Saturday, September 09, 2006

More of the Same

This week saw BushCheney proposing new procedures for trying enemy combatants. Recall that the Supreme Court struck down a previous set of procedures. The new proposals attempt to address the Court’s objections.

Except they don’t. In fact, the new proposals are little different from the old ones as reported by both National Public Radio and the Washington Post. Particularly egregious is the proposal that would prevent defendants from confronting evidence used against them.
This provision and allowing evidence obtained through torture particularly disturb the Judge Advocates General of the military services.

Perhaps most telling is an exchange in the audio report from NPR. When asked by a member of the House Armed Services Committee if such procedures would be acceptable to the administration if used to try American soldiers by another country, Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury replied in the negative. Apparently the United States is exceptional in this regard as far as this adminstration is concerned.

So here we have an Executive asserting powers that voilate one of the most basic American legal rights and insisting that Congress enact its proposal on the double quick. It seems dubious to me. But don't just take my word for it. Two articles in Slate also raise questions about the proposals. Dahlia Lithwick calls for a discussion of the cost to liberty and the benefits of such proposals. Emily Bazelon examines the restrictions on habeas corpus contained BushCheney is asking for.

None of this bodes well for either civil liberty or security.

"Old News"

Yesterday’s release of intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaeda brought a dismissive response from the administration. Yesterday’s release of intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaeda brought a dismissive response from the administration. White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the findings as old news. "If we have people who want to re-litigate that, that's fine,” he said.

In other words, there’s nothing here folks, move on. Certainly it’s in BushCheney’s interest to dissuade Americans from thinking how we got into the Iraqi quagmire but it’s not in the nation’s interest, especially as the administration ramps up the campaign against Iran.

How we got into Iraq is in no way old news. Every day that decision costs America two more dead, seven more wounded and about $250 million dollars. It spawns anger and hatred against America that will motivate terrorists for generations.

I can see why BushCheney would rather that we not think about it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Controlling the Debate

Political debate in America these days is more like dueling talking points. We seem not so much to be discussing ideas as bludgeoning the other side with them. I, of course, am the exception, willing to listen to opinions and ideas different from my own and to use that information to clarify my own thinking. Of course I am!

In that spirit, I will point out that I agree with BushCheney that America is at risk from terrorists. I’ve said this before which means that I accept the notion that the United States must protect itself, its allies and its interests from those who would do us harm. This is pretty basic, it’s in the Preamble to the Constitution.

So I will listen when BushCheney discusses his foreign and military policies. I want to understand the thinking behind those policies and how they will contribute to the common defense and promote the general welfare. Tuesday’s speech to the Military Officers Association of America described Osama Bin Laden as the modern equivalent of Vladimir Lenin and Adolph Hitler, a totalitarian threat that demands a vigorous response in order to protect America. For that reason, BushCheney says that Iraq is not a distraction from the War on Terror but rather a central front.

His words conjure up a an enduring threat to America. I won’t disagree. Osama Bin Laden and his ilk have made no secret about their hostility toward the US and its allies in the world, including numerous Muslim states that he believes are insufficiently fundamental and/or US lackeys. But I differ with BushCheney on the nature of this threat and the best means for combating it. Readers of this weblog should know by now that I consider main force military action to be one of the least effective strategies for combating terrorists. So I take issue with BushCheney on the Iraq War as the central front in the war on terrorism. Although some similarity may exist between Islamic fundamentalists and 20th century totalitarian ideologies such as communism or fascism, the fact of the matter is that today’s terrorists lack the resources and organization to threaten the US in anywhere near the fashion of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.

No, the threat posed by al Qaeda and its fellow terrorists is far more subtle. Osama Bin Laden articulated his strategy in 2004 when he said his plan was to bleed America into bancruptcy.

"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations."

Bin Laden’s model is the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980's, where a determined resistance wore down the Soviets' will and drained their resources. So, yeah, he is a threat but not one likely to be deterred militarily in any way other than well-planned, specifi operations. In fact, large-scale military action is exactly what he is seeking. He wants the US to deploy forces around the world, to spend vast sums to suppress small scale actions. Mind you, some of these actions can be terribly destructive. The 9-11 attacks killed around 3,000 people and had significant economic impact at a relatively small cost–$400,000 to 500,000–to the attackers, according to the 9-11 Commission. But the terrorists work on the cheap and we respond in the hundreds of millions. Following that logic, it’s not hard to wonder about the sustainability of our current policy.

BushCheney is trying once again to recast his war of choice in Iraq as part of a larger war on terror. That was clearly evident in Tuesday’s speech and the one he gave Wednesday. He wants to continue massive military spending, domestic spying and limiting Constitutional liberties, claiming that these actions will make America “safe”. He may have some success but America may be the loser in the long run.


Katha Pollit at The Nation has an even better take on BushCheney’s latest attempt to sell the Iraq War: control the language, control the debate. It’s that simple.

Unhappy Beaver

Dave at The Galloping Beaver has some unkind words for US air support that killed and wounded Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.