Ignorance is bliss

November 16, 2006

I like Rober J. Samuelson, because he tries to get to the heart of the matter and face facts. He acknowledges the complex issues our society faces, and keeps letting his readers know that we’re not facing them realistically, because in some cases we want benefits, but at a discount. Or, we want things that are not practical either technologically, or economically. Maybe he’s quixotic. It seems he never underestimates the public’s ignorance, or apathy towards these issues.

A recent article he wrote summarizes his point of view well, called “What if We’re to Blame?”

Another I’d recommend is “Greenhouse Guessing”.


Now the other side of the Democratic Party speaks

November 14, 2006

Last week we heard Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say they are not pushing for a timeline or a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq.

This week George McGovern, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972 who ran on an anti-Vietnam war platform, and who will meet with House Democrats this week, said he wants troops to begin pulling out immediately. Any troop withdrawal will be phased over a period of time. It’s impossible to get them all out in a day. It would take several months even if we began now. Just getting that clear.

Yesterday Democratic Sen. Carl Levin came out saying his proposal is to begin taking the troops out in 4 to 6 months. He said we must make it clear to the Iraqi leadership that they must stand on their own, and that we are leaving. This goes along with the notion that there is no military solution in Iraq, only a political solution. Sen. Levin said that he based this opinion on discussions he has had with military commanders who believe the same thing.

What I think this neglects is any political solution must be backed up by military strength. Is the Iraqi army able to fully defend the country on its own? From all indications I’ve heard, the answer is no. Have we turned over territory to the Iraqi military when they are able to take on the job? Yes. So in a way we have been withdrawing from territory and turning it over to the Iraqis. Do McGovern and Sen. Levin believe that we should be withdrawing faster and cede more territory than the Iraqi military is ready to take on? It sure sounds like it. Is this a wise thing to do? I think not.

One reason why Iraqi PM Maliki may have done things we don’t like is he is paying attention to the realities on the ground. His own neck depends on it. He has corruption in his own government, and the military force level under his government’s command is not sufficient to defend against all enemies, though from what I understand it’s progressively getting better and better. The main opponent jabbing Maliki in the ribs right now is Iran, through al-Sadr. Some Democrats seem to believe that by withdrawing what is essentially protection for his government, he will pay more attention to our priorities. No. It will give Iran and possibly Syria the opportunity to start punching Maliki in his gut, and eventually his face.

I think if we start pulling troops out too soon, it will leave Maliki in a weakened position, and it will increasingly polarize the Iraqis, not bring them closer together. If there’s one thing we have learned about the Arab people is they respect strong leadership, and despise weak leadership. Each constituency will put more faith in their own militias for their own defense. Iran will up the military pressure through its Shia proxies in Iraq, such as al-Sadr, encouraging us to try to pull out faster, meanwhile it will pursue more influence and power over the Iraqi government and the Shia community. The Sunnis, seeing their power base eroded will put more stock in their own militias to fight back against the Shia insurgency, and pull out their representatives from the Iraqi government. The central Iraqi government will become irrelevant. Even then I don’t anticipate a civil war as we would traditionally define it, but rather a struggle for control over Iraq by Syria and Iran, with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and other countries in the region looking on in horror that we let this happen. Does anyone doubt that this will result in the slaughter of anyone who cooperated with us? You think it’s bad now, just wait until we’re gone.

And what of the Kurds? What will they do in light of all this? Will they declare independence from Iraq into their own Kurdistan? It’s my understanding that Turkey has made it clear it will not tolerate this, and will go to war with the Kurds if this happens.

I wonder if we’ll do the same thing with Iraqis that we did with Vietnamese and Cambodians back in the 1970s: allow refugees to come to the U.S. by the hundreds of thousands, escaping the chaos in their home country. That would be a consolation, but such a sad end.

Yes, I am implying a repeat of what happened in Vietnam and Cambodia. I am just playing out a scenario, though, just giving you a glimpse of a possible future. We do not have to repeat the Vietnam experience. I’ve thought for a long time that the whole Vietnam analogy was bogus. I don’t believe that’s what we’re dealing with today, but I do believe we could succeed in creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, repeating the tragedy that was Vietnam if we continue to believe that Iraq parallels that experience.

As violent as Iraq has been, our military presence has been helping to hold the country together, and contain the violence. It’s given the Iraqi government a modicum of credibility to try to establish itself. As I’ve said before, in reality the duly elected Iraqi government has really only been constituted for about 5 months.

The thing that bothers me the most is I see the opponents to the current Iraqi experiment all asking the question “When do we get out?” and not anticipating “What then?” What are the consequences of our actions if we take our military out of Iraq? What’s the next move after removing our military? Most critics believe that the civil war has already started, and we’ll merely let them fight it out. What I see everyone ignoring is the role Iran is playing in this, and what role it and Syria could play in a power vacuum in Iraq.

Maybe that’s the idea. Get Iran (which is Shia) and Syria (which is Sunni) to fight each other in Iraq rather than cooperating as they have been. Iraq, instead of Afghanistan playing its traditional role, will become “The Great Game”. We’ll let them play “who will get the oil?”, with Iraq as their play thing. Is this responsible to our interests? Again, I think not. We do not buy oil from Syria or Iran now. We might be forced to buy it from one of them in the future if we let this happen, directly funding those who have no qualms about funding jihadists. That would truly be a loss in what we call the War on Terror.

What bothers me just as much is the critics say that things in Iraq are terrible now. They almost beg the question, “How could it get any worse?” The reality is it could, and none of them see that.

Some say we could talk with Iran and reach a negotiated settlement over their nuclear program. This is not what I see. Every time Iran has said they’re willing to talk, they follow it with provocative moves and rhetoric. Their words of reconciliation are empty. I saw news just yesterday that indicates Iran is helping train leaders and fighters for Al Qaeda, our mortal enemy. It could just be idle rhetoric on their part, but does any of this sound like a government that’s willing to talk with us?

There’s a phrase that once again has been running through my head when I think about all of this. It’s from the movie, “The Siege”, about Islamic terrorism in New York City: “Remember: the most committed wins.”

Unsolved infant death in Louisville

November 11, 2006

Back in March, a 10-week old infant from a family in Louisville, named Jason Midyette, died of head injuries at Denver Children’s Hospital. The parents brought Jason to the Boulder Community Hospital, saying he was lethargic. Jason was flown to Children’s Hospital. The medical examiners found many bone fractures all over his body, and a skull fracture. This triggered a criminal investigation with the Louisville police. Jason died a week later. One of the attorneys for the parents tried to explain away the bone fractures, saying that the child had a genetic disorder, called osteogenesis imperfecta, that caused his bones to break easily, from no apparent trauma.

Louisville is part of Boulder County and so comes under the jurisdiction of the Boulder County DA, Mary Lacy.

This case came to my attention when Bill O’Reilly talked about it on his evening cable TV show on Thursday. I began this blog in June, so it wasn’t something that caught my attention.

In July, the Boulder County coroner ruled the death a homocide. A careful examination was made of the infant’s body, and the parents’ claim of a genetic disease was investigated. What they found did not match the theory that the infant had osteogenesis imperfecta. The cause of death was the head injury, and it was ruled that it came from someone hitting the infant in the head with a blunt object. Strangely there were no bruises around the many limb fractures that were all over the infant’s body. That was the one oddity I haven’t heard anyone explain. It appears there was a clear pattern of abuse, and the most likely culprit is one or both parents.

What O’Reilly complained about is that to date no charges have been filed against the parents. The parents fled the area, hired separate attorneys, and both are refusing to talk to the police. This is where the case gets frustrating. According to this article no murder charges can be brought against the parents until the police determine which of the parents was involved in causing the infant’s death. Apparently no evidence has been found so far that implicates one parent or the other, or both of them. So no charges, and no arrests. If you ask me, I wonder why DA Mary Lacy has not at least gone after both parents for child neglect. Clearly both parents neglected to treat the infant’s wounds over the weeks of abuse. According to what I’ve read the only time when they brought Jason to the hospital was after the head injury that ultimately killed him.

An interesting footnote that is brought up in both articles I link to (from the Daily Camera) is that Jason Midyette’s paternal grandfather is J. Nold Midyette, an architect and businessman, who designed Boulder’s main library, and owns a part of the east end of the Downtown Mall. My suspicion is that the reason Mary Lacy is reticent to go after the parents for anything has to do with politics in Boulder. Not that I expect her to proceed with murder charges when she doesn’t have the evidence, but what about charges related to neglect? Isn’t this a solid case?

Revisiting the case against Gates

November 11, 2006

I listened to a conversation with Tony Capaccio, Pentagon correspondent for the Bloomberg News Service, on C-SPAN earlier. He was asked about allegations made against Robert Gates, the nominee to replace Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, many years ago. I covered these earlier in my post called “Rumsfeld Resigns”. He said these allegations were made, and they were debunked back then. He predicted these charges would come back again during his confirmation hearing. And I assume the old rationales for why the allegations were wrong will have to be reiterated.

Democratic leadership: No impeachment

November 10, 2006

I heard on the news last night that both Rep. Pelosi, and Rep. John Conyers, the future Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, have committed to not pursue impeachment of President Bush for past acts. Well that’s a relief. With all the talk before about “Bush misled us into war” and “Bush lied us into war”, I thought that would’ve risen to the level that would cause one to consider impeachment. If I were a Democrat and believed that rhetoric I would probably see it that way.

The Democrats take the Senate

November 9, 2006

This was announced yesterday as a foregone conclusion, but it sounds like it became final today. They now have a slight 51-seat majority. The Democrats did very well in their Senate campaign, getting all the states they needed to take back control of congress. They’ve clearly gotten back on the ball.

What does this really mean? The Democratic control of the House means the Democrats will have the power to dig for Republican dirt all they want. They could even pursue impeachment, though it won’t pass the Senate, much as what happened to President Bill Clinton. They’ll have the power to raise spending, and try to raise taxes. Perhaps now Bush will start using his veto power more often. What the Senate takeover means is Bush can forget about nominating conservative judges for the rest of his term, and the far right can forget about overturning the Roe v. Wade decision anytime soon. As I mentioned before it’s also going to mean that immigration policy is going to be more liberal, and Bush will go along with that. A possible emerging issue is embryonic stem cell research. In terms of legislation that may be the most controversial issue to re-emerge out of the remainder of Bush’s term.

I heard something else today that reminded me of something politicians do, but I often see it with Democrats in particular, is they take a small difference and make it sound like a HUGE difference. I’m sure people remember the hot air about “get out of Iraq”, “Bush doesn’t have a plan”, and “Bush has no exit strategy for getting us out of Iraq”. The Democratic leadership in congress has announced that they will not support a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, because they know it would be disasterous. Even Rep. Nancy Pelosi says this. The Democrats have also contacted officials of the Iraqi government to assure them of this. I saw Sen. Dick Durbin on the news saying he didn’t even want a timetable for withdrawal, but wanted to make clear to the Iraqi government that we’ve given them all the tools to make it on their own, and they should start doing that. So much for the rhetoric. They’re saying the same things in a different way. In reality the Democratic leadership is in the same place as Bush on this issue. So, what’s changed? Nothing?

Gen. Casey said a few weeks ago that he estimated we could start pulling troops out of Iraq by 2008. Is this what the Democrats were talking about? If so, Bush has certainly heard of and approved the same plan. It’ll be interesting to see if the new incoming Democrats will demand that their party take a more aggressive posture on this issue.

I don’t know what Durbin is talking about, incidentally. The Iraqi government assumed sovereignty two years ago. Sovereignty means making your own decisions, and they have, often to our consternation. People have complained about Iraqi PM Maliki saying something nice about Hezbollah, and releasing prisoners captured for trying to overthrow the government attacking civilians, or allied forces. That’s them making their own decisions. The real problem is we haven’t liked it so far. I think most people would prefer that we take control away from the Iraqi government, because then they wouldn’t be able to say and do things we don’t like. We wouldn’t have to deal with the political ramifications of going after Muqtada al-Sadre, and confronting Iran more aggressively.

So the Democrats have had it both ways. They get to complain and act like they’re going to act more aggressively on Iraq, but the story within their party is more complex than that. The leadership is setting the tone early to rein in those within their ranks who want to be more aggressive and abandon Iraq. Will the newcomers push back, or was their rhetoric the same hot air? For America’s sake I hope it was just hot air. If the Democrats won power by fooling the voters a bit, taking advantage of public anger and frustration, fine. I’ll be relieved if they show cooler thinking going forward.

Rumsfeld resigns

November 8, 2006

This has apparently been in the works for a while, maybe a couple weeks or more. Rumsfeld and Bush announced today that they mutually agreed that Rumsfeld should resign. Bush immediately announced Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert Gates, a CIA Director from George H.W. Bush’s administration. Bush finally got the message I’m sure the public has been sending him for a long time, that Rumsfeld got us this far, but he is not the man to win this war.

What does this change mean? I wonder if Gates will put the military in a different posture, possibly following the CIA’s lead, rather than the other way around. When I got to looking at the difference in approaches that were taken in Afghanistan and Iraq, it made me wonder why there was such a difference. The CIA’s operations in Afghanistan were a success. It may be fair to say they won the battle there for us. The terrorists operate like an intelligence operation, acting stealthily, committing acts that amount to sabotage on steroids. They are not a conventional military force. As the Iraq war went on, I wondered if perhaps we were not committing one of the military mistakes made in Vietnam: using conventional forces where special forces would’ve been more appropriate. Some years back I heard a saying from the Vietnam era. It went something like, “The Vietcong rules the battlefield, except when the Navy Seals are on the ground.”

Gates’s nomination will of course need congress’s approval. The make-up of the Senate is not assured yet. I believe that’s where his nomination will be reviewed. This could get ugly, however. The AP article I link to makes a point of saying that when Gates was nominated for his CIA post in George H.W. Bush’s administration, he was accused by others working for the CIA of “manipulating intelligence” and of “corrupting the process” while he worked for the CIA during the Cold War of the 1980s. Uh oh… There’s no way this isn’t going to come back to haunt him. Depending on how the Senate turns out, he could be denied the nomination because of this. The public is not in the mood to be dealing with a guy who might feed the president inaccurate information. We’ve been there, done that.

One of the things that Rumsfeld did upon coming into office was set up a Defense intelligence arm within the Pentagon. This was a factor in some of the stories that came out after 9/11. For example, the story that an Iraqi intelligence official had met with Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers–a story that was later shown to be suspect, apparently came from this department of the Pentagon. CIA officials actively worked to discredit this story, because it didn’t check out as far as they were concerned.

The president and Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, future Speaker of the House, both have said they want to work together. It’s traditional that each side says this. They always do. I think it’s going to get ugly real fast. Just a feeling.