Friday, October 29, 2004

Against my better judgement (of which I have very little) I'm breaking my vow to lay low until this awfulness is over to note how stimulating these advocacy articles coming out in the waning days of our national nightmare are.

It's hard, for example, to read the New York Times Magazine this past month and not think they're pretty specifically anti-Bush. That bend-over-backwards explication of Kerry's foreign policy strategy, the snarky Ron Suskind piece and then this weekend, that bizarre cover story on the children of gay parents which amounted to a single anecdote about a New York family (all well and good, but did they have to print it last weekend unless they were making some pointed commentary about the election?).

Oh, and lest you think it's just the Magazine, there is that whole explosives story . . . mazel tov if you can figure out what's going on there.

And, look, none of it is really worth mentioning except that the newest advocacy story I saw was so funny -- not funny in terms of what it is about, but rather the spin on why it's so important that it's coming out right now. Of course a study showing 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq is big news, but that -- like so much else going on right now -- just doesn't seem to be the point of the study.

Which is why when I read this, it just made me smile:
Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, said the research which was submitted to the journal earlier this month had been peer-reviewed, edited and fast-tracked for publication because of its importance in the evolving security situation in Iraq.
A (non-Reuters) story was a little less accepting of the researchers' basic premise:
The report was released just days before the U.S. presidential election. The Lancet routinely publishes papers on the Web before they appear in print, particularly if it considers the findings of urgent public health interest.

Those reports then appear later in the print issue of the journal. The journal’s spokesmen said they were uncertain which print issue the Iraqi report would appear in and said it was too late to make Friday’s issue, and possibly too late for the Nov. 5 edition.

An editor was not immediately available to comment on whether the early release of the survey was timed to stimulate last-minute debate before the election.
I'm tempted to just stop reading anything in the days before an election, and examples like these probably make a strong case for early voting.

Carry on . . .

One final note -- and take it for what it's worth: remember that whoever you vote for, vote for the person you think should be president, and don't use your vote as some kind of protest. The reason is simple: a contested result, like in 2000 when one candidate won without the popular vote, means that whoever is in office will lack a mandate, which in general I don't think is a positive thing. Whether you're a voter in a safe state, or simply a Libertarian or Green apologist, think long and hard about it . . .

I'm DeskJockey Scott and I approve this message.

Update: Check out this version of the AP article above. It's even better:
The report was released just days before the U.S. presidential election, and the lead researcher said he wanted it that way. The Lancet routinely publishes papers on the Web before they appear in print, particularly if it considers the findings of urgent public health interest.

Those reports then appear later in the print issue of the journal. The journal's spokesmen said they were uncertain which print issue the Iraqi report would appear in and said it was too late to make Friday's issue, and possibly too late for the Nov. 5 edition.

Les Roberts, the lead researcher from Johns Hopkins, said the article's timing was up to him.

"I emailed it in on Sept. 30 under the condition that it came out before the election," Roberts told The Associated Press. "My motive in doing that was not to skew the election. My motive was that if this came out during the campaign, both candidates would be forced to pledge to protect civilian lives in Iraq.

"I was opposed to the war and I still think that the war was a bad idea, but I think that our science has transcended our perspectives," Roberts said. "As an American, I am really, really sorry to be reporting this."
Lovely . . .

Friday, October 22, 2004

Christopher Hitchens on why he would like to see Kerry in charge:
Given my underlying stipulation, which is that this is a single-issue election and that that is a good and necessary thing, I have no formal quarrel with the Kerry/Edwards platform. It ostensibly calls for military victory over the alliance between autocracy and jihad. It does not shade the moral distinction that has to be made between "our" imperfect civilization and those who want to turn Islamic society into a medieval but still-lethal dust bowl. (Not even by MoveOn.org are we being told, of the racist janjaweed death squads in Sudan, that they are the expression of pitiable, deep-seated Muslim grievances.) The Kerry camp also rightly excoriates the President and his Cabinet for their near-impeachable irresponsibility in the matter of postwar planning in Iraq.

I can't wait to see President Kerry discover which corporation, aside from Halliburton, should after all have got the contract to reconstruct Iraq's oil industry. I look forward to seeing him eat his Jesse Helms-like words, about the false antithesis between spending money abroad and "at home" (as if this war, sponsored from abroad, hadn't broken out "at home"). I take pleasure in advance in the discovery that he will have to make, that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a more dangerous and better-organized foe than Osama bin Laden, and that Zarqawi's existence is a product of jihadism plus Saddamism, and not of any error of tact on America's part. I notice that, given the ambivalent evidence about Saddam's weaponry, Kerry had the fortitude and common sense to make the presumption of guilt rather than innocence. I assume that he has already discerned the difference between criticizing the absence of postwar planning and criticizing the presence of an anti-Saddam plan to begin with. I look forward, in other words, to the assumption of his responsibility.
I suppose it goes without saying that you might not want to subject yourself to the backhanded snark of the rest of the piece, but given what is going on now, it might be the best, last article you'll want to read.

I see that we passed 1,000 posts a couple of posts ago. What an achievement. Not much else to really say here other than this idiotic waste of mental space -- i.e., the 2004 Presidential election -- will be over in a matter of days (The Note says 11 days), and hopefully we'll get back to the point where intellectual curiosity is a nuisance, and, well, never mind. It's best to leave it at that . . . see you on the other side, on the cusp of a brand new day in America!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Back to the task at hand: finding some good, valid reasons to vote for Kerry. Here's a start, but I'm warning you -- don't read the devastating indictment of Kerry's "multilateralism" pandering appended to the end of the post . . . it might actually sway you to the other side.
[Sorry, I have to break character here for a second . . .]

Matski responded -- graciously -- to my snarky comments to him before (and I'm only snarky with the ones I love -- the rest of the people I don't give a shit about; I know firsthand that Matski is smart as shit, which is why I give him guff), noting in particular my arguing that sanctions were not working:
This is simply not the case. We did have reason to believe that the sanction regime that was in place prior to the invasion in March '03 might not continue to work, and we also knew that Saddam was manuevering to work around the sanctions. However, the lack of WMDs in Iraq is ample evidence that the sanctions regime did, in fact, accomplish its purpose of keeping WMDs out of Saddam's hands. The correct answer to the POSSIBLE future failure of sanctions is not necessarily to go to war now -- what's wrong with trying to fix the system first? Bush was impetuous, and a lot of people are dead now because it was easier for him to pull the trigger than to talk things out.
I had been responding, if I recall correctly, not so much about the content of the argument (that sanctions did or didn't work) but rather his contention (I thought at least) that the Duelfer Report proved they were working. I think it said exactly the opposite! From the first pages of the report's key findings:
[Saddam's] initial belief that UN sanctions would not last, resulting in his country’s economic decline, changed by 1998 when the UNSC did not lift sanctions after he believed resolutions were fulfilled.

Although Saddam had reluctantly accepted the UN’s Oil for Food (OFF) program by 1996, he soon recognized its economic value and additional opportunities for further manipulation and influence of the UNSC Iraq 661 Sanctions Committee member states. Therefore, he resigned himself to the continuation of UN sanctions understanding that they would become a “paper tiger” regardless of continued US resolve to maintain them.

Throughout sanctions, Saddam continually directed his advisors to formulate and implement strategies, policies, and methods to terminate the UN’s sanctions regime established by UNSCR 661. The Regime devised an effective diplomatic and economic strategy of generating revenue and procuring illicit goods utilizing the Iraqi
intelligence, banking, industrial, and military apparatus that eroded United Nations’ member states and other international players’ resolve to enforce compliance, while capitalizing politically on its humanitarian crisis.
Which is to say, that by manipulating the Oil for Food program, Saddam was circumventing sanctions. Which is also to say, sanctions weren't working!

Now, to be fair, I think Matski is conflating the purpose of the sanctions, which was to penalize Saddam for not complying with the U.N. Resolutions to disarm -- not simply to prevent him from acquiring WMD. It's an important distinction.

Moving on in the Duelfer Report's Key Findings:
One aspect of Saddam’s strategy of unhinging the UN’s sanctions against Iraq, centered on Saddam’s efforts to influence certain UNSC permanent members, such as Russia, France, and China and some nonpermanent (Syria, Ukraine) members to end UN sanctions. Under Saddam’s orders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) formulated and implemented a strategy aimed at these UNSC members and international public opinion with the purpose of ending UN sanctions and undermining its subsequent OFF program by diplomatic
and economic means. At a minimum, Saddam wanted to divide the five permanent members and foment international public support of Iraq at the UN and throughout the world by a savvy public relations campaign and an extensive diplomatic effort.

Another element of this strategy involved circumventing UN sanctions and the OFF program by means of “Protocols” or government-to-government economic trade agreements. Protocols allowed Saddam to generate a large amount of revenue outside the purview of the UN. The successful implementation of the Protocols, continued oil smuggling efforts, and the manipulation of UN OFF contracts emboldened Saddam to pursue his military reconstitution efforts starting in 1997 and peaking in 2001. These efforts covered conventional arms, dual-use goods acquisition, and some WMD-related programs.
Which is to say, Saddam continued to violate the U.N. sanctions!

Again, when people argue that sanctions aren't working, they mean to say that the U.N./World response to marginalizing a rogue regime was, over time, breaking down, making embargoes worthless and trade routes porous. On the issue -- getting to the issue now, and not just whether the Duelfer Report says what it does, the fact is that Saddam was acquiring items prohibited by the sanctions, in violation of the sanctions. The sanctions just weren't working.

To address Matski's point -- that it's clear now that Saddam didn't have WMD, which proves that the sanctions were working (again, not the point of sanctions, but to tackle this point) -- the Duelfer Report notes that it is clear that after sanctions finally were lifted -- and we came very close in the 1990s to at least partially lifting them -- that Saddam would have reconstituted his WMD program:
Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability—in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks—but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.
As I said before, Matski's points are well taken, but I just don't see it . . .

UPDATE: Hey, I just happened to reread what I first wrote (which Matski responded to) and I didn't mention that bit about the Duelfer Report. I should have said, "The one thing that's clear from reading the report is that sanctions weren't working -- not that they were." Sorry, Matski. Typing quickly and all . . .

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Now, that said -- and to preserve one iota of intellectual honesty, it needed to be said -- don't forget to Get Out the Vote, drive old ladies to polls, contribute money to your favorite 527 -- ANYTHING AS LONG AS JOHN KERRY GETS ELECTED. Let's end this. Now.
Only a partisan hack could interpret Kerry's helpful mention of Dick Cheney's daughter as anything other than conservative-baiting political bullshit.

Fuck you.

Only the worst kind of partisan apologizes for what Kerry and Edwards repeatedly did.

Fuck you.

As if it wasn't already clear enough when Edwards did it (who, by the way, showed himself as the smarmy litigator he probably always was), somehow Kerry did it, too. Isn't that what dipshits like Josh Marshall are for? Why not use a proxy? Perhaps the campaign is more desperate than the New York Times wants us to believe.

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

Actually, to paraphrase Dick Cheney himself: "Fuck you."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Just to be clear, I am absolutely not trying to dissuade anyone from voting for Kerry, but after two B&P posts about certain topics related to THE MAN!!! I have to get things straight for my own peace of mind.

For example, Matski extolled the virtue of Kerry's "vision" for how to deal with terrorism, as he apparently saw it expressed in Matt Bai's Sunday Magazine story. But how is one to square that hopeful thought (and I, too, am hopeful that I see myself reflected in the first post-modern candidate) with Bai's straight up pronouncement that there is no vision? As Bai wrote, "What Kerry still has not done is to articulate clearly a larger foreign-policy vision, his own overarching alternative to Bush's global war on terror."

Even by the end of the piece, Bai doesn't seem to get that far in defining Kerry's vision:
Kerry's view, that the 21st century will be defined by the organized world's struggle against agents of chaos and lawlessness, might be the beginning of a compelling vision. The idea that America and its allies, sharing resources and using the latest technologies, could track the movements of terrorists, seize their bank accounts and carry out targeted military strikes to eliminate them, seems more optimistic and more practical than the notion that the conventional armies of the United States will inevitably have to punish or even invade every Islamic country that might abet radicalism.

. . .

Theoretically, Kerry could still find a way to wrap his ideas into some bold and cohesive construct for the next half-century -- a Kerry Doctrine, perhaps, or a campaign against chaos, rather than a war on terror -- that people will understand and relate to. But he has always been a man who prides himself on appreciating the subtleties of public policy, and everything in his experience has conditioned him to avoid unsubtle constructs and grand designs. His aversion to Big Think has resulted in one of the campaign's oddities: it is Bush, the man vilified by liberals as intellectually vapid, who has emerged as the de facto visionary in the campaign, trying to impose some long-term thematic order on a dangerous and disorderly world, while Kerry carves the globe into a series of discrete problems with specific solutions.

When Kerry first told me that Sept. 11 had not changed him, I was surprised. I assumed everyone in America -- and certainly in Washington -- had been changed by that day. I assumed he was being overly cautious, afraid of providing his opponents with yet another cheap opportunity to call him a flip-flopper. What I came to understand was that, in fact, the attacks really had not changed the way Kerry viewed or talked about terrorism -- which is exactly why he has come across, to some voters, as less of a leader than he could be. He may well have understood the threat from Al Qaeda long before the rest of us. And he may well be right, despite the ridicule from Cheney and others, when he says that a multinational, law-enforcement-like approach can be more effective in fighting terrorists. But his less lofty vision might have seemed more satisfying -- and would have been easier to talk about in a political campaign -- in a world where the twin towers still stood.
I suppose I'll take Matski at his word when he says that if we're at war, we have to define what it means when we win. But that doesn't seem like much of a vision. Certainly not enough of a vision to merit such an exuberant title: "Finally, a Vision." And Kerry's supposed "big idea" that we'll be back to normal when terrorism becomes a "nuisance" doesn't really make me feel any better. I have used another concept about that here, and it's called "Al Qaeda Fatigue," and that's not meant to be a desirable state.

The same is true for an earlier Matski post about how the Iraqi sanctions were working. Say what you want about any of a number of issues relating to Iraq, but to argue that sanctions were working ignores way too much information to the contrary.

At first I let it go by because it's not worth quibbling about, but after reading his recent post about how Kerry has a vision, I have to say that it seems that Matski, perhaps like Kerry, wants to be where we were before, rather than where we are now. This is fine, of course, unless you take the time to argue otherwise, in which case you need to expect to be called on it.

Now, back to normal programming: Vote Kerry!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Don't be a crazy wanker, vote for Kerry!
John Kerry for President!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Scott, I'm beginning to doubt your sincerity.

John Kerry. John Kerry! JOHN KERRY!!!
Bull Moose endorses Kerry:
If Kerry is victorious, there will no doubt be a battle within the Democratic Party between the left and New Democrat wings. Perhaps, just perhaps, a progressive national greatness wing can emerge that combines a commitment to national service and progressive economics with a dedication to defending America and promoting its ideals. Fortunately, there is a model for progressive national greatness in the presidency -- the previous JFK. President Kennedy combined a muscular foreign policy with a call to service and a domestic progressivism. Kennedy brought Republicans into his administration and governed from the vital center.
A devastating indictment of Bush and a strong case for Kerry! (Credit where due.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

I don't like the sound of this right-wing nuttery:
Iraqi intelligence documents, confiscated by U.S. forces and obtained by CNSNews.com, show numerous efforts by Saddam Hussein's regime to work with some of the world's most notorious terror organizations, including al Qaeda, to target Americans. They demonstrate that Saddam's government possessed mustard gas and anthrax, both considered weapons of mass destruction, in the summer of 2000, during the period in which United Nations weapons inspectors were not present in Iraq. And the papers show that Iraq trained dozens of terrorists inside its borders.

One of the Iraqi memos contains an order from Saddam for his intelligence service to support terrorist attacks against Americans in Somalia. The memo was written nine months before U.S. Army Rangers were ambushed in Mogadishu by forces loyal to a warlord with alleged ties to al Qaeda.

Other memos provide a list of terrorist groups with whom Iraq had relationships and considered available for terror operations against the United States.

Among the organizations mentioned are those affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, two of the world's most wanted terrorists. Zarqawi is believed responsible for the kidnapping and beheading of several American civilians in Iraq and claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings in Iraq Sept. 30. Al-Zawahiri is the top lieutenant of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, allegedly helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist strikes on the U.S., and is believed to be the voice on an audio tape broadcast by Al-Jazeera television Oct. 1, calling for attacks on U.S. and British interests everywhere.
It makes me nervous because Charles Duelfer's WMD report is supposed to be out soon -- and the closer it's released to the election, the more I think it will buttress Bush's claim that Iraq really was bad.

Remember, the only way out of this is electing John Kerry. Please vote. Rock the vote, rock and roll the vote, jazz and pop the vote -- whatever, but whatever you do, Vote!
The hard part is convincing yourself that the candidate is serious about tackling the most important issue of our time. So what a relief to read William Safire's reassuring words this morning:
Hard-liners criticized the Bush decision this spring not to send U.S. troops in to crush Sunni resistance in the Baathist stronghold in Falluja. Our forces wanted to fight to win but soft-liners in Washington worried about the effect of heavier civilian casualties on the hearts and minds of Iraqis, and of U.S. troop losses on Americans.

Last week in debate, John Kerry - until recently, the antiwar candidate too eager to galvanize dovish Democrats - suddenly reversed field, and came down on the side of the military hard-liners.

"What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground," Kerry volunteered. "And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of Falluja and other places and send the wrong message to terrorists. ... You've got to show you're serious." Right on, John! Although he added his standard softener of "sharing the stakes" with "the rest of the world," he issued his radically revised military policy: wipe out resistance in terrorist strongholds like Falluja, which requires us to inflict and accept higher casualties.
Sounds good to me -- and it gets better:
[Kerry] pledged never to cede "the right to pre-empt in any way necessary" to protect the U.S.
Don't pay attention for a minute to the Bush campaign's silly "Global Test" rhetoric -- Kerry's a guy who could give a fuck.

So: as far as turning back the tide of theocratic fascism, Kerry's a check. More later . . .

Friday, October 01, 2004

My new favorite part of ABC's The Note is the countdown of days until the election. I kind of can't wait for this to be over; it's starting to get real tiresome.

There are obviously two directions this election could go, but there are different reasons to root for either outcome.

The first is a hope that Kerry ekes out a victory -- that way I won't have to hear anyone else in my peer group carp about how horrible, no, terrifying Bush, et al. are (side note to Matski: that lame essay was all it took to get your dad to change his mind? I don't believe him!).

I want -- no, I need to get back to that glorious time during the 1990s when all my friends apologized for Clinton! That was so much more intellectually satisfying -- in a debate-club kind of way -- than going on (and on and on!) about Bush the Chimp, or some such caraciture.

(Counterfactual parenthetical: Thank god we didn't have to endure NAFTA under Bush. AND: I almost wish Gore were President; that way, when we went to war with Iraq -- and we would have! -- at least my mental space wouldn't have been so crowded with Michael Moore and his ilk.)

The second reason to root for a candidate is the Arizona Cardinals factor. No one enjoys perennial losers more than me, and in a sick way, I kind of like the idea of spending the next four years listening to/reading my peer group try to figure out why America is so stupid.

Oh, I suppose that would get old rather quickly . . . so, in the interest of my desperately wanting to return to an intellectually soft-and-fat mode -- in which everyone I consort with apologizes for and explains away the policies of the President -- I want to take this space to officially endorse John Kerry for President. Yes, I said it. I feel so much better.

Let the healing begin!

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