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September 25, 2004

Comments

I guess Kerry's team has decided that if they win they don't want to be working with Allawi.

You mean like Bush decided he didn't want to be working with Chirac? Or, even worse, the way he decided he didn't want to working with Chavez? (You criticized Bush, I assume, for his swipes at Chirac and his unforgiveable support of the coup that temporarily ousted Chavez?)

Allawi is an American puppet. The people of Iraq know that. Free democratic elections in Iraq will not elect Allawi and his circle. Supporting a brand new despot put in by the US military is exactly the wrong thing to do - the beginning of a new cycle of mistakes. Bush & Co cannot make Iraq look like a nascent democracy by saying it is: and we're already discussing on ObWi the stupidity of Allawi's "faking it" speech about Iraq to the US Congress.

To put it even more strongly, Sebastian:

Planning to install Allawi as the new despot running Iraq - which is how Allawi is widely seen - is destructive to the effort in Iraq, and insofar as rthe two are linked (a link which Bush & Co are responsible for creating) is also destructive to the struggle against terrorism. Criticizing Allawi is certainly destructive of the plan to install him - but why should Bush's plan to install Allawi be immune from criticism? Allawi is not (unlike Chavez or Chirac) the elected leader of his people.

The plan to install Allawi is (IMO) one of the things that GOP leadership are consistently doing that I think "undermine our young men and women who are serving over there" - far more than public criticism of Bush's plans for Iraq could.

What this post amounts to is no more than what has been argued against in the other "Have you no shame" post - the idea that in time of war, you shouldn't publicly criticise Presidential policy. Allawi is part of Bush's Presidential policy. Bringing him over to lie to US Congress on Bush's behalf was neither more nor less than an electoral ploy - rather like the "Mission Accomplished" photo-op. And, like that famous and expensive photo-op, I suspect it will backfire on its instigators.

Yeah. Because of course Iraqis can't figure out the degree of Allawi's puppethood unless the Kerry campaign lets them know.

In Vietnam, a CIA thug flown in from New Jersey was supposedly democracy's best hope, in Iraq, a CIA thug flown in from Florida fits the bill. Credibility? Nope.

Pointing out the reality of the situation is frowned upon by supporters of those who got us into the situation. "A puppet! Why I never!", they chant in mock outrage.

Reading the recent headlines, of course, it is obvious who is still calling the shots in Iraq. It is inpolitic to notice that, as well.

Democrats with no shame? Please. Your screed, in addition to being intellectually bankrupt, is a posting rules violation. If not, I assume I can make false and insulting generalizations about Republicans with no fear of reprobation here.

"I guess Kerry's team has decided that if they win they don't want to be working with Allawi."

What, you think if Kerry wins Allawi's going to give him the finger? He lives and dies according to his US support. He'll be John Kerry's best friend.

"Of course Bush was a terrible President! I love ketchup!"

Sidereal: "Of course Bush was a terrible President! I love ketchup!"

Damn, coffee all over the keyboard... :-D

Juan Cole http://www.juancole.com/ has a report up about the largest group of Sunni clerics [represents about 8000 clerics] calling for mutiny by the Iraqi National Guard and general civil disobedience against Allawi and Sistani is not accepting Allawi's election plans, I doubt that they needed Joe Lockhart or even John Kerry to tell them what to do. Or if they care or know of the existence of Joe Lockhart.
Reality bites in Iraq and it is no disservice to declare the Emperor has no clothes.
I assumed when the war in Iraq was committed, that at least the fools would know that their political lives and that of the Republican party were tied to a successful outcome and the logical thing to do was bend every effort to win the peace at any cost. But, no. The Bushies have shown political cowardice on admitting the cost, appointed a cast of well meanning but woefully unpreparred political hacks in country, clung to an idiological insistance on under estimating troop levels, trused Chalabi without seriously checking and carried on with just plain mental laziness.
Harry Truman said "I just tell them the truth and they think it is hell."
Give 'em Hell, Kerry.

Sebastian -- I hate to say it, but I agree with Felixrayman on posting rules.

"Having one of Kerry's most senior aides publically label him a 'puppet' isn't just criticizing Bush, it is hurting us in the war in Iraq."

Sebastian,
As if the Iraqi people haven't recognized that Allawi was hand picked by the American leadership and that his authority is an expression of the authority of the occupying American military.
Do you really think they are blind?

To answer your question, tho' I'm assuming it was little more than rhetorical garbage -- yes, the Democrats care about Iraq beyond using it to tar the Bush administration. Oh, and the the problem with allowing yourself to be used as a campaign prop? Folks start to think of you as a campaign prop.

I'd have to add to Hilzoy that the last remark, whatever its use under the posting rules, was snide and contemptuous. Of course I know you were riffing off her headline from a few days ago, but she was talking about a particular set of Named Republican Officials; you're talking about "Democrats," which means you're talking about many of the posters on the board.

The remark was sactically dumb but also true. Allawi pulled the old trick of associating the terms "Saddam" and "9/11" in a sinister and deceitful light, an old Bush team trick. I'm having a tough time following the logic that he can't be a shill because Bush appointed him somewhere; let's check down the list of ambassadors sometime.

No legitimate, non-puppet leader would allow himself to be used in the internal political process of another nation.

Sebastian
Are you next going to accuse all the people who are not going to support the re-election of the president of also hurting America's goals?

Dangerous roads you like to drive down.

Better said would be: "...hurting America's efforts toward its goals?"

Does Bush care about Iraq beyond its use as a prop to win in November?

No. Actually, Bush doesn't care about Iraq beyond its use as a prop in self-aggrandisement, which includes winning in November.

Does that undermine our troops?

Gee, I dunno. How would you feel, if you realized you were fighting and dying in someone's vanity war?

First, I'm taking a poll. Precisely which of you think that the statement was diplomatically a good thing? Which of you believe it to be neutral? You don't get to escape the content (non-forged I might add) by running off about how unfair I am. This is one of Kerry's highest staffers in the middle of a public campaign which has Iraq as one of the major issues. Allawi is the current leader of Iraq. This was not some random Democrat in Congress. This was not about some minor side issue.


"What, you think if Kerry wins Allawi's going to give him the finger? He lives and dies according to his US support. He'll be John Kerry's best friend."

Of course he won't give him the finger. But Kerry's immediate team (not someone just in his party) just publically equated him with a US puppet, a comment which will plays directly into Al Qaeda propaganda about the US in Iraq. Kerry's immediate team just made the job in Iraq much harder for Allawi and anyone who supports him. That would mean US soldiers in Iraq. That is precisely the Republican charge contemplated in the previous post. It was precisely those charges which you all found so horrifying. It is precisely those charges which have been dramatically illustrated only a day later.

On this very board we recently had an extended conversation about the responsibility of evangelical Christians to condemn Swaggart--a minister who has had no significant power for two decades for saying horrifying--but not foreign policy damaging--things. Do you think that making crass and foreign policy-damaging statements by one of the highest current members of Kerry's team ought to be held to a lower standard? It sure looks like that is how you all are treating it.

"Gee, I dunno. How would you feel, if you realized you were fighting and dying in someone's vanity war?"

I submit that you don't have much exposure to soldiers on a day-to-day basis if you believe that most of them think of Iraq as a vanity war.

I would suggest that Bush is endangering the legitimacy of the interm government by using Allawi as an election campaign prop.

'Puppet' is a pretty mild term for Allawi. Let's stop pretending Allawi is the George Washington of Iraq; he's always been a thug and a terrorist for sale to the highest bidder.

It astounds me that reasonable people can rail about isolated instances of terrorism or bad behavior by fringe elements of a certain faith and use those examples to condemn the entire faith. Yet, when the US installs a guy who used to kill Saddam's political foes and has committed acts of terror such as bombings---it's all of a sudden A-OK because he has the GOP seal of approval.

Allawi wants our respect? Fine--earn it. Don't come to my country and lie brazenly while my servicemen are dying for you.

Wait a second,

1 - Aren't there supposed to be elections in January?

If there are, aren't we pretty sure that by the time Kerry is inaugurated, Allawi will be a lame duck waiting for whoever is Iraq's next leader to take the reigns?

2 - Now in what sense is it diplomatically a bad thing to call an installed leader with no native base of support a puppet? To be shocked you have to believe he is not a puppet.

Which leads to

3 - Allawi comes to the United States and gives speeches that sound very similar to Bush's current stump speech.

Any leader who injects himself into the US political process on behalf of one side should expect to be attacked by the other side.

If Tony Blair goes to Ohio and says Bush is the key to keeping America safe, Tony Blair will be called a puppet. He'll have to live with that. And it will be true.

"'Puppet' is a pretty mild term for Allawi."

Excuse me? Puppet is about the highest term of derision for a leader available--especially in the Middle East.

The last thing is that Allawi comes here in late September of an election year to thank one of the candidates.

I do not believe that this trip was not conceived as a political gesture.

I have no proof, but I do not give the Rove White House the benefit of the doubt.

When summoned to the US to help Bush, Allawi had a choice. He could have let the word out that he refuses to participate which may have made him seem less like a puppet to his people. He could have come and had Gergen write a speech for him. That won't score points with the Iraqis but it will make Bush happy.

He chose the second.

The entire line of argument here does not address the central issue: Is the current Bush policy in Iraq inline with American security issues. The Democratic response to Allawi was a threat to American military interests in Iraq, only if one holds belief in current Bush policy. Allawi is actually not in control of any part of Iraq, American military forces are. He would be quickly and easily replaced in Iraq, if left to popular Iraqi support, so no one can really claim it is a democratic process.

I have already called for a unilateral, American military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, with clear statement that Iraqi and Afghani leadership is an internal affair--even if it leads to civil war. We will deal with whatever victor derived, even if it requires a subsequent return invasion. This policy, I believe, would best serve American interests; all understanding We demand a certain level of performance from other nations. lgl

Really lastly:

Is this some kind of supremely grand move by the Republicans that they can score political points with no possible counter?

Can a leader installed indirectly by George Bush go on the campaign trail and tell American voters that Bush is right and Kerry is wrong while leaving Kerry unable to respond because that would be bad diplomacy?

OK Sebastian. I'll answer. I think it was diplomatically neutral, and generally beneficial to the US.

First of all, the statement is true. You know it, I know it, Allawi knows it, and the Iraqis know it.

The people who don't know it are those Americans who either haven't been paying much attention or who swallow whatever Bush says. So Lockhart has brought it to the attention of at least some of those individuals. I think that improving Americans' understanding of the situation in Iraq is beneficial to us. Do you disagree?

Now a question for you. Do you believe that it is illegitimate for Kerry to make any statement which you think is harmful to the country? If so, is it also illegitimate for Bush to make any statement that I think is harmful to the country?

I submit that you don't have much exposure to soldiers on a day-to-day basis if you believe that most of them think of Iraq as a vanity war.

You do?

I know I do. Interact with 'em daily. I work with them; some are my neighbors, some are in my immediate family.

We're lucky in this country that we have a truly professional military. As such, they understand they're an instrument of our foregn and national security policies--they aren't policy-makers. As such, they do what they're told and they do just a superhuman job of achieving the goals and objectives of their mission.

But they're human and they hold opinions and those opinions largely mirror our society. But very few I've talked to believe Iraq posed a serious threat to our security. Very few believe the war is being prosecuted competently.

To be candid, there are some who fully believe we had to invade and that Iraq will cause the ME to bloom with democracy. But those are few and far between.

Strangely, searches of the Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera English language websites for "Lockhart" turned up nothing. I also searched the BBC, since I know they are watched somewhat in the Middle East, but "Lockhart" references from them allude to Gilderoy, not Joe. Nor was Lockhart mentioned on Arabic News in their relevant story, "Bush rejects to withdraw forces from Iraq, Allawi thanks him for invasion."

Now there's no question for me about the accuracy of Lockhart's remarks. I mean, telling us we would've been attacked if Saddam was still in power--it's a lie, a long discredited lie that Bush is afraid to say himself so he drags the leader of Iraq over to campaign for him. That's not going to help his legitimacy.

But the question is whether Kerry's spokesman saying it does additional harm to Allawi's credibility. And until I see any evidence that it was even covered in Iraq, I find that very hard to believe. It's just a way to add some righteous piety to the usual "thou shalt not criticize the President in wartime" bullying.

Meanwhile, back in real life, this is probably why Allawi's having credibility problems: the Iraqi health ministry estimates that twice as many Iraqi civilians have been killed by coalition troops than by insurgents and terrorists since April.


(I realize war is hell. I realize there's a distinction between targetting civilians and killing them by accident. I doubt it's a distinction many Iraqis believe in at the moment. This is what makes guerilla wars so awful: "we have to kill you guys in order to save you and we're doing our best to spare the innocent" is not a very convincing argument after your family member is shot, even if it is true. That is why you generally don't start such wars unless you have to.

The gratuitous cruelty at Abu Ghraib, and the continuing reports of prison abuse, do not help either of course.

I love how the people on the right who say there's no proof that the Iraq war has increased Al Qaeda recruiting or that Abu Ghraib helped turned Arab and Iraqi public opinion against us (when both common sense and all available data showed that they did) are suddenly quite confident that a remark by Joe Lockhart (which most people in Iraq probably have never seen) is turning the Iraqi public against Allawi and endangering our mission.)

Sebastian
Your argument is a bit like Zell taking exception to democrats calling American forces in Iraq an "occupying force" and not a "liberating force".
It turned out even the president spoke regularly of our "occupation".
On its face it is ridiculous to make such a charge.
Just as you (or at least many on your side of the aisle) claim Kerry brought on the attacks of his military career by highlighting them, Bush brought on comments about Allawi by interjecting him into the election campaign.

So again, what is Allawi if his position and authority are granted and dictated by the American president?

And don't play some semantic game either. Just answer the question.

Snap response here; a more measured response will have to wait.

But Kerry's immediate team (not someone just in his party) just publically equated him with a US puppet, a comment which will plays directly into Al Qaeda propaganda about the US in Iraq. Kerry's immediate team just made the job in Iraq much harder for Allawi and anyone who supports him.

I agree with you that the remarks were unwise and they should have been more circumspect. I don't, however, buy the argument that you've just made for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that I don't see how it gives Al Qaeda's propaganda more credibility than it already had; I can't really imagine an Iraqi sitting being the fence about Allawi's puppethood until suddenly the local jihadi bursts forth with the news that some American (or Kerry, even) has just confirmed it.

[I could be wrong, of course -- which is why I think they should have been more circumspect, better safe than sorry -- but that doesn't strike me as all that plausible.]

The second problem is that, well, Allawi really is a puppet. He's an expatriate of very dubious background (tied to the previous despotic regime, in fact) who was installed at our desire to rule the country at our request. He's never stood up against us and he couldn't even try because he has no meaningful popular support. If that's the drum that Al Qaeda's banging, bully for them because it's true. The problem here isn't the public acknowledgement of this fact, the problem is that the Bush Administration is closing its eyes to that reality -- and oftentimes exacerbating it by, e.g., getting him to shill for the Administration in front of Congress -- thereby directly making it harder to accomplish positive change in Iraq.

Which brings me to the third, more general point. The argument that you've made here hinges on the fact that what Kerry's team said will make it harder for Allawi and his supporters. You can make that argument about any criticism of what's happening in Iraq, though; any criticism of our Iraqi policy has doubtless been preceded by countless rounds of insurgent or terrorist propaganda and any criticism could make it harder for Allawi and the transitional government. What you're saying is, effectively, that we shouldn't be able to speak the truth about anything bad in Iraq, period.

Again, let me reiterate: the truth. If Kerry or his team were just blathering about something random -- Allawi eats babies for fun! News at 11! -- you'd have a point. As it stands, however, our need to acknowledge painful truths trumps the possibility that our enemies might be using those same truths to strike at us. The proper redress is not to criticize the acknowledgement for its lack of circumspection, it's to change the circumstances that caused those painful truths in the first place.

Do you think that making crass and foreign policy-damaging statements by one of the highest current members of Kerry's team ought to be held to a lower standard?

Given the depths of the "standards" to which the Bush Administration is frequently held, you'll forgive me if I fail to muster much in the way of outrage at this remark.

Bush's high standard AND yours too I see is to essentially say that the man contesting the current president, a man who has spent his entire adult life in public service to his community, state and country, is aiding and abetting an enemy of the United States.

I don't cuss often but that sentiment falls into "f*cking sickening" category for me. Is that low enough or is the Bush campaign just getting started?

"The argument that you've made here hinges on the fact that what Kerry's team said will make it harder for Allawi and his supporters. You can make that argument about any criticism of what's happening in Iraq, though; any criticism of our Iraqi policy has doubtless been preceded by countless rounds of insurgent or terrorist propaganda and any criticism could make it harder for Allawi and the transitional government."

Absolutely not. Short of calling him a Jew (which please note I am not saying is bad but I do know the Iraqi culture well enough to know it has a greivous insult), there isn't likely to be anything more damaging to the situation than calling him a US puppet. And failing to realize that suggests to me that some people on this board are a lot less culturally sensitive than they pretend.

Pathetic retort.
So are implying that the people in Iraq didn't know Allawi was serving at the pleasure of the American president until Joe Lockhart said he did.
Preposterous.

Oops I truncated my comment.

So unless you want to argue that nothing Kerry's team could say could possibly cause problems in Iraq, I don't think you can dismiss this.

Allawi undercut his own credibility in his speech to Congress. By insisting he is the leader of a "sovereign" nation he invited the reality check calling him a "puppet" provides.

If he had otherwise described his position in terms that didn't echo the same claim Bush had made to the UN just days earlier (i.e., if he had qualified the "sovereignty" so that it meshed with the reality of facts, such as the fact the Negroponte is dictating his schedule to him), I think he would have been able to say what he said to Congress and get away with it. But by telling that straight-faced lie to Congress, and thereby the people of the United States who are still offering billions of dollars and far too many young people to help Iraq, he essentially gave license to any critic to question the sincerity and motivation of the rest of his speech.

1. do you have any response to the 1:19 and 1:31 posts?
2. do you think Allawi's visit and words were partly designed to help Bush's re-election efforts?
3. if not, why do you think Allawi used so many of the same phrases as President Bush, and why was he openly dishonest about the situation in Iraq in a way that the Iraqi people would know was dishonest?
4. do you think campaigning for President Bush could harm Allawi's credibility in Iraq?
5. given that Allawi's visit was much more widely reported on than Lockhart's remark about it, especially in Iraq, wouldn't it do more harm to Allawi's credibility there?
6. shouldn't you be at least as angry at the Bush campaign for this as the Kerry campaign?

And failing to realize that suggests to me that some people on this board are a lot less culturally sensitive than they pretend.

Please.

The fact is Iraqis know Allawi is our guy. The insurgents/terrorists know Allawi is our guy. Most everyone on the bleeding planet knows Allawi is our guy.

Do you for one moment think someone sitting in the seat of power in Riyadh is under the impression Allawi isn't a puppet? Do you think Al Qaeda's leadership regards Allawi as the sovereign leader of Iraq?

Let's all clap louder to save Tinkerbell.


Moreover, when Allawi comes to my country and lies, it's deeply, deeply offensive. When he intimates Saddam was linked to 9/11 and Al Qaeda--it's offensive. When Allawi tells us 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces are gardens of tranquility--it's offensive. When Allawi says he has 100,000 security forces ready to be deployed--it's offensive.

You want our help? Fine. Tell us the truth. Don't tell us those flag-draped boxes coming into Dover AFB are valentines.

"So are implying that the people in Iraq didn't know Allawi was serving at the pleasure of the American president until Joe Lockhart said he did."

Are you asserting that Allawi has no independence? Because that is what puppet means. Are you asserting that even if it were true, it is good diplomacy to use the term puppet? Because if so, you don't know much about diplomacy--AND NEITHER DOES KERRY'S TOP AIDE.

{comment deleted for violating posting rules}

Sebastian:

Do you think Allawi is an American puppet?

This looks like the breakdown in communication here. If you think he is a puppet, but it is bad to say so that is one argument. If you think he is not a puppet and he was slandered that is a different separate argument. You, Sebastian, have to be clear so that we can have the right argument.

I can only assume you would acknowledge 1) He depends on the US to maintain power and 2) the US has more influence on his political decision-making than any Iraqi constituency.

You could also clear things up by giving some examples of statements that 1) are true, 2) are bad about Iraq and 3) do not make Allawi's job harder.

Because unless those statements exist, as said earlier, you are really asserting that John Kerry cannot say anything about Iraq during the campaign.

Sebastian
No independence? Certainly Allawi has as much independent authority as Challabi did. You know...until he doesn't.

Short of calling him a Jew (which please note I am not saying is bad but I do know the Iraqi culture well enough to know it has a greivous insult), there isn't likely to be anything more damaging to the situation than calling him a US puppet.

Sure there is: actually having him be a US puppet. Which was exactly my point, and one you haven't yet addressed.

[And marguerite's point about the penetration of this remark into the Iraqi media is well-taken. In fact, Sebastian, I could make the counter-argument that your drawing attention to Lockhart's remark is itself undermining our forces in Iraq by increasing the likelihood that it will be noticed and turned into propaganda by the terrorists! Muahaha!]

CaseyL

This is your only warning.

Any further nazi talk will get you banned. Got it?

In fact, if Sebastian or any other ObWi writer suggests you should be banned, that will be good enough for me.

This is a warning to everyone. We won't tolerate the same kind of nonsense here that takes place on other blogs.

I'd also like to second Marguerite's questions from 2:11

This is becoming the Bush defender's cri de coeur. Forget what's actually happening, reality is a partisan construct; criticizing the admin., or telling the truth about it, is a shameful act. Sorry, bud, but it's doesn't work that way. The vapid cynicism required to trot poor Allawi in front of the cameras for a cheery photo op required and received appropriate comment. The fact that the Fighting 101st Keyboarders are incensed as a result is both predictable and largely unimportant.

" we have most of the GOP lining up like good little Goebbels"

I'm not a moderator but I would suggest you retract before one of the moderator sees this.

"I could make the counter-argument that your drawing attention to Lockhart's remark is itself undermining our forces in Iraq by increasing the likelihood that it will be noticed and turned into propaganda by the terrorists! Muahaha!]"

This occurred to me too. I don't think it's a very good argument at all. At the same time, it is EXACTLY the same argument that critics of Kerry and the media often make. The problem isn't that Allawi campaigns for Bush, the problem is that Kerry's spokesman accuses Allawi of campaigning for Bush. It's okay for Bush to allow Iraq to go to hell in a handbasket, but when Kerry points out how badly it's going it undermines our troops. The problem isn't that there was torture at Abu Ghraib; the problem is that Seymour Hersh reported on it and CBS news published photos of it.

(The perfect rejoinder to Sebastian of course is the "Shh! Not in front of Iraq!" piece on the Daily Show Thursday. But I can't find it.)

Truth to Power Sebastian. Truth to Power.

Allawi is not a puppet. He is a supported interim leader.

You are all hiding behind an amazing degree of generality. I am not saying that all criticism is bad--of Bush or Allawi. I'm not even saying most criticism is bad. I've been on this board for almost a year, and only rarely and in the most egregious instances have I suggested that a statement gives support to our enemies or that mere words hurt us in Iraq.

I am saying that this is just about the worst possible thing to have said about Allawi. There are very few things that could have been worse. And most of the ones I can think of would have to play off of the general Middle Eastern hatred of Jews (e.g. "...and you can almost see the Jewish hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips." So unless you all are saying that NOTHING the Kerry camp could say could damage our interests in Iraq, this is certainly one of the damaging cases.

It is especially ironic coming from the allegedly good-at-diplomacy team.


P.S. we don't get as many readers as the Associated Press or as many viewers as CNN. Sad but true.

"All dissent is opposition. All opposition is counterrevolutionary."

- Fidel Castro

Dick Cheney, Orrin Hatch and Fidel Castro - peas in a pod. Great company you keep there, Sebastian.

Most everything everyone in this thread has said as an element of truth to it. It's an election year and the campaign is in full bloom with all the blemishes the last few threads has debated. I'm trying to grasp the theme of this one. One of Kerry's campaign promises is that he's the better international diplomat than Bush. He will lead America through this difficult world stage. He is smarter, more nuanced and will certainly be better respected. That's what he says. What does he do? He's insulted every ally associated with the United States in the war effort, including the man who is risking his life beyond what most of us can imagine to do something heroic in his country - Allawi. The only countries Kerry hasn't yet insulted is France and Germany, who's armies are so weak, they would require United States logistics to move them to wherever Kerry imagines he could talk them in to being. Sebastians initial point is on the money. Kerry is absolutely not the diplomat he claims to be. Another of his many empty shirt positions that have no substance.

Allawi is not a puppet. He is a supported interim leader.

Not sure the distinction is clear there if Negroponte is telling him when and where he can or cannot be interviewed.

I'll give some ground here. Allawi deserves to be treated like a leader of his country. As such, he is open to criticism, like any other leader of any other country, though. He can dismiss Kerry, disproving the allegations like any other leader as well.

What BushCo are arguing, that he be treated with kid gloves, that criticizing him is cruel or hurtful, would be laughable if he were truly a sovereign leader, by the way.

marguerite: I said "most" not "all." I would ask a moderator who objects to that to name names of the presumed GOP majority who have publically objected to the meme.

I am not indulging hyperbole. This propagandizing *is* despicable. The way it has distorted public discourse *is* loathesome. The way it's used to distract from, or cover up entirely, an honest debate about Iraq *is* vile - because the debate isn't theoretical. The situation in Iraq is apocalyptic: check out Laura Rozen's site, warandpiece, for an article from the Spectator on what it's like there these days. (I'd link to it, but I don't know how.)

The consequences of pursuing current policy in Iraq are beyond-decription-Bad. The idea of trusting the same regime who got us into this mess to get us out is flabbergastingly moronic. They are going to take us over the cliff.

Allawi is not a puppet. He is a supported interim leader.

Chuckle.

Najibullah was a supported interim leader, too. He wound up strung up in Kabul.

Sebastian:

(1) While I think Lockhart's statement is entirely accurate, I would not have made it myself.

(2) I do not think it harms Allawi in the slightest. That's because, as others have pointed out, I cannot imagine that Iraqis, especially Iraqis likely to be following the comments of Kerry's press secretary, do not already know that Allawi is a puppet, or that his position would be weakened by the comments of someone they have never heard of. (Note: this is not about whether being seen as a puppet is bad in Iraq; it's about whether Lockhart's comments are likely to lead to his being seen that way.) Nor do I think it will make Allawi less able to work with Kerry: for one thing, I am sure he already knows his own situation, and for another, a man who has previously been able to work with Saddam, the Mukhabarat, the MI6, the CIA under both Clinton and Bush, and so on, is unlikely to have the delicate sensibilities that your remark suggests.

(3) What does harm Allawi, of course, is being seen as a puppet. The people who have done the most to foster the impression that he is one are the Bush administration. They are the ones who insisted on hand-picking the Prime Minister, vetoing people who had a lot more political support than he did. They have dictated many of his actions, and were widely seen as doing this long before Lockhart opened his mouth. As Edward noted, the Bush administration has even been doing his scheduling: according to that notorious abetter of the insurgents, George Will:

After "This Week" arranged with Allawi's office for Sunday's interview, the U.S. State Department called ABC to say that the office of U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte in Baghdad had decided that the interview would not happen until this coming Sunday, after Allawi's U.S. visit. This attempt by the U.S. embassy to exercise sovereignty over the prime minister raised interesting questions about just what was actually transferred on June 28 when sovereignty was supposedly given to the Iraqi government.

(4) The Bush administration has also weakened Allawi's hand in more indirect ways. The present government of Iraq would not be facing anything like the present insurgency had Donald Rumsfeld not decided to go in with too few troops to ensure security after Saddam fell and to allow them to look on when the looting began; had we not disbanded the Iraqi army; had we not chosen staffers for the CPA on the basis of political loyalty rather than competence; had we used the funds allotted for reconstruction (a) at all, and (b) in a way that both employed Iraqis and produced better results; had we not overridden our commanders on the ground both in attacking Fallujah and then in withdrawing once we were committed; and so on and so forth. And then there is the huge boost to our adversaries created by the fact that we rounded up all sorts of people and then tortured them. The idea that of all these things, the one that stands out as the most outrageous is Lockhart's comment is absurd. Frankly, the idea that it even registers against this backdrop is absurd.

(5) Note one thing about Bush's comments: they are not about what Lockhart said, but about what Kerry said. Kerry did not (as far as I know) call Allawi a puppet. He just said, basically, that things in Iraq are not going as well as Allawi said, comments that have been echoed by all sorts of people, including a lot of conservative commentators and Republicans. But this is what Bush wants to rule out as aiding our enemies. In order for you to object to Lockhart's comments, you have to imagine that they will have some detectable effect in Iraq. In order for me to object to Bush's, I have to think that they will have a detectable effect here at home, and specifically the effect of making people think that comments like Kerry's should not be made, since they aid our enemies. Again: if Kerry's comments are out of bounds, than any criticism of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq is out of bounds. Bush and the other Republicans I cited are implying that it is, and that is what I called shameful.

Of course, my original title was a riff on Joseph Welch. The invocation of the McCarthy hearings was deliberate.

By the way, calling him an "American dog" is certainly considered worse in the Middle East than "Puppet".
If you disagree then I'd suggest you do it with a cite and a site.
Your argument around "So unless you all are saying that NOTHING the Kerry camp could say could damage our interests in Iraq" is like saying "I like water therefore I should live in the ocean".

Gilbert [the interviewer]: "There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

Göring: "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

The idea that calling a leader in war-torn country with an honor-central cultural system a 'puppet' is precisely equal to treating him with kid gloves is a generalization that is precisely what is wrong with this thread.

It is amazing to me that the side of this argument which prides itself on diplomacy and cross-cultural nuance can be so blind to something so obvious. You don't call a leader in an honor culture 'puppet' unless you are trying to actively destroy him. It isn't a neutral description--it is an intentionally loaded word which is even more loaded in a culture where honor is central. Saying that he had women raped on a regular basis wouldn't be as damaging(see Saddam's reputation).

I said "most" not "all." I would ask a moderator who objects to that to name names of the presumed GOP majority who have publically objected to the meme.

The point at which you violated the posting rules was in the choice of metaphor, and I'm rather sure that should be clear. It was not in your qualification of "all" vs. "most."

I don't disagree with your overall point that the GOP is standing together on this issue (one could argue either way that this is good or bad), but even if as you write "The consequences of pursuing current policy in Iraq are beyond-decription-Bad" that still doesn't give you license to scrape the bottom of the description/metaphor barrel to make your point.

Sebastian: here is some actual damage to Allawi: Juan Cole writes:

"'Abu Ghuraib Shaikh Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi of the Association of Muslim Scholars called on National Guardsmen to rebel against the government of Iyad Allawi. AMS has affiliations to some 8000 Sunni mosques in Iraq and has emerged as the most popular Sunni Arab leadership. ArabNews writes that Kubaisi said,

"It is strange to hear someone announce that Iraq cannot achieve democracy without the Americans," referring to Allawi "who has abandoned Islamic, regional and patriotic principles, forgets that America is the one that slaughtered its native Americans and killed millions of Red Indians. He forgets that America is the first to have made mass graves by bombing Hiroshima." . . . "We live in strange times. As practically everyone is condemning America and its conquering of Iraq, we see a small bit of scum fighting the current, calling America a liberator and friend," referring to Allawis speech praising the US invasion. . . ." --

Edward:

So making comparisons to Vichy France would also be verboten?

You don't call a leader in an honor culture 'puppet' unless you are trying to actively destroy him.

And you don't create a puppet in an honor culture and call him a 'leader' unless you're actively trying to destroy... ?

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You don't call a leader in an honor culture 'puppet' unless you are trying to actively destroy him. It isn't a neutral description--it is an intentionally loaded word which is even more loaded in a culture where honor is central.
]]

I'm still waiting for the part where Sebastian says he does not believe Allawi is a puppet. Especially given a non-strawman definition of "puppet".

This is verging on the bizarre. I can't think of any nominally independent leader in history who is substantially more of a puppet than Allawi.

He's insulted every ally associated with the United States in the war effort, including the man who is risking his life beyond what most of us can imagine to do something heroic in his country - Allawi.

First, how has Kerry insulted every ally?

Second, I vigorously dispute the notion that it has been proven that Allawi is trying to "do something heroic in his country". AFAIK, Allawi's true motives haven't yet been revealed, Republican rhetoric to the contrary. He may well be genuinely trying to turn Iraq into a liberal democracy, which I think we all agree would be heroic. He may also be genuinely trying to turn Iraq into a liberal polity with himself as anointed head, a somewhat less heroic aim. He may be a conniving opportunist who will cohere to liberalization for as long as it keeps him in power but who will turn to tyranny if he thinks we're not looking, a not exactly heroic goal. And it could be that he's sucking up to Bush long enough to get himself installed as "Interim Leader For Life", which I hope we can all agree would not be heroic in the least.

Which of these positions best describes Allawi is something that I don't know and in fact is something I doubt anyone knows except perhaps Allawi himself. That's one of the many problems I had with his selection: we picked a man with known anti-democratic leanings, whose sole qualifications for the job appeared to be that he hated Saddam and was willing to play our poodle, and have tried to polish him up and claim him as the next next George Washington.

[The next George Washington, Ahmed Chalabi, is not to be spoken of. Next!]

To be really blunt about it: the enemy of my enemy might be willing to work with me for a while, but I'd be insane to conclude that he's necessarily my friend. Or even necessarily good.

"I'm still waiting for the part where Sebastian says he does not believe Allawi is a puppet."

I suggest you look upthread again.

How ridiculously postmodern.

The problem is that Allawi is a puppet and acts like one with frequency. I thought y'all were proud of Bush because he cut through the bull and called a spade a spade. So Kerry (or a surrogate thereof) calls a spade a spade and he's insufficiently diplotmatic?

I think me head's going to explode.

Time for volleyball. Feel free to pretend that Lockhart's statement fits with good diplomatic protocol while I'm gone.

Wow, this whole thread makes me misty eyed, thinking about the first time I read Sebastian in that debate over at Drezner's regarding whether or not the administration termed the threat from Saddam as "imminent".

Same kind of debate strategy - focus on the word and not on the actual totality of the situation.

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Feel free to pretend that Lockhart's statement fits with good diplomatic protocol
]]

How silly.

I challenge you to name anyone in history who has been a puppet if Allawi is not a puppet. When you say a puppet is someone with _no_ independence, that means that there has never been a puppet anywhere at any time.

"Good diplomatic protocol?" The statement was not made by a diplomat. If this new assertion that the statement was not good diplomatic protocol is a retreat from your previous assertion that it was an "outrage" then your retreat is slightly welcome.

The bottom line is that Bush summoned him to help campaign for him and Allawi came.

There are two real outrages here: 1) Bush summoned Allawi to campaign for him, regardless of the cost to Allawi's credibility in doing so and 2) the Kerry campaign is being attacked for saying Allawi is being used like a puppet while the Bush campaign is not attacked for using Allawi like a puppet.

the Kerry campaign is being attacked for saying Allawi is being used like a puppet while the Bush campaign is not attacked for using Allawi like a puppet.

Well said.

As I consider Sebastian's post, I become more and more convinced that he is badly mistaken. Generalizing a bit, he seems to be arguing that Kerry should not say anything that might reasonably have negative repercussions.

Leave Iraq aside for a moment, and suppose Kerry, or Lockhart, said something to the effect that Bush's fiscal policies were pushing the country toward a financial crisis. That could conceivably have a negative impact on the financial markets. Does that mean it should not be said? Of course not.

Similarly, even if we grant that Lockhart's statement about Allawi might have some negative impacts (and I think the contention is silly), there is no reason it shouldn't be made.

As has been asked elsewhere: is there a single half-plausible reason for bringing Allawi over before the election?

"As has been asked elsewhere: is there a single half-plausible reason for bringing Allawi over before the election?"

One might argue that the Iraq war is the central issue in this campaign and that Allawi's direct testimony is useful to the voting public. Indeed, I think the visit tells a lot about Bush's conduct of the war and the results of his policies.

"As has been asked elsewhere: is there a single half-plausible reason for bringing Allawi over before the election?"

For bringing Allawi over here in general, maybe. For having him give a frank and honest speech on what Iraq needs from the US, definitely. To spew out rehashed GOP memes a month before the election? Not a chance.

I had a comment in mind after reading over this thread, but I don't know any way of phrasing it in a way polite enough to fall within the bounds of ObWi's sometimes-over-sensitive posting rules.

I will say, though, that it's quite refreshing to find a conservative Republican as devoted to the principles of international alliances and cultural relativism as Sebastian has been today.

Shorter Sebastian:

Version 1: Its bad to speak truthfully about Allawi's lack of legitimacy because voicing the idea then makes him illegitimate.

As opposed to reality making him illegitimate.

Version 2: We should support failed policies with our words because voicing the criticism causes the failure.

As opposed to events on the ground being the cause of the failure.


I suggest that if you find it uncomfortable to hear Allawi being described as a puppet, then the focus of your anger should be about the Bush policy that makes him a puppet, instead of those who simply point it out.

If not, you must defend the concept that Allawi is in fact not a puppet -- funny how in all of your typing, you have avoided addressing the issue squarely and describing to us why you believe he is in fact a legitimate independent leader of Iraq. Instead, this post is about handwringing because someone would dare to state the ugly truth.

Iron Lungfish: I will say, though, that it's quite refreshing to find a conservative Republican as devoted to the principles of international alliances and cultural relativism as Sebastian has been today.

Today, yes...

I think that whether or not "puppet" is the worst thing you could call a political leader in the ME (debatable), or whether Allawi is a puppet (which seems to rest on the particular semantic definition of "puppet" you're using today), whether or not Lockhart's comments have done any damage to Allawi's standing in Iraq has to be considered in full context.

Frankly, I find the idea that a comment by some foreign official, even one in the government, can have a vastly detrimental effect on the standing of a politician in their own country to be ludicrous. If the politician is hated at home, people will hold up the statement as more evidence that he is Bad and Wrong. If he is loved, people will rail against the stupid foreigner who doesn't understand. This is, of course, labouring under the assumption that people hear about it at all. After all, Oliver Letwin could be criticising the White House from Westminster all day, but how in the blazes would anyone in America hear about it to have an opinion?

Allawi is called a puppet and a traitor in Iraq, by Iraqis. He also has support, of sorts, in Iraq from Iraqis. I cannot see for a second how a single comment by the assistant of someone who is not elected could possibly have any measurable impact on the raw opinions already displayed day in and day out by the Iraqi people; opinions far more informed by the raw emotions of day-to-day reality. The absence of Saddam and the presence of al Sadr, these I can see as factors in his support.

I find it hard to believe that Sebastian actually believes this comment could be dropped into the miasma of Iraqi politics and make any kind of ripple whatsoever, because its sheer irrelevance to the average Iraqi is staggering. But then, the whole "comfort to the enemy" thing has always been tenuous guff.

I disagree with most of the other lefties here. An aide to a persidential candidate openly calling Allawi a puppet is damaging to his reputation to some degree, and therefore also damaging to the war effort. I also agree that it was very undiplomatic.

But which was more damaging to Allawi's reputation in the minds of the people of Iraq?
a. A Kerry aide they've never heard of saying he is a puppet.
b. Allawi appearing in America in what was essentially a campaign appearance for Bush.

Sebastian, do you really believe A has a greater impact on the perception of Allawi as a puppet than B?

Out of nine question at the Bush/Allawi press conference, seven were about the gap between the news in Iraq and the presentation by the president and his re-elect campaign; one was about debt forgiveness for Iraq; and one was about the consequences of Kerry's "mixed messages" on our efforts in Iraq.
Guess which one came from a FoX News "reporter"?

Since it sets up friendly relations between the US and an Iraqi government as 'puppetry' as admitted by the US if Kerry wins, A is more damaging to the war than B. Since it frames military support for Iraq as 'puppetry' when an Iraqi government no matter who leads it will require military support, A is more damaging to the war than B.

It is true that those who already believe that anyone who accepts US military help is a puppet will only be reinforced in their established belief. But what of those who did not believe that? What of those who argued with their friends and relatives that the US was not an invading army? In what position does a statement like Lockhart's put those who support our efforts in the Middle East? It is damaging precisely because it places those who work with us in the puppet catagory. And very few people from Middle Eastern cultures are going to be interested in dealing openly with a power that openly declares those who deal with them 'puppets'.

But Sebastian...
if you listen to the president then you of course know that whoever becomes president of the United States will be dealing with a democratically elected leader of Iraq come Jan. 5 or so and not negotiating with the US appointed leader of Iraq. (I don't have much faith in Jan. elections but you must if your faith in the president is as high as it appears.)

"It is damaging precisely because it places those who work with us in the puppet catagory"

Whaaat? The facts on the ground are that we essentially APPOINTED Allawi despite the UN's efforts and his AUTHORITY is directly related to our financial and military authority in Iraq.
If we don't back him - he's gone. That's not the case with other leaders in other countries in the ME or anywhere else in the world. ALSO: see Chalabi.

I don't think Sebastian is going to give this one up, carsick. Granted, all he's done in this post is made himself look deeply silly. But admitting as much would be cutting and running, which would only encourage future acts of rigorous poster-criticism in the future. He must stay the course!

Via Wonkette:

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace grilled Senator Joe Biden about John Kerry's "insulting" remarks about Iraqi interim President Allawi. "Is that how Kerry intends to engage the allies, sir, by insulting them?" Wallace asked. He went on to add, "Because, you know, we only stand for that sort of thing when it comes to the French."

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What of those who argued with their friends and relatives that the US was not an invading army?
]]

Laugh. Out. Loud.

The US army that invaded was not an invading army. It was an army that just happened to invade.

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It is true that those who already believe that anyone who accepts US military help is a puppet will only be reinforced in their established belief.
]]

Straw man alert. I, for one, have already given a reasonable definition of puppet. Sebastian has not.

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1) He depends on the US to maintain power and 2) the US has more influence on his political decision-making than any Iraqi constituency.
]]

Sebastian's definition of puppet...

[[
Are you asserting that Allawi has no independence? Because that is what puppet means.
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... leads to the conclusion that there has never been a puppet in history.

(Which is why Sebastian is ducking my challenge to give an example of anyone in history who has ever been a puppet in his view)


Oh no, straw another straw man:

[[
Since it frames military support for Iraq as 'puppetry'
]]

The 'puppetry' Lockhart spoke of is flying from Iraq to the US to give assistance in Bush's internal political campaign, then using the exact phrases from Bush's stump speech.

When one side in an argument has to scrape the bottom of the rhetorical barrel, that side is both wrong and hiding something.

Not only is Sebastian wrong in his attack on the Kerry campaign, but I doubt we'll ever learn the real reason he's making his attack.

Not only is Sebastian wrong in his attack on the Kerry campaign, but I doubt we'll ever learn the real reason he's making his attack.

Seems fairly obvious to me: Sebastian's a Bush supporter. The only thing intelligent Bush supporters can do these days is attack Kerry - as shamelessly as need be. There's no way to intelligently support Bush.

[[
Seems fairly obvious to me: Sebastian's a Bush supporter.
]]

Ah.

But why not give his real reasons for supporting Bush? It's not because he believes the US Army didn't invade Iraq.

It certainly is not because Kerry "outrageously" says that the foreign leader summoned by Bush to help campaign is being used as a puppet.

Avis Pattin: But why not give his real reasons for supporting Bush?

Beats me.

I've just been reading a post on Guantánamo Bay over at Body and Soul, and am reminded all over again of why Bush must go.

Uh, guys... Sebastian's not dead. No need to talk about him in the third person quite yet.

Not dead, McDuff, but plainly not interested in continuing this discussion - the which does not surprise me.

Sebastian? Anywhere you want to go with this?

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