Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Phony Debaters and Pathetic Partisans

I had fully intended my first issue posting to be about civil liberties. I was all geared up to write how Democrats have a unique opportunity to drive a wedge between social conservatives and civil libertarians by advocating a right to privacy amendment as recently suggested by Dan Savage in his Op-Ed to the New York Times. That will have to wait for another day. Thanks to Congressman John Murtha and the resolution just passed in the Senate, I must instead write about Iraq.

I find myself agreeing with Congressman Murtha's demand for withdrawl and disgusted by it at the same time. Candidly speaking withdrawl is dishonorable. Withdrawl is analagous to going into a small town, taking out a homicidal crime boss who plunders the community's resources, promising everyone that life will now be better, and leaving behind multiple rival crime families that kill anyone who gets in their way. That is what we're talking about doing. Let's not kid ourselves. The Iraqis are not capable of establishing and enforcing a civil society while conflict rages between the Shiites and the Sunnis. Any chance they ever had was eviscerated by the Bush Administration's inability to obtain international help in properly training Iraqi's on the ground and their reluctance to utilize the infrastructure from the former Bathist regime.

What sickens me the most about the Bush Administration's approach to the Iraqi occupation is their halfway concept. As my father has told me many times in life, it is impossible to be a little bit pregnant. Either success in Iraq is truly vital to our national security, or it isn't. If as Bush's rhetoric suggests Iraq is the central front for the war on terror then why didn't he put more boots on the ground from the very beginning? We never had enough forces in the first place to get the job done. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld wanted Iraq to be the War of Novocaine. No pain. No broad sacrifice. War is not supposed to be cheap or easy. That's why responsible leaders only initiate it out of necessity. If it's not worth the sacrifices to win, then it should not be fought. Over 2,000 troops have perished and thousands more were wounded because the neo-cons wanted to make Iraq into a client state for the oil.

Now we find ourselves in a box because our military presence can no longer accomplish anything postive. Indeed, our presence is toxic and legitimizes Islamic Fascists as well Saddam's former minions as they wage attacks on their own people.

In Washington, the Democrats are feeling their oats. As Bush's poll numbers continue to plummet they smell blood and want to go for the kill. They joyfully accuse the Administration of lying about the intelligence before the war and are in a fever over the CIA leak investigation. I have no doubt the Administration lied, and history will judge Bush quite harshly - as it should. His stewardship of our nation is bereft of decency, honor, and competence. He easily ranks among the worst Presidents in our nation's history. More corrupt than Warren Harding and the cronyism of the Teapot Dome scandal. More feckless than the pre-Civil War Presidents who were textbook examples for the consequences of weak leadership. Even more feculent and nefarious than Richard Nixon who applied power more cynically than any President before him.

Nevertheless, I'm more disgusted with the Democrats. While everyone is focused on Congressman Murtha, my attention was captured by former Senator Bob Graham's Op-Ed in the Washington Post

Senator Graham was the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee during the lead up to the war. In his Op-Ed it appears obvious to me that while the Democrats did not have access to the same intelligence as the White House, they absolutely had enough to at least vigorously question the Administration's policy. Senator Graham found all sorts of inconsitencies and contradictons in the intelligence that was available and made the right call.

He closes his column with this: "

I voted no on the resolution to give the president authority to go to war against Iraq. I was able to apply caveat emptor. Most of my colleagues could not."
Senator Graham you did your job. Your colleagues didn't do theirs. They were regulated by political fear and cowardice. It's bad enough to put your finger to the wind on issues such as taxes. War requires a much higher standard of leadership. Consequently, I have equal contempt for George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. Both parties are disingenuous on the Iraq War and a cabal of phony debaters and pathetic partisans.

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Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with Congressman Murtha's demand for withdrawal and disgusted by it at the same time. Candidly speaking withdrawal is dishonorable. Withdrawal is analogous to going into a small town, taking out a homicidal crime boss who plunders the community's resources, promising everyone that life will now be better, and leaving behind multiple rival crime families that kill anyone who gets in their way. That is what we're talking about doing. Let's not kid ourselves. The Iraqi's are not capable of establishing and enforcing a civil society while conflict rages between the Shites and the Sunnis.

I couldn't agree with you more. No matter how the administration likes to spin it, the Iraqis are at best ill prepared to provide their own national security force. Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, a former commander of the Army War College recently acknowledged this fact for a piece in the Washington Times; "Is everything perfect? No, of course not. Is the 9th Division capable of taking on a major ground unit in open combat? Not yet. But Iraqi soldiers don't have to meet our qualitative readiness standards. They just have to be better than the insurgents." Now we all know in the Bush administration mediocrity is a best case scenario, utter failure is expected (Brownie, Meyers…), but signing off on an under-armed, under-trained “army” just to withdraw is a bad plan. As of June (the most recent stat I could find) the Iraqi “army” consisted of 107 battalions, only three of which were “capable of operating independently.” Given our greatly reduced standards I’m willing to bet that a few Boy Scouts would be more effective in battle than any of the three Iraqi units.

I’m suspicious that there will never be an effective Iraqi army until we withdraw. While I don’t believe that most Iraqis support the “insurgents” I do believe that they don’t support the U.S. led coalition. My guess is that most Iraqis view joining the military as supporting us and not as a patriotic act; the ones that do join only do so because they’re sick of starving.

The Bush administration is nothing if they aren’t divisive; they’ve pitted the Christian right against the moral majority and the U.S. against the world “You’re either with us, or you’re against us”. The Bush administration is simply not capable of uniting the Shites and the Sunnis in any meaningful way. If we withdraw now, the last soldiers will be able to watch the begining of the civil war as they taxi down the runway. The “insurgency” will dwindle if people don’t have a reason to hate us. So let’s get the water running, and the power turned on and start the rebuilding process. Once the average Iraqi can envision a future with a job and a place to live things will improve and we can get out.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing dishonorable about leaving this war if we decide to. Nations and peoples are not, in fact, the pottery barn, they can fix themselves, or not. No need to patronize. The Brits also said the Amrican colonials were incapable of self government; it took George Bush II's election to make me believe it.

The issue is what it was, are American interests served by being there; we went there out of self interest, we will leave out of self interest.


Robert Ellman said...

Codebreaker -

I appreciate your interest and opinion. You're advocating the application of realpolitik and I can understand why. However, we did break the pottery barn in Iraq and due to the Bush Administration's incompetence are leaving these people in the lurch. I hold my country to a higher standard of behavior then invading a country under false pretenses, only to abandon their people before they're capable of defending themselves against barbarians.

The first President Bush damaged our credibility in 1991 when he gave the Shiite population false hope only to abandon them to Saddam's revenge. Our premature departure may well condemn the Iraqis to civil war from within and an endless cycle of terrorist attacks from without. In otherwords, Lebannon redux.

As far as realpolitik is concerned, dishonorable behavior has a way of resulting in blowback. When the Cold War ended we abandoned the people of Afghanistan to the Taliban. The result was Osama Bin Laden and 9/11. Iraq is poised to become a base of world wide terrorism thanks to our ill advised occupation and forced departure. Sadly, we have no choice because our presence can no longer help after the damage we created.

Also, comparing the Iraqi's to the American colonies after the War of Independence is really not an apt analogy. The Americans already demonstrated an aptitude for self-government long before Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, there was far more cohesion binding Americans into a single country than what exists in Iraq today.

That said, I love your comment that it took George Bush's election to make you believe Americans were not capable of self-government! On that I believe we're in full agreement!

I welcome your contribution and hope you're a frequently visitor to the Intrepid Liberal Journal.


Voice of Moderation said...

I heard ex-Senator Graham on The Brian Lehrer show today. I was glad to hear Graham speak out about the Iraq vote, and I think his views on the matter are fantastic.

However, I believe that people like him are a major part of the problem with the Democratic party today. And I think he bears responsibility for the vote.

Even today, he wasn't willing to definitively criticize the Republican party and the Bush administration.

Mr. Lehrer asked Graham if Bush lied to Americans and Congress before the war. Graham was unwilling to say yes. He said he was only willing to discuss the facts and present them to the American people.

I agree with Democrats that the Bush administration lied to the American people and to Congress. I also don't believe that members of Congress had the same information prior to the war as the White House.

So, while I blame the White House and Republicans in Congress, I also blame a feckless and spinless Democratic party for not having the courage to speak out authoritatively on this issue.

We elect our politicians to make decisions. To take a stand on issues that are important to their constituents. However, when I heard Graham on the radio today, he was just another representation of the inability to make decisions and remain committed enough to them to stand firm about the Bush administration.

Where is the voice of the Democratic Party? Why are they so afraid to speak out against the Bush administration?

Robert Ellman said...


And yet we have no choice but to withdraw anyway. We're walking away from the creation of another Lebanon in the heart of the Mideast due this Administration's integrity deficiency and incompetence.

Robert Ellman said...

Voice of Moderation -

I'm dissappointed to hear about Senator Graham's reluctance to sugarcoat the truth. On Meet the Press this Sunday, Congressman Murtha also refrained from accusing President Bush of lying.

There is historical precedent for this sort of reluctance in the Democratic Party. Former House Speaker Tip O'Neil described in his memoirs published in 1987 (an interesting read) that House Judiciary Chairman Peter Rodino and his colleagues were initially reluctant to agressively pursue the truth about Watergate. According to O'Neil the public was ahead of the Democrats in Congress who were fearful of taking Nixon on. Finally, their constituents sufficiently pushed them to do the right thing. The American people have been comatose for five years but it appears they're finally waking up. Hopefully the Democrats will too but their spines will have to be stiffened from the public and that includes decent and honorable Republicans (don't snicker).

Karen35 said...

Okay, the Republican Administration planned the war against Iraq, before 9/11 even occurred, knew Saddam Hussein was of no danger to the American people unless attacked first, and presented trumped up intelligence to the Democrats, the portion of the intelligence that looked bad and left out the intelligence that would have exonerated Saddam. But you think that somehow the Democrats are still cowards or should be blamed in this? Whatever. I put my blame in the Bush administration who planned the war, thought it would be a great idea, and laughed at how brilliant and clever they were compared to the Democrats. So clever they've run up a trillion dollar deficit, led to the deaths of thousands of troops, etc. And whether we leave Iraq now or next year or the year after, because we can't afford to borrow from China longer than that, Iraq will no doubt be left pretty screwed up.

Robert Ellman said...

Karen35 -

Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for your response and your views.

I am a liberal who prefers voting Democrat over Republican. However, just as I don't believe in sugarcoating the truth about the Bush Administration's integrity deficiency, I also believe that the Democrats did not do their job in oversight and standing up for the American people.

A few did. The late Senator Paul Wellstone, in a tough re-election fight had the courage and principal to take a stand. So did Senator Russ Feingold, a likely Presidential candidate for 2008. Ted Kennedy was also principled and responsible. You've already read my post about former Senator Graham of Florida.

I regret to say that most Democrats rolled over and didn't sufficiently challenge the Bush Administration's rationale for war when they had plenty of reasons too. As President, Bush bears primary responsibility for his callous manipulation of the facts. But the Democrats also have blood on their hands and we liberals can't be silent about their culpability.

I certainly expected more from Senator John Kerry. As a youn man appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1972 he famously asked, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Sadly, in 2002 he stuck his finger to the wind and decided political positioning was more important than doing his job properly. I don't believe in giving him, Hillary Clinton, or other Democrats a free ride about this. Why do you?


Anonymous said...

I can tell as a moderate Republican/Independant I am going to be overwhelmed here. I was hoping for a civil discussion on policy rather than a constant reminder of how evil and corrupt Bush and his friends are.

Let me just point out that while most members of Congress almost certainly did not have as much intelligence as the White House, the Intelligence Committee members almost certainly had most of the information. Even more important, the Clinton administration had full access to intelligence and had also concluded Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear program as of 2000. So unless you can point to some clear piece of intelligence that showed up after Clinton left office that Bush withheld from Congress and that showed all the earlier intelligence was flawed, there is a real problem with the logic that Bush knew Saddam had no weapons.

Obviously, you have to also believe Blair and the British lied as well.

Frankly, I would not be surprised even now if we eventually find some more chemical weapons in Iraq or nearby (we did find some, you know, although far less than expected). They would be at least as easy to hide as Zarqawi and other wanted individuals.

Personally, I do not believe things are as miserable in Iraq as Murtha does, although I respect his opinion and think the idea of pulling some forces back into a quick reaction mode will eventually be the right way to gradually drawdown our forces. If the Sunnis in fact vote in significant numbers on December 15th, that will be a major step forward.

pansophia said...

// I was hoping for a civil discussion on policy //

Oooh, low blow. No one has been uncivil yet. Let's just keep it in a place where opposing opinions are ok.

Anonymous said...

//Oooh, low blow. No one has been uncivil yet. Let's just keep it in a place where opposing opinions are ok.//

pansophia, perhaps I should have been clearer. For the most part people on this blog have been quite civil to each other, but there is a lack of what I consider civility towards politicians with differing views. The statements about Bush and other administration officials being liars or corrupt, I find somewhat offensive. The repeated assumption that of course they knew about the abuses at Abu Ghraib and condoned them I also find offensive. There has been no evidence of that from the investigations, and the assumption of it just seems a way to discredit anything else they might say. Repeat this enough and many people just believe it without any proof. I just think it is unnecessary and counterproductive to a civil discussion on the policy, where everyone can be assumed to have good motives and we just disagree on the best way to proceed. Certainly, there are plenty of people who agree with Bush's policy that posters of this blog do respect the motives of, so why not just focus on responding to their arguments.

Personally, I supported Clinton's intervention in Bosnia, and in fact thought he should have intervened sooner. However, many people I know who had strong negative feelings about Clinton like some of those expressed about Bush here dismissed the Bosnia action merely because it was Clinton's action, or else said he might be doing something good but only for political gain.

The dividing of the country into two camps that each think the other is EVIL really upsets me. And before you start blaming this on Bush (or Clinton), let me say it has been growing for a long time. A lot of it I blame on the media, and some is because gerrymandered districts have destroyed the center in Congress, but ordinary citizens who adopt "the politics of personal destruction" are also to blame.

That is what I was referring to. We all want America to do the right thing, we all want to stop terrorists from killing people, and I can guarantee you George Bush does not secretly enjoy torture. I see now that Joe Lieberman is being labeled "a traitor" by some Democrats for expressing his opinion that in fact the war in Iraq is moving in the right direction and Bush is not as devoid of "a plan" as others constantly say. Why should he be threatened by his party for merely expressing a reasonable opinion. I suppose political advantage is just too important to the Democratic leadership to allow it.

I didn't like it when Rove and Libby went after Wilson for expressing his opinion, instead of just discussing the matter on its merits, and I think the Democratic reation to Lieberman (and the personal insults to Bush and Cheney) are equally inappropriate.

And you should know, I love opposing opinions as long as they are discussed with respect. I live in the San Francisco Bay area, and 90% of my friends are fairly liberal Democrats. I have no trouble having thoughtful conversations about Iraq with most of them, but that depends upon us all assuming we have good motives. Once you do not trust someone's motives, it gets pretty hard to move forward with them.