Thursday, September 28, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
First, Mr. Clinton, your grade. Do you have anything to say?
CLINTON: "... at least I tried... They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried... So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke, who got demoted... "
Thank you Mr. Clinton for your frank opinion, and I can certainly appreciate why you think you deserve an "F", but we grade on a curve in this class. And since there are only two Presidents in the class, I cannot give you both failing grades. You are right, you did not do enough to fight Al Queda before 9/11, but the attack actually occured nine months into the Bush adminsitration. And is is quite apparent, that despite explicit warnings and briefings, the Bush administration did little in the time leading up to the attack to act on the warnings of the Intelligence community, Richard Clarke and others to avoid it. So, President Clinton - you get a D minus. President Bush, you get the F.
A few more thoughts. Olberman's "Special Comment" was umm... "special" in the "special needs" meaning of the word, and completely over the top. Chris Wallace asked a legitimate journalistic question, and Clinton lost his temper. But Clinton was right. He tried to kill OBL, and the Bush adminstration was too busy rewarding political patrons, moving and filling boxes on the org chart, and building layers of organizational insulation around the POTUS, to worry about the threat.
I was particularly intrigued by Clinton repeatedly invoking Richard Clarke in the interview: "All I’m asking is, anybody who wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book."
Fair enough. I read Richard Clarkes book when it was released in 2004. Richard Clarke was one of a very few to be in the unique postion of actually working in the heart of the anti-terrorism efforts of both administrations leading up to 9/11. He was in a position to know in detail exactly what both administrations did and did not do. One interesting element of the world of political blogs and bulletin boards, is that if you have been doing this long enough, you don't get the luxury of a selective memory about what you thought two, three or four years ago. I was not blogging in '04 but I was active on a political bulletin board since 9/11. I posted a report on Clarke's book on that board in '04 and dragged it back out of the archives for your reading enjoyment here. Both the review and the book hold up very well. This is edited slightly to remove irrelevant reference to that board, but otherwise is a snapshot of my thoughts at that time, about Clarke, Clarke's book, Bush, Clinton, terrorism and Iraq:
First, a comment on what this book is and what it is not: Clarke says it best in the preface:
"I began to feel an obligation to write what I knew ...This book is the fulfillment of that obligation. It is, however, flawed. It is a first-person account, not an academic history. The book, therefore, tells what one participant saw, thought and believed from one perspective. Others who were involved in some of these events will, no doubt, recall them differently." Richard Clarke – AAE preface page xi.
To begin, a comment on the controversy of the day. Is Richard Clarke:
- A dedicated and respected patriot and public servant, committed to fighting the terrorist threat and sounding the alarm about how that war is and was being prosecuted.
- An opportunistic partisan, who has timed the release of the book, related interviews and charges to coincide with the 9/11 committee and have a maximum political impact on the Presidential election.
"This book is, as I said in the Preface, my story, from my memory. It has helped me to tell it. I needed to tell you that we tried, tried hard to stop the big al Queda attack, that the professionals who sat at the Counterterrorism Security Group table cared, and would have given our own lives if that could have stopped the attacks. I had to admit that, strident as I was about the al Queda threat, I did not resign in protest when my recommendations to bomb the al Queda infrastructure were deferred by the Clinton administration or my appeals for "urgent" action were ignored by the Bush administration. Perhaps I should have. I needed to tell you why I think we failed and why I think America is still failing to deal with the threat posed by terrorists distorting Islam." RC - AAE (page 289)
"It had become pretty clear to Sandy Berger that terrorism and domestic preparedness were major problems, presidential priorities and should be among the very few growing budgets in Washington ... Berger thought we needed a "terrorism czar" and he wanted it to be me... I did not want to repeat that [Drug War Czar problems] and feared that the departments would see a czar as a challenge to their authority. Nonetheless, Berger floated the idea of a "National Coordinator" for counterterrorism ... Finally, just to make it clear that the National Coordinator was just a White House staff job, the directive contained language noting that he could not order law enforcement agents, troops, or spies to do anything, only their agencies could. Some czar. On balance, however it was a slight improvement to have a National 'Coordinator for Security Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism. With a title that long, however, it quickly became "Terrorism Czar" to the media. It was clearly an improvement to have ten programs with clear accountability and responsibility focused in the departments and agencies, but the notion that there was a Terrorism Czar, was misleading. In fact, what the departments had insisted on, and the White House had acquiesced to, was that there would not be a czar, with a staff, budget or operational decision making. I now had the appearance of responsibility for counterterrorism, but none of the tools or authority to get the job done." (pages 166-170)
Here are the simple facts. Al Queda was not a primary issue in the 2000 campaign. Bush and Gore were debating about which ABM system should be built, whether the US should be in the "nation-building" business, and whether the agreed increased military spending should be deployed on a "general build-up (Bush) or technological effectiveness (Gore). Al Queda was an after-thought ("Of course we need to fight terrorism! - Next subject."). Despite the Bin Laden 'declaration of war", in January of 2001 there were a grand total of something less than 30 dead Americans at the hands of al Qaeda. It did not look like it was on the front burner for the new Bush administration, because it was not. It was not on the front burner for anyone, except Richard Clarke and his team. When I was reading Clarke's (often self-serving) account of his bureaucratic battles to defend us from al Qaeda, I kept thinking, " this guy is like Ahab going after the white whale." Interestingly enough, Clarke then make this comparison himself, when relating his conversation with Condi Rice regarding transfer from the Counterterrorism Role to the Cyber Security Role in 2001 pre 9/11.:
"Winter had turned to Spring. The daily NSC meetings were filled with detailed discussion about the ABM Treaty and other issues that I thought were vestigial Cold War concerns. One day I saw an editorial cartoon of Uncle Sam sitting on a throne reading the ABM treaty, while a fuse ran down on a bomb beneath his seat and terrorist ran away behind him. The cartoon hit me hard. I asked to be reassigned ... "Perhaps" I suggested, "I have become too close to the terrorism issue. I have worked it for ten years and to me it seems like a very important issue, but maybe I'm becoming like Captain Ahab with bin Laden as the White Whale. Maybe you need someone less obsessive about it. " I assume that my message was clear enough: you obviously do not think that terrorism is as important as I do since you are taking months to do anything; so get somebody else to do it who can be happy working at it at your pace. We agreed that I would start the new critical infrastructure and cyber job at the beginning of the new fiscal year [October]." -RC -AAE (Page 234)
In the last Chapter of the book "Right War, Wrong War", Clarke lays out the case for why liberating Iraq was the wrong move in the war on terrorism. This is where I differ from his thesis in the book. I was and am a supporter of the Iraqi war. I won't go though all his reasons (its a long chapter), but it nets out to a thesis that Al Queda was still an imminent threat and Iraq was not. His analysis led me to question my support of Iraq war, and think about my reasons for supporting it a year ago. One advantage of being a long-time participant in political boards and blogs, is that you can go back and see what you actually thought as opposed to what you remember or want to remember. For me, it was not primarily about WMD's. This post was a distillation of my reasons for supporting the war:
This is the point:=====
9/11 was caused by religious fanatics exploited as dupes and patsies by a megalomaniac with the resources and support of a rogue state (Afghanistan).
The first WTC bombing was caused by religious fanatics exploited as dupes and patsies by a megalomaniac with the resources and support of a rogue state (probably Iraq or Iran).
The Lockerbie TWA flight bombing was caused by religious fanatics exploited as dupes and patsies by a megalomaniac with the resources and support of a rogue state (Libya)...
It may be that we in the US are slow learners, as it sometimes takes a baseball bat to the head (like 9/11) for us to understand a threat that requires action. Regardless of our learning disabilities, it is clear to us now that Saddam Hussein is a megalomaniacal head of a rogue state, and that he has explicitly threatened and attempted carry out terrorist attacks against the US by exploiting religious fanatics and supplying them with the frightening resources at his disposal.
We cannot do much about religious fanatics in the short term. We can do something about the megalomaniacs with the inclination and resources to exploit them to their own political ends."
Although I take issue with how the post-war occupation was planned (or not) and executed (or not), I still stand by that reasoning. I also find support in Clarke's book for that reasoning, although not in the way he intends it. In these quotes, Clarke bemoans the fact that America does not respond to a threat until there are thousands of body bags.
"Al Queda had emerged from the soil after the Cold War like some long dormant plague, it was on a path of its own, and it would not be swayed. And America, alas, seems only to respond well to disasters, to be undistracted by warnings. Our country seems unable to do all that must be done until there has been some awful calamity that validates the importance of the threat."(page 238-9)
"Beginning in the Reagan administration, U.S. policy had permitted he use of lethal force against a terrorist if the lethal act was necessary to stop a imminent attack. It was clear that there were going to be more al Qaeda attacks. What did "imminent" mean? Did we have to know the exact date of next al Qaeda attack in order to use lethal force?" (page 203)- RC - AAE
Back to Ahab - Concluding thoughts on Richard Clarke: Obsessive focus on a single subject, as Clarke is/was focused on al Queda, can simultaneously benefit and impair vision. In the case of the object in focus (al Queda) this obsession can produce clarity of vision that may let him see what no one else does. That same obsession, however, may blind him to any other threats (Iraq) in comparison to the object of obsession.
No matter whether we agree with Richard Clarke about Iraq, the evidence of the last ten years is that when Richard Clarke is stridently warning that the "sky is falling" specifically about Al Queda and Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorism threat to the US, he has proven to be dead-on right. We have lost too many lives for not adequately heeding his warnings. For this reason alone, we should all take this dire prediction very seriously indeed:
"If WE DO NOT SHIFT ATTENTION back to where it should have been after September 11, we face the prospect of the following scenario by 2007: a Taliban-like government in Pakistan armed with nuclear weapons, supporting a similar satellite nation next door in Afghanistan and promoting Al Qaeda-like ideology and terror throughout the world; in the gulf, a nuclear armed Iran, promoting its own version of Hezbollah-styled ideology, an Saudi Arabia after the fall of the House of Saud, creating its own version of a fourteenth century theocratic republic. Under those circumstances, even if we had created a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq, America and the world will be vastly less secure."Richard Clarke - AAE (page 284)Three years to 2007. Seven Months to the election. tic-toc-tic-toc-tic-toc
That election has come and gone. We have another election in 6 weeks. 2007 is a few months away. In the intervening two years since I wrote this report, Richard Clarke is looking more and more like a prophet. The leaked NIE Report has confirmed that Richard Clarke was right in general, if not in the specifics. The Iraq war has made us less secure. And it can get worse in the next two years.
Whether or not the decision was right to occupy Iraq in 2003 has been rendered moot by the incompetence of this administration in executing the post-war planning and occupation. It could have been done correctly. It was not. Now we have a bigger problem.
We need new thinking. We need the single party group-think of this administration to be disrupted. We need power to be shared by an opposition party. We need divided government. We need it now.
Just Vote Divided.
Monday, September 25, 2006
The confluence over the weekened of: the reporting of this compromise in Congress; the report of the National Intelligence Estimate attributing "a direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism" and increasing the terrorist threat since 9/11; and a re-read of portions of Colin Powell's 1995 memoir "My American Journey", prompted me to write an open letter to General Powell, mailed today, the text of which is reproduced here:
General Colin L. Powell,
909 North Washington Street
Alexandria, Va. 22314
Dear General Powell,
My reason for writing this open letter is two-fold. First, I am writing to thank you for your September 13 note supporting Senators McCain, Warner, and Graham and their efforts on the detainee and interrogation bill. It was a timely and welcome reminder to our leadership and to all Americans that we must strive to conduct ourselves by our standards, and not the standards of our enemies. In the fog of a polarized political landscape, finding the right path between efficacy, security and morality is not easy for all Americans to see. You have a well-deserved reputation with many Americans as a man of intelligence, integrity and straight talk. Your comments on the treatment of detainees, was a beacon for many of us to more clearly see that path.
The question of interrogation of detainees is not the only issue where your opinion could be influential. Since resigning as Secretary of State, you have maintained a low public profile, choosing to either reserve judgment or simply not to share your thoughts with American public at large regarding the war in Iraq.
Which brings me to my second reason for this letter. Quite frankly, you are doing the American people a great disservice by not sharing your detailed views on the war in Iraq. We are only a few weeks away from making a decision about whether we, as a country, will be better served with greater political opposition and debate in Congress. The experience of the detainee interrogation bill argues that we would. Vietnam and Korea required a change of the political landscape in Washington before we could begin the process of negotiating and/or extricating ourselves from those conflicts. Your unique perspective would help many of us to reach a better, perhaps less partisan, decision now.
I recently reread your reflections on Vietnam from your 1995 Memoir “ My American Journey” (I am a proud owner of a signed Random House limited edition - number 1853 of 2000). I was struck by some of the similarities in your observations of that war, with the situation we face in Iraq. Clearly, there are great differences between the two wars, and drawing too many parallels would be inaccurate, and probably dangerous. But, I would like to hear from you that if the comparison is not apt, exactly why and how it is different today.
Permit me to quote some of the passages from your book and ask you the questions they prompted:
“From that mountainside, the enemy could almost roll rocks down onto us. I wondered why the base had been established in such a vulnerable spot.
“Very important outpost.” Hieu assured me.
“But why is it here?”
“Outpost is here to protect airfield.” He said, pointing in the direction of our departing Marine helo.
“What’s the airfield here for?” I asked.
“Airfield here to resupply outpost.”
I would spend nearly 20 years, one way or another, grappling with our experience in this country. And over all that time, Vietnam rarely made much more sense than Captain Hieu’s circular reasoning on that January day in 1963. We’re here because we’re here, because we’re …” p82
“While I was in Be Luong base camp, Secretary McNamara had made a visit to South Vietnam. “every quantitative measurement.” He concluded after forty-eight hours there. “shows that we are winning the war.” Measure it and it has meaning. Measure it and it is real. Yet nothing I witnessed in the A Shau Valley indicated we were beating the Viet Cong; Beating them? Most of the time we could not even find them. McNamara’s slide-rule commandos had devised precise indices to measure the unmeasurable. … added to the secure-hamlet nonsense, the search-and-sweep nonsense, tthe conspiracy of illusion would reach full flower in the years ahead, as wehe body-count nonsense, all of which we knew was nonsense, even as we did it… In spite of my misgivings, I was leaving the country still a true believer. … The ends were justified, even if the means were flawed. In spite of what Secretary McNamara had found, the mission was simply bigger and tougher than we had anticipated..” p103
“Losses in the war were perceived as if they were happening only to the military and their families, people unlucky to get caught up in a messy conflict; they were not seen as sacrifices shared by the country for a common purpose, as in other wars. As a career officer, I was willing to do my duty. But as far as the rest of the country was concerned, we were doing it alone. We were in a war against an enemy who believed in his cause and was willing to pay the price, however high. Our country was not; yet it took our government five more years to get us out.” P129
It is reasonable to posit, that if McNamara had recognized in 1968 that his loyalty was owed first to the American people, second to the LBJ administration, and had communicated what he believed then directly to the American people, we might have seen a better end, a quicker end, and fewer deaths and casualties in Vietnam. General Powell, you and, perhaps, you alone, are in a position to know whether this is an apt comparison to what we face today in Iraq. I ask you to consider, whether sharing your perspective on Iraq in detail with the American people, might shorten the war or lead to a better and quicker end to our participation in the conflict.
“The powers that be seemed to believe that by manipulating words, we could change the truth. We had lost touch with reality. We were also deluded by technology. The enemy was primitive, and we were the most technologically advanced nation on earth. It therefore should be no contest.” P145
“In the years between my first and second tours, the logic of Captain Hieu’s explanation - the base is here to protect the airstrip, which is here to supply the base - had not changed, only widened. We’re here because we’re here…”
“War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support; we should mobilize the country’s resources to fulfill that mission and then go in to win. In Vietnam, we had entered into a a halfhearted half-war, with much of the nation opposed or indifferent, while a small fraction carried the burden.” P148
“I came to reexamine my feeling about the war … We accepted that we had been set to pursue a policy that had become bankrupt. Our political leaders had led us into a war for the one-size-fits-all rationale of anticommunism, which was only a partial fit for in Vietnam, where the war had its own historical roots in nationalism, anticolonialism, and civil strife beyond the east-west conflict. Our senior officers knew the war was going badly. Yet they bowed to groupthink pressure and kept up pretenses … the military failed to talk straight to its political superiors or to it itself. The tip leadership never went to the Secretary of Defense or the President and said, “The war is unwinnable the way we are fighting it.” p149
Have we failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam?
From my perspective, there are disturbing similarities between your words describing Vietnam, and the current conflict in Iraq, and there are disturbing similarities between McNamara’s public silence in 1968, and your public reticence on the war now. I am admittedly viewing this from a distance, and through the filters of media, ignorance and politics. You, are in a position to know. You were in Vietnam. You shaped our victory in Desert Storm. You participated in and argued for the decision to occupy Iraq in 2003. Your experience with the military, with this administration, with the field of conflict in Iraq, with both failed and successful US conflicts, means you are uniquely qualified, to help the American people find the right path, by shedding some light on the problem.
Permit me to be blunt. As an American citizen that supported this war to a large extent because of your support of it, and your eloquent arguments before United Nations in January of 2003, I do not find it acceptable for you to withhold your assessment of the status and outlook for this war now. Quite frankly, you owe this country the benefit of your honest assessment now. You owe us your complete, unexpurgated, unvarnished view.
If you choose to withhold your perspective from the American people now, at least do not write in your expanded memoirs 10 or 20 years from now, when it will no longer matter, that you knew we were on a wrong course today.
Respectfully, Mike Wallach - [mailed 25-Sep-06]
Just Vote Divided.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
"... we are reminded of how much better we'd be without a rubberstamp Congress. With R's playing the role that D's can't in the minority, the WH negotiates for a bill, with concessions all around. Now, these concessions may not be nearly sufficient (these are nervous R's at election time), and the negotiations may not be in good faith (although in this case, the R's are literally desperate to get something passed). In addition, they highlight severe and real republican fissures. but it does remind us of how government used to function, and can function again... the divisions are real and the highlighted bits give you a taste of life with a D Congress. House and Senate opposition is good for the country. In any case, neither bill is particularly good nor in need of passage before January. The country would be better served by a vetting of the bill by a real bipartisan opposition, using the core of the House and Senate objections as a starting point."
The administration's panic to pass legislation now is a direct consequence of administration arrogance, asserting broad executive powers that conservative columnist George Will called "monarchial" and the failure of the Republican majority in Congress to challenge those assertions or provide adequate oversight. So now we are depending on the judgement of a few Republican patriots to arbitrate between protecting Constitutional checks and balances, our bill of rights, our moral standing in the world, and the practical needs of security. And they need to do it in two weeks. If President Bush had properly come to the congress soon after 9/11, when (unlike now) he did indeed have political capital to spend, we could have had an open and thoughtful legislative process on these issues, and likely a better result than we will see from this rush to legislation. Instead the administration chose to exploit the post 9/11 environment with an extraordinary exectutive power grab as documented by the Cato article "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W Bush'". This excellent article details the assault on constitutional limitations of executive power by the Bush administration. It was written by Gene Healy (author of "Arrogance of Power Reborn: The Imperial Presidency and Foreign Policy in the Clinton Years") and Timothy Lynch (author of "Dereliction of Duty: The Constitutional Record of President Clinton), both editors at the Cato Institute:
"Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes:
President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers."
- a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech, and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
- a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
- a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror, in other words, perhaps forever; and
- a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.
Just Vote Divided.
Monday, September 18, 2006
First, we'll warm up with some recent main stream media coverage of the meme.
"...it's worth asking whether a loss of Congress by the GOP would be a bad thing for supporters of limited government. The answer is "No." Government grows slower when at least one house of Congress is controlled by a political party different than the president's - a condition known to political scientists as "divided government."
"Our Constitution establishes a Republican form of government. Though the advantages of such a system are overwhelming, and our founders were wise men, one side effect is that money gets wasted. Remarkably, less money seems to get wasted when we have divided government than when one party holds both the presidency and the Congress. The parties, in effect, serve as a check on each other. That’s something a lot of small-government voters are thinking of going into the midterms."
As long as we are on the subject of msm and video, your host DWSUWF, humbly submits our own contribution to the carnival: Norm Ornstein with Chris Mathews playing "Divided Government on Hardball".
The biggest recent news about Divided Government came from the Washington Monthly articles "Time for us to go", with many bloggers from across the political spectrum joining the chorus to sing in harmony about the merits of divided government, usually concluding that divided government in '06 makes a lot of sense. Among them: The Volokh conspiracy, Crooks and Liars, Politburo Diktat, Brainrow, PHDiva, Contrary Brin, Q&O Blog, Stupid Evil Bastard, ChrisCam, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Tennessee Guerilla Women, Liberty and Justice, New Patriot, A Bird's Nest, Eclectics Anonymous, Illinois Review and ... well ... a lot more. Reading these posts give me a warm and fuzzy feeling, almost letting me dare to think that maybe, just maybe, this is a nascent but real honest to god political movement. Naaaah. Back to work.
Believe it or not, it was tough to find a blog that actually took issue with the conservative columnists in the Washington Monthly series. Eric Florack at BitsBlog was willing to rush in with "We Already Have Divided Government." where a more rational blogger may have feared to tread:
"We already have divided government. Not in terms of party loyalties, but in terms of ideology. Here again, we're talking not about party, but about ideas... The fact of the matter is that the Republican majority itself is divided with a goodly number of Republicans siding as a matter of routine, ideologically, with the Democrats... Well, here's a novel suggestion; Let's try something we haven't done before, whaddya say? Let's try giving the majority to real Republicans... people who vote like it. Barring that, let's get enough of Republican majority going, where the Republican party is not beholding so greatly to it's left wingers like Lincoln Chafee, John McCain and so on..."
The only other arguments against divided government seemed to be of the nature "Can you imagine anything worse than having Nancy Pelosi as third in line for the presidency?" To which I can only reply that one of the things that I can think of that is worse, is the possibility of having Denny Hastert as third in line to the presidency. Oh wait. He is third in line for the presidency right now.
John Rozewicki presents Two-Party Systems Are No Party at Supreme Narcissism. Not directly on topic about Divided Government, but I decided it belonged here because I recognize the note of frustration with the current two party political state of affairs in Washington DC.
Finally, I conclude this Carnival of Divided Government with Phil B, of Phil for Humanity, who made 3 seperate contributions to the Carnival, none of which have anything to do with the topic of the carnival, but all of which are presented here, as a tribute to his admirable persistence:
Phil B. presents Phil for Humanity: Fixing the Green Party posted at Phil for Humanity.
Phil B. presents Phil for Humanity: Obsoleting the Electoral College posted at Phil for Humanity.
Phil B. presents Phil for Humanity: Stop Pork Barrel Politics posted at Phil for Humanity
UPDATE: Tuesday September 19
While on the topic of carnivals, Brad at The Unrepentant Individual hosted the "Carnival of Liberty" today with an offer to "see the world through a bunch of cranky libertarians’ eyes..." Some excellent posts are to be found there, among which I was pleased to find DWSUWF represented with "All we are saying, is give divided government a chance". Brad rhetotically paired the post with RG Combs preview of Ryan Sager's book "The Elephant in the Room" in a post called "The GOP's Wrong Turn". His concluding remarks deserve some comment:
"Personally, I think a good portion of that turnaround isn't due to anything the GOP did -- it's disgruntled Republicans looking at and listening to the country's leading Democrats, and saying, "Whoa... are these folks for real?!?" -- and then swallowing real hard and deciding that the good-for-nothing, unprincipled Republican who they had no use for a few weeks ago may be tolerable after all. I can understand that. I hate that things are that way, but I can understand it. My best-case scenario for this November's election is that the Republican base is just pissed enough to badly scare and chasten the GOP, and maybe get some of them listening to people like Sager (or even Gingrich) -- but that we avoid having to live with Speaker Pelosi. [shudder]"Not having spent enought time on his blog, I am not exactly sure where RG is coming from, but it appears that he would prefer to see a divided government result in the '06 midterms, but is resigned to libertarians, fiscal conservatives and limited government advocates throwing in the towel and voting for the Republican "devil they know". I have a couple of problems with his formulation. First, RG twice invokes the Speaker Pelosi "bogeyman" without mentioning the even more frightening alternative - two more years of Speaker Denny Hastert. Pelosi, with a narrow Dem majority would be constrained by a hostile Republican President and a probable Republican majority in the Senate. The last six years of the Delay/Hastert era leaves no doubt about exactly what we will see for the next two years with Denny "earmark" Hastert completely unconstrained by this big government, big spending President. We will see two more years of unconstrained growth of the state. We saw it for the last six, we'll see it continue unabated for the next two. Now that is something to "shudder" about.
Second, there is an argument to be made to those "disgruntled" conservatives. Voting tactically in 2006 for a Democratic majority in the House to obtain the objective of restraining the growth of spending is not the same as voting for Democratic policy or party. It is a tactical vote to obtain an objective that cannot be achieved any other way in 2006. It is a rational choice. A much better choice than just hoping for a "best case scenario" of a suddenly "chastened" crop of Republicans who have yet to wipe the slop off their collective faces after gorging at the public trough for the last six years. Other than that, it was a great post, RG.
Technorati tags: carnival of divided government, blog carnival, divided government, 2006 election
Just Vote Divided.
In 1995, Robert McNamara (widely referred to as "the architect of the Vietnam War") writing in his memoir "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam", revealed that as early as 1967 (with 25,000 American dead) he no longer believed that America could win the war in Vietnam, and as a direct consequence of expressing that view, resigned (or was fired) from the LBJ administration. This McNamara quote is excerpted from Harold P. Ford's analysis "Thoughts Engendered by Robert McNamara's In Retrospect":
"We were wrong, terribly wrong... Enemy morale has not broken . . . . It appears that [the enemy] can more than replace his losses by infiltration from North Vietnam and recruitment in South Vietnam. . . . Pacification has if anything gone backward. As compared with two, or four, years ago, enemy full-time regional forces and part-time guerrilla forces are larger; attacks, terrorism and sabotage have increased in scope and intensity. . . . In essence, we find ourselves--from the point of view of the important war (for the [hearts and minds] of the people)--no better, and if anything worse off. This important war must be fought and won by the Vietnamese themselves. We have known this from the beginning . . ." Robert McNamara -"In Retrospect" (pp. 262-263).
Full disclosure: I supported President Bush in the decision to invade and change the regime in Iraq. My support was based on two factors. One, I believe that in matters of security of the United States, the commander-in-chief automatically gets the benefit of the doubt from the American people until shown not to deserve it. In 2003, the commander-in-chief said there was an imminent threat from Iraq that required immediate military action. That is his job. That is his first responsibility. If there is a threat to the U.S., he is obligated to respond, and we are obligated to support him. The second factor, was when Colin Powell, a man I respected, backed the administration's argument in a speech to the United Nations. That combination, at that time, was good enough for me.
Subsequently, the stated reason given by the administration for the invasion has changed and the rationale that was the basis for the action proved to be false. Colin Powell has since recanted on much of the evidence he offered to the United Nations, and subsequently resigned or was fired by the administration. In addition to the obligation to protect the United States, the Commander-in-Chief has an obligation to be right about the reasons given to the American people to go to war. The commander-in-chief also has an obligation to prosecute a military objective with clarity and competence. Failing these obligations, the administration should not expect, and should not receive the support of the American people.
This administration has given Americans like myself ample reason to be skeptical of their ability to garner accurate intelligence, to interpret the intelligence, to develop and promote a correct course of action based on that intelligence, or even their ability to execute a war policy or plan to secure a specific military objective. As a direct result, Americans have correctly withdrawn their support, but with the unfortunate consequence that this administration has been rendered impotent in the face of threats like those presented by Iran or North Korea.
Colin Powell enabled the administration to garner the support needed to put us on this course. I suspect that Colin Powell, out of misplaced loyalty, like McNamara on Vietnam, failed to be forthright and honest with the American people about Iraq. Should Colin Powell, in future memoirs, like McNamara, proclaim that he knew that the Iraq occupation was a wrong policy, he will, like McNamara, have blood on his hands for every day that passes between the time that he recognized the mistake, and the day he finally comes clean with the American people. It took McNamara 27 years. How long will it take Powell?
Where am I going with this? In regard to Colin Powell, I am going here:
This is a facsimile of a message sent from Colin Powell to John McCain in support of the congressional opposition to President Bush's call for "clarification" of how we will apply the Geneva Convention to enemy combatants. This is a clear statement of unequivocal support by Powell for John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham, who are leading the charge in Congress to return traditional American values to the debate on how we, as Americans choose to treat enemy combatants. This debate, has prompted paranoid suspicion from the left ("I’m suspicious over the outrage by Republicans because they usually twist and shout for a while and then rubber stamp Bush.") and incoherent, irrational, immoral screeds from the right ("We first need to worry about winning the war. Then we can start worrying about the morality of the whole thing"). These leaders, military men all, Republicans all, Vietnam veterans, but first and foremost, patriotic Americans, have put their loyalty to country ahead of their loyalty to party or to this administration on this issue. This is an important step to reassert the constitutional war-making and oversight role of Congress. If the administration had correctly come to Congress to legislate the power he was seeking in the first place, there would be no need to rush this legislation through now. It deserves careful deliberation and will now get it.
"GOP Infighting on Detainees Intensifies" by Peter Baker - Washington Post
"Bush is pressing for legislation endorsing his leadership against terrorism, including warrantless surveillance of overseas telephone calls, military commissions to try enemy combatants and expansive rules permitting tough interrogations. The most explosive debate centers on how the Geneva Conventions should apply to U.S. intelligence officers, who captured, held and questioned terrorism suspects in secret overseas CIA prisons for years until the last 14 detainees were transferred recently into military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Supreme Court ruled in June that U.S. detainees fall under the Geneva Conventions, which require that wartime captives be "treated humanely" and ban "outrages upon personal dignity."
"I've found Colin Powell's sudden display of fearlessness particularly significant... Powell framed the debate in the most profound way possible, as a moral question not a legal one... It was a bold move for Powell, a potentially redemptive line drawn in the sand for a public figure whose reputation has fallen on hard times in the wake of the Iraq debacle...Whether it was motivated by a desire to be a team player, a loyal staffer, a good soldier, or a fear of not pleasing his boss, Powell's stomach-turning role in selling the war to the world led to those 80 minutes he spent in front of the UN Security Council throwing his considerable reputation behind the administration's ginned-up case for invasion. Definitely not his finest hour. They turned him from a can't-miss presidential contender into a man who has, like the country he has so loyally served, seemingly ceded the moral high ground. His unequivocal rebuke of his commander-in-chief is a powerful step toward retaking that hill. Let's hope that fearlessness is as contagious as fear."
But a step in the right direction, is a still a step in the right direction. One other needed step to ensure that Congress fulfills its obligation to provide checks, balance and oversight of the executive branch, is to elect a divided congress in November.
UPDATE - September 19, 2006:
Reading Eugene Robinson's column "Torture is Torture" at the Washington Post one wonders how it is that we got to this state, where our leaders, in our name, debate whether and how we will torture prisoners:
"It is not possible for our elected representatives to hold any sort of honorable "debate" over torture. Bush says he is waging a "struggle for civilization," but civilized nations do not debate slavery or genocide, and they don't debate torture, either. This spectacle insults and dishonors every American. There is one ray of encouragement: the crystal-clear evidence that the men and women of our armed forces want no part of torturing anybody. The members of the Republican resistance -- Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- have impeccable Pentagon connections and are not operating in a vacuum.... Colin Powell's strongly worded rejection of torture should have embarrassed and chastened the White House, but this is a president who refuses to listen to critics of his "war on terrorism" -- even critics who helped design and lead it."
I noticed that the London Guardian Unlimited NewsBlog linked to this post, prompting a hasty housecleaning to correct a few typos and spelling errors. Welcome to any visitors from across the pond.
Two updates of potential interest since this was posted. On September 25, I expanded on the theme of this post, wrote and posted an Open Letter to Colin Powell. It was prompted by a rereading of his memoir "My American Journey" and the striking parallels between his words about Vietnam and our current quagmire in Iraq. I did not really expect a a reply, and I have not been disappointed. I have also subsequently read this 09-October-06 LA Times review by Tim Rutten of a new Colin Powell biography Soldier:The Life of Colin Powell. Mr. Rutten sadly validates my fears regarding how history will treat Colin Powell and his role in the Iraq adventure:
"At the end of the day, these two exemplary soldiers, Powell and Lee, shared the same tragic flaw — an inability to recognize the moment in which personal loyalty becomes civic folly."
Just Vote Divided.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Get your own chart!
In the next post, more on why the Divided Government meme will be critically important in this midterm election. Check back tomorrow ...
Reminder: The First "Carnival of Divided Government" will be posted here on Monday, September 18. Send your "divided government" submissions, either via e-mail (see my profile) or the Carnival of Divided Government submission form.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
But disgruntled conservatives explicitily calling for a divided government in 2006 by voting for a Democratic majority in Congress? That is news. This week in the Washington Monthly, seven conservatives write in "Time For Us To Go" why the GOP should lose in 2006 .
In the lead off essay "Let's quit while we're behind", Christopher Buckley concludes with this stirring admonition:
"My fellow Republicans, it is time, as Madison said in Federalist 76, to “Hand over the tiller of governance, that others may fuck things up for a change.”
"Those who worry that divided government would compromise our efforts in Iraq shouldn’t be overly concerned. As the minority party, Democrats today are free to criticize our efforts in Iraq without having to offer constructive alternatives. But put them in the majority, and they’ll suddenly have to put up or shut up. Let them defund the war and implement an immediate pullout if that’s what they really think we should do. At least it would force the administration to explain itself better and face some oversight, for which the Republican Congress has essentially abrogated all responsibility." [Update: E.J. Dionne in his Washington Post column today "Democrats Answer Cheney", shows the loyal opposition is finally finding its voice.]
"This must all be shocking to my Republican friends who still believe our country would be a better place if our party controlled every branch of government as well as every news network, movie studio, and mid-American pulpit. But evidence suggests that divided government may be what Washington needs the most."
Monday, September 11, 2006
On the occasion of the five year anniversary of 9/11, we digress from the politics of the day, with a short meditation on the death and remarkable life of Rick Rescorla. Much has already been written about Rick Rescorla, by authors, journalists, documentarians, friends and family. It is through those voices and because of 9/11 that I learned about Rick. It is through his voice and the voices of those that knew him best that I find meaning in the tragic events of five years ago.
If there is a lesson to be learned from 9/11 that transcends tactical considerations of how to secure borders, assess risk, protect property, play politics or fight terrorists, it is a lesson that Rick Rescorla taught us that day. A lesson on how to live and how to die.
His best friend and comrade in arms, Daniel Hill:
"I have vowed to never again to cry over Rick Rescorla and his death. It was not an event to weep over. It was a noble ending for a noble man. I choose to rejoice in that. I will continue to cheer."
"None of us should have had to go through this, we should have died performing some great deed or in some desperate battle, you know, go out in a blaze of glory, not end up with somebody spoon feeding us and changing our nappy."
"I have accepted the fact that there will never be a kairos moment for me, just an uneventful Miltonian plow-the-fields discipline . . . a few more cups of mocha grande at Starbucks, each one losing a little bit more of its flavor"
"... during the periods of silence he encouraged talk between the foxholes to ease the tension. When all elses failed, Rescorla sang "Wild Colonial Boy" and a Cornish favorite, "Going Up Camborne Hill" - slow and steady tunes, which were answered by shouts of "Hard Corps!" and "Garry Owen!" that told him his men were standing firm.... Rescorla directed his men to dig foxholes and establish a defense perimeter. Exploring the hilly terrain beyond the perimeter, he came under enemy fire. After nightfall, he and his men endured waves of assault. To keep morale up, Rescorla led the men in military cheers and Cornish songs throughout the night...
Rescorla knew war. His men did not, yet. To steady them, to break their concentration away from the fear that may grip a man when he realizes there are hundreds of men very close by who want to kill him, Rescorla sang. Mostly he sang dirty songs that would make a sailor blush. Interspersed with the lyrics was the voice of command: "Fix bayonets. - on liiiiine reaaaa-dy - forward." It was a voice straight from Waterloo, from the Somme, implacable, impeccable, impossible to disobey. His men forgot their fear, concentrated on his orders and marched forward as he led them straight into the pages of history."
"When Rescorla returned to Hayle to visit his mother, he always called on a lonely blind man named Stanley Sullivan at the town's nursing home. Sullivan loved his pint, and Rescorla always brought him cans of Guinness. Then they would sing Cornish oldies like "The White Rose" into the night, tears streaming down their faces... In some ways, Rescorla seemed more Cornish than his friends who had stayed in Hayle. He knew all the old Cornish songs and the local history. He'd invite people to the pub, throw open the bar, and have them all singing. Rescorla never seemed to forget anyone in the village."
"...he rose as usual at 4:30 A.M. on the eleventh, and headed into the shower. Susan could hear him in there, singing an English music-hall tune. He sang in the shower almost every morning... When he came out of the shower that morning, he continued singing and broke into a dance routine. Then he launched into an impression of the actor Anthony Hopkins. "I've never felt better in my life," he told Susan. He grabbed her around the waist for a few dance steps before he kissed her goodbye. "I love you so," he said, and then left for the train station.
Stairwell, South Tower, World Trade Center, New York - September 11, 2001
"Hill hurried downstairs, and then the phone rang. It was Rescorla, calling from his cell phone... Hill could hear Rescorla issuing orders through the bullhorn. He was calm and collected, never raising his voice. Then Hill heard him break into song... Rescorla came back on the phone. "...the Port Authority was telling him not to evacuate and to order people to stay at their desks. "What'd you say?" Hill asked." I said, 'Piss off, you son of a bitch,' " Rescorla replied. "Everything above where that plane hit is going to collapse, and it's going to take the whole building with it. I'm getting my people the fuck out of here. .. and he sang the defiant Men of Harlech, just as he’d done when the 7th Cavalry was surrounded in the Ia Drang Valley..."
Defiant Men of Harlech
Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors' pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!
"You see, for Rick Rescorla, this was a natural death. People like Rick, they don't die old men. They aren't destined for that and it isn't right for them to do so. It just isn't right, by God, for them to become feeble, old, and helpless sons of bitches. There are certain men born in this world, and they're supposed to die setting an example for the rest of the weak bastards we're surrounded with." - Dan HillThe Way of the Warrior
"One who is to be a warrior considers it his foremost concern to keep death in mind at all times, every day and every night, from the morning of New Year's Day, through the night of New Year's Eve. As long as you keep death in mind at all times, you will also fulfill the ways of loyalty and familial duty ... your character will improve and your virtue will grow... if you realize that life is here today and is not certain on the morrow, then when you take your orders from your employer, and when you look in on your parents, you will have the sense that this may be the last time - so you cannot fail to become truly attentive to your employer and your parents. that is why I say you also fulfill the paths of loyalty and familial duty when you keep death in mind."- Bushido Shoshinshu - The Code of the Samurai
Excerpts from 1998 Rick Rescorla interview for "Voice of the Prophet":
"The interview was conducted by filmmaker Robert Edwards, whose father fought alongside Rescorla in Vietnam's battle of Ia Drang. The interview grew out of a proposed documentary about the nature of warfare that was never completed; it sat unseen until after the September 11 attack."
"Things will come home to roost, and they may be 20 years later, of cavalier actions we are taking now out there. And who is directing these cavalier actions? People in command and control that have never seen a shot fired in anger in their life, except hearing a round fired near the White House where someone is mugging a tourist outside. We can't even straighten out our capital, in terms of crime, and we think we can go out there and be World's top cop, It's impossible."
- Rick Rescorla
On the 12 year anniversary of 9/11, on the day after President Obama's speech calling for potential U.S. military action in yet another Mideast war, I decided to revisit and refresh this post. I did not change any content, but most of the links from this original post were broken. I found alternative links to source some of the quotes and deleted the rest. The primary source for most of these quotes are from the extraordinary James B. Stewart New Yorker article "The Real Heroes are Dead.", later expanded into the book Heart of a Soldier.