Thursday, April 24, 2008

In response to:

CIA Foresaw Interrogation Issues
Agency Considered Investigations 'Virtually Inevitable'

If for the sake of argument, we ignore the morality or lack therof involved in waterboarding and get back to what is known.

The CIA was directed by people in the highest reaches of the executive branch to engage in behavior which they knew might result in prosecution. In order to protect themselves from that eventually they directed John Yoo to write a series of documents providing cover for their likely illegal acts. When Jack Goldsmith, (who by the way, is rather sympathetic to the idea of the CIA taking 'risks') reviewed the legal justifications authored by Yoo, he found them to be stretched beyond defensibilty and promptly withdrew them. Since that time a lot of effort has gone into A: legalizing the behavior that took place and B: hiding the decisionmaking process that led to the behavior.

So even if you think that waterboarding is the coolest thing since sliced bread, it still doesn't change the fact that the administration engaged in a conspiracy to violate existing law and in obstruction of justice behind a wall of 'national security' since those violations took place.

This is equally true in the case of FISA.

You don't have to think that the underlying behavior is necessarily bad to nevertheless acknowlege that it was against the law at the time it was done.

Call me a stickler but that doesn't strike me as a minor point.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Joe Klein linked to a speech by Joe Biden


So I left a reaction:

Ironically, even though I agree with almost every sentiment expressed in the speech, my concetration was distracted by seeing exactly where it could be attacked by hawks. (Maybe I'm picking up some of Joe's bad habits.)

The troublesome spots:
It starts with the very language the President has tried to impose: “the global war on terror.” That is simply wrong. Terrorism is a means, not an end, and very different groups and countries are using it toward very different goals. If we can’t even identify the enemy or describe the war we’re fighting, it’s difficult to see how we will win.

While I agree that the crucial falure of both BushCo and McCain is to be able to correctly identify our enemies, to flatly say that the phrase 'global war on terror' is wrong is to invite ridicule.

Right now, Iran loves the status quo, with 140,000 Americans troops bogged down and bleeding, caught in a cross fire of intra Shi’a rivalry and Sunni-Shi’a civil war.

Again, he's conveying an unpleasant truth but to refer to our troops as "bogged down and bleeding" is going to distract from his message by creating a negative soundbite.

Among the good spots:
Worse, saying you’re happy to stay in Iraq for one hundred years fuels exactly the kind of dangerous conspiracy theories about America’s intentions throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds that we should be working to dispel

Doesn't anyone else remember that we had permanent basing in Saudi Arabia and that that was the main casus belli cited for Al Qaeda's attacks on us? Clearly, one of the main reasons we attacked Iraq was so that we could have a place to set up permanent bases in the region. Why is this never discussed in these terms?

It’s amazing how little faith this administration has in the power of America’s ideas and ideals.

All these fronts throughout the Middle East and South Asia are connected. But this administration has wrongly conflated them under one label, and argued that success on one front ensures victory on the others. It has lumped together, as a single threat, extremist groups and states more at odds with each other than with us. It has picked the wrong fights at the wrong time, failing to finish a war of necessity in Afghanistan before starting a war of choice in Iraq.

Again, the mislabelling of our enemies is a constant strategy applied by the White House and there's every indication that Sen. McCain intends to continue the practice.

This is why every time he fails to differentiate Shia and Sunni or relies on the Commander of the wrong theater for advice, he should be called out on it strongly.

Our country can not afford 4 more years of willful ignorance.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Saint McCain clueless again.....

Army Times

Count me among those curious to see how long the myth that McCain has any credibility, let alone expertise on Military affairs and foreign policy (which in a sane world wouldn't be the same thing) when he consistently and repeatedly gets important or, dare I say it, vital details flat-out wrong.

My guess is at least another 8 months

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

McCain on his Sunni/Shiite 'confusion': Qaeda not just Sunni

Sen. John McCain, defending his recent troubles differentiating between the two major branches of Islam, suggested today that the terror network al-Qaeda encompasses both Sunni and Shi'a...

I'm posting this now, because I'm going to need to remeber it later.
McCain could have insisted that he had misspoken again but rather than continue down that path, he decided that lying was easier.

read more | digg story

War Games

I have frequently said that war is not a football game, but I can't help but notice that for a significant part of modern history, it has been treated as if it were. Certainly the concepts of a "Declaration of war" and "Terms of Surrender" indicate that there are rules that are abided by even when the game is mortal combat. By definition, terrorists don't abide by the rules. This is why BushCo went to such great lengths to coin and define the term "illegal combatant" to describe why the "normal" rules of war don't apply. Even if we're willing to concede that the existence of Al Qaeda and other groups and their resorting to random violence directed at civilians are reasonable justification to "change the rules" in order to accomodate a new reality, having changed the rules, we now have to live with the results.

One of the first casualties of this rule change is the concept of Victory. Every time we talk of "Winning or Losing" in Iraq or in the larger GWOT, we are still using the old 'football game" model of warfare. In a football game, there is an end state after which the game is over. If the Geneva conventions are to be regarded as "quaint" then certainly any talk of victory should be regarded as delusional.

The Administration (and McCain) can't have it both ways.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Still Can't identify the enemy

Estimates vary on what percentage AQI represents of the insurgent/sectarian/militia forces, but JH is right. AQI is a fraction of the insurgency, five percent at most, probably less. In the words of one analyst, it is a "microscopic terrorist organization."

Theres no way I can stress enough how important this is. We are being lied to yet again.

Never Underestimate the Power of Denial:

Quoting from GG:

They are desperate to wash their hands of that which they enabled so they can pretend they never did.

But the people who caused and enabled that to happen are -- understandably so -- desperate to avoid acknowledging what they've done

This new post accords well with my thoughts as I was driving to work this AM. As I mention in the linked post, agressive warfare (or any warfare for that matter) involves engaging in activities that if committed within society rather than beyond it, would be unthinkable crimes. The natural reaction to engaging in this sort of activity would be intense remorse. Therefore the exercises and rituals we go through alleviating our guilt take significant amounts of energy. The ceremonies we go through on Memorial Day taking special care to honor OUR losses and the special respect we accord veterans are examples of the sort of thing I'm referring to. Even here, many self-identified liberals and war opponents nevertheless go out of their way to make sure that we acknowlege the sacrifice of those who serve.

While there's nothing wrong with this, by itself, I have to note that it creates a severe amount of distortion in our thinking when it comes to determining the best course of action in Iraq. We can't erase what we've already done, but to leave would lock-in the immorality of our prior actions. As long as we stay, there is hope for redemption. It's sad to see happening but we can't underestimate the power of the force I'm describing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

left on a Joe Klein Thread at Swampland

Ramesh Ponnuru:

I assume that Klein will react calmly should conservatives wish to make the opposite argument, that conservatism is more patriotic than liberalism?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is precisely why the framing matters.

Joe may brag that he's on the right side of the debate because the NRO is willing to claim a monopoly on patriotism but Joe is the one who handed him the knife.

Perhaps we should examine core assumptions. WHY do we even consider patriotism a virtue, let alone get into fights over who's entitled to it? When does patriotism cease being a virtue and instead becomes jingoism and exceptionalism and emotional cover for evil acts?

Who's willing to raise the question? And when someone does, why is there a concerted effort from EVERYONE to vilify that person and shout them down.

I'm still PO'ed about Natalie Maines and it's EXACTLY the same dynamic that's being appiled to Rev. Wright.

How DARE he suggest that we're not angelic!