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Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

IMPERIAL LIFE....The story of the day is Rajiv Chandrasekaran's account in Sunday's Washington Post of how the Bush administration mismanaged the postwar occupation of Iraq. It all started with the staffing decisions, and the point man for this was the Pentagon's Jim O'Beirne, husband of longtime conservative writer/talker Kate O'Beirne:

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade.

....Many of the basic tasks Americans struggle to accomplish today in Iraq training the army, vetting the police, increasing electricity generation could have been performed far more effectively in 2003 by the CPA.

But many CPA staff members were more interested in other things: in instituting a flat tax, in selling off government assets, in ending food rations and otherwise fashioning a new nation that looked a lot like the United States. Many of them spent their days cloistered in the Green Zone, a walled-off enclave in central Baghdad with towering palms, posh villas, well-stocked bars and resort-size swimming pools.

Of course, when I say the occupation was "mismanaged," this is far too light a term for what really happened in Iraq. As Jonathan Chait says today, the Bush team's conduct of the occupation "was almost criminally negligent." Remove the almost and he's right.

Which brings me to a question. Chandrasekaran's article is an excerpt from his new book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, an account of the "stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone" that's hitting bookshelves this week. It follows in the footsteps of Blind Into Baghadad, Fiasco, Cobra II, The Assassins' Gate, and a seemingly unending parade of other books about the still (to me) mind-boggling brew of incompetence and messianic ideology the Bush administration brought to the project it supposedly considered the main front on the war on terror.

So I'll once again ask a question that I asked of George Packer last year: is there anyone outside of the administration itself who's written a book-length defense of the occupation of Iraq? David Frum, say, or Charles Krauthammer or Ralph Peters?

Maybe that's too much to ask. How about merely a book suggesting that all the other critiques are too harsh, and things aren't quite as disastrous as they seem. Anyone?

Kevin Drum 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (109)

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It makes one look forward with (somewhat rueful) relish to the books that will be coming out as Bush's alcohol-fueled boat sputters off into the sunset. The only rebuttals will come from dyspeptic radio voices, who speak to the illiterates everywhere, and the factotums at Regnery, who put out hate screeds for people who pretend to be able to read.

Posted by: Kenji on September 17, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Those of us that are not avowed Republicans have always known or suspected how awfully the occupation project was mismanaged. Should I be glad that this is all coming out or should I be complaining that it took the MSM too long to grow the balls to tell us the truth.

Posted by: bt on September 17, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe that's too much to ask. How about merely a book suggesting that all the other critiques are too harsh, and things aren't quite as disastrous as they seem. Anyone?

Why do you need a book for that? Just tune into any evening news program and that is the message you get. The reason there are books about this disaster is because nobody in the media establishment is willing to call it a disaster.

Posted by: Marcus Wellby on September 17, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

No. No one will ever defend the occupation.

Posted by: abe on September 17, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well, we aren't herders so much as herd. When opinion was stampeding to war in 2002-2003, everybody who creates and manages opinon (the pundits, the publishers, etc) pretty much held the same views on Iraq, the president, the international community, etc.

Now the herd holds another set of views -- more or less in opposition to those it held a couple years ago. Was the zeitgeist wrong then, or now?

I think the lesson is to stay out of the way of the herd when it turns in your direction.

Posted by: Model 62 on September 17, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Fascists value party loyalty above competence or common sense. No news there. However, Im still waiting for Bush and his cronies to cough up the $9 billion of our tax money that these assholes misplaced!

Can you imagine the outrage if Clinton had been president?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 17, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall has some useful observations anent this story, to the effect that for all the broad outlines of the failure may have been common knowledge to sentient beings for years, further level of detail is always useful. I just finished Fiasco the other week and was stunned at the depth and thoroughness of the regime's malpractice (it's clear that many of Ricks' sources have axes to grind, but my goodness!—as Rummy might say—there are deserving whetstones all over the Pentagon, the White House and the Old Executive). It's hard to see how they they could have done any worse had they gone about losing the war of set purpose rather than by means of mere delusional thinking.

Posted by: Rand Careaga on September 17, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Kevin, I don't see what's wrong with hiring good conservatives to work in Iraq. America is the greatest country in the world. When America liberated Iraq, we wanted to make Iraq as great as America and the best way to do this is to apply American values to Iraq. Conservatives believe in American values and that's why conservatives are the best to work in post-liberation Iraq. Even you would agree people with invalid ideologies should not work for the CPA in Iraq. Even liberals like you would agree that it would be wrong to hire a Nazi or a Communist to work in Iraq no matter how "competent" he is. That's because the Nazi and Communist believe in bad unAmerican values. For similar reasons, hiring conservatives is best because they are strongest proponents of good American values.

Posted by: Al on September 17, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, clearly you, Kevin, are an apologist for Nazis and Communists. As is everyone else who questions the goodness and rightness of the Bush administration and its actions.

Remember, it's not about what you DO, it's about what you BELIEVE while you're doing it.

Sorta like, "if it feels good, do it."

Oh wait ... sorry, that's relativistic secular humanism. Sorry, I keep getting those things mixed up...

Posted by: bleh on September 17, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Americans are not going to take on the task of examining the invasion of Iraq and the corruption of the occupation any time soon. The majority of them still haven't learned the truth about the Viet Nam War.

And, as with that fiasco, Americans will not be interested in learning the facts and the meaning of the facts. Rather, they will search for a myth that confirms their beliefs about themselves and absolves them from any responsibility for the horror. They will search for it, the corporate ruling class will provide it, and they will embrace it and elevate it to religious levels.

Posted by: James E. Powell on September 17, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Why do we always project hate towards the wingnuts in power? They were put there by your wingnut enabling neighbor.

If not for support of the rubes, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I think our anger is misdirected.

Posted by: Chris E on September 17, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

A few days ago I read a review of Fiasco on the NRO website. The review was surprisingly positive, but I didn't see any Corner discussion of it.

Posted by: Colin on September 17, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm writing that book right now. The tentative title is, "I wish I may, I wish I might... or, "If Wishes were Fulafels."

Chapter One is about steeling, er, spending NINE BILLION DOLLARS IN CASH. More fun than you would imagine.

I'm going to ask Al to write the forward. Hell, maybe he's writing a book too. His working title might be "Rose Colored Glasses". Or, "Never met an Ideologue I didn't Like."

Posted by: bobbywally on September 17, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

The Koran expressly Commands World Jihad and World Domination for Islam. Here are the verses:
http://www.transworldnews.com/NewsStory.aspx?storyid=9761&ret=news.aspx&cat=

Posted by: Love on September 17, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

In 1972, before the Watergate incident, my classmates accused me of being biased against Nixon. "No, I'm not," I replied, "I'm biased in favor of Nixon, because Nixon is so corrupt that even I don't know all of bad things he's done." Well, I was right! And I'm biased in favor of George W. Bush and his entire administration for the same reason.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on September 17, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

i think what al is suggesting is that there are no competent conservatives. i'm sure american hawk would back al up on this. on a more serious note, politics, retaining power, winning elections, is all that this administration cares about. i've lost count: how many thousands of american soldiers have been killed or maimed in order to create a campaign issue for karl rove to exploit? criminal. mind-bogglingly criminal.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on September 17, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

gee marcus, maybe you're not paying attention. most people believe the iraq war is a colossal flop. i don't think they're getting that from reading books, no matter how many exposes are written on the incompetence of the bush administration.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on September 17, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Al at 1:00 is fake. The real Al, if there is one any more, isn't quite that dumb.

I think that, as in New Orleans, the factor of graft has to be taken into consideration. Handing out fat contracts to friends, and hiring friends' kids, is a governmental function which is being well and efficiently performed by the Bush administration.

Posted by: Humble Blogger on September 17, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if this was some good old small bore political corruption. Have the government pay out $$$ for some project. Make sure that eveyone in line to receive the $$$ are your friends. The project doesn't actually get done, but in the meantime your friends are richer courtesy of the taxpayer.

Grant it we are not used to seeing foreign policy run like a county highway construction authority, but maybe this is something we should get used to.

Posted by: Bert on September 17, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

A tale of what happens when you leave nation-building to the "everything-is-ideology" crowd. It would be comical if only it were fictional.

Posted by: Vincent on September 17, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

For a variety of reasons, I have spent much of my working life working in, or with, Facilities Administration and Security Departments. Most of the people in these departments (initially to my surprise, but I learned to expect it) are quite competent and good at their tasks. Many of them are ex-military, and most, by no means all, of them are moderately to quite conservative. Most of them would rather stick to the job that has to be done than go to the bar. There was in fact a huge embedded base in American society to do these jobs right, and it boggles the mind that the O'Beirnes of this world overlooked in favor of immature pop-off artists.

And I suppose that what went unsaid in the above is that college, and the concerns it fosters (e.g., flat taxes and "incentives") are really not as useful as David Brooks would have us think.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on September 17, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I dread these "competence" critiques - they suggest that the project was inherently doable...just miscarried in the execution.

I try to visualise a Gore administration occupying Iraq, and all I can see is whirled peas.

Posted by: Andrew II on September 17, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

BTW - I saw Webb versus Allen on MTP with punkinhead. Webb sounded great, except for some messy h&h about the women comments. Check this out, but Webb says he was opposed to the invasion, especially how it was going to be done, even in 2002. Please do what you can to support Webb here in VA. Try to get over his past, and be glad to have yet another disenchanted ex-Repug heaver hitter on our team.

Posted by: Neil' on September 17, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

That was fake Al, but the tapioca-skin difference between them is getting thinner every day, as the Bushinistas fall apart before his (their?) blinkered eyes.

Posted by: Kenji on September 17, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I do believe that had the administration seriously pursued nation-building in Iraq then perhaps the occupation wouldn't have turned into such a catastrophe. I hoped for success even though I was unhappy about the war, and even if it meant the awful Republicans would remain in power indefinitely. Then came Rumsfeld's "democracy is messy" and one revelation after another of the administration's corruption, incompetence, and ideological intransigence. The Bush administration's culpabilty cannot be overstated.

Yet the American people re-elected their leaders in 2004.

Posted by: Lucy on September 17, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

"Why do we always project hate towards the wingnuts in power? They were put there by your wingnut enabling neighbor.

If not for support of the rubes, we wouldn't be having this discussion. I think our anger is misdirected."
Posted by: Chris E on September 17, 2006 at 1:09 PM

Chris E: What in the world did you mean? Which wingnut enabling neighbor, what's the deal? Please be less cryptic.

Posted by: Neil' on September 17, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I dread these "competence" critiques - they suggest that the project was inherently doable...just miscarried in the execution.

I try to visualise a Gore administration occupying Iraq, and all I can see is whirled peas."
Posted by: Andrew II on September 17, 2006 at 1:48 PM

Maybe the project wasn't doable in a high-grade sense, but your equivalency dribble^* is lowest-grade CW cynicism. Gore would have listened to his best advisers like a Shinseki, wouldn't have run the thing as we have heard, and maybe it would have turned out well enough at least.

* It's like the pretentious blabber of Nader/Greens in 2000 that tipped the thing to Bush. That was a disaster for the whole planet so beloved by Nader et al, and he put his ego and snootiness first. I will never forgive him.

Posted by: Neil' on September 17, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Who was the daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator?

Posted by: Goof Beyou on September 17, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Gosh, in Kate O'Beirne's columns and appearances on various shows opinionating about the Iraq occupation, I don't recall her ever mentioning her husband's involvement with the CPA. Now, gee, isn't that puzzling?

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on September 17, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Ambassador Bremer has taken up Kevin's challenge, with "My Year In Iraq". I understand he believes he didn't screw the pooch.

That said, I suppose we should consider the source. In Moses Naim's review of Chandrasekaran this morning, we find:

-- When President Bush announced in May 2003 that he was appointing L. Paul Bremer as the top U.S. civilian official in Iraq, I received an e-mail from one of his former business colleagues: "I just heard that Jerry [Bremer's nickname] will be running Iraq. And the Iraqis thought that the worst we could do was to bomb them."

Posted by: Andrew on September 17, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Might I also add to the list of Iraq testimonials revealing CPA headquarters incompetence Rory Stewart's _The Prince of the Marshes_. It actually speaks quite well of the efforts of the career foreign service officers working for the CPA outside of Baghdad and there are details that reveal true incompetence in the centralization demanded by Bremer at CPA head quarters. The Italians don't come off so well either.

Posted by: lisainvan on September 17, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the project wasn't doable in a high-grade sense, but your equivalency dribble^* is lowest-grade CW cynicism. Gore would have listened to his best advisers like a Shinseki, wouldn't have run the thing as we have heard, and maybe it would have turned out well enough at least.

What you are missing is that, even if the 9/11 attacks had occurred in the same way, it is almost certain that a Gore administration would not have invaded Iraq.

The invasion of Iraq, and connecting that invasion with the 9/11 attacks, was produced and directed by a small group of idealogue idiots who came to power in the Bush Junta. They had been talking about doing it for years. The 9/11 attacks made their sales job possible.

There was no similar group within the Democratic Party generally or the probable Gore administration, specifically (Holy Joe notwithstanding).

The most likely product of a Gore administration's response to the 9/11 attacks would have been the invasion and occupation, en masse, of Afghanistan. At the very least, his re-election would have been dependent upon his capture or killing OBL. The Republicans would have been shouting "weak" since 8AM on 9/12/01. Gore would have little choice but to answer to that.

Posted by: James E. Powell on September 17, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Kevin, I don't see what's wrong with hiring good conservatives to work in Iraq.

Well, I do. Conservatives today are uniformly morons. They MUST be morons, because that is the requirement to continue to give Bush more rope.

Long ago, conservatives were hard-nosed accountants, unwilling to go outside of the accountant's credo that the books must balance. Today, you must not only disparage anyone who actually can add, but you must go to the point of requiring that most of the big expenses in governement not even show up on the books period.

Conservatives are idiots today.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 17, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

more unbad news from Iraq:

http://newsblaze.com/story/20060916131446tsop.nb/newsblaze/IRAQ0001/Iraq.html

Up next: how the Republican Congress mismanaged the occupation of the South. Or else, how Lincoln mismanaged the occupied areas of the South before he was assassinated and the congress took control. Take your pick -- one side or the other was definitely wrong.

After that: the mismanagement of the Japan Occupation by McArthur: revenge trials for "war crimes", suppression of speech and press freedoms, inappropriate economic and industrial advice, near starvation of the Japanese populace due to lack of planning.

Posted by: republicrat on September 17, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

So I'll once again ask a question that I asked of George Packer last year: is there anyone outside of the administration itself who's written a book-length defense of the occupation of Iraq? David Frum, say, or Charles Krauthammer or Ralph Peters?

I'm sorry, Kevin; but they don't have to. As you can and should know, ABC can produce a docudrama at any time showing that it's all Clinton's fault.

Support the troops; Support the troops; Support the troops.

Posted by: Thinker on September 17, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

Democrats should be talking specifically about treason. This isn't to say we know these acts constitute treason, or that we necessarily would have treason trials, but certainly this level of level of criminal negligence is squarely in the ballpark of treason, and should be discussed as such.

I know Democrats are afraid of talking impeachment yet alone treason, because they feel there will be a backlash. Well, it's probably true that many voters would see eleventh hour election talk of accountability as a transparent political ploy. In any event, only the choir is going to respond favorably to the first few sermons that preach impeachment or treason.

What Democrats needed to be doing all along since the last election (when it should have been clear to everyone with a half-functioning brain that that Bush was divisive, incompetent, and corrupt) was to start talking in terms of "accountability". Impeachment and treason would be the goal implied with a wink to party loyalists, but terms that would not be acknowledged directly so as not to alienate the mainstream.

The need for accountability and/or reform are notions that take a long time to soak into the national conscience. You need to hammer home the bad deeds (which most Americans are still unaware of) and subsequently the need for accountability for those bad deeds. And you probably need the better of a year of stumping that message to have a real chance of it gaining wide acceptance.

Sadly, time and time again the Democrats have run away from any confrontation. Republicans even successfully frightened the Democrats away from hinting at impeachment, by arguing that Democrats would end up tying down the government in endless trials and legal wrangles. The simple refrain the Democrats should have used (instead of wetting themselves and running away) is something like "you can't impeach a president unless he's committed a crime, so why are Republicans so worried?" (If the president has committed no crimes Republicans have nothing to worry about. But if the president has committed a crime, then surely he should be held accountable under the law. What part of that don't Republicans agree with?)

So it is once again too late for Democrats to start softening up the electorate for tough talk about accountability. I must say I'm dismayed that the Democratic approach to elections has been little more than "don't look at me, I'm not in charge".

The Bush administration and the GOP as a whole are so corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent that we'd be better off turning the government over to random postal employees. But the problem is not everyone appreciates how bad the GOP has become, and surely we should have SOME positive reasons to vote for Democrats other than the fact they're not Republicans.

Democrats have been largely silent (granted not always due to lack of effort) when all of these horrible things have taken place. It hardly augurs well for the type of leadership they will provide if and when they come to power. And honestly, do any of us really know what substantive issues the Democrats stand for anyway (aside from nay saying the GOP)?

People don't vote for wallflowers or the ineffectual. Given the choice, they'd rather vote for someone decisive (even if a bit evil). Just as the ghosts of the Weimar Republic. That in a nutshell is a big part of why the Democrats can't win elections. All of these horrible things keep happening, and we hardly ever hear boo from the Democrats. We'll need to do it ourselves.

Whenever possible, describe the GOP as "arrogant, incompetent, and corrupt"

Whenever discussing the lies leading to the Iraq war or the bungled occupation afterwards, use the word "treasonable".

Go!

Posted by: Augustus on September 17, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that the Bush team mismanaged the occupation of Iraq. I hope you libs will concede that that the Bush/Rumsfeld team managed the overthrow of Saddam superbly. I hope you will also acknowledge that they managed the overthrow of the Taliban superbly. In both cases, victory came far more quickly than most had predicted and with far fewer casualties.

In my view, it was right to overthrow Saddam. Doing the right thing imperfectly is better than not doing the right thing (see Clinton, W.J. and Bush, G.H.W.)

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Chait, his column today is a perfect example of the idiocy of the Bush toady wannabes.

He criticizes the other libs for accusing him and his cohorts of the 'incompetence dodge' in that the so called liberal hawks like Chait are dodging the main question of the indvisability of the Iraq project by blaming the Iraq fiasco on the incompetence of GWB.

He goes on to claim that his critics are wrong because Bush amply demonstrated his incompetence in the Katrina disaster. What great logic!

Posted by: gregor on September 17, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

A considerable fraction of the Union Army officer corps got their promostions because of their loyalty to Lincoln, most prominently Benjamin Butler and Nathaniel Banks. It didn't exactly hurt Sherman and Grant that they were strong supporters of Lincoln either. Prominent, and even competent, Union generals were cashiered (and at least one imprisoned) for suspected disloyalty following second Bull Run.

Truman rather famously made the non-partisan gesture to Hoover when he asked Hoover to supervise the reconstruction of Europe; except for that, most high appointments were made to strong Democratic partisans, such as Clark Clifford. It was the highly partisan Clifford who won the debate with the non-partisan Gen. Marshall on the issue of recognizing Israel.

It really is not the case that Bush is worse than his predecessors.

Posted by: republicrat on September 17, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Doing the right thing imperfectly is better than not doing the right thing (see Clinton, W.J. and Bush, G.H.W.)


Ha! Liberty University really produces great thinkers.

Posted by: gregor on September 17, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

I've read most of the books cited by Kevin. For some reason I have become obsessed with reading about the misadventures of George Bush which lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, but "Fiasco" by Thomas Ricks is, by far, the best and lays out the folly that our Iraq incursion has become in a clear and concise narrative.

Books a Million and Barnes and Noble have come to love to see me heading for their doors, but how do we convince those wingnut supporters that their position is not only wrong, but also dangerous?

My thought is that the cognitive disconnect of most Americans will be difficult to overcome.

Posted by: Fred on September 17, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Why on earth would any Republican feel the need to defend anything? They are much better at attacking the messenger, and you can bet your bottom dollar that's what they'll do here.

It really is not the case that Bush is worse than his predecessors.

...if you leave out the facts that he lies more, is less competent, more corrupt, more divisive, and, yes, more partisan.

And stupid.

And a drunk.

And totally lacks human sympathy.

Jeez, I'm going to be here all day.

Posted by: calling all toasters on September 17, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

1. "I hope you libs will concede that that the Bush/Rumsfeld team managed the overthrow of Saddam superbly."

The US pitted its incomparable war machine against Saddam's degraded little military and won. I would think so!

2. "I hope you will also acknowledge that they managed the overthrow of the Taliban superbly."

See #1, but moreso. And as you know, the Taliban are back.

3. "In both cases, victory came far more quickly than most had predicted and with far fewer casualties"

OK, that one's true.

Posted by: Lucy on September 17, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

In my view, it was right to overthrow Saddam. Doing the right thing imperfectly is better than not doing the right thing (see Clinton, W.J. and Bush, G.H.W.)
Posted by: ex-liberal

It would have been even more impressively "right" for reagun to have never supplied him in the first place, and ignored his use of chem weapons agains iranians and kurds.

Posted by: Nads on September 17, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK


It seems Victor Davis Hanson is working on reviews of 'a wide variety of books on recent developments in the war by Max Boot, Fred Kagan, Robert Kagan, Michael Lind, Mark Steyn, and Thomas Ricks, and should have them wrapped up within 2 weeks.'

http://victordavishanson.pajamasmedia.com/2006/09/13/wars_books_and_democrats.php

Posted by: David Tomlin on September 17, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Truman rather famously made the non-partisan gesture to Hoover when he asked Hoover to supervise the reconstruction of Europe; except for that, most high appointments were made to strong Democratic partisans, such as Clark Clifford. ...
It really is not the case that Bush is worse than his predecessors.
Posted by: republicrat

seriously ... you want to compare the appointment of cliff clark, a naval officer, presidential advisor, archirtect of truman defeating dewey to random wingnut pissants weaned on college republicans and limbaugh???? are you sure?

qualifications are what we're criticizing, dipshit ... not just the partisanship.

Posted by: Nads on September 17, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

link to the article David mentioned.

So far the international approval of Afghanistan and its smaller costs have ensured support from the Left. But note, as casualties begin to mount, and the nature of the counter-insurgency fighting increasingly begins to resemble Iraqas it must in this particular front of a global warand as the magic multilateral solution proves a mirage, the NATO coalition being no more effective than the coalition of the willing in Iraq, expect to see the Democratic leadership begin to bail on Afghanistan as well.

First, as true of Iraq, will come the recriminations how Bush ruined their perfect war with his botched peace. Then, there will be the whine that we have too few troopsalways presented in hindsight as a missed opportunity, never as a call to drastically commit more resources. Then will come stories of principled European soldiersremember the British officers of Basra who swore off Ray-Bans and Kevlar helmets to foot patrol in berets among the Mahdi armywho are aghast at our brutal tactics. So just as we went into Afghanistan about 17 months before Iraq, expect in about 17 more months, the Democrats and the media will do to that war what they have done to Iraq: ensure the violence dominates the narrative and pushes down support for continuance to below 40%.

Posted by: ferrousbutterfly on September 17, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Honestly, I think that George Packer's book is the book-length defense of the Bush administration that you're looking for. Unlike most of the books out there Packer presents most of the major players (not counting Bush and Rumsfeld) as reasonably well-intentioned but tragically limited by their personal shortcomings. Packer even spends four or five pages dissing what he considers the hard-left "rooting for failure" crowd, even if he just did it to buff his 'independent observer' credentials. Fiasco definitely does not do that.

If you want a serious effort at making the Bush war look good you will probably settle for what we at Balloon Juice call jackalopes (as in, "look, over there! A jackalope!"). Dinesh D'Souza's new book, for example. It seems practically impossible to argue on behalf of our buggered war management.

That said, beware the incompetence trap. If all that we bemoan is the horrible management of the Bush administration then we may well pave the way for somebody to pursue the Bush goals, but well. The basic problem is not that they lack the competence to accomplish their goals but that the theories behind their goals are intellectually bankrupt and inevitably doomed to fail.

Posted by: Tim F on September 17, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as it is an election year, isn't it time to recognize a few political realities?

First, arguing that a hypothetical Gore administration or Democratic congress would not have gotten us into this mess has been tried. Why, exactly, I'm not sure, because most voters, certainly most casual voters realize the United States government does not possess a time machine. Its also true that, to be blunt about it, unlike Vietnam, which never posed any threat the United States at all, other than a domino theory cold war tactical one, its impossible to immediately dis-engage from the Middle East at this point. Its certainly possible to dis-engage, but not immediately.

As a result, arguing agaist the invasion of Iraq, and even arguing that the Administration made a dog's breakfast out of the subsequent occupation, has the bizarre status of (i) being true for a certain majority of voters and (ii) yet, at the same time, not really being of any benefit (in terms of votes) to the person making the argument. The hard-core neo-cons don't believe in the argument, the hard-core dems hate the Republicans so much that you're preaching to the choir and, most importantly, the swing voters are going to need something more than confirmation that the Bush adminstration is not exactly top-notch when it comes to foreign policy.

What I think the Dem's need on this one is some sort of actual foreign policy. Don't even bother mentioning being for or against the Iraq mis-adventure, and fight like hell from having the argument structured in that way. "Being in favor of the war in Iraq" is now irrelevant, really, we're their, and we're stuck there.

What should be stressed is that our ultimate disengagement from this particular tar baby requires some political concessions from the rest of the world, we can't force various peoples and countries in the rest of the world to make those concessions, and they will have to be negotiated. Bush gambled and lost on this one. He and the Republicans have to go, to allow the rest of the world some cover to talk to a new representatvie of the U.S.

As far as the "war on terror" is concerned, perhaps it would be a good thing to point out that our experience over the last five years has taught is that, fortunately for us, this is not by any means best dealt with by a "hot, shooting war" its more like the cold war, where any stand off simply buys more time for the "enemy" whomever the hell they are, to come around to the U.S./Western European way of thought (for those too dumb, that means using a ballot box rather than a suicide bomb).

People know this to be true. Further debate over whether the invasion of Iraq was right or wrong is, bizarrely enough, a loser.

Posted by: hank on September 17, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush et al. had done a good job of overthrowing Saddam they would have planned to secure areas once they were occupied (such as weapons depots), and they would have planned not to leave a power vacuum in his place. Also, a superb job does not involve unjustified invasions in the first place, and certainly not lying to American citizens in order to persuade them to go along with the whole misadventure. A superb job of invading Afghanistan would have involved clear and effective plans for capturing Bin Ladin. It is not clear that bombing until the rubble bounced will be productive over the long-term, or was necessary.

Posted by: N.Wells on September 17, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Anyway, I think both parties ultimately support a permanent American presence in the Middle East, which was, of course, the reason for the invasion.

Posted by: Lucy on September 17, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

If both parties support a permanent American miltary presence in the Middle East, isn't it about time to make it clear that the Democaratic party is not one of them?

Posted by: hank on September 17, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Truman rather famously made the non-partisan gesture to Hoover when he asked Hoover to supervise the reconstruction of Europe

Keep in mind that this wasn't done out of "non-partisanship." Hoover was perhaps the most highly qualified person in the USA to oversee relief and reconstruction efforts in post-WWII Europe, seeing as how he had overseen such successful efforts after WWI. Truman wasn't being gracious. He was being practical. The Bush administration can't even manage the practicality necessary. At its base, the problem probably lies in the fact that they simply don't have any believe in government itself.

Posted by: Constantine on September 17, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

hank,

The Democratic rank and file have made that clear, but I'm not so sure about the leadership.

Posted by: Lucy on September 17, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as it is an election year, isn't it time to recognize a few political realities?

Actually, it is quite the opposite. When they aren't dishing out bullshit, our "leaders" are hiding behind piles of it.

Posted by: James E. Powell on September 17, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

hank,

While I agree that we, meaning Democrats, need to address the way forward, nothing will change, there will be no "forward" if Republicans maintain complete control of the federal government.

Exposing the lies, errors and corruption of the Iraq Debacle, even going back to the beginning, is a necessary task because, more than anything else, Democrats must destroy the credibility of the Republicans and their "serious" Democratic enablers on the whole Iraq Debacle. If that is not done, then there will be no useful change in policy.

Posted by: James E. Powell on September 17, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans would have been shouting "weak" since 8AM on 9/12/01. Gore would have little choice but to answer to that.

Try noon on 9/11/01. Or as soon as Gore walked out of that Florida classroom (after maybe 20 seconds, not seven minutes). Certainly before Air Force One made its first landing of the day (of which there certainly would have been fewer, and there would have been a presidential message from wherever that stop was). Gore may get slightly muddled occasionally, but he, like most highly competent & dutiful people, is never paralyzed.

Posted by: latts on September 17, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

The incompetence dodge misses one important question (which, naturally, Chait fails to answer) - what basis was there for invading Iraq? It can't be because he was a brutal dictator, there are too many of them. It can't be because he thumbed his nose at the UN - we did so by our unprovoked invasion of Iraq. And it can't be because he had Weapons of Mass Destruction - we know that he did not (the simple minded will argue we didnt know that. The answer is, sure you are right, we didnt know. But if you dont know, you have no excuse to murder tens-of-thousands).

There is one other thing the liberal warmongers knew Bush was an incompetent boob. But others have addressed this point already.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Nads wrote: It would have been even more impressively "right" [than overthrowing Saddam] for reagun to have never supplied him in the first place, and ignored his use of chem weapons agains iranians and kurds.

I disagree. If Reagan hadn't support Saddam in his war against Iran, Saddam would nevertheless have remained in power. OTOH Bush ended his evil reign.

Granted Americans would feel more righteous if we had never supported Saddam. However, for the Iraqi people, it was his overthrow that really mattered.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

How many Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq under the boot-heel of their un-elected ruler George W. Bush?

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Barham Salih, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, has been making the rounds, urging Americans to stay the course.

http://www.brookings.edu/comm/events/20060913Salih.pdf

Posted by: Lucy on September 17, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Packer even spends four or five pages dissing what he considers the hard-left "rooting for failure" crowd,

Before or after feeding his herd of unicorns?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 17, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, cheap shot from Packer!

Posted by: Lucy on September 17, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

heavy asks How many Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq under the boot-heel of their un-elected ruler George W. Bush?

The answer is nowhere near the number who died under Saddam. And, that's true even if you blame Bush for all the murders being committed by Saddamist Sunnis and the Shia vigilantes.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is nowhere near the number who died under Saddam.

Be fair-- Saddam had 24 years, while this occupation's only a bit over three years old now. Let's not indulge in the soft bigotry of low expectations.


Posted by: latts on September 17, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

The Conservative Deflator: still waiting for Bush and his cronies to cough up the $9 billion of our tax money that [they] misplaced!

The disappearance of the billions was a crime, but not against U.S. taxpayers -- just another in the long line of abuses by our government against the Iraqi people.

From the article linked by TCD:

The money came from revenues from the United Nations' former oil-for-food program, oil sales and seized assets -- all Iraqi money. The audit did not examine the use of U.S. funds appropriated for reconstruction.
Posted by: Nell on September 17, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

To my last post I'd like to amend Peter Galbraith's testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations (9/15). It was a pretty wrenching performance; needless to say, Galbraith is extremely skeptical that a federalist government has any chance of being established in Iraq.

If the Democrats want to articulate a Middle Eastern foreign policy, Galbraith's proposal seems like a good place to start.

http://tinyurl.com/g3ase

Posted by: Lucy on September 17, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

bush-apologist is not just wrong to compare the entire reign of one brutal dictator in Iraq to his (temporally challenged) successor, but his analysis turns out to be false if you consider an equal time period before and after George W. Bush conquered Iraq. That's right "ex-liberal," Bushs Iraq has a much greater rate of violent death than Husseins.

But perhaps you can explain why we needed to spend 2600 lives and $300 Billion to eliminate Hussein. No analysis is complete until it justifies not just handing Saddam Hussein $10 Billion in exchange for going away.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"What I think the Dem's need on this one is some sort of actual foreign policy."

They have one. Make a lot of speeches, attend a lot of summits, and kick the can down the road.

heavy:

"bush-apologist is not just wrong to compare the entire reign of one brutal dictator in Iraq to his (temporally challenged) successor, but his analysis turns out to be false if you consider an equal time period before and after George W. Bush conquered Iraq. That's right "ex-liberal," Bushs Iraq has a much greater rate of violent death than Husseins."

That's got to be the dumbest cherry-picking of statistics I've ever seen. If the Third Reich was still in power in Europe, an apologist could probably proudly and accurately say they had killed no Jews at all between 2000 and now.

I assume you have faith that Saddam's regime, if still in power, would have murdered no Iraqis or started no wars into the indefinite future, including after his crazy sons took power years from now. How much history and record of behavior does a despot need before you get an idea of where he's coming from?

Posted by: fillmore on September 17, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

heavy wrote: Bushs Iraq has a much greater rate of violent death than Husseins.

Actually, I don't think so. Saddam killed between 1 million and 2 million in 25 years -- call it 75,000/year. It's been 3 1/2 years since we invaded Iraq. I don't think Iraqi deaths have readhed 250,000.

But, that's just a quibble. Today's death rate is appalling. I hope that Iraqis will succeed in putting down the insurgencies and al Qaeda in Iraq. If so, the Bush invasion will be a humanitarian success. If not. then we will see how bad things become.

No analysis is complete until it justifies not just handing Saddam Hussein $10 Billion in exchange for going away.

heavy -- We couldn't have paid Saddam to leave. He already had $10 billion. In effect, all the oil in Iraq belonged to him.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with using loyalty vice competence is it denigrates the sacrifices made by our troops. At the time, there was great discussion about whether those who did not support the war should share in the reconstruction (and potential profits of that reconstruction), and they were summarily dismissed. This plays to emotion, but when we kill and are killed (and maimed), the best way to honor these sacrifices is to hire those who are best able to pursue the endstate for which we fought. Using loyalty alone vice competence to perform spits on our troops, and this is an arrogance for which the administration has escaped accountability. This story and the efforts to report it should not drift to the back pages.

Posted by: orion on September 17, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Granted Americans would feel more righteous if we had never supported Saddam. However, for the Iraqi people, it was his overthrow that really mattered.
Posted by: ex-liberal

you think the american support and arming of saddam went unnoticed by iraqis? or the rest of the middle east? or america's selective criticism of human rights abuses? or the fact that we had a plan to secure the oil, but not secure the peace? the iraqis are somehow willing to forgive all this?

the ONLY thing that matters, you suggest, is that we tossed saddam?

Posted by: Nads on September 17, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

bush-apologist suggests that we pro-rate all of Hussein's deaths and then compare. But this is different from what I said - and for a reason. If the deaths were a reason to invade, then the invasion would have had to be contemporaneous with the invasion. In the three-and-one-half years before Bush conquered Iraq there was nothing like 75,000 deaths a year attributable to Hussein. And, I note that bush-apologist gives a range of numbers but then selects his annual rate at the top of the range (2M/25 years = 80,000/yr only slightly higher than bush-apologists number). Understanding this, and understanding that there have been no fewer than 35,000 Iraqis killed for George W. Bushs legacy, shows that at best Bush is only 1/8 as brutal as Hussein. Would you say to the Jews oh, its all right; it was only of a million dead rather than 6 million?

Note that bush-apologist has not refuted my contention that the violent death rate has increased under the brutal George W. Bushs regime. Thats because he cannot. And the fact that the violent death rate has gone up demonstrates that, for the Iraqi people, George W. Bush is a more brutal dictator than Saddam Hussein.

Posted by: heavy on September 17, 2006 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Nads asked:you think the american support and arming of saddam went unnoticed by iraqis? or the rest of the middle east? or america's selective criticism of human rights abuses? or the fact that we had a plan to secure the oil, but not secure the peace? the iraqis are somehow willing to forgive all this?

In addition to overthrowing Saddam, the Iraqis appreciate what American troops are doing to help control the violence between insurrectionist groups. Of course, the violence is appalling, but it would be far worse without the efforts of the Americans. That's why polls show a substantial majority of Iraqis do not want American troops to leave at this time. Of course, they do want American troops to leave after stability (hopefully) returns.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Lucy wrote"Anyway, I think both parties ultimately support a permanent American presence in the Middle East, which was, of course, the reason for the invasion."

We have a permanent military presence in the mid-east- it is called Israel.

Posted by: Out on Bond on September 17, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

That's why polls show a substantial majority of Iraqis do not want American troops to leave at this time.

Yes, we're doing really well

"The percentage of Iraqis who said they would not want to have Americans as neighbors rose from 87 percent in 2004 to 90 percent in 2006. When asked what they thought were the three main reasons why the United States invaded Iraq, 76 percent gave "to control Iraqi oil" as their first choice."

Posted by: craigie on September 17, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

craigie, did you read the entire article that you cited? It has some positive findings:

But at the same time, significantly more Iraqis support democratic values, including the separation of religion and politics....

"The findings of this second survey show that even though Iraqis have a more negative attitude to foreigners, especially Americans, they are moving closer to American values and are developing a much stronger sense of national identity," ...

Despite increased political violence between the Shi'as and the Sunnis, the researchers found no significant change in the overall level of inter-ethnic trust among Iraqis. While trust between the Shi'as and the Sunnis declined, trust between the Sunnis and the Kurds increased between 2004 and 2006....

Moaddel believes that changing Iraqi attitudes about secularism and territorial nationalism may bode well for Iraq's future.

"Iraqis' increasing attachment to national identity and increasing support for secular discourse may support the formation of a modern and democratic political order," he said. "Moreover, since the support for secular attitudes has gained considerable ground among the Sunnis, al-Qaeda may find it more difficult to recruit among this group in Iraq."

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

'The money came from revenues from the United Nations' former oil-for-food program, oil sales and seized assets -- all Iraqi money. The audit did not examine the use of U.S. funds appropriated for reconstruction.'
--Nell

Nell:

My bad. I was thinking more of the $12 billion in U.S. cash flown out of the vaults of the Federal Reserve and into the black hole of Iraq. That was OUR money and these reptiles have not made an accounting of that, either. With known criminals like John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams in charge, its no wonder that they are burning through cash like shit through a goose. If the Dems get Congress back, one of the Articles of Impeachment against Der Monkey should be this missing money!

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 17, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

This just in:

President Bush Declares War On Peace

Washington -- President Bush, saying he was "sick and tired" of terrorist appeasers, today declared a "war on peace" and those that support it.

Calling supporters of peace "unpatriotic, pusillanimous pussyfooters," President Bush said he would pull troops out of Iraq "when I'm damn good and ready" and that anyone who disagreed "could just stick it."

He simultaneously announced a forced migration of all Democrats to Canada would begin on October 1 and end just before the fall elections.

Film at 11.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 17, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

"So I'll once again ask a question that I asked of George Packer last year: is there anyone outside of the administration itself who's written a book-length defense of the occupation of Iraq? David Frum, say, or Charles Krauthammer or Ralph Peters?"

Don't expect it from Frum. Last year he turned against Bush.

Posted by: bobo the chimp on September 17, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK


There is no 'competency trap' - it's not that smart people would have somehow made our occupation of Iraq work, it's that anyone fool enough to invade was bound to continue to act like a fool and thus further complicate a foredoomed operation.

Posted by: gcochran on September 17, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

did you read the entire article that you cited? It has some positive findings:

increasing support for secular discourse may support the formation of a modern and democratic political order

Genius. I'll bet if we had religious fundamentalists running around beheading members of rival sects in the US we'd have more support for a secular government too. Why didn't Bush just go out and explain his strategy? Ex-liberal should go work for the press secretary.

Posted by: B on September 17, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat: It really is not the case that Bush is worse than his predecessors.

If it wasn't for bad judgement, you wouldn't have any judgement at all.

That is all.

Posted by: obscure on September 17, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

In addition to overthrowing Saddam, the Iraqis appreciate what American troops are doing to help control the violence between insurrectionist groups.

the iraqis, being educated and likely smarter than you, also recognize that american intervention led to the violence in the first place, and so may not necessarily be quite as appreciative of your white-man's burden as you suspect.

Of course, the violence is appalling, but it would be far worse without the efforts of the Americans. That's why polls show a substantial majority of Iraqis do not want American troops to leave at this time. Of course, they do want American troops to leave after stability (hopefully) returns.
Posted by: ex-liberal

I find this statement to be completely fucking contradicted by every poll I've recently read, whether conducted by nominally independant sources of bush fellaters lovingly quoted by instapundit et al. the VAST majority of iraqis want the americans to leave and see them as an impediment to peace.

... which is exactly the correct view of natives to take of occupiers.

Posted by: Nads on September 17, 2006 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Nads, here's a fairly recent article giving poll results for Iraqis. http://abcnews.go.com/International/PollVault/story?id=1389228 They're much more positive than you realized. A few highlights:

Dec. 12, 2005 Surprising levels of optimism prevail in Iraq with living conditions improved, security more a national worry than a local one, and expectations for the future high....An ABC News poll in Iraq, conducted with Time magazine and other media partners, includes some remarkable results: Despite the daily violence there, most living conditions are rated positively, seven in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead.

Surprisingly, given the insurgents' attacks on Iraqi civilians, more than six in 10 Iraqis feel very safe in their own neighborhoods, up sharply from just 40 percent in a poll in June 2004...

Average household incomes have soared by 60 percent in the last 20 months (to $263 a month), 70 percent of Iraqis rate their own economic situation positively, and consumer goods are sweeping the country. In early 2004, 6 percent of Iraqi households had cell phones; now it's 62 percent. Ownership of satellite dishes has nearly tripled, and many more families now own air conditioners (58 percent, up from 44 percent), cars, washing machines and kitchen appliances.

Three-quarters of Iraqis express confidence in the national elections being held this week, 70 percent approve of the new constitution, and 70 percent including most people in Sunni and Shiite areas alike want Iraq to remain a unified country....

Whatever the current problems, 69 percent of Iraqis expect things for the country overall to improve in the next year a remarkable level of optimism in light of the continuing violence there....

26 percent of Iraqis say U.S. and other coalition forces should "leave now" and another 19 percent say they should go after the government chosen in this week's election takes office; that adds to 45 percent. [52%] says coalition forces should remain until security is restored...

If you read the entire article, it's not all good news, but the Iraqi's opinions are far more optimistic than one would think from our media, who tend to focus on the killings, to the exclusion of everything else.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

How about merely a book suggesting that all the other critiques are too harsh, and things aren't quite as disastrous as they seem. Anyone?

the people with talent, interest and information for such a book are still working in the administration. When a Democrat is elected president, those people will lose their jobs and be replaced by Democratic flacks. Then we will start receiving a steady stream of the books that you are asking for, highlighting all of the good work that the Democrats squelched.

Posted by: republicrat on September 17, 2006 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat: It really is not the case that Bush is worse than his predecessors.

If you restrict this statement to his taste in suits, I might agree.

Posted by: craigie on September 17, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

the people with talent, interest and information for such a book are still working in the administration.

Reading this is like watching a homeless person talk to a tree.

Posted by: craigie on September 17, 2006 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

To figure out the question of which government kills more innocent Iraqis, calculate the number of innocent dead under Saddam (a Christian pro-war group gave a number of ~400,000, which seems like a generous estimate) and divide by the number of months that Saddam held power(~360) to get the monthly Saddam death rate.

The number, which we can call the Saddam Line, comes out at about 1100 dead per month. In a bad month the present death rate nearly doubles the Saddam Line and even a good month (e.g. August, after taking into account the revised death toll) beats it by more than 30%. Many of those deaths are summary executions and a great many happen after torture (power drills are popular) so the relative quality-of-death, to couin a phrase, is more or less the same.

At the present rate, and assuming that the undercount from untallied deaths is similar before and after invasion, it will take the present situation less than twenty years to kill the number of people that were killed in thirty under Saddam. By an objective estimate that makes the present situation worse. Comparing the intangibles, from a quality-of-life standpoint you can weigh the concept of freedom against electricity, sanitation, healthcare, random violence and the growing specter of sharia law and make your own conclusions.

Posted by: Tim F on September 17, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Then we will start receiving a steady stream of the books that you are asking for, highlighting all of the good work that the Democrats squelched.

God save us from the shadowy cabal of Democrats who really control what happens in Washington. I bet they killed JFK.

Posted by: Tim F on September 17, 2006 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

heavy: Would you say to the Jews oh, its all right; it was only of a million dead rather than 6 million?

Had the US actually been willing and able to reduce the Jewish death total from 6 million to 3/4 million, that would indeed have been better.

No one knows what the death toll under Saddam Hussein was during the 3 1/2 years preceding OIF. The UN estimated 30,000 per month dead caused by the mismanagement of the oil for food program and everything else. That's too high, but 6,000 per month is not unreasonable. My reading suggests that 3,000 per month is too low, but as I wrote there are no reliable statistics. People were apprehended, tortured and killed without records; hospitals were undersupplied because medicine was stockpiled; the food supply was centralized and accurate records of starvation-related deaths were not kept; the water treatment facilities deteriorated for 12 years after Gulf War I, and diseases and deaths due to water-borne illnesses were not accurately recorded; naturally occuring diseases like spina bifida were blamed on DU, and the numbers grossly exaggerated and photos circulated, but accurate tallies were not kept. Almost all the areas of Iraq were completely off-limits to foreigners of all kinds (i.e. reporters), and in the accessible areas foreigners were accompanied by government minders.

thus, 70,000 to 80,000 Iraqis killed per year by the Baathist government is not unreasonable.

Posted by: republicrat on September 17, 2006 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

Tim F - yes the current death rates are awful. I don't think they'll continue for 20 years. Either the security situation will be controlled, or the whole country will fall apart.

You are wrong about electricity. There's more now than under Saddam. Today it's more fairly alloted. Under Saddam, the Sunnis got the lion's share.

Quality of life is better in virtually all respects, except for the vital one of security. If the Iraqis and American troops get the security under control, then the country will be better off than under Saddam in just about every way.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 17, 2006 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Tim F: Comparing the intangibles, from a quality-of-life standpoint you can weigh the concept of freedom against electricity, sanitation, healthcare, random violence and the growing specter of sharia law and make your own conclusions.

you are behind in your facts. Potable water, electricity, oil revenues (you didn'tmention), healthcare and sewage treatment are better now than toward the end of the Baathist regime. Under the Baathists, "random violence" was a main government function. It isn't just a "concept" of freedom: there are more newpapers and independent boradcasters, and more satellite dishes and cell phones than under the Baathists; the pilgrimages to the holy Shi'ite cities have resumed since the overthrow of the Baathists; in short, there is more actual freedom.

Posted by: republicrat on September 17, 2006 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq is fucking beautiful. It's a buyers market right now, but freedom will pay dividends in a few years.

Posted by: ex-communist plutocrat on September 17, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

If the Iraqis and American troops get the security under control, then the country will be better off than under Saddam in just about every way.

"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

Posted by: Dustbin Of History on September 17, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

there's nothing iraqis love more than being told how wonderful their life now is, I'm sure ... and that the brainfarts of random AEI bitches and their offspring are their new governing principles.

I suggest republicrat and ex-lib take to the streets and tell as many iraqis how good their new lives are.

Posted by: Nads on September 17, 2006 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

you are behind in your facts. Potable water, electricity, oil revenues (you didn'tmention), healthcare and sewage treatment are better now than toward the end of the Baathist regime.

False.

False, false, false.

About 8.25 million Iraqis currently have access to potable water, compared with 12.9 million before the war. Total water treatment capacity is down almost 66%, total sewerage capacity is down.

That's taken both from the Brookings Iraq Index -- which you keep misquoting -- as well as from the Iraq Inspector General's testimony to Congress from this year. If you don't understand the figures, it's best to err on the side of caution and not quote them.

So there goes one leg of your argument. Iraqis have less access to potable water and functioning sewers than before the war.

For the past three months electricity production as been slightly higher -- 10% -- than the estimated pre-war levels. However, its price has quadrupled, in a country with 50% unemployment and surging inflation (up 70% in July 2006 over the previous year, which was up 30% from the year before that).

Also, electricity production has been higher than current levels a number of times in the past two years, only to fall back down. Availability of electricity in Baghdad -- you know, the country's capital, home to its government and commercial center -- hit its historic post-war low in April of this year.

Let me ask; how well do you get by on an average of six hours of available power scattered randomly for uneven blocks of minutes throughout the day?

I thought so.

So there goes another leg of your argument: while for the last three months electricity production has barely held on to pre-war levels, it is wildly more expensive in a country of people living hand to mouth.

Gasoline is sixteen times more expensive than it was pre-war. And a whole lot harder to come by, including typical overnight waits in line to fill up.

Healthcare: about 64% of Iraq's physicians have fled the country since the war. Two thousand have been murdered. Ponder on that: two thousand doctors killed in three years. Just doctors. That's from Brookings, yet somehow you always fail to mention it.

Hospitals continue to have chronic shortages of water and medicine. In fact, Iraq doctors explicitly say that it's worse now than before the war. Are you just making shit up? Jerk off technical arguments about how they have 3% more gauze pads than they did under the Baathists just don't cut it. Read the links below to get up to date on YOUR facts.

With the exception of your context-free observation about the production of electricity and oil revenues -- which are translating into NO DIFFERENCE for the life of the average Iraqi -- virtually every other assertion you made was patently false. I'm forced to assume that it's either wishful thinking arising from idiocy, well-meaning propaganda, or out and out prevarication.


http://electroniciraq.net/news/1628.shtml

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2003262370_iraqcpa17.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5758857

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/30/AR2006013001494.html

http://www.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf

http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/iraq-news-200606?OpenDocument&style=custo_print

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0915/p01s04-woiq.html

Posted by: Windhorse on September 18, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK
Many people thought that after the U.S. occupied our country and the sanctions were lifted, the health care of the Iraqi people would improve. But the occupation has made it worse. Many of the Iraqi hospitals in cities like Baghdad, Al-Qaim, and Fallujah were bombed and destroyed. Many ambulances were attacked and health workers killed, despite the fact that it is illegal under international law to attack hospitals, ambulances and health workers.

After our hospitals were bombed and looted, millions of dollars were given to contractors to repair them. We suggested that this money be used to buy things that we urgently need, but the contractors refused and instead bought furniture and flowers and superficial things. Meanwhile, we suffer from a critical shortage of medicines, emergency supplies and anesthesia, and there is no sterilization in the operation rooms. As the director of the pharmacy department in my hospital, I refused to sit on a new chair while there were no sterile operating rooms.

Diseases that were under control under the regime of Saddam Hussein, diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, polio, have now returned to haunt the population, especially the children. Death due to cancer has increased because treatment programs stopped and medicines are not available. The health of the Iraqi people is also devastated by environmental contamination due to the destruction of our water and sewage systems.

The health of women, particularly pregnant women, has deteriorated. Many pregnant women suffer from malnutrition. When it comes time to give birth, many women prefer to give birth at home because they fear being shot on their way to the hospital, and they know the bad conditions in the hospitals. As a result, more women are dying in childbirth, and more babies are dying.

Before the occupation, with all the problems we had under sanctions, Iraq ranked number 80 in the worldwide list of deaths of children under 5. Today, we have jumped up to number 36. UNICEF has said that the rate of severe malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since the occupation.

http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/33771/

Posted by: Windhorse on September 18, 2006 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

Nads, here's a fairly recent article giving poll results for Iraqis.

Here's a more recent poll from last month. When Iraqis were asked what they though the three main reason were for the U.S. invasion, less than 2% chose "to bring democracy to Iraq as their first choice."

76% of respondents said that the U.S. invaded to control Iraqi oil.

If that's what Iraqis believe about our intentions -- that they're uniformly evil and self-serving -- what does that say about their view of Americans and the invasion?

One thing we know it says: in the same poll, 90% of Iraqis say they would not want an American as a neighbor.

http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2006/Jun06/r061406a

Posted by: Windhorse on September 18, 2006 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

Windhorse, that's because liberals hate America and have somehow convinced the gullible Iraqis that we have not arrived there with the best of intentions, or methods. Now who are they going to believe, the president or their own lying eyes?

Posted by: Kenji on September 18, 2006 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

Windhorse:

Your smackdowns in these quality-of-life debates are both accurately and context-appropriately sourced and bristling with nice rhetorical takedowns, besides -- as a kind of bonus treat after we've waded through the hard numbers :)

Kudos. Some of the best comments on the blog, as always.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 18, 2006 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

republicrat: It really is not the case that Bush is worse than his predecessors.

only if you ignore

..the toll of dead americans by terror...

and the adding of 3-trillion to the federal debt...

both rise daily...with 2-years to go..

if you use general perceptions....

Bush Tops List As U.S. Voters Name Worst President In 61 Years - Quinnipiac University National Poll 6/1/06

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on September 18, 2006 at 6:08 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: qq on September 18, 2006 at 6:20 AM | PERMALINK

Republican Capitalism at work:

Socialize the costs, privatize the profits.

Posted by: Chuck on September 18, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Windhorse, some of your statements are misleading. E.g.

Availability of electricity in Baghdad -- you know, the country's capital, home to its government and commercial center -- hit its historic post-war low in April of this year.

As you ought to know, Saddam distributed electricity unequally, giving the lion's share to the Sunnis in Baghdad. Today, electricity is distributed more fairly. Baghdad is down, the rest of the country is up. You'd think liberals would be pleased that electic power is now more equitably distributed!

Windhorse's comments on the price of specific items are misleading. The real GNP of Iraq is up. Iraqi are clearly richer. People are buying things. The huge number of cars create traffic jams.

Glad to see that Windhorse acknowledged that electricity production is up. S/he's right that it has been higher and fallen back. Why has it gone up? Because of hard, dangerous work by American soldiers and contractors and Iraqis. Why has it fallen back? Because of sabotage by insurgents and al Qaeda.

The electriity situation illustrates why we are fighting the good fight in Iraq. We are fighting to give the Iraqi people quality of life against opponents who are seeking to destroy their quality of life.

Posted by: ex-liberal on September 18, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Some of these topics were covered in Naomi Klein's article in Harper's 2 years ago. It is truly astounding that this hasn't been a nationwide scandal of bigger-than-Nixon proportions. The shame and embarassment this administration will take a long time to fade, and fix. How conservatives have abandoned their ideals and their souls for power shows their true
vacuity.

Posted by: mroberts on September 18, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

heavy asks: How many Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq under the boot-heel of their un-elected ruler George W. Bush?

ex-lib retorts: The answer is nowhere near the number who died under Saddam. And, that's true even if you blame Bush for all the murders being committed by Saddamist Sunnis and the Shia vigilantes.

Give GWB time. Saddam was in power for decades. GWB has two years left.

Posted by: Disputo on September 18, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think the closest defense of the invasion of Iraq by a non-Bush Admin insider is Fouad Ajami, who wrote Dream Palace of the Arabs or something like that.

While he did not defend the Bush Admin per se, he did place the vast majority of the blame on the Iraqis themselves.

Posted by: AnonBlogger on September 18, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

A; "Sorry Kevin, I don't see what's wrong with hiring good conservatives to work in Iraq."

Me neither. They are doing a heckuva job. Bringing the values of Bob Ney to Iraq.

Posted by: ats on September 19, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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