But 9/11 changed everything. 9/11 meant that we had to incur those costs by occupying Iraq. Why? What benefit does America derive from this obvious catastrophe? Who knows. There's only been one theory presented that isn't immediately disproved. Oil. Even Alan Greenspan believes the War was "largely about oil."
Yet according to David Brooks, Giuliani is having a terrific week!
George Will reports that this is the third time Giuliani has taken a call from his wife during a speech. Oklahoma, Florida, and now (before a truly skeptical audience) the NRA. "And in Oklahoma he walked off the stage, took the call, and as I get the report, never came back." That's weird.
The weirdness is amplified by the fact that he wants her to sit in on cabinet meetings, another real problem for those on the right. Historically, of course, the GOP balks at having wives take such an active role in government.
Put it together, and the most brutal interpretation steps to the fore: He's whipped, big time. Maybe she's a stern woman in all contexts, and that's his fix. It only took him 3 wives to find it! Good for him - I'm all for letting your freak out, but this is just one more thing that dooms his primary attempt.
There is an out-of-the-mainstream, unserious reason, however, that does make sense and can't be dismissed so easily.
The not-obviously-wrong reason for our troops to have invaded and continue to remain in Iraq is to secure access to the sea of oil on which it sits. It's the only calculation that, despite the acknowledged horrible costs, might be in our nation's interests. From a perverted morality, it might seem that the President's "constitutionally mandated job is to Protect Americans" (italicized and bolded like a super-ability), and that part of that job entails protecting their way of life, since that is uniquely American. Sean Hannity says it all the time: "don't change my lifestyle." Like everything else in life, there's no way we Americans are going to buckle down and accept some pain until the problem stares us in the face, and by then it will simply be too late. Therefore, we need to make sure we can get our hands on enough fuel to get us over the rough patches of the transition off of petroleum. And as long as we've got the boots on the ground, let's dispense with this "market price" crap when the crude hits the fan.
Until now, no one in the mainstream, non-partisan credibility club had made the case forcefully. Now we hear it straight from the Greenspan himself:
Iraq War and Oil
In another potential embarrassment for Bush and the Republicans, Greenspan asserted that the need for secure oil supplies from the Middle East was the true rationale for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil,'' Greenspan wrote in a chapter titled "The Long-Term Energy Squeeze.''
Wow. It's sooooo hard to be Alan Greenspan! That's the sort of insight that just isn't available to us peons in the trenches!
Reading this makes me see a little movie of my head exploding when I think of people I argue with refusing to acknowledge that the party line of we're spreading freedom might not be the real reason behind our military adventurism.
Incidentally, Global Warming also helps advance our Nation's goals. By inundating the coastal lowlands of the world and creating hundreds of millions of refugees, we'll create so much chaos that no one will be able to spare the forces to contest our control of Iraq militarily, thereby strengthening our hold on the transition fuel we need.
No one could challenge us except for a nuclear-armed Iran. Therefore, we must bomb Iran during Bush's Presidency because no lily-livered Democrat sissyman ever will, and probably not even a Republican! It's Bush's duty to do the "hard work" of being President, and that means bombing the people others don't have the heavenly-mandated stones to bomb.
I'm sure people that think this way, like our friend Fred Kagan here on the right, author of the Surge policy in Iraq, tell themselves that this absolute perversion of morality is "coldly logical" when you put the interests of America alone above those of others. They're being the testosterone-pumping, true-American-Grit Keyboard Warriors they need to be for some reason. I wonder what that might be?
Maybe his brother, and fellow svelte war-monger, Robert Kagan might be able to shed some light on the motivations?
Here I offer a possible explanation, which, just like the Iraq-War-For-Oil meme, is decidedly out of the mainstream, and yet not-obviously-wrong.
Norman Podhoretz, the father of Neoconservatism, wrote this, and it is telling:
To me, at the age of twelve, it seemed very clear that Negores were better off than Jews -- indeed, than all whites. . . . [I]n my world it was the whites, the Italians and Jews, who feared the Negroes, not the other way around. The Negroes were tougher than we were, more ruthless, and on the whole were better athletes. . . . I was still afraid of Negroes. And I still hated them with all my heart. . . .The conclusions are embarrassing, yet obvious. These men have been made to feel weak their entire lives, and they're reacting the way they can - a macho foreign policy. It's so embarrassing, in fact, that it's deemed impolite to mention the flabby nerdiness of our nation's War-proponents, just like Mr Greenspan's statement on the impossibility of commenting on the motivation for the Iraq War.
The orphanage across the street is torn down, a city housing project begins to rise in its place, and on the marvelous vacant lot next to the old orphanage they are building a playground. . . . A week later, some us are swatting flies on the playground's inadequate little ball field. A gang of Negro kids, pretty much our own age, enter from the other side and order us out of the park. We refuse, proudly and indignantly, with superb masculine fervor. There is a fight, they win, and we retreat, half whimpering, half with bravado. My first nauseating experience of cowardice. . .
Gradually we abandon the place and use the streets instead. The streets are safer, though we do not admit this to ourselves. We are not, after all, sissies -- the most dreaded epithet of an American boyhood. . . . .
That day in school the teacher had asked a surly Negro boy named Quentin a question he was unable to answer. As usual I had waved my arm eagerly . . . and, the right answer bursting from my lips, I was held up lovingly by the teacher as an example to the class. I had seen Quentin's face -- a very dark, very cruel, very Oriental-looking face -- harden, and there had been enough threat in his eyes to make me run all the way home for fear that he might catch me outside. . . .
For me as a child the life lived on the other side of the playground and down the block on Ralph Avenue seemed the very embodiment of the values of the street -- free, independent, reckless, brave, masculine, erotic.. . .
The hatred I still feel for Negroes is the hardest of all the old feelings to face or admit, and it is the most hidden and the most overlarded by the conscious attitudes into which I have succeeded in willing myself. It no longer has, as for me it once did, any cause or justification (except, perhaps that I am constantly being denied my right to an honest expression of the things I earned the right as a child to feel). How, then, do I know that this hatred has never entirely disappeared? I know it from the insane rage that can stir in me at the thought of Negro anti-Semitism; I know it from the disgusting prurience that can stir in me at the sight of a mixed couple; and I know it from the violence that can stir in my whenever I encounter that special brand of paranoid touchiness to which many Negroes are prone. . . .
There were plenty of bad boys among the whites -- this was, after all, a neighborhood with a long tradition of crime as a career open to aspiring talents -- but the Negroes were really bad, bad in a way that beckoned to one, and made one feel inadequate.
Norman's son, J-Pod, is just as much of a war-monger as his Father and has raised my ire before. The picture below is one he had associated with his account at The Corner, the National Review's hideous blog.
Last year I disqualified him from further comment on matters of substance because he so badly misunderstands the nature of the Global Counterinsurgency we are fighting. He lamented that we couldn't win this war because we were unwilling to be as ruthless as we were in World War II, despite the fact that we are now fighting disorganized forces that do not seek to control territory. Demonstrably, Total War tactics cannot be victorious against insurgencies - just ask the Soviets about their experience brutally occupying Afghanistan. "Rubblization," I believe, was the name of their strategy. J-Pod went so far as to advocate a flavor of genocide, saying:
What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?Hearts and minds, eh? It's hard to be greeted as liberators when you're killing hundreds of thousands of their 18-35's.
I wonder, do you think J-Pod might have some of the same motivations as our friends the Kagans?
Glenn Greenwald offers elaboration here.
Now, it's not like Thompson's entrance totally flopped. He's second in the polls, but running against Mitt Romney, who's already strongly positioned in the same traditional conservative roll and on the way to the nomination via early wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. Thompson should split off some of that group, leaving Rudy to reap the rewards:
So, Thompson may have sewn it up for Mr. Whipped Cross-Dresser, the spitting image of a Republican nominee. Woops.
... Ahhh, personal attacks. The low-hanging fruit of politics. Of course, Republicans are generally wrong on the policies as well, but unfortunately, with negative personal narratives this strong, you can be sure it will have a more powerful impact on both the swing and base voter than the nuances of difference on Iraq. (ed. post for another time: because by the time of the general election the Republican will have ceded to the Democrats position of a limited presence, sadly still more than 50000 troops.)
This poor guy is one of the lead Sunni tribal chieftains that have been proving American soldiers don't need to be in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda there. Please note that this "Anbar Awakening" had begun before Gen. Petraeus was even confirmed, since he testified about Anbar's encouraging developments at his confirmation hearing.
When his death was announced, his tribal allies blamed the Maliki government for assassinating him.
I happened upon The Young Turks take on it:
It's the same happy talk we've always gotten from President Bush's generals. They know that if they don't say what the boss wants them to say, they wont be around much longer. There are many examples of this happening, despite the fact that President Bush says he's a Commander Guy. Bush tarnishes these noble generals' credibility because he has none of his own left.
Makes me look like a plagiarist, huh? Nifty.
Last year we were told to wait for the "elder statesmen" of Washington to save us from the catastrophe of Iraq with their Iraq Study Group Report. "Just wait until the Baker Report," we were told, and we did, funding the troops the whole way. When the day came their recommendations of draw-downs and negotiations with Syria and Iran were rejected by President Bush, who decided on his own "New Way Forward" - the precise opposite of the recommendation - an escalation.
Currently, we sit in waiting for Gen. Petraeus' report to be delivered September 11th, 2007. An auspicious date, I know. We have been repeatedly enjoined to heed his "independent, ground-truth report" before we make decisions about how to change our strategy because he has so much credibility. He was confirmed unanimously, after all.
Now that Magical September has arrived, we find the following:
- The Petraeus Report isn't Gen. Petraeus' report. It is being written by the White House. Gen. Petraeus human vocal cords just provide a nicer voice-synthesizer than a robot automaton.
- The White House Report isn't a written report. It's a verbal presentation. That way there wont be any nasty details to examine, only Gen. Petraeus' credibility.
- First, the Department of Defense doesn't like the way the Government Accounting Office, my favorite non-partisan truth-teller, is calculating statistics on the violence, since they show the surge isn't working. The GAO's methodology is public, whereas the DoD's is classified.
- Pollack and O'Hanlon, liberals academics and fierce critics of the war (who somehow manage to still support every one of Bush's decisions on Iraq, from the start to the Surge), find that the surge is working! Violence is down! Their assessment is based on 8 days in country, meeting only people the DoD provided, and citing classified statistics. My man, Glenn Greenwald, absolutely eviscerates their arguments.
- The New York Times reports, based on classified statistics, that violence is down! Unfortunately, a week earlier they reported numbers from the Iraqi Interior Ministry showing that violence is up!
- The Washington Post reports that, according to Petraeus, if you get shot in the front of the head, you're a victim of normal crime. Only those shot in the back of the head are victims of sectarian violence.
- (ibid) We aren't counting violence involving our new allies, the Sunni Tribes of Anbar (93% of who think attacks on Americans are justified)
- (ibid) We aren't counting intra-sect violence. If the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army have a huge battle, that doesn't count since they're both Shiite.
- (ibid) We aren't counting the results of car bombs, since those are presumptively the work of Al Qaeda. After all, only Al Qaeda knows how to pack explosives into a car instead of under a road.
- Finally, we don't seem to be taking the predictable seasonal rhythms of violence into account. Of course violence is a lower in August than it is in March! It's 120 degrees in the shade out there! This happens every year.
- The Washington Post lets us know that Admiral Fallon, Centcom Commander, thinks the surge isn't working either.
And did you notice how all the anecdotal evidence being cited as proof the surge is working is based on classified information? Can there be any doubt that if the facts actually supported the conclusion, that we would be shown the proof? That we would know the methodology and see the raw numbers?
And please, please remember Bush's promises about the Surge, made when he announced the escalation.
When President Bush announced in January what the White House called a “New Way Forward” in Iraq, he said that Iraqi and American troops would improve security while the Iraqi government improved services. Responsibility for security in most of Iraq would be turned over to Iraqi security forces by November.None of those things have happened. And yet, here we are, with the entire Republican Party asserting that the "Surge is Working."
With better security would come the breathing room needed for political reconciliation, Bush said.
The question, of course, is not whether we are seeing minor gains in the areas we occupy. I have always firmly believed that this war is within our ability to win - just put more troops in the country. Half a million should do it. The drop in the bucket we've provided with the measly 25,000 troop escalation may have no hope of changing the strategic dynamic of the war, but even a drop of water seems large to the ant it lands on. In neighborhoods we focus, on, therefore, we should see some improvement in security. This has never been at question, since no one thinks the astoundingly effective American military is incompetent.
The question is whether continuing this war is worth the cost. Since we will never institute a draft, and no other countries will sail to our rescue, is it worth continuing? Answering that question requires some idea of the cost in the future, so I'll refer you to Stephen Biddle, a member of the panel advising General Petraeus:
Biddle also said (again, expressing his personal view) that the strategy in Iraq would require the presence of roughly 100,000 American troops for 20 years — and that, even so, it would be a "long-shot gamble."There is our choice. 20 years of continued cost, after which it is still a long-shot, or withdrawal. Is it in America's interest to continue? I can think of one reason it might be...
Update: (via Kos and Atrios) Where will Petraeus go after his testimony? Straight to Fox News for a one hour interview.
Also, the good general has made this statement:
The top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, has recommended that decisions on the contentious issue of reducing the main body of the American troops in Iraq be put off for six months, American officials said Sunday.It's always six months more.
"[Maliki's] learning to be a leader. And one of my jobs as the president and his ally is to help him be that leader without being patronizing. At some point in time, if I come to the conclusion that he can't be the leader—he's unwilling to lead or he's deceptive—then we'll change course. But I haven't come to that conclusion. As a matter of fact, his recent actions have inspired me."Iraq is a sooo sovereign!
Oprah Winfrey, the nation's wealthiest African American and host of an afternoon television program, endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in May. Now, she is in discussions with his advisers about playing a broader role in the campaign -- possibly as a surrogate on the stump or an outspoken advocate -- or simply bringing her branding magic to benefit his White House bid.Shouldn't this do it? I mean, she sells reading, of all things. In America. It bears imagining that she could do the same for voting.
Of course, the counter-argument is that Oprah viewers are die-hard Hilary voters. I wonder.