View from the Loft 

war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

US Image Continues Its Decline

Other nations' view of the US continues to plummet, according to a new Pew poll.

No surprise there.

Even in nations that joined the "Coalition of the Willing," the public's perception of the US is negative. In Britain, for example, only 48% of the populace holds a positive view of the US, compared with 75% in 2002. A majority in the Coalition countries also oppose the war.

More generally, the world is united in taking a dim view of Bush's foreign policy:
Overwhelming majorities disapprove of President Bush's foreign policy and the small boost he received in the wake of Sept. 11 has disappeared. As a consequence, publics in seven of the eight nations surveyed believe that American policies have a negative effect on their country. Only the British are divided on the impact of American foreign policy on their country.
Most Europeans now believe that their nations must increase their independence from the United States.

This is Bush's legacy: a world in which fewer and fewer people have any faith whatsoever in the ability of the US to do the right thing. New alliances will likely form as Europe consolidates its own power in order to resist the global hegemony of the United States. We now have a world more dangerous by far than it was when George W. Bush took office, with nuclear proliferation about to burst its restraints and terrorists multiplying. And we're pretty much on our own, except for the few countries we can bully and bribe into "cooperation."

"Tell Me Something I Don't Know," Millionth Chorus

Krugman's article pointing out that Bush is weak on terror repeats what, to many of us, was obvious from the jump, but which the Dems had better start saying over and over again. As Krugman points out,
Polls suggest that a reputation for being tough on terror is just about the only remaining political strength George Bush has. Yet this reputation is based on image, not reality. The truth is that Mr. Bush, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of an unrelated war, has shown consistent reluctance to focus on the terrorists who actually attacked America, or their backers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

This reluctance dates back to Mr. Bush's first months in office. Why, after all, has his inner circle tried so hard to prevent a serious investigation of what happened on 9/11? There has been much speculation about whether officials ignored specific intelligence warnings, but what we know for sure is that the administration disregarded urgent pleas by departing Clinton officials to focus on the threat from Al Qaeda.
Krugman goes on to enumerate some of Bush's failures, including the grievous ones of pulling resources from Afghanistan in order to wage war on Iraq and aiding and abetting the very countries--Pakistan and Saudi Arabia--that have given aid and comfort to terrorists, not to mention actually spawning them.

Kerry needs to say, over and over again, that Bush is all smoke and mirrors when it comes to terrorism. For not only is Bush's only strength the perception that he is tough on terrorism, but in fact what happened in Spain could, I very much fear, happen here at election time. If it does, how will Americans react? Right now, Americans buy into Bush's nonsense about what a strong leader he's been since the tragedy of 9-11. What they need is an antidote to that perception.

Krugman's list of Bush's failures on terrorism is a short one, to which could be added many others: his original opposition to Homeland Security (pre-9-11), his failure to protect our ports, his failure to fund first responders, his failure to protect chemical plants, etc. The fact is that Howard Dean spoke the truth and nothing but the truth when he said that Saddam's capture didn't make us any safer. (In fact, his capture only united the resistance and made it that much more dangerous for our troops in Iraq.) Even though Kerry voted for to give Bush the power to use force in Iraq, he must now repudiate that vote and make it clear that he understands that the misadventure in Iraq has resulted in making the US more vulnerable. Al Qaeda has not been fatally weakened, as events in Spain have showed us; a third of Afghanistan in now back in the control of the Taliban; Pakistan harbors terrorists and sells nuclear weaponry to North Korea; the "fly-paper" theory has been shown for the nonsense it always was. The list goes on. Americans are foolish to believe that Bush has been any less inept in dealing with the "war on terror" than in any other.

The Democrats need to make them aware of this fact, not only to win an election, but because national security depends on it.

Waxman Details Lies About Iraq

Representative Henry Waxman has put up a report that
identifies 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by these five officials in 125 public appearances in the time leading up to and after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq.
The five officials are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

To Be a Good Republican, You Have to Believe ...

  1. ... that being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you are a millionaire conservative radio jock, which makes it an "illness" and requires our prayers for your "recovery."

  2. ... that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.

  3. ... that the US should get out of the UN, and that our highest national priority is enforcing UN resolutions against Iraq.

  4. ... that government should stay out of people's lives but it needs to punish anyone caught having private sex with the "wrong" gender.

  5. ... that pollution is ok, so long as it makes a profit.

  6. ... in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.

  7. ... that "Standing Tall for America" means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

  8. ... that a woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, but that large multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind with no regulation whatsoever.

  9. ... that you love Jesus and Jesus loves you, and that Jesus shares your hatred of AIDS victims, homosexuals, and Hillary Clinton.

  10. ... that the ALCU is evil for representing convicted felons, but they owed it to the country to bail out Oliver North.

  11. ... that the best way to encourage military morale is to praise the troops overseas while cutting their VA benefits.

  12. ... that group sex and drug use are degenerate sins that can only be purged by running for governor of California as a Republican.

  13. ... in the wisdom of keeping condoms out of schools, because we all know if teenagers don't have condoms they won't have sex.

  14. ... that the best way to fight terrorism is to alienate our allies and then demand their cooperation and money.

  15. ... that government medicine is wrong and that HMO's and insurance companies only have your best interests at heart.

  16. ... that providing health care to all Iraqis is sound government policy but providing health care to all Americans is socialism personified.

  17. ... that tobacco's link to cancer and global warming are "junk science", but Creationism should be taught in schools.

  18. ... that waging war with no exit strategy was wrong in Vietnam but right in Iraq.

  19. ... that Saddam was good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney was doing business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

  20. ... that government should restrict itself to just the powers named in the Constitution, which includes banning gay marriages and censoring the internet.

  21. ... that the public has a right to know about the adulterous affairs of Democrats, while those of Republicans are a "private matter".

  22. ... that the public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades but that Bush was right to censor those 28 page from the Congressional 9/11 report because you just can't handle the truth.

  23. ... in states' rights, which means Ashcroft telling states what locally passed voter initiatives he will allow them to have.

  24. ... that what Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did decades later is "stale news" and "irrelevant".

  25. ... that trade with little Cuba is wrong because it is communist, but trading with China and Vietnam is just dandy.

(Many thanks to Wendy for sending this on to me.)

The Iraqi Resistance

Le Monde has an interesting article analyzing the Iraqi resistance. It's been translated into English and makes for fascinating reading, particularly as it was written by a non-American and thus offers a view free of the pro-Bush bias that we've gotten so used to in our newspapers (not for nothing has the New York Times been renamed the New Pravda by Billmon).

The article makes the following points:
  • the US's reasons for invading Iraq were
    to replace President Saddam Hussein's regime with one clearly favorable to American interests, to complete the strategic encirclement of Iran and the Syria-Lebanon-Palestine region, to control directly the production and commercialization of Iraq's immense hydrocarbon reserves so as to reduce an excessive dependence on Saudi Arabia, which, after the September 11 attacks, is no longer considered to be as reliable a partner as was previously thought.
  • to achieve these ends, US war planners wanted an Iraq with as weak a central power as possible, something that they felt could be assured because of the ethnic and religious differences within the country

  • the occupation failed to undertake the economic or political reconstruction of Iraq, with no appeal to nationalist feeling nor to secularity. Nationalist feeling would have united the country, and the US wanted Iraq to remain weak and decentralized.

  • Saddam Hussein's continued existence following the invasion was divisive rather than unifying for resistance forces; his unpopularity made it impossible for him to lead a national resistance. This means that Saddam's capture actually helped, rather than hindered, the insurgents.

  • Foreign fighters in the resistance have been by Iraqi insurgents on pragmatic grounds, but as the resistance grows stronger they will be contested

  • former military officers withdrew into the regions and tribes from which they came, thus spreading the weaponry and the resistance movement itself all over Iraq, "so that, at the present juncture, we should formally take note of the very broad popular support without which it would not exist."

  • the military component of the resistance is the very one that can find support among all communities, with patriotism as its sole motivation

  • the Shiite community is divided, with three currents that link to nationalist tendencies and may well join up with the resistance
The article discusses the problem posed by the Shiites in greater depth. It also analyzes the problems with the US "exit strategy" (such as it is) and the challenges faced by the resistance.

Give it a read. If only we could get this kind of clear-headed analysis, free of Ann Coulterisms and the Nedra Pickleresque, in the US papers!

AWOL Soldier Declares Himself a CO

Camilo Meija, a 28-year-old Florida National Guard member, has turned himself in after being AWOL since his failure to report for duty on October 16 after a two-week leave. He has signed a statement declaring that he is a conscientious objector.

There are 600 deserters from the Iraq war, and many people feel that the Army's handling of Meija's case will set the standard for how deserters will be treated. Meija has, of course, escalated his own case into something of a cause celebre by claiming the moral high ground here. I don't doubt his switch to pacifism a bit, and he has to know that calling attention to his own case, with its political ramifications, makes him a target of the Army's possible desire to make an example of him.

We can't know Meija's individual experiences in Iraq or the combination of factors that led to a re-examination of his own conscience. The military, of course, is always skeptical when soldiers claim a change of heart. Indeed, they are claiming that Meija was a "poorly performing soldier" who "lost his nerve."

That seems odd, considering that Meija served in the regular army for three years and has been part of the National Guard for over five years.

My husband was already in the US Air Force when the brutality and immorality of the Vietnam War, borne in on us daily via television, made clear to him that the only thing to do was to file for conscientious objector status. Those who think this is an easy, if not cowardly, decision has never had the weight of the US military arrayed against them. He wasn't in a combat zone, as Meija was from April until October, and still he didn't see how he could go on being part of the war machine. I can only imagine that combat experiences could very much intensify such a conviction.

Nothing is ever black and white. Part of Meija may well have wanted to escape the hell of Iraq; it would be surprising were it otherwise. Perhaps he didn't report for duty out of simple fear and aversion; who knows? But experiences can accumulate, and time to think about them and to question the status quo and one's former acquiescence in it can drive one toward a formerly unthinkable position. There's no doubt in my mind that over time Meija, like so many others before him, came around to the position that his participation in war was immoral and that he wanted no more of it, not merely because of fear but because he could no longer take part in the killing.

I wish him good luck and leniency on the part of the Army, and I admire his courage in taking his stand.

Leave It to Michigan, My Regressive Home State

In 1847 Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty, after an innocent man was hanged. But now,
as most states consider either halting, abolishing or implementing changes to ensure fairness in its death penalty system, Michigan is considering a constitutional amendment (Constitutional Amendment HJR W) that would reinstate the death penalty.
To date, 113 innocent people have been freed from Death Row. Our neighboring state of Illinois has freed 17 wrongly convicted people who faced the death penalty.

I am tired of having to be ashamed to be from Michigan. It's bad enough we've got a citizens initiative that would ban abortion. Now we have a bunch of neanderthals who want to bring back the death penalty, even though Michigan already has the sentence of life without parole.

Please, Michiganders, contact your legislators and let them know you oppose this barbaric idea. Read about it here and then click on "Take Action!" to easily and painlessly send a free fax to your lawmaker.

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