Democracy Arsenal

« August 12, 2007 - August 18, 2007 | Main | August 26, 2007 - September 1, 2007 »

August 25, 2007

Matthew Continetti Tells Us How Well Things Are Going
Posted by David Shorr

Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard was on NPR's On Point yesterday. One exchange with host Tom Ashbrook was hilarious, if it weren't so sad (at around 21:45, for those who'd like to listen). Continetti was reporting that local sheiks all over Iraq, not just in Anbar, are joining the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq. What's more:

Once these sheiks flip, many of the Sunnis who live in these areas, they join the Iraqi security forces. So in a sense, this is a way in which the grassroots political developments help strengthen the central government of Iraq by joining the national Iraqi army.

When host Ashbrook pushed back, asking whether these forces aren't just arming themselves for civil war, rather than integrating into the national army, Continetti replied:

The Army takes its orders from the central government in Baghdad, so of course it's integrating with that government.

All of which delivered in a how-could-you-be-so-dense tone. I mean, why would anybody pretend to be regular forces, and at the same time secretly doing mischief on behalf of their own tribal kinspeople, rather than the government in Baghdad?? (Hearing this, and imagining my 6th grade daughter saying it, rolling her eyes and doing that head-wiggle thing.) Like, duuh.

On Civilian Casualties in Iraq
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

O'hanlon's piece in the Wapo today points to a significant reduction in sectarian violence.  But as Matt points out the U.S. military won't actually verify those numbers or show any proof. 

In fact getting access to any kind of civilian casualty number has grown much more difficult in the past year.  The most reliable source for civilian casualty estimates, the UN, has not been allowed access to the data since the start of 2007.  The Iraqi government was mad because it thought the UN's numbers were too high so it stopped sharing the data. 

There are also numerous reports of underreporting of civilian casualties inside Iraq.

Even more damning is the fact that just last August the military and the Bush Administration specifically underreported civilian deaths in an attempt to tout the success of the original Baghdad security operation.  An accusation that was confirmed by the Iraq Study Group.

A drop in civilian casualties would be great news.  I just wish someone who doesn't have a vested interest in reporting that news could actually verify those numbers.

Allawi Will Never Run Iraq
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

There is no way Iyad Allawi will ever run Iraq.  This is strictly a Washington story (And I gotta say the Republican lobbying angle is distributing).  But the man has zero support inside Iraq and so the only way into power is through a military coup, which is impossible to pull off right now.   This is no different then when the neocons supported Chalabi before the war, only to have him fall flat on his face once he got to Iraq because he had no support amongst the population.

The reality is that if Maliki were to lose a no-confidence vote you would have total deadlock in the Iraqi government and no one would be able to form a governing coalition.  It took the Iraqis five months to form the Maliki government the first time (January-May 2006), and you'd probably have an equally long stand off today.  That is why the NIE concluded that "Maliki will continue to benefit from recognition among Shi'a leaders that searching for a replacement could paralyze the government."

Ironically, one of the more sensible pieces on this comes from Nibras Kazimi.  He clearly has his own vehemently pro Shi'a agenda, having worked for Ahmed Chalabi at the Iraqi National Congress and on the de-Baathification Commission (Surprise, he is now at the Hudson Institute).  To be very clear, I don't agree with much of what Kazimi says in his post, but the vote counting he does in the Iraqi Parliament seems to be on the money.

-No one can pull-off a military coup in Iraq.

-Parliament is out for another three weeks, so Maliki is not facing an immediate no-confidence vote.

-Adel Abdel-Mahdi, the current Vice-President, cannot deliver SCIRI’s parliamentary votes for the Allawi camp.

-The Sadrists won’t vote for Allawi.

-The Da’awa Party won’t follow former PM Ibrahim Jaafari if he moves against Maliki.

-Anyone seen as “Saudi Arabia’s guy”—as Allawi projects himself, although that may not really be the case as far as the Saudi leadership is concerned—is not likely to get Sistani & Co. to go along with this plan.

-The Iranians won’t let this happen, and they have far more political cards to play in Iraq than the Americans—and they can play those cards smarter than O’Sullivan.

-Why would the Kurds substitute their strong alliance with the Shiites, who are going to run the country for a very long time to come, in return for the fleeting favor of the defeated Sunnis (their rivals on Kirkuk) and a politician such as Allawi whose word really doesn’t go that far?

-Qasim Daoud, a favorite of the Emirati leadership and another PM candidate as far as the Americans are concerned, has too many corruption scandals hovering around his head.

-My sources tell me the following: one of the principal actors who was attempting to bring down Maliki has left Iraq for an extended vacation, telling anyone who’d listen that it can’t be done.

I’ll say it: the Americans are irrelevant to political events in Iraq.

August 24, 2007

Re-Invade Vietnam!!!
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Rosa has the solution to all our problems.

The Experienced Candidate....
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Didn't have such a good week. 

Apparently the surge is working.

Maliki should be ousted even though the entire Intelligence Community agrees that doing so would paralyze the Iraqi government for months.

The Republicans are better on terrorism.

I try to stay out of Presidential politics on Democracy Arsenal. But when you have a consistent set of mistakes that are undermining what progressives are trying to do on national security and foreign policy I can't help but get annoyed.   Stay on Message!!!

Limbaugh: less fat but STILL an Idiot
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Hat tip to mediamatters . Note to Republicans: I am so, so, sorry that this guy reportedly speaks for your base.

Limbaugh claims Dems' interest in Darfur is securing black "voting bloc" Summary: On his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Democrats "want to get us out of Iraq, but they can't wait to get us into Darfur." He continued: "There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It's black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they're in trouble." A caller responded, "The black population," to which Limbaugh said, "Right."

On the August 21 broadcast of the nationally syndicated *Rush Limbaugh Show*, a caller said to host Rush Limbaugh"I know I'm no expert in foreign affairs, but what really confuses me about the liberals is the hypocrisy when they talk about how we have no reason to be in Iraq and helping those people, but yet everybody wants us to go to Darfur." Limbaugh responded by claiming Democrats "want to get us out of  Iraq, but they can't wait to get us into Darfur." He continued: "There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It's black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? Ifthey lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they're in trouble." The caller responded, "The black population," to which Limbaugh said, "Right."

Limbaugh also stated: "So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa,  you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela -- who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing."

Limbaugh added: "Clinton sent the U.S. military off to Bosnia. No U.S. national interest at stake. The liberals will use the military as a 'meals on wheels' program. They'll send them out to help with tsunami victims. But you put the military -- you put the military in a position of defending U.S. national interest, and that's when Democrats and the liberals oppose it."

However, interest in ending the killing in the Darfur region of Sudan is bipartisan. In 2006, Congress passed the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act*(sponsored by then-Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-IL). The law contained several sanctions on Sudan, including a ban on ships involved in Sudan's oil trade  docking at U.S. ports of entry. An initial version of the bill  passed the House by a vote of 416-3, and the final version passed the House by  voice vote and the Senate by unanimous consent and was  signed by the president on October 13, 2006.

Keep going for the transcript.

Continue reading "Limbaugh: less fat but STILL an Idiot" »

A Bizarre Anti-TNR Missive
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Some of you may have seen this rather bizarre anti-TNR rant from Kathy G. on Ezra's site. First off, can Kathy please find a synonym for "wanker"? More substantively, take a look at the following graf, and see if you can make any sense out of it:

The sexual and racial uniformity [of The New Republic's staff] is offensive on principal, of course. Moreover, in practice, it is one of the factors that has caused TNR to suck so hard. For example, there’s the classic TNR genre of pointless look-how-clever-I-am contrarianism. Only in a culture as insular, inbred, and out-of-touch as TNR’s could a style of argument as inane and precious as this one flourish. The obnoxious white boy entitlement complex probably also explains why TNR has harbored more than its share of frauds and fantasists. Because if you’re as special as we are who needs fact-checkers, right?

So, let me get this straight - lack of women and African-Americans on staff leads to contrarianism; contrarianism leads to entitlement; entitlement leads to bad fact-checking or, worse, no fact-checking. Hmm, right...

But then, later on in the post, we get to the heart of the matter:

It doesn’t matter if 19 out of 20 articles in a given issue are liberal; the one wingnutty one out of the 20 will, by virtue of its setting, be all the more influential.

Kathy G. apparently would like an enforced liberal orthodoxy where liberal magazines are required to toe the party line at all times. Even having 95% of your articles be "liberal" is not enough. She wants 20 out of 20 articles to fit her own conception of what "liberal" is. Well, that would be a pretty damn boring magazine to read. I know people like to have their own ideological biases confirmed by what they read. This is why you have magazines like the National Review and The Weekly Standard, which, as far as I can tell, serve only one purpose - to further pre-confirmed ideological agendas and advance purely partisan arguments. But perhaps there is a constituency out there that values at least some ideological diversity in their reading. God forbid.

August 23, 2007

How is Speechwriting Like Sausage-Making? Not for the Squeamish
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I admit that I dropped everything to read the smackdown of Bush speechwriting deity Michael Gerson by his erstwhile colleague Matthew Scully in this month's Atlantic.  Every current and reformed speechwriter I know did the same (you too, Michael Cohen, 'fess up.)

I expected a good dose of Democratic Schadenfreude, and I got it. (Best-ever definition of Schadenfreude?  These lyrics from Avenue Q.) I expected some flashbacks to my own least-pleasant speechwriting experiences, and I had those too.

But at a certain point, it was actually too much.   

Continue reading "How is Speechwriting Like Sausage-Making? Not for the Squeamish" »

The Clerisy Did Its Job Yesterday
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Atrios and Matt owe the clerisy an apology.  Matt writes

In particular, a bipartisan, yet also non-partisan, group of experts would be a useful thing to have on hand if, for example, both the President of the United States and a leading Republican candidate for President were to endorse a lunatic revisionist view of the Vietnam War. Members of this clerisy, Democrat and Republican alike, could set the country straight on the facts.  Then I was going to observe that the clerisy we have has done no such thing and has, in fact, stayed utterly silent on this small question that happens to rest at the center of the Bush administration's justification of its policies.

In fact, that's exactly what they did.  Ten minutes after the President's speech ended yesterday 40 reporters from many of the key mainstream media outlets got on a press call sponsored by the National Security Network with with General John Johns, General Robert Gard, Rand Beers, Larry Korb and Steven Simon (Of the hated Council on Foreign Relations).  For over an hour these experts took the time to explain to the press why the President's comparison to Vietnam was bull.

Afterward a press release with a summary of their comments went out to reporters and editorial boards across the country.  The comments were all over the MSM yesterday as the main response to the President's speech.  See AP, WSJ, NY Times, to name just a few. Try google news on any one these five guys and you will find that just about every major media outlet had a quote from them in the Bush's speech story saying how the President's Vietnam analogy was wrong.

These stories don't write themselves.  There is a reason the speech got trashed yesterday  by the media and the clerisy had a great deal to do with that.

I'm not saying the clerisy is always right.  There are many problems.  But in this case they did exactly what they were supposed to do and exactly what Matt asked of them.

Update:  A nice response from Matt.

The Surge is Dead
Posted by Michael Cohen

Today's release of the latest NIE on Iraq provides compelling evidence of something many of us have already suspected - the surge has failed.

Now I'm quite sure the President and his enablers will argue that the document's opening line supports continuing this failed policy:

There have been measurable but uneven improvement in Iraq's security situation since our last NIE on Iraq in January 2007.

See, it's a "A War We Might Just Win!" But what they will likely ignore is this more relevant point:

Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.

This is, and always has been the rub of the issue. In the end, Iraq's only hope is in political compromise. Indeed, lest we forget, the entire premise of the surge was predicated on giving the Iraqis breathing room to move forward with political reform. In fact, here's what the President said when he announced the surge policy in January.

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas.

Continue reading "The Surge is Dead" »

Bumper Stickers for Democrats
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Via the Corner, I was made aware that the DSCC has launched a bumper sticker contest:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is launching a campaign to find the bumper sticker slogan that will carry us through the 2008 elections.  It'll