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November 18, 2005


Giblets beat you there:

"That's">http://fafblog.blogspot.com/2005/11/losing-with-honor-so-democratic-hawk.html">"That's because John P. Murtha is a crybaby."

All I can say is you cannot call someone a defeatist without questioning their patriotism.

We have NOT done all we can.

No, but then as I recall you supported Bush for President in 2004. When Bush won last November, the Iraq war became unwinnable - since by 2008, it will most likely be too late to recover. Well before November 2004, it was clear that the Bush administration had no will to win in Iraq, only - perhaps - the wish. So, you had your choice last November, and you chose defeat then. Why complain now?

Charles, you sound like you are having a hysterical fit over this. Get a grip and try to think a little bit about the total and complete irrevelance of Iraq to the American people. We don't care about Iraq because it just doesn't matter to our lives one way or the other what happens there.

Iraq, and the rest of the middle east has oil. If they are willing to sell the oil, we buy it from them. If they don't sell it, they can choke on it. Either way, who really cares?

There is no end but victory.

what an utterly stupid thing to say. what are you, a Klingon?

Technically the guy doing the actual "losing" (Bush) is the actual "loser". At best Murtha can be only a potential loser.

Okay, that was flip. So:

It's easy to SAY "there's no end but victory." The sad fact is that right now we are LOSING, and we have no actual PLAN to actyually WIN. Teeth-grinding is not a plan. Fist-shaking is not a plan. Calling John Murtha a "loser-defeatist" is not a plan. I would point out that "hope is not a plan" but I don't see any actual hope in this post - just bitterness and frustration at someone who has pointed out the obvious. If you'd had a plan for victory, Charles, I suspect you'd have suggested it by now (and if the president had one, he would have implemented it by now). "Will" won't do it. "Hope" won't do it. Positive thinking won't do it. The Jordan bombing indicates that as far as the War on Terror goes (nice goalpost-shifting with WAMI, by the way), we've accomplished less than nothing in Iraq - we've hurt the cause we supposedly went to war for. Unless you've got a plan, calling Murtha names doesn't do much good.


There isn't much difference, in my mind, from questioning someone's patriotism and accusing them of betraying the troops.

Can't you just tell us why he is wrong without attacking his character?

You go in one article from "I am not questioning his patriotism" to "Murtha is betraying the American soldiers who have been there."

Since your allowed to judge the patriotism of others, I'll judge yours.

Your obviously more concerned with making excuses for the Republican party than actually fixing the situation in Iraq. Your more concerned with the future of the Republican party than with the future of this country or the future of our soldiers.

In ten years you'll be blaming your fellow American's on the left for the lose of Iraq, claiming we didn't have the willpower.

As if a will to victory or any other such nonsense could overcome disastrous planning and dealing in bad faith from day one.

You'll never place the blame where it truly lies, on this Republican administration, and on those people like yourself that should have seen this coming in 2004.

Charles has alluded in the past to a "plan": Clear and hold, and instituting a "CAP" programme. Am I right?

The former requires a lot of troops. The United States doesn't have those troops at the moment. It will either require a buildup of American troops, or the use of large numbers of Iraqi troops. Neither currently exists.

CAP also requires the existence of credible Iraqi forces, particularily loyal Iraqi forces. Nothing would be more disasterous than to embed US soldiers into Iraqi units of uncertain allegiance.

Regardless, both require a commitment of many many years, and an unknown cost. A fiscally responsible government would cut spending elsewhere dramatically, or raise taxes. And oh, institute a draft. I don't see these proposals.

Nor do I see spelled out what the acceptible outcome is. A democratic Iraq, sure. But define that, please.

Whenever we've stepped away from terrorist attacks, terrorists have become emboldened because, in the past, we have affirmed their perception that the United States is a paper tiger.

Surely this unsubstantiated claim can be retired after the last 28 months of experience in Iraq. The bad guys don't attack because they think they can get away with it. They attack because they have specific strategic ends in mind. Ends that are being served by the Admin's response.

I think it will not be long before Murtha's position is that of the majority of republicans in Congress, and a great many people in the Admin too. They'll phrase it better -- and point to the progress made up to now as evidence that we can draw down.

And they'll be right. Iraq stops being the central front in some war we are fighting when we stop fighting there.

hile it's commendable that Murtha goes to Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals "almost every week", he should spend more time in Iraq, talking to the soldiers on the ground, getting firsthand accounts of what's taking place.

Yes, he should, just like how Charles gets all of his information about Iraq.

The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.

2. ?
3. Caliphate!

How many of these guys do you really think there are in the world, Charles? Honestly?

. . . al Qaeda will have stumbled upon a blueprint for success: Stick around and keep attacking until enough liberals say "uncle".

It may have escaped your notice -- I wouldn't be surprised -- but "liberals" do not control the US Armed Forces.

In fairness, CB and the NEBV folks have stated a plan: send more troops. This is where the "sustained will" part comes in. It's on Bush and Cheney to convince the American people to send more men and women to Iraq and to accept more casualties. As Charles says, this is a tall order for the occassional communicator. Whether this state of public relations affairs for the president means that the war is "unwinnable" as a practical matter (i.e., because he will never be able to convince the people to sustain the committment of lives necessary to achieve a relatively safe and honorable ending point for the Iraq mission) is subject to a debate fraught with rhetorical side tracks and dead ends.

Travis, as far as that argument goes (i.e., "It's on Bush and Cheney to convince the American people to send more men and women to Iraq and to accept more casualties"), a good chunk of Murtha's whole point is that the volunteer army is on the verge of implosion precisely because of the demands of the war (i.e., recruiters can't GET people to sign up for a prolonged military conflictfor which there is no necessary cause).

Now, if Charles is going to start advocating for a draft, then hey, let him start trying to sell a draft (to both the Republican Party and the rest of the country, because I'm willing to bet they like their political careers and their childrens' lives more than they like this war, respectively). The fact that Charles isn't heavily plugging a draft makes me suspect that he thinks this is a stupid idea, too.

Nor do I see spelled out what the acceptible outcome is. A democratic Iraq, sure. But define that, please.

I think we've been over this. There seems to be a rough consensus that "victory" in Iraq looks like a reasonably representative government with an indigenous army and civil police force capable of reasonably securing the territory against outside threats and preventing terrorist groups from being able to operate openly with impunity as in pre-invasion Afghanistan. In other words, an Iraq that is not a failed state, not engaged in civil war, and governed according to a constitution adopted by Iraqis and not imposed by Americans.

It also seems to be an unstated assumption if not a matter of rough consensus that, even with "victory" achieved, there will be an American military/intelligence presence of some sort in Iraq indefinitely.

"Ayman Zawahiri, in his own words,"

Who was that letter written to, again?

Lungfish, I assume that if Charles and Tacitus are expressly/implicitly calling for more troops in Iraq then they are also mindful and supportive of the necessarly logical implications of that position, which you point out. I'll let Charles speak for himself on that point, although I acknowledge that it does seem to have become common on this board to impute bad faith/willful mendacity to Charles's posts.

Congressman Democrat is helping Ho Chi Minh and the terrorists accomplish Giap's stage. Our premature departure will be interpreted in the communist world (and perhaps the rest of the world) as a victory for revolution, and the communists will have stumbled upon a blueprint for success: Stick around and keep attacking until enough liberals say "uncle".

And that's why California is ruled by Vietman today.

I don't post often because there are others here far more eloquent, but I can't let this pass without comment:

We have NOT done all we can
I think you're going to have to wait until 2008 or an impeachment before we see anything other than "we're staying the course and if you disagree you're un-American traitors" from this administration. Am I to infer that you consider continuing to NOT do all we can an acceptable state?

We would be fleeing from the WAMI
Ahhhh, and we're back to the despicable flypaper theory: "The cornerstone of al Qaeda's war against the United States is right where we are...we will be at more risk of facing terrorist attacks". You'll have to excuse my cynical nature for not allowing this bit of jingoism to move me. I also seriously doubt that Murtha believes our early departure will put us at less risk of terrorist attacks unless you have a direct quote from him.

Additionally, until enough "liberals" say uncle? Apparently you haven't been reading the same newspapers as I. Unless Hagel switched sides when I wasn't looking or you think the 60+% of the people opposed to the conduct of the war are all liberals...

Murtha is betraying the American soldiers who have been there
Because nothing honors the sacrifice of those killed like sending a few thousand more through the meat-grinder. Sorry, but the real betrayal was sending them in without a plan, without adequate troop numbers and under false pretenses. I don't see the first two changing any time soon and the third is now history.

Regarding manpower, I have to ask again, how do you propose to increase it? Through ever increasing sign-up bonuses, and if so, at what point do the troops cease becoming patriotic Americans doing what they feel is their patriotic duty and start becoming mercenaries? Nearly 2/3 of the country now sees what a clusterf**k this is, so I doubt you're going to find anywhere near the number of recruits actually needed to maintain (or is it restore?) order.

Murtha is betraying the Iraqi people
Once again, you need to look at the inept planning and execution of the war to see who really betrayed the Iraqi people. If things had been done "right" in the first place (or not at all), then there would be no talk of betrayal.

Murtha is ignoring the political progress
I doubt that he's ignored the progress made. If you're talking about future progress, I'm personally undecided whether our continued presence is more help or harm. Seems there's plenty of reports that could be slanted to either point of view.

As a disclaimer, this is my first time posting a comment on this site, although I have been reading it for a long time. As a moderate, with definite liberal leanings, I like to obtain perspectives from both sides, which this site allows.

Additionally, my son is one of those boots on the ground in Iraq, so I admit to personal emotional biases in this situation. And to mention, he , due to his position there, has contact with many members of the military over there that serve in different functions. I will be repeating some things he has told me, although I can not attest to the overall accuracy of what he says.

Now to rebut a lot of what you are saying in this post.

First of all, it is necessary to look at Murtha himself. He is hardly a "liberal" and in fact is known as one of the more conservative Democrats in Congress. Additionally, he has significant contacts at the Pentagon and has been referred to in some circles as the Pentagon's representative in Congress. And he has, I believe, a lot more knowledge of military matters than anybody posting here, and definitely more than anybody in this administration.

In terms of your specific points.

You state we have not done all we can. He does not argue that point, but he does say that we have done all we can militarily without further destroying our own military. In fact, he discussed specific ways in which the military would still be a meaningful option, but not in an occupational role. And he is talking from the perspective of what we could conceivably do militarily in the future under our current leadership, which may be the most incompetent in US history.

Next you talk about how we would be fleeing from the WAMI. Under that, you make several assumptions, but you make them as declarative statements. In effect you say that we would be giving the terrorists a country from which they could operate. Nobody knows if that is the case, although it is glibly stated time after time by the apologists for this adminsitration.

At the same time, I have read several commentaries by people who have as much knowledge of Iraq as our leaders, if not more so, who state that if we left Iraq, that would doom al-qaeda in Iraq. The assumption is that any cooperation between the terrorists and the native insurgents is a matter of convenience and fostered by our presence, and that if we left, the Iraqis would throw out the terrorist element.

I am not a seer, so I cannot say that would happen, but the likelihood is as great as your dire prediction. It is our presence that is serving as a recruiting tool. There are many reasons to believe that our departure would reduce recruitment world-wide.

You state we would be etraying our troops. This is an ols canard. My belief is that they have already been betrayed by an adminsitration that sent them there in inadequate numbers to do the job, underequipped, undertrained, with no plans on how to control the country. In so doing, this adminstration provided the insurgency with many fo the weapons and explosives being used against both our troops and the Iraqi civilians.

The betrayal would not be in bringing them home, but it was in sending them there to begin with.

You state we would be betraying the Iraqi people. When over 80%, in some polls, state they want us gone, how would our departure be a betrayal. There is a hidden assumption that the Iraqis want a vibrant democracy. My son questions that. Yes, Iraqis went to the polls, although not in sterling numbers, despite the adminstration's spin. However, my son believes that they are using the process as a means to an end, the end being a powerr base from which they (particularly the Shiites) can gain revenge on the Sunnis.

In the long run, it is up to the Iraqis to create their own political structure, and our presence to some degree serves as an impediment to that.

A few side points, as this is getting very lengthy. Did you ever think that the terrorists don't want us out of Iraq? They may talk about how our leaving would be a victory for them, but our presence helps them immensely.

Also, our leaving would put everything squarely on the shoulders of the Iraqis. Despite all the predictions of major civil war, we don't know for a fact that that would happen. And even if it did, would that be the worst thing that could happen? May not our continued presence, with all the negatives attached to it be the worst thing?

I do not claim to have all the answers, but I am certainly not going to be as declarative as Charles is and state all my pronouncements as certainty. Up until recently, although I was against this war when it started, I felt that we needed to stay there until we finished the job. But nobody has defined what finishing the job is, and with our current leadership, I have grave doubts about how the job, whatever it is, could be finished.

"In his own words: 'We also need to make sure that Iraq does not resume Afghanistan’s former role as the host nation for terrorist training camps." Our immediate departure would do just that.'"

So your stance is that America is so weak and ineffective that the only way we can fight terrorism in a country is to conquer it, occupy it, and ruthlessly exterminate all who would fight?

Obviously, then, we'll just have to keep going until we've occupied every land in which terrorists live and wiped out every one of them. Who says the Republicans don't believe in full employment?

Well, if there is to be no draft, and given that ~60% of the country wants out of Iraq, I see no practical alternative other than big enlistments from under 40 Bush supporters, the guys that want to stay. This would also be a lot more effective than waiting for any draft.

There seems to be a rough consensus that "victory" in Iraq looks like a reasonably representative government with an indigenous army and civil police force capable of reasonably securing the territory

That's all very hazy, though. According to the criteria you choose, that could exist, well, now.

For example, I think it was Jay Garner who recently said there are lot of capable Iraqi troops right now. Except they're defined as militias. He recommended changing the definition.

Whenever we've stepped away from terrorist attacks, terrorists have become emboldened because, in the past, we have affirmed their perception that the United States is a paper tiger.

Surely this unsubstantiated claim can be retired...

To be fair, I don't think it's wingnuttery to say that propaganda-savvy terrorists like Al Qaeda would spin an American withdrawal as confirmation that the US is a paper tiger, since they have made that very claim in the past. Seriously, does anyone really think that Al-Qaedaist jihadist/salafist/terrorist/militant islamist/whatevers would NOT say that a withdrawal of American troops equals a victory for them?

"Tyrants across the world will wrongly believe that if they just gut it out a little longer, the Americans will fold and go away."

So you're saying that if America withdraws from Iraq, the Kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan will worry less about our attempts to overthrow them?

I'm very confused. How can we oppose tyrants when many wouldn't be in power, but would instead be overthrown, if not for support from us ranging from considerable to overwhelming, from Egypt to Pakistan?

"While it's commendable that Murtha goes to Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals 'almost every week', he should spend more time in Iraq, talking to the soldiers on the ground, getting firsthand accounts of what's taking place."

Let me get this straight.

You're saying that people who haven't gone to Iraq may have insufficient information about Iraq, and may make poor judgments and recommendations therefore?

Is that about it? Do I have it wrong?

Is it standard advice from you, Charles, that people should do as you say, not as you do? Or did I miss your report on your personal inspections in Iraq?

It's very impressive that you could write with this level of self-awareness, though.


You wrote in a previous post that "we are where we are"

I'd like to add that I am who I am and you are who you are and it is what it is.

However, just as you are NOT a Nazi or a baby killer or some other variety of posting rules violation, Murtha does not betray, liberals to not cry Uncle, nor are too many of anybody raising the white flag.

You can keep saying it and writing it and Hunter over at Redstate (among others) can keep using the word "sedition" to describe
the acts of his domestic enemies.

Or you could cut it out. Would you please?

I have thoughts occassionally, despite my liberal nature, that if we really want to win the War on Terror, we could go fully Truman on say, Falluja, and nuke the city. As an example. Have a second target lined up. Turn it into glass, as tough guys like to point out from the barcalounger.

I didn't see the word "uncle" in that paragraph.

So whaddya say? Let's cut the half measures and win this thing. Or at least show some really ruthless resolve.

"He is a loser-defeatist whose own ideas must be defeated, decisively and mercilessly."

Why "and mercilessly," exactly? Why did you choose those precise words? What do you mean by this?


I don't think that the "consensus" scenario I mentioned can be said to exist yet: they don't have a constitution yet, and they don't have a central representative (of some sort) government with unified authority over a national army and police force. Maybe they can get there over the next 6-18 months with sustained American political, diplomatic, and military support in some capacity; that's the big question.

Regarding "deputizing" militias into the role of defacto national forces, that actually might be what happens in the near future. Since it's supremely unlikely that we actually will increase the number of US troops in Iraq, for all the various reasons that have been pointed out here, I think it's a safe bet that local and regional security duty will necessarily be devolved onto existing institutions. In Iraq, as a practical matter, that means SCIRI and the like. Still a big question of local/regional players will consent to be governed by a central national (hopefully meaningfully representative) authority. Lots of big questions up in the air right now.

This matter of turning day-to-day policing and counterinsurgency over to Iraqis, i.e. Iraqi militias (and let's not forget the highly capable and motivated peshmerga) is the real-world manifestation of "you go to war [or nation-building or whatever] with the army you have."

John Miller--

Tell your son in Iraq that he has the support and good wishes of all Americans. We all wish him a safe and successful tour. Tell him to take care of himself. And as a father myself I say to you: thanks.

Of course AQ is going to claim victory. So what? It claims victory today, and every day that its leadership is not in custody. It claims victory anytime somebody blows somebody up.

We can claim victory too. All our principal war aims have been met: Iraq is disamred, the tyrant is overthrown, etc, etc.

What I disagree with is the notion that an AQ declaration of victory has any value. people are not going to make a decision whether or not to attack San Francisco based on whether their side "won" in Iraq.

We could declare victory in Iraq, and then go win victory in Waziristan. (Or wherever). It's a matter of getting off the idea that we should be at war with states, and onto the idea that we should be at war with bandits.


Thank you. With luck he will be home in about 8 weeks. Although he fully anticipates needing to go back in the future.

For what it is worth, he sees little likelihood that either the Iraqi army or police will be able to stand alone for a long time.

Why "effing" bother with this sort of sensationalist tripe? I'm sorry I ever re-linked to this place, I won't make the same mistake again with the current lineup.

Where I think Charles' analyses have always failed is that he does not consider that the "winning" strategy may not be available. It is improbable in the extreme that more US boots will be put on the ground, and quite probable that the number of boots will be reduced no matter the underlying conditions in Iraq in the run-up to the midterm elections. It is only slighly more probable that the reconstruction will be refocused to provide jobs for the >25% of the Iraqis that are unemployed at the expense of the profits of the US corporations. And I find it more probable than not that many of the Iraqi power blocks are "going through the motions" of the elections and the constitution because so long as the US troops are present they must play along.

The comparison and debate should not be between what Murtha proposes and some ideal strategy, but between what Murtha proposes and the strategy that is likely to be delivered as an alternative. I admit that "cut and run" sticks in my craw. But it seems likely to me that we will see "cut and run" in some other guise before the 2006 elections any way.

Since there's no state left in Iraq except for the nascent one we're supposedly trying to build, I think we can say we're off the idea we're at war with states.

I think it's a valid point that the bandits will use a withdrawal as an effective propaganda weapon against us and I don't think a full-spectrum analysis of "war on terrorists" can responsibly ignore that factor. The question is how much weight to give it and how to deal with it.

Crikey. Every once in a while I pop back to one of these so-called "balanced" sites hoping to encounter the thoughtful hawks I'm told are out there, somewhere... and every time I find deluded, pseudothink guff like this.

At least Charles provides a quick 'n dirty guide to the last dregs of the warflogger rhetorical arsenal, from "don't dare betray our cosmetic elections process" through "the soldiers will despair if more of their brothers-in-arms aren't sent into the woodchipper." The "you're not a traitor, just a loser-defeatist" line seems pretty new though -- is that an Obsidian Wings original?

Well, never mind.

A commenter on Charles's last post made a point which I think needs to be repeated by everybody: the real defeatist is President Bush because he is not willing to lay out a plan for how to pay for a long commitment and he is not willing to talk draft so that there will be troops for a lnog commitment. The proponents of will need to put up or shut on this point. Without the will to provide the funds and the troops the talk of will is just talk.

Well, obviously, because losers must be countered with decisiveness and defeatists must be countered with mercilessnessnessness.

When you call someone two names, you must have two methods of defeating them. It's neater that way, like lining up your pencils in a row.


It would be so much easier and save on the paperwork to call Murtha a c--------- and come up with just one overarching method of destroying him.

Besides, why does Murtha get two labels and the rest of us, for the most part, get just one?

Also, how bout' this deal, since we seem to be negotiating withdrawals: If Tad Brennan is back, and John Miller decides to comment more often, and Charles stops with the thumb-in-the-eye name-calling and sticks to analysis, thus making the world and Wings a better place, I'll do my part and go away.

Again with the empty promises. (mine)

"I'm sorry I ever re-linked to this place, I won't make the same mistake again with the current lineup."

Because, after all, we don't care how few people read Hilzoy and Katherine's stuff; it's much more important to try to not spread nonsense from Charles, because stuff like his can't be read anywhere else, but Katherine's and Hilzoy's attention to injustice, and their level of writing, is just common everywhere.

Yes, that's a sound sense of priorities, all right.

Have you been in Iraq? Unless you have, do not comment on what should or should not be done.

In effect, Murtha is telling those soldiers with life-altering injuries that their efforts and sacrifices were a waste.

Guess what? -- when you screw up as badly and Bush and crew, you are wasting their efforts and lives. For some reason, Charles believes it most important that this truth not be spoken, and that policy be based around the illusion that this waste has not already occurred.

Saying its true is the most important lesson learned from Viet Nam -- that was Murtha's most important point. The prime cause of defeat in that war was sticking to a failed plan because not enough people in power would speak the truth.

Insisting that we continue a badly flawed war with no realistic plan to fix it, which is what Charles is advocating, is telling the troops that we will continue to waste their efforts and lives with callous indifference. Oh, Charles gives lip service to the fact that things have not gone well so far, and allegedly there are changes that can be made to compensate. However, there is zero chance that any of those changes are going to be made by current leadership. If you are an advocate for the continuation of this war by the US, you are unavoidably an advocate for more of the same awfulness, and cannot cover your tracks by pretending that you are advocating for something else, because it will never happen.

Put another way, it makes no sense to continue to advocate for a failed war to be led by failed leaders based on the fantasy that the errors will not continue and magic beans will cure past ills. Sorry -- there is no convenient middle ground, or some less awful choice.

At some point, if you actually care about the troops instead of a cartoon version of what war is about, you realize that you morally cannot continue to advocate for their effort and possible death on behalf of a failed effort that will not get better. Murtha has crossed this bridge because he realizes the essential moral truth of this point -- because he cares about the troops more than blind adherance to ideological loyalty. It is immoral to misuse troops in this manner, which is exactly what Bush has been doing and for which Charles is now an advocate.

As for the odious "loser-defeatist" title -- first, the "loser-defeatist" is current leadership since they are 100% responsible for the current mess. Someone who points it out and insists that it stop is not the "loser-defeatist." Also, equal time on the same level of name-calling would be to label Charles the "blood thirsty warmonger." Why do you stoop to such a low level, Charles?

John Thullen: "If Tad Brennan is back, and John Miller decides to comment more often, and Charles stops with the thumb-in-the-eye name-calling and sticks to analysis, thus making the world and Wings a better place, I'll do my part and go away."

Well, since your comments are some of the more enjoyable ones, I guess I will have to avoid commenting.

Empty promise.

Charles, this is a deeply contemptible post. You really ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Michael Cain: But it seems likely to me that we will see "cut and run" in some other guise before the 2006 elections any way.

Which may provide some insight into why the White House and its tame turd-flingers are so busy pushing the "Democrats are traitors" garbage: to have any hope of surviving the 2006 elections, they need to both bring troops home and be able to blame the Democrats for the sorry state of Iraq.

I haven't read through the thread yet. I'm posting to suggest people take a peek at my reframing of Charles's post at Hating on Charles Bird. Charles, your attacks on Murtha poison the well of what needs to be a serious policy debate. I won't be surprised if you take real flak here.

I'll link to individual posts by the indispensable Katherine/Hilzoy, or good posts I steal from any other contributor here, but not the site itself.

Also, equal time on the same level of name-calling would be to label Charles the "blood thirsty warmonger."

I was leaning towards "Self-defeatist", myself.

Oops. stooped.


Thanks for your HOCB post. It frames the issues in a far better manner, and in a manner far more likely to lead to rational debate than Charles' post. My main quibble is your line:

"Attacking Murtha as a loser-defeatist, Charles, is utterly beneath you."

I truly wish it were true. Experience suggests otherwise.

DaveL is exactly right. The reason all this talk about "will" and "defeatists" is being blasted out is that Bush is going to cut and run and he wants someone to blame. it is a mistake to engage Charles or Tacticus or any other perveyor of this message on the merits of their message. Instead confront them with their own lack of will. If we pull out of Iraq it will not be because of Democrats. it will because Preside3nt Bush and people like Charles are not willing to bdeal with the political flack that will come from dealing realistically with the financial costs of the war and the draft necessary to provide troops. The lack of will is in the
Republican leadership. The Democrats are being honest in attempting to plan for the pullout which is inevitable given the lack of will to do what is required to stay.

I was leaning towards "Self-defeatist", myself.

Or the old standby, "wanker".

If the US is facing disasterous consequences for its invasion of Iraq, I believe that you need look no further than a mirror in order to assign blame.
There were many people trying to explain the folly of invading Iraq before the invasion. You dismissed these criticisms, sometimes in the McCarthyite manner you've used in this post, questioning the patiotism, willpower, and common sense of those who disagreed with you.

And now, you find yourself on the cusp of facing the disaster that Iraq has become. You still (bizarrely) maintain that the magic of future events might vindicate your position with some sort of non-theocratic/ non-Iranian-client-state/ non-failed-state Iraq...

But we can see that even you are unsure now of the outcome. Or, rather, you can see that Iraq is going so badly that even after defining 'victory' down to some marginal, pathetic goal we will still likely fall short of the finish line... So you've begun to lay the groundwork for your eventual fallback position: you will blame other people.

You will blame the very people who told you that it was a bad idea. You will blame veterans and patriots and those who've given their lives to public service. You will blame bereaved mothers, and (doubtless) even soldiers who fought on that very battlefield, if they disagree with you.

You will by no means admit that your original position was flawed from it's inception. You will not even admit the *possibility* that the Iraqi venture was doomed, because to admit that possibility would be to join the folks you label "losers"- folks who understand that the future is created by hard work *and* favorable preexisting conditions, not just some fanciful will-to-power, manifesting itself in heroic late-night blog-posting.

If you and yours only had the dignity to accept the responsibility for the decisions that you originally embraced, we could move forward as a nation to decide how to deal with this mistake, and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
But like your fearless leader, you cannot image a mistake you've made- and so we are stuck in a feedback loop between those who saw disaster coming years ago and those who wish to, at great cost in lives, wealth, and reputation, avoid personal responsibility for their mistakes.


Oh, just in case I was misunderstood: Charles, in saying that you've put denying your own mistake above the lives, honor, and wealth of other Americans & the reputation of this country, I am not questioning your patriotism. In fact, I find your desire to shed more American blood to cover your own mistake to be in the best tradition of American patriots. Was it not Patrick Henry who said "I regret that I have but one life to give for my dogma, and it belongs to that poor kid from Oklahoma City who joined up to get college money"?

Just when I think there is some level of mendacity and maliciousness to which even Charles will not stoop, he manages to prove me wrong.

Congratulations, Charles. Rove would be proud that you've managed to master the art of attacking someone's strengths--indeed, it's one of the first principles of Rovian character assassination.

"I'll link to individual posts [...] but not the site itself."

Sure, because those wacko cooties are deadly contagious!

Ideological purity must be maintained! Preserve our precious bodily essences! Burn the evil! Burn it!

OK, Gary, we get your point.

AQ can claim victory every time the sun rises and Bin Laden is not dead or in custody.

Carleton Wu pretty well nails this one.

Charles, your president had as free a hand to pursue this war as any since...FDR, probably. Certainly more than Clinton, at least as much as Bush Sr., more than the Vietnam presidents for most or all of that war.

He's delivered failure.

And nobody but him and his trusted advisors can fix it.

So go harsh on him for a while. For that matter, if you see it as so crucial, sign up and do your part, if you're serious about it not being inevitable that we've lost yet. And get your friends to do the same. I don't actually require that as a standard of moral honesty or anything, but I do require a reasonable consistency. Put the burden of doing something useful on those who say that it must succeed, not on the rest of us.

Precisely what difference does it make what a conservative Democrat thinks? Bush has explained that he doesn't pay attention to polls, and won't debate with himself on matters important to him. His advisors have an explicit policy of preferring not to cooperate on any terms other than toadying agreement from the other side. Murtha is, according to everything we know about how this administration works, absolutely irrelevant to real decision-making and order-giving. So what's the beef?

The problem isn't Murtha. The problem is Bush, and Cheney, and those around them. Those are the ones who can provide what you deem necessary for success. If it isn't provided, it won't be Murtha that stopped them, but their own choice.

I'm still clapping loudly!

Amen, Bruce. Their war. Their failure. But still our country, so it would be really, really nice if they'd start reaching out instead of striking out. And a pony.

hmmm, what to add?

1. For shame, CB. This post was beneath you. Calling Murtha a defeatist is pretty bad, but the loser appellation is just contemptible. Get out of high school. The losers here are the iraqi and american people, not a congressman who has served this country honorably and is continuing to do so to the best of his ability. Disagreement is one thing; name-calling another.

2. He is not, notably, calling for withdrawal prior to the Dec. 15 election. The administration has been silent on how its occupation strategy will change following the election. This is supposed to be a major milestone and it is appropriate to discuss what this milestone means. Withdrawing to bases outside of Iraq but in a position to provide major support to the iraqi "national" forces is a legitimate position.

3. Allowing our enemies to define our victory condition isn't just wrong, it's stupid. Beneath stupid. Moronic.

Once again, get out of high school. But if you are incapable of doing so, here's the analogy: We're the big kid who has to be smart enough to walk away from a fight even if some pipsqueak is calling us a name. Everyone else in school will decide on their own whether we're weak or strong for walking away.

"OK, Gary, we get your point."

My anonymous bet is that this "Gary" -- and who is he, really? -- demands the body of his offender placed before him, with that of all the offenders' ancestors and descendents alike! And the bodies must be desecrated and danced around! And there must be mass abasement! Mercilessly!

Pedantry must be worshipped! Pedantry must also be distinguished from making an important distinction! Mercilessly!

All must admit that pseudonymity, which most commenters use, is entirely different than anonymity, which is when a comment comes from an unidentified commenter! All must hail Gary's beauty, and despair! Mercilessly!

Then: more dancing! And macadamia nuts for everyone!

All who do not participate are loser-defeatists! You will BE PUNISHED! Mercilessly!

More Charles Bird posts for everyone! With enough will, we will prevail! Non-prevailance is non-optional! Pursue the prevailing mercilessly! With enough will, we can launch a combined mental bolt that will destroy the Eddori--, er, the liberals and their pedantic tools of weakitude!

At least, I bet that's what that Gary guy would say.

I'm just guessing, though.

...oh. So was this whole thing just a set-up for some kabuki betwixt norbizness and M. Farber? Is Charles Bird real or just an imagined embodiment of all that I find noxious, poisonous, sanctimonious about the American right wing?

Is Charles Bird real or just an imagined embodiment of all that I find noxious, poisonous, sanctimonious about the American right wing?

Cue Victoria Principal getting startled in the shower.

CB: "Murtha has drunk the Daily Kos Kool Aid. He is a loser-defeatist whose own ideas must be defeated, decisively and mercilessly."

Kaiser Wilhelm's Proclamation to the Army, 10 October 1918:

"The hour is grave!

We are fighting for the future of the Fatherland and for the protection of the soil of the Homeland. To that end we need the united action of the intellectual, moral, and economic powers of Germany.

On the co-operation of those powers our invincibility rests. The will for defence must bind all separate views and separate wishes into one great unity of conception."


Murtha raised the white flag over eighteen months ago when he said this war was unwinnable.

You link to a May 6 RollCall article that mentions Murtha as saying the war is "unwinnable", but without any context. The full quote from Murtha appears to be:

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) told his Democratic colleagues Tuesday that he feared the war in Iraq is unwinnable if the U.S. military does not dramatically increase troop levels, provide more ground support and seek significant international involvement.


I'm not sure I would characterize that statement as "raising the white flag".

"...and preventing terrorist groups from being able to operate openly with impunity as in pre-invasion Afghanistan. In other words, an Iraq that is not a failed state, not engaged in civil war ..."

in other words, 'victory' is largely a matter of somehow avoiding a disastrous outcome made highly probable by our incompetent, unjustified action in the first place. it's a bit like saying: if I throw you off the roof, and then somehow contrive with the aid of dumb luck for you not to break your leg, I can claim to have heroically saved you from a broken leg.

What's most disturbing about this entire debate is the astounding lack of good faith. We are ostensibly having a policy discussion- what would be best for America.
In such a discussion, we should assume until demonstrated otherwise that speakers like Murtha and Charles are advocating the positions they think are best for America.

For Charles to follow his initial position with the assumption that everyone who disagrees with him is therefore arguing for things that are bad for America is to short-circuit the debate. To suggest that they lack patriotism or are aiding the enemy intentionally (as was suggested above, despite the disclaimer) is to silence the debate completely.

And this debate is very important; I think we all agree that America's actions in the next year or two are critical for determining the shape of the Middle East in the decades to come. But we cannot have a debate when dissent is called treason.

Charles, have you bothered to wonder why Murtha is advocating the positions he does? Does your thinking on the matter begin and end with the conclusion that he is a defeatist, unpatriotic loser? I can understand why you think we should stay in Iraq, even though I disagree with much of your assessment. If you truly haven't bothered to understand the arguments against your position (and this seems to be the case), then you should take the time to consider them carefully. They are not unpatriotic or disloyal, even if they turn out to be mistaken.

CB - When you say, "Stick around and keep attacking until enough liberals say 'uncle'.", do you mean anything by liberal other than "person who thinks that both the USA and Iraq (not to mention many other countries) would be better off with a withdrawal sooner than I prefer"? Because otherwise it's very unclear how you're counting many of the people favoring withdrawal as liberals, and as a liberal I don't really want all of them (namely the one's who hold illiberal views) counted as such.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) told his Democratic colleagues Tuesday
that he feared the war in Iraq is unwinnable if the U.S. military does
not dramatically increase troop levels, provide more ground support and
seek significant international involvement.

And note that the U.S. did none of those things in the mean time. Kind of silly to say he was advocating surrender at that time.

"Silly" isn't quite the word you're looking for. "Flagrantly dishonest" would fit better.

Yeah, okay.

Ladies and Gentlemen -- Charles here is the future. As more and more Americans come across to the obvious -- we can't win this war with the Army we have, and the American public is unwilling to support a draft, and thus we must withdraw -- the franctic shrieking from the warhawks is only going to get more contemptable.

Remember, this was their chance to refight Vietnam. To prove how -- if it weren't for the damn hippies -- we would have won Vietnam. It was a chance to prove liberals wrong after THIRTY years. The last, great chance for the right-wing boomers to prove themselves right.

And what happened? The exact same thing as last time. Oh, it's not Vietnam -- each war is unique -- but we find ourselves in the exact same spot. Too powerful to outright lose, not powerful enough to win. So, to soothe the egos of the Charles and Vons of America, we send American troops to bleed and die because if we withdraw with anything less than total victory, they are wrong AGAIN..

This isn't a matter of right and wrong. Or of pragmatism. Or even idealogy. It's come down to pride. They won't be wrong AGAIN, no matter how many American lives they have to sacrifice.


You have hit on a key point. I do not want to make this sound overly partisan, but of late, the Republicans as personified by this administration are making an art form of quoting out of context, as you point out that Charles did.

They are using, for example, Reid saying that "the President is doing the right thing" without including the part of his statement clarifying that he is talking about going to the United Nations prior to the war.

One must look at much of what the adminstration says when quoting their critics as if we are looking at ads for the movies where a reviewer's "fantastically horrible" becomes "fantastic..."

Our premature departure will be interpreted in the Muslim world (and perhaps the rest of the world) as a victory for al Qaeda, and al Qaeda will have stumbled upon a blueprint for success: Stick around and keep attacking until enough liberals say "uncle". Our early departure would mean that al Qaeda will have a base of operations in Iraq, and a growing one at that.

This looks like the rhetorical equivalent of a pincer movement. Al Qaeda seems to have stumbled upon the same rhetorical strategy that the President, Tacitus, and Charles Bird have adopted. Keep attacking and hope that the other backs off. As long as this structural alliance can be maintained, then the Democrats are either seeming to be defeated by the Republicans in the market of ideas or being defeated by AQ in the war of using ideas to shape world opinion and national will.

It's a good rhetorical strategy, even if it can only be constructed out of a tissue of emotional appeals, revisionism, and the need to keep the public focused on The Great Oz and not the ineffective leadership behind the curtain.

The Democrats are not the ones playing politics or limiting the terms of debate. Every substantive Democratic effort to discuss metrics and strategy had been met with deflection and spin in order to delay the inevitable accountability that comes with having chosen to fight a war on the cheap with no forethought into what comes after.

Ron: Actually, I don't think anything the US does or refrains from doing in the Middle East much this side of outright nuking (or impeachment and criminal trials for the Bush administration principals) will make any difference in the long run. The crucial years are the ones now past, during which it became clear that the US can and will make war ineffectively but with immoral brutality. Everyone knows now, we're led by people who are vicious fools. And we've let them do it long enough to establish a new era of equally brutal but often smarter local leadership. Civil democracy's chance has gone; the only question now is which of the various potential tyrants gets in.

The details do matter, but it's the same broad picture whatever the US does or doesn't do now.

Good point. That is, I think that there's still much potential good &/or harm to be done vis a vis Iraq, but I don't think our choices are the end-all-be-all deciding the fate of the ME.
But that shouldn't affect Charles' viewpoint- if he thinks Iraq is important enough to debate, then he should think that it's important enough to debate without demonizing dissent.

Nice to know the Republicans have their priorities straight in all this...no playing politics with the war from that camp...no siree, bob...


what's this?

House Republicans, seeing an opportunity, maneuvered for a quick vote and swift rejection Friday of a Democratic lawmaker's call for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. [...]

By forcing the issue to a vote, Republicans placed many Democrats in a politically unappealing position -- whether to side with Murtha and expose themselves to attacks from the White House and congressional Republicans, or whether to oppose him and risk angering the voters that polls show want an end to the conflict.



I have to disagree here unless I'm missing some subtle sarcasm.

I'm sick of the Dems being wishy-washy on the subject. I'm all for having the reps from both sides of the aisle put their cards on the table and let us know where they stand. I think the people of America want to know where our lawmakers stand on the issue. At least this person does.

I will say that it's a bit hypocritical coming from Republicans though...

Yes, shameful that the Dems might have to take a public stand on something. Really!

I think the Democrats should propose a counter resolution. Perhaps they should request an explanation from the Administration of how the sustained commitment is to be paid for and how troops are going to be found.

Tacticus, how is this war going to be paid for, and where will the troops come from? Put up or shut up. If there is no will to provide the funding and no will to provide the troops, there is no will to sustain a long term commitment.

Over on The Christian Prophecy blog the Holy Spirit asks who are those who lived by the phrase "We shall overcome!" It seems that overcoming difficulties is everyone's prerogative and separates the spiritually strong from the spiritually weak.

I actually agree with Tacitus and not Edward here. This is politics, absolutely, but no more or less shameful than invoking Rule 21 -- which I thought wasn't in the least shameful, but simply another working of the proper lawful rules.

Which is what this is. I don't regard politics as inherently shameful, nor the use of parliamentry maneuvers and tactical votes as shameful, either.

There are shameful maneuvers, such as breaking the rules and denying you are doing so, or breaking all precedents in creating new exceptions to rules, such as holding open votes for as long as you want until you get the votes you need, and there are also maneuvers that are simply maneuvers, like calling for a vote that is uncomfortable for the other side.

I think the latter is a perfectly legitimate tactic for either side when in power, and I don't at all see why it isn't, or what is dishonorable or shameful about it. Can you explain, Edward?

Who has the rights of the issues and who doesn't, is another matter, of course.

And I read somewhere that for some of those religous-let's-depend-on-the-Holy-Spirit types planning and analysis about projected outcomes is actually a Bad Thing. If your trajectory needs a few miracles in it it just shows how much more faith you have in God, or some such thing.

Sheesh, why can't these idiots just throw themselves off the Empire State Building and pray for God to save them on the way down? We could sanctify the ones that make it and bury the rest.

"And I read somewhere that for some of those religous-let's-depend-on-the-Holy-Spirit types planning and analysis about projected outcomes is actually a Bad Thing."

Interesting, but it seems rather a non-sequitur.

Yes, shameful that the Dems might have to take a public stand on something

yeah, that Murtha guy really pulled his punches.

Gary, do you agree with Tacitus that the Republicans shouldn't be ashamed for pulling a political trick, or do you agree that it is shameful that the Dems don't take a public stand? Because Tac's contribution seems to only talk about the latter, not the former.

Col. Murtha, 37-year Marine vet, and awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, of course, doesn't speak for the Democratic Party, unless the Democratic Party authorizes him to in some fashion.

This post needs an update. As pointed out by jethro above, Murtha did not say the war was "unwinnable".

"Gary, do you agree with Tacitus that the Republicans shouldn't be ashamed for pulling a political trick, or do you agree that it is shameful that the Dems don't take a public stand?"

I don't know about Gary, but I can't see that scheduling a vote that is uncomfortable for your opponents as a "trick." It's just legitimate politics.

I suppose there's a fairly good case to be made that it's shameful that the Democrats don't really have their act together so as to have a coherent and generally-agreed-upon stance on what to do in Iraq, though I don't feel moved to particularly argue that case just now. I don't know what Gary thinks, though. I don't know why it would matter to anyone, since posting anonymously is the same as posting pseudonymously. I assume you agree, unless you're some kind of pedant.

It is "good politics". But is a parliamentary maneuver good for the country when the matter is war and peace?

Pardon me, I'm new here and I seem to be lost. Is the same blog that did all those great posts on Habeas?

Anything worth saying on this post has been covered. I'm in the Wu, Bruce B camp but one point that seems to be missed. Murtha did just tour Anbar province recently and is well aware of the situation on the ground. Whether you think he's right or wrong, he is obviously moved to action by his concern for the troops.

Come to think of it, let's have immediate up or down votes on everything. With funding to either double for yes or be zeroed-out for no.

Medicare, yes or no?

Medicaid, yes or no?

Yellowstone Park yes or no.

The IRS yes or no.

Star Wars yes or no

Laura Bush using the taxpayer's plumbing yes or no

Etc. All votes will be binding in perpetuity.

We should have the nation's business cleared up by next Friday, shut down the media, including the Internet, and play some golf.

Libby: we're a group blog who try, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to include both liberals and conservatives. Edward and I (and Katherine, who came out of retirement briefly) are the liberals; von is a centrist Republican; Slartibartfast likewise (more or less); Sebastian and Charles are conservatives. Thus we never agree on anything.

Morat: "to soothe the egos of the Charles and Vons of America..." -- I don't think von belongs in that sentence, though he can of course speak for himself.

John Miller: please give your son my best, and all our thanks.

Attack now in the press. Decry the vote as a deliberate political distortion of Murtha's position. Turn the 'playing politics' card back on the Republicans. They are playing 3 Card Monty to avoid what should be a substantive, bipartisan discussion of current strategy.

What's so hard about this?

Kos has some blow-by-blow on the Murtha/withdrawal resolution shenanigans. I haven't read through all of it, but I would think that if the Republicans want to have a vote on something they're calling a "Democrat resolution," they could at least vote on Murtha's own text rather than their own rewrite.

Charles Bird and Josh Trevino hate it -- hate it with a holy passion -- when people point out that their bilge is objectively fascist. But it is.

To only blame internal enemies, to attack their patriotism and lack of love for the country, to call upon nebulosities like "willpower" for vaguely described "victory," is the way fascists argued. The fascists followed their rhetoric with violence. Expect the same thing here.

Rep. Murtha is "betraying the troops?" That's just the Dolchstosslegende, being carefully nurtured. The President and his party are in charge of two of the three branches of government and have set our policy in Iraq since day 1. Murtha isn't the enemy. President Bush's apologists are.

Echoing what DaveL said, that's what Edward and I think is shameful.

And if you saw the debate this afternoon, it only got worse. Rep. Jean Schmidt, who beat Paul Hackett this summer to get her seat in Congress, read an email from one of her constituents, himself a Marine, which essentially said, "Cowards cut and run, Marines don't"--the effect of which was for her to call Murtha a coward. The House went nuclear after that.

Personally, I'm from the school that thinks all's fair in love and war, and war being another form of politics, I'm all for hardball there too. But being a vet myself, I freely admit that when I heard Mean Jean say what she said, part of me wanted to throttle her. She's got no standing to call Murtha a coward, they've got no standing to call him a coward, and if that Marine wants to call him a coward, he can walk his happy tuchis down to DC and call Murtha a coward; I suspect that Schmidt's constituent doesn't have the gall.

As for Charles, I wasn't aware that it was possible to jump the shark repeatedly as a blogger, but somehow he manages to do so. There's nothing wrong with conservatives, per se; but there's a world of difference between Seb Holsclaw and someone like Charles.

there's a world of difference between Seb Holsclaw and someone like Charles

Yes. Come back, Sebastian, please. We promise to only hassle you a little bit. You too, Von.

Is there a crime for annoying usage of italics?

What was shameful about the vote in the House today was that the Republicans introduced their own resolution (not Murtha's) and then demanded a vote on the "Democratic" resolution. Calling for the vote? -- fine. Mislabeling it -- typical sleaze from today's Republicans.


Its important to note that there are really only two choices here -- supporting the Bush version of this war or forcefully advocating to shut down his abortion for a war. In the real world, there is no middle position because Bush, et al. will not permit it.

Charles, Tacitius, et al. support some make-believe war that does not exist and will never exist, and in reality are criticizing the anti-war crowd for being against this phony make-believe version of the war as opposed to what it really is.

Yeah -- I would be for an imaginary war that made sense, but this war did not make sense from the beginning, and has gone straight south ever since.

Saying you are still for the war because there is some make-believe manner in which it can still be made to make sense... that is nutsy. Its either you are for the Bush version of the war, or you think it has to be brought to an end.

Saying you support a more rational manner in which this war can be fought, and therefore a continuation of the war, is consigning American's brave to wasted deaths and maiming for the Bush war that will actually be fought.

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