Eric Martin has some further context for the 2007 SCIRI rebranding, observing that the point of changing the name to ISCI wasn’t just to “de-revolutionize” the brand but specifically to re-Iranianize the party’s image. Of course, the same Iran-backed leadership who spent the Saddam years in exile in Teheran is still running the party. And, yes, this is the horse we’ve backed in Iraq and for some reason it’s considered very important that this particular gang of goons beat Muqtada al-Sadr’s rival goon squad.
Apparently much of John McCain’s language about how much he hates war was lifted from a 1996 speech by Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer. Interestingly, back in 1996 McCain didn’t love war nearly so much as he has for the past ten or so years. Since that time, though, no matter how much McCain may say he hates war, he also keeps advocating for things like a land invasion of Serbia, war with North Korea, war with Iraq, war with Iran, more troops for Iraq, a ratcheting-up of hostilities with Russia, etc.
UPDATE: And now it seems that perhaps Ziemer was plagiarizing from McCain, and McCain’s just been using this sort of language since 1995.
Last week, Vice President Cheney made notorious comments exemplifying his distance from the situation on the ground in both Iraq and the U.S. When asked about the sour public opinion on the war, he replied “So?” And when asked about 4,000 dead U.S. troops, he said, “The President carries the biggest burden, obviously.”
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is having none of it. In two interviews this week on NPR, Hagel ripped Cheney’s callousness towards the public and the troops on the ground.
Hagel told Dianne Rehm on Tuesday that the “So?” comment was not surprising considering Cheney’s “character”:
Well, I don’t think it was out of character for the Vice President. I have always believed that leaders should not be governed by polls, and obviously the vice president does and this president has noted that.
Yesterday, on NPR’s On Point, Hagel again went after Cheney, saying that his sense of Bush’s “burden” in the war is ironic coming from a Vietnam draft dodger:
There is a credibility gap here, at least a little bit, with the Vice President, as far as I’m concerned. Here’s a guy who got five deferments during the Vietnam War, said publicly that didn’t work into his plans.
Listen to audio of both interviews here:
The public agrees with Hagel. A recent World Public Opinion poll found that 81 percent of Americans believe that “when making ‘an important decision,’ government leaders ’should pay attention to public opinion polls; 94 percent want this done “in between elections.”
Cheney’s comments have met Hagel’s ire before. When Cheney said in January 2007 that “the biggest threat” in the Iraq war is the American public not having the “stomach for the fight,” Hagel said Cheney “underestimates the people of this country” and suggested that he tell families of the soldiers “that they don’t have the stomach.”
To echo Ezra Klein’s point, nothing about the fact that John McCain (allegedly) “hates war” should blind us to the fact that McCain loves advocating for the initiation of wars. McCain has a healthy understanding of what war means — healthier than my own or than George W. Bush’s — but also a radically unsound understanding of how international relations works. To most people, war is horrible but sometimes necessary. To McCain, war is horrible but frequently necessary. We do ourselves a disservice if we focus on McCain’s understanding of the horror of war to the exclusion of his belief in its frequent necessity. This was all well summed up by McCain in March of 1999:
A firmer response to North Korea might have triggered a war, a war we would win, but not without paying a terrible price. Moreover, refusing to help ease the deprivations in the North, and hastening the collapse of the regime might have also resulted in war as the North’s last desperate measure, or at least a very messy re-unification with the South. Instead, we have sustained North Korea long enough for it to develop missiles that might be capable of striking the United States, and allowed it to proceed with its program to develop nuclear warheads. North Korea is still inexorably nearing total collapse, and its leaders remain quite capable of launching in their country’s death throes one final, glorious war. But now, they are much, much — better armed.
His view was that Bill Clinton should have started a war with North Korea in 1994. Not because he doesn’t hate war (“not without paying a terrible price”) but because in his view, war with North Korea was inevitable so better sooner than later. Five additional years of non-war didn’t change his mind. Indeed, in January of 2003 he was accusing George W. Bush of being too soft on Pyongyang. And there’s every reason to believe that five years after that he still believes what he believed in 1994 — namely that we should engage in brinksmanship and quite possibly war with North Korea not reluctantly, but at the soonest possible opportunity.
But he hates war. Which is nice.
Just to clarify the nomenclature for anyone who’s confused, ISCI (i.e., the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) is the new SCIRI (i.e., the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) they rebranded themselves a little while ago as non-revolutionary, presumably because they’re basically running the show in Iraq.
C.J. Chivers has a crackerjack piece of investigative reporting in The New York Times running under the weirdly low-key headline “Supplier Under Scrutiny for Aging Afghan Arms”. The heart of the matter is that we’re trying to stand up some Afghanistan security forces who can maintain some reasonable level of security and order in that country, but “to arm the Afghan forces that it hopes will lead this fight, the American military has relied since early last year on a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur.” And this doesn’t turn out to be a heartwarming story where a fledgling company led by a 22 year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur do a bang-up job and we end the war. No.
On the contrary, “the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging . . . the ammunition comes from the aging stockpiles of the old Communist bloc, including stockpiles that the State Department and NATO have determined to be unreliable and obsolete . . . contractor has also worked with middlemen and a shell company on a federal list of entities suspected of illegal arms trafficking . . . tens of millions of the rifle and machine-gun cartridges were manufactured in China, making their procurement a possible violation of American law.” I won’t quote any more in the hopes that you’ll click through and let the Times internalize some of the rewards for their reporting, but suffice it to say that there’s even more scandalous stuff in there.
Just one more example of how dangerous it is to have the government led by people determined to prove that government is corrupt and incompetent.
U.S. Army photo by Col. Marin Lepper
Ah, Brookings, where a diverse and bipartisan group of war supporters can debate “The Future of Iraq and Afghanistan.” The 60-70 percent of the public who’s to the left of the Pollack/O’Hanlon axis will just need to stay quiet. There’s lots of good people at Brookings, but I think those people need to give some thought as to the direction the high-profile people working on Middle East issues are taking their brand.
Note that Brookings is by far the most cited think tank by the press, and by super-duper far the most-cited “left of center” think tank.
While Media Hails McCain’s Foreign Policy ‘Pivot’ From Bush, Lindsey Graham Says There’s No Difference
Responding to John McCain’s foreign policy address yesterday, the country’s three biggest newspapers appear to have accepted at face value McCain’s newfound commitment to international cooperation.
McCain, in Foreign Policy Talk, Turns His Back on Unilateralism
McCain Outlines Foreign Policy: In Speech, He Vows Collaborative Approach
McCain stresses cooperation in L.A. speech on foreign policy
Last night, in an interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), CNN host Campbell Brown claimed McCain’s world view was “very different” from President Bush on a lot of issues.
But even Graham wouldn’t go so far as Brown. When asked how McCain’s worldview differs from Bush’s, Graham offered that there was no difference. “I don’t think I can describe it different than a person,” he said. Watch it:
Here are a few recent McCain quotes that didn’t fit the press’s narrative and therefore didn’t make it into the stories: “I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.” “Make it a hundred [years in Iraq]…We’ve been in South Korea …That would be fine with me.” “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.”
Contrary to yesterday’s attempt to recast himself as a responsible multilateralist, John McCain has consistently defended the Bush Doctrine. He has surrounded himself with the same people who advocated that doctrine. His foreign policy approach has been called “more hawkish than Bush.” His record speaks for itself, and it’s a shame that America’s most popular newspapers would allow one speech to divert them from McCain’s career-long advocacy of militaristic foreign policy.
We should work to reduce nuclear arsenals all around the world, starting with our own. Forty years ago, the five declared nuclear powers came together in support of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and pledged to end the arms race and move toward nuclear disarmament. The time has come to renew that commitment. We do not need all the weapons currently in our arsenal. The United States should lead a global effort at nuclear disarmament consistent with our vital interests and the cause of peace.
Barack Obama and John Edwards earlier endorsed this same vision during the Democratic primary campaign. Hillary Clinton, somewhat distressingly, has never really managed to join Obama and Edwards in taking this important step. Instead, she offered up the idea that “Former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn have called on the United States to ‘rekindle the vision,’ shared by every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons” when, in fact, what they called for was what McCain and Obama and Edwards have all called for — namely a move toward universal disarmament.
Unfortunately for the country and the world, other aspects of McCain’s foreign policy make it very unlikely that he could realize this vision. The sort of confrontation McCain is envisioning with Russia, and his commitments to both national missile defense and unilateral preventive war as a tool of non-proliferation policy would almost certainly undercut this appealing aspect of his vision. See, for example, this critique from Heather Hurlburt and Rand Beers for the basic reality that McCain would be a dangerous, dangerous leader for the country.
National Archives photo of Operation Ivy courtesy of PING News
Josh Kurlantzick reports that the People’s Republic of China is using the olympic games as a pretext for a broad crack-down on various “enemies.” It’s always striking — and humbling — to look at the often-sorry fate of Chinese dissidents and minority groups and recall that for all the hubris of the U.S. domestic conversation about “democracy promotion” everyone knows that there’s really almost nothing useful we can do about human rights in China even as it’s clear that the internal Chinese situation is probably the single most important variable in looking at the future of democracy.
Baghdad security plan spokesman kidnapped from his home, most likely by the Mahdi Army. Must be another “by-product of the success of the surge”. Meanwhile, glad to see we’re launching airstrikes in the middle of a city in order to help one group of militias wrest power from another group of militias — makes me glad we’re taking our moral obligations in Iraq seriously.
Anthony Cordesman on the stakes in the current fighting, which he remarks “is as much a power struggle for control of the south, and the Shi’ite parts of Baghdad and the rest of the country, as an effort to establish central government authority and legitimate rule.”
The US teams we talked to also made it clear that these appointments by the central government had no real popular base. If local and provincial elections were held with open lists, it was likely that ISCI and Dawa would lose most elections because they are seen as having failed to bring development and government services.
Basically, we’re helping ISCI and Dawa use force in the south to lay the groundwork for them to hold onto power that they would otherwise lose at the ballot box. For more, check out this telling post at the counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama which starts out by saying “You know who was cool? The Jam. What a great band. You know who isn’t cool? JAM — Jaish al-Mahdi. Those guys pretty much suck.” But then by the end it says:
Why, some wonder, is the U.S. closer to the Iran-backed ISCI and Badr Brigades than it is with the Sadrites? Why does this make sense? Two Baghdad political veterans have ruefully pointed out to Abu Muqawama that while Sadr has more popular support, the ISCI crowd have something more valuable: they speak English. One former State Department veteran with whom Abu Muqawama spoke a few months ago pointed out that former Iraq honcho Meghan O’Sullivan was particularly vulnerable to falling under the sway of those politicians who didn’t just speak in that confusing gutteral language where they write from right to left in co-joined letters. Ergo: they speak English, so they must be our friends! Hoo-ray, democracy!
It’s always worth recalling that one major problem with U.S. efforts to micromanage political outcomes in foreign countries is that it tends to be way easier for Iraqi (or Pakistani, etc.) political actors to manipulate our leaders than it is for our leaders to manipulate political actors in foreign countries. Americans have more levers — more money, more guns, more power — but foreigners have a much better understanding of what’s happening.
Not only should the press stop saying John McCain called for Don Rumsfeld’s resignation when he made no such call, they might want to note that he specifically attacked those who were calling for a Rumsfeld resignation. Here he is in November of 2003:
AUDIENCE: My name is Sabah Elbardisi (sp) with Al Jazeera TV. Senator, Mr. Gephardt spoke on Sunday and said that Mr. Rumsfeld is not doing a good job, and he stopped short of calling for his resignation. He also said that the presidents cannot leave the responsibilities for their subordinates. Are you also calling for his resignation? Or what are you calling for?
McCain: No. I think there are certain things that happen with the elections; a president to select his team is certainly a part of that. I certainly would not advocate that.
This came in the context of a speech followed by Q&A in which McCain discussed problems in Iraq at length and didn’t mention sectarianism at all and, indeed, he seemed to be unaware of the existence of a Shiite-Sunni split in Iraq.
UPDATE: “Attack” is too strong a word. The point, however, is that people were calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation, McCain was asked about those people, and McCain said those people were wrong. For McCain to turn around and characterize that as him calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation is highly dishonest.