John Quiggen explains.
Today, President Bush announced his opposition to a new congressional resolution labeling the Ottoman massacres of Armenians a “genocide.” Between 1915 and 1923, as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks. From Bush’s press briefing today:
I urge members to oppose the Armenian genocide resolution now being considered by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915. This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.
But when Bush was running for president in 2000, he wrote a letter to the Armenian National Committee affirming that the Armenians were “subjected to a genocidal campaign.” He promised that if “elected president,” he would make sure that the United States “properly recognizes” the tragedy. From his letter:
The twentieth century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide. History records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime in a century of bloody crimes against humanity. If elected President, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.
Iraq war politics may be part of the reason Bush is now opposing the resolution. In the White House briefing today, spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “[W]e have 160,000 of our troops in harm’s way in Iraq, and Turkey has been a very valuable ally, and their strong reaction — negative reaction about this resolution is what caused the president to come out today and ask members of Congress to oppose it.”
Turkey’s government is currently considering “a cross-border military operation to chase separatist Kurdish rebels who operate from bases in northern Iraq.” The Bush administration is pressuring Turkey’s parliament to oppose the move, which “could open a new war front in the most stable part of Iraq.”
Perino noted that Bush instead prefers to issue a “presidential message” each year to commemorate the tragedy.
In 20-14 vote today, the House Judiciary Committee passed the RESTORE Act, which seeks to update the hastily-passed Protect America Act and restore a balance between civil liberties and security. Upon the passage of the bill, Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) said in a statement that the bill gives “the Director of National Intelligence everything he said he needed” while still protecting the “vital rights of Americans“:
Those who oppose this bill are doing so for one reason: they are trying to convince Americans that those of us who support this legislation are somehow less committed to protecting this country from attack. They will pretend this bill doesn’t meet our nation’s security needs, despite the fact that it gives the Director of National Intelligence everything he said he needed.
“Americans are willing to make sacrifices to meet true national security imperatives, but they should not give up their rights unnecessarily, just to allow one political party to score points. This bill–the RESTORE Act–successfully provides the national security tools needed to go after terrorists and protects vital rights of Americans. The bill’s opponents know this but find it more convenient to pretend otherwise.
An amendment offered by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), which would have given immunity to telecoms, was defeated 14-21.
Like a lot of liberals, I find Mike Huckabee to be an intriguing figure. He seems, from his rhetoric, like an interesting politician; the kind of guy who would like to give the notion of “compassionate conservatism” a real try — very traditionalist positions on “cultural” issues, combined with a dose of pragmatism on the economic front and some effort at showing a real concern for the least among us. A kind of right-populism, perhaps, but with less of the hard-edged anger and racial demagoguery that suggests. The trouble is that, as Ed Kilgore points out, Huckabee doesn’t really bring the beef. He “likes to talk about economic inequality” but his only proposal in this area is “a highly regressive national sales tax.”
Similarly, during the debate he got a question about unions and delivered a reply about how a revival of interest in unionism was a natural response to runaway inequality. But he didn’t really say whether or not he thought that was a good thing and people should join unions. He noted that Arkansas is a right to work state, and appeared to endorse hard-right anti-union orthodoxy to the effect that it would be good to take such policies nationwide. Certainly he didn’t come out in favor of pro-unionization measures like EFCA.
I’m with Beutler and DeLong that raising CAFE standards would be better than not raising CAFE standards because it would be better to have higher gas taxes, and then not having higher gas taxes either because it’s too unpopular, but I don’t think CAFE fans should go as far as Brian does in obscuring CAFE’s limits as a policy option. It’s true that driving habits aren’t incredibly responsive to short-term changes in the price of gas, but they’re not completely inelastic and their may well be more long-term sensitivity.
CAFE, meanwhile, relies entirely on the fuel efficiency lever as a means of reducing gasoline consumption even though the total amount of driving is clearly an important determinant of how much gas gets used.
Most of all, though, gasoline taxes, apart from their impact on carbon emissions (and emissions of other things), raise revenue which is useful in a number of ways. I feel like something green types tend to overlook when citing political feasibility as the reason for preferring certain kinds of regulatory measures to tax-oriented ones is that from the point of view of progressive politics more broadly the politically difficult task of raising taxes just can’t be postponed forever. Raising the gasoline tax would be politically difficult. But so would instituting a VAT. And so would an across the board income tax rate increase. And so would everything else. Just getting the Bush tax cuts to expire will be a non-trivially difficult task, but implementing progressive priorities on health care, education, etc. will require even more revenue than their cancellation would raise.
It seems to me that there’s a case to be made for going bigger — for taking on a task that, while more politically difficult, also helps a broader coalition of people accomplish their goals.
(NB: needless to say, higher gas taxes and tighter CAFE standards aren’t mutually exclusive policy options)
Five years ago today, the House of Representatives voted to authorize the military force against Iraq. At 3:05 pm on Oct. 10, 2002, the House registered a 296-133 vote in approval of Bush’s request. Bush immediately hailed the vote: “I would like to thank the members of the House of Representatives, just as I thanked Speaker Hastert and Leader Gephardt a few minutes ago, for the very strong bipartisan vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq if it becomes necessary.” Here is the list of 133 House members who courageously voted no:
Agricultural subsidy reform seems high on the list of things that aren’t going to happen, but this is a pretty cool ad from Oxfam America:
One doubt’s it’ll make a difference, but here’s hoping.
On the anniversary of the vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq, John Edwards releases a statement laying out some of what he thinks he’s learned from his mistake and going after Hillary Clinton on Iraq and Iran on someone who hasn’t learned the right things. Statement below the fold:
The Tulsa World reports today that Col. Robert P. “Powl” Smith, the chief of operations for the Standing Joint Force Headquarters, U.S. Northern Command, spoke in Tulsa, Oklahoma, yesterday about the Iraq war, advocating that the American public follow the President and stay in Iraq. “We’re there. We’re in the fight, and it’s one we can’t afford to lose. We can’t let the patient die,” Smith said.
While Smith — an active duty soldier — is certainly entitled to his opinions on the war, his choice of venue raises some concerns. Yesterday, he spoke at multiple events sponsored by the Tulsa County Republican Party:
Col. Robert P. “Powl” Smith, a Tulsa native, Iraq veteran and brother of former state Rep. Hopper Smith, will speak twice Tuesday about Iraq and the war on terrorism.
Smith will address the Tulsa County Republican Women at 11:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Select.
Smith will address the Tulsa Republican Assembly at 6 p.m. at Johnnie’s Charcoal Grill.
In September 2004, just before a major election and while serving in Baghdad, Smith wrote in the Weekly Standard that “we cannot now afford” to leave Iraq. Four weeks before the election, he penned another Weekly Standard column, arguing “the violence in Iraq has a purpose: to influence America’s presidential election“:
In the same way that al Qaeda changed the outcome of the Spanish elections last March with a single catastrophic bombing in Madrid, the enemies of a free Iraq are increasing the tempo of attacks in order to feed the media, and therefore the American people, a steady diet of blood and carnage in order to convince us that “it just isn’t worth it.”
Smith’s writing resembles that of Gen. Petraeus, who also penned an op-ed before the 2004 election that pushed a pro-war message. The case of Col. Smith begs the question: How many military officials are discreetly acting as partisan PR flacks for the Iraq war?
Paul Schroeder’s article on why we need to leave Iraq takes an annoying detrour through Habsburg policy in Italy in the mid-nineteenth century before returning to its extremely valuable point:
Why should retreat, indirection, and self-restraint help the U.S. concretely in the Middle East now? First, basic conditions favor it. It is clear that the potential dangers from the spread of war, ethnic-religious conflict, and terrorism beyond Iraq menace its neighbors and adjacent regions more directly and dangerously than they do the United States. While Iran now enjoys more security from and influence in Iraq than before, thanks to the American invasion, it would be seriously endangered by all-out civil war in Iraq, with the Shi’ites appealing to Iran for help and the Sunnis calling on other Sunni states and the U.S. to help stop them. Turkey has a similar problem with regard to the Kurds, shared to a degree by Iran and Syria. The immediate dangers of wider unrest and Islamic radicalism for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the U.A.E., Lebanon, and Jordan need no discussion. Even Israel and Egypt are menaced, along with the wider Arab and Muslim worlds and Europe. The very dangers that Bush and Co. claim require the U.S. to stay in Iraq could, if used wisely, pave the way for getting out and inducing others to help fight them.
Why should one suppose that they will? Because it is in their interest to do so and because, unlike Americans, they possess both the cultural links, ties, and skills to be effective at it and legitimate standing and authorization for intervening. A major reason that America’s appeals to other states in the region to do more to help fight terrorism and pacify Iraq have been ineffective is that the overwhelmingly unpopular American military presence in Iraq negates them. Any actions taken under U.S. control automatically become illegitimate in the eyes of the Arab street and many governments.
Right. As you can see from the fact that the United States invaded Iraq, it’s certainly possible for countries to decide to act in an utterly atavistic way that’s completely contrary to their national interests. Nevertheless, it’s noteworthy that the more dire gloom-and-doom scenarios for an American departure from Iraq seem to assume that this is what will happen — even though every single one of Iraq’s neighbors has an interest in Iraq being stable and, failing that, has an interest in containing the chaos, we’re supposed to believe that they would all act incredibly irresponsibly and disaster would strike. But while that could happen (anything’s possible) there’s no reason to regard it as likely.
For a lot of the proponents (and yes this includes Democrats, too) of perpetual military engagement in Iraq, I think the real risk isn’t that there will be a regional conflagration but that there won’t be one, and that this will damage their notions of America as the “indispensable nation.” Meanwhile, neither Syria nor Iran can very well afford to play a constructive role in Iraq as long as US policy continues to be to try to use Iraq as a lever for toppling the regimes in Damascus and Iran.