When will the Iranian rulers invite former President Bush to Tehran to accept his "Medal of Freedom" from the Shiite clerics?
When will the Iranian rulers invite former President Bush to Tehran to accept his "Medal of Freedom" from the Shiite clerics?
Worse, even, than the mid-term polls. (After reading "The Gamble" by Thomas Ricks, on Iraq in the wake of the so-called "surge," I held out hope that General Petraeus' strategy - the core of which was bribing Sunni insurgents to turn against al Qaeda - would have some lasting impact on prospects for politics to break out amidst a civil war. Not so hopeful now.)
Former British PM and "W" enabler, Tony Blair, in his newly minted memoir:
“I still keep in my desk a letter from an Iraqi woman who came to see me before the war began. She told me of the appalling torture and death her family had experienced having fallen foul of Saddam’s son. She begged me to act. After the fall of Saddam she returned to Iraq. She was murdered by sectarians a few months later. What would she say to me now?”
An Iraqi taxi driver may have been the source of the discredited claim that Saddam Hussein could unleash weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, a Tory MP claimed today.
Adam Holloway, a defence specialist, said MI6 obtained information indirectly from a taxi driver who had overheard two Iraqi military commanders talking about Saddam's weapons.
The 45-minute claim was a key feature of the dossier about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that was released by Tony Blair in September 2002. Blair published the information to bolster public support for war.
After the war the dossier became hugely controversial when it became clear that some of the information it contained was not true.
In the heart of the Iraq War debate, the one argument I could never abide was the humanitarian argument; not because Saddam Hussein wasn't an awful, brutal dictator, but because it was, frankly, it was a classic example of shutting the barn long after the cows, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, horses, etc., have long since fled.
Marc Danner explains it far better than I do in his response to George Packer's rather churlish review of his book, Stripping Bare the Body:
In Bosnia, the United States should have acted to stop genocide, which I witnessed and reported on and which was going on, and on, even while American warplanes patrolled overhead and United States intelligence agencies recorded the “number liquidated” in Serb concentration camps. In Iraq in 2003, there was an autocratic government but no genocide. Indeed, when Saddam Hussein’s army had engaged in mass killing — against the Kurds in 1989 and against the Shiites in 1991 — American officials, who had been supplying Saddam with critical intelligence in 1989 and who commanded a United States Army in Iraq in 1991, had stood aside and done and said nothing.
A dozen years later, many of the same officials who had looked on when tens of thousands of Iraqis were being killed had no compunction about pointing to those graves to drum up support for an invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration’s “humanitarian argument” for the Iraq war was shameful and dishonest from the start. Sadly, many of those who well understood its dishonesty and cynicism, and who could have served the country — and done their jobs — by acting to expose it, for their own reasons stood and cheered America on to war.
The humanitarian argument for the Iraq War was post-facto ass-covering. Nothing more.
History according to the right, with apologies to Pastor Martin Niemöller:
"First they installed Reza Shah Pahlavi. I did not speak because I really couldn't care less.
"Then they installed his son Reza Mohammed Pahlavi. I did not speak because he did our bidding.
"Then they overthrew a democratically elected leader. Mohammed Moosadegh. I did not speak because my source of cheap oil was protected.
"Then Reza Pahlavi created SAVAK. I did not speak because he was our s.o.b.
"Then he spent lavishly on himself and his Pharaonic projects while so many were unemployed. I did not speak because oil was still cheap.
"Then he was overthrown. I spoke up because they took our citizens hostage.
"The Iran was invaded by Iraq and Ronald Reagan became a supporter of Saddam Hussein who was committing war crimes by using poison gas against Iran. I did not speak because everything Reagan did was correct.
"Then Reagan sold weapons to Iran - considered by his own administration to be a terrorist state - to finance an illegal war in Central America. I did not speak because was incapable of ever doing anything wrong.
"Then George Bush invaded Iraq, strengthening Iran in the region. I did not speak because Saddam had suddenly become a bad man after invading Kuwait and of course Reagan still could do no wrong.
"Then Mahmoud Ahmadinejad participated in a farcical election and the people who I had joked about bombing, whose nation I was foaming at the mouth to invade needed only our president to verbally challenge Ahmadinejad and he would fold like a lawn chair because a show of testicular fortitude would make him cringe.
"But then there was no on left to listen because everyone saw it for the cheap and rank bit of political opportunism that it was."
There's been much ado about Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel about a timeframe for withdrawal of U.S. troops. Here's the key text:
SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?
Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we're concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.
SPIEGEL: Is this an endorsement for the US presidential election in November? Does Obama, who has no military background, ultimately have a better understanding of Iraq than war hero John McCain?
Maliki: Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans' business. But it's the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that's where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.
SPIEGEL: In your opinion, which factor has contributed most to bringing calm to the situation in the country?
Maliki: There are many factors, but I see them in the following order. First, there is the political rapprochement we have managed to achieve in central Iraq. This has enabled us, above all, to pull the plug on al-Qaida. Second, there is the progress being made by our security forces. Third, there is the deep sense of abhorrence with which the population has reacted to the atrocities of al-Qaida and the militias. Finally, of course, there is the economic recovery.
P.M. Maliki is, like Senators Obama and McCain, immersed in the implications of upcoming elections in the fall and deep anti-U.S. occupation sentiment among his electorate when he makes public pronouncements on the war. Nothing he says to the press isn't colored by politics and appearances. So we're looking at a landscape not just of Obama '08, or McCain '08, but Maliki '08 as well.
The Iraqi government has vaquely backpedaled from Maliki's comment, but it has issued no specifics on what he said off-the-cuff that was inconsistent with his "official" views. That the "official" statement was released through the U.S. military command office in Baghdad says more than the statement itself. It was a "non-denial denial", which usually means that what was said reflected the speaker's thinking, although he wants to back off of responsibility for its specific implications. Sometimes this is a calculated position. Sometimes its recognition of a "gaffe" that might have more diplomatically formulated. In any event, the "correction" didn't actually correct anything, other than attempt to make the impression left by the comments more diffuse. But there are several things worth noting about the Maliki interview.
First, Maliki raised Obama's 16 month timetable as a good benchmark for withdrawal - he wasn't prodded into discussing Obama's plan by the interviewer. So it is clearly consistent with Maliki's general thinking on the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq. (Or to be more cynical, referencing Obama was part of a strategy to embarrass Bush, given Washington's intransigence in dealing with the Iraqi government on a forward plan for the U.S. presence.)
Second, in discussing reasons for decrease in violence in Iraq Maliki doesn't invoke the surge. He puts the shift among Sunni insurgents against al Qaeda - which had nothing to do with the surge - as the biggest factor. Al Qaeda's overreach, inflaming sectarian violence as a strategy, ultimately worked against them. It wasn't hard to predict that the folks who would ultimately become al Qaeda's worst enemies were the Sunni tribesmen themselves, once al Qaeda was no longer useful to them or overplayed their hand within the insurgency. Bribes, not more American troops, were the key to this "victory."
Maliki doesn't address the fact that the growth of anti-war sentiment in the U.S. and revulsion at the idea of continuing to occupy the country indefinitely has converged with sentiment among growing numbers of Iraqis. But he clearly recognizes that a politics of reconciliation and negotiation, not more aggressive military tactics or endless perpertuation of sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing, is the key to Iraq's future. Unfortunately, it must be said, the actual decrease in sectarian violence is largely a measure of the "success" of the tactic. The demographic map has already been re-drawn in many parts of Iraq. In the wake of killings and millions of refugees from the terror, sectarian divisions are more embedded than ever. Whether, in the wake of this tragedy, some form of political rapproachment can be pulled from the fire is an open question. Some small steps in the direction of political pragmatism seem to be taking hold in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.
The overriding fact of the matter is that the U.S. is not a welcome presence in Iraq and the Iraqi population is terribly weary of a war that was imposed on them by Washington. John McCain and Barack Obama represent polar opposites on the wisdom and conduct of the occupation of Iraq. That the Iraqi Prime Minister, on his own initiative, would invoke Obama as being closer to his own thinking about the near-term future of his country than John "100 years of Occupation" McCain is remarkable. Iraq has been McCain's signature issue in the current campaign. To boil this down to the pure politics, if it appears he's running not just against Obama, but against Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki on this issue - to quote one of the McCain campaign's own strategists when asked about the Maliki comment - John McCain is "f..ked."
"Kick ass!...If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message...There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"
George W. Bush, in a 2004 teleconference with his generals and national security team. Recounted in former Iraq commander Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez' "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" and quoted in the Washington Post.
Credit where credit is due. Even total tools, egregious hacks and amoral empty suits get it right occasionally:
“If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.
“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”
Former Bush administration Press Secretary Scott McClellan, in his forthcoming "tell-all" book.
Update: David Corn, a journalist who helped break some of the Iraq-related stories the White House attempted to fabricate or cover up, asks McClellan, "where's the apology" for his part in the administration's deceptions and pushback against those who questioned them - and suggests all profits from his sure-to-be-a-bestseller go to help families of people killed or gravely injured in the Iraq war.