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December 14, 2006

Comments

Yes, exactly. Especially this sentence: An executive was seen as necessary to execute the laws, but the power to make laws has always resided in the Congress. That's something that we've drifted away from for too long.

Despite the warnings you'll no doubt hear, I'm sure Congress will provide sufficient funds to keep the military operational.

Operational in what context?

…a signal of their intention to use the Congressional power of the purse more assertively to influence the White House’s management of the war.

Congressional control over the money for the war is one of the most powerful weapons Democrats will have in trying to influence administration policy toward Iraq. They can use both the budget and subsequent spending bills to impose restrictions on how the money is spent…

While the leadership has repeatedly said it will not cut off money for military operations, senior Democratic officials said lawmakers were considering whether to add conditions to spending bills to force the administration to meet certain standards for progress or change in Iraq.

We’ll approve the budget based only on our view of what should be done – which amounts to some flavor of withdrawal soonest. We’ll fund a retreat but nothing else?

I certainly hope they don’t go there (even for their sake).

I certainly hope they don’t go there (even for their sake).

Nice lookin' constitutional democracy ya got there. Sure would be a shame if something happened to it.

Or, in other words, why should Congress not exercise the war powers given it in the Constitution? (And excellent post, Andrew.)

OCS, I agree with LB on this, and will add a point: the Administration has had plenty of time to try to work across the aisle to get people in the other party invested in the thing, behind a plan that people can agree on. Instead, they used the war as a campaign issue in a particularly nasty way from 2002 through 2006, and while they've always been willing to allow opposition politicians who support their policy without reservation to do so, they've made nearly zero effort to make the thing a bipartisan effort. All part of Rovism 51% solution government, which wins elections when you need them, with luck, but is a terrible way to govern in virtually every field of endeavor.

Just like the war itself, which was a huge gamble, the politics of division are a gamble. Worth taking if you win, but if you lose, you lose pretty big time. Here, the Administration has given up nearly all its credibility in terms of being able to predict outcomes or influence events, and long ago given up any claim to any kind of presumption of good faith. If they have to justify every single damn cent with irrefutable proof that it's going to certainly damage US interests if that cent is not spent, well, that's what they've earned.

Really, why should the congressional committee chairs believe a single thing the President has to say about Iraq? What's his track record?

When we're talking about the federal judiciary, the mantra is 'elections have consequences.' Here, the President went around and told people that if they elected Dems, then we'd pull precipitously out of Iraq. And guess what the public thought of that?

Excellent post, Andrew.

LB: Nice lookin' constitutional democracy ya got there. Sure would be a shame if something happened to it.

My point was this:

Using the purse strings to force an early withdrawal will put the onus of what happens next squarely on the Democrats. Yes, I know that it was Bush, the administration, registered Republican voters, and a couple of rogue Democrats who got us into this, Democrats in general had absolutely nothing to do with it. But if Democrats want to dictate strategy via the budget, then they assume the responsibility for the outcome of that strategy. Right or wrong, that will be a broad perception. If the administration is forced into an unwise withdrawal that ends in disaster and the Democrats forced that via the budget, they will certainly share in a large helping of responsibility.

What are they going to do when they can’t blame the administration for everything anymore? My hope is that it will force them to come up a real strategy – something more coherent than what I have heard so far.

CharleyCarp:
I have no problem with oversight and accountability. And let’s not forget that it was a Republican who proposed requiring the president to account for war costs in his spending plan, and a Republican controlled Senate that passed it (very late in the game, true). So this is not entirely a new concept here.

I have no problem with any of that. If they are just looking to get the budget straight, insure money is being spent wisely, weed out corruption – great. I am all for it.

That is not what the string of quotes I highlighted implies. I read it as Democrats are going to dictate strategy, and the only Democratic Iraqi strategy I know of is some flavor of retreat.

If they go there I believe it will be very bad for them as a party and for their chances in 08.

Do you, personally, think withdrawal from Iraq is a bad idea? Do you think it's unpopular? Because polls say that most voters want out.

You're right that whatever happens next, stay or go, is going to be ghastly -- the decisions made up to this point guarantee it. And you're probably right that Democrats will be blamed if they take any active role whatsoever in trying to mitigate the harms caused by the Administration's godawful policies.

But Congress is responsible for deciding whether and when to go to war (although it's frequently ducked its responsibilities in the past), and just because malign forces may attempt to blame Congressional Democrats for the ill-effects of the Administration's adventure is no excuse for their ducking their responsibility, and not trying to do whatever can be done to produce the least-worst outcome from the situation we have now.

(If you can come up for a sensible sounding reason why withdrawal isn't the least worst option, I'm all ears. Are you planning on occupying Iraq indefinitely?)

Using the purse strings to force an early withdrawal will put the onus of what happens next squarely on the Democrats.

What happens next is the troops come home. Seems the country is behind that idea.

As to what happens next in Iraq and to the Iraqi people, it seems most Americans believe that's up to the Iraqis.

As to what happens next in Iraq and to the Iraqi people, it seems most Americans believe that's up to the Iraqis.

indeed. believing otherwise is to believe we're capable of doing something we've spent the last 3 years proving we're not capable of doing.

OCS, in Bush's mind, any withdrawal is early withdrawal. In the mind of many, any withdrawal after 2005 is not early withdrawal. The difference is partly semantic, partly political -- but the policy onus has to be on the President. If he wants to keep spending money and lives, he's going to have to convince people that it's going to do something.

And by something, I mean something other than allow him to avoid facing the truth of what he's done to the lives of hundreds of thousands, and the safety of millions.

If he doesn't man-up, as they say, but instead just sort bumbles along, hoping to turn the inevitable withdrawal (inevitable because he hasn't convinced people that the alternative is going to work) into blame in the 2008 elections, well, he's even less fit for office than I thought.

His pride isn't worth a single drop of blood, not from one of our soldiers, and not from an Iraqi. Political advantage in 2008 isn't worth a single drop of blood. Can he demonstrate that continuation isn't about either pride or political advantage, and will he present some kind of plausible argument that something will be accomplished by the continued deaths of our servicemen as well as Iraqis? He doesn't have to convince you, OCS, apparently. Just the other 70% of the country.

Let's seem him try without calling any of us fools, traitors, or cowards, but instead talking in real terms about how a real strategy is going to address the real issues in Iraq.

Now I doubt he's going to do this, and I think he's delayed the new strategy until January because it's going to be less a military strategy on the ground than a domestic political strategy. I can see why some people would want to do battle with Nancy Pelosi rather than Osama bin Laden, I just don't think any of them should be on the public payroll.

I agree with OCSteve. I don't thinnk the Democrats should force a withdrawal yet. For one thinng the polls don't show support for a withdrawal now. People say thhey wannt channge but that is not the same thing as saying that they are willing to live with a messy defeat. If the Democrtas force a withdrawal and Iraq turns into ann even bloodier mess than it is now, plenty of the folks who voted Democrat because thhey wannted change will turn on thhe Democrats annd say, "But not that change".
Also there is a new Sec of Def and he should have a chance to provide some leadership.
I thinnk the Democrats should oversee the budget so money isnn't wasted, should provide a running critique and commnentary on Bush policies, should engage in diplomacy with Iran, Syria, and other countries independently of Bush, and should provide, through the committees, ongoing discussion forums of policy. In about six months to a year, when Bush's latest plan has failed and Congressional Republicanns are desperate, then the Demos should provide leadership in forming a genuinely bipartisan policy which might be to force a withdrawal and certainly should include provision for helping Iraqis escape, especially those who helped our military people.

Adding more troops to Iraqis, the polls say, less popular than drug legalization, gay marriage, or gun control. If the job of Congress is to be a body that represents the nation as a whole, as opposed to the pundit class or what any of us individually may most wish, then it'd seem very much Congress' business to attempt to prevent further escalation. Likewise when it comes to preparing for a timely withdrawal.

that's up to the Iraqis

sorry, but that's just cynical;

which Iraqis? oh, those with the guns - and don't forget to throw Iran and Syria into the mix

anyway, it's not gonna be pretty

LB:Do you, personally, think withdrawal from Iraq is a bad idea?

Absolutely - a terrible idea. I know that defeat/retreat is the consensus view here. At this point though I’m not going to waste the time or bandwidth arguing against it one more time (I have not changed my opinion; it just makes no sense to keep rehashing the same ground over and over). I’ll find and link my relevant comments if you like.

Do you think it's unpopular?

The potential outcome may be very unpopular on a bipartisan basis.

CharlieCarp – I don’t give a damn about Bush, his legacy, or his stubbornness. I care about the deployed forces and the possibility of total chaos and genocide.

OCSteve: Absolutely - a terrible idea.

But do you think it's a worse idea than ordering the US army to stay in Iraq to die as a defeated force?

Absolutely - a terrible idea. I know that defeat/retreat is the consensus view here.

OCS, you are eliding the difference between preferred outcomes of the group with our perception of the reality of the situation, and doing so in a particularly nasty manner. I don't think anyone thinks "losing" is a good thing, but (and ignoring for the moment that when you have no idea at the outset what "winning" is supposed to look like, you pretty much set yourself up for failure, but I digress...) what on earth leads you to conclude that we haven't already lost if the goal is/was 'stable, democratic, secular, pro-American Iraq?'

Refusal to say the word doesn't change the fact (as I, and many others see it) that we have been defeated. That smarts, to be sure. But it happens - somebody has to lose, and by approaching this thing in a half-assed fashion, we deserve it. To quote "The General" (heh) Bobby Knight, "failure to prepare is preparing to fail." All staying is likely to do is to make us less prepared and capable next time.

Now, if you want to tell me how and why I'm incorrect as a factual (rather than ideological) matter for thinking the above, I'm all ears and open to persuasion. But the continued paeans to "willpower" and the horror at the mention of "defeat" does not add substance of any sort to the discussion.

What Pooh said. I am absolutely not pro-losing. I'm just not sure we haven't exhausted the other options.

OCSteve, I realize how committed you are to our staying in Iraq, and I also realize that you do think Bush has been totally inept in handling this little adventure.

However, I am truly sick and tired of people claiming that anyone who looks at withdrawal as a viable option, be it immediate or gradual, as being in favor of defeat and retreat.

Withdrawal and retreat are not synonymous, nor is withdrawal and defeat. As far as I am concerned our military achieved all of its goals. In my mind, they were victorious. The fact that the aftermath, which can be totally laid at the feet of Bush and Rumsfeld and the syncophants who supported this effort without any questioning, is not what was desired is not the fault of the military.

Withdrawal, as Andrew as pointed out before, may well be the only solution that has the ultimate best chance of a positive outcome all around in the long run.

Secondly, at no time as therre been any indication that the Democrats are thinking of defunding the troops. Obviously, however, there is a lot of money going for either ancillary services (KBR and Halliburton) and non-military spending which needs to be looked at carefully.

And whoopee, a Republican finally introduced something the Democrats have been asking for for the last 3 years but due to the way the Republicans ran Congress couldn't even get out of committee, assuming it was even considered in committee. That Republican gets no credit for this action whatsoever. In fact, any Republican who supported that measure should hang his or her head in shame for not doing it earlier.

I know that defeat/retreat is the consensus view here

you can't know something that isn't true.

OCS, I didn't say that I thought you cared about Bush, I said that he and the people he has working for him spend a lot of time acting like they care more about him than about the guys deployed.

I think defeat in this war is an unmitigated disaster. As well as a personal tragedy for thousands. I wish it could be won. I've been saying since 2005 that it has been won, if only we would focus on our actual war aims.

Now I doubt that the Congress is going to order troops home on any kind of short timeframe. But the way it's looking is that Congress will call senior people in, ask them if we can win doing X, Y or Z, and they're going to say 'maybe.' Then if asked whether X, Y, or Z would make the situation worse if they don't pan out, they'll say 'yes.' The President is going to show 'resolve' and magical thinking, and make no effort to actually convince anyone that X, Y or Z would work. (He'll appeal to faith in himself, but not to the wisdom of the plan). I think he'll do this because I think he'd rather lose (where he can escape blame) than compromise.

Again, I'll say it: OCS, I'm not confusing you with Bush. The problem is that there's no war, no withdrawal, no nothing without him, and all his baggage, at the helm.

Using the purse strings to force an early withdrawal will put the onus of what happens next squarely on the Democrats.
Similarly, NOT forcing an early withdraw will put the onus of what happens next squarely on the Democrats. That's the point: Bush and company have botched matters quite thoroughly, to the point that there is no forseeable outcome that will not be seen as a monumental disaster in terms of both strategic goals and human tragedy.

Do you honestly believe that the 2008 campaign will not focus on blaming the Democrats for the further crumbling of the situation in Iraq, even if they continue to rubber-stamp Bush's decisions like sheep? You're a smart guy.

Do you honestly believe that the 2008 campaign will not focus on blaming the Democrats for the further crumbling of the situation in Iraq, even if they continue to rubber-stamp Bush's decisions like sheep?

The right wing sycophants for Bush are already arguing that failure was due to the actions of Democrats prior to 11/7/06. Even though Bush had 100% control over everything for years, the fact that the Democrats did not cheer loudly enough is why Bush has allegedly failed. Honestly, that is the argument already being made.

Time to focus on doing the right thing, and repeatedly hammer home how the war was lost because of the incompetence of Bush and the Republicans who supported him without question. Amazingly, the polls show that most people already believe that, and well before the media finally, and only after 11/7, began running this story.

Even though Bush had 100% control over everything for years, the fact that the Democrats did not cheer loudly enough is why Bush has allegedly failed. Honestly, that is the argument already being made.
Indeed. I think it can be argued that a war plan dependent on the vigorous, wholehearted cheering of 100% of the members of a democratic government is rather brittle to begin with.

If insufficient Democratic cheering was enough to scuttle the plan, perhaps war supporters should've looked for a better plan.

Personally, I think that while whoever runs for President for the GOP will try to pin whatever catastrophe has happened by then on the Democrats, that won't really wash, since the idea that what was missing, for the first 4 years of the war, was GOP control over decision-making is just too ludicrous.

However, even if I'm wrong, I'd much rather see us just try to do the right thing, for Iraq and our troops. If there is no victory to be had -- and I deeply want to be wrong on this one -- and if keeping our troops in Iraq will just postpone the inevitable at the cost of our lives and our children's prosperity, then we should try to come up with a responsible way to leave, period. If we get stuck with the blame, then so be it.

Actually, I assumed that what OCSteve meant by "I know defeat/retreat is the consensus view here" was "I know that every discussion here seems to conclude that US has been defeated in Iraq and ought to leave the country". That is, badly phrased, but not intentionally malicious.

At this point, in this place, none of us should feel that we have to keep saying that we wish the Bush administration had been more competent and less criminal, nor that we wish that Congress hadn't supinely let the administrative arm of government do whatever it pleased.

hilzoy, I'm in agreement with you, with a few caveats: if the military presence turns out be do more harm than good for the situation in Iraq, of course the US should leave - I'm just not sure how one can determine with confidence that this is really the case;

and even if one conludes that leaving is the better option, that doesn't relieve us from coming up with a plan for the future of Iraq, or at least a plan to deal with the humanitarian crisis, that will likely occur after the troops departure

what I currently see in many arguments from the US center to left, and what really irks me, is the mirror image of Bush's attitude before going to war: let's go in, topple Saddam, declare victory and take it from there - let's withdraw, declare defeat and let the chips fall where they may

novakant, I think there's a fairly good litmus test for US presence in Iraq doing more harm than good: the problem is whether outside observers can get the data to apply it.

Iraq is embroiled in civil war. What is the US military doing in this civil war?

Is it acting as a peacekeeping/policing force, attempting to bring all parties to the conflict together and find a way to end the conflict with satisfaction to all sides? If so, then it's doing more good than harm, and should stay.

Is it acting as a participant in the civil war, taking sides, prosecuting the war itself, wanting one side of the conflict to "win"? If so, then it's doing more harm than good, and should leave.

My assessment of the situation is that the latter is more nearly true than the former: the US military isn't in any way acting as a neutral broker in Iraq, working to end the conflict with a just settlement satisfactory to all.

The US military instigated the civil war, and are now taking part in the civil war. Common sense suggests it would be good for the people of Iraq if at least one participant in the civil war, especially if that participant were the instigator and the best-armed faction, were to leave.

ok, let's assume that your assessment is correct (and I don't mean just 'for the sake of the argument', I do see this as a possibly correct interpretation of the situation, I just don't know how we can be sure) and also that the US troops will be withdrawn as quickly as is feasible:

what do we do to prevent a major humanitarian crisis, ethnic cleanising, genocide from happening?

I'm sure you wouldn't want to rule this out as a possibility; even if the US presence is counterproductive, the factions in Iraq are not going to suddenly decide to live in peace and harmony, just because one player is taken out of the equation. Rather, it is very likely that the battle over the power vacuum left behind will be fought fiercely and without any regard for the civilian population, since there won't be a penalty for bad behaviour and the stakes will be even higher than they are now.

Currently it's a battle fought by players trying to position themselves in a spot that gives them a tactical advantage in the power game, when the US leaves it won't be about that anymore, but about assuming real power and territory. The insurgents won't be satisfied with sabotaging the formation of an Iraqi state anymore, they will want to be the leaders of the Iraqi state again.

All this is destined to develop into a major humanitarian crisis and instead of this 'should I stay or should I go', we should really be discussing what to do to prevent it.

Novakant, I suggest that the very fact we can't be at all sure about a lot of what's going on is itself a reason to withdraw. The US government isn't keeping track of Iraqis killed and injured. It can't account for large chunks of the money allocated. It won't provide regular budget figures for what this all costs. The president insists on clearly unconstitutional protection from scrutiny, let alone accountability, and he seems to take no interest in the human cost to his own citizens anymore than he does to anyone else's people. There is no push for translators. Those who uncover waste and fraud are silenced and punished wherever possible.

All of this, in my view, counts as reason to stop. I believe, as I heard a pastor put it, that our means become our ends - until the world actually ends, all we ever have are means. And these are not the means of any succesful struggle, let alone one that advances liberty and law.

All this is destined to develop into a major humanitarian crisis and instead of this 'should I stay or should I go', we should really be discussing what to do to prevent it.

ideally, yes. but the US's history of fixing humanitarian crises isn't that hot. we're sadly content (as a nation) to let them go on indefinitely (everybody give a quick shameful glance towards your mental map of Africa). which is to say, there might not be much support for preventing such a crisis in Iraq - in fact, there already isn't.

and even if there was support for it, the Bush gang is still in charge for the next 2 years. and we know how competent they are.

Novakant, you bring up the one issue that gives almost everybody pause. The question is if there is anything we can do to prevent what you are talking about. The only possible solution would be to keep a large number of troops there indefinitely.

Just as al Qaeda will view and provlaim our withdrawal, whether in 2 years or twenty as a victory for them, large scale civil war is likely to break out, with the resulting humanitarian crisis, whenever we leave, be it two years or twenty.

As it is, a vast number of the top level technically oriented, such as doctors and engineers, Iraqis have already fed the country. Health care is worse than under Hussein, as is the overall infrastructure. We have a military there that is not trained or meant to be used as a nation building device.

Staying there may well just be putting off the inevitable, but with an actual increase in the loss of life. I won't go into how this could all have been avoided. It is too late for that discussion, except to avoid future fiascos.

I really don't want to sound heartless, but if a major civil war is going to occur no matter what (not certain but there is a high degree of probability IMO) maybe it would be for the best to get it over with sooner rather than later.

The biggest crime of this President is that he has created a situation which has made the world a more dangerous place without any reasonable way of correcting the situation. Hell has been unleashed, and he was the one responsible.

Sorry, the people I was referring to have fled the country not necessarily fed the country.

novakant: what do we do to prevent a major humanitarian crisis, ethnic cleanising, genocide from happening?

The usual: nothing.

What is the US military in Iraq doing now to prevent that crisis from happening? Please don't answer "just being there": tell me what specific actions you see the US military carrying out to prevent humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

"if the military presence turns out be do more harm than good for the situation in Iraq, of course the US should leave "

If? It has only done more harm than good. And not because our military is bad, it isn't. The decision to invade and occupy was disastrous, and so there is no 'if'. Our presence does more harm every moment we are there.

Actually, I assumed that what OCSteve meant by "I know defeat/retreat is the consensus view here" was "I know that every discussion here seems to conclude that US has been defeated in Iraq and ought to leave the country". That is, badly phrased, but not intentionally malicious.

That's possible. If so, I apologize for my earlier venom if you are still in this thread, OCS.

According to Charles Bird, victory was the creation of a:

stable,
democratic,
secular,
pro-Western
state.

in order: failure, are there any elections calendared?, failure, failure.

We have created a situation in which people are turning to their mosques, not their city halls, for leadership, security, and social services. once people did that, the war was lost. Iran and Saudi Arabia, not the US, will necessarily be the new power brokers in their capacity as the homes of the Shia and Sunni faiths.

Francis, depending on how it shakes out, you may have to add another "failure" under "state."

Jes, we've been through this before - note that in my post in this thread I am asking for solutions which are not necessarily reliant on a US military presence and such solutions have been discussed for quite a while now.

In your hellbent fixation on a US troop withdrawal you are simply ignoring that - I can't help but think that you've simply become a cynical cassandra in this matter and thus not worth taking seriously anymore.

Still, Novakant, she's asking the crucial question: what specifically are US troops doing right now to contribute to peace, security, and the rule of law? What can we document about positive American contributions right now? With a solid answer to that we could then compare it with theexpressed wishes of the Iraqi people that we leave, the extent to which we're underwriting some sides of the sectarian violence, our ongoing brutal lawlessness in the treatment of captives, the unwillingness of the administration to submit any of this to an honest accounting, and so on. Right now though, we - which is to say I :) - have no broad sense of any good our forces are actually doing, particulalry good done as a matter of policy rather than by the luck of a good local commander.

ok, I have an opinion on that, which I've laid out in another thread, but it can be discussed seperately

for the moment I just want to ask:

alright, the US leaves and then what?

Conversly ok the US stays, then what?

novakant: In your hellbent fixation on a US troop withdrawal you are simply ignoring that - I can't help but think that you've simply become a cynical cassandra in this matter and thus not worth taking seriously anymore.

The metaphor there is a little confused, Novakant - if you're calling me a cassandra (cynical or not) that means you're saying I'm right but no one will listen to me. If you think I'm right that US troops ought to withdraw, and right about the consequences if they don't withdraw, then why do you say I am not worth taking seriously? Because no one will listen to me? But, novakant, no one who can do anything will listen to me anyway. I don't have any access on any level to anyone who could do anything towards US troop withdrawal from Iraq. So, why not speak the truth as I see it, regardless of whether that makes me Cassandra - right and ignored?

The US leaves, violence escalates until someone emerges as a strong enough strong man to impose his rule on the rest of the country. Everyone who can flee does, the survivors who aren't part of the governing faction hunker down as best they can to survive and endure. War likely continues in and around Kurdistan, because after a dozen years as a functionally independent US satrapy they're not going to want to take it from anyone in Bagdad. Other hot spots depend on who the wnner is. I would guess it'll be someone aligned with Iran, but that's not necessarily the case.

If the US stays, with or without the extra troops McCain and Leiberman want...exactly the same thing happens, as nearly as I can tell, except that the factions evolve somewhat differently based on occasonal cooperation to attack the US forces. In addition, US forces up the level of atrocity against Iraqis, which makes our world standng that much worse and persuades more people around the world to join or support anti-US terrorism. Right now I think that there's about a 50/50 chance that between now and election time 2008, US forces will engage in some atrocity strong enough to make us a pariah state on the level of Hussein, or worse - I'm talkng here about city-scale firebombing, use of chemical weapons against mass civilian targets, an order of magnitude increase in the rate of those interned and killed, something like that, with the percentage rising the longer troops are there. I think we can also expect to see hundreds or thousands of American dissidents subject to unlimited detention in the next year and a half, and quite possibly the use of military force against civilian protestors here.

Our of curiosity, Bruce, is there something you're basing that on?

Cassandra, because you argue with such conviction about the consequences of US troops staying in Iraq, that it seems you are claiming the power of prescience which I'm afraid you, as opposed to the mythological figure, don't have.

A lot of extrapolation based on fragmentary information. A lot of reflecting on things on the Nixon tapes and reported on during the Church Commission and Iran-Contra hearings and my assessment of the administration leaders' psychology, for that part. Doing my best to assemble a sense of what's happening in Iraq now for the rest.

Note that I am not attemptng to assess a lot of logistic and other details, of which I am not in any sense qualified to hold forth. I'm working largely by historical analogy and psychological guesswork.

novakant- I don't understand why you would try to critisize the foresight of anyone else here. Have the pro-war people been right about anything in Iraq so far?

Here's the pattern so far:

1. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Bad Thing from happening.

2. Bad Thing happens anyway.

3. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Worse Thing from happening.

4. Worse Thing happens anyway.

5. Reiterate sequence.

At this point the burden of proof is on you if you think something different is going to happen.

I also agree with Frank, and am attempting to give extra weight to comments and speculation from people with good histories in them so far, whle seriously downplayng the comments of those who have a history of being wrong and refusing to deal with it.

novakant: Cassandra, because you argue with such conviction about the consequences of US troops staying in Iraq, that it seems you are claiming the power of prescience

So you feel that, even though I feel very strongly that I'm right, I should politely qualify what I'm saying with "Of course better things might happen than I think will"? Yeah, three years ago I probably would have done just that. See comments by Frank and Bruce above: being optimistic now would, for me, be hypocritical, and I can't see any good reason to be hypocritical.

But if you're trying to say "All of that you've said is just your opinion", yes, you're right, I never pretended it was anything else. Surely we don't have to begin each opinionated comment in a blog with "In my opinion"? All of what you've said is just your opinion.

I wanted to add something about tone, while it's on my mind.

Someone very dear to me is in the midst of doing some profoundly stupid and self-destructive things. They know better - they've been through it before, with just about every element of this current disaster. But they won't pay attention to anyone pointing it out. No comment or query is welcome unless it comes phrased in a way that isn't just uncritical but endorsing, and surprise, those of us who care mostly aren't willing to do that.

What can I do in this situation but hope that it all crashes and burns soon enough that the permanent damage wll be no larger than it has to be, and so that they can begin recovering as soon as possible? If they were to admit that this course is a failure, lots of us would be willing to help with the mending, but it has to begin wth that acceptance and change of direction - our aid now only goes to furthering the flight from reality. I have a nice Christmas gift, but they don't want it because I won't act as though I think this is all fine. So the gift wll wait, and I'll give it to them when they're ready to receive it without that demand.

This hurts, a lot. I miss them. I care about them. I want them to be happy and successful, not cut off and suffering. But I can't pretend that what they're doing now is working, or that it ever wll work for them. So I'm stuck hoping for an early collapse and room for mercy.

That is, as it happens, exactly how I feel about the war in Iraq. It can't work on any terms possible under this administration. Since I'm not prepared to mount a revolution, I'm stuck hoping for an early collapse - not because I like failure, but because I believe there's no room for good until this course changes, and it won't change until it's abandoned. It's like wanting someone banging their head against a wall to at least pass out, if they won't stop it any other way.

Actually, I think if the US would move out, possibly Iran and Syria would end up balancing out Saudi efforts, and there would be a stalemate, which would hopefully lead to an indigenous Iraqi group actually arising to take charge. I feel that this isn't going to ever happen with US forces in Iraq, because by letting any group take control, it will be functionally equivalent to the US supporting that group, which would then mean that those opposed would have a reason to not accept any rachteting down of the level of violence. As long as US forces are projecting force inside Iraq, there is no balance, and there is no way that the US can equally support opposite sides. It's like having one 6' 8" player playing with two teams of vertically challenged folks (like me). His presence makes sure that there is no outcome is 'fair'. I realize that describing the situation in Iraq, with suicide bombings, kidnappings and people tortured to death as a basketball game may be insensitive, but I'm not sure if there is any other way to make things 'fair', which is to say, move to a long term solution.

But if you're trying to say "All of that you've said is just your opinion", yes, you're right, I never pretended it was anything else.

Well, Jes, the tone of your posts certainly doesn't give any indication that you're just voicing your opinion, rather you're making it sound as if you were presenting undeniable facts and that your predictions are written in stone. But if that's all a big misunderstanding and you are really conceding that there might be a chance for Iraq of not turning into the ninth circle of hell, then be my guest and let's discuss what can be done (with or without a US military presence). Simply telling Iraqis that they're all doomed (and I dare you to tell that to their faces, there are enough Iraqi blogs around) and that everybody looking for some sort of constructive solution is either hypocritical or at best naive is really not worth anybody's while.

novakant: the tone of your posts certainly doesn't give any indication that you're just voicing your opinion

*sporfle*

Oh well. Too bad. I take your point that I sound far too confident, arrogant, and sure of myself, and I'm sure I'll modify my tone just as much as your point deserves.

then be my guest and let's discuss what can be done (with or without a US military presence).

What can be done with George W. Bush in charge of it? Nothing. You know that, I know that, everyone but Bush knows that. Bush will do whatever Bush wants to do.

What could be done presuming competent, well-informed leadership? Well, that's a nice fantasy: fantasise away. I got tired of spinning fantasies like that quite abruptly in November 2004, when it dawned on me that playing fantasy games on the level of Hey! And If We Had A Pony! were really just kind of... off.

Simply telling Iraqis that they're all doomed (and I dare you to tell that to their faces, there are enough Iraqi blogs around) and that everybody looking for some sort of constructive solution is either hypocritical or at best naive is really not worth anybody's while.

On the other hand, I am not daring you to go tell Iraqis that all they have to do is go look for some sort of constructive solution. As you say, there's plenty of Iraqi blogs around, but Iraqis looking at their wrecked country had better not be confronted with another naively arrogant blogger telling them that, with their country under foreign military occupation and torn by civil war, they should be looking for "constructive solutions".

Q.E.D.

Novakant, if you feel there are facts that would change our considerations, we'd like to have them. I am quite sure taht Jesurgliac is as eager as I am to see better outcomes, and like me she's quite willing to admit when she drew wrong conclusions from the info she had at a particular moment - we both did it after the recent US elections, for instance, and have done it on other occasions as well.

But y'know, we didn't make this goddamned war or occupation. We were against it. We tried to stop it. We presented our reasons at the time for believing it would not and could not go well. For our efforts, people like us have been called traitors by the President and Vice-President of the United States, as well as by many others. Pundits call us "objectively pro-Hussein". Women with a long history of trying to protect and advance women's rights - even when their oppressors were considered valuable US allies - have been accused of sacrificing their Afghani and Iraqi sisters to the warlords. Lawyers like CharlieCarp and the people Katherine helps are held up by pundits and fanboy commentators as willing allies of terrorists. Our requests for information are dismissed, our support for the constitutions' explicit division of powers treated as a contemptible blight on the nation if not active treason. We've never been allowed near influence, let alone power, and we are shunned by the powers that be as moral lepers for the sin of being right.

Maybe you could get off your high horse and tell us what you think could help and why there's any reason to believe it'll happen. We're not the one who can change things. Even if we had a plan we wouldn't be allowed to put it into practice. If and when Congress trieds anything of the sort, Bush will do like Andrew Jackson only more so, or so he and his staff have already committed themselves. We are not the ones who count.

The only people who count right now are Bush and Cheney, the people around them, and their supporters. If you want solutions, go ask them. They wanted to be the only voices that mattered, and now they are. If they're silent...then they're screwed, until and unless they want to ease up on throttling the rest of us a while.

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