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Friday, August 26, 2005



Entirely, cosmically, spiritually right, Marc. The ex-Fed poker master gives wise tips on how to spot the "tell"---advice that, naturally, translates perfectly to political analysis

I remember spotting such involuntary giveaways during the Watergate hearings. For example, Haldeman's "tell" was that he always listed slightly to the left (or maybe it was the right) when he lied. Never failed.

Sadly, I don’t think lip-sucking Rummy’s trying to spin history. I think he’s really that willfully ignorant because the man doesn't believe history matters ALL that much. His remarks about the looting of Iraq’s National museum ….were, I think, symbolically revealing.

Anyway, good post.

Jay Byrd

Larry Johnson says "withdraw" and David Corn takes him seriously rather than calling him an idiot, accusing him of not thinking things out, or red-baiting or Buchanan-baiting:


Riffing off Marc's piece, I think there's a simple reason to call for immediate withdrawal: the sooner we leave, the less opportunity Dumsfeld et. al. have to screw things up. We could discuss the fine points of Juan Cole's proposal indefinitely, but it's a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Let's keep in mind the difference between the virtual cyber-reality of blogworld that takes place on an intimately close screen and the real world where George Bush is commander-in-chief. The "liberal" warbloggers have been wallowing in this fantasy all along, imagining that just by typing at their keyboards they could turn cowpies into flowers; that the Bush administration, with very different values and goals, would somehow execute the invasion/war/occupation the way the warbloggers would if they were running things. Let's not make the same mistake.

Of course, since we aren't in control we can't execute a withdrawal, but it fits on a sign, is something simple enough that even Bush/Rumsfeld could execute it, is a defendable position (yes, it really is, no matter how much snearing and ridicule is directed at it or those who offer it), and stakes a position in clear opposition to the Bush administration. Cole's proposal, OTOH, will never escape the blogosphere; it doesn't fit in a soundbite, could never reach the American people without being mangled, and would require lots and lots of explanation. It might make sense as an actual strategy by a President who adopted it, but it makes no sense politically for the opposition. And "Withdraw!", standing in opposition to "stay the course", is broad enough to encompass Russ Feingold's proposal -- who is already being misrepresented in the media as an "out now" advocate. And supporting Russ Feingold as bold and rational with a position that is in clear opposition to the Bush strategy is very important politically, considering Feingold's potential bid for the Presidency in 2008. We saw how disastrous it was to end up with someone with a muddled position on the war last time; if we don't want to end up with Hillary as the weak alternative to the Republicans, we need to start ASAP to put forward a coherent and cohesive political position, with a like-minded standard bearer, now. And getting the debate out there in simple terms -- "withdraw" vs. "stay the course" -- puts the heat on Bush and the Republicans and the disaster they have created in Iraq, which can be used as a springboard for addressing their other disastrous policies at home, abroad, in the environment, in the sciences ... all aimed at the upcoming elections of 2006.


Great post...Dumsfeld is the quintessential liar and "ingrate" of the administration. He knew nothing about war before he helped lead the charge into Iraq (along with all the other neo-con chicken hawks), and clearly hasn't learned anything about it since.

BTW, how'd you manage to rush ahead of the international date line and get this posted *tomorrow* already? ;>


I've heard it suggested that George Bush's trademark smirk is in fact his own personal "tell". However, we don't really need to itemize the different "tells" of each member of the administration, as there's one distinctive piece of body language that they all seem to share.

Any time you see their lips move, they're lying about something.


It's funny...when you just read a comment like Rumsfeld's, shake your head at the craziness and turn the page of your paper, fortunately or unfortunately one misses the full effect. Broken down systematically, as you did, the idiocy quotient is magnified, and disturbingly so - from glib nonsense to monumental historical ignorance. Or simply, as you suggest, The Big Lie.

Remember when Baron von Rumsfeld was the heart throb of the Beltway press ? They'd fill those Pentagon briefings like an excited gaggle of masochists, each eager to get just a little taste of his tongue-lashings. If ever there was a giant flashing neon sign advertising the pathological wimpiness of the Washington press corps, it was their perverse infatuation with a guy who clearly loved roughing them up.


*we don't really need to itemize the different "tells" of each member of the administration*

No...but while we're not, I'm overcome by the image of Cheney - head tilted to the side, chin lowered, beady eyes shifting yet accusatory, voice deliberately flat and low, lips curling - a man obviously emulating gravitas but barely concealing contempt for anyone who would actually be stupid enough to believe him.

Brian S.

Just a note: I don't think the French Communists were moderate in the 1970s (unlike the Italians). They toed the Stalinist line for the most part, but remained reasonably popular because of their heroic role during WWII.


Marc, why not tell us when Christopher Hitchens is lying?


II loved the self-contraditory lecturing that Rumsfeld revels in. To wit, his answer concerning the likelihood of an Iraqi civil war:

"Well, Charlie, you casually say the Shi'a say this and the Sunnis say that."

Rumsfeld immediately continues in the following paragraph with the following phrases:

"they announced" speaking of the Sunni's and
"They said" speaking of the Shi'a

Although not serious it is just typical of the "one set of rules for you, another set of rules for me" mentality that permeates this administration.

Mary Alice

Bush's smirk has become fixed. He did wink when talking to the troops Thursday.......smarmy bastard..

Virgil Johnson

Marc, I really liked this post. You comparing it to a "tell" really put some flavor into the piece. What I would like to do is get beneath the surface of why they just get up (this administration) and lie over and over again. I think we can bring it down to an irreducible minimum - they just don't care. They do not give a damn how many die, of our troops or the Iraqis.

I know it might be a hard pill to swallow, but I know it's true - you can tell how hard it is for both the left and right by how they gloss over this administrations actions - "their making gross ERRORS, lot's of MISTAKES, they are plain STUPID," no, no, and no - they do not care. This is a criminal regime - they engorge themselves for the moment, feed their corporate stooges and than they will be gone - just like they participated in past Republican administrations and disappeared, till this one rose it's ugly head and got in office.

But you know what? They will not be prosecuted - they will ride off with their ill gotten booty into the sunset. Why is this? Because unfortunately, it is endemic to the American system. What we have is a sort of P.T. Barnum type of system, and there is a sucker born every minute. It is gaining for ourselves at any cost (unbridled capitalism, which always produces a small circle of the elite ruling and rich, and the poor people who are baited and exploited) - regardless of the lives we take at home or abroad. Unfortunately it will continue, until someone stops the circus from coming to town. It's getting old folks, it's been going on in this nation for hundreds of years, since the beginning.

Unfortunately, a good majority of the people in America have taken positions in the circus - clowns, lion tamers, trapeze artists, etc. And if the circus disappeared what would they do? The only problem with this circus is that it does not harmlessly entertain, it disenfranchises and destroys millions (over time) wherever the big top opens. So what are you going to do about it? Get your peanuts/popcorn and find a good seat, or shut it down?


"In the late 90's...the Italian communists (renamed the Democratic Party of the Left) were part of the center-left national government"

Well, they were more than just a part of that government, they headed it. The Premier was the super high-IQ "testa di cazzo" Massimo D'Alema, Secretary of that party, who on a TV talk show had admitted smilingly that in the Sixties "I too threw Molotov cocktails." With the same hand that shook Clinton's during his official visit to the US in 1998, the crown achievement of his career (well, second only to paving the ground for "Berlusconismo" and its efforts to re-write the Italian Constitution, which in Article 1 proclaims: "Italy is a democratic Republic based on work.") During that visit, the American pilot whose plane caused the fall of a ski gondola and the death of twenty passengers was found by a court martial not guilty of all charges brought against him. D'Alema's reaction? " I am not in the habit of commenting on Italian judicial decisions, let alone American ones." It took him longer than one hour to realize, under the pouring of outraged Italian protest, the enormity of his gaffe and state that he was "disconcerted" by the judgment.

Jim Rockford

Marc -- With all due respect you're letting emotions rule you instead of facing the rather sordid reveleations out of the Cold War. The Communist Parties in France, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere were wholly run subsidiaries of the KGB. Far from being "moderate" they were deceptive in that they fundamentally did not agree with a multiparty, democratic state and worked for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat while pretending a commitment to liberal democracy that did not exist. You make the same mistake as Galloway who sees anti-Western Islamists promising the Philosopher King to make everything right instead of messy, imperfect, often unjust Liberal Democracy. You are romanticizing a bunch of people (the Belgian Communist Party leaders were paid monthly by the KGB) who were at heart corrupt thugs.

During the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Communists around the World, including the US, avidly defended Hitler and tried to prevent any aid to England. It was only after June 1941 that they changed their tune. The Communist Party attitude is probably best described by the Communist betrayal to the Gestapo of Jean Moulin. Or Leon Blum's fate. Nothing really changed with these folks. Some became proto-terrorists like the Red Brigages, Baader-Meinhof, Carlos the Jackal (later converted to Islam and became an Islamic Terrorist), Japanese Red Army, etc.

Gorby was a kindler, gentler Pinochet. But one that couldn't control his own military. Chernobyl ring any bells? Communism is a complete and utter social, political, and human failure. To defend it is like defending the Confederacy. Don't let Romanticism fool you to it's horrific flaws.

You are right about the political process in El Salvador, but you're wrong to say THAT ALONE was what ended it. Part of the process was a military victory that made the Guerillas understand that further fighting meant defeat and death, better to settle for half a loaf than none at all. This was the process in Ireland during the Black and Tan mayhem that led Collins to decide that most of Ireland being independent was better than nothing at all (and for that he paid for his life). On the reverse side the military defeat of the Contras by the Sandinistas (and the collapse of REagan's support) meant that peace was possible because only by entering the political process could the Contras gain anything. Military action had failed for them and brought only defeat. Guerilla warfare is NOT a magic sword.

Human Nature being what it is, the hard boys with guns won't put them down unless they see gains for doing so and huge losses for keeping them. Unless somehow people's natures just changed by the Communist New Man Fairy.

Capitalism is a great thing. It provided medical advances that saved or made better the lives of most of my family. The internet, personal computers, vacuum cleaners, cars, movies, everything that makes life worth living and the average person able to live their life in relative freedom and riches unimaginable to King Henry VIIIth, for example, are all due to capitalism. Has it's downsides and needs regulation, but anyone who thinks Communism has anything to offer anyone is basically Pat Robertson without the religion.

Withdrawal from Iraq is idiocy. Yeah let's turn over a good portion of Iraq to bin Laden. THAT will fly real well with the American Public. Along with blaming the Iraq War on "the Jews" or calling Afghanistan an "unjust and immoral war" or wanting us to "stop bombing innocent people" in Afghanistan or claiming bin Laden might not be responsible for 9/11 as "Mother Sheehan" has done twice. Already. People are dis-satisfied with GWB, go over to RedState or NRO or other places and you can see huge frustration with him by Conservatives, but it's not what peaceniks (equivalent to Communists in May 1940) think; too much PC, half-measures, "catch and release" programs with terrorists, inability to speak truly about the enemy, listening and taking seriously anti-War Democrats. Unfortunately Dems have done their own isolationism and defeatism, which will be horrific for them (and lead to the death of the Democratic Party) WHEN not IF the next mass terror attack happens in the US (hopefully it can be averted with no loss of life, but luck is not a strategy). About terror Dems have nothing to offer but "let's give up" hence Bush still continues on, with no credible check/opposition.

I can understand Rumsfeld's irritation and disgust with the Press. They know nothing, and I do mean nothing, about Military affairs and have been proven idiots time and again: predicting defeat and tens of thousands of casualties right before Kabul fell and the Taliban fled. More recently the Media distinguished itself by predicting millions of refugees in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, Kurdish independence and regional war, the oil fields ablaze, and the entire American Army dying in "Stalingrad on the Euphrates" aka Baghdad, slaughtered by Saddam's "fearsom million man army."

While Rumsfeld has many flaws he at least understands the RMA, he must feel like Billy Mitchell talking to the Navy Brass about yes, battleships ARE obsolete and aircraft carriers are the new ships of the line, when talking to the press that understands nothing about Network centric warfare, the RMA, logistics, or anything else that actually MATTERS in Iraq. Alone among Democrats Wes Clark actually understands this (as a former professional soldier) but shut up and has been muzzled by a know-nothing Democratic Party.

Jim Rockford

Addendum -- Just to show the total idiocy of the Press, Former Pentagon Beat Reporter Wold Blitzer was talking to a General about the IED that blew up a Marine Amphib Vehicle killing dozens in Iraq, which was heavily armored and weighed 13 tons. Blitzer went on and on about how an Armored Humvee would have saved the Marines and how come the Marines didn't have them?

The General patiently explained twice to Blitzer that Humvees weigh only 3 tons, the Amphib Vehicle weighed 13, and was flipped over and blown apart, not even a M1 Abrams would have saved them. Blitzer used to work at the Pentagon. BASIC ignorance of basic military transport equipment (light Humvees versus Heavy Amphibs) is just ... deliberate know nothing ignorance. Blitzer was determined to make his Blame Bush Point and wouldn't let basic facts get in the way.

Take Rumsfeld's comment that only 75% of IED attacks kill US Soldiers, but the 25% that do are very deadly. This suggests that only a small amount of IED teams are actually dangerous, with the ability to put large amounts of explosives undected at places scouted where US soldiers will be, and trigger them remotely. This suggests professional military expertise from SOMEONE but not a single reporter followed that obvious line up. WHY are some attacks much more successful and deadly than most, and what is the Pentagon doing about it (generally speaking)?

THAT would be good for us to know, but it's never asked. No wonder Rumsfeld feels contempt. No one covering his beat actually bothered to learn anything about military affairs.

What Rummy has generally done right, is to push for killing useless military pork (redundant bases, stupid weapons systems like Osprey) and push for a military that can rapidly be deployed, supplied, fight, and win (largely by exploiting the RMA to get within the enemy's OODA loop). He's taken Col. Boyd's theories and put them into practice (a rarity among Defense Secretaries who generally play catch-up with foreign militaries adopting visionary but prophets without honor US military theorists like Patton or Mitchell).

He is the ONLY Defense Secretary since the end of the Cold War to actually challenge the Pentagon and make it change War-fighting doctrine from Soviet-facing stuff to more modern methods. He is also the only one to actively challenge the Pentagon Career Path based on procurement systems (like the Osprey) where an officer can go from Lt. to General shepherding something useless like the Osprey through it's 40-year life cycle (and retire into civilian life doing the same lucratively). For better or worse Rummy challenged the Defense Contractor milieu and money machine, which took real political courage (mirrored by personal courage during 9/11 when at age 70 he personally assisted with evacuating the wounded from the Pentagon).

Like I said he has many flaws, but he's miles ahead of losers, yes-men, and political non-entities such as Les Aspin, William Cohen, and William Perry who never challenged the Pentagon heirarchy and went along to get along.

Abbas-Ali Abadani


God, someone get Jim a new drool bib.

"Guerilla warfare is NOT a magic sword."

"Withdrawal from Iraq is idiocy. Yeah let's turn over a good portion of Iraq to bin Laden. THAT will fly real well with the American Public. Along with blaming the Iraq War on "the Jews" or calling Afghanistan an "unjust and immoral war" or wanting us to "stop bombing innocent people" in Afghanistan or claiming bin Laden might not be responsible for 9/11 as "Mother Sheehan" has done twice."

"...peaceniks (equivalent to Communists in May 1940)..."

"Dems have done their own isolationism and defeatism, which will be horrific for them (and lead to the death of the Democratic Party) WHEN not IF the next mass terror attack happens in the US..."

This post is like Rockford's greatest hits. And I'm beginning to agree with the diagnosis of OCD that someone else made.

Jay Byrd

"Take Rumsfeld's comment that only 75% of IED attacks kill US Soldiers, but the 25% that do are very deadly."

I love how Rockford takes Rumsfeld's mangled nonsense and makes it even MORE nonsensical by mangling it further.

"This suggests that only a small amount of IED teams are actually dangerous,"

So I guess if a sniper is a lousy shot, that suggests that the bullets that don't hit anything aren't actually dangerous. Rumsfeld himself offered a rather different suggestion:

"I don't know quite what I would attribute it to other than the fact that they obviously are becoming more sophisticated in developing in large measure explosive devices which have greater lethality."

But hey, they're in their last throes and we're about to turn the corner. Either that or we should nuke 1.5 billion people because we're misty-eyed folk who want to spread the Christian values of freedom and democracy across the world.


When s*** hits the fan, it's nothing compared to a Byrd hitting a Rockford.


Just run across this blog... Interesting. (Though don't you have an RSS feed?) I wrote up a couple of things about the Salvador/Iraq connection in the following posts:


Gary Goodman

"Capitalism is a great thing"
EVERY one of the wonderful advances Rockford mentioned was paid for by the Public and given to private hands ... communism for the now billionaire industrialists, neo-liberal sink-or-swim market capitalism for the poor thru upper middle class. Same as it ever was.

The Stalin-Hitler pact was Old Joe trying to save his ass early on, when the US Banking and Industrial class was actively supporting the Nazis. England gave them Czech, and betrayed France and the no-German-military treaty of Versailles.

Look up Elkhorn Manifesto, ostensibly about hemp, and the listing of all the US class fully supporting Hitler and bringing him to power, while shorting US production after the war began: ALCOA, Ford, GM, IBM, Standard Oil (Exxon), DuPont, Hearst News, on and on ... including lesser known names in New York banking circles, such as Prescott Bush and his attorneys Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles. Bush was convicted, on paper, documented, and his assets were seized, but Dulles made sure he got back $1.5 mil as royalties after the war, which he used to gain a seat in the Senate.

Of COURSE they supported Hitler, and Mussolini. Hitler shut down leftist workers movements which by example threatened US industry with the specter of having to permanently pay full wages to workers, not 20% or 50% or today's 5% of value.

Dulles later rescued a gang of high-ranking SS with protection for employment opportunities ... in the CIA. Of course, Allen also hired his cohort's son named George Herbert Walker. Allen ran CIA with his brother John providing oversight during the staged US provocation in Korea, the overthrow of liberal govt in Iran, in Iraq, and of course near-nuclear annihilation with Cuba, and early Vietnam War, et cetera.

Dulles was on board when the Joint Chiefs signed off on Operation Northwoods, to have the US stage fake terrorist attacks on American cities, fly planes into buildings, etc.

Guess who ran the JFK Warren Commission: the man Kennedy fired 1 year before, Allen Dulles.

More... but that explains a LOT!!

Let's drop the "communist" orthodoxy for now and consider "socialism", generally speaking a society built upon a structure of govt which operates By and For the People, instead of By and For the highest bidder. Ouch - is the Declaration along with the Constitution both treasonable documents today?

LIES? They lie as much as Hitler did when Hitler supported Christianity publicly and hated Christianity privately, because of Jesus preference for the poor and meek. Same reasons today.


OK, found the feed... you do keep it out of the way, though...

Michael Turner

"Of course, since we aren't in control we can't execute a withdrawal, but it fits on a sign, is something simple enough that even Bush/Rumsfeld could execute it, is a defendable position (yes, it really is, no matter how much snearing and ridicule is directed at it or those who offer it), and stakes a position in clear opposition to the Bush administration."

*Sigh*. I'd like a bumpersticker that says "Iraq? Even my *questions* don't fit on this bumpersticker."

Just from a quick rereading, Cole's 10-point recommendation for a bipartisan Congressional demand on Bush & Co could be boiled down to 7 brief one-liners. Maybe even a sentence that could be spoken in one breath, like this one:

"Get ground troops out of the cities, then out entirely; provide Iraq with tanks and air support; rehabilitate blameless Ba'athists; make elections more representative, and get help from Iraq's neighbors and Russia to stabilize the situation."

OK, one very deep breath.

I note that Amy Goodman brought Cole on and didn't do any leading or pinch-hitting, just let him talk, as he did little more than diffidently repeat what he wrote on his blog.

I'm not saying Cole's plan would work. I don't know what would work, at this point. I'm just saying that a defensible position that's also a call to action, like "clean up this mess!", is ultimately going to have legs, even if the steps and their rationale don't make for good march slogans. Bush can go to GOP base areas like Idaho and keep selling what amounts to the lie that we're fighting terrorism abroad so we'll be safe at home. Rumsfeld can peddle egregioius nonsense. And be cheered wildly by their select audiences. But I don't think it's going to play for much longer with the country as a whole. I think Cindy Sheehan et al. is a false bottom. We have yet to crunch through all the way down to where people are ready for realistic perceptions. But that's coming.

When most military analysts, foreign policy analysts and much of the MSM all get on more or less the same page, the process of pounding home the points of a rather more complex route can benefit by simple repetition. So far repetition has been Bush & Co's game. It's just that they keep repeating different simplistic points. When the American people fully tire of the repeated, simplistic, changing lies, they might go their different ways -- repetition of simplistic opposition slogans being one of the directions to be avoided, I think.

There will be no solution any time soon that isn't bi-partisan. Juan Cole's preamble to his 10-point plan underscores this reality. Especially when you look at the unparalleled degree of GOP dominance in the structures of government right now, there's just no way through without the Republicans.

I don't want a "silent majority." But a quietly listening majority wouldn't be a bad idea at this point, if there are various ideas that could work. Quietly listening -- the way Amy Goodman quietly listened when Cole talked on her program. Can we get to "quietly listening" with all *deliberate* speed?

Jay Byrd

"Get ground troops out of the cities, then out entirely; provide Iraq with tanks and air support; rehabilitate blameless Ba'athists; make elections more representative, and get help from Iraq's neighbors and Russia to stabilize the situation."

Once again -- it is a fantasy to imagine that the Bush administration will execute this plan, because it doesn't fit their goals, which include a permanent presence; and if they were going to execute it, they wouldn't need Juan Cole to lay it out for them. By calling for withdrawal, every negative consequence of not doing so can be pinned on them, and requires them to be on the defensive. It's not just a message or a plan, it's a political strategy. Somewhere in that strategy Cole's plan can be noted when the Bush defense turns to claiming that the opposition is naive or simplistic or "idiots", but it's just a tactical tool as long as Bush is c-in-c, not an executable plan. Rather than "quietly listening" I would like to hear loud questioning of what the real motivations for this war were, and critical and active listening to informed responses to the Bush adminstration's rationalizations for refusal to withdraw, responses that will help to make clear what those real motivations are, which are not at base "noble" or altruistic.

Jay Byrd

Here's someone not-so-quietly listening to policy-oriented Wesley Clark and fitting it into a "politics before policy" framework. In http://dailykos.com/story/2005/8/26/53325/3578
Armando writes about Clark's Washington Post piece,


Clark follows with some policy wonkery that Bush is never gonna do and finishes with this flourish:

"The growing chorus of voices demanding a pullout should seriously alarm the Bush administration, because President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam: failing to craft a realistic and effective policy and instead simply demanding that the American people show resolve. Resolve isn't enough to mend a flawed approach -- or to save the lives of our troops. If the administration won't adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that it bring our troops home."

There you go General. Bush is losing Iraq and will lose Iraq and have to "cut and run" unless he adopts our winning proposals (which he of course will never do).

Ok. I am sold. Lose the first paragraph, we can adopt this as our Democratic manifesto on Iraq now. That would be good politics and can lead to good policy after we win the 2006 elections.

Jay Byrd

is more from Armando, where he quotes Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, Digby, and others on this subject. Let's do some listening, quiet or otherwise, to Digby:

". . . The focus, to my way of thinking should remain on the president as the country (finally) internalizes the fact that this war was a mistake. There is plenty of time for our patented 10-point-plan yawner of a stump speech as we move into the next election cycle. Right now I think the right political move is to keep the pressure on the Republicans. Make them take ownership of this war, gas prices all the simmering discontent that you can see lurking in all the polls on every issue. Separate ourselves, not with our intellectual superiority (which is a given in any case) but by our energy and our disgust with the status quo. The think tanks and pundits can debate the various strong points of withdrawing on a six month vs a two years modified pull back or an urban withdrawal backed by air support or whatever. I think that's great. But since we have no chance of implementing any plan ourselves and since it is, in my view, almost impossible that any action the Bush administration undertakes will be successfull no matter how perfectly we design a plan for him to implement --- from a political standpoint all this wonkery beside the point."

Michael Turner

Politics over policy? And where in your equations are two other P's: principle and pragmatism?

When the stakes are this high, I don't give a rat's ass whether I have to do the right thing shoulder to shoulder with a Republican whose positions on other issues I would be delightedly heaping scorn upon in less serious moments. Heaping scorn is fun, but there will be time for that later. We've got the whole rest of our lives to do that. There are bigger issues than the midterm elections, or even who's in the White House next.

The situation in Iraq may be degenerating into a civil war situation, a war which, if it happens, might take millions of lives, a war that might shape events all over the world for the worse, for decades.

One reason I opposed a military intervention against that despicable regime in Iraq was that, under the constraints at the time, I feared the result might end up being a lot worse than other, more gradualist options. Those fears seem increasingly justified. And those fears don't have a lot to do with anguish over prices at the pump -- I take it as a given that any serious effort to combat global warming will mean higher prices at the pump eventually (just as I take it as a given that we have to avoid oil-shock price levels in the interim.) Nor do those fears have much to do with a military casualty rate that I believe might still be within single-digit multiples of the lethal accident rate for our armed forces in peacetime. If the worst comes to pass, there will be orders of magnitude more death. As if "it's all about us, tooling safely (and cheaply!) around in our cars, here in America" were ever a ramp to the moral high ground!

The Bush White House might not happily or willingly do what a unified Congress might force them to do. But that Congress might be made force the issues, sooner than the 2006 elections. Juan Cole's suggestions were directed toward Congress, not toward the Democrats. Direct appeals to the people? Watch out for what you wish for -- you might get it. Both the Bush White House and Al Qaeda strategically played on a known weakness of democracy: if you choose your moment and move fast, you can opportunistically leverage mass hysteria. You can get all the knees jerking your way. Why emulate this evil?

Our democracy has an institution called Congress. That institution blows around in the wind of poll results, letters, telegrams, lobbyist special pleading, campaign contributions, and the latest tempest-in-a-teapot scandal. But it has also got its own opinion leaders who can quietly persuade each other across the aisle. Many of those leaders are influential because they have some integrity. Those leaders are the tentpoles of an institution that very much embodies the America that Churchill was talking about when he said that America can generally be counted on to do the right thing, once all other options have been exhausted. Well, we're running out of options here. The few remaining, as time runs out, should be evaluated as objectively as possible, but also in as principled a manner as possible.

Getting partisanly positional is the height of pettiness in such circumstances. If gaining political capital can be considered a kind of profit, it's war profiteering. Gain your party the majority vote, gain the House, gain the Senate, gain it the highest office in the most powerful country on Earth ... well, yes, thanks, Supreme Political Strategist, but the question will cry out to be answered: where is your soul? Remember: once it's gone, you will no longer have what it takes to miss it.

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