in Tehran wish for a more transparent and accountable government. But they won't be looking at ours as a model."
Reports from across Iran are stating about the massive welcoming of President George W. Bush's inaugural speech and his promise of helping to bring down the last outposts of tyranny.
Millions of Iranians have been reported as having stayed home, on Thursday night which is their usual W.end and outgoing night, in order to see or hear the Presidential speech and the comments made by the Los Angeles based Iranian satellite TV and radio networks, such as, NITV or KRSI.
The speech and its package of hope have been, since late yesterday night and this morning, the main topics of most Iranians' conversations during their familial and friendly gatherings, in the collective taxis and buses, as well as, among groups of young Iranians who gather outside the cities on the Fridays.
Many were seen showing the "V" sign or their raised fists. Talks were focused on steps that need to be taken in order to use the first time ever favorable International condition.
She does gaze down from her high tower long enough to actually answer my question of what ought we to do about Iran ... sort of.
I propose that we first determine carefully and thoughtfully if a problem truely does exist. Yes..I know that isn't as sexy and fun as the Dirty Harry metaphors so easily quipped off of the fingers. But it's the first and best beginning step.
And instead of bombing and invading, we let the IAEA actually do their job, like they were doing in Iraq.
Take out the snark, which she seems unable to let go, and guess who she sounds like?
We’ll continue to try to address those issues diplomatically, continue to work with the Europeans. At some point, if the Iranians don’t live up to their commitments, the next step will be to take it to the U.N. Security Council, and seek the imposition of international sanctions to force them to live up to the commitments and obligations they’ve signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty .... We don’t want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it. And certainly in the case of the Iranian situation, I think everybody would be best suited by or best treated and dealt with if we could deal with it diplomatically.
Why ... why ... it's that ol' debbil Dick Cheney!
But my point never was that we should or ought to use violence against Iran. Here's what I wrote: "Fear of violence can be an effective tool. Violence is a crappy choice you make when the alternatives all are worse." But it ought to remain on the table as a serious option. Somehow she wants me to have said something else, to make me a more convenient target for her spleen. Pulling out the straw she's stuffed into my shirt, I decline the offer.