Sunday, April 29, 2007


Tenet interview at Time

[This is a slightly altered version of a comment currently pending at Swampland. I'll resubmit it in a bit, because their tech guys haven't distinguished themselves.]

This guy will get the Robert McNamera treatment by history.

So NOW he writes a book, NOW he describes the pathology of the White House's decisionmaking process (see James Fallows at the Atlantic on how we've long known that there was no discussion about whether to go to war).

Tenet was worse than merely spineless when this all happened for real, back when he could have done something about it. He was a willing participant in the deception. He sold the Agency out to get to be part of the in-crowd.

God only knows why, by the way. Is there something about President Bush's personal magnetism that doesn't translate over the TV? Would we, too, go weak in the knees like Tenet did when Bush called him "Mr. Intelligency" or whatever the hell happened? And where was the media? Where was the opposition party? Why did everyone roll over?

The bit in that interview about how "Intelligence does not absolve policymakers of responsibility to ask tough questions," is disgusting. You're a friggin' grown-up, George. You were the Director of the goddamn CIA. PUSH BACK IF THEY'RE DOING SOMETHING COMPLETLY UNTETHERED! "Yessir, Mr. President, there are WMD there! Or at least, we can make a slam-dunk case on TV! Who'll know the difference?"

That there was contant pressure on the CIA analysts, on the WMD issue, and that Tenet sold them out, has been publically available knowledge for about four years, at least.

I remember reading that TNR article about the pressure on the CIA-- as a war supporter in 2003-- and just thinking, "my God, this is going to be everywhere." Just like I felt about the Boston Globe article breaking the news in 2000 that then-Gov. Bush had gone AWOL from the National Guard.

I was wrong both times. I still don't understand fully what the media's been up to all this time.

[Edited: slight rewording, typo-fixing, deleted the note at the end of the Swampland comment intended for the poster there]


Death Star

Andrew Sullivan sees Sen. McCain "again saying what he believes" by coming out against torture on today's Fox News Sunday.

It reminds me more of the final scene of Return of the Jedi, when Darth Vader's long-assaulted last vestige of humanity leads him to rise up against the Emperor.

Actually, come to think of it, that's giving him too much credit.

Given how McCain caved when it mattered in the torture debate, I think he views his nominal anti-torture stance, like his support for the war, as part of the McCain Brand. There's ample evidence that he's willing to lie and straddle when it comes to these issues; this is merely a continuation of his empty, duplicitous (but oh-so-courageous and straight-talking!) stand.

(Andy McCarthy takes a different view. Unmoved by a lack of evidence or experience, he constructs a fantasy world version of how torturers opreate and calls it "common sense" that torture works. A typically Republican outsized sense of self-love and self-involvement leads him, again typically, to disregard informed opinion from people who know anything about the issue at hand, in this case the military).


Can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding

Digby has a fine post, as usual, on the anti-reality delusionals that comprise a non-negligible number of GOP elected officials in Texas. It turns out, abortion and Jews are the result and cause of evolution and child abuse. Or something, I can't quite grasp the subtlety of their logic. She goes on to critique the bizarre, infantilizing logic of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Carhart II, and a recent PR decision of pro-lifers to trumpet the regrets of some women who have had abortions.

But I want to focus on a phrase near the end of Digby's post, where she writes, "When Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton call abortion a tragedy in order to make common cause with these people they are bringing the day closer when women will be crawling out of back alleys gushing blood again."

This is both unfair and incorrect.

It's unfair, because it adopts the mentality common among conservative "love-it-or-leave-it" types that any concession to the imperfection of our side is morally treasonable. Yes, there are idiots who are pro-life; but it is not the case that a pro-choice politician pointing out that abortion isn't fun means adopting the worst arguments of the most delusional folks on the other side.

Digby's statement is incorrect because, while I think it's fair to say that more Americans consider themselves pro-choice than pro-life, this is a divisive issue, with feelings both genuine and insincere on both sides. (Though I think the insincerity on the "conception-to-birth only" pro-life side outweighs it on our side).

Here's some polling on the issue. According to a February WaPo poll, 43 percent of those surveyed believe abortion should be illegal in some or all cases (versus 55 percent on the other side). And the bulk of views are in the middle, with onle 16 and 12 percent favoring abortion always be legal or illegal, respectively.

A pro-choice politician, such as Sen. Clinton, articulating the belief that abortion is not the greatest thing that happens in a woman's life is a reasonable, honest way to reach out to those many people in the middle.

[some typos fixed]

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Sectarian Conflict in Iraq: Inevitable?

A point I've made elsewhere, but wanted to recapture, came to mind on reading this terrific Daniel Larison post.

Larison continues to hold unaccountable, deceitful war supporters to account, in this case Christopher Hitchens for his unconscionable, blithe assertion that Iraq's sectarian conflict was inevitable. In Larison's counterargument, he highlights part of Riverbend's final post:

I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn’t know what our neighbors were- we didn’t care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

This description from Riverbend raises an important point about our culpability for the situation in Iraq today.

Imagine if we removed all civil authority from, say, Washington DC, or New York, or Cleveland.

I submit that race would rapidly become a much more salient issue in the minds of the city’s residents. When there is no civil authority, and crime becomes rampant, you turn to whatever you can to try to achieve some measure of security. And it’s not that hard for such a situation to spiral into an escalating series of reprisals, making tension among groups all the more intractable.

Of course, if this happened in the post-civil authority US, you’d be able to go back and point out that the US had always had racial tensions, and assert that this unpleasantness was all just their natural conclusion.

That would be false.

Not all social conflict, as Larison points out, escalates to its “natural conclusion,” i.e., an all-out bloodbath.

Of course there were fissures in Iraqi society– show me a society without any! Our failure to plan for the aftermath guaranteed that there would be chaos in Iraq. Chaos in Iraq, unsurprisingly, led to escalating tensions among ethnic groups.

The self-serving slander of Iraqis tossed about by some unrepentant war supporters, that Iraqis want, deserve, and were predetermined to live in the cauldron they endure today, must be challenged and refuted wherever it emerges.

As to what to do about it now that the genie of violence is out of the bottle, I would support a continued, open-ended US presence if it were preventing a civil war and hastening a political accommodation. There is scarce evidence, however, that either is the case.



Multiculturalism = cultural conservatism = bad

A Nigerian woman reported to have "married" four women last weekend in Kano State has denied the allegations. ...

Under Sharia law, adopted in the state seven years ago, homosexuality and same-sex marriages are outlawed and considered very serious offences. ...

For a married woman the offence would be considered adultery for which the punishment is death by stoning. A single woman would be caned.


The next six months will be a crucial period in the Iraq War

Andrew Sullivan writes this morning that "September is the moment that a critical part of the Congressional Republican party abandons this war."

But why?

We've been hearing all along that right now is the turning point, and we're either winning or about to be winning, from Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, GOP Congressional leaders and propaganda organs like the National Review, and formerly Tom Friedman.

In September, won't they all still be saying the same thing?

Someday, we can assume, the GOP will not be led by delusional, combative, expertise- and knowledge-averse philistines. But there's no evidence that that time will come in the next six months. I sure hope that Sullivan is right, but Boehner, McCain, Pence, Chambliss, et al., despite walking through the worst parts of town with hundred-dollar bills dangling out of their pockets, all seem to have avoided the mugging by reality that they so richly deserve.

Talkingpointsmemo's David Kurtz has a fine post on the Bush administration's "surge" being more like a "punt," a feint devoid of strategic meaning, designed to deposit this mess on the desk of the next president.


Could Rivera be done?

There's a 5 percent chance that Mariano Rivera is done as a useful reliever.

Last night, I'm told by a friend in the NY area, Al Leiter remained silent on Rivera as his partners in the booth tried to minimize what was going on (1/3 IP, 3H, 1 BB, 4 ER, failed to get out of the inning against Boston, at home). That's telling. Leiter is a good announcer, and knows something about pitching. Rivera is not intimidating anyone, and is throwing a very hittable cutter.

It's most likely that Rivera is still a very good closer this year, but more mortal.

The reason that there's a possibility that this is the end, though, is that he has been so dependent on one amazing pitch.

Ordinarily, a guy like Rivera, who's been very good and very tough for such a long time, is able to outthink hitters even as his stuff becomes less dominant-- think Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling. But if Rivera's cutter deserts him entirely-- which I don't think will be the case, not this abruptly-- then that could be it.

Meanwhile, rumors are, in the Post and the Times, that Torre's job might be in jeopardy if the Sox take another couple from the Yanks this weekend. So, there's some extra incentive to root, root, root for the good guys and get Torre fired.

Now, I've felt since seeing Beckett and Matsuzaka in spring training, and since they moved Papelbon to the pen, that the Sox are the favorites in the AL East this year.

That said, it's April. The Yankees are 8-13. They've overcome poor starts to win the division recently. Their pitching staff this season will never be great, but right now, it's really banged up. Neither of those things are Torre's fault.

The Yanks are the highest-scoring team in baseball. Once their pitching is somewhere near average-- which will happen-- gravity will reassert itself, and the Yankees will be a top AL team for the millionth year in a row under Torre.

Or, the Boss can hit the panic button, and make it that much more likely that the wheels will come off.


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