The Secret Seizure and “Progressive” Democrats’ Failure of Heart

Attorney General Eric Holder with Deputy AG James Cole, who made the call to seize two months of phone records of 20 AP reporters.

AG Eric Holder with Deputy AG James Cole, who made the call to secretly seize two months of records of 20 phone lines of AP reporters in search of a  leaker in the Obama administration.

My first instinct when I heard Monday’s revelation of the DOJ’s secret seizure of certain AP reporters’ work and home phone records was to say to myself, I’m glad I voted for Jill Stein.

My second was to fume over how infuriating this story is, what ham-handed ineptitude it displays. If there’s only one area of Obama’s administration that progressive Democrats who voted for him twice should agree with me about it’s this nauseatingly phony tougher-than-Bush approach to questions of national security. I mean, if I were the same person I was in, say, 2004 and had voted for Obama’s second term, I would be having some serious cognitive dissonance issues to deal with today. On the other hand, these are the same people who boasted loudly for half the campaign season about Osama bin Laden’s death (rather than his capture, which would really have been something to boast about), so chances are they won’t be too upset over anything Obama does in the name of national security. Continue reading

Congressional Record by Dean Drummond, played by Newband

DRUMMOND-obit-articleLarge

I was reading today’s paper, looking at the obituary of George Jones, when I glanced across at a photo of someone who looked familiar. I realized it was Dean Drummond, an American composer, musician, teacher and acolyte of Harry Partch, whose musical instruments and scores Drummond assembled as founder of the Harry Partch Institute at Montclair State University in New Jersey. I was wondering what an arts piece was doing in the front section of the New York Times, when I realized, shocked, that I was looking at an illustration for Drummond’s obituary. Continue reading

#TeaParty Patriot Founder: “Why do the politicians and media figures want us to hate each other?”

Mark Meckler, one of the founders of Tea Party Patriots, spoke to a crowd of leftists at Seattle’s Citizen University conference recently (hat tip to Upworthy), and what he said resonates in a way with what I was arguing in my debate  with partisan Democrat Milt Shook yesterday on Twitter:

Meckler’s answer to the question above, if you haven’t watched this brief video, is that it profits politicians and others at the center of the DC power structure to maintain the false divide between left and right: the strategy is called Divide and Conquer. I’m thrilled to hear that Meckler is apparently refusing to play along. Imagine if all of us who were inspired by the occupy movement and all of those who were fired up by the Tea Party came to the same conclusion: our enemies are not among the people. Our enemies are the ones who think we owe them votes and viewership, who manufacture our opinions and sell them retail as the stuff of our national politics.

Here’s hoping this is another sign of a new phase of revolution, one that will enable us to take  back the democracy and make it work for people again.

Peggy Noonan: Iraq “Half-Killed” the GOP

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I never thought I’d be quoting Peggy Noonan to the extent I do in this post, but her latest column is an enjoyably slashing critique of the effect of the Iraq war catastrophe on the Republican Party.  It also coincides nicely with my series of “anniversary cards” to the Iraq invasion. From my perspective, she’s not right on the money on everything she says–as usual, e.g. she gives the mediocrity that was President Ronald Reagan way too much personal credit for “vision” and “stewardship” during his administration–but in general, her points should be well-taken by the bloodied remains of her party. The rest of us can just enjoy the spectacle of the good ol’ party beating up on itself.

Did the Iraq war hurt the GOP? Yes. The war, and the crash of ’08, half killed it. It’s still digging out, and whether it can succeed is an open question….:

It ruined the party’s hard-earned reputation for foreign-affairs probity. They started a war and didn’t win it. It was longer and costlier by every measure than the Bush administration said it would be. Before Iraq, the GOP’s primary calling card was that it was the party you could trust in foreign affairs. For half a century, throughout the Cold War, they were serious about the Soviet Union, its moves, feints and threats. Republicans were not ambivalent about the need for and uses of American power, as the Democrats were in the 1970s and 1980s, but neither were they wild. After Iraq it was the Republicans who seemed at best the party of historical romantics or, alternatively, the worst kind of cynic, which is an incompetent one. Iraq marked a departure in mood and tone from past conservatism.

It muddied up the meaning of conservatism and bloodied up its reputation. No Burkean prudence or respect for reality was evident. Ronald Reagan hated the Soviet occupation of the Warsaw Pact countries—really, hated the oppression and violence. He said it, named it, and forced the Soviets to defend it. He did not, however, invade Eastern Europe to liberate it. He used military power sparingly. He didn’t think the right or lucky thing would necessarily happen. His big dream was a nuclear-free world, which he pursued daringly but peacefully.

It ended the Republican political ascendance that had begun in 1980. This has had untold consequences, and not only in foreign affairs. And that ascendance was hard-earned. By 2006 Republicans had lost the House, by 2008 the presidency. Curry quotes National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru at a recent debate at the American Enterprise Institute: “You could make the argument that the beginning of the end of Republican dominance in Washington was the Iraq War, at least a stage of the Iraq War, 2005-06.” In 2008 a solid majority of voters said they disapproved of the war. Three-quarters of them voted for Barack Obama.

It undermined respect for Republican economic stewardship. War is costly. No one quite knows or will probably ever know the exact financial cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, which is interesting in itself. Some estimates put it at $1 trillion, some $2 trillion. Mr. Curry cites a Congressional Budget Office report saying the Iraq operation had cost $767 billion as of January 2012. Whatever the number, it added to deficits and debt, and along with the Bush administration’s domestic spending helped erode the Republican Party’s reputation for sobriety in fiscal affairs.

It quashed debate within the Republican Party. Political parties are political; politics is about a fight. The fight takes place at the polls and in debate. But the high stakes and high drama of the wars—and the sense within the Bush White House that it was fighting for our very life after 9/11—stoked an atmosphere in which doubters and critics were dismissed as weak, unpatriotic, disloyal. The GOP—from top, the Washington establishment, to bottom, the base—was left festering, confused and, as the years passed, lashing out. A conservative movement that had prided itself, in the 1970s and 1980s, on its intellectualism—”Of a sudden, the Republican Party is the party of ideas,” marveled New York’s Democratic senator Pat Moynihan in 1979—seemed no longer capable of an honest argument. Free of internal criticism, national candidates looked daffy and reflexively aggressive—John McCain sang “Bomb, Bomb Iran”—and left the party looking that way, too.

It killed what remained of the Washington Republican establishment. This was not entirely a loss, to say the least. But establishments exist for a reason: They’re supposed to function as The Elders, and sometimes they’re actually wise. During Iraq they dummied up—criticizing might be bad for the lobbying firm. It removed what credibility the establishment had. And they know it.

Dear Mr. Wolfowitz: Iraq Didn’t Go Quite As You Planned

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One more (at least) in my continuing series of Iraq war “anniversary cards,” if you will. This one is from an open letter by Andrew J. Bacevich to Bush doctrine architect Paul Wolfowitz.

So even conceding a hat tip to Albert Wohlstetter, the Bush Doctrine was largely your handiwork. The urgency of invading Iraq stemmed from the need to validate that doctrine before the window of opportunity closed. What made it necessary to act immediately was not Saddam’s purported WMD program. It was not his nearly nonexistent links to Al Qaeda. It was certainly not the way he abused his own people. No, what drove events was the imperative of claiming for the United States prerogatives allowed no other nation.

I do not doubt the sincerity of your conviction (shared by President Bush) that our country could be counted on to exercise those prerogatives in ways beneficial to all humankind — promoting peace, democracy, and human rights. But the proximate aim was to unshackle American power. Saddam Hussein’s demise would serve as an object lesson for all: Here’s what we can do. Here’s what we will do.

Although you weren’t going to advertise the point, this unshackling would also contribute to the security of Israel. To Wohlstetter’s five precepts you had added a silent codicil. According to the unwritten sixth precept, Israeli interests and U.S. interests must align. You understood that making Israelis feel safer makes Israel less obstreperous, and that removing the sources of Israeli insecurity makes the harmonizing of U.S. and Israeli policies easier. Israel’s most effective friends are those who work quietly to keep the divergent tendencies in U.S.-Israeli relations from getting out of hand. You have always been such a friend. Preventive war to overthrow an evil dictator was going to elevate the United States to the status of Big Kahuna while also making Israelis feel just a little bit safer. This audacious trifecta describes your conception. And you almost pulled it off.

Imagine — you must have done so many times — if that notorious mission accomplished banner had accurately portrayed the situation on the ground in Iraq in May 2003. Imagine if U.S. forces had achieved a clean, decisive victory. Imagine that the famous (if staged) photo of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad’s Al Firdos Square being pulled down had actually presaged a rapid transition to a pro-American liberal democracy, just as your friend Ahmed Chalabi had promised. Imagine if none of the ensuing horrors and disappointments had occurred: the insurgency; Fallujah and Abu Ghraib; thousands of American lives lost and damaged; at least 125,000 Iraqis killed, and some 3 million others exiled or displaced; more than a trillion dollars squandered….

[P]reventive war was supposed to solve problems. Eliminating threats before they could materialize was going to enhance our standing, positioning us to call the shots. Instead, the result was a train wreck of epic proportions. Granted, as you yourself have said, “the world is better off” with Saddam Hussein having met his maker. But taken as a whole, the cost-benefit ratio is cause for weeping. As for global hegemony, we can kiss it goodbye.

PS: Edited to add just this deliciously sharp little jab from Bacevich to the whole Bush Iraq enterprise and it’s managers:

One of the questions emerging from the Iraq debacle must be this one: Why did liberation at gunpoint yield results that differed so radically from what the war’s advocates had expected? Or, to sharpen the point, How did preventive war undertaken by ostensibly the strongest military in history produce a cataclysm?

Not one of your colleagues from the Bush Administration possesses the necessary combination of honesty, courage, and wit to answer these questions. If you don’t believe me, please sample the tediously self-exculpatory memoirs penned by (or on behalf of) Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tenet, Bremer, Feith, and a small squad of eminently forgettable generals.

Pre-Iraq War Flashback: Ron Rosenbaum’s Red Herring (October 2002)

Did anyone ever actually trust this man?

Did anyone ever actually trust this man?

I wrote the article that follows in response to a cutting dismissal of the brand new anti-war movement that sprung to life in the fall of 2002, just as it became clear what the Bush-Cheney administration was up to with its pot-stirring war preparations. It was intended as a letter to the editor for the New York Observer, where the offending article I was responding to was published,  but became too long for that purpose. I tried to place it at DemocraticUnderground.com, but they passed on it.

In any case, reading old  pablum from George Packer  and Bill Keller in the “liberal hawk” organ of record (Judy Miller‘s New York Times), I thought of this piece which expressed my disgust with the useful idiots of the center left pundit class lending aid and comfort to the Bushist program. Truly nauseating stuff, these guys wrote, if you can stomach it.

Anyway, without further ado, my response to “all that.” Continue reading

A Tory on Britain’s Sinking into an American-made Quagmire

Rory Stewart, Tory MP from Cumbria, made these observations on the 10th anniversary of British collusion with the Bush-Cheney catastrophe in Iraq. He describes the situation well and asks excellent questions, especially the very last one in this excerpt.

[O]ver the last eighteen months, this relationship has unraveled
First, contrary to the Vice-President’s predictions, the Iraqis have
insisted that every last US soldier depart. They have refused visas to
so many US diplomats that half the new multi-billion dollar Embassy is
empty. As the last US troops withdrew, they were attacked by a Shia
terrorist group; two months later that group was brought into the
Iraqi government. The day that the last soldier left, the Shia
Prime-Minister sent tanks to arrest the Sunni Vice-President.
President Obama personally called the Kurdish leader – who had been
one of the US’s closest allies – asking him to step aside and allow in
a more balanced government. The Kurdish leader refused. Three months
ago, Vice-President Biden begged the Iraqi Prime-Minister not to
release an Iranian terrorist commander, (who had been arrested by
British troops. The Iraqi Prime-Minister ignored the Vice-President,
and released him.

In August and September, Iraqi banks were teaming up with the Iranian
government to break sanctions. Iranians were being allowed to ship
weapons through Iraq to prop up the Syrian regime. And in December,
the Iraqi Prime-Minister, who arrested 615 Sunni Arabs in an hour, a
year ago, lined up his troops against the Kurdish militia. On one day
last year, there were simultaneous attacks in ten cities, killing
fifty and wounding two hundred.

Saddam – an extreme dictator – has gone. The media is much freer now.
Many young Iraqis, and particular Kurds, are very grateful that the
old regime has fallen, and are proud of their new culture. But the
international community has not achieved its objectives – however
often it redefines them. First, we aimed to create a ‘democratic Iraq,
at peace with itself and its neighbours’. By 2009, we talked only of a
stable, representative government, a place where terrorists could not
operate, and “an ally”. Instead, after a decade, a trillion pounds,
and more lives than anyone would want to count, we have helped to
create a place, which sometimes looks like a corrupt and fragile
democracy, and sometimes like a Shia rogue state – somewhere on a
scale between Iran and Pakistan.

The question for Britain is what aspect of our culture, our
government, and our national psychology, allowed us to get mired in
such catastrophe?

Hat tip, once again, to The Browser.

Happy 10th Anniversary, American Catastrophe in Iraq!

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Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, shares his mordant thoughts on the anniversary of what he calls American’s worst foreign policy blunder. Read the whole article here:

The Iranian leadership watched carefully as the American imperial version of Iraq collapsed, concluded that Washington was a paper tiger, backed away from initial offers to talk over contested issues, and instead (at least for a while) doubled-down on achieving nuclear breakout capacity, aided by the past work of that same A.Q. Khan network. North Korea, another A.Q. Khan beneficiary, followed the same pivot ever farther from Washington, while it became a genuine nuclear power. Its neighbor China pursued its own path of economic dominance, while helping to “pay” for the Iraq War by becoming the number-one holder of U.S. debt among foreign governments. It now owns more than 21% of the U.S. debt held overseas.

And don’t put away the joke book just yet. Subbing as apologist-in-chief for an absent George W. Bush and the top officials of his administration on this 10th anniversary, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently reminded us that there is more on the horizon. Conceding that he had “long since given up trying to persuade people Iraq was the right decision,” Blair added that new crises are looming. “You’ve got one in Syria right now, you’ve got one in Iran to come,” he said. “We are in the middle of this struggle, it is going to take a generation, it is going to be very arduous and difficult. But I think we are making a mistake, a profound error, if we think we can stay out of that struggle.”

Think of his comment as a warning. Having somehow turned much of Islam into a foe, Washington has essentially assured itself of never-ending crises that it stands no chance whatsoever of winning. In this sense, Iraq was not an aberration, but the historic zenith and nadir for a way of thinking that is only now slowing waning. For decades to come, the U.S. will have a big enough military to ensure that our decline is slow, bloody, ugly, and reluctant, if inevitable. One day, however, even the drones will have to land.

And so, happy 10th anniversary, Iraq War! A decade after the invasion, a chaotic and unstable Middle East is the unfinished legacy of our invasion. I guess the joke is on us after all, though no one is laughing.

AIPAC and the Evils of Republicratism

Gung ho at AIPAC

Gung ho at AIPAC

MJ Rosenberg makes these observations on his eponymous blog:

It’s hard to watch the AIPAC conference for more than a few minutes at a time. For me, the worst part is the pandering (and lying) by Democratic politicians eager to raise money for their next campaign.

So far, Joe Biden has been the worst. He is heavily funded by the Adler family of Miami Beach (he even brought President Obama to their home for a fundraiser), one of the big AIPAC families. Here is Biden talking about how the head of the Adler klan and another AIPAC mogul gave him his “formal education” on the Middle East. (Not to mention all that money.

And, of course, Biden (like John Kerry) knows better than his AIPAC speeches indicate. I have talked to him about Israel and Palestine.He can name the top Palestinian leaders in Fatah and Hamas and tell you the differences between their respective positions. He believes Israel needs to end the occupation and talk to Hamas. He would not dare say it publicly, although he has said  it so often privately that it is amazing the media never reports it.

But Biden does what he thinks he has to because, for politicians like him (that is, pretty much all politicians), nothing is more important than keeping donors happy. Call him a hypocrite but he cries all the way to the bank.

The Republicans are different. Supporting the occupation and threatening war with Iran come naturally to them. They don’t need lobby money for their campaigns and they don’t get Jewish votes anyway.  (This is not to say that they don’t like Sheldon Adelson’s money, just that as the pro-business party, they don’t need it). They support Netanyahu because they believe that the west needs to crush the Muslim world. They do not feign Islamophobia. It’s them.

Do we not hear echoes of  Yeats in this accurate picture of today’s politics?: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.” Continue reading

#Frankenstorm and the Way We Talk About Climate Change

Andrew Revkin, in his Dot Earth blog for the New York Times, has been writing a lot over the past few days about the relation of global warming/climate change to the ferocious late-season appearance of #Frankenstorm Sandy, which flooded lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, tore up the Jersey shore, killed some 40 people in the US and left more than 7 million on the East Coast with no power for several days (not to mention the overlooked damage it wrought in the Caribbean before smashing into Delaware on Sunday). Many of his readers (including climate activist Dan Miller) accuse Revkin (who is a science journalist and not a professional scientist) of taking too cautious a tack on climate change generally and on human responsibility for the increase of North Atlantic storm activity in particular. Continue reading