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August 17, 2006

Let's say Iraq IS part of the war on terror

How's it going, then?

“The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels,” said a senior Defense Department official. “The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.”


[T]he new assessments provide evidence that violence in Iraq is at its highest level yet. And they describe twin dangers facing the country: insurgent violence against Americans and Iraqi security forces, which has continued to increase since the killing of Mr. Zarqawi, and the primarily sectarian violence being aimed at civilians.


Some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq’s democratically elected government might not survive. "Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy," said one military affairs expert.

Oh. You know, I'd sure feel safer from the terrorists if those lazy journalists would go report some good news. And it sure does befog the mind to ponder what sorts of "alternatives to democracy" they might be considering.

But at least it sounds like the UK terror plot was hyped up and its announcement carefully timed by Bush and Blair for short-term political gain. Turns out those "terrorists" didn't have bombs, plane tickets, or passports, so they were nowhere close to even taking a "dry run." And those liquid explosives? They sound about as easy to make on a plane as, I don't know, Beef Wellington.

Isn't that a relief? Even if we're losing the war on terror in Iraq, we're merely not-winning it here at home. It would be nice if we could trust our governments to only scare and inconvenience us when there's actually something scary and inconvenient happening, but hey: Freedom isn't free.

Posted by pk at 9:59 AM

August 16, 2006

All in the timing

"One question to ask is: Why now? The [British] police have had a 'mole' inside this operation since late 2005, but have yet to explain why they felt the need to swoop down and arrest alleged plotters at this moment (two days after the Connecticut primary produced a triumph for anti-war politics). The early claim that a massive takedown of a dozen airliners was set for August 16 is 'rubbish,' according to London authorities. So who decided this case was ripe for its public rollout?"

"U.S. and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.

"British officials knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

"In contrast to previous reports, one senior British official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports."

"The White House’s Wednesday attack on Democrats as weaklings in the war on terror came as administration officials knew of the pending British arrests of terror suspects who allegedly planned to down several planes.

"The White House and the GOP, in a coordinated effort, had moved quickly on Wednesday to portray Democrats as weak on national defense. Cheney, in an extraordinary procedure, took questions from wire service reporters during a conference call as he was in Wyoming. Cheney rarely, if ever, takes questions from groups of reporters."

"What happened in Connecticut is in fact a model for democracies everywhere. The people of the state heard a vigorous debate between two competing visions of how to protect this country. Young citizens became deeply involved, and turnout was high. The primary reminded us of the miracle of our democracy, in which the nation is ruled by its people - not by any entrenched set of leaders. There are few better messages we could send the world in these troubled times."

"For Cheney--and other Republicans like GOP National Chairman Ken Mehlman--to suggest that those Americans are encouraging terrorism is reprehensible. To exploit a very real terror threat that could have led to major casualties, and to even indirectly implicate Americans who were exercising their democratic right by going to the polls and making a choice borders on the criminal, to say nothing of the insane."

"The GOP message machine knows how ludicrous it is to keep tying the war in Iraq to the war on terror, but they also know how effective it has been. So there they go again, with Cheney claiming that Lieberman was 'pushed aside because of his willingness to support an aggressive posture in terms of our national security.'

"They know being against the war in Iraq doesn't mean you are against fighting the war on terror. It means you are against a failed policy that has created more terrorists than it has killed, that has cost America 2,591 lives and $305 billion dollars, that has thrown Iraq into a bloody sectarian civil war, and that has so lessened our standing abroad that we are unable to be a real power broker in an exploding Middle East.

"What Lamont's victory should really do is embolden Democrats to aggressively counterattack the Republicans' scare-tactics nonsense.

"It would help if the MSM reacted to the GOP drivel by treating it with the contempt it deserves instead of dutifully reporting it as if it contained even an ounce of logic or sanity."

"Friends, we are on a losing trajectory in Iraq, and, as the latest London plot underscores, the wider war with radical Islam is only getting wider. We need to reassess everything we are doing in this 'war on terrorism' and figure out what is worth continuing, what needs changing, and what sacrifice we need to demand from every American to match our means with our ends. Yes, the Democrats could help by presenting a serious alternative. But unless the party in power for the next two and half years shakes free of its denial, we are in really, really big trouble."

(Arranged and contextualized with links mostly poached from Dan Froomkin's always worthwhile White House Briefing.)

Posted by pk at 9:08 AM

August 15, 2006

Sense and...the not-having of sense

Even George Will agrees:

Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement has validated John Kerry's belief that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior [Bush] administration official," insisting on anonymity, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, loveable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. (Democrats) do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work." [Italicized not included in the Star's edited version. pk]

Indeed, George, indeed.... But elsewhere on our Indianapolis Star's opinion page, desperate housewife Kathleen Parker, with last week's GOP talking points neatly printed on 3x5 cards and laid out on her dining-room table, announces that Lieberman lost not because primary voters simply preferred Ned Lamont, whom even she admits is "perfectly respectable, well-spoken, attractive, gracious, and rich" (I wonder if he has a brother!), but because the Democratic Party is a "ruthless, radical, anti-war, far-left, Stalinist machine." Then she gives Michael Moore's bloated carcass a couple of angry, breathless kicks before straightening her pearls and composing herself.

Have some more iced tea, Kathleen. After the Democrats sell America to the terrorists, maybe instead of being bundled off to a life of desert servitude, you'll be the first woman we hunt down for sport on our private compound in Cuba.

MORE on Will's column here, here, and here:

There is, at long last, a growing recognition that waging more wars does not make us stronger or more secure. It does exactly the opposite. Those who want to pursue our failed policy in Iraq indefinitely or who want to attack more countries -- in the process alienating the whole world even more and exacerbating the Islamic radicalism which even the President says is what causes terrorism -- are not people who are "strong on security." They are gradually, though inexorably, destroying our security through a mindless militarism which becomes more reckless and crazed the more it fails. And this bloodthirsty militarism becomes more desperate as the sense of weakness and humiliation felt by its proponents -- including those in the White House -- intensifies.

If George Will can come out and say that John Kerry was right about how best to approach terrorism and the Bush approach does nothing but increases it, then perhaps we can soon reach the point where national journalists will understand that there is nothing "strong" about wanting more and more wars, and nothing "weak" about opposing warmongering and advocating more substantive, rational and responsible methods for combating terrorism.

Posted by pk at 11:28 AM

August 14, 2006

Say it again

This time it's Kevin Drum:

It's human nature to demand action following an attack. Any action. Counseling restraint in the hope that it will pay off in the long run is politically ruinous. But our lives may depend on figuring out how to make this case.

If it wasn't obvious before, it should be obvious by now that conventional military assaults are usually counterproductive against a guerrilla enemy like the ones we're fighting now. We can't kill off the fanatics fast enough to win, and in the meantime the war machine simply inspires more recruits, more allies, and more sympathy for the terrorists.

[A]ctually having a coherent long-term strategy to pair up with a short-term counsel of forbearance would make the job easier. Ditto for a more aggressive short-term approach to homeland security. But neither of those will do the trick alone. Someone has to figure out how to sell the basic plan.

I'm just meandering around the point here, trying to marshal my own thoughts by setting them down on the blog. If that seems a bit pointless, I apologize. But I'm probably going to keep doing it from time to time. After all, I'd hate to think that this is a flatly impossible problem.

I don't see why he's apologizing. I'm convinced--and have been since 9/12--that this is the key to preventing warring fundamentalists from ruining our lives. Forbearance, justice, an authoritative world body, and a global consensus to stop terrorism that isn't constantly being undermined by freelance warmaking. This isn't pacifism, it's pragmatism.

Posted by pk at 10:46 AM

August 11, 2006

We should never have come this way

The One Percent Doctrine author Ron Suskind, Salon interview, 8/11/06:

[T]he thinking is that al-Qaida has the ability to attack us at any time or place of their choosing, that we should not view the passage of time as a kind of proxy for victory and view it in any kind of self-satisfied way, that we're doing something that's stopping them from this next destructive moment. What we know about al-Qaida is that they think very long-term. We think in news cycles; they think in decades.

They have spent a good deal of energy thinking about what is appropriate to follow 9/11. It could take years for them to come up with something that is a sufficiently destructive next act in this drama that they are driving. If the next attack is bigger than 9/11, what it does is create an upward arc of terror and anticipation between that second act and whatever follows, however many years later.


The fact of the matter is, it may mean absolutely nothing that they haven't attacked us in the past five years. As I point out in the book, they may not have been trying to attack us. They are probably waiting for a time and place significant and dramatic beyond 9/11. If we start feeling this sort of self-aggrandizing regard for our abilities and capabilities, we will fall prey to exactly what they are hoping we will: We will be less rigorous.

One of the things that I think is clear about the moment we're in now is that in a way this is a new kind of war, a new kind of conflict we're fighting now, with a kind of global insurgency. We know insurgencies, we've seen many of them through history, and very often it's the case where gleaming armies come down from on high with banners waving and march in to some homeland or other to fight insurgents. It almost never works. Whatever moral claim that the army has made as the trumpets blare soon sinks into the ugliness of destruction, especially amongst civilian populations. In Iraq, in the Israel-Lebanon situation, and in other parts of the globe--in Afghanistan, to a certain degree--we are seeing precisely this model.

If we're not thinking with, let's just say, next-era clarity about the nature of these enemies and what best to do about them--where we are not involved solely in tactics, which is mostly what has been driving us, tactics where we're often running around like a chicken with no head, and instead thinking about strategy, where actions fall into a larger good, a larger model that essentially bespeaks progress--we are going to create more and more people around the world who are angry at the United States. The fact is, by virtue of our power, our authority, that's always going to be the case. But if that group, that angry mass of people, grows and grows--and some percentage of them, in this era, are apt to turn to violence--we could be facing a very difficult situation.

If one out of 1,000 people who are angry turn to violence, maybe that's a manageable number. If it's 10 out of 1,000, well, that's a lot of people. If it's 100 out of 1,000, we're facing an army beyond anything we can challenge in terms of even our vast capabilities, especially in an era when individuals, based on the extraordinary power of the information age, can carry the destructive power that was once reserved for nations. That's a very troubling combination, and it becomes a troubling combination if we are creating armies of people who are bent on destruction and violently angry at the United States. If our tactics are metastasizing, creating a growth of that number, then our tactics are not working, plain and simple.

You believe that's happening?

I think it is.

Lieberman, Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the Republicans have seized on Lieberman's loss and the latest UK terror plot to insist that Democrats who oppose the Iraq war don't care about Islamic terrorists or protecting America. This is both illogical and a lie. Moreover, it is a lie that smears a growing majority of Americans, because, contrary to the claim that Lieberman was beaten by the radical, peacenik fringe of a radical, peacenik party, polls show that opposition to the Iraq war is a mainstream American belief. Which means the claim is nothing but a desperate Hail Mary pass, and Bush and Lieberman are dearly hoping someone is open.

The terror plot foiled this week in Britain does not prove that we need to support Joe Lieberman, or Bush's failed policy in Iraq. It proves that their strategy against terrorism has been wrong all along. We invaded Iraq, yet there are terrorists in England. Iraq had nothing, or negligibly little, to do with terrorism in 2001 or 2003, yet in 2006 the very real prospect of a total collapse of Iraq as a nation will have grave ramifications. The fact that Bush and Lieberman made it so means they are not the ones to be trusted with doing whatever is to be done about it now.

But it's not the existence of terrorists and plots that proves the Bush strategy against terrorism is wrong. Terrorists and plots are going to exist, and attacks are going to take place. Either way, people will die. But not only does war have guaranteed costs, war is guaranteed to make the situation worse, as it has done. War means collateral damage and generations of rage and bitterness. No sweeping military offensive could have or will ever bring us "victory" in Iraq or security from terrorists.

War is not the answer, not in Iraq, not in Lebanon, and not in the fight against terror. I put several links to this up there on the right: The way to stop terrorists is intelligence and law enforcement. The way to stop terrorism is justice and diplomacy. Ordinary Americans who want real security from terrorism need to understand this, and polls show they are beginning to.

This week the British showed us how to stop terrorists. I wonder who will show us how to get out of Iraq?

Posted by pk at 7:33 AM

August 10, 2006

No comments

You may have noticed that the comments feature has gone away here at PuddingTime! The number of legitimate comments was so small compared to the amount of spam I was handling--it just wasn't worth it.

Your comments are still welcome, though: Click my name, linked down the left column there, and you'll find an e-mail address just waiting to be used. I'll post all spirited discussions up here in the front.

Posted by pk at 1:20 PM

August 9, 2006

One down, many to go

There are many reasons for Joe Lieberman's fall, his support for the war in Iraq being perhaps first among equals. His supporters in the party he's supposed to oppose will continue to attempt to portray his defeat as a victory for angry, hateful, partisan, yet curiously limp-wristed liberal appeasers who lack the gumption to defend themselves and instead want to draw the shades and curl up with some herbal tea. This is horseshit. What happened to Joe Lieberman isn't a sign that the Democratic Party is retreating into some "weak on defense" caricature. It's a sign that angry, partisan, liberal Democrats are serious about defending America.

To be “strong on national security” does not mean supporting the misconceived and incompetently executed policies of the Bush administration. American security in years to come will depend, in fact, on undoing this government’s grave mistakes, which have weakened this country’s military posture and undermined support for us around the world. Terrorism experts across the spectrum, from conservative Republican to liberal Democrat, agree that the “struggle against violent extremism” has suffered from the foolish decision to invade and occupy Iraq.

Since the Bush administration declared war on a limitless concept--"terror"--and let our specific attacker--bin Laden--remain at large, then let's judge his war on that score. Since September 2001, have any of the Bush administration's actions done anything to reduce the terror in the world? It seems impossible to answer "yes," and there's plenty of evidence that it has actually created more. Even after almost five years of unfettered "war on terror," Bush's most fervent supporters still believe--seem desperate to believe, want us all to believe--that our enemies are still lurking. And no doubt they are. So how can Bush still have supporters? How can they still support a man who has, even with all the power he commands, not only failed to do what he set out to do, but has actually, demonstrably, made things worse? Aren't they serious about defending America? Do they not know how to win? Do they believe it's impossible to win? Is it possible they don't want to win?

There is a war going on, but it is not between opposing tribes or religious delusions. It is between moderates and fundamentalists. It's time for the frightened moderates of the world to realize that the fundamentalists--American and Arab, Israeli and Hizbullah, Christian and Muslim--are consistently pushing towards the same goal: World War III. Listen to their rhetoric: They all want the same thing. Is it a coincidence that terrorist actions have given America and Israel the excuse to do EXACTLY what they wanted to do? Is it a coincidence that America since 9/11 and Israel in the past month have done EXACTLY what the terrorists wanted them to do? Why do these groups in supposed mortal conflict keep giving each other EXACTLY what they want?

Fundamentalists of every stripe want violence, because violence creates fear, and frightened people can be controlled. It's time for moderates, liberals, progressives--whatever you want to call us--to shed our fear, take control, and take back our future. We need to reach across national boundaries and defend our world against fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim, or Zionist. They lie when they tell their people that it's either their way or Doomsday. Their way is Doomsday.

Posted by pk at 12:15 PM