Saturday, December 30, 2006


Say it ain't so! : U.S. Official Overseeing Oil Program Faces Inquiry

The Justice Department is investigating whether the director of a
multibillion-dollar oil-trading program at the Interior
has been paid as a consultant for oil companies hoping for contracts.

Collusion between the Bush administration and oil interests? Nah!

Conservatism Never Fails: A (Pretty) Short History of Wingnutism

Saddam Hussein has been hanged. President Bush observed it "is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy..." How many is that now?
"First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial," said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq. "So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?"
(h/t to Atrios)

The LAT asks "How would four of the greatest war leaders in history have handled Iraq?" Three historians and an anthropologist weigh in for Ghengis Khan, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Dubya, you're no George W.:
Until the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge, Washington thought of the war against Britain as a contest between two armies. When the British army presented itself for battle, as it did on Long Island in the summer of 1776, Washington felt honor-bound to fight — a decision that proved calamitous on that occasion and nearly lost the war at the very start. That's because the British had a force of 32,000 men against his 12,000. If Washington had not changed his thinking, the American Revolution almost surely would have failed because the Continental Army was no match for the British leviathan.

But at Valley Forge, Washington began to grasp an elemental idea: Namely, he did not have to win the war. Time and space were on his side. And no matter how many battles the British army won, it could not sustain control over the countryside unless it was enlarged tenfold, at a cost that British voters would never support. Eventually the British would recognize that they faced an impossibly open-ended mission and would decide to abandon their North American empire. Which is exactly what happened.
See, the British defeatocrats would have won if they'd simply taken Bush's advice: "We'll succeed unless we quit."

(h/t to Mahablog)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Great. Just what I wanted. I've been so focused on Iraq that I missed this entirely. (from today's NYT)
Somalia’s Islamists and Ethiopia Gird for a War

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Dec. 9 — The stadium was packed, the guns were cocked and even the drenching rain could not douse the jihadist fire.

Thousands of Somalis, from fully veiled, machine-gun-toting women to little boys in baggy fatigues, gathered Friday to rally against what they called foreign aggression. As a squall blew in, they punched wet fists into the air and yelled, “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.”

“I am ready to die,” said Osama Abdi Rahim, dressed head to toe in camouflage and marching around with a loaded rifle. He is 7 years old.
It seems Ethiopia is propping up the UN- and US-backed Somali transitional government in Baidoa while Mogadishu has been taken over by Islamist radicals.
Memories are still fresh of the botched American-led relief operation in the early 1990s, and more recently of the covert American effort to bolster Mogadishu’s warlords in an 11th-hour bid to prevent an Islamist takeover. That strategy backfired, driving more people into the arms of the Islamists.
. . .

"If this thing goes to a military fight,” Ms. Frazer [the State Department’s top official for Africa policy] said, “it’s a bloodbath."
And while no match for Ethiopia militarily, the Times reports, the Islamists enjoy popular support against a government seen as a US puppet. That has one Islamist official -- who once talked of power sharing and elections -- backed into opposing a government "that has been totally rejected by its own people.”

Some of the Iraq warbloggers from Right Blogistan will surely take refuge in blaming it all on the anti-American, anti-Bush US press which won't report the good news from Somalia: the Islamists are winning hearts and minds by "organizing neighborhood cleanups, delivering food to the needy and resuscitating old national institutions like the Supreme Court..."

Not that they'll need it. Crowds gather to watch public floggings and a cleric north of Mogadishu has issued threats to behead those who fail to pray five times a day.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Johnny Gray sees things in black and white

Updated below

I read Mark Danner's New York Review of Books piece on the Iraq war. He reviews "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III" by Bob Woodward, "The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11" by Ron Suskind and "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration" by James Risen.

It creeped me out.

The Washington policy apparatus that has been in place for decades has been cut out of the loop by the Bush administration, seen as an impediment to decisive action. The policy shops still functioned, but were talking to themselves. "Rice said the interagency was broken," Woodward reports.

Suskind elaborates:
Sober due diligence, with an eye for the way previous administrations have thought through a standard array of challenges facing the United States, creates, in fact, a kind of check on executive power and prerogative.
. . .

For George W. Bush, there had been an evolution on such matters — from the early, pre-9/11 President, who had little grasp of foreign affairs and made few major decisions in that realm; to the post-9/11 President, who met America's foreign challenges with decisiveness born of a brand of preternatural, faith-based, self-generated certainty. The policy process, in fact, never changed much. Issues argued, often vociferously, at the level of deputies and principals rarely seemed to go upstream in their fullest form to the President's desk; and, if they did, it was often after Bush seemed to have already made up his mind based on what was so often cited as his "instinct" or "gut."
"There was never any policy process to break, by Condi or anyone else," Richard Armitage, the former deputy secretary of state told Suskind. "Bush didn't want one, for whatever reason."

Suskind continues:
Of the many reasons the President moved in this direction, the most telling may stem from George Bush's belief in his own certainty and, especially after 9/11, his need to protect the capacity to will such certainty in the face of daunting complexity. His view of right and wrong, and of righteous actions— such as attacking evil or spreading "God's gift" of democracy—were undercut by the kind of traditional, shades-of-gray analysis that has been a staple of most presidents' diets. This President's traditional day began with Bible reading at dawn, a workout, breakfast, and the briefings of foreign and domestic threats.... The hard, complex analysis, in this model, would often be a thin offering, passed through the filters of Cheney or Rice, or not presented at all.
Danner explains,
[T]he War of Imagination draped all the complications and contradictions of the history and politics of a war-torn, brutalized society in an ideologically driven vision of a perfect future.
. . .

If the sober consideration of history and facts stood in the way of bold action then it would be the history and the facts that would be discarded. The risk of doing nothing, the risk, that is, of the status quo, justified acting.
Whether or not "The Decider" knew what he was doing or not.

I had a vision of George W. Bush as "Johnny Gray," the locomotive engineer in Buster Keaton's "The General" (1927). A locomotive chase ensues after yankee spies steal Johnny's engine and kidnap his girl, although has no plan for what to do if he should actually catch them.

Through a series of accidents this hapless "man of action" finds himself in the middle of a battle wearing a Confederate uniform and an officer's sword belt. Whenever he is at a loss for what to do, he draws the sword. He finds that men rally around whenever he brandishes it authoritatively. Not that he has any idea what to do with it.

Only his own dumb luck keeps Johnny Gray from being killed (because Keaton, of course, wrote, directed and acted the role). Bush, if well-intentioned, is not so skilled as Keaton, but just as clueless as Johnny Gray. Only, the deaths in the Iraq tragicomedy are real.


The December 2006 National Geographic magazine shows the costs of the Iraq debacle in the black and white in the photo gallery for the article, Iraq War Medicine.