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.

Terrorists on trial
July 19, 2007, 10:38 am
Filed under: Crime and Punishment, The War on Terror

At Guantanamo, it’s all about maintaing the facade of legality.

The only thing that made al Sharbi exceptional was that he was one of only a few Guantánamo detainees who’d actually been charged with a crime, albeit a novel one in the annals of international-warfare law: conspiracy to commit, among other things, murder by an unprivileged belligerent—which basically means he thought about killing American soldiers he believed he was at war with. (He was never accused of killing, or even trying to kill, anyone.) He would be prosecuted by the men at the table on the other side of the room, an Air Force captain and a Navy Reserve lieutenant, who would be allowed to present their case using evidence the military considered so sensitive that al Sharbi would not be allowed to see it, let alone contest it. The judge, who was known in the proceedings as the presiding officer, was a navy captain. The jurors would also be military officers.

Hm, so that’s what an unlawful enemy combatant is. It’s hard to sum up this system better than the accused did himself, when asked if he wanted a different military lawyer – “To me it’s the same circus, different clown.”

Don’t blame him for being right about that. President Bush is the sole author of this comic strip. If justice in America is still more than a game, then someday he will be the one in the dock. That’s not a question of politics, it’s a question of which is paramount – the law, or the king. For us in the west, there can be no going back: the law must prevail.

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


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.

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

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.

“His great virtue and his weakness”
June 30, 2007, 9:07 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics, The War on Terror

I just finished part 2 of the Washington Post’s Cheney profile. Read it if you have any interest in understanding the mindset of an American who comes to embrace torture – and understand it we must, if we are resolved to begin the long and hard work of removing this stain from our honor.

It is striking to me that the torture crowd paints themselves as the realists in this debate. I submit that the entire foundation of their argument rests on a singular fantasy – the fantasy that if we just try hard enough, and compromise enough of our core values, we can ensure that Americans will be safe from another terrorist attack. If you believe this then all else follows. It means our historical disdain (and proud disdain) for torture is meaningless. It means the public interest in privacy and protection from government scrutiny is a bygone. And it may come to mean many other things, to our lasting regret. This fantasy – this dangerous fantasy – can justify anything, and it will, until we give it up for good.

My opposition to torture is not idealistic, it is realistic. I know – though of course I wish it were otherwise – that any government’s promise of security is hollow. When politicians bring us their sweet offers of safety – think Rudy Giuliani – I see the shrewd self-interest that lies beneath their reassuring strength. When has a politican ever won office by telling people what they do not want to admit? We are being targeted by killers, and they are bent on murder, and we can not stop all of them. That is the truth, and we can “double Guantanamo,” as Mitt Romney bravely suggests, and it will make no difference.

This is not defeatism; I believe we can defeat the jihadists, and we must. But show me the terrorist movement or insurgency that was defeated by torturing those who were captured. Show me one. You will find no examples of this, only examples of the opposite; movements which were fueled by oppression, and strengthened by it, and given the one thing we should find most repugnant to give them: a sense of justification.

We can never hope to erase the risk of attack, but it is completely within our power to uphold the traditions of democracy. Bush and Cheney notwithstanding, limits to the power of kings are an enduring monument of our civilization. That achievement probably took more toil than erecting the pyramids. Unlike the pyramids, it passes on a sweet benefit to every new generation, for as long as we can find the strength to honor and defend it. Also unlike the pyramids, it is being dismantled.

Ron Paul clips from Youtube
May 12, 2007, 10:18 am
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror

It’s gratifying to hear a Republican say this:

The catchall phrase “the war on terrorism,” in all honesty, has no more meaning than if one wants to wage a war on criminal gangsterism. Terrorism is a tactic. You can’t have a war against a tactic. It’s deliberately vague and non-definable in order to justify and permit perpetual war anywhere and under any circumstances. Don’t forget the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with any terrorist attack against us – including that on 9/11. Special interests and the demented philosophy of conquest have driven most wars throughout all of history. Rarely has the cause of liberty, as it was in our own revolution, been the driving force.

It’s also disturbing that we so rarely hear Democrats saying it.

Ron Paul in the Republican primary debate:

It’s good for Ron Paul that 65% of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. Unfortunately they are mostly not Republican primary voters.

Now the bad news: Paul doesn’t think the science is settled on global warming.

Vote for Ron Paul: sidestep the coming apocalypse of the Forever War, but bring closer the coming environmental apocalypse.

It’s a dilemma.

I wonder where they got that idea?
May 5, 2007, 7:08 pm
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror

A Pentagon survey calls into question the image of the gentleman soldier. To wit:

“Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect,” the Army report stated.

About 10 percent of the 1,767 troops in the official survey — conducted in Iraq last fall — reported that they had mistreated civilians in Iraq, such as kicking them or needlessly damaging their possessions.

Army researchers “looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at,” said S. Ward Casscells, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. The report noted that the troops’ statements are at odds with the “soldier’s rules” promulgated by the Army, which forbid the torture of enemy prisoners and state that civilians must be treated humanely.

But right in line with their commander-in-chief. Whatever he says.

How can we blame soldiers who are facing death for doing this, and not blame their commanders for doing the same thing, from the safety of Washington?

Iraq was going to bring democracy to the Middle East. Instead it brought Middle East attitudes on human rights to America. That’s Bush’s legacy.

Condi the wallflower
May 5, 2007, 2:55 am
Filed under: The War on Terror

Maybe I should go talk to him… Is he going to come over here and talk to me?… Maybe he will, I should just wait… I don’t want to seem desperate…

The Washington Post has an account of why Condi Rice didn’t meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at the Iraq conference in Egypt.

Asked at the final news conference why she hadn’t pursued an actual meeting with Mottaki more vigorously, Rice deflected the question. “You can ask him why he didn’t make an effort. I’m not given to chasing anyone,” she said, chuckling and eliciting laughter from those around her.

Who is Ron Paul?
May 5, 2007, 2:23 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics, The War on Terror

I had never heard of this guy until the Republican primary debate the other night. Not that I watched that (it wasn’t broadcast in Okinawa that I know of).

A wikipedia search later, I was reading his June 2002 speech in the House of Representatives. Impressive, I must say. Nine months after the hijackings, not many people were worrying about habeas corpus, warrantless surveillance, and the exchange of freedom for security.

If I were a Republican primary voter, I might want to pay a little more attention to a man who said these things in 2002 (italics are his):

As evidence mounts that we have achieved little in reducing the terrorist threat, more diversionary tactics will be used. The big one will be to blame Saddam Hussein for everything and initiate a major war against Iraq, which will only generate even more hatred toward America from the Muslim world.

It may be true that the average American does not feel intimidated by the encroachment of the police state. I’m sure our citizens are more tolerant of what they see as mere nuisances because they have been deluded into believing all this government supervision is necessary and helpful- and besides they are living quite comfortably, material wise. However the reaction will be different once all this new legislation we’re passing comes into full force, and the material comforts that soften our concerns for government regulations are decreased. This attitude then will change dramatically, but the trend toward the authoritarian state will be difficult to reverse.

Political propagandizing is used to get all of us to toe the line and be good “patriots,” supporting every measure suggested by the administration. We are told that preemptive strikes, torture, military tribunals, suspension of habeas corpus, executive orders to wage war, and sacrificing privacy with a weakened 4th Amendment are the minimum required to save our country from the threat of terrorism.

Who’s winning this war anyway?

Of course, I guess if I were a Republican primary voter, perhaps I wouldn’t be concerned about habeas corpus, warrantless surveillance, and the exchange of freedom for security.

Paul must feel vindicated by the events of the last five years, and he should.

I wonder, though, if there’s room for him in the Republican party. Even after six years of Bush, the police state movement within the Republicans is in rude health. Witness Rudy Giuliani.

And the Democrats? They give these issues lip service, but I wonder what they will deliver. Take the example of Guantanamo: John McCain and Robert Gates, the defense secretary, have both supported closing it, an obvious and largely symbolic step. Clinton, Obama, and Edwards haven’t yet, as far as I know. So let me take it back: they don’t even give lip service to some of these issues.

There is so much to be repaired, and so far, none of the big-time candidates for president seem to have an appetite to begin the healing process. How many years will it take to roll back the damage of the Bush administration?

Be a little glad
May 4, 2007, 2:07 pm
Filed under: The War on Terror

The kidnapper of Jill Carroll and likely killer of Tom Fox in Iraq is dead. May all who prey on the innocent so perish.

Did we overestimate Al Qaeda?
May 4, 2007, 1:44 pm
Filed under: The War on Terror

Andrew Sullivan thinks we may have. To wit:

The great unanswered question of our time is: why have we not had another major terror attack since 9/11 in America? I don’t know the answer. Although I’m sure the CIA has foiled some plots, our knowledge of the competence of the federal government should inhibit us from assigning them too much credit. Perhaps serious global jihad is indeed the province of a few wealthy and motivated religious fanatics, and not the widespread threat we fear. Perhaps Arab culture is unproductive even when it comes to murdering innocents. Perhaps we’ve been lucky. I certainly don’t buy the idea that the war in Iraq is somehow preventing them from attacking us here. You can’t find 19 true-believers to get on a plane while you’re pursuing a classic Arab insurgency? The point of terror on a 9/11 scale is partly to get us to over-estimate the strength of the enemy. Maybe they succeeded. And maybe, as a result, we’re trapped.

Remember that Bin Ladin was surprised at the extent of the 9/11 damage.

Sullivan is quite right that we are meant to over-estimate the enemy. Terrorists want to stage media events, not military strikes.

This is one reason why treating them as a law enforcement problem, as much as it is pooh-poohed, might be wise: it denies them some stature. Should we see them as soldiers, or criminals? Surely they would prefer soldiers. Calling the struggle against terrorism a war is only correct in scale – and, Sullivan suggests, perhaps not even in that.

Of course if they get a nuke this will all be moot, but the priorities of our government seem to be elsewhere.

The right vs. the left on terror
May 4, 2007, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, The War on Terror

Andrew Sullivan on the Republican presidential debate:

Conservatism now means simply projecting something called “strength” rather than articulating something called strategy. On the question of thinking through the lessons of Iraq, they seemed frozen. On the question of Iran, they never seemed to include any understanding of what constraints Iraq has placed on us. Just bomb them and kill them and we’ll “win”.

All this is true, but the Republican position on the War on Terror would still be superior to the Democratic position, if not for one thing: torture. Torture could lead to us losing the struggle, and it is about the only thing which could.

Yes, for the moment America’s military and industrial strength has no rival, and that is a necessary component of the leadership position in the world we have enjoyed since the great war. But it was never sufficient by itself. It was essential that we had won the admiration of the world, quite rightly, by standing for freedom, first against Hitler and then against the Soviet Union.

Too many Americans these days see our military strength, and our global stature, and think that one flows necessarily from the other. They forget that America became the leader of the free world by the free world’s consent, indeed its demand.

Dismiss it as touchy-feely, liberal mysticism. But the fact remains that our strength flows from our ideas; we lead the world because we inspired it. Are we inspiring it today? And will we lead tomorrow?

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): We do torture
May 2, 2007, 2:36 am
Filed under: Hell, Let's Call it Torture, Politics, The War on Terror

It may make you pinch yourself and wonder if you’re dreaming, but yes, this is a Republican congressman admitting that America tortures, and defending the same. On record, at a hearing, in the Capitol.

Unlike George Bush, Dick Cheney, and George Tenet, Rohrabacher has the respect for himself to defend the position he actually holds, instead of a twisted fiction.

Frankly, his arguments are weighty. I don’t see any way to rebut him, unless you are willing to say that in a free society, sometimes we must place freedom above individual security. And that is my position.

“Come on, George.”

George Tenet is asked about “enhanced interrogation.” Nod to Andrew Sullivan.

“The image that’s been portrayed is, we sat around the campfire and said, ‘Oh, boy, now we go get to torture people.’ Well, we don’t torture people. Let me say that again to you. We don’t torture people. Okay?” Tenet says.

“Come on, George,” Pelley says.

“We don’t torture people,” Tenet maintains.

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?” Pelley asks.

“We don’t torture people,” Tenet says.

“Water boarding?” Pelley asks.

“We do not – I don’t talk about techniques,” Tenet replies.

“It’s torture,” Pelley says.

“And we don’t torture people. Now, listen to me. Now, listen to me. I want you to listen to me,” Tenet says. “The context is it’s post-9/11. I’ve got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are gonna be blown up, planes that are gonna fly into airports all over again. Plot lines that I don’t know – I don’t know what’s going on inside the United States. And I’m struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through. The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know.”

“I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots,” Tenet says.

“But what you’re essentially saying is some people need to be tortured,” Pelley remarks.

“No, I did not say that. I did not say that,” Tenet says.

“You’re telling me that… the enhanced interrogation…” Pelley says.

“I did not say that. I did not say that. We do not tor…. Listen to me. You’re, you’re making…,” Tenet says.

“You call it in the book, ‘enhanced interrogation,'” Pelley remarks.

“…an assumption. Well, that’s what we call it,” Tenet says.

“And that’s a euphemism,” Pelley says.

“I’m not having a semantic debate with you. I’m telling you what I believe,” Tenet says.

Asked if anyone ever died in the interrogation program, Tenet says, “No.”

Asked if he’s sure of that, the former director tells Pelley, “Yeah. In this program that you and I are talking about? No.”

“Have you ever seen any of these interrogations done?” Pelley asks.

“No,” Tenet replies.

“Didn’t you feel like it was your responsibility to know what’s going on?” Pelley asks.

“I understood. I’m not a voyeur. I understand what I was signing off on,” Tenet says.

Asked if he lost any sleep over it, Tenet tells Pelley, “Yeah, of course you do! Of course you lose sleep over it. You’re on new territory. But that’s not the point! What’s this tension? The tension is, ‘I’ve just lived through 3,000 people dying. This is not a clinical exercise.’ Maybe for you guys it’s a clinical exercise. Not for me! 3,000 people died. Friends died. Now I’m gonna sit back, and then everybody says, ‘You idiots don’t know how to connect the dots. You don’t have imagination. You were unwilling to take risk to protect this country,'” Tenet says.

America is torturing people, as Tenet knows. If he thinks that’s right, why not come out and say it?

Tenet, the President, and the Vice-president know, and they are lying. It’s overwhelmingly obvious that their lies are well-prepared, not an ad hoc response. They know the question will be asked. They clearly have a rationalization of why they are allowed to speak falsely, and it is probably the same one: My lie serves the country.

And of course, being intelligent people, they have another voice inside, telling them: If I speak the truth, I may be held accountable for what I have done.

Notice the similarity between the President’s language and Tenet’s: “We do not torture,” and “We don’t torture people.” Unequivocal, bold, and obviously intended to decieve. It is as though they hope the very boldness of the lie will sow confusion.

Isn’t the point of America that no lie can serve it? Aren’t we the followers of a way of life which speaks for itself, which needs no deceit to defend it? No, in the opinion of our President, and our Vice-President, we are not. We are a regime just like any other, which must torture, lie, and go to any length to perpetuate its own control.

Precedents exist for prosecuting former heads of state for crimes committed during tenure. And a law without enforcement is no law at all.

The coming Republican revolt
April 29, 2007, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Politics, The Imperial President, The War on Terror

William F. Buckley – yes, the leading light of the conservative movement – doesn’t think Iraq is winnable. To wit:

What can a “surge,” of the kind we are now relying upon, do to cope with endemic disease? The parallel even comes to mind of the eventual collapse of Prohibition, because there wasn’t any way the government could neutralize the appetite for alcohol, or the resourcefulness of the freeman in acquiring it.

How long will Bush have enough votes in Congress to keep his veto power secure? He’s going to get a spending bill after he vetoes the timetable (um, right?), but will he get the next one?

In the past month or so, the political fight over Iraq has taken on the feel of an endgame. Even if the President lives to fight another day for now, I just don’t see what else he can pull out of a hat. Particularly if he doesn’t really think Iraq is winnable – just postponeable to the next president’s term.

Surge, or time-delay fuse?
April 29, 2007, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Politics, The Imperial President, The War on Terror

Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo argues, citing circumstantial evidence, that the surge is designed to push the inevitable loss of Iraq into the tenure of the next U.S. president, protecting Bush from some of the blame for it.

I’m reluctant to believe that anyone could be that ruthless, let alone the man who still has nearly two years left to lead our country. And I don’t see how it could succeed – the war is just so integral to Bush’s presidency that I find it hard to imagine a McCain, an Obama, a Clinton, or a Giuliani in any way diminishing Bush’s identification with it.

But I’ve underestimated the administration’s shameless self-service so many times that I’m tempted to give Marshall’s argument some credence. And it would explain something I just can’t fathom. We are at the war’s most desperate hour (well, so far anyway). If our leadership can make it happen, they have to act now. Everyone needs to focus on what must be accomplished.

So why hasn’t Bush made any indication of what his tactical goals are? What exactly is the measurement that will tell us – or at least tell him – if he is succeeding? Shouldn’t this information be in the hands of every soldier? Do our Americans on the ground have any idea what the president wants them to achieve in the next few months?

Far from it. We have no goals in Iraq. “Stop it going to hell” doesn’t count. There is no sense of ambition, of hungering for something achievable. In fact, Marshall cites a NYTimes article saying that the administration is actually lowering its expectations of the Maliki government.

So the good news is that the surge is having some effect. The bad news is, it doesn’t matter, because it’s all a sham. A good tactic doesn’t matter if you don’t have a strategy.

Meanwhile, in case you hadn’t contemplated how losing Iraq could be worse for America than losing Vietnam was, the Washington Post counts the ways.

“The president is less in command of his administration than any president I have ever observed.”
April 27, 2007, 11:06 am
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror

He’s had a method of operating in which he is the chief executive, and that he expects things to happen, and he doesn’t superintend them very closely, and a significant number of people who are nominally working for him don’t agree with him, don’t work very hard to implement his policies and in some cases even work against him, and that was certainly true at the State Department. It was certainly true at the C.I.A.

– Richard Perle, on the runup to Iraq, to a hearing organized by the Tricycle Theater in London.

It is eerily similar to Alberto Gonzales’ portrayal of his own role at Justice, and his explanation of how he fired 8 U.S. Attorneys without knowing why. No wonder Bush didn’t see anything wrong with his story.

Pure gold
April 27, 2007, 10:43 am
Filed under: Israel, The War on Terror

Reuters reporting from the Gaza strip. Check out the caption to the photograph. Yep, that’s right. (Nod to Andrew Sullivan.)

Giuliani continues toil in the tragedy mine
April 26, 2007, 10:08 am
Filed under: Politics, The War on Terror

There’s gold in them thar hills! Giuliani continues campaigning for President of 9/11.

To wit:

“If [a democrat] gets elected, it sounds to me like we’re going on the defense,” [Giuliani] said. “We’ve got a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. We’re going to wave the white flag there. We’re going to try to cut back on the Patriot Act. We’re going to cut back on electronic surveillance. We’re going to cut back on interrogation. We’re going to cut back, cut back, cut back, and we’ll be back in our pre-September 11 mentality of being on defense.”

Cardinal rule of the war on terror: no idea, no matter how bad, can be reconsidered.

Oh, and standing up for human rights or freedom from government surveillance = retreat.

It all sounded so good four years ago. No, wait a minute – no, it didn’t.