Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 11, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ESCALATION BLUES....The Washington Post reports on an overnight poll conducted after last night's speech:

The findings of the survey, conducted after Bush's primetime speech, represent an initial rebuke to the White House goal of generating additional public support for the mission in Iraq. The poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, with 52 percent saying they strongly oppose the plan. Just 36 percent said they back the president's new proposal.

No surprise there. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if his speech actually increased the number of people who oppose a surge. It was that bad.

In other results, "53 percent of Americans support Democrats' efforts to cut off funds for additional troops, with 44 percent opposed." Now, Republicans might block a funding cutoff in the Senate, and Bush would veto it even if they didn't, but what's the argument for not trying it? As far as I can tell, it's almost entirely political, a fear that trying to cut off funding would be unpopular with the public. And yet, it's not, is it? So what's the argument again?

Kevin Drum 4:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (82)

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Comments

While the current political climate may suggest this approach has support, that's not to say the "Dems don't support the troops" talking point will not gain traction in the future.

I'm not saying that's a valid excuse. It's just the reality of the Republican party's approach to politics.

Posted by: Gex on January 11, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

There is a slice of the electorate that wishes that we could shrink troop levels gradually while engaging in adroit diplomacy to smooth matters in Iraq, to the extent possible. The two options of 1) escalation, or 2) de-fund the military abruptly, are both unpalatable. The middle way that we might all wish for is unworkable because W is incapable of it, but hope persists.

Its a little like the voters who wished that Martin Sheen's WestWing president was running in 2000 intead of Al Gore. It is hard to accept that your choices are restricted.

Posted by: troglodyte on January 11, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

I should say: It is hard for *Americans* to accept that their options are restricted. Wishful thinking is the flipside of the national streak of optimism.

Posted by: troglodyte on January 11, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Impose a special Iraq War Tax. Pay as you go. Sacrifice and all that good stuff.

Posted by: JC on January 11, 2007 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush's surge plan fails, the Dems will win a huge political victory in 2008.

If it succeeds, millions of lives may be saved and tens of millions will live in freedom, rather than tyranny.

So, both Bush and the Dems have a chance of getting what they most want.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think the numbers cited sound like a big increase in the number of supporters. The latest polls I've seen discussed sounded like support for escalation ("sending more troops") was running in the low teens (the number 12 is stuck in my head). 36 percent is a tripling of support, then, if my memory is right.

Of course, it is easier to triple 12 percent than 30 percent. I would not worry aboutt his bump up, support will peter away the longer people think about this.

(I agree the Dems should be aggressive in shutting this down, even if they DO pay a political price for it.)

Posted by: Doug on January 11, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Go ahead, try and cut off funding. Defeatocrats think Iraq is Vietnam anyway so why not cut off the soldiers like they did in the 60s and 70s. Then the progressives can spit on them just like the old days. Then we can have the terrorist chase us back to our country and kill another 3000 of our friends and family.

Cut the funding of the war. Put up or shut up.
Bring
It
On

Posted by: Orwell on January 11, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Well there is the argument that by trying to cut funding and failing they'd appear weak. I don;t find it persuasive but it at least has some logic to it.

Posted by: Tlaloc on January 11, 2007 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

The poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, with 52 percent saying they strongly oppose the plan. Just 36 percent said they back the president's new proposal.

This is incorrect. According to CBS news, Americans are nearly evenly divided.

Link

"Americans are nearly evenly divided on the idea of a short-term increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq."

"In the latest CBS News poll, 45 percent are in favor of the so-called troop "surge," while 48 percent are opposed. "

Posted by: Al on January 11, 2007 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

I remember as a child, the Tet Offensive
in Vietnam.

The image of a blown-in embassy wall (thru which the Cong snuck through) seems vaguely familiar 39 years later (in Iraq).

While history reveals that the Tet wasn't exactly a military victory, it was a profound statement of resistance to occupation.

History also reveals a desire to establish a free and democratic Vietnam (unified).

Our bombs, bulldozers, green berets, B-52s, napalm, were not as strong as the will of Ho Chi Minh's people.

Bush doesn't like to read. He likes to trust his instincts.

My instinct tells me that our greenzone is a very real reason WHY the insurgency is effective.

More US presence will only yield more reactive violence.

Time for healing. Time for humble acceptance that
bombs don't win hearts.


Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 11, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

If it succeeds, millions of lives may be saved and tens of millions will live in freedom, rather than tyranny.

Please explain who is not living in freedom in Iraq right now and why.

They have a duly elected government, right? Is that not freedom?

Do you mean they're not free because of the civil war? Because they have no security? Little money? Huge fuel shortages? A massive refugee crisis? Terrible violence? Is that the tyranny you mean? Because if it is, the responsbility for this lies with George Bush who caused it.

The best chance for ending it lies not by aggravating a civil war by our occupation of that country but by giving Iraqis what they want and leaving, to help out with economic and diplomatic assistance where we can.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 11, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Go ahead, try and cut off funding, etc.

Ahhh, shaddap.

Sick of you imbeciles. Go fight the damn war if you love it so goddamn much.

Posted by: Stranger on January 11, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Americans are nearly evenly divided on the idea of a short-term increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq."

That is incorrect. Fully 70% of Americans oppose an increase of troops in Iraq.

And only 35% of Americans now believe we ever should have invaded.

Your poll data is five days old, of course, and is just posted for purposes of political theater. Parody or not, you're an idiot.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 11, 2007 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell, put some fucking skin in the game or shut your mendacious mouth you worthless fuck.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on January 11, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

As far as I can tell, it's almost entirely political, a fear that trying to cut off funding would be unpopular with the public. And yet, it's not, is it?

You think Wolf Blitzer is going to have the brainpower or the inclination to differentiate, for the sake of his viewers, not funding an escalation and taking bullets away from Pvt. Joe in the field?

Posted by: Old Hat on January 11, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think a solid majority of Americans is yearning for the Dems to stand up and confront the gangsters who are running the government. Gutlessness and indecisiveness have been the real source of Democratic disappointments. This is their chance to win a solid majority that lasts for years, maybe a generation. And it's the patriotic thing to do. End this strategic disaster.

Posted by: sglover on January 11, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Shaddup shutin' up.

Posted by: Brojo on January 11, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell, put some fucking skin in the game or shut your mendacious mouth you worthless fuck.

Agreed. Enlist. Now.

Posted by: sglover on January 11, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Doubling the number would be a surge, 20,000 is a fucking dribble.

Posted by: angryspittle on January 11, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Ask people if they'd raise taxes to get better schools and you'll get an overwhelming positive. Actually raise their taxes and they won't be so favorable. I think that actually going forward with the cut off in funding would screw us over real bad once it actually occurred.

Posted by: Steve W, on January 11, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

One more thing, I think the reason there hasn't been a concrete proposal to cut off this drunk Bush's bar tab is because the DNC brain trust hasn't seen good numbers on the issue. If I was Howard Dean, I'd be polling the shit out of the funding cut-off question and have a plan ready to roll out as soon as the public opinion was ready for it. Biden's been making some noise about it and Kennedy, too, of course, but it will take guys like Tester and Webb to be onboard before it has any credibility.

Posted by: Old Hat on January 11, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK
I think the numbers cited sound like a big increase in the number of supporters. The latest polls I've seen discussed sounded like support for escalation ("sending more troops") was running in the low teens (the number 12 is stuck in my head). 36 percent is a tripling of support, then, if my memory is right.

Its about in line with the opposition numbers I've seen in earlier polls, what it seems like is that lots of the prior undecideds were people that otherwise are either favorably inclined toward Bush or to the kind of rhetoric he uses—committed Republicans wavering on the war—and the speech was enough to at least momentarily bring them on board. But that's it, that's who is still wavering, the committed Republicans who are on the edge of completely losing faith in the war.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Greg Palast has a good dissection of the motivation behind the surge - it's the Saudis! Or more to the point, it's all about the oil (again).

Think about it - The Saudis summon Dick Cheney (after all, he is running the show) for a private conference and when he comes back, all of the advice from the ISG, the generals and the American people is tossed out the window and, by God, we are going back into Baghdad, guns blazing. The Saudis don't want to see their Sunni brethren slain in large numbers (which they are now and would be even more if we left), so the Saudis told Dickster to surge it, baby! Otherwise, we turn off the oil spigot and say hello to $5 per gallon gas.

It's the only answer that makes sense.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 11, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Windhorse: Do you mean they're not free because of the civil war? Because they have no security? Little money? Huge fuel shortages? A massive refugee crisis? Terrible violence? Is that the tyranny you mean? Because if it is, the responsbility for this lies with George Bush who caused

Actually they are pretty free now. They have a democratically elected government. Many new, independent newspapers and magazines have sprung up. Many new businesses have been started. I am concerned that they won't keep their freedom if the government falls to insurgents.

The best chance for ending it [the civil war] lies not by aggravating a civil war by our occupation of that country but by giving Iraqis what they want and leaving, to help out with economic and diplomatic assistance where we can.

You may be right. I'd like to believe that our leaving would make Iraq better, but note that al Qaeda has been fomenting the insurgency. They won't stop their efforts if we leave. Nither will Iran and Syria. For that matter, I don't see why Sunni and Shia death squads will cease their efforts if we leave. So, my view is that Iraq's democracy has little chance of survival without our military help.

Note that Lebanon has a similar problem. Their citizens voted for democracy, but Hezbollah is more powerful miltarily than the elected government, so there is no real democracy.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Many new businesses have been started.

Agreed, business is booming.

Posted by: Old Hat on January 11, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

What's the argument against opposing funding?

Try this: it's an empty, pointless gesture that gives the GOP a big stick to hit the Dems with.

The die was cast in November 2004. Mr. Bush can send more troops before he says word one about funding. From that moment forward, any foot-dragging on funding is no longer about a proposed troop increase. It's about troops in the field.

The only meaningful way to oppose an increase in the number of troops is to do it straight up, as in "Resolved - We oppose an increase in troop levels." As President, Mr. Bush holds not just the trump cards, but the whole deck.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 11, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK
I'd like to believe that our leaving would make Iraq better, but note that al Qaeda has been fomenting the insurgency. They won't stop their efforts if we leave.

They won't stop trying, but given that its the widespread hatred for the US presence among Iraqis that enables them to succeed, they won't experience as much success.

Nither will Iran and Syria.

Iran has historical ties to many of the parties in the current government, and get expect to get much better in Iraq—the main thing they don't like is the US presence. Once we're gone, they have plenty of self-interested incentive to entering into a working relationship with the Iraqi regime (which is certainly far less antagonistic to them than the preceding Iraqi regime.)

Likewise, largely, Syria.

For that matter, I don't see why Sunni and Shia death squads will cease their efforts if we leave.

The absence of US military intervention on the side of particular factions will force those factions to compromise, and reduce the perception among other factions that those factions are amenable only to being convinced through violence. This will reduce the incentive to join and tolerate death squads on all sides, and increase the incentive to compromise.

Of course, its possible that even that won't be enough, now, that the US presence has intensified internal factional hatred and forestalled compromise long enough that merely removing the further irritant won't bring peace without a brutal, no holds barred civil war. But if that's true, then it is equally true that maintaining the irritant of US forces won't prevent that either, only guarantee that US forces get caught up in it and become a focus of resentment and a barrier to settling the conflict.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 11, 2007 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

- General Smedley D. Butler

The quote above provides the winning philosophy. Does the current situation in Iraq have anything to do with defending our homes or Bill of Rights? Hmmm...I think not.

The speech last night was nothing more than a waste of airtime at the expense of more courageous sons and daughters being sent into a chaotic situation.

Posted by: n0rd1x on January 11, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it that the Dems will be painted as soft on national security in 5 to 10 years? When the chips were down they gave up? Doesn't it just play right into the "stab-in-the-back" narrative the right is busy creating now?

Posted by: zoombaba on January 11, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

why do americans hate america?

Posted by: northzax on January 11, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Note that Lebanon has a similar problem. Their citizens voted for democracy, but Hezbollah is more powerful miltarily than the elected government, so there is no real democracy.

Well there's your problem, you seem to know little if anything about what's going on in Iraq.

The U.S. military estimates "insurgents" at 20,000. The Madhi Army alone has three times that, and the Iraqi police and military number fifteen times that at 300,000.

So no worries about the insurgents "bringing down the government." You can rest easy now.

The Hezbollah analogy doesn't parse because the insurgents are not stronger than the government of Iraq, as you've just been shown. If the government falls it will be because of corruption and infighting among various groups, including Shia vs. Shia.

Your tremulous fantasies about dark insurgents imposing tyranny on poor oppressed Iraqis can now finally be put to rest.

As for Al Qaeda fomenting violence, you're simply on crack. The U.S. military estimates 2000 Al Qaeda tops in a country of 30 million, but probably closer to 500 guys. Sunni and Shia and Kurd need no one to foment violence for them.

Now that you know what's really going on in Iraq, you can begin looking at the situation differently and stop posting the same old uninformed tripe.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 11, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it that the Dems will be painted as soft on national security in 5 to 10 years? When the chips were down they gave up? Doesn't it just play right into the "stab-in-the-back" narrative the right is busy creating now?

Posted by: zoombaba on January 11, 2007 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they should try an old trick.
Approve the funding. Attach the "21,500" strings Murtha wants, which Bush will ignore in his signing statement.
But also attach veto prone legislation - stem cell research, minimum wage, union rights, health care, whatever.
Politically, I think the Dems will cave to the "funding the troops" argument after a bunch of speeches and token votes anyway. And who knows how this nutjob Supreme Court would rule on constitutionality of funding anyway. A bad ruling would be worse than no ruling, and a good ruling would come too late.
But then Bush would be forced into either signing a bill with accretions he doesn't want but we do, or taking the heat for vetoing it.
Ideally, I'd agree that unrelated bills should be considered separately, but that's not the way it works.
If there's not much, in realistic terms, we can do to stop Bush, let's force him to make some good out of it.

Posted by: sal on January 11, 2007 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting contrast between the polls that Al and Windhorse cite; from Al's cite:

Forty-three percent say the U.S. should keep fighting the war but with a new strategy, which is what 55 percent say the president will do. But 52 percent want the U.S. to start ending its involvement in Iraq, which only 6 percent think the president will do.
So prior to the speech, a significant portion of the American public predicted that Bush would go against their desires. Then from Windhorse's cite:
Fully 70 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops, and a like number don't think such an increase would help stabilize the situation there.
In short, Bush's speech appears to have both failed to rally support for the New Plan, and alienated more of the electorate. Meanwhile, Rice is offering platitudes (to paraphrase) "the American public agress on the risk of failure" and that:
“Success in Iraq relies on more than military efforts,” Ms. Rice said at a news conference, before heading to Capitol Hill. “It requires robust political and economic progress.”
Yeah, Jonah what was that about "Saying we need a political solution is as helpful as saying "give peace a chance." and that this is "This is either childishly naive or reprehensibly dishonest."

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight II.

Posted by: has407 on January 11, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

JC writes: Impose a special Iraq War Tax. Pay as you go. Sacrifice and all that good stuff.

Good idea. The Iraq war has been kept off budget by the Bush Administration. That’s very deceitful and wimpy .

Democrats, right now, need to publicly ask: why .

This would be another tool for forcing Bush to level with the American people. Bush has gotten away with not being serious about the war. Never asked for sacrifice, refused to significantly increase troop levels when it may have made a difference, and never asked for Americans to pay for it up front.

So, now we have a huge deficit (again) in spite of the fact that the Iraq war costs have been off the books.

What a wimp. The Democratic Congress needs to call him on it. It matters.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on January 11, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Congress is afraid of being blamed, and they think their chances in 08 are better if it goes on--it's appalling, and they're chickenshit.

It's disgusting that no one even talks of withdrawal anymore at all--it's Rovian.

Posted by: amberglow on January 11, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to believe that our leaving would make Iraq better, but note that al Qaeda has been fomenting the insurgency. They won't stop their efforts if we leave.

Oh, good lord, are there idiots who still believe that Emmanuel Goldstein, er, I mean al Qaeda is behind the insurgency in Iraq?

Posted by: Disputo on January 11, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, in his speech last night, the President said that al Qaeda was active in Anbar. I didn't hear anyone dispute that allegation.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

If I had a brain cell for everytime something GWB said was the truth, I'd be ex-liberal.

Posted by: Disputo on January 11, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Disputo, in his speech last night, the President said that al Qaeda was active in Anbar. I didn't hear anyone dispute that allegation.

al-Qaeda is undoubtedly active in Anbar. Not to mention Ninawa, Baghdad, Muthanna, Najaf, Dhiqar, ... Or Afghanistan, Somalia, ... What's your point?

Posted by: has407 on January 11, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I totally agree with the idea of the war tax. As it is, this whole fiaso is on the credit card. All these lies about defending America as we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into debt. This debt is far more real and threatening than anything in Iraq.

What do you pro-surge people think of this? Are you willing to pay for your war?

Ex-lib? Egbert? The rest of you irresponsible bush buttkissers?

Posted by: ugly_duck on January 11, 2007 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

has407, my point is disagree with Disputo's sarcastic comment "Oh, good lord, are there idiots who still believe that Emmanuel Goldstein, er, I mean al Qaeda is behind the insurgency in Iraq?" I understood that comment to mean that Disputo didn't believe that al Qaeda was active in Iraq. I was disputing Disputo's disputation.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

During the 2004 presidential election - particularly before the democratic convention, Republican pundits talked about "angry Democrats", "Bush-hating democrats". The angry Democrats were portrayed as irrational & ineffective, I recall. This kind of talk seems to have reduced the expression of anger on the part of the Democrats at that convention and later. And without enough expressions of anger (in fairly legitimate ways), perhaps made Democrats seem more like wimps, than like the alpha types one might want to have be the leaders.

If I were a Democratic congressperson, I would try to be courageous & do something to oppose the escalation. There will be Republican criticisms no matter what is done, or not done.

Posted by: JoAnn C. on January 11, 2007 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, in his speech last night, the President said that al Qaeda was active in Anbar. I didn't hear anyone dispute that allegation.

There's an organization calling itself al-Qaeda in Iraq that has support in al-Anbar. Of course, that organization has about as much relationship to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda as a skinhead holed up in a makeshift bunker in Joliet has to the Third Reich. And as Juan Cole has pointed out, it's curious that while Bush named Iran and Syria as contributing to the insurgency, he said nothing about Jordan, which, of course, is that nation that border al-Anbar and is the nation through which Sunni volunteers, cash, and weapons are flowing to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Bush is all over the map. He claims al-Qaeda are the villains, but lays the blame for the violence they perpetuate at the feet of nations that are nowhere near al-Qaeda in Iraq's stronghold, and meanwhile doesn't even name our "ally" Jordan, which is clearly funneling people and resources to aQiI. Our President can't even keep the villains-of-the-week straight.

Next?

Posted by: Andrew Wyatt on January 11, 2007 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

JoAnn C.- You are right on the mark.

The dems need to show courage and stick with their convictions. This war is taking us down. That is the real threat.

Posted by: ugly_duck on January 11, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

Impose a special Iraq War Tax. Pay as you go. Sacrifice and all that good stuff.

Agreed. Make it a clear, direct connection to funding the war. And make it nice and progressive. If possible, why not look at the income percentiles of the soldiers fighting the war and tie the taxes to its inverse. That way the poor and middle classes who make up the vast majority of the soldiers will have very little of a tax increase and the wealthy and ultra wealthy will pay alot. Presumably, the rich and super rich will then get very tired of this war and will stop donating to the GOP enablers.

sounds like a win/win to me.

Posted by: Edo on January 11, 2007 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

Edo- Let me guess/anticipate the Bush response.

"If we raise taxes to pay for this war, then the terrorists win!"

Posted by: ugly_duck on January 11, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew Wyatt: "There's an organization calling itself al-Qaeda in Iraq that has support in al-Anbar. Of course, that organization has about as much relationship to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda as a skinhead holed up in a makeshift bunker in Joliet has to the Third Reich"

Andrew, don't you remember Musab al Zarqawa, the former head of al Qaeda in Iraq, pledging his loyalty to Osama? How can you say there's no relationship?

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

There's a lot of misinformation here, including from you, Kevin. You can't stop something from not happening, even in Congress. The Republicans cannot block a refusal to fund the war. The President cannot veto it, because he's got nothing to veto. The House and or Senate vote down the appropriations bill, and that's the end of it.
If said bill says June 30,2008 (random date) is the last day funds may be used for operations in Iraq, and the Republicans block it or the President vetoes it-no money at all, immediately.
Whatever the Democrats do, even if they all left the country and Congress contained nothing but Republicans, they will be accused of losing the war. The GOP traitors know no shame. Might as well have the game if you're gonna get the name.

Posted by: JMG on January 11, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Sal- Your idea is tempting, but too cynical. In voting for the bill for the sake of the add-ons, the Dems would be on record as supporting the surge. More lives lost, bodies maimed, and crushing debt.

Posted by: ugly_duck on January 11, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Musab al Zarqawa, the former head of al Qaeda in Iraq

Hmm, is that the same Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that was in northern Iraq before the war (ie outside of Saddam's control) and that Bush refused to assist the Kurds in taking out despite repeated requests from both the Kurds and the US military?

Posted by: alex on January 11, 2007 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew, don't you remember Musab al Zarqawa, the former head of al Qaeda in Iraq, pledging his loyalty to Osama? How can you say there's no relationship?

ex-liberal,

I know, I know, paying attention is really difficult. But amazingly enough, Andrew did not say there was "no relationship." He said the relationship was, shall we say, highly informal as well as less than professional.

No matter. Zarqawi evidently did succeed in provoking sectarian strife with the gold-dome bombing. But that sectarian strife has long since taken on a life of its own. That is the point that your lazy and shallow understanding doesn't seem to grasp.

Posted by: obscure on January 11, 2007 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew, don't you remember Musab al Zarqawa, the former head of al Qaeda in Iraq, pledging his loyalty to Osama? How can you say there's no relationship?

1) I can pledge my loyalty to Xenu as loudly as I want, and it doesn't automatically create a relationship betwen myself and the Church of Scientology.

2) The pledge you describe appeared on various jihadi Websites and was attributed to al Zarqawi, but never verified as sourcing from aQiI. As far as I have read--and I welcome a correction--the two have never met. Of course, that didn't stop the U.S. government from declaring that aZ was al-Qaeda's primary operative in Iraq, a sweeping inference based on little more than a shared background between the two men and their affection for jihad.

QiI has much in common with al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda it is not. Is aQiI dangerous? You bet. It's probably the most ruthless of the various lawless elements in Iraq, and the only major group that practices suicide attacks. However, it's disingenuous in the extreme to conflate them. Of course, the whole point of the conflation by our political and media elites is to perpetuate the ridiculous and tenuous link between 9/11 and this fiasco, as though every aQiI guerilla American forces kill constitutes "payback" of some sort for the thousands killed on American soil by a bunch of Sauds and Yemenis.

Posted by: Andrew Wyatt on January 11, 2007 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew, I think we agree that

-- QiI calls itself "al Qaeda"
-- QiI uses similar tactics as al Qaeda,
-- QiI shares similar goals with al Qaeda.

These points along with Zarqawi's alleged comment suggests that recruits joining QiI believe they are joining with Osama.

I don't agree with your comment, "Of course, the whole point of the conflation by our political and media elites is to perpetuate the ridiculous and tenuous link between 9/11 and this fiasco..."

Actually, I believe Bush's point in mentioning this group was the importance of defeating them now.

obscure, Andrew's metaphor leaves his exact meaning somewhat ambiguous. I do agree with you that the sectarian strife has taken on a life of its own. I don't think I wrote anything to the contrary, but if I did, I was wrong.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

what's the argument for not trying it?

They are afraid that they might be wrong, and that they'll be punished by voters if a disaster follows from cutting off funding.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 11, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

These points along with Zarqawi's alleged comment suggests that recruits joining QiI believe they are joining with Osama.

That's a testament to their marketing savvy, not to the reality of their cooperation with bin Laden's global network.

My point is that aQiI is not the entity that attacked America on 9/11. It's composed of religious extremists, it's violent, it targets civilians, and it's medievalist in its goals, yes. Of course, its precusor, JTJ, didn't pose a particular threat to the United States until, well, we invaded Iraq, mobilizing them, flooding them with cash and recruits, and presenting them with plenty of tempting targets on a daily basis. That aside, the threshold criterion for the U.S. starting a war--particularly illegal ones--with other countries should not be the mere existence of a violent religious group within that country. If so, when are we invading Sri Lanka? A better criterion might be appointing the head the organization as the de fecto head of your defense ministry, as the Taliban did with bin Laden. Oh, and rebuffing the U.S. when we demand to hand him over after he masterminds the deaths of a few thousand of our citizens. Of course, Bush doesn't think about bin Laden much these days, or so he says.

Posted by: Andrew Wyatt on January 11, 2007 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

JMG: Thanks for your post above. There seems to be a lot of ignorance concerning how funding works. The President can veto all he wants. A veto does not appropriate funds -- only a passed piece of legislation can do that.

Further, McConnell can filibuster all he wants. Go ahead. All that does it slow down the appropriations. No passed budget bill . . . no money for Iraq. The President and his supporters are in real trouble on this one.

Posted by: Dicksknee on January 11, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: The absence of US military intervention on the side of particular factions will force those factions to compromise, and reduce the perception among other factions that those factions are amenable only to being convinced through violence. This will reduce the incentive to join and tolerate death squads on all sides, and increase the incentive to compromise.

That's only true if the death squads think that they can't win. If the largest and most effective military force is withdrawn, the death squads (who right now kill mostly other Iraqis) may think that their chances for victory will increase. We do not know what those death squads and militias think, or what they will do, but a rapid American withdrawal will be a fairly decisive experiment to test hypotheses.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 11, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal wrote: "Disputo, in his speech last night, the President said that al Qaeda was active in Anbar."

A cell of two al Qaida members meets the definition of being "active in Anbar." The president was once again technically correct while at the same time, according to the evidence I've seen, lying -- as are you. There is no significant al Qaida presence in Iraq, nor any significant cooperation between al Qaida and any of the major factions.

Posted by: PaulB on January 11, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Actually, I believe Bush's point in mentioning this group was the importance of defeating them now.

This new effort--or has been shown past efforts--in Iraq will do little, if anything, to "defeat" them. They have free reign in much of Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan, etc. They can choose to engage or not. Even with the best outcome imaginable, the conflict in Iraq with them will continue for years, if not decades. If not in Baghdad, then in Anbar. And if not in Anbar, then in Najaf. And if not in Najaf, ... This "surge" is little more than a fart in a shitstorm.

How much additional blood will you require to relearn the lessons of counterinsurgency warfare that this country has already paid so dearly to learn? You want to get educated, fine. But not when we've already paid in spades for that education. And not with other people's blood. Christ on a crutch. Get a clue.

Posted by: has407 on January 11, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

windhorse: So no worries about the insurgents "bringing down the government."

That's a joke, right?

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 11, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

Dicksknee wrote: "The President and his supporters are in real trouble on this one."

Not quite. Taken to extremes, the vetos and filibusters will shut down the funding until the government itself has to shut down, something that occurred during Bill Clinton's first term. Who took the brunt of the blame for that shutdown? And who, in this case, will be accused of failing to support our troops in a time of war? Public opinion on extreme measures like that is volatile. I'm not saying it shouldn't be done; just that it's not quite the slam-dunk you think it is.

Posted by: PaulB on January 11, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

That's a joke, right?

That's what I think whenever I read one your posts, Marler.

The insurgents are not bringing down the government, nor will they. The government, rife with corruption and infighting, which has barely held together since day one and ministries of which literally have literally had gun battles with one other, will fall of its own accord. It has been embezzling billions, running death squads, and stealing oil revenues. It has no way to project power because the members of its army are loyal to their own clans.

In short: the government is the not problem in Iraq,not the insurgents.

And if you'd pay attention, which obviously you can't, our military has now said that the militias are the main driver of violence in Iraq not the insurgents.

Try and keep up.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 11, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

should have read:

"In short: the government is the problem in Iraq, not the insurgents."

Posted by: Windhorse on January 11, 2007 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

has407: This new effort--or has been shown past efforts--in Iraq will do little, if anything, to "defeat" them. They have free reign in much of Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan, etc. They can choose to engage or not. Even with the best outcome imaginable, the conflict in Iraq with them will continue for years, if not decades. If not in Baghdad, then in Anbar. And if not in Anbar, then in Najaf. And if not in Najaf, ... This "surge" is little more than a fart in a shitstorm.

I mostly agree, has407, except for the if nots. I would say: They have free rein in much of Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan, etc. Even with the best outcome imaginable, the conflict in Iraq with them will continue for years, if not decades. In Baghdad, and in Anbar. And in Najaf, etc.

The point is, the more successful al Qaeda is in one area the more successful they will be in other areas. Their success leads to growth and further success. OTOH when we defeated them in Somalia this week, that defeat will hurt them in other areas as well.

So, it behooves us to defeat them wherever we can, including al Anbar. Thank goodness President Bush re-defined our battle against al Qaeda as a war, rather than law enforcement.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

You know I actually believed that it would be impossible for the Democrats to vote not to fund the war, but after the President's performance last night and his henchwoman's performance in the Senate today, I think defunding the war might not only be possible, but in a few weeks it might be damn near unanimous.

Republicans want to be reelected. I doubt many will choose to go down with good ship "Stay the Course."

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 11, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Am late to the board, but Ted Kennedy stated "we are going to get the appropriation request probably the end of January, early February. By that time the troops could already be there. And then we'll be asked--are we going to deny the body armor to the young men and women over there?"
"The horse will be out of the barn by the time we get there."
Bush is delusional with this test of wills and a big sneak too. The implications are enormous. Oh, and to further create problems with Iran, the Bush administration barred one of Iran's largest state-owned banks from doing business with US citizens...saying the Bank Sepah is a facilitator in Iran's nuclear program, further saying this bank services companies capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
It all sounds like the run up to the war on Iraq. Deja vu.

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 11, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

windhorse: The government, rife with corruption and infighting, which has barely held together since day one and ministries of which literally have literally had gun battles with one other, will fall of its own accord.

I wondered if that was what you meant. I also wondered whether you were distinguishing between insurgents and militia, or lumping them together. Another of your lines was that most Iraqis are living in freedom; that was intended ironically, was it not?

Back to the insurgents. The Shi'ite militias quarrel amongst each other to such a great extent that I think it possible that the Sunni/Baathist insurgents could defeat them piecemeal once the Americans withdrew. I understand the fear is that the Shi'ites would win the civil war with Iranian backing, but I don't think that's certain.

I was reading the most recent Iraq Index at Brookings. It's pretty awful. My favorite, electricity production, is consistently below its summer peak (I doubt that's a simple matter of air conditioning, as it is in California.) Oil production is down from its peak. Violence continues upward. Etc.

I read a claim that the Saudis had promised to supply China with any oil shortfall resulting from sanctions on Iran, and that in exchange the Chinese had expressed willingness to go along with the sanctions. Have you read anything like that? Sorry, I don't remember where I read it.

Lots of reasonable stuff sounds comical because of the way that posting on the web eliminates the qualifications provided by voice. It's hard to communicate any optimism without sounding like a true-believer, or any doubt without sounding nihilistic. What might be a conversation or an exchange turns instead into an insult match. I try not to let it get under my skin, and to pretend that the person I am addressing is sitting right in front of me. I can't say I am really successful.

For now I agree with Lieberman that the U.S. has not lost, and that the U.S. might yet prevail. I also think that the surge will have to be clearly successful by about mid summer or the Congress will vote to rescind the authority they granted to Bush, and if he's obstreperous they'll vote to impeach him. This is Bush's "final opportunity".

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 11, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

disputo: If I had a brain cell for everytime something GWB said was the truth, I'd be ex-liberal.

That's a pretty good line. It kills two birdbrains with one stone. (I don't really think either ex-liberal or Bush is truly a birdbrain, but I sort of got into the spirit of a really good insult.) Cheers.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 11, 2007 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Reports are that Parliament member Haidar al-Abadi said 'the government (in Iraq) believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side.' He is a close associate of Maliki. Reha Jawad, another member, said, 'the security should be in the hands of the Iraqis.'
Scholars in Iraq fear increases in sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni factions, and a dramatic increase in deaths of civilians.
RE: Bush's imperialism-- Iraq had its elections, government was installed, Saddam was eliminated, no weapons of mass destruction were found. Were these not Bush's goals initially? He is in way over his head, wants to create yet more instablity, seeks to save his pathetic legacy, and aspires to install himself or another republican as the US president in 2008, as he starts world war three in the middle east.

Posted by: consider wisely on January 11, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

What polls are the Dems reading? If they are that scared they need to jump in some big, bad Republican's pocket. The mess in Iraq is beyond belief. One more time: the AMERICAN ELECTORATE WANT THE TROOPS TO COME HOME. And one other thing:THE ELECTORATE REALIZE THE PEOPLE WHO SOLD THIS WAR HAVE BEEN WRONG EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.

Posted by: darby1936 on January 11, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

A protestor inside the senate chambers today very loudly yelled stop the lies, end the war repeatedly as madame secretary Kindasleezy Rice was testifying and Chuck Hagel was giving her a reality-based orientation. I am watching the re-run on Cspan. Republican Chuck Hagel calls the Bush speech the biggest foreign policy blunder in history, says he will resist it. Rice looks like a pressured liar, and Hagel has some very thoughtful questions, interrupting her lies like a pro--"that's not my question... 22,000 more new troops in is not an escalation? Would you call it an increase?" She would call it an augmentation. He is not letting her get away with it. He says what she says is just not true. It was a fine moment.

Posted by: consider wisely on January 11, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

consider wisely: Iraq had its elections, government was installed...

...and that government currently wants our help.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 11, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

"...and that government currently wants our help...."

Indeed:

"Iraqi PM Calls for Withdrawal Timetable"

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/062406X.shtml


"Iraq Parliament Speaker Calls for US Withdrawal"

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0722-05.htm


"Iraqi Lawmakers Call for Foreign Troops to Withdraw"

http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?F=925971

Posted by: Windhorse on January 11, 2007 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

Windhorse, thanks for finding the cite to confirm that the Iraqi Prime Minister currently wants the US military to help him in Iraq.

Of course, he doesn't want us there permanently. And, naturally, some other politicians disagree with the PM's policy. But, you have confirmed that the US is in Iraq at the request of the elected Prime Minister. Thus our presence there is appropriate and permissible under any international law.

Posted by: ex-liberal on January 12, 2007 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

But, you have confirmed that the US is in Iraq at the request of the elected Prime Minister. Thus our presence there is appropriate and permissible under any international law.

What a load of intellectually dishonest claptrap! (But what we expect from you). American troops are not there because Maliki wants us there, we are there because the president whose dick you can't suck hard enough is a pathological fuck who doesn't give a good god damn, and he would step on your corpse to avoid a mudpuddle.

But just keep fellating.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on January 12, 2007 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

And, naturally, some other politicians disagree with the PM's policy.

Save it, you dishonest piece of crap.

If you read the article then describe it accurately; Maliki secretly sent a letter requesting an extension of troops without informing his own government or bringing it up for a vote.

Is that how a democracy works, given that he knew both Sunni and Shia leaders wanted our forces withdrawn?

Of course not; that's puppetry manifesting as autocracy, particularly given that Maliki asked for a withdrawal timetable earlier in the year and then reversed course when we put the screws to him, likely threatening him with replacement.

So the point stands: members of the Iraqi government have asked for our withdrawal and they've asked for control of their own security forces and we're given them neither. Today the Kurdish president demanded the release of the Iranian diplomatic staff who were abducted illegally and we haven't given them that either.

Posted by: Windhorse on January 12, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Orwell:

Then the progressives can spit on them just like the old days.

If I were a soldier, I'd rather be spat on than die for a lie. Clearly, you prefer dead American soldiers than have them return to their families. Who here truly supports the soldiers??

Posted by: Andy on January 12, 2007 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

ex-lib:

Disputo, in his speech last night, the President said that al Qaeda was active in Anbar. I didn't hear anyone dispute that allegation.

You misunderstood. Disputo said "are there idiots who believe tha al-quaeda is behind the insurgency in Iraq." Where in that sentence do you conclude that he disputes that al-Quaeda wasn't active in Iraq? al-Quaeda is 10% of the "insurgency -" Bush calls them terrorists, making a distinction between terrorists and insurgents. So al-Quaeda is behind the terrorists. Sunni & Shia extremists groups like those backed by al-Sadr, Saddamist, groups funded by Iran and Syria are the ones who are behind the insurgency.

Posted by: Andy on January 12, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: OTOH when we defeated them in Somalia this week, that defeat will hurt them in other areas as well.
... So, it behooves us to defeat them wherever we can, including al Anbar.

Yes, we can hurt them. But we can't defeat them with an AC-130 firing from 5000+ feet. Or a 12-24 month "surge".

Posted by: has407 on January 12, 2007 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

Newsweek, June 24, 2006, courtesy of Windhorse and truthout:

A timetable for withdrawal of occupation troops from Iraq. Amnesty for all insurgents who attacked US and Iraqi military targets. Release of all security detainees from US and Iraqi prisons. Compensation for victims of coalition military operations.
...
Those sound like the demands of some of the insurgents themselves, and in fact they are. But they're also key clauses of a national reconciliation plan drafted by new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who will unveil it Sunday. The provisions will spark sharp debate in Iraq - but the fiercest opposition is likely to come from Washington, which has opposed any talk of timetables, or of amnesty for insurgents who have attacked American soldiers.

The plan was never passed by the legislature. Since that time there has been a move by other legislators to vote Maliki out due to his apparent sympathy for the Shi'ite militias; and since then there has been Maliki's request to the U.S. for more help in attacking the Shi'ite militias.

Like the U.S. Congress, the Iraqi congress is divided about what to do next. The president and the prime minister have asked the U.S. for help.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on January 12, 2007 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

All the Democrats have to do is vote against the next Supplemental for the war. The President cannot veto a no vote from Congress and the Senate cannot filibuster a bill the never clears the House.

Or they send a supplemental only allocating funds for withdrawal and make it clear that no different bill will be forthcoming if it dies in the Senate or the President vetos it. It dies, you send the same thing again. Make it clear that they *are* sending money for the troops (to bring them home) and are being blocked by the Republicans.

Of course "how" is a different question than "should."

Posted by: Don on January 14, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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