A Man with a Flashlight


Small war, big fear

Two former Reagan appointees notice an odd difference between today’s Permanent Emergency (popularly labeled the War on Terror) and World War Two and Vietnam:

To date in the war on terrorism, including the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and all U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s losses total about 2 percent of the forces we lost in World War II and less than 7 percent of those killed in Vietnam. Yet we did not find it necessary to compromise our honor or abandon our commitment to the rule of law to defeat Nazi Germany or imperial Japan, or to resist communist aggression in Indochina. On the contrary, in Vietnam — where we both proudly served twice — America voluntarily extended the protections of the full Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to Viet Cong guerrillas who, like al-Qaeda, did not even arguably qualify for such protections.

I have seen remarkably little discussion of how this happened. In fact I cannot, at the moment, recall reading a single explanation of why, after shouldering the bitter weight of World War Two with such aplomb, and maintaining our principles, if not our winning streak, in Vietnam – what caused us to lose our nerve now, and to condone such desperate, doomed solutions from our President?

Are we simply spoiled? Has sixty years of wealth and comfort made us so desperate to avoid a fight that we will give up honor, if only we can buy a little more time, and be saved from death?

That is Bush’s bargain: betray the principles of our fathers, and I will give you safety from death. Let those take it who will, but forgive me if I don’t have the stomach for it.



King of America watch
July 23, 2007, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Politics

Some people are beginning to notice that the constitution gives the power to wage war to congress not the president. And to ask why they might have done such a thing. Good quote:

The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It is no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended.

Are we approaching a constitutional crisis that will make the 2000 election showdown look like a minor judicial matter?



Maliki to US: Get Out
July 15, 2007, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror, Uncategorized

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Where to begin? At first Maliki’s statement seems like shocking ingratitude. His office and the government it directs were paid for with American blood. But think about what he’s saying – and his advisor’s complaints about the recent Anbar successes Bush is rightly proud of. Don’t get it yet? Here’s how it works: Maliki is pissed off because we’re not helping him conduct a civil war against the Sunnis. Meaning whatever successes the surge has achieved are against the will of the Maliki government. We are trying to establish security; he prefers instability which can be exploited against the Sunni enemy.

Imagine what it means to the average Iraqi in the street that the man who for better or worse leads their country has told us to leave. What is it we think we can achieve here again? And who is going to help us achieve it?

From today forward, any soldier dying in Iraq is dying for a government which doesn’t want our help and has asked us to leave. Our mission is opposed by most Iraqis and the Iraqi government. And most Americans think it should be ended. Against that, we have the faith of a president who has spent all his political capital. You may not like the way the wind blows, but you can’t pretend it’s blowing the other way. The time for realism has come.



New York firefighters on Giuliani
July 14, 2007, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror

It seems some of them don’t like him.

I’ve gone off on Giuliani before and I’ll probably do it again, but I want to say that I actually admire his aggressiveness about fighting terrorism. Immediately following 9/11, his black and white mind was a reassuring presence. But some things have happened between now and then, like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, secret rendition to torturing regimes, the President’s unilateral, extralegal wiretapping of US citizens, and the occupation of Iraq, which we fumbled in front of the whole world – after the whole world had told us not to do it. So while Rudy does seem like a good guy to have around, I just can’t allow myself to vote for someone who doesn’t even seem to view these as major problems, someone who just wants to keep on chooglin’. We’ve had enough monarchy for a while. It’s time to elect a President.



Gravel calls bullshit on Hillary, Obama, Edwards, and the HRC
July 14, 2007, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Politics

You gotta love Mike Gravel. A, because he establishes some pretty mean credentials in the stand against the politically expedient homophobia Bush and Rove contributed to the national debate. And B, because like Ron Paul, Gravel seems to take pleasure in staking out positions that are well out of the mainstream, but eminently sensible. Edwards, Clinton, and Obama must view him with envy and annoyance.

For the record, all the Democratic candidates say they would change Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, though Gravel claims that Hillary still defends it as a good policy at the time it was created. Only Gravel and Kucinich support gay marriage. (See the HRC scorecard – and why aren’t they letting Gravel come to their debate again?)

I have no idea how self-identified conservatives can oppose gay marriage. Isn’t a central tenet of conservatism (and one with which I agree) the idea that the government governs best which governs least? And how is the relationship between two people the business of any prince or legislature?

2007: Year of the grumpy old men. Let’s hope 2008 finds them even grumpier.



Contempt of Congress
July 13, 2007, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror

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At yesterday’s press conference, Bush was asked how he would win Republican legislators to the cause of staying the course in Iraq. His answer was simple: he didn’t have to. Congress has no business making war policy.

I respect those republicans that you’re referring to, I presume you’re referring to friends of mine like Lugar, or, Senator Lugar, Domineci, yeah. These are good honorable people. I’ve spoken to them, and I listen very carefully to what they have to say. First of all, they share my concern that a precipitous withdrawal would embolden Al Qaeda. And they also understand that we cant let al Qaeda gain safe haven inside of Iraq. I appreciate, you know, their calls. And I appreciate their desire to work with the White House to be in a position where we can sustain a presence in Iraq. What I tell them is this, just as I’ve told you, which is as commander in chief of the greatest military ever I have an obligation, a sincere and serious obligation, to hear out my commander on the ground. And I will take his recommendation and, as I mentioned, talk to Bob Gates about it, as well as the Joint Chiefs about it, as well as consult with members of the Congress, both Republics (sic) and Democrats, as I make a decision about the way forward in Iraq. And so, you know, I value the advice of those Senators. I appreciate their concerns about the situation in Iraq. And I will continue listening to them.

Note how radically his language would limit the power of Congress: I listen very carefully to what they have to say (no mention of Congress actually, you know, making law). As commander in chief I have an obligation. As I make a decision about the way forward. I will continue listening to them. The corollary, you see, of the Unitary Executive, is the Advisory Congress. Call it America 2.0.

Bush used 9/11 to create a war with no geographical limit, which can be prolonged indefinitely. He may be losing against al Qaeda, but he has racked up a series of stunning victories on the front of expanding government power and attacking American liberties. Ask yourself how much of that agenda could have been achieved without the favorable environment of the “war on terror”? Welcome to the permanent emergency. And check out a Republican presidential candidate with a different view.

Remember when the power to begin – and end – war lay with the Congress? To borrow a line from Star Wars, those were the days of the Old Republic – before the Empire came.



Ditto
July 11, 2007, 10:03 am
Filed under: Politics

I second Andrew Sullivan’s call to impeach Cheney. I mean, what’s the man’s next act? A press conference featuring him, a copy of the Constitution, and a lighter?

Decision time. Will we turn back towards the path of a nation of law? Or slide further into political hackery, secret government, and rulers to whom no law applies?

A nice TPM post on this topic from last year.