Daiblog A Fair and Balanced daily discussion of Democratic politics, ideas, strategy, and news
Friday, March 07, 2003
At Adam's request, and paying due heed to copyright laws, here are some (limited--fair use?) exerpts from Conanson's article for those unfortunate among you who lack a salon.com subscription:
"What [Bush] didn't explain is what he has consistently failed to explain, as exasperated commentators could not help noting afterward.
He didn't explain why. Why Iraq, why now, why inspections can't be allowed to work, and why this war at this time is worth ruining our traditional alliances and our international prestige.
There was no lack of rhetorical exhortation in the notes guiding the president's performance on the podium, as he glanced down from time to time. He stayed on message about the awfulness of Saddam and the perilous state of American security after Sept. 11. Yet he would not or could not offer a serious response to questions about the divisions between America and friendly nations in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Instead, Bush resorted to the propagandistic mode that has already brought discredit on him and his administration. "I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat to the American people. I believe he's a threat to the neighborhood in which he lives. And I've got a good evidence to believe that ... He has trained and financed al-Qaida-type organizations before, al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations." That latter charge, although somewhat garbled, sounded new to me. Has Saddam trained and financed al-Qaida -- or "al-Qaida type organizations," whatever that may mean?
Not according to the State Department's most recent annual report on international terrorism, which was issued last year. That presumably authoritative document describes Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism," and accuses the Tehran regime of providing significant assistance to such al-Qaida-type (meaning Islamist) outfits as Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad. The report also fingers Sudan and Syria for providing "safe haven" and other aid to Islamist terror organizations."
posted by Jeremy
DENVER -- In a stunning disclosure, Air Force Secretary James Roche said Thursday that 54 women have been identified as victims of rape or sexual assault at the Air Force Academy during a military investigation over the past several weeks.
Double that number of women have likely been victimized but have not reported sexual abuse because they did not feel comfortable doing so, Roche said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"The part that is the saddest thing ... whatever the number is, 25, 50, there are probably 100 more that we do not see," he said.
Wasn't there a Supreme Court case with similar facts recently? Oh, right.
posted by Adam
Check out this review of Bush's news conference by Joe Conanson on salon.com. Keep in mind that Conanson is very anti-war with Iraq, but he picks up on exactly my concerns. Why Iraq? Why now?
posted by Jeremy
For those who missed the president's fern-trimmed show last night (really, what was with the weird greenery?), the transcript is right here. Word scores: War 16, Peace 9; Terror/ists 26, Weapons (relating to Iraq) 20; Bible-Pray/er-God 10, Sacrifice 1. Bonus points are available to anyone who can explain where in the Constitution it says we have to attack Iraq.
posted by Amanda
On this issue of cost--> it's not so much that we should condemn the costs of war, necessarily, as force Bush to be straight with us about them. We have to sacrifice somewhere. He keeps blowing smoke about being able to pay for tax cuts + education + medicare + homeland security + war. Well, states are in their biggest fiscal crisis since WWII. Calls for State's rights and cutting the size of the federal government has become cover for an all out attack on this country's poor. We've got crappy education and cuts in services across the board because states are out of money and the federal government is abdicating its role while running deficits anyways. We deserve to be told and asess the true costs of war, and of occupying and rebuilding Iraq, so that we can prioritize. And force the rich to sacrifice as well!
Now, I know Adam is going to tell me you can't win by fighting class warfare. I'm not sure I agree with that, but, in any case, make it about leveling with the American people about costs and allocating priorities, as opposed to (as I have above) about choices benefiting the rich and hurting the poor.
posted by Jeremy
At a minimum, Democrats should target the cost of a war. The Bush Squad seems, weirdly, to think they can just blow this issue off--Safire's piece this morning off-handedly dismisses people complaining that a war would be expensive, as though the cost of government activities has become an illegitimate concern because Bush said "democracy" fifty times fast. But it looks to me like even high school students are catching on to the fact that you can't have everything (and, of course, a tax cut for Dick Cheney too) when your economy sucks. And besides the fact that there's some political capital there (because didn't I say that politicizing war is hideous, and doesn't that probably go both ways?), the Democrats have a responsibility as the minority party to check the Republicans on irresponsible spending.
posted by Amanda
It sounds like we're in agreement that the Democrats should attack Bush's foreign policy, but how ?
Is it as simple as opposing the war outright? To cast our lot with the anti-war protesters? This option isn't really satisifying to me personally (for reasons I'll explain later), and I don't think it's particularly shrewd politically. Amanda, as much as your mom has become a canary for anti-Bush sentiment in the heartland, I'm betting she doesn't really identify with ANSWER or the other groups organizing agains the war.
Clearly (and I'm not doing legal writing so I can use that word), it is not as simple as standing behind Bush no matter what. Supporting the use of force unquestioningly does no one any good, actual or political.
So, where' s the in between? What are the Democrats' (to use a legal concept) limiting principles? If we don't want the troops to go in tomorrow, what do we want to do? Is it as simple as a binary decision? Also, politically, don't forget that a good portion of the Democratic party voted to give Bush the power to start a war . A good portion of our party is pretty boxed in, although I think the equivocation shown by Kerry, Clinton, and others is genuine.
Can the Dem's message be "Tell us (really) how much it will cost and what you're planning to do afterwards?" Is Saddam not a problem, even if he's one that doesn't require a military solution? And, isn't the whole world watching? This cuts a bunch of ways, but one of them is that if North Korea sees the U.S. "back down" against Iraq, it may become more embiggened (token Simpsons reference). Another is that it doesn't make much political (or, common) sense for the Democrats to join the French/German/Russian chorus.
Jeremy, right on about the incompetence of Bush's diplomacy. They've really been the bull in the (no pun intended) china shop. Bush's bit during the campaign about running foreign policy with humility is just laughable. I rememeber reading something somewhere (which I'l try to find and link to- I think it was Frank Rich) about how Bush's campaign showed that the English language had ceased to have any meaning. This is the paradigmatic example. For more on the diplomacy stuff, see here. I'm all for taking on Bush, but can we do so only negatively? I think we need a positive solution (i.e. Bush is wrong, here's what we should do). This is the right idea. Can we be as bold as saying, "Bush is not keeping America safe? That may be too strong. It also seems to me to be wrong on many levels to simply root for the war to go badly. That's not leadership; it's not even human.
If you can't tell, I'm a little torn on the war. More later...
posted by Adam
One more thought--> our handling of diplomacy here and since Bush came to power has been atrocious. There are consequences to being the bull in the china shop! Our blunt rejection of many of Europe's priorities (i.e. Kyoto, international tribunals, nuclear disarmament treaties with Russia in favor of a nuclear missile shield!?) have perhaps cost our support. We have not handled this situation with any tact that allows Europe to save face and still go along. Our rejection of engagement and discussion in North Korea and the middle east, prompted primarily in an effort to reverse Clinton policies, whatever the cost, have led to crises in those regions. Whatever the merits of invading Iraq, our plan (whatever it may be) is coming at an incredibly high cost to our international credibility. We have squandered the immense amount of international goodwill that came our way after 9/11. We need allies because we can't pay for everything or man every mission! Our cowboy approach to international relations has failed in almost every area over the last 2 years-- this is something to attack.
posted by Jeremy
Politicizing war is hideous, but we should keep in mind that, if we do invade Iraq, this will be perhaps the most political war fought since the end of the cold war. There is no crisis motivating sudden action. No one has grabbed land or or begun exterminating people or committed some other overt aggressive act, and we haven't suddenly discovered that Iraq has been working on weapons in the no-no category. Leaving aside the (not insignificant) "this is the man who tried to kill my daddy" angle, if we start this war, it will be very much a war of ideas--which is what makes it so scary that lately it's easier to get a coherent message out of a Mariah Carey concert than to get one from the Bush administration. (Maureen Dowd's column this morning, on the related topic of empire-building, was titled "What Would Genghis Do?" and I recommend it, although the title is probably better than the piece itself.)
What can the Democrats do? My mom has been insisting lately that there is a groundswell of anti-war sentiment in South Dakota, of all places. A disclaimer: it is likely that my mother knows every anti-war South Dakotan personally, and her empirical data is based on the reactions that my stepfather gets while driving around in his Toyota 4runner with "Trim a Shrub--Disarm Bush" emblazoned across its entire back window. But to hear her tell it, right there in the reddest part of the reddest of states, where lots of people are veterans and/or military personnel and where there were so many yellow ribbons during the Gulf War that it looked like spring had come early, no one likes this war. No one buys the ideas. And that may be something that the Democrats can capitalize on.
You raise a good point about the politicizing of war. Bush has politicized terrorism-- remember the fund-raising photos of Bush looking presidential after 9/11 on Air Force One? He was actually a non-presence on that horrible day. The nation turned its lonely (and scared) eyes to Rudy Guiliani. More substantively, do you remember the political capitol Bush gained standing with the heroic firefighters at Ground Zero? Now he's cutting funding promised to New York, mired in fiscal crisis, that was to go to the firefighters among other people. Remember Bush's "wanted dead or alive" message to Osama bin Laden, calculated to bolster his macho leadership image? Now, he's pulled the wool over America that somehow attacking Saddam is akin to attacking Osama.
Here are my thoughts on what should happen regarding the war and on my principled opposition to the war. First, we owe it to ourselves, our soldiers, and the World to have a true debate about using military force, whether the UN is with us or not. The reasons for this war keep shifting with the winds, indicating it will be fought either 1) for pre-determined reasons unrelated to the current situation or 2) for no reasons other than distraction from more intractable problems that require more nuanced handling. We need to lay out plain and clear why we are going in, what our objectives are, how we will handle the aftermath of war (including an assessment of the true cost of war and rebuilding), how this will impact America's most pressing war (on terrorism), and why this, and not N. Korea, Afghanistan, the Middle East, anti-nuclear proliferation efforts in the old Soviet republics, etc. should be our top priority.
Democrats can take Bush on in every one of those aspects, and should do so, not for political capitol, but to do their jobs as citizens. Why are we so anxious to go in that we will not let inspection efforts play out? Why aren't we talking about the effects of Iraq on terrorism. And why are we equating nuclear weapons with chemical and biological weapons as weapons of mass distruction--they are not all the same! Nukes are a MUCH bigger concern and we're cutting funding for our efforts to control Russia's decaying nuclear arsenal even as we prepare for war. Conventional weapons, while they do not present the threat of the unknown, are even a bigger threat than chemical and biological weapons. All of this suggests that our foreign policy vis a vis Iraq is being guided by priorities that are not clear and may not be in the best interest of the U.S.
Obviously, current foreign events have been covered and blogged six ways from Sunday, but I'd like to try something different here. Two part question: 1) What are your personal feelings about whether or not the United States should invade Iraq? and 2) How can the Democrats create a persuasive political message on Iraq when their party is divided on the issue?
I do not mean to over-politicize a war. Obviously, there are ideas and messages which would be outside the bounds of human decency. I simply mean that within the bounds of human decency, how can the Democrats gain political traction on foreign policy? President Bush's actions have been strikingly political. How can the Democrats respond?
posted by Adam
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