Sunday, November 20, 2005

Subtlety is Lost on Some People

Mr. Henderson lucidly picks apart the administration's recent defensive dissembling:

The President is misleading us when he defends himself from charges that he is misleading us. Nobody supported Saddam, and everybody felt he was a threat. That is why he was contained for years through the use of sanctions, embargoes, and the no-fly zones - successfully contained. That is why Clinton ordered bombing - to keep him contained. But apparently the elder Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton were capable of containing him (even better than we thought) while the younger Bush could not comprehend a threat that didn't require full-scale invasion. Apparently Mr. Bush has only two "threat-level" settings - "no threat at all" and "oh my God invade now before it is too late we will all die otherwise 9/11 9/11 9/11."


Blogger Management said...

They spoke the truth then and they speak the truth now
[J.D. Henderson, Tuesday November 15, 2005 at 9:39pm EST]

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday joined the Bush administration's attack on Iraq war critics, quoting Clinton administration officials who contended in the late 1990s that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a security threat to the United States and its allies.

At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld noted that the Iraq Liberation Act, passed by Congress in 1998, said it should be U.S. government policy to support efforts to remove the Saddam regime from power. He noted that President Bill Clinton signed the act and ordered four days of bombing in December 1998.

With Democrats accusing President Bush of having misled the American public about the urgency of the Iraqi threat prior to his order to invade in March 2003, Bush on Monday threw back at Democratic critics the worries they once expressed about Saddam.

"They spoke the truth then and they're speaking politics now," Bush charged.

Well, here is a neat question: what is the inconsistency between the statements made by the Clinton administration officials and questioning the president about misleading the American people? Surprise - there isn't any.

Yes, Saddam was a threat. Yes, we should have and did support efforts to remove him from power. And no, that does not mean invading Iraq would make us more secure. It did not.

Note that calling Saddam a threat is not the same as declaring that he has or soon will have the ability to attack the US (as Condi Rice put it - the proof could come in the form of a "mushroom cloud"). Russia was a threat for years. Does anyone think we would be better off had we fought the USSR instead of used a containment policy to confront the threat?

Note also that supporting Saddam's removal from power is NOT the same as supporting a full-scale invasion. The same thing could be said today about North Korea or Iran (or Myanmar, or Zimbabwe, or any number of places). Does that mean that if I express concern about the threat posed by North Korea, and think we should support efforts to bring about the downfall of the Dear Leader, that I am in support of a full-scale invasion of North Korea tomorrow? And if I don't think a full-scale invasion of North Korea is a good idea, does that mean I support Kim Jong Il and the North Korean regime, or think we should appease them?

The President is misleading us when he defends himself from charges that he is misleading us. Nobody supported Saddam, and everybody felt he was a threat. That is why he was contained for years through the use of sanctions, embargoes, and the no-fly zones - successfully contained. That is why Clinton ordered bombing - to keep him contained. But apparently the elder Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton were capable of containing him (even better than we thought) while the younger Bush could not comprehend a threat that didn't require full-scale invasion. Apparently Mr. Bush has only two "threat-level" settings - "no threat at all" and "oh my God invade now before it is too late we will all die otherwise 9/11 9/11 9/11."

Yes, Saddam was an enemy, a threat, a bad man, and probably had bad breath. That did not mean the best idea out there to deal with him was invasion, and it did not mean that anyone who opposed invasion was in favor of appeasement. There are lots of possible courses of action between appeasement and invasion, and the statements that Saddam was in fact a threat (which nobody denied) does not mean the threat was so urgent that invasion was the best response (it clearly wasn't, both in hindsight AND in foresight).

Questioning the president on such vital issues does not mean I am in favor of pulling out of Iraq in defeat - I think we will be better off with a stable Iraq that does not threaten us - precisely why I favored containment in the first place. And questioning a president's possible deliberate deception of the American people is NOT questioning our troops. That he dares equate questioning his policies and decisions with lack of support for the troops is craven and cowardly.

Mislead on, Mr. President. But beware the words of another republican president - you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Management said...

The Truth Shall Set You Free
[J.D. Henderson, Friday November 11, 2005 at 4:39pm EST]

The Associated Press reported some of the president's veterans' day remarks. I would like to briefly discuss some of his comments. This post(while one-sided) is intended to generate discussion - respectful and analytical discussion - of the issues. I would like to hear mostly from those who disagree, and I want to hear WHY they disagree, not hear mere flag-waving or partisan rhetoric. This thread touches on both the art of political speechmaking and issues surrounding the war in Iraq.

Defending the march to war, Bush said that foreign intelligence services and Democrats and Republicans alike were convinced at the time that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

This is true. However, what isn't addressed, either by the president or his critics, is the meaning of the term "weapons of mass destruction."

The term WMD is newspeak for "something really, really destructive, think nuclear bomb." This allows technology that doesn't come close to the destructiveness of an atomic weapon to scare the bejeezus out of people and allows manipulative politicians to stifle meaningful debate.

How? By not allowing meaningful discussion of the true nature of the threat posed by Saddam's "WMDs." Chemical weapons are "WMDs," and most people (including, possibly, Saddam himself) thought he had them. They are also WWI technology, ineffective WWI technology. Chemical weapons in the hands of terrorists or in the hands of a rogue state present less of a threat than conventional weapons. Chemical weapons are incredibly difficult to deploy, nearly impossible to direct, and the harm they do pales in comparison to today's conventional weaponry. Hitler didn't use them, even though he could have. Why? Because he was a nice guy? Because he was "scared" of the allied reaction, even in the last days when he knew he was doomed? Or because they suck? Another example is... Saddam. The president made a lot of effort to point out that Saddam had used "WMDs." What isn't discussed is, why did he stop using them? Because even against defenseless Kurdish villagers, chemical weapons suck when compared to conventional arms. And the last, and most elaborate, chemical weapon terrorist attack that occurred took the lives of 19 people on Tokyo's subway system. It also took over a decade and tens of millions of dollars. Suicide bombers with high-explosive vests have killed many more people than that in a single incident on a bus. Had the Japanese terrorist group that deployed Sarin nerve agent spent those years and dollars on conventional weaponry there would have been a lot more dead and injured. Chemical weapons are NOT something to worry about. Oh, and any country that can make Chlorine has a "chemical weapons program." Hydrogen selenide and hydrogen sulfide travel through our cities in tanker trucks, and we don't give it a thought. But we invade Iraq for because of chemical weapons - weapons we KNEW he already had as far back as 1986?

Then there is "anthrax" or other "biological weapons." Even less effective than chemical weapons. And the most recent anthrax attack killed fewer people than will die in Los Angeles county, today, because they didn't wear seat belts. I think 4 people died. How many did the unabomber kill with conventional explosives?

Finally, and truly scary, there are nukes. We KNEW Saddam didn't have them. We suspected he MIGHT be working on them. But we KNOW North Korea is as well, and Iran is too. So we invade Iraq.

In short, the president's comment (above) is true, and meaningless.

"Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and mislead the American people about why we went to war," Bush said.

Notice how he puts "democrats" in front of "anti-war critics." Masterful. First, not all democrats are against the war. There are also republicans who are NOT against the war who are concerned about the administration's alleged manipulation of intelligence. Phrased like this, however, and any criticism of the president over manipulation of intelligence or misleading the American people becomes "partisan."

Then there is the term "anti-war critics." He links it to "democrats" as if to suggest democrats are "anti-war" instead of "anti- invasion of Iraq" (or more correctly, split on the issue). He assumes, rightly, that most people won't notice the lack of criticism over the invasion of Afghanistan - if his critics were merely "anti-war" why do they question only one of the wars we are in right now? Any person who criticizes the invasion of Iraq or the manipulation of intelligence is thus subtly portrayed as a pacifist hippie - an "anti-war critic." Instead of discussing whether the invasion was a good idea or a bad idea, the entire issue becomes one of dope-smoking, flag-buring, no-good pacifist hippies versus good 'ole Americans. That is BS. Lots of people, including many decorated military officers who have served this nation under fire, thought (and think) that invading Iraq was stupid. But suddenly they are "anti-war" instead of "anti-stupidity." And notice how, incredibly, the question of "why did we go to war" is no longer even up for discussion. The president is NOT stupid like some critics think, and this one paragraph by him shows why. Brilliant. Anyone asking him "why did we go to war then?" is automatically a "democrat and anti-war critic" at best, at worst a traitor to America - all without the question being answered. After all, who are we as citizens to dare question the president about why he sent our sons and daughters into harms' way?

He said those critics have made those allegations although they know that a Senate investigation "found no evidence" of political pressure to change the intelligence community's assessments related to Saddam's weapons program.

To paraphrase Rummy, a lack of evidence isn't evidence that something doesn't exist. We won't even address the allegations made by these same critics that the Senate investigation is incomplete, or how the Democrats closed the doors of the Senate recently to make that very point. And even without "political pressure" the administration could have manipulated intelligence and misled the people - possibly even misled themselves without realizing it, which is kind of what the Senate Report concluded when it blamed intelligence failures on "groupthink." Thus a report critical of the administration's use of intelligence is now used to support the administration's use of intelligence, and this same report is also used to discredit critics who are angry over these same intelligence failures. Don't tell me that isn't brilliant.

"More than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power," Bush said.

Actually, they voted to support the president in his bid to force Saddam to cooperate with the UN resolutions. The president promised force would be a last resort, and that the resolution would pressure Saddam into compliance. The president was right, Saddam caved under pressure and readmitted inspectors - and Bush ordered an invasion anyway. We won't discuss how the "100 Democrats" may have been misled, deliberately misled, by intelligence manipulation.

The president's remarks at the Tobyhanna Army Depot were part of the administration's effort to bolster waning U.S. public support for the war in which at least 2,059 U.S. troops have died.

I think the president should build support for the war. It is his job. We are at war and we should win, and we need the support of the American people if we are to win. However, this speech was a partisan political attack on political opponents, not a speech intended to build support for victory. It was intended to build support for the Republican party, not for victory in Iraq. What is particulary shameful about such a speech, on Veterans Day (a day for all Americans, not just those who agree with Bush), is that he gave it on a military post. While most people miss the significance of this, it used to be unusual for a partisan speech to be given to troops in formation. The troops were always supposed to be apolitical, and not get caught up in partisan politics. Respect fro the troops dictated that they be kept out of political rallies, that candidates avoid placing them in a situation where the troops seem to be expressing support for one candidate or party over another. Troops are not supposed to express their political opinions when in uniform - it is even against the law for troops to wear their uniforms to political rallies. This president ignores this. He is the only one among all of our commanders-in-chief who has given, repeatedly given, partisan political speeches, even attack speeches, to troops in formation, on a military post, who may very well oppose him privately and vote for his political opponents. Then the troops are expected to cheer him. They do - not because of what he says, but because he is the president. I saw troops cheer Clinton too - but he never gave a partisan speech to troops in uniform. Neither did Reagan. Reagan addressed national security issues, but he didn't badmouth democrats or opposing candidates when addressing the troops. Bush does. Shame on him for this - regardless of whether you agree politically with him or not, this is shameful and unacceptable behavior. And, need I say it, dangerous.

Bush offered a forceful defense of the war in Iraq, saying it is the central front in the war on terror and that extremists are trying to establish a radical Muslim empire extending from Spain to Indonesia.

Well, yes, that is true, but it doesn't defend his actions in Iraq. The "anti-war critics" predicted all along that invading Iraq would create a new front in the war on terror, super-charge terrorist recruiting, and damage our standing with the entire world, thus harming our global war on terrorism efforts. And it happened, and Bush uses this as justification for his actions.

"We will never back down. We will never give in. We will never accept anything less than complete victory," he said Friday.

I agree. I really, really hope he is telling the truth here, instead of playing politics with the intent of "declaring victory" and then going home. Defeat will harm us more than it will cost us to win. However, what might help here is defining what "complete victory" means. We knew what it meant in WWII. We need to know what it means here as well. Right now we don't know. The goals of the invasion (depose Saddam) have been met already, but we all know (NOW) that the mission is far from accomplished. So what is the mission, and what is the criteria for success? That is the president's job, not speeches and fundraising. He needs to establish clear criteria for success or the failure that ensues will be his fault, not that of "anti-war critics" he accuses of weakening the military and "not supporting the troops." I don't care what party is in charge or "who started it" or whose fault it is that we invaded, or even whether we were right or wrong to do so. The important thing right now is - what do we do in order to have the best possible outcome? Some say retreat. I think victory is almost always preferable, and less expensive too. If we are to win we need Bush to do his job and define the mission properly. This has not yet been done, despite the years of combat we have already endured. It must be done or we are not going to win in Iraq, we will just tell ourselves we did (a la 1973's "peace with honor" and "vietnamization" - policies that could have succeeded if the American people had simply been told the truth from the beginning).

Bush said the United States and its allies are determined to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of extremists and prevent them from gaining control of any country.

I think past tense should be used. The United States and its allies WERE determined to keep WMDs out of the hands of extremists and prevent them from gaining control of any country. They have failed. I can list three countries that are working toward or already have Nuclear Weapons AND are in the control of extremists, thus threatening the entire world:

North Korea
The United States of America

Ok, shred me. If you totally agree, please don't go off on a "Bush sucks" rant. He is our president and hating him doesn't change a thing OR make you right. If you disagree, please let me know WHY without politics getting in the way of national security analysis. And regardless of whether you support him or oppose him, the fact remains that this man who stumbles over the word "nuclear" and who famously mangles quotes, is absolutely brilliant in his use of the spoken word. You have to give him credit (or his speechwriters credit) for that. I would be interested in opinions on that too.

10:47 AM  

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