Spencer Ackerman reports that intelligence experts are worried about retaliatory Hezbollah strikes against American targets in the wake of the mysterious car bomb killing of Imad Mugniyeh, a longtime Hezbollah operative responsible for the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon. At the same time, it remains totally unclear who actually killed the guy.
I try to keep a very light hand with the comments section on this blog, but if I see folks (and, yes, SLC, this means you) persisting in using the term “raghead” or other ethnic slurs I may need to do something about it. Please knock it off.
In a letter released today, the Senate Ethics Committee “publicly admonished” Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) for “attempting to use his public office to get out of his arrest last summer in a Minneapolis airport restroom sting.” The letter, which was signed by all six members of the panel, “also criticized Craig for attempting to withdraw his guilty plea.”
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a criminal contempt resolution today against White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, who were subpoenaed in the U.S. attorney scandal, but refused to comply. Conyers also filed a resolution for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to file a civil suit against the White House. Read the resolutions here.
On Monday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said a “pause” in withdrawals in Iraq “makes sense” to him. Disagreeing with Gates, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said, “I believe phasing out and making it a continuous but slow withdrawal is better than pausing, as it gives continuity to the process.” Rubaie hopes the U.S. force would be “less than 100,000 by the end of this year” but adds that Iraq would still need “some sort of help.”
It seems John McCain just voted against a bill that would have banned waterboarding. Straight talk you can use!
Today, the Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill to the floor, which contained a provision from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) establishing one interrogation standard across the government. The bill requires the intelligence community to abide by the same standards as articulated in the Army Field Manual and bans waterboarding.
Earlier today, ThinkProgress noted that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a former prisoner of war, has spoken strongly in favor of implementing the Army Field Manual standard. When confronted today with the decision of whether to stick with his conscience or cave to the right wing, McCain chose to ditch his principles and instead vote to preserve waterboarding:
Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war, has consistently voiced opposition to waterboarding and other methods that critics say is a form torture. But the Republicans, confident of a White House veto, did not mount the challenge. Mr. McCain voted “no” on Wednesday afternoon.
The New York Times Times notes that “the White House has long said Mr. Bush will veto the bill, saying it ‘would prevent the president from taking the lawful actions necessary to protect Americans from attack in wartime.’”
After Bush vetoes the bill, McCain will again be confronted with a vote to either stand with President Bush or stand against torture. He indicated with his vote today where he will come down on that issue.
John McCain: He was against waterboarding before he was for it.
Spencer Ackerman offered a gentle critique of his friend George Packer’s essay on Iraq in the premiere issue of the new World Affairs journal. I’d go a bit further — I think this very much represents the worst of Packer’s writing on Iraq rather than the best. It opens with some striking on-the-ground reporting from Iraq, then shifts to a discussion of how un-visceral these events are to most Americans, who are far more distanced from the conflict than we were from Vietnam and earlier wars. Eventually, though, it shifts into a kind of lame plea for open-mindedness:
So the lines were drawn from the start. To the pro-war side, criticism was animated by partisanship and defeatism, if not treason. This view, amplified on cable news, talk radio, and right-wing blogs, was tacitly encouraged by the White House. It kept a disastrous defense secretary in office long after it was obvious that he was losing the war, ensured that no senior officer was held accountable for military setbacks, and contributed to the repetition of disastrous errors by the war’s political architects. Meanwhile, the fact that the best and brightest Iraqis were being slaughtered by a ruthless insurgency never aroused much interest or sympathy among the war’s opponents. The kind of people who would ordinarily inspire solidarity campaigns among Western progressives—trade unionists, journalists, human rights advocates, women’s rights activists, independent politicians, doctors, professors—were being systematically exterminated. But since the war shouldn’t have been fought in the first place, what began badly must also end badly.
Note that even in Packer’s somewhat tendentious accounting, there’s no actual parallelism here. War supporters, invested in the idea that they were right when they were, in fact, wrong blinded themselves to actual developments on the ground in Iraq. War opponents were, by contrast, what? It’s hard to say. Not blinded by denial that terrible things were happening in Iraq. But, I guess, not affected by these terrible happenings in the way Packer thinks would have been appropriate? Insufficiently surprised that a war they’d always regarded as ill-advised turned out to be ill-advised? It’s not clear.
As we go deeper, this continues to be the pattern. Packer sees a very schematic United States of America. One where “Pro-war journalists and bloggers deride the piece as fraudulent and anti-military” even before evidence is in on the Scott Beauchamp case. Similarly, when “two center-left think tank analysts return from a trip to Iraq and declare in an op-ed that the surge has produced military successes” the response is that “by the next morning, anti-war journalists and bloggers are in full cry, deriding the piece as credulous, dishonest, and self-serving.” This did happen, but it’s curious that Packer doesn’t name the think tank analysts. Well, their names are “Kenneth Pollack” and “Michael O’Hanlon.” And whatever else one might say about Pollack and O’Hanlon, it’s certainly not the case that left of center people have been blindly ignoring their views throughout the course of the Iraq debate. Quite the reverse — Pollack’s The Threatening Storm was hugely influential and O’Hanlon was, for years, one of the most prominent national security analysts in America.
Similarly, given Packer’s dystopian vision of American discourse, it’s hard to understand how Packer’s book, The Assassin’s Gate, sold so many copies and attracted such wide praise or how Packer came to have a job with the most prestigious magazine in the country — a magazine which published a lot of basically pro-war material in 2002 and 2003 and went on to vociferously denounce George W. Bush in 2004.
The reality is that the American political debate from 9/11/01 to today has been enormously complex. A once-popular war has become highly unpopular. A great many people, myself included, have not only changed our minds about the war but changed our minds about a larger set of concerns. The market for the sort of serious, thoughtful reporting and analysis Packer has brought us from the region has actually been very large. People from differing political perspectives came together to contribute essays to a new journal called World Affairs. Howard Dean rose and fell then kinda sorta rose again to become DNC Chair. Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic nomination, but secured election as an Independent. The distance between America and Iraq that Packer writes about is real enough, and it’s quite true that the war exists as a kind of abstraction — a faint presence. But the dumb and indifferent public senselessly processing information through fixed partisan blinders just isn’t there — the country wasn’t evenly split on the war in the summer of 2003, and it’s not evenly split today, either; a lot of debate has happened and a lot of people have changed their minds. Indeed, that changing of minds has in many ways been the central fact of American politics in recent years.
The AP reports that the “Senate has joined the House in voting to prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods,” approving legislation that would bring the CIA’s interrogation methods in line with the Army Field Manual.
I don’t think this Jason Kidd trade is a very smart move for Dallas. Kidd is still a better point guard than Harris, but at this point in their careers the margin doesn’t justify giving up so much additional stuff in order to get him. In particular, when you swap Kidd for Harris you’re getting better rebounding and defense in exchange for worse shooting. That’s fair enough, but the other players Dallas is sending to the Garden State are going to cost them defense and rebounding. On top of that, trading young for old and giving away picks and expiring contracts in the process hurts your team’s future.
Basically, like Phoenix, Dallas seems to be responding with panic to the Lakers’ acquisition of Pau Gasol. But just because a conference rival improves doesn’t mean that a trade that didn’t make sense a month ago suddenly does make sense today. If Andrew Bynum returns healthy, then the Lakers will be a very difficult team to beat. There’s nothing written into the fabric of the universe that guarantees there are any possible trades San Antonio or Dallas or Phoenix can make to become better than LA. Oftentimes, teams become very good because other teams agree to make stupid trades with them — that’s what happened with Boston, and that’s what happened with LA. Teams in that situation can only hope that some other team wants to come along and make a one-sided desperation deal. But instead of waiting cautiously and hoping for a sweetheart deal, Phoenix and now Dallas are making panicky moves.
It seems to me, though, that the one thing you never want to do in the NBA personnel market is put yourself in a position where you feel like you “have” to do something. You “have” to move Kevin Garnett, so you accept cents on the dollar. You “have” to sign a big-ticket free agent so you give Larry Hughes a huge deal. You “have” to respond to recent big trades, so you give away draft picks and depth in exchange for a smallish upgrade at the point.