Monday, November 28, 2005

Why maybe we should hurt troop morale

I think this news brief in the Washington Post oversimplifies a really important point about criticism of the Iraq War.

It's about a poll from bipartisan political consultantancy RT Strategies that found 70% of Americans think criticism of the war by Democrats senators hurts troops morale, with 44% saying it hurts morale "a lot." Even 55% of Democrats agree it hurts morale, with only 21% saying it helps.

That's a fair and interesting point. But in a sense, it's not surprising. I would certainly agree that, on the whole, criticism of the war probably hurts morale somewhat. But, well... so what?

The implication seems to be that Democrats shouldn't engage in criticism. I'm sure that's why conservative blogs like Instapundit are so eager to link.

But there are other considerations besides troop morale. Like... is it a just war? Were we misled into war? Are we losing the war?

Politicians certainly shouldn't hurt troop morale indiscriminately. But it's far from the only consideration. And maybe, when a war isn't going well or was built on deception, troops shouldn't be led to think they are doing a great job for a noble cause. It's tough to hear, since most troops are good people fighting hard for a cause they believe to be bigger than themselves -- as it should be. But as in all elements of life, sometimes the truth is tough to hear.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Journalists: Help me help you

My good friend Brendan continues to do excellent work on his blog pointing out the dishonesty and subtle attempts to suppress dissent by Bush and Cheney as they fight back against people who accurately point out they misled us into war.

One of his newest posts makes a point I have been repeating here (probably less cogently): This is a debate we could have settled last year. Most of the evidence being thrown back and forth are things on the public record for years. In many cases, we debunked or endorsed them on Spinsanity or in All the President's Spin after a very thorough vetting.

So allow me to reiterate Brendan's offer to journalists and high profile bloggers: contact me (or him) and I'll send you a free copy of All the President's Spin. Rather than reconstruct the record, or wait for Josh Marshall's bizarre compilation of dishonest claims we already compiled, check out what I might humbly call the definitive and comprehensive critique of Bush administration deception as of last summer.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Up is down! Black is white! Dick Cheney is honest!

Dick Cheney last night:

I know what it's like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition.

Dick Cheney on June 22, 2004, to Senator Patrick Leahy, on the Senate floor:

Fuck yourself

(For something more substantive on Cheney's obscene hypocrisy and dishonesty, see Brendan or, per Brendan, see just how dishonest Cheney was in the first Bush term by checking the size of his index entry in All the President's Spin)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Didn't we settle this debate last year?

I'm obsessed with the debate over deception leading up to the Iraq war like I haven't been obsessed with anything in politics since the election. That's largely because I feel very strongly that the most heinous and unforgivable thing President Bush has done in the past five years is mislead the country into war. Not because the war is wrong (that's a separate debate), but because it's so deeply immoral to circumvent honest debate in a democracy over the decision to sends hundreds of thousands of Americans into harm's way, tens of thousands to be seriously injured, and thousands to their death, not to mention the death and injuries to civilians. Anyway, you get the picture.

The other reason is that this is a debate we could easily have had a year ago... BEFORE THE ELECTION. How do I know this? Brendan, Bryan and I wrote a book that covered alot of this territory. It came out in August of 2004. We finished writing it in the spring of 2004.

Now, many people have written very cogent articles or blog posts about just how deceptive President Bush was in the runup to the Iraq war and what bullshit his and Cheney's defenses (for example, here, here and here) have been (see here, here, here here and here). And that's great.

But as we oddly have this discussion now a year after the election and two plus years after invasion and three years after Congress, including half the Democrats, essentially voted to give the President authority to go to invade Iraq (even if that's not what the resolution said, everyone knew what was going on), I think it's worth mentioning some things that were on the public record, at the latest, in the spring of 2004, and that we could have debated then if Bush was unpopular enough / Democrats had the balls to point out the truth then. All these points current being debated were demonstrated thoroughly in All the President's Spin (I won't explain them in detail on the assumption anyone reading this recognizes the key points. If not, please buy the book)

-The administration presented shaky evidence as fact or near fact to make it seem certain that Iraq had or was acquiring nuclear weapons

-Bush and his aides regularly used five- or ten-years or even older evidence about Iraq's WMD program, specifically on chemical and biological weapons, as if it was current intelligence (in fact they had little to no idea what Iraq had done on that front since 1998)

-The aluminum tube bullshit

-The nonsense about the unmanned aerial vehicles Iraq could use to deliver WMDs to attack us or our allies within 45 minutes

-Connecting Saddam Huseein to Al Qaeda by presenting the sketchy to disproven (depending who you ask and when) meeting of Iraqi intelligence officials with Mohammed Atta in Prague as fact (I'm talking to you, Mr. Cheney)

-Saying that Al Qaeda operatives were operating in Iraq while ignoring the fact that they were in Kurdish controlled nortern Iraq, not in areas controlled by Saddam Hussein

-Continually associating Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, and 9/11 in his speeches without directly asserting they had a tight relationship in order to get the public to connect the dots in their minds (which seemed to succeed)

These are all facts on the record as of well over a year go. Some war supporters somewhat acknowledge it but don't seem to think it's nearly as important as I do. Fair enough. But then there's those Bush supporters who basically come across as pathetic, grasping at straws to make the other side look bad or hypocritical while avoiding the primary issue and the mountains of evidence reasonable people in this debate are engaging.

Bottom line: Did most people as of 2002 (and definitely in 1998, as many Bush defenders feel the need to point out, as if that was relevant 4 years later) believe Saddam Hussein had WMD of some sort? yes. Was the case much less certain than the Bush administration made it appear? yes. Was there strong evidence to back up the case that Iraq had nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons program, as the Bush administration claimed? no. Was there evidence to back up the claim that Saddam Hussein had a connection of any significance to Al Qaeda, as the Bush administration claimed? no. Did any serious person think Iraq had a connection to the attacks of 9/11, as the Bush administration regularly insinuated? no.

Conclusion: Did high ranking officials in the Bush administration, including the president, say numerous things to rally support amongst the public and the Congress and the world community for the invasion of Iraq that they knew, or should have known, were untrue or misleading? yes.

Is that a serious matter for which the President should face serious consequences? hell yes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

a bad day for democracy

Like most smart people, I think the initiative process in California is mostly a disaster and needs to be cut back significantly.

But I was really disappointed that Prop. 77, which would let a panel of judges draw congressional and legislative district lines instead of politiicans, lost yesterday. It's a rare case of a law that the legislature would almost certainly never be able to pass since it goes against members' own interests, even though it's in the public interest.

Letting politicians draw district lines in order to minimize competition is nothing less than a democratic travesty. When not a single one of the 153 congressional or state legislative seat changed hands in 2004, it's hard to see the difference between California and North Korea.

While it could be most people don't agree with me on this topic, I think it's more likely that 77 got lost amidst the general anti-Arnold vote, since 77 was part of his 74-77 block. But while 74-75 would have struck at public employees and 76 would limit the size of government, there's nothing inherently conservative about 77. When I had to convince my girlfriend that 77 was actually a good idea and not another attempt by Arnold to strike at his enemies, I realized this was not a good time for this proposition.

Given that a similar proposal lost in Ohio, it's clearly a bad year for democratic reform. We need better arguments to convince people of the urgency of shifting the way we vote so it becomes fairer and more democratic. I guess when people perceive such reform as a partisan issue one way or another (Democrats pushed them in Ohio), they don't have a chance. I guess we really need a strong inter-party or nonpartisan movement to get such changes implemented around the country so one day soon we might have a real democracy with accurate and transparent vote counting, fairly drawn districts, instant runoff (or some alternative to winner-take-all), and no more electoral college (for starters -- then someday soon maybe my ultimate goal of making the senate actually representative of the people so California and Alaska don't get equal votes).

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Breaking news: the Earth is round and Bush misled us into war

Another damning piece of evidence proving that the Bush administration, either out of malice or gross negligence, misled the American people about the WMD threat and connections to Al Qaeda in the run up to the Iraq war. Another damning fact that those who pretend the Bush administration just said what everyone thought will ignore.

If only there was some way people could have known before the 2004 election that the Bush administration was misleading the public on a number of specific pieces of evidence related to the threat Saddam Hussein posed. If only someone had written a book with an entire chapter with a chapter full of specific examples. If only this revelation wasn't a surprise because there was a way we could know this fits into a pattern of deception where the Bush administration regularly ignored contradictory evidence in order to keep making false claims about Iraq and a number of other issues. If only we knew the larger context in which to place this revelation, perhaps in the form of a book that made the fucking point with hundreds of examples that the Bush administration misled the nation on nearly every major policy issue in its first term.

If only reading articles like this didn't make me want to buy a megaphone open my window and scream to the world: "DUH!"