Approximate number of Iraqi refugees the United States accepted in October, “well short of the Bush administration’s stated goal of 1,000 a month. … The figure also marks a decline from September, when 889 refugees were admitted.”
Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard blog steps up the rhetoric against “diploweenies” who don’t want to be conscripted for service in Iraq, adding a casual slander to the schoolyard-level insults:
Why would a professional diplomat care to engage the most urgent diplomatic challenge of the 21st century when he could instead be inflating the ego of some third world potentate while being feted as some kind of royalty? Besides, since Iraq lacks a functional government that’s hostile to American interests, “going native” isn’t even an option.
Thank God for the past seven years our policies have been driven by the manly-men of the Standard and not the treasonous goons at Foggy Bottom! Ignoring the advice of America’s foreign service professionals has, thus far, reaped massive benefits in terms of unprecedented international isolation. But it gets crazier as Barnett endorses a Duncan Hunter plan to really stick it to the diploweenies by pulling wounded soldiers out of their hospital beds to redeploy them to Iraq, but this time to conduct diplomatic missions they’re not trained for. That’ll show ‘em!
Meanwhile, previously-hyped-in-this-space congressional candidate Dan Grant (Texas-10) is a former diploweenie himself who served in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq before coming home to run for congress and is now airing his first ad:
I think I’d rather listen to him than to the Standard.
Last month, Trent Wisecup, the chief of staff for Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) made waves when he was caught on camera calling an anti-war activist “un-American” and “not a citizen.” Wisecup followed it up by suggesting that support for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was also “un-American.” Politico reports that Wisecup has now taken a paid leave of absence, which he started “about a week after the encounter” with the activist. Watch the encounter:
Whether Wisecup ever returns to Knollenberg’s staff “is up to him,” according to Knollenberg field rep. Steven Betz.
UPDATE: The Detroit News reports that Wisecup is “on paid medical leave to deal with a mood-swing disorder” and “he recently checked himself into Beaumont Hospital in Oakland after sending out ‘weird and flat out kooky’ e-mails.”
I’m all for attacking Rudy Giuliani’s approach to foreign policy, but I’m not sure I’m ready to join David Klinghoffer in the view that the problem with Giuliani is his failure to recognize that abortion and gay marriage are what’s going to let the terrorists destroy America:
In the run-up to this tragedy, was he out banging the drum for a tough anti-Babylonian stance, sponsoring a “Babylo-Fascist Awareness Week” a-la-David Horowitz? No. On the contrary, he was accused of treason by the war party among his fellow Jews. He warned that, in the context of Israel’s corrupt moral culture, it was useless to resist Babylon. [...]
If you are not a believer, it should still be possible to appreciate the accumulated wisdom of three thousand years as found in the pages of Scripture; men who faced outside enemies far more dangerous than Islamic terror, concluded that the real peril came from within.
I appreciate the effort to put a sense of perspective around the Islamoscaryboogiefascist menace, but this particular branch of the blame America first crowd doesn’t really make very much sense. I mean, surely there are more Godless countries out there than the United States; how come the Lord wasn’t inflicting his wrath on idolatrous Denmark?
During today’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Dana Perino brushed aside lawmakers’ concerns about Michael Mukasey’s views on torture, urging them to quickly confirm him as attorney general. “Once he is confirmed, then the Congress has the capability to ask him to come to Congress and to testify on all sorts of matters, including this one,” she said.
But this technique — confirm now, question later — immediately raised red flags with reporters, who pointed out that if Mukasey becomes attorney general, the Bush administration would likely block him from answering questions in the future as well:
MS. PERINO: While they were saying is — which Judge Mukasey has done, is to say, I will not be able to provide a legal opinion about any particular technique. He is not read into the programs. … And once he is confirmed, then the Congress has the capability to ask him to come to Congress and to testify on all sorts of matters, including this one. [...]
Q: Dana, a follow up on that. The McCain-Graham letter, on the assumption that Judge Mukasey is confirmed and is read into the program, your policy is still not to talk about specific methods, so he is, if he is confirmed, not going to be in a position to speak about waterboarding as being legal or not.
Perino dodged the reporter’s follow-up, replying that several lawmakers have “been briefed on the legal underpinnings and they have been briefed on the techniques. So Congress — the appropriate members of Congress have all the information that they need about these programs. They are safe, they are effective, they are tough, and they are legal.”
But in reality, the White House refuses to even define torture. In fact, key leaders in the House and Senate, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), say they have never been fully briefed on the administration’s interrogation policies.
The White House would prefer for Congress to confirm Mukasey now and question him later — if at all. But the Bush administration’s long history of secrecy suggests that, should Mukasey be confirmed, the Senate will be able to glean no more from this Attorney General than it could from the previous one.
(HT: Salon’s Tim Grieve)
Transcript: Read more
The good news is my relatives’ home in Rancho Santa Fe survived — though houses as close as two miles away did not. They were delayed in returning home, however, as their doctor said the air remained unhealthy to breathe.
Lots of articles about the climate-wildfire connection have now been written:
- “Fire on the Mountain: California Feels the Heat of Global Warming,” by the Center for American Progress’s Daniel J. Weiss
- “Global Warming didn’t light California’s Fires, but did fan the flames …“ by Adam Siegel
- “Did We Do That?” by Thomas Friedman.
- Heck even the Nobe-Prize winning IPCC makes the link — or rather made it earlier this year:
Tyler Cowen directs my attention to Chris Coynes’ new book After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy. The prognosis isn’t good:
What do the data indicate regarding the effectiveness of reconstruction as a means of achieving liberal democracy? In short, the historical record indicates that efforts to export liberal democracy at gunpoint are more likely to fail than succeed. Of the twenty-five reconstruction efforts, where five years have passed since the end of occupation, seven have achieved the stated benchmark, resulting in a 28 percent success rate. The rate of success stays the same for those cases where ten years have passed. For those efforts where at least fifteen years have passed, nine out of twenty-three have achieved the benchmark for success, resulting in a 39 percent success rate. Finally, of the twenty-two reconstruction efforts where twenty years have passed since the exit of occupiers eight have reached the benchmark, resulting in a 36 percent success rate.
It’s worth saying, of course, that you’re unlikely to ever find the United States actually invading other countries in order to turn them into democracies. Rather, it so happens to be the case that pretty much all of the good candidates for “enemy” status are dubiously democratic regimes, so that rhetorical invocation of democratic values becomes an attractive strategy. The poor record, in practice, of armed democratization is just a further reason to think that such rhetoric should be basically ignored. Sometimes situations may arise where using military force to topple a foreign government is the right thing to do (Germany during World War II and Afghanistan after 9/11 come to mind) and then I think we have an obligation to do our best to bequeath a decent new regime to the place we’ve conquered. But the prospects for success aren’t nearly good enough to make this the reason for launching a war.
Federal agents are currently “investigating allegations that the Blackwater USA security firm illegally exported dozens” of firearms sound suppressors — commonly known as silencers — “to Iraq and other countries for use by company operatives.” Experts who spoke to NBC News “say it is not clear why Blackwater guards would need them for missions such as personal protection of diplomats.” Blackwater is currently facing other investigations for murder, tax evasion and small arms smuggling.
Bush did have a pseudo-Christian Democratic policy agenda: It consisted of the faith-based initiatives, No Child Left Behind, the prescription drugs bill, and immigration reform. The first was small potatoes, but the rest weren’t small at all.
My rejoinder to this, as Ross anticipates, is that the prescription drug bill and the immigration reform proposal are really both just business conservatism dressed up as “compassion.” Ross says that’s “what you’d expect from an administration where both Gerson and Dick Cheney had the President’s ear,” but it’s also what I’d expect from an administration that just likes lying.
It really does all come down to NCLB, a policy that obviously has some low-partisan rationales in terms of dividing the Democratic coalition, but that also represents some meaningful dissent from the right’s typical voucher-mania in a reality-based way. In particular, NCLB is founded on recognition that absent some really unimaginable injection of new money the majority of kids — especially disadvantaged ones — are going to be in public schools, and also on the reality that plenty of “good” schools in the suburbs still manage to do a bad job of educating poor children. The proposition that NCLB actually helps achieve its goals on those measure is, needless to say, controversial in left-of-center circles (my view on this is more Robert Gordon than Richard Rothstein) but the whole idea of a policy debate over how to make public schools work better is a refreshing alternative to the usual contemporary dynamic where you have Republicans trying to destroy some public service.
Throughout this month, the administration has been touting a “trend” of decreasing violence in Iraq. The “violence is thankfully coming down,” said White House spokesperson Dana Perino on Oct. 18.
This morning, Gen. Raymond Odierno held a news briefing on the war in Iraq, declaring, “I believe we have achieved some momentum.” To bolster this claim, Odierno said he sees a downward trend in “civilian deaths”:
Iraqi civilian deaths have also declined in recent months. This has a great deal to do with the overall drop in violence but also has a lot to do with Iraqis coming together as a nation and not dividing along ethnic and sectarian lines. [...]
With the civilian populace feeling more secure and cooperating with both Iraqi security forces and coalition forces, this has been able to keep the enemy off balance and our casualty trends began to decline. It is a trend that we are absolutely committed to continuing.
But Iraqi government figures obtained today indicate that the administration may have spoken too soon:
The number of Iraqis killed in insurgent and sectarian attacks rose in October, according to government figures obtained on Thursday, in a blow to a nine-month-old US troop surge policy.
At least 887 Iraqis were killed last month, compared to 840 in September, according to the data compiled by the interior, defence and health ministries.
The rise in deaths in October illuminates how the administration is blindly pushing claims that it is gaining “momentum” in Iraq, ignoring the volatility that is still pervasive despite Bush’s “crackdown.”
The media have also accepted the administration’s talking points. Today, the LA Times alleged that the reduced violence since before the “surge” reflects “the tactical successes of this year’s U.S. troop buildup.”
But as Matt Yglesias observes, “the relevant goalposts aren’t the timing of declines in violence but the causal mechanism by which they occur. If violence is declining because local areas have already been ethnically cleansed, then the reduction…hardly shows that the US military deployment is accomplishing anything worthwhile.”