President Bush’s approval rating, a new low, according to a Newsweek poll.
Jailed ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham has written a vitriolic “error-laden” letter to the journalists who exposed his crimes. “My first sin each night is the failure to forgive the [San Diego Union Tribune]. Not just coverage but the brutal two and three pages each week that has nearly destroyed me and my family,” he wrote. Notes TPMMuckraker’s Justin Rood: “I imagine the letter was difficult for the reporters to read — blinded, as they were, by the light glancing off the Pulitzer prizes they won by helping land Duke in jail.”
On October 7, 2001, following the attacks of September 11th, the United States, backed by allied forces from around the world, invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government and root out Al Qaeda. In today’s Washington Post, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld writes, “Within weeks of our launching combat operations, …the Taliban regime had been defeated, consigning yet another cruel regime to the dustbin of history.”
But today — exactly five years after the initial invasion — the Taliban has returned with a vengeance, the Afghan economy is in shambles, and reconstruction has faltered. What’s worse, Osama bin Laden, who directed the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan, and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who harbored him, remain at large. And, Afghan insurgents have imported tactics from the Iraq war, such as roadside bombs and suicide bombings.
Despite Afghanistan’s direct links to the attacks of September 11th, the Bush administration has continued its policy of benign neglect toward Afghanistan, instead directing essential resources and troops to the debacle in Iraq. We have seen what happens when Afghanistan is allowed to fail, and we cannot let it happen again. Getting Afghanistan right is critical to preventing it from becoming a safe haven once again for terrorists.
This past Thursday, NATO expanded its mission all over Afghanistan, taking over security for the eastern part of Afghanistan and assuming control over 12,000 U.S. troops. That’s an important step towards correcting the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. But the United States must remain committed to Afghanistan even as NATO increases its control over Afghanistan’s security. A couple of critical steps must be taken immediately:
– U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan should be doubled to 40,000 from the approximately 20,000 U.S. troops deployed there today. These troops should be sent from Iraq to Afghanistan under NATO leadership as reinforcements to complete the work left unfinished by the Bush administration.
– The United States must also conduct a more aggressive diplomatic campaign with Afghanistan and its neighbors, especially Pakistan, as well as lead an international effort in rebuilding Afghanistan.
We cannot afford to fail in Afghanistan again.
I went to see The Departed last night with a bunch of folks, and I have to say I’m almost embarassed by how much I liked it. Normally, I’d like to strongly recommend a quirky small film or maybe make a strident case on behalf of some apparent shock or geek-out over a comic book adaptation, but this movie star-laden major studio production from super-famous director Martin Scorsese is, well, really excellent. I have an extremely low tolerance for 150 minute films, but this one managed to move along nicely with the last portion of it flirting with being too much while ultimately justifying itself. Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and (especially) Mark Wahlberg all turn-in absolutely first-rate performances and various cops. Matt Damon’s limited acting abilities are very well-deployed to craft a creepy, affectless, soulless monster lurking beneath the skin of a good-looking nice guy.
William Monahan did a fantastic job of adapting Infernal Affairs in a way that brilliantly takes what’s really a very Hong Kong-style story and makes it utterly Boston. Genuinly hilarious moments emerge amidst a fundamentally deeply unfunny storyline. The only weakness that really impedes one’s enjoyment of the film is that Jack Nicholson really gets to be a bit too much at times, and the final shot of the film is shockingly groan-inducing. When you step back and think about it, I’m not sure the set-up really makes any sense, but it’s executed nicely in a way that prevents one from thinking too much about this.
Also, it features the Dropkick Murphys’ utterly awesome song, “I’m Shipping up to Boston”.
Marc Grinberg, Rachel Kleinfeld, and Matthew Spence from the Truman National Security Project take to the virtual pages of The Democratic Strategist to offer up their take on the politics of national security. Elements of what they say I agree with. Their suggested Iran messaging, however, is redolent of the I-want-to-pull-my-hair-out aspect of the “decent left”
If any issue should arouse the passion of Democrats, it is the spread of nuclear weapons to a radical Iranian government. Iran is a nation that stones women, publicly executes homosexuals, suppresses its minorities, and has violated the most basic human rights we fight for as Democrats. Allowing Iran to build a nuclear weapon would strengthen this government’s hand against their own people. And nuclear proliferation–which would spread from Iran to the rest of the region–poses the greatest human rights abuse of all: threatening to destroy millions of lives in a war or a nuclear accident.
This is, how shall I say it, um, “utterly vacuous.” It’s a message in support of, what, exactly? Bombs away? Messaging, obviously, is an important thing in the world. But it’s genuinely the case that before you think about the best message on some issue, you need to think a little bit about the policy. You’re trying to determine a message that sells the policy. Here, we seem to be simply trying to talk tough while not committing the speaker to anything in particular. But if you don’t think the United States should bomb Iran, than simply ramping up the level of Iran-related paranoia is a terrible idea; you’re only going to box yourself into an impossible political corner if the bombs drop. Alternatively, if you do support a bombs away policy, it would be better to just say so.
I like Heather Hurlburt’s ideas a lot better.
Laura Rozen has a great article about new superstar Iranian dissident Amir Abbas Fakhravar. He’s not the opposition figure with the most credibility or the most support inside Iran. He is, however, the one with the most neocon-friendly worldview:
Iran’s best-known dissident, journalist Akbar Ganji, rejected invitations to meet with administration officials on a recent U.S. visit, and asked instead to see the United Nations’ Kofi Annan and Noam Chomsky. “I advocate change of the regime in Iran,” Ganji told me in July. “But that regime must be changed by Iranians themselves.”
Enter Fakhravar, who is more inclined to say exactly what the hawks want to hear. He told me that Iran’s president wants to wipe Israel off the map, and that “any movement or any action whatsoever” by the United States would “help or enhance the people to rise up.” All the student movement in Iran needed to overthrow the regime, he said, was “a little bit of coordination, organization, and training.”
A virtual unknown both inside and outside Iran when he arrived in the United States in May, Fakhravar has in the months since then ascended to prominence at a dizzying clip. By midsummer he was rushing from testifying on Capitol Hill one moment to an Iran opposition gathering at the White House the next, meeting regularly with policymakers and influential advisers, chatting with the former Shah’s son on his cell phone, and generally being touted as the young, idealistic face of the movement to overthrow the mullahs.
According to Rozen, Fakhravar seems to be a bit of a grifter, a crook, and a flim-flam man which, of course, makes him a perfect match for his newfound buddies. In short, he’s the new Chalabi. Like Chalabi, there’s even some sign that he’s actually working with the Iranian security services.
North Korea says it plans to carry out a nuclear weapons test, and U.S. officials say the test may come “as early as this weekend.”
Last night, the U.N. Security Council issued a joint statement saying a nuclear test would “jeopardize peace, stability and security in the region and beyond” and “bring universal condemnation by the international community.”
It’s important to remember how we got here. Below, a basic timeline of the build-up of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. As the timeline clearly shows, virtually all of the growth of North Korea’s nuclear program has occured under conservative administrations known for their supposed “strength” on defense: Read more