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June 28, 2005

Comments

Defeat is not going to come from the insurgents or al Zarqawi, it's going to come from the lack of American will and forebearance

so... clap louder ?

"The anti-Bush crowd will continue to get theirs out (and more effectively)...calling for a draft..."

Josh Trevino is part of the Anti-Bush crowd?

You may, also, want to clarify this statement:
"Worse, it gives our enemies a propaganda foothold, and their messages wrongly start seeping into the mainstream."

I certainly hope you're not referring to those of us on the left side of the aisle with this comment.

The reason the war is going badly has little to do with propaganda, and if you're going to make that claim I predict an ugly comment thread.

Having the chearleader-in-chief instruct the American people to 'clap their hands louder' is no substitute for sound policy.

The American people are not complete fools. The War on Iraq was doomed to failure as soon as Bush launched it. It was doomed because of the totally incompetent leadership from Washington. Most people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at first but by now it is results that count. Bush's War on Iraq has been a costly disaster for America without making us a bit safer. What a waste.

You are right Charles, the presidents bad communication style has bungled this right from the word go. From selling it to the American people playing fast and loose with the truth, to denying the reality of what's going on in Iraq. The president is his own worst enemy it seems. To be a good communicator though, you have to know what you're talking about.

And just to be clear, you now consider 40-50% of Americans to be the enemy now?

Worse, it gives our enemies a propaganda foothold, and their messages wrongly start seeping into the mainstream.

I see... by "our enemies" you mean not al-Qaeda or even the Iraqi resistence, but Senator Chuck Hagel and Senator Ted Kennedy?

These are the words that a former army veteran who served longer and with greater distinction that President Bush or Vice-President Cheney "tried to put words into Bush's mouth":

So what should the president say tonight? The first thing he should do is tell the truth to the American people. Happy talk about the insurgency being in "the last throes" leads to frustrated expectations at home. It also encourages reluctant, sidelined nations that know better to turn their backs on their common interest in keeping Iraq from becoming a failed state.

The president must also announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence in Iraq. Erasing suspicions that the occupation is indefinite is critical to eroding support for the insurgency.

He should also say that the United States will insist that the Iraqis establish a truly inclusive political process and meet the deadlines for finishing the Constitution and holding elections in December. We're doing our part: our huge military presence stands between the Iraqi people and chaos, and our special forces protect Iraqi leaders. The Iraqis must now do theirs.

What, precisely, do you object to about these words?

What he needs to do is tell the American people where we've been, the progress that's been made, where we are and where we're going to be. He needs to give the world a vision of a free, peaceful, non-theocratic and democratic Iraq.

And a pony!

Some good points in this post. Charles recognizes that Bush is not good at engaging the American people, and certainly doesn't rise to the level of Clinton or even Reagan in that regard. It's tough to sell the public on the necessity of supporting the war effort when you're not even trying, though--to see where Bush's priorities lie, one is better-served by watching his actions.

Compare Bush's full-court press across the country to try and sell his attempts to dismantle Social Security with his calls for the nation to step up and join the military, extol the virtues of military service, sell the necessity of the Iraq War and honestly appraise its progress, et al.

It's going to be tough, because while Bush has spent much of his second term aggressively selling his SS plans, the time he's spent on (honestly) selling support for the Iraq War is so negligible as to be almost nonexistent.

I've never seen so many miss Charles' central point. Or engage in pointless, off-topic attacks.

Try to focus on what Charles actually wrote, as opposed to what you assume he must be implying or your latest talking point.

And just to be clear, you now consider 40-50% of Americans to be the enemy now?

Just to be clear, of course not, Bill.

What, precisely, do you object to about these words?

Read von's post, Jes. He speaks for me on this one.

Charles, the reason President Bush is only an "occasional communicator" is that he doesn't like doing it and isn't very good at it. Why do you think he avoids press conferences and appears only at events where he is surrounded by supporters and opponents are forcibly ejected?

It is obvious from watching him speak that he doesn't have much to say.

Read von's post, Jes. He speaks for me on this one.

You're also determined to be only an "occasional communicator"?

Oftentimes PR campaigns fail when they're not totally and completely truthful, or when they're used to get the word out for something that's not completely on the level. Take, for example, the extensive effort to publicize and popularize Social Security reform: people saw through this quite quickly, as the central PR message (the SS system is in a major crisis and needs to be radically reformed) was at odds with reality (the SS system has some problems that can be fixed quite easily, while Medicare looms large over our future federal budgets).

If this gets applied to the Iraq war, where very little concerted PR has been used, I'm not sure the administration is up to the task of matching a positive, motivational core message with the realities on the ground in Iraq. It would require Bush to be open about US military presence in Iraq for many, many years. It would require Bush to clearly state the reason for the Iraq war (a threatening military foothold in the ME to pressure surrounding govts to change). Perhaps most importantly, Bush would have to acknowledge that half the country is soundly against the war as it's currently being waged, and greater than half the country thinks his performance is abysmal. Unless the administration wants to present a clear and concise message that recognizes these things, and offers reason to hope that these things will get better, any PR attempt will go the way of the SS reform media blitz.

Communicating a poor message more often is like talking louder to someone who doesn't speak English.

What he needs to do is tell the American people where we've been, the progress that's been made, where we are and where we're going to be. He needs to give the world a vision of a free, peaceful, non-theocratic and democratic Iraq.

he's been doing that for, literally, years. but, the public is apparently tired of losing its soldiers and money while Bush plays Nation Builder.

What he needs to do is tell the American people where we've been, the progress that's been made, where we are and where we're going to be. He needs to give the world a vision of a free, peaceful, non-theocratic and democratic Iraq.

he's been doing that for, literally, years. but, the public is apparently tired of losing its soldiers and money while Bush plays Nation Builder.

Von,

It seems to me that Charles point seems to be that the admin. needs tighter message control to make sure THEIR talking points and propaganda are what is getting the most airplay.

Along, of course, with some prudent advice as to what those talking points should encompass (i.e. telling the truth). Oddly enough, I agree with that. The truth would be a welcome change to the rhetoric we're seeing. I just don't expect to see any of that tonight and, if Charles wants people to actually hear his message, he should probably hold back on the namecalling (enemies, anti-bush crowd!...whatever). The only thing missing was a talking point on how awful AI is.

Mr. Bird--

I was puzzled by this sentence:

"This is not a good trait when there's a war going on and where there are large numbers of adamant opponents to our removing Saddam, both domestic and abroad."

There is a war going on, so I think I understand you so far.

But where are the "large numbers of adamant opponents to our removing Saddam"?

How many people who opposed the original invasion, or who oppose the administration's incompetent handling of the war now, are "opposed to removing Saddam"? Three? Mostly with the surname "al-Tikriti"?

What there have been all along were people who opposed the Bush administration's violations of international law, who opposed the lies and distortions about WMDs, who opposed the intentional alienation of our traditional allies and the destruction of our international reputation, who opposed torture and abuse, who opposed the funneling of billions of dollars to corrupt Bush-linked corporations, and so on.

There were also people who argued for a more cautious approach, people who thought--correctly, we now know--that sanctions were effectively keeping Saddam chained down, and people who thought that we should not cut short the inspections just when they were yielding dividends.

There were also people--such as myself--who worried about all of the above, thought it was not possible to remove every corrupt dictator from power, but nevertheless supported the original war because we were misled by the propaganda about WMD's.

But as far as preferring that Saddam Hussein was out of power rather than in power? That was never anyone's reason for opposing the disastrous debacle that is Bush's war in Iraq.

If this sentence had been written by anyone other than yourself--for instance anyone whose probity, intellectual honesty, and candor were in doubt--I would think this sentence was a laughable straw man, and a despicable attempt to smear the opposition by attributing to them motives they never held.

It seems to me that the reason that the President is not a good communicator is that he makes, and is making, no real attempt to engage people who do not already agree with him. He hopes that we will be so inspired by the acclaim with which those who do agree with him greet his every utterance, that our own objections will be forgotten. (And that his supporters will shout us down -- he's not oblivious to this, and makes no real attempt to distance himself from it). This is his Slipstream Theory, where the showing of resolve is more important than the actual content of his speech/policies.

It's a system that is destined to fail when (as is the case with SS) the people who do not already agree with him are interested and informed enough to be able to maintain their own opinions.

You're also determined to be only an "occasional communicator"?

There are so many possibilities, but I'm biting my tongue. In general, the answer is no.

But where are the "large numbers of adamant opponents to our removing Saddam"?

To clarify, I was speaking informally about the decision the administration made to remove Saddam in March 2003.

You're painting an incredibly pathetic picture of the President here. A guy who can't communicate, can't consistently get his message out, is easily overwhelmed by his critics, and all he has to back himself up is the Presidency, the Senate and House, at least half the media, and the U.S. Armed Forces. What a soft little pushover. Should such a weakling be serving as CinC in such perilous times?

No, not 40-50% of the American public. Just Hegel and Kennedy. They are either "the enemy," according to your OP, or you're responsible for some of the sloppiest writing I've seen on an ObWi for quite some time.

If von's post "speaks for you," then there must be something odd going on in your mind. You need more troops, more commitment, more security, tighter financial control. You agree with that, even if Sen Kerry doesn't. Now, what part of "The Bush administration has consistently failed to run this war properly" are you finding hard to understand?

The manifest failures of American policy in Iraq are not "propaganda"; they are fact. People in Baghdad still have water and electricity blackouts every day. There are still attacks every day. The ISF is badly trained, undermanner and is getting to be less trusted than the American Occupation. Last month, the Americans mistakenly bundled a prominent Sunni politician and his son into custody with bags over their heads, and it was only because Talibani kicked up a fuss that he was released. Do you suspect that ordinary Iraqis will not see this and say "how many times has this happened to people who have not had the president of Iraq to personally ask for their release?" Is this "propaganda"? I doubt it, because with the exception of the newsworthy explosions, none of it gets covered in the US media. The laziness of the media in your country, although it does your side a disservice by not reporting on the political advances, also helps it immensely by failing to report the daily lack of food, water, fuel and power that the Iraqis now deal with. One might suspect that this is because reporters are stashed inside the Green Zone with the military, and only report what they are told because it is not safe for them to go out and look for themselves.

Nobody expects the political process in Iraq to be a cakewalk, but it is just as much of a mess as the security and utility infrastructures are. Iraqi politicians sit inside the "Green Zone" and argue over how to divide Iraq's loot, and outside people grow increasingly and steadily dissatisfied. The political process is not increasing security or stopping the car bombs, it is not preventing people being rounded up in error, and it is not putting electricity in the wires or water in the pipes. Without these things, any political process will be a sham, any constitution will be worthless and transient, all votes will be thrown away.

Bush can harp on about the scribblings and arguments inside the Green Zone, and it may help conservatives in the USA feel that things are not all bad. But nobody except those who really want to be fooled will believe you when you say that news reports about death in Iraq are "propaganda." It is what is happening. These things are what Iraqis are living with, day in and day out, and if that makes your president look bad, Mr Bird tough shit. It is the height of arrogance to take these people's daily struggles and decry them as propaganda, especially when much of what they go through is unreported.

We all wish that the Democrats would not be so populistic and opportunistic in trying to convince people to cut and run. You cannot simply scrape Iraq off your shoe and leave it on the pavement. But if you run a war badly, it is inevitable that your political opponents will point this out. As people's sons and daughters keep dying, as more and more revelations about Bush lying and wheedling to get support for the invasion come out into the mainstream, as popular opinion keeps turning against the President and his ill fated war, the solution for Iraq is not going to magically appear because Bush suddenly learns how to talk. The problem will not be fixed by speechifying to the American people about all the good things that are happening, it will be fixed by actually fixing the problem.

Don't harp on about how Kerry couldn't have done it, when it's becoming more and more apparent to more and more people that Bush is just as ineffective. Your own propaganda may well come back to bite you in the ass.

Mr. Bird--

Thank you for clarifying.

I see the smirking leader refers to the enemy Party as the "Democrat Party" when he talks to black people, too. (The Red State post)

It's hard for me to listen to propaganda when Frank Luntz has his forked tongue in my good ear and Dick Armey's tongue is in Bush's mouth. Thumbs from all three blind me.

Charles, you claim this: "Eventually, people within the Administration will start sending mixed messages, and this has happened."

Actually, no. What has happened is that the monolithic, fabulously disciplined, lying that got us into this Iraq mess (William Bennett's tongue in my mouth: let's call it evil behavior) and is eating the budget and human beings, is beginning to crack. The speech today, wherever it is given, is designed to reinstate Bush monotheism within the 51%, and maybe a few wavering outliers like Hagel. It is not aimed at the 49% who make up the insurgency (Hey. listen, Karl Rove's tongue now featured in my mouth).

Too, you mention that your chiropractor works to stiffen your backbone. Find a new doctor; what you require is more flexibility in your backbone.

What Bush requires is a good stiff drink to kill that bug he has up his Shirley Maclaine.

"He needs to give the world a vision of a free, peaceful, non-theocratic, democratic Iraq."

Young mothers of the world, lean over those car seats in your comely shorts, pick up your kids, and run like hell, because the slavering idealists of the world have a stiffy.

Incidentally, this "loser" Democrat (your tongue, my mouth) supported the invasion of Afghanistan as a necessary measure.

Also, conciliatory me acknowledges that the NAACP is a subsidiary of the Democratic Party (see how that pronunciation flows?). Unfortunately, the U.S. Government is now a syndicate and an increasingly useless appendage of profiteers.

Charles: In general, the answer is no.

Great! I hope, since you so pointedly objected to Kerry "putting words into the President's mouth", and since I quoted the section where in fact he does say what he thinks the President ought to say, you will at some point get around to saying what, precisely, you object to about those words.

Charles, you claim this: "Eventually, people within the Administration will start sending mixed messages, and this has happened."

Actually, no. What has happened is that the monolithic, fabulously disciplined, lying that got us into this Iraq mess (William Bennett's tongue in my mouth: let's call it evil behavior) and is eating the budget and human beings, is beginning to crack.

As I've noted innumerable times before, the Administration has always sent mixed messages when talking about Iraq. Sometimes mixed laterally, i.e. different people saying different things, more usually mixed vertically, i.e. the same people saying radically different things at different times; but the famously "on-message" character of the Administration is, IMO, a shoddy mischaracterization of their actual propaganda techniques. The one and only constant was regime change and, later, "staying the course" (possibly the most vacuous phrase to come from an Administration already devoid of meaning); everything after that was up for grabs.

'"staying the course" (possibly the most vacuous phrase to come from an Administration already devoid of meaning)

'Well, I think the meaning of "staying the course" has always been fairly clear, and fairly contentful.

It means keeping the Rove/Bush/DeLay gang in power no matter what they do, never asking questions no matter how they lie, never asking for accountability no matter how badly they screw up, and rewarding them at the end of the day with billions of dollars of tax-payer money, Medals of Freedom, and presidential pardons.

And never, ever, thinking any thoughts that were not approved by the latest email from Message Control Central.

But, yeah, the rest is up for grabs.

By the way Charles, how many US cities were saved from attack by the weapons of mass destruction not found in Iraq?

On those who opposed "the decision the administration made to remove Saddam in March 2003."

The other side of my own coin was written by Johann Hari back in the waybackwhen. Hari made, unlike all the statesmen charged with the decision, the only reasonable argument in favour of the war: The Iraqi people wanted rid of Saddam, and we were the only people who could do it.

I opposed the war because I agreed with him. I knew it needed to be done, and I knew that we could do it, but I had so little faith in the ability of a president who was lying about his reasons for going to war to carry out the plan as it needed to be carried out. (I confess that I was mistaken about the exact reasons Bush was lying about WMDs -- I thought he was presenting such flimsy evidence because the real evidence was receipts made out to American corporations back in the 80s, I didn't think he was plainly lying with a straight face). I was skeptical of Bush's ability to plan a war right, to deal with worst-case-scenarios, to listen to those older and wiser than him who may not have been sold on the idealism of Perle and Rumsfeld. Knowing what we know now about the political machinations that led up to the war, can you honestly say that my skepticism was misplaced?

What the invasion did was place me on the same side as Hari. Now that we are there, we must get it right. My lack of faith in the Bush administration to run this bastard war right notwithstanding, they must run it right, because it is their job. They are not doing their job.

I sided against them, not becuase I was against ousting Saddam, but because I thought that the alternatives they were offering were not fleshed out, were too idealistic, and would result in ten years of turmoil and then, when the dust finally settled, a kleptocratic, pseudo-democracy run by people barely better than Saddam.

We are in the middling stages of the occupation now, at "the end of the beginning" in Churchillian terms. Talabani and the people around him are not bad people, and those who would be worse or no better than Saddam if given unlimited power in government are restrained adequately at present. But the longer people go without bread on the table and water in the faucets, the more people deal with car bombs and lack of fuel, the more danger there is of hardliners and extremists being presented with more power at the polls. Without security, jobs, a decent utility infrastructure -- all the basic, fundamental, bread-and-butter issues which affect people in their daily lives -- we cannot guarantee that people like Talabani will continue getting elected. We cannot, more than two years after the invasion, guarantee that our work will not be undone a decade hence from now.

Tell me my skepticism was unwarranted, Mr Bird. I'd love to think it so, but I have a terrible aversion to living in a magical fairyland where people believe they can make things come true by believing in them strongly enough. Show me that we are capable, willing and committed to actually doing what is necessary to win in Iraq, and I will agree that what Bush needs to do is talk about it. Unless, however, we have actions with which to back up our words, we might as well keep very quiet and slink off back to our holes, in the hopes that nobody will notice that we failed, unnecessarily, simply because we were arrogant and incompetent.

They are either "the enemy," according to your OP, or you're responsible for some of the sloppiest writing I've seen on an ObWi for quite some time.

We all know who the enemies are and what they're saying. Hagel and Kennedy are not the enemy, but they are the useful fools are who are too accepting of what they're saying--letting it seep into mainstream discourse--and too eager to proclaim that we're in a quagmire and that we're losing.

Jes,
OK. On the first paragraph, I agree.

I have serious problems with second paragraph.

The president must also announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence in Iraq. Erasing suspicions that the occupation is indefinite is critical to eroding support for the insurgency.

The first sentence is a distortion. Bush has never spoken of a permanent military presence. He already "announced" it. If Kerry hasn't gotten it by now, there's no point in repeating it to him. The second sentence is worse and exactly wrong. The occupation is indefinite by its very nature, and there is nothing suspicious about it. The way to erode support for the insurgency is to utterly defeat them, using both American and Iraqi troops, and by pressing onward to a democratic republic. Making the timing of our presence more definite is a recipe for disaster because all that does is give the enemy advance notice, affording them the chance to wait it out until we leave. Once again, Kerry doesn't get it and once again he's on the wrong side history.

On the third paragraph, I defer to Djerejian and von.

The way to erode support for the insurgency is to utterly defeat them, using both American and Iraqi troops, and by pressing onward to a democratic republic.

Which is why we are having meetings with them? Then I'm unclear on the meaning of 'utterly'.

Charles: I don't think the message is getting through:

"The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun. I assumed it was because so much of the concrete and other building materials was going to reinforce the restricted areas. A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.

“The Americans won’t be out in less than ten years.” Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. “How can you say that?” Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum… Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you’d know that they are going to be here for quite a while.

The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic."

And the bases we're building mean that it isn't even getting through to me, though my take on it matters a lot less than the Iraqis'. Stopping building permanent bases would do more than anything to ease suspicion.

Charles--the problem we are quickly running into here is that we cannot maintain our military presence in Iraq indefinitely. It is costing too much money, we are running out of supplies, people are being held in the service who want to leave, and recruitment is at a real low point.

It may be that we need to maintain in order to overcome. Withdrawing may be a bad move for the future of the region. But staying there is going to ruin the economy and make it impossible for us to deal with problems in other parts of the globe, and it will cripple our military. That is the cost of this venture as it is being conducted right now. Another ten years of military presence on current terms will either mean huge deficits and no ability to fight anywhere else or increased taxes and a draft.

This is the crux of the matter. It's not about will, it's about having overreached in the first place and needing to find our balance again. We cannot continue as is.

On the first paragraph, I agree.

Yep. Any bets the President will do what Kerry suggested - tell the truth?

I have serious problems with second paragraph.

Yes, I can see why.

Bush has never spoken of a permanent military presence. He already "announced" it. If Kerry hasn't gotten it by now, there's no point in repeating it to him. The second sentence is worse and exactly wrong. The occupation is indefinite by its very nature, and there is nothing suspicious about it.

Sorry - are we in the same boat? "The occupation isn't permanent" vs "The occupation is indefinite"?

"We'll go away someday but we won't tell you when - we'll be here for as long as we want" - how is this different, to an Iraqi watching Americans build permanent military bases, to "permanent"?

On the third paragraph, I defer to Djerejian and von.

Neither of them have anything to say against the US and Iraq meeting the deadlines that have already been set. What's your problem with Bush saying that the US will meet the deadlines and will ensure that the Iraqi government meets them too?


Defeat is not going to come from the insurgents or al Zarqawi, it's going to come from the lack of American will and forebearance.

This is naive.

Defeat (whatever that is, since we also don't have much good idea about what "victory" supposedly is) will result from the ongoing lack of planning and intelligence in the policies of the administration. They are probably already too far down the road of "defeat" to pull this one out.

Will and forebearance won't make a damn bit of difference if wrongheaded policies are pursued continuously.

That's why your analysis is so off-base. The strongest criticism about this war continues to be about how stupidly it is being run. Having a better PR front by Bush is not going to fix that problem.

You seem to assume in your post that Bush's Iraq war is basically on track, and the failures will occur only because the lack of adequate PR undermines the will to continue. In fact, there is a long record of blundering incompetence with next to nothing showing that they will ever steer the ship onto any sort of proper course. Wishing they had better PR makes no difference -- except perhaps to assuage your embarassment for continually supporting these clowns.

For my two cents, the apparent results of our policies (without regard to what we might wish for) are as follows:

1. Iraq as Iran-lite. The country is headed toward a Shia dominated government with some degree of Sharia law in place. Expect repression to maintain that government, though not as extreme as in Iran. They are already torturing on behalf of the new government.

2. Civil War. It already exists, except that we are doing the fighting for the Shia to suppress Sunni rebellion. Turning over power to Iraqis means turning over power to Iraqi Shia to suppress the Sunni. Expecting something different is very naive.

3. Militia control. Its already happening -- the incorporation of the militia forces into state military. They are the most reliable Iraqi armed forces, and the fact that they are loyal to only a faction is hardly of consequence. That is the reality on the ground no matter what you do. Expecting Iraqis to form a truly federal government that is not loyal to a particular faction is illusory.

What Bush should say first:

"I am tonight calling for the complete rollback of the tax cuts enacted early in my Administration. This money will fund your Government's and your sons' and daughters' multi-decade efforts in Iraq and shore up the catastrophic financial situation which now prevails in the U.S. Government. Further, I am introducing legislation on the Hill tomorrow to insert a surcharge in the tax code for all Americans, regardless of income, to specifically fund the War on Terror and the Department of Homeland Security.

I am relinquishing my previously-held belief that slashing taxes and cutting domestic programs crucial to the American people was an effective way of completing the Republican Party's decades-long effort to beggar the greatest government on the face of the Earth."

Bush has not renounced permanent bases, and he won't, because that's a big part of what the invasion was for. Troop withdrawals without a clear commitment to leave completely are not helpful; they'd just be the prelude to the smaller, permanent garrisons.

The only thing Bush could say to surprise me would be to promise that all troops will leave Iraq.

This war wasn't about spreading democracy in the region; it was about securing permanent bases near the oil reserves. That's the truth, and Bush will never admit it in words, even as facts on the ground confirm it.

Also this, perhaps in a later radio address:

"It has come to my attention that Charles Bird and Von (like Cher and Cantinflas and Capucine, a cool moniker) have demanded the UTTER defeat of the terrorists within Iraq and without, in order to achieve peaceful, free, non-theocratic and democratic regimes around the globe. Charles demands they must be cheerful regimes, as well.

I am therefore asking you, the American people, to steel yourselves for what is to come: the cleansing in Iraq, by ruthless slaughter, of a huge religious minority in Iraq, and the likely use of nuclear weapons In Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Pakistan to defeat Al Zarquari, and other terrorist regimes. Further, I expect to soon order the nuking of a city in a country friendly to us, to forever do away with Osama Bin Laden.

So, put down that expensive cheese basket and start coughing up the money. Otherwise, it's private accounts for the lot of you."

... Charles demands they must be cheerful regimes, as well.

We seem to have entered Python territory again...

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lay in a valley far, far away in the mountains the most contented kingdom the world has ever known. It was called Happy Valley, and it was ruled over by a wise old king called Otto. And all his subjects flourished and were happy, and there were no discontents or grumblers, because wise King Otto had had them all put to death, along with the trade union leaders, many years before. And all the happy folk of Happy Valley sang and danced all day long, and anyone who was for any reason miserable or unhappy or who had any difficult personal problem was prosecuted under the Happiness Act.

In the mean time on back-to-iraq:

News flash: Iraq is a disaster. I've been back one day, and the airport road was the worst I've ever seen it. We had to go around a fire-fight between mujahideen and Americans while Iraqi forces sat in the shade of date palms on the side of the road, their rifles resting across their laps. My driver pointed to a group of men in a white pickup next to me. “They are mujahideen,” he said. “They are watching the Americans.” Indeed, they were, and so intently that they paid no attention to me in the car next to them. We detoured around two possible car bombs that had been cordoned off while Iraqis cautiously approached.

Rumsfeld's assessment of “good progress” on the constitution is not accurate, as the committee to draw it up still hasn't completely agreed on how the Sunnis will take part.

When I was in Ramadi, I found the morale to be lower than expected. It wasn't rock-bottom among the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, but it wasn't great. Most of the ones I talked to weren't confident they were doing anything worthwhile, and were instead focused on getting home alive. If a few Iraqis had to die to make that happen, well, war is hell.

I'm not sure who's winning this war, the Americans or the insurgents. But I know who is losing it: the Iraqi people. Those bumps in the road are their graves.


Hagel and Kennedy are not the enemy, but they are the useful fools are who are too accepting of what they're saying--letting it seep into mainstream discourse--and too eager to proclaim that we're in a quagmire and that we're losing.

There's just one problem with this analysis: we are in a quagmire. We are losing. Don't take my word for it, either; by nearly every benchmark or metric I've seen (e.g. the Brookings Institute report), the trendlines are negative (sub-Saddam in many cases, e.g. electricity production [viz. Tim Lamber]) and headed towards disaster. At this point, to note that we're in a quagmire and that we're losing doesn't make them "useful fools", it means they're telling it like it is. To do otherwise, especially at the highest levels of governance, would be lying; to stay this particular course would be culpable.

Now, just because we're in a quagmire doesn't mean we can't extricate ourselves and just because we're losing doesn't mean all hope is lost. There's no shame in that admission provided it's a spur for greater things: for a change in tactics, for a shake-up of command, for new techniques in supply and logistics, for re-evaluation of the strategic overview. The problem comes when what should be an uncontroversial statement of fact -- our Iraq policy is fucked and getting fuckeder, and we need to change it ASAP -- becomes decried as supportive of the terrorists, unpatriotic, or anti-American. Truth is what it is; reality is what it is; and all the pretty words and PR triage will not make them go away. Only genuinely strong, genuinely bold, and genuinely decisive actions will accomplish that -- actions that Bush has thus far shown himself constitutionally incapable of taking.

And if he's still too weak to acknowledge this simple truth, then God help us all.

"..The first sentence is a distortion. Bush has never spoken of a permanent military presence. He already "announced" it. If Kerry hasn't gotten it by now, there's no point in repeating it to him..."
>>
Charles, none of this is putting words in Bush's mouth. He outlined what needed to happen to assuage concerns that are being increasingly felt by the majority of the American population. He is not saying that Bush is implying an indefinite or permanent presence, he is saying that it is terribly important, especially in times of doubt, to ensure, by repetition if necessary (since you claim he's said it time and again) that there will be no permanent presence.

Kerry doesn't have a lot of answers, but the questions he raises and the advice he gave in the paragraphs you mention are not as damnable as you make them out to be.

Hagel and Kennedy are not the enemy, but they are the useful fools are who are too accepting of what they're saying--letting it seep into mainstream discourse--and too eager to proclaim that we're in a quagmire and that we're losing.

Eager? What are you, on crack?

Why don't you climb out of the hole and realise that your conception of "liberals" or whatever you classify us as is wrong. We aren't sitting here gleefully rubbing our hands at the thought of another Vietnam because it means we can dance and say "yay, Bush was wrong" as if nothing makes us happier. What kind of sick bastards do you take us for? The subtext behind this kind of patronising sneer is god-damn insulting.

We are losing, and the only way we can turn the situation around and start not losing is to face up to this fact and start doing something to stop it. Hell, at this point I'm not even sure that we can do enough. It might be too late for even honesty with ourselves to work. But failure is not an option, and no matter how much we might lie to our own populations we can't shout louder than car bombs and blackouts to the Iraqis.

I want to win this thing, for the sake of the Iraqi people and for the sake of our security here in the west. I don't want a dead-end third world kleptocracy in Iraq; I want a vibrant, democratic trade partner. George W Bush is screwing it up. Let's face the reality and try and work out a way to solve the damn problem, shall we? None of this touchy-touchy feelgood bullshit, thanks all the same. I want results.

Again, sorry if the reality in Iraq makes your golden boy look bad, but I don't care. It's his mess, if he can't deal with it he should step down now.

Charles: I somehow missed the comment that McDuff just noted. But I completely agree with what he said. I don't know anyone (though who knows, maybe Ward Churchill thinks this) who wants this to be a quagmire. Not anyone at all.

If you think Hagel is wrong, why not explain why? What foolish things has he said? Why are they (a) wrong and (b) foolish? (As opposed to: a different interpretation than yours, but an understandable one.) Why, that is, describe someone like Hagel as Zarqawi's dupe, and not as someone you have a legitimate difference of opinion with?

Why don't you climb out of the hole and realise that your conception of "liberals" or whatever you classify us as is wrong. We aren't sitting here gleefully rubbing our hands at the thought of another Vietnam because it means we can dance and say "yay, Bush was wrong" as if nothing makes us happier. What kind of sick bastards do you take us for?

Look, McDuff, I reject your premise that we're losing, as I reject Kennedy's quagmire assertions and Hagel's "we're losing" schtick. Both have ignored the progress made, both have minimized the fact that the terrorists are having a hard time finding more suicide bombers and that Iraqi citizens are fed up with terrorist attacks, both apparently haven't heard from soldiers who've seen the progress in their second tours, both are minimizing the progress made with trained Iraqi troops and police, both seem unaware that there are insurgents who are negotiating their way into the political process, both have forgotten about that so-called Shia uprising that Sadr couldn't get going, both haven't recognized that the insurgents and terrorists are a minority of the minority, both seem to have forgotten the January 30th election and the upcoming three milestones I mentioned, and both have bought into the doom and gloom brigades, many of whom were never on board with the Iraq War, many of whom have unrelentingly cherry-picked every piece of bad news because they were never on board and wanted Bush to go down in flames. Yes, eager, McDuff. Kennedy especially. This is the second quarter of the game and all I'm hearing here and in von's post is that the game is over and it's time to go home and lick our wounds. Well, bullsh*t to that. We stay, we stick it out, we defeat the terrorists and insurgents, we tell the negative nitpicking nabobs to stuff it and we help the Iraqi people usher in a free, peaceful, non-theocratic, representative republic.

This doesn't mean that there isn't a whole host of challenges out there, and that our manpower situation is strained. This doesn't discount that a whole bunch of mistakes have been made, both in post-combat planning and execution. But this black cloud hanging over these threads tells me you're not looking at the whole picture. You're feeding on the casualty reports and bombings, and not taking into account the rest of what's going on.

Chas
This posted was posted on the other thread by Happy Jack (who I think will have to change his handle if he keeps finding stuff like that)

Basically, I reject your rejection that we are losing. Read von's take for the notion of a 'free, peaceful, non-theocratic, representative republic'. You seem to forget exactly why Sadr called off the dogs (and the fact that he didn't get tossed in jail for doing so), you forget that Sistani's statement that voting was a religious obligation had more to do with the success of the election than anything any american did, you spin US forces meeting with insurgents as the insurgents trying to get into the political process rather than seeing it as the fact that we don't know who we are fighting, and then you try to make football analogies that we are going to get a chance to take in a halftime show and rouse the troops (anyone in the stands want to take a shot at playing wide out? How about running back? It's a great honor.) If you read that full pdf and still think this is nitpicking, well, I hope the weather is nice on your planet.

both have minimized the fact that the terrorists are having a hard time finding more suicide bombers...

Errr... what? Where are you getting that from?

both seem unaware that there are insurgents who are negotiating their way into the political process...

This is definitely good news. Pity that this is exactly contrary to the Bush Administration's stated policy.

both apparently haven't heard from soldiers who've seen the progress in their second tours, both are minimizing the progress made with trained Iraqi troops and police,

What progress? And how do these counterbalance the innumerable reports by Brookings, Cordesman, or even Tim Lambert's quicky analysis of Baghdad electricity that demonstrate, pretty damn near conclusively, that Iraq is sliding into meltdown?

This is the second quarter of the game and all I'm hearing here and in von's post is that the game is over and it's time to go home and lick our wounds.

What you're hearing is 1) our coach has his head up his ass, 2) his game plan sucks, and 3) people are dying because of it -- which kinda kills that soppy sports metaphor right there, don't you think? -- so maybe 4) the better alternative would be to get the hell out of Dodge before we screw anything else up.

I freely admit that I don't fully agree with this line of reasoning, but to dismiss it out of hand as some kind of second-quarter belly-aching at a football game is frankly insulting.

But this black cloud hanging over these threads tells me you're not looking at the whole picture. You're feeding on the casualty reports and bombings, and not taking into account the rest of what's going on.

Ah, the Wonder Dog school of argumentation. How I've missed you.

ok charles, since you're apparently capable of seeing victory where the rest of us see only confusion and aimlessness, please tell us how we know we're winning.

US casualties?
Iraqi civilian casualties?
Iraqi police / soldier casualties?
Assassinations of leading political figures?
Electricity production?
Oil pumping?
Employment?
Trash pickup?
Schools painted?

lay out the metrics for measuring our success, please.

btw, football analogies to describe a process where people are literally getting blown to shreds are particularly nauseatingly inappropriate. Save it for reruns of Full Metal Jacket.

Charles: We stay, we stick it out, we defeat the terrorists and insurgents, we tell the negative nitpicking nabobs to stuff it and we help the Iraqi people usher in a free, peaceful, non-theocratic, representative republic.

I second Francis's request for metrics.

Should you have time after you've provided them, I would like to know how you think the US is going to accomplish:

-we defeat the terrorists and insurgents
-we help the Iraqi people usher in a free, peaceful, non-theocratic, representative republic

Thus far you appear only to have accomplished "we tell the negative nitpicking nabobs to stuff it" which has been the Bush administration's entire policy so far, causing "a whole bunch of mistakes ..... both in post-combat planning and execution". But you feel that this is an excellent policy, to be continued? How are Bush & Co to avoid making future mistakes if they are to tell the people who point them out to "stuff it"?

I have written this response with considerable self-control. What I really felt the sentence I quoted above had earned was the magic words "...and a pony!"

And now after demonstrating, on national television, that he simply has **NO IDEA** how to attain any of the objectives that are so worth while, Bush will send his minions out to charge that the Democrats are a party without ideas.

You know, Mark Schmitt had a nice comment on the TPMCafe the other day about how he had designed a nuclear powered car in fourth grade: he drew a box in the middle of the chassis where the reactor was, and some tubes that brought the nuclear stuff to the back wheels. He commented that he should have patented the design.

It seems to me Schmitt's nuclear car could give Belle Waring's pony a run for its money. This is exactly how the Bush regime dead-enders talk about foreign policy: we'll spread freedom, we'll defeat the terrorists, we'll make the world safe for democracy. All of them good ideas, and all of them objectives that I share.

And these people have **NO IDEA** how to attain the objectives. They have no more detailed plan for pulling it off than Schmitt had a detailed schematic for the plumbing of a nuclear car. It's just fourth-grade fantasies. Wouldn't it be nice.

And of course if anyone challenges them with facts, statistics, or metrics, then they either whine about pessimists, or revert to full McCarthyite type by charging treason.

This is how dictatorships are run: with unquestioned, unthinking obedience to the Dear Leader. And this is how they run into trouble in the end, when Baghdad Bob (or "Comical Ali" as the British press called him) simply can't own up to the mounting evidence of failure, simply can't pierce the Dear Leader's bubble.

Democracies are run with accountability, transparency, attention to detail, respect for facts, and constant questioning.

Charles: I recently wrote a post in which I actually went and tried to look beyond the casualty statistics and see what's going on. Electricity, GDP, training, the political process, you name it. You didn't comment there. It's not like you have to or anything, but it would have been interesting to know what, exactly, you think was missing. It certainly wasn't a consideration of the political process, training, etc. Personally, I don't think Kennedy overlooks these things or wants to lose or anything, but I really don't see how you can say these things about Hagel. And I know you can't, with a straight face, say of me that I just haven't looked at anything but the casualty reports, what with the aforementioned post being only a few days old.

You can, of course, interpret what we say as evidence that we're part of the "doom and gloom brigades, many of whom were never on board with the Iraq War, many of whom have unrelentingly cherry-picked every piece of bad news because they were never on board and wanted Bush to go down in flames." But two points about that: first, it would be more convincing if you actually explained why you think the idea that things are going badly is wrong, rather than impugning the motives of the people you disagree with. And second, for the record, I very much want this to succeed. I always have. I did not support the war, but that, to me, is irrelevant to the question: once we're in, do I want things to work out? Of course I do. Moreover, I find the suggestion that I would prefer for my country to lose, for Iraq to go down in flames, and for lots of people to needlessly lose their lives, all so that I could say 'I told you so', deeply insulting. As, I imagine, do the other people to whom you might have been referring.

You might say: but you have been quick to jump all over bad news, etc. Just to preempt this (and with no suggestion that you have said this): I actually have written almost nothing about Iraq between the elections and a few days ago. Why? First, because I very much wanted the elections to be the turning point we all hope for. I was cautious, for basically the reasons Sebastian explained at the time, but I very much wanted that to work. And afterwards, the thought that it might not have been made me sick at heart, too much so to write about it. (Plus, there were other topics at hand.)

Shorter hilzoy: give us facts. Don't impugn our motives.

On the other hand, the American people have a new directive for which sacrifices are needed to bring victory. Now, in addition to shopping, we are to fly flags on the Fourth of July.

Somehow it makes the WWI directives of Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays and Heatless Thursdays seem callow.

No, Charles, I am looking at the rest of what's going on. I just have this quaint, perhaps misguided idea that it doesn't matter a whit if you make a lovely constitution in the Green Zone if people outside of that have no electricity, no bread and no water.

The mechanics of democracy are complicated. It's not enough to just give people a vote, democracy is about giving people a stake in the entire country not going tits-up. Iraqis are selling their blood because they have no money, which in turn leads them to be tempted by the few hundred dollars that the insurgents can offer them. The Civil Authorities in Baghdad cannot even effectively provide waste management services. The good things are Green Zone issues -- the constitution, the currency -- and they are good but not good enough. People vote everywhere on bread and butter issues, on jobs and money and whether the streets are clean and safe. What good is a constitution if there's a car bomb every day and the city can't even take away your trash?

If we do not solve the security and infrastructure problems, we might as well throw the constitution in the piles of trash around Baghdad and burn that too, because the democracy will not survive. It cannot survive anywhere where the authorities are demonstrably unable to execute even the most basic tasks of civil government.

After I wrote this post on my blog, it took me a good couple of months to lose the feeling that, y'know, we might actually be able to pull this out of our collective arse. Until March 21, apparently. Maybe it's because my computer was broken and I couldn't get to IWPR very often during february. The point is, though, that I have been desperate for good news during this whole thing, but not so desperate that I'm willing to ignore the bad and plug my fingers in my ears.

Let me know what the Bush plan is to restore electricity and waste removal and jobs, and I'll feel confident that he can then push successfully for democracy. To ignore those and focus on the paper-pushers is wishful thinking.

It seems to me, Charles, that you are ALMOST making a factual claim. You're saying that we're actually winning in Iraq. In fact, you're saying that we're going to win.

To which I say: I am glad to hear it. I am overcome with joy. Delighted. It is news most wondrous indeed. (Someone with better rhetorical skills than myself could make you feel my joy at hearing this news.)

Yours is also (ALMOST) a scientifically testable claim. Or, at least, it can be made so. "We are winning. You will see our victory made manifest when we reach outcomes X, Y, and Z." Specify X, Y, and Z, and let's discuss them. Put some metrics on the table so that we will all know what to celebrate, and when.

But unfortunately, you take back with one hand what you seemed to give with the other. (Hence the ALMOSTs above.) Apparently these claims are not testable after all. I say this not only because you give us no metrics to work with (that is an error of omission that could be quickly corrected), but more strikingly because you have set up, in advance, your argument for why we might fail: because of people undermining the troops by saying the wrong sorts of things.

In short, you have rigged the game. If we win through in Iraq, you get to say "See, I was right, and all you stupid liberals were wrong!" If we fail in Iraq and it turns to disaster so horrible than even Bush and yourself admit it is a disaster, you get to say "If it weren't for you evil traitorous liberals [including Chuck Hagel!!!], we would have won."

Either way, you get to be morally and intellectually correct, and liberals get to be stupid, evil demons.

Charles, let me ask you this. How would you ever come to know if your view of Iraq was incorrect?

I feel like this is a non-partisan question. You seem like a basically intelligent person. You are able to write, and to think. Presumably you have some sense of the truth that humans are inherently fallible, and that for that reason their beliefs needs to be tested against reality every so often.

So let me ask you again. How are your beliefs going to be tested? Under what circumstances will you admit to having been wrong? Under what circumstances will you admit that the liberals were correct on Iraq all along?

Are there any such circumstances? I fear that there are not. I fear that you have no sense whatever of any way in which you could be substantively incorrect. In short, I fear that you are such an ideologue that you are not worth talking to in any way, shape, or form.

I hope that I am wrong about this, and that you are not a literally incurable ideologue.

Please, if possible, allay my fears. Please specify some circumstances under which you will admit to having been wrong -- so that we will know that for yourself, if not for Mr. Bush, the possibility of being wrong does exist.

please tell us how we know we're winning.

The only measure that matters is whether or not we've won. I define victory as: (1) the terrorists and insurgents are largely quashed, (2) Iraqi police and military are handing the terrorist and insurgent attacks, (3) Iraq is a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

...please tell us how we know we're winning.

The only measure that matters is whether or not we've won.

Charles, have you heard what a "tautology" is?

Myself, I don't know why I shouldn't find this sort of response worthy of only banging my head against the wall.

You could say that the only measure of that is the way I, you know, bang my head against the wall. Because we measure it by head-wall-banging.

Myself, though, I'd prefer America and you identify other goals than head-banging, and figuring out how to get to winning other than by, wow, insight, winning.

I define victory as: (1) the terrorists and insurgents are largely quashed, (2) Iraqi police and military are handing the terrorist and insurgent attacks, (3) Iraq is a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

(1) - terrorist/insurgent activity on the increase (2) Iraqi police/military not handling the attacks (news story from January, but nothing seems to have got better since), (3) no one seems to have any idea of getting there from here: the current and past conduct of the occupation was not conducive to achieving it, and Bush appears to have no idea of actually doing anything to change that.

Beyond "we cannot afford to lose", what makes you think the US will ever achieve victory, by your given definition of victory? (Hilzoy just explained what's wrong with failure is not an option ...)


Shorter hilzoy: give us facts. Don't impugn our motives.

Hil, my 1:15am was chock full o' facts. I don't dispute most of Hagel's facts, I dispute his spin on them and his opinion that we are losing. This reconstruction is a long process, and the last thing we need are morale boosters for the terrorists and insurgents made by fair weather armchair generals on C-SPAN. Because of Hagel's sourpuss lamenting and lack of ideas on how to get through this, I also seriously question his judgment. By the way, I'm not impugning Hagel's or Kennedy's motives, just their perspective and their judgment.

It still remains that every milestone democratic milestone passed is a step toward legitimacy and a step backward for the terrorists and insurgents. Chrenkoff has his latest update on the progress made, and there are plenty of facts to be had there. The terrorists do not have the support of the majority, and neither do the insurgents. There are problems galore, but both Kennedy and Hagel have become part of the problem by emphasizing quagmires and losing. Personally, I won't allow without challenge prominent politicians talking down the war or let without challenge their words become self-fulfilling prophecies. The stakes are too high.

One other thing, I am not going to say whether we are winning or losing because all it does is start a big squabble and competitive linkfesting. There is plenty of evidence of progress, and plenty of evidence that we're not making the headway we should. The only thing that really matters is gutting it out and prevailing, making corrections as necessary and helping the government get a leg up.

I'm going to have a post on Biden pretty soon, mainly to provide an example of constructive Democratic opposition. Kennedy and Hagel should be following Biden's example, not grousing and not singing the blues.

Charles claimed: Because of Hagel's sourpuss lamenting and lack of ideas on how to get through this

Lack of ideas? Sourpuss lamenting? This is what Senator Hagdel said:

In his speech and in an interview, Hagel offered some ideas that he thinks could help in Iraq:

U.S. troops and others could work harder to train local militias in small Iraqi towns to help identify and take on insurgents. Allies who don't want to enter Iraq could help patrol its borders, blocking terrorists from entering the war-torn country. The training of Iraq's military and military police should be accelerated immediately.

Middle Eastern nations should become more engaged, he said, but it doesn't help when administration officials criticize Egypt and Saudi Arabia for not moving quickly enough toward democratic practices.

Hagel said he shaped his views after many talks recently with senior U.S. military officials; foreign policy experts; Brent Scowcroft, who was the first President Bush's national security adviser; and others. He plans to share his views with the current president and his team and says he feels an urgency he hopes they will share.

The United States has only about six more months to begin to turn things around in Iraq, he said.

"I believe that there can be a good outcome in Iraq," he said. "I also believe there could be a very bad outcome for Iraq. I believe we have a very limited time for that good outcome." cite

(Via DailyKos: the direct link is to a subscription-only site.)

Charles, do you ever bother to find out what "enemies" are actually saying before you launch an attack on them for what their opponents have said they're saying?

It's actually a site that you can get into if you register. The quote from kos that Jes pasted is accurate, if anyone was wondering.

And Charles: you had a lot of assertions in your earlier post, but no cites to back them up. You also say that there are a whole host of things that Kennedy and Hagel 'have ignored", or "seem unaware of" or "haven't recognized", as opposed to "don't draw the same conclusions from that I do", also without evidence. You don't address any of the facts that contradict your view, or explain why you feel free to ignore them. Nor do you explain why you feel free to draw conclusions about people's motives, in particular the deeply insulting conclusion that people are "eager" for us to fail.

Personally, I would think that the morale of the terrorists and insurgents would depend a lot more on how things are actually going in Iraq, which they are in a position to know firsthand whatever you, I, or Chuck Hagel says, than on what a Senator says on the news. I also think that the idea that people should just shut up during a war is wrong, as I argued elsewhere. (when the stakes are high, it is especially important to get it right.)

And I think that if you're going to impugn people's motives, you need not just to back up your assertions, but to explain why the people whose motives you impugn are not just drawing a reasonable conclusion with which you disagree, but hoping for their country to lose. There is a difference.

Excuse me, Hil, but I didn't impugn motives, I criticized judgment. I really don't give a rip about motives or intentions, unless they actually tell me. What matters are words and actions and behaviors. I'm sorry you don't believe any of my words without a corresponding link. I usually do provide them but I don't have the time to dig around right now. Perhaps you don't read the same links I do, because the news is pretty obvious to me. Maybe that deserves a post, too.

Don't forget that al Jazeera picked up Dick Durbin's likening of our American troops to concentration camp and gulag operators. Thugs like the insurgents and terrorists see the results of their actions and our responses to them. They read and watch al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, etc. They have access to the internet. If they see weakness, like bin Laden did after Somalia, it does not help. If they hear national leaders tell their audiences that we're losing, in what way does it not help their propaganda and recruiting campaingns?

Charles, do you ever bother to find out what "enemies" are actually saying before you launch an attack on them for what their opponents have said they're saying?

I read the Omaha Herald piece, Jes. Hagel offered nothing new, except perhaps for the idea of getting allies to do border patrol. "Work harder" is not an idea. I fully disagree with his opinion that we soft-pedal democracy to Saudi Arabia and Egypt in order to buy their cooperation. This is exactly the kind of tired old Scowcroftian stability-over-freedom blather that didn't work in the 1990s and especially doesn't work today.

Charles, have you heard what a "tautology" is?

Gee, no, Gary.

I'm talking principles, not a doctoral thesis. I'm sorry that sounds so head-bangingly repetitive to you. In your quest to stop me from repeating myself, perhaps you could also ask the same of those asking the repetitive questions.

I read the Omaha Herald piece, Jes. Hagel offered nothing new, except perhaps for the idea of getting allies to do border patrol.

Please cite me the new ideas in Bush's speech on Tuesday. All of them. Shouldn't take you too long.

Don't forget that al Jazeera picked up Dick Durbin's likening of our American troops to concentration camp and gulag operators.

Don't forget that the real problem is that some US soldiers have been behaving in such a way that they can be likened to concentration camp and gulag operators. Durbin wouldn't had to make that statement if Bush hadn't been behaving as if US troops torturing people and beating them to death wasn't a problem that needed fixing - and if the Bush administration hadn't set up its own archipelago of illegal prison camps in the first place.

Senator Durbin's reporting the problem is not the problem. Nor is al-Jazeera's picking up on Senator Durbin reporting the problem.

Charles,

Let's revert to our childhood and play One of These Things Is Not Like the Others. I this case these are all your comments in this thread:

"Hagel and Kennedy are not the enemy, but they are the useful fools are who are too accepting of what they're saying--letting it seep into mainstream discourse--and too eager to proclaim that we're in a quagmire and that we're losing."

"and both have bought into the doom and gloom brigades, many of whom were never on board with the Iraq War, many of whom have unrelentingly cherry-picked every piece of bad news because they were never on board and wanted Bush to go down in flames. Yes, eager, McDuff. Kennedy especially."

"Excuse me, Hil, but I didn't impugn motives, I criticized judgment. I really don't give a rip about motives or intentions, unless they actually tell me."

Which of these statements doesn't belong?

Charles: I was responding to this: "the doom and gloom brigades, many of whom were never on board with the Iraq War, many of whom have unrelentingly cherry-picked every piece of bad news because they were never on board and wanted Bush to go down in flames. Yes, eager, McDuff. Kennedy especially." I normally take words like 'wanted' and 'eager' to refer to motives. Possibly you use them differently.

I was also, earlier, responding to this: "you're not looking at the whole picture. You're feeding on the casualty reports and bombings, and not taking into account the rest of what's going on.", coming as it did very shortly after I had discussed a lot more than casualty reports, and said things you never questioned.

Charles

Does Bush, to the best of your knowledge, have some broad, wide-ranging plan to secure water, electricity and waste-management in Baghdad?

Don't forget that al Jazeera picked up Dick Durbin's likening of our American troops to concentration camp and gulag operators.

Cite, please. Abu Aardvark, who is fluent in Arabic, spent some time on the matter and concluded otherwise. In particular, for your contention to be meaningful, please provide citations from before the "blogstorm" erupted and Durbin apologized.

Anarch, Charles, and whoever: the comment thread on Abu Aardvark is also worth reading; it contains people from the region reporting on the lack of coverage of (and interest in) Durbin's comments, and Abu Aardvark's further unsuccessful attempts to find al Jazeeera coverage (after the 1st day.)

"Giving aid and comfort to the enemy" is a crock of horseshit when it comes to just words, in any event. Giving terrorists food, guns, bombs, money -- all that stuff is "aid and comfort." Giving intelligence information that they wouldn't otherwise have is "aid and comfort." Talking about stuff they already know about, and that is discussed far more vitriolically on their own media, is such small potatoes as to be laughable.

Are we really to believe that Joe Terrorist is sitting in his bunker and gets energised to go out and bomb some American Servicemen because he hears some member of the American Senate say that America is behaving badly in Guantanamo? Are we to believe that this has more of an impact than the soldiers in his city, the money offered by insurgency groups, the pictures of torture and abuse from Abu Ghraib?

Just because American Conservatives think that talking about how awful torture is is a more heinous crime than actually torturing people does not mean that that view is reflected in the Real World. Indeed, one might argue that your average terrorist probably has a more realistic and balanced view of these issues than, say, Bill Frist and Dick Cheney.

concerning criteria for success, I offer this LA Times article.

money graf:

"Since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Shiite Muslim militias and puritanical Sunni insurgents have begun enforcing fundamentalist Islamic prohibitions against alcohol and night life in cities across Iraq. They've firebombed liquor stores in Shiite-run Basra, once a lively and freewheeling port city, and slain alcohol merchants in primarily Sunni Fallouja."

and

"Westerners in Iraq have also noted the growth of violence and intolerance directed against those involved in the spirits business and wonder whether it's the start of a trend toward street-level religious extremism."

gee, ya think?

I have just removed a very long comment from this thread, since it seemed to be a violation of the 'don't just paste stuff in' rule. (Evidence: the presence, at various points, of a line that said: "Search / Save / Print")

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