Real Genius
Sunday, April 11, 2004
Meet the Press
Didn't Paul Bremer look like he's not getting much sleep lately?

He had a cute slip of tongue while talking about the driver who, despite having spent two years in prison during the Saddam regime, thinks Americans are worse than he. But because of my patriotism I'll refrain from... well, here it is; his reaction to the driver's comment, explained to him by Russert, was that it was great that he was able to freely express his ideas to a Western journalist.

He would've had his tongue cut out.

was what he'd originally wanted to say, but at the first take, something like this came out:

He would've had his cunt tug out.

Pardon the expression.

I know I'd said before that I was going to write more about it, but "Rice Sliced and Diced", as well as many other works out there make a very good job of analyzing the testimony. And by the way, I think you should all sign up for the progress reports of The Center for American Progress.

Ann Coulter
Wouldn't you know it... I had considered it a waste of time when Atrios had mentioned it, but I felt like I could spend those few minutes when I saw the Which Town Hall Pundit Are You? test again while catching up with Body and Soul. You can guess who I am now, can't you?

Friday, April 09, 2004
Attacked Us For Who We Are
Sorry... I'm sure the expression deserves a substantially more analytical response, but how can someone who is a "political scientist" (and not because they have an undergraduate degree from a pol-sci department but because they hold a PhD degree in the field) utter a sentence like this, even if their boss has a world view that has to dilute issues down to notions that are oversimplified in order for his capability to assess not to be "overheated" in the process of perception? Yes, I promised a more detailed "response", but I had no idea some things in her testimony would be so appalling. Still watching the rerun; Roemer is grilling right now.

Here's Your Interruption
Well, as bad a junkie as I am, it's clear to me that even when I'm most intensely focused on politics and events, I can and do allow other "thoughts" to rip through my psyche when they appear. It might be time that it's clear to you too:

The sight of her eyes makes my heart beat in ways that I would never imagine possible before. Watching her face makes me realize that I knew no true beauty until I tasted the exquisiteness of the lines and curves that make up hers. Hearing her voice quenches my soul of a thirst that drowns me in my loneliest hours, haunts me through my coldest nights. And one touch, one kiss, even just one breath of her flawless skin makes me surrender to sleep with the most soothing of contentments at night... and wakes me up in the morning to be the strongest man who ever lived; existing to conquer everything that's bad, to right everything that's wrong, and to change everything that's before us: For a better, brighter, more beautiful future - for us, and for the rest of the deserving world.

Iraq Accounts
The Guardian has a decent report on the latest status in Iraq. There's much in it that one could quote from, instead I'll suggest that you just go read the whole thing. Seriously.

And sorry for the sequence of posts that could've been compacted into a single one with somewhat better planning but I'm on a roll and do not want to interrupt my pace...

The Testimony on Thursday
I was at work and luckily able to listen to most of it thanks to C-SPAN and shall have more to say about it when I have more time (watching its after-midnight reruns on C-Span right now.), but for now, please take a look at the piece by Fred Kaplan who went to graduate school with Richard Clark, and oh yes, the lead editorial from tomorrow's New York Times. I would've also linked to the lead editorial of tomorrow's Pravda on the Potomac, but the appraisals at the intro have somehow turned me off on some of the truly good points that came later on in the piece. Also, William Saletan seems to have something promising, but given how frequently he's managed to piss me (and probably so many others among us) off in the recent past, I'd say read it at your own peril. It's 1:30, I still have some actual work to do, and I'm really tired, so I won't be able to get to it until, perhaps, Friday afternoon.

Uniter not a Divider
Billlmon had written beautifully on signs of this before, along with thorough, realistic viewpoints on the tactical issues underlying the matter. More news seems to be coming along those lines now:

When the United States invaded Iraq a year ago, one of its chief concerns was preventing a civil war between Shiite Muslims, who make up a majority in the country, and Sunni Muslims, who held all the power under Saddam Hussein.

Now the fear is that the growing uprising against the occupation is forging a new and previously unheard of level of cooperation between the two groups — and the common cause is killing Americans.

"We have orders from our leader to fight as one and to help the Sunnis," said Nimaa Fakir, a 27-year-old teacher and foot soldier in the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia. "We want to increase the fighting, increase the killing and drive the Americans out. To do this, we must combine forces."

This new Shiite-Sunni partnership was flourishing in Baghdad on Thursday. Convoys of pickup trucks with signature black Shiite flags flapping from their bumpers hauled sacks of grain, flour, sugar and rice into Sunni mosques.

The food donations were coming from Shiite families, in many cases from people with little to spare. And they were headed to the besieged residents of Falluja, a city that has now become the icon of the resistance, especially after the bombing on Wednesday of a mosque compound there.

"Sunni, Shia, that doesn't matter anymore," said Sabah Saddam, a 32-year-old government clerk who took the day off to drive one of the supply trucks. "These were artificial distinctions. The people in Falluja are starving. They are Iraqis and they need our help."

But it is not just relief aid that is flowing into the city.

According to several militia members, many Shiite fighters are streaming into Falluja to help Sunni insurgents repel a punishing assault by United States marines. Groups of young men with guns are taking buses from Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad to the outskirts of Falluja, and then slipping past checkpoints to join the action. "It's not easy to get in, but we have our ways," said Ahmed Jumar, a 25-year-old professional soccer player who also belongs to a Shiite militia. "Our different battles have turned into one fight, the fight against the Americans."

American leaders had been concerned that the rival sectarian groups would not find a common cause. Now, it seems, they have found a common enemy. "The danger is we believe there is a linkage that may be occurring at the very lowest levels between the Sunni and the Shia," Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the occupation forces, said on Thursday. "We have to work very hard to ensure that it remains at the tactical level."

I will also quote the last two paragraphs from this article in tomorrow's New York Times before I underline the one sentence that says it all:

Until last week, the Shiite groups had mostly sat out the resistance. Many Sunni fighters were loyal to Mr. Hussein. That alienated Shiites, who had been ruthlessly persecuted by the former Iraqi leader.

All that changed this week when Mr. Sadr activated his militia at the same time Falluja faced its biggest battle. Now, the two sides have joined. There were even reports on Thursday of armed men from Falluja escaping to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. Mr. Hussein is no longer mentioned. Fighting the infidels is.

And yes, here's what I'm sure you've all bitterly read and re-read:

Now, it seems, they have found a common enemy.

As "Cyrus the Damn Virus" would appreciate: "Nice work, Poe. Truly nice work."

Presidential Debates
I know with all the noise with the September 11 Commission and the catastrophy in Iraq it's been kind of hard for the Kerry campaign to voice anything that wasn't immediately drowned by the media. I do think, though, with good timing, Kerry should reiterate his call for monthly presidential debates, perhaps phrased as follows:

"I suggest that we hold monthly debates with the president on issues facing our country now and in the future. And if he's not totally comfortable with the idea, he can bring Mr. Cheney along too."

Sunday, April 04, 2004
Which NYT Columnist
I, too, took the test, thanks to Atrios, and I'm Dr. Krugman. Oh, and I think the answer choices for the question "What's your take on the war in Iraq?" are quite orthogonal. Don't you?

Separation of Powers
Why does everyone let them (Karen Hughes on Meet the Press, this time) get away with claiming, that Rice's testimony before the Commission has something to do with separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches, every time they do? Why?

Thursday's Testimony
Peter Bergen and Scott Armstrong are op-ed contributors in today's New York Times with a total of fifteen questions they suggest for the National Security Advisor. Check it out.

Tim Russert
Someone teach that fella the concept of a follow-up question.

Saturday, April 03, 2004
My Two Cents
Folks, amidst all the talk about what the administration was up to and what they were not on and before September 11, 2001, I thought I should remind everyone of some things that I just remembered today, thanks to Senator Biden's appearance on Air America Radio.

Both the legal and budgetary implications of the NMD (National Missile Defense) program were being debated in the months leading up to September 2001. Everyone can and will remember the budget talks, NMD funding, etc.

Does everyone also remember how eager the administration was in their plans for deployment in the coming years? Good.

Does everyone remember the ABM Treaty complications they were trying to take care of?

I didn't, until Google took me to a news article by the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers on the Council for a Livable World's website. And here, friends and foes, are a couple of remarks on the administration's NMD passion:

Sen. Joseph Biden (DE), Ranking Democrat, Foreign Relations Committee, May 1, 2001:

We should not head down the "Star Wars" road again. The fundamental question regarding a national missile defense system is whether it would make us more secure or less secure. We must decide if the investment of tens of billions of dollars in what the Pentagon thinks is the least likely threat to our security - an ICBM attack by another nation - is appropriate, or whether we should defend ourselves against the threat of terrorists, who have the ability, for example, to inflict devastating damage by placing a "dirty atom bomb" in the hull of a ship in New York harbor.

Sen. Dick Durbin, Select Intelligence Committee, May 2, 2001:

The Pentagon itself has said that a missile strike with a "return address" from a rogue state is among the least likely threats it faces. Worse, such a system could give us a false sense of security - our own Maginot Line - and be completely ineffective in countering threats that simply go around it - like the terrorist with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. It could be totally overwhelmed by intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) held by Russia.

Now fast forward to September 11...

I recall having a hard time trying to keep worried, e-mailing friends overseas up-to-date on what was transpiring here in DC on that fateful day, communicating with my mother on Yahoo Messenger and with my then-girlfriend in New York on MSN, who was filling me in on what was going on in Manhattan.

One of my first reactions was: "This was done [by the terrorists] as if to say to this administration: 'No matter what kind of shields you surround yourselves with, we will find a way to penetrate them and hurt you.' " (For all the idiots who want to misinterpret my self-quotation: I did not mean that al-Qaida attacked as a response to the NMD efforts or talks or that the plans for the attacks could have been conceived during that brief time period. Notice the "as if"? Sorry everyone else, I'm still adjusting the magnitude of my own Doctrine of Pre-emption.)

And then I found an e-mail --a forwarded article-- that I'd sent those friends as a little note about NMD, that made me think that perhaps that was why the NMD issue was so fresh in my mind. I called it their "NMD passion" a moment ago; on September 5, 2001, MoDo had called it His Magnificent Obsession:

It is hard to fathom most obsessions from the outside.

Why did Proust's Swann swoon over the sharp-featured Odette, when he knew he was wasting years of his life longing for a woman "who didn't even appeal to me"?

What made Aschenbach follow a blond boy in "Death in Venice" in such a state of distraction that "he could no longer think of anything except this ceaseless pursuit of the object that so inflamed him"?

Why did Humbert Humbert devour himself over the sulky "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul"?

Why did the otherwise cool Oscar Wilde wreck his life over the callow Lord Alfred Douglas so that, as he wrote in "De Profundis," "I became the spendthrift of my own genius"?

Why did the whale engender a "special lunacy" in Ahab that "stormed his general sanity, and carried it and turned all its concentrated cannon upon its own mad mark"?

And why can George W. Bush think of nothing but a missile shield? Our president is caught in the grip of an obsession worthy of literature.

W. seemed like a simple man, who did not get ardently aroused over anything except Little League, clearing Texas brush and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But it turns out that he is darker and more complex than we thought. He is seized by a desire that defies the laws of politics and physics, a hunger that fills him with elation and despair, a thirst for an attainment that seems so close and yet so far.

While we may not understand W.'s urgent, self-destructive craving for his ineffectual missile shield any better than we understand Scarlett's urgent, self-destructive craving for her ineffectual Ashley, we must stand in awe before the purity and grandeur of his obsession. He would rather risk the world being destroyed than slow his race to build something to protect it.

Consider the hurricane of global emotions that W. has whipped up to construct The Defense That Doesn't Work against The Threat That Doesn't Exist.

The White House has signaled China that it's O.K. to build up its nuclear arsenal if it makes China feel better about W.'s Junior Star Wars. And if this leads to China's improving its nuclear warheads and to a renewal of nuclear testing, well, the obsession can justify that. And if this leads to India's and Pakistan's accelerating an arms race, well, the obsession can justify that, too. And if American kids have to go back to duck-and-cover drills, well, same deal. And if W. squanders $60 billion that could have been spent on education on technology that doesn't work - because our sophisticated antimissile interceptors can't stop primitive, wobbly missiles from rogue nations, much less germ warfare from terrorists - ditto.

W. is now at a "Blue Angel" Lola Lola level of obsession, but instead of his blood running fast for Marlene Dietrich, it's running fast for a missile doily.

He has made the Europeans angry and alarmed. He has made Vladimir Putin and Jiang Zemin much closer, and Russia is once more playing the China card. He has driven Russia and Germany closer, a pairing that caused, as his father would say, "a splash" of trouble in the past. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are furious that W. wants to downsize the services and use that money for his missile shield. Colin Powell, who is in no rush to throw weapons into space, has been sidelined in favor of Rummy and Condi and others who feed W.'s ecstatic fantasy.

Because W. has restructured the entire international security system - reviving scary alliances and threats that had faded - we may end up needing a larger military, not a smaller one.

The last time a president became infatuated with Star Wars, the obsession was easier to understand. Ronald Reagan was by temperament a utopian. He believed that the unattainable was attainable. He confused real life with the movies.

But W. - whence his magnificent obsession?

I can only speculate that it's filial, stemming from his fear of repeating his father's fatal mistake of alienating the right wing.

As much as it is reassuring to see the usually disengaged president become so deeply engaged in an issue, the world might be a safer place if W. stuck with his other obsession: demanding that the White House mess offer up three kinds of jelly with its pb&j's.

What do you think? One more paragraph before I close for the night; this one from David Corn's The Dark Smoke, from the October 1, 2001 issue of the Nation. You may remember that plain but striking black-and-blue cover with the Twin Towers:

Do not be surprised if the national security establishment even tries to accelerate its push for Star Wars II before the debris is cleared. The event tragically demonstrated the limits of a national missile defense system. (And consider how much worse the day would have been had the evildoers smuggled a pound of uranium onto any of the hijacked flights.) But the loudest theme in American politics--perhaps the only audible theme--in the time ahead will be the quest for security. With those drums beating, the fans of national missile defense will continue to argue that this remains a dangerous world full of suicidal maniacs wishing the United States harm and that all steps must be taken as fast as possible.

Now pretty much everyone knows --or thinks-- they were only interested in toys that one can show off --no matter how unusable-- and not real work against terrorism, concededly because they just didn't think it was that important; and they will continue asserting that they did take it seriously and did real work and planning. Which leaves one burning question...

Why do they seem to have convinced everyone so solidly that NMD was all that they cared about?

Allocated funds, published articles, speeches... All point to one and only one obsession they had, which, um, wasn't exactly fighting terrorism.

Hence, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to suggest a new phrase that can hereinafter be used for their ambitious efforts which seem to be nowhere except in their recent claims: Faith-based Counterterrorism Initiative

Anyone with a better idea, or evidence that this idea is not new, please let me know.

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